When I decided to focus more on photography about a year ago, the last thing on my mind was becoming a camera equipment nerd. You know the ones with their camera bags .. huge amount of lenses, filters and tripods. Only second to golfers in the equipment departure...
Well, one year later I have a huge camera bag: body upgrade, 3 tripods, 4 extra lenses and several filters. And my wishlist of equipment is still growing. What happened? Wasnt I gonna learn the craft with ONE camera?
Equipment doesnt make a good photographer, but Ill share some of my thoughts and lessons learned during this year. Nothing new to anyone here I suspect, but please leave feedback if you feel my conclusions are wrong. And you can always help me update my wishlist :-)
Note: I flipped a coin and started out using Canon equipment, but I assume there is identical stuff available for nearly all brands.
Why the need? Exposure and focus. For difficult shots such as water, sky and land in the same image, you (usually) need to bracket your shots. Having a tripod makes the retouch part a breeze. And with a tripod, switching to live-view, zoom x10 and manual focus adjustment on a couple of key points in your shot will merge into a crystal clear shot. Use a timer and back off from the cam .. this usually gets it right. Why 3 different tripods? Well the mobile one is the yobo, which I always bring along and can lock into insane positions on any surface. Then there is one for panorama and one for tilt. The tilt tripod is used mainly for macro and recently flash work.
Wish-list: None at the moment. 3 tripods does it for me, but I am considering a monopod just to try it out.
2) <100 mm Lenses
In some forums the oldtimers sometime bash newbies like me for blaming their equipment, and often rightfully so. But I just got my first Canon L-lens (24-70) which is more expensive than my camera body .... and the difference is huge. There is no way you can pull off the same shots with your kit lens. Same goes for my macro lens (Canon 60 mm), Sigma fisheye and the 1.8 50 mm. So buying lenses opens up new ways for your camera to obtain light. Heres my current bag:
- Canon 24-70 2.8 L
My allround lens. I do miss IS but this lens is sharp from 24 to 70. Check out the MTF chart... The DxO Optics or ACR software does wonders with this lens as well if you shoot raw.
- Canon 60mm 2.8 Macro
With extention tubes for really closeup shots. Really sharp images a few steps down. And I dont miss IS since tripod and manual focus is kinda necessary anyways.
- Canon 50 mm 1.8
Used to sneak the camera along on most occasions .. mostly for family portraits at 5.6 with flash, or as a macro replacement with an extention tube. This makes the camera "almost" feel like a compact, and fits in almost any bag (which is not true for the 24-70).
- Sigma fisheye 2.8
Excellent for creative shots where you still want some sharpness.
Wishlist: The macro at home and 24-70 lens on foot more or less completes me in this range. Maybe the 1.4 or 1.2 as a replacement for the 1.8. I am curious of the lensbaby as well.
3) >100 mm Lenses
This is a must for sports or wildlife photography.
Without properly placed flashes, you need a light sensitive lens and a quick camera body (fps) to freeze sport moments. I currently have a Canon EOS 550D body and 70-300 4.5-5.6 IS which is really hard to use for sports. The IS helps for panning cars and boats, but not for football or indoor sports. I find its just to slow
For wildlife you usually want to get even closer, and a Kenko 1.4x adapter brings me close ... but not close enough. And you lose light. But IS here is invaluable so it still works .. sort of. Some animals move quite slow so you often have good time to focus.
If you go fullframe you need even more expensive lenses to get close. So for a EOS 5D and IS 400 mm + range .... it seems you need to sell your house and car. Maybe even your kids.
Wishlist: EOS 7D camera body and Canon 70-200 2.8 L IS. Alternative here is 70-200 L 2.8 without IS and 70-200 4L IS to split the investment.
During lowlight winter Ive started experimenting with strobes, which is a whole new bag of chips. Softboxes, RF transmitters/receivers, .... this can definetly empty your pockets. I dont know this stuff well enough yet though to give any advice or experience. Im experimenting with cheaper stuff until I learn more.
Now one addon I would recommend is a battery pack. Got mine on Ebay and yes it does make the camera body clumsy, but I appreciate the grip and you can use liveview continously on daytrips without concern of draining your batteries.
Wishlist: Pocketwizards and a couple of 480 EX flashes.
Hope you found this helpful, and please comment or discuss my current wishlist :-)