What's in my camera bag?

March 17, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

I often get asked, "what camera do you use?" and while I'm happy to answer the question, it feels like a bit of a cheat just to say "I use a Canon 5D4".  Of course I do use a 5D4, but my set up for any given picture might be a bit more complicated than that.  The choice of lens is at least as important as the choice of camera and different lenses can make both for different photographic outcomes and a different experience in making the picture.  I definitely own too many lenses but I've (mostly) loved all of them in their own way.  Here's the lowdown on the various lenses I'm currently using in my photography and some other things you might see in my photography bag.

 

Canon 24-70 f2.8 II 

I really love this lens, and it pretty much goes wherever my 5D4 goes.  The zoom range is convenient for both landscape and tighter compositions, and the image quality is superb.  The f2.8 is aperture is reasonably wide for lower light situations, though I do wish it had image stabilization.  It's very, very hard to justify bringing along any primes in the 24-70 range when you have this lens.

Canon 16-35mm f4 L IS

This is my go-to wide angle lens and one I use a lot.   If you're a canon shooter into landscape, you really need this in your kit. There are lenses which go wider but this lens accepts filters which is really essential for landscape.  It's also a beautifully sharp lens, which gives me incredible results.  You can take this from my cold dead hands.  There's an f2.8 version of this lens, but I can't understand the value of a single extra stop of aperture vs an extra 4 stops of image stabilization.

 

Canon 70-200 F2.8

I like this lens good enough but it's big and it's heavy. It's hard to bring anywhere unless you are traveling by car.  It also looks enormous attached to the camera - intimidating for anyone on the other side.  I've used this lens for portraits and action shots (e.g. my son's baseball) but I've actually mostly used it for landscape shots.

Irish Beach, Mendocino, 2020Irish Beach, Mendocino, 2020

 

Canon 85mm f1.2

85mm is a perfect focal length for portraits on a full frame camera. This is a really beautiful lens, one which makes for incredible portraits.  You will never see more beautiful bokeh and it's reasonably sharp wide open.  Focus is definitely slow, so it leads itself to more intentional portraits.  You're not going to capture fast action with this - though I've certainly tried.  I love it, but it's big. Very big. And heavy.  

Canon 50mm f1.2

Surprisingly, I don't love this nearly as much as the 85mm, and as a result it's rarely on my camera.  It's a big heavy lens, and while the bokeh is fine, I don't feel it gives me much that the 24-70 doesn't give me at 50mm, though of course its a much brighter lens.  For portraits, I prefer 85mm. I should probably sell this to make space on my shelves.

Canon 135mm f2.0

This is another lens I've used, very, very little. The 135mm focal length is good for portraits, but I find this fixed focal length to be not particularly convenient. My 85mm lens gives more flexibility if I need an aperture this wide and the 70-200 gives me much more compositional flexibility.  The one place this lens IS convenient is for travel - it gives a long focal length in a pretty compact package and you can pair it with a 1.4X extender to get to a ~190mm focal length. 

Chrysler Building, 2018Chrysler Building, 2018

 

Sigma 35mm f1.4 

This is a really beautiful lens with excellent build quality. 35mm is a great focal length - to my mind more of a natural field of view than a 50mm.  The wide aperture on this is also excellent when taking night sky shots - and in fact, that's what I've primarily used this lens for (even though 35mm is not as wide as I would like).  I've made other photos I love with this lens, but I no longer use it extensively.  The reason is that I have 35mm covered with my X100V which is far more convenient.  This is frankly another lens I should now sell.

Kauai, 2019Kauai, 2019

 

 

Rokinon 12 mm f2.8

At about $400 new this lens is an incredible bargain.  I basically purchased it because it was so cheap but I've ended up using it a ton.  I'm fascinated by the possibilities of ultra wide angle composition. This is not a rectilinear lens, but rather somewhat "fisheye" so photos will have an inherent distortion, which must be accounted for when composing, or things might look goofy.  I've bought a much more expensive (and even wider) lens to replace this as I've been firmly bitten by the UWA bug. 

6th Avenue, 20186th Avenue, 2018

Canon 11-24 f4

I got a great bargain on a secondhand copy of this $3000 lens.  I haven't tried it in real world settings yet, but will update here when I do.

 

Samyang 14mm f2.4

This is the lens I bought to replace the above Rokinon for astrophotography.  It's got a 1/3 stop wide aperture and it's not fish eye, which should help make much better night sky compositions. The reviews are great so I am looking forward to putting it through it's paces.

 

Other Stuff

If I'm going to shoot landscapes, I'll almost always bring a tripod. My go-to tripod for many years has been a Gitzo Mountaineer paired with an Acratech GV2 ballhead.  This is a really robust tripod and a good balance between weight and stability.  But it is heavy enough if you're planning to lug it around all day, and it's not compacted folded.  I've recently purchased the Peak Design travel tripod  - this solves the size problem - it's an absolute genius of design.  However, the jury's still out with respect to stability.

Filter sets are also important. I have a set of 100mm Lee filters, a filter holder and adapter rings for my various lenses. I much prefer 100mm filters over screw on filters.  They provide far more flexibility to move the graduation in line with whatever you're shooting and you can stack filters easily, which I find myself doing a lot.

Last, but not least, I also like to keep a rocket blower handy to remove any dust from my lenses and sensor.


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