Back when I first began writing The Discerning Photographer, one of the first posts I published was about the photo equipment I use on a daily basis. Well, that was then, and this is now: some of the gear is the same, but enough of it has changed that I thought it might be interesting to see what’s now in the bag. So, here goes:
Two years ago, the Canon EOS ID Mark IIwas my main camera. That workhorse is still around, but it’s been largely supplanted by the fabulous Canon EOS 1D Mark IV .The two most important differences in these two top-flight cameras? The Mark IV has a much bigger file size (16.1 megapixels vs. 8.2 in the Mark II) and it shoots 1920 x 1080 HD video (the Mark II is a pre-video DSLR camera) something that has become increasingly important in my daily online work for the newspaper. Paired with the Mark IV, I also now carry in the camera bag a Sennheiser MKE 400 Shotgun Mic. It plugs right into the audio port on the side of the Mark IV and does an amazing job of capturing usable audio.
There is one other new camera that I carry all the time now: my DroidX phone. Truth be told, I don’t do a lot of shooting with it, but it is a camera, and I do use it occasionally. So it makes the list.
My basic lens kit is exactly the same: Canon 16-35mm f2.8 zoom, Canon 50mm 2.8 Macro, Canon 70-200 f2.8 zoom, Canon 300mm f4 fixed lens and the Canon 1.4x teleconverