What is in my bag
The dreaded ‘kind of‘ gear list for those who have asked.
Firstly, lets get something out of the way; so who does make the best camera;
I would like to say that no-one makes a bad camera these days, almost irrespective of brand, so go find what fits your hand your budget and more importantly, your use-case. Photographers tend to be a very loyal bunch and will defend their chosen brand like it’s almost a personal insult to them to say that you shoot with something different to them. Their use case is different to yours, so their choice might not suit you, the camera is a tool nothing more. The ultimate goal for the camera manufacturer is to make an ‘all things to all men’ camera, but this is seldom the case, some excel at some things, that others don’t – we all have our favourites. Film cameras demonstrate this far more than those of the digital era, they also demonstrate the ergonomic issue far more, because they all use the same sensor, denoted quite simply, by your film choice.
There can be some frustrations with lacking features on the lower end of the price ranges but generally these can be overcome - Just go make pictures and have fun.
What we are about here is making nice photographs, first and foremost, without question, so for me the gear is a tool, it must function, do the job, sometimes in lousy weather and as my friends would testify even when I am attempting to drown it in the Thames on the odd occasion.
I currently use Nikon equipment but have used Olympus and Canon in my analogue photography upbringing, and then Canon again for some years digitally too. I now have settled back to using Nikon, but my decisions have always been results driven, every time.
I shot with an Olympus OM1n for years then, I rather foolishly stuck with them and persisted for a couple of years with their autofocus nightmare, the OM707. BUT having said that, it had a good meter, the lenses were superb and provided some lovely and delightfully accurate images of my kids upbringing and the many trips and holidays we used to enjoy when they were young. I remember it that fondly, that I sought one out to have in my current collection.
Finally, though, enough was enough and I sold the Olympus gear and bought the superb Canon Eos10, a year later upgrading to the outstanding Canon Eos5 with several lenses and I was made – that camera took among the very best celluloid images I possess to this day, and back then gave me the confidence I needed to shoot transparency film. Thankfully those days are preserved for all time on Kodaks stunning KR64 or Fuji Velvia, even shot some Ekta chrome 100 too.
Digitally I was quite happy initially with the simply sublime Fuji X100, but with an impending trip to the US for 3 weeks and wanted something with a little more flexibility so bought a Canon Eos 1100D and a couple of zoom lenses. Now this might be the cheapest of the cheap, but it makes very nice photographs with good glass and it served me very well on that trip. The Fuji came along too, its files simply much nicer than those from the Canon, however. I have a lot of time for that little ‘Leica look alike’ and indeed own an X100F to this day.
This adventure ‘whetted my appetite’ to go full frame digital at last, up until this point they had simply been too expensive – so I bought a Canon 5DII, and a 6D as well as a good few lenses. The hobby mutated into profession, and I worked for myself for a few years shooting many weddings and commercial shoots, with that equipment – it did me proud.
I then wanted more resolution, and Canon at that time had nothing really on the table, the 5DMKIII being only a slight improvement on the II, so I migrated to Nikons stunning D810 and switched brands again – I have not looked back.
Sticking with Nikon, mainly because Canon again were late to the mirrorless party, Sony’s were eating batteries at the time and the fact that the Nikon F lenses afforded me compatibility using the FTZ adapter. I have now moved over to their mirrorless Z system lenses and have been really enjoying that too.
The choice for the Nikon continuum was mainly because I was so heavily invested in F mount glass, the adapter permitted me that luxury – of course that was before the world and his wife started making adapters – the choice could be very different these days.
However, Nikon’s initial offerings in 6 & 7 guise were sketchy, with AF lock-on failures in certain situations, the Canon system, on release, just a few months behind, however, was outstanding – Gee’s I nearly switched again.
For me and my use case however (which is different to yours), the Z series have been almost flawless, and I enjoy them very much indeed, one rarely worrying about AF lock on when you are manually focusing on Landscapes more often than not.
So main tools in my bag are….
Main Camera Bodies are Nikon Z6II & 7II – they both are different and excel at some things, that the other does not, so I have them both. My limited professional work (these days) is very different to that of my private work, so I don’t really want to be shooting a wedding with a 47 mega pixel data eating monster (Z7II), that is the preserve of an outstanding landscape vista, at least for me it is.
The Z7II is the tool used for Landscape and Architectural work, product photography and the like.
It’s sibling, the Z6II is simply stunning in low light, you can shoot so much more with far higher ISO. The IBIS (In Body Image Stabilisation) is so good you can shoot at slow shutter speeds one could only dream of 5 years ago – those two features for me are the game changer of the Z6II in the system.
Both are fitted with Small Rig Arca Swiss quick release L brackets.
