Monday, August 17, 2009

Photo Talk: Gearing Up

This posting will talk about photo gear. I will cover some of the gear I have, why I have chosen it, and some other tidbits related to photo gear. The intention here is to shed some light on gear that you may have been pondering. If you have any specifc questions regarding any of the gear mentioned, please feel free to drop me a line at

Bags & Cases
I have gone through more camera bags than some women have gone through purses. I think since I regained my passion for photography in 2006 I have gone through 4-5 bags. At least I get rid of them when they still have some kind of resale value.

The bag I am using now is the Lowepro Magnum Pro bag. It is the largest shoulder bag made by Lowepro and is working for me just fine.

I now carry two camera bodies (both with battery grips) and they fit in the bag great. The photo above is an sample photo. On the sides of my Magnum Pro bag I have added a Lowepro Sliplock Pouch 60 AW and a Lowepro Utility Case.

Here is a run down of what fits in my bag system:

- Canon 40D with battery grip (attached Tamron 28-75mm SP Zoom)
- Canon 30D with batter grip (no lens attached)
- Canon 70-200mm f/4 L USM (with hood reversed)
- Sigma EF 500 Super Flash
- Tamron 1.4x teleconverter
- Hoodman Loupe
- Two Canon Battery Chargers
- Energize AA & AAA charger
- Air Rocket
- Cleaning brushes
- Countless odd & ends

The Utility Pouch carries a Lowepro Filter Pouch, cleaning supplies, sunglasses and few other odds & ends. The Pouch 60 carries a Gary Fong Lightsphere and an extra Tamrac N-27 neckstrap.

I think I found my last bag. There is still plenty of room for various small items. The bag is built like a tank and really not that heavy full loaded.

Camera Body
I have had the opportunity to be able to have both a Canon 30D and 40D. Both are semi-pro bodies and will last me a very, very long time.

I recently chose the 40D over the 50D for clarity reasons. Camera companies are getting caught up in the hype and producing cameras with far too many megapixels for the sensor size, and with the latest HD video craze…I will like be not buying a new body for a long time.

Both the 30D and 40D have metal bodies and are more durable than plastic bodies. Both produce wonderful photos. There are some slight button changes between the two but not a real big worry.

As of now I do all my work with three lenses. Each has a purpose and function for how I approach photography.

The Tamron SP 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD-IF provides a good focal range for landscape and some portrait photography. Being a part of the Tamron pro-series this lens has very good clarity. I also like that it has a fixed 2.8 f/stop.

Many zoom lenses will note a maximum aperture range throughout the lenses zoom range. For example a 75-300mm zoom may have a aperture range of f/3.5 to f/5.6. This means the largest opening at 75mm is f/3.5 and the largest opening at 300mm is f/5.6. Fixed means the largest aperture stays constant during the entire focal range. In this case the largest opening stays constant at f/2.8 throughout 28-75mm.

The Canon 70-200mm f/4 L USM picks up where the Tamron left off. I use this lens the most. It does well in many landscape scenes, super for wildlife, and a great portrait lens as well.

Then lens is also fixed so the aperture will stay open at f/4 throughout the 70-200mm focal range. This is a Canon L lens and part of their pro-series. The clarity and overall quality is awesome.

The Canon 400mm f/5.6 L USM is a fixed prime lens. The aperture is fixed and so is the focal range. This is not a zoom. It is strictly a 400mm lens.
This bad-boy is my wildlife lens. The picture quality and clarity is awesome.

These lenses are not my first lenses. I have bought and sold several lenses to upgrade to them. If you have checked out my other Photo Talk blogs you will notice that I feel very strong that it is more wise to spend less money on a camera and more money on your lenses. Glass matters!

Camera Support
Once you get a semi-pro body, add a battery grip, and slide on a Canon 70-200mm lens…you will feel like Jesse Ventura in Predator…you will be carrying a canon of a camera!

The answer? Good camera support.

My tripod set up is a Bogen 3011 Tripod Legs w/ Amvona Telos Series ATH-A03 Ball Head. It is a very sturdy set up. The ball head is rated to hold up to 30lbs. The tripod has leg adjustment latches that are easy to use in winter.

Like my lenses I have bought and sold a number of tripods until I found the one I like. I do a fair amount of frigid winter shooting and some tripod legs have clasps that become brittle in Wisconsin sub-zero temps. The legs on the Bogen 3011 adjust very well in cold temps.

My monopod set up is a Bogen 681 Monopod w/ Amvona Telos Series ATH-A03 Ball Head. The Bogen 681 is a three piece monopod. With only two leg adjustment latches it is very fast and easy to set up and maneuver.

I like the convenience of not having to switch my ball head from tripod to monopod. Each camera has an arca style quick release plate, and I also have one on each of the Canon lenses.

Supporting the camera and lens from a lens ring is much easier on the camera body and also makes the balance on the ball head a bit more even.

On The Go
Although my camera bag holds all my gear, it is awkward and cumbersome. Whether it be hiking back in the woods to shoot a waterfall, trekking through a wildlife refuge to photograph birds and wildlife, or walking for hours at a zoo…I like my gear arranged for quick accessibility.

My newest piece of gear is the Cotton Carrier. This state of the art system allows me to easily, confidently, and securely carry one or two camera bodies without having them swinging all over.

I just purchased my Cotton Carrier and will be using it with my Lowepro Field & Sport Belt & Harness System. The belt allows me to carry an assortment of lens pouches and utility bags so they are out of the way and have easy access. The weight of all the gear is well distributed to make hiking, trekking, and hours of being on my feet much easier.

Sometimes I wonder if a compact camera is a better option. LOL!!

Seriously, not everyone will want to carry so much equipment. Not everyone wants invest into all kinds of equipment. That is really ok.

The point of this post is to provide a little insight for those looking for gear and not sure what to purchase. Please do feel free to drop me a line with any questions.

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