Handling of the two is almost identical, the menu system is the same and of course the lenses are all compatible with each other.
The NIKKOR Z mount lenses are among the very best I have ever used, I am really very impressed with them. The Nikon engineers do seem to have put a lot of time and effort into making them not only very sharp, but almost distortion free and having good qualities such as zero chromatic aberration and beautiful bokeh.
I am a bit of a stickler for Prime lenses, I have zooms of course, but I still prefer a specific prime lens.
My favourite is the 35mm but also the 50mm, give me one of each and a 135mm and I am probably in my happy place, the bag is light and I have covered all bases, just. If I need wider then I’ll just build panoramic images with the others.
I have the holy trinity of Z glass and they are all exception, the 70-200 the best I have ever used, it renders so well and really does produce lovely images.
For longer work, not that I do much of that, I rely on my F mount glass namely the 300 f2.8 AFS and the 200-500 F5.6. Nikon have been late to the party with their mirrorless long glass, but I may sell the above and upgrade, but I really don’t think I’ll ever sell the 300 it is just such a stunning and indeed one of the biggest reasons I shoot Nikon, it’s sublime, and I think, to this day, my best optic of all.
One of the things I love about shooting with a mirrorless camera system is they was they can be so easily adapted to use with older manual focus lenses – I have adapters for all my lenses to fit my Nikon Z cameras and its lot of fun just putting a bunch of them in the bag and off you go, minimal weight and great optical performance indeed.
I have used an array of filters over the years and have spent far too much money on them for my own good. I own a complete Lee SW150 system just for just one f mount lens, the 19mm PC-E, which I use so infrequently I should really part with it, and the filters and invest in something that I would use.
I have a broad array of the smaller screw on filters for my analogue photography, fortunately most of the NIKKOR Film lenses are 52mm, my favourites being the genuine Nikon filters, their performance just seems to eclipse others made by 3rd party companies, Leica being the exception.
For my mainstream digital gear, I use Kase’s outrageously good Wolverine Magnetic system, which I purchased in 95mm to afford some upgrade protection – it suits the 500mm if I want to shoot long. They are light and very slick in the field, so easy to drop on and off and provide no colour casts that are offensive either – great system, highly recommended indeed – not sure of the longevity of the magnetic side of things but, for now, well done Kase.
I am a heavy user of the dreaded tripod, the thing most people love to hate, but I quite simply cannot do my work without it. Firstly, because it makes you take more time to set up, more importantly spending long to compose, secondly and the by-product is additional image sharpness. More images are lost to camera shake than any other reason.
Of course, the Z series Nikons, like most other systems now, afford me the use of IBIS, the in built stabilisation system which offers me 5 stops, some other brands, I think Fuji and the OM system, formerly Olympus offer 7 I believe, amazing technology, making all our lives easier.
These days I use an iFootage Gazelle TC7, which is outstanding, with its built-in level adjustment head – on top of which I have a pan tilt head also by iFootage, the Komodo K5 – both works seamlessly, and I have never had a system so fast to level and get rigged for a shot or indeed panorama, a great system.
I also have a much smaller and lighter Benro Tortoise for travel use, which also has a levelling head, I do find myself using this one more these days.
I have too many Manfrotto tripods as well, both in Aluminium and carbon fibre, and who remembers the Benbo Trekker?
Now to the Bag (s)
Main bag is a Tamrac Expedition 8, I have had a few of these over the years, the expedition 5 & 7, however the 8 carries all I need for most shoots, despite when loaded being quite heavy. I like the way it sits well on my back and is comfortable to wear even when loaded on a long walk – the cushioning on my back helps with posture in the same way a Lumbar support pad would – fabulous bag. I have also a National Geographic backpack NG5270 Africa series, which is about ½ the size of the Tamrac, and I love it, it is the only bag I have ever owned that needs no chest support to stay on my back, being slightly rotund these days, this is an ever-increasing problem for me.
I have two other National Geographic shoulder bags too, an NG 2344 and the larger NG2478 – they were on offer with Manfrotto, I ordered one and really liked them, so I got the lot whilst they were at a much lower price, I think as much as 70% off!!
It’s the little things, that I carry in my bag which none of us should be without.
Cable release – because sometimes using the timer is not suitable, waves, waterfalls etc.
A carrier bag, great for damp grass and your derrière!
Spare batteries – goes without saying
Allen Key or tools that fit your tripod and any Arca Swiss style mounting brackets you may have to tighten or adjust.
SO……. there you have the full run down – any questions on specific items please fire me off an e-mail or add your comments.
Thank-you – share the love people, be nice to each other, cruel world out there -x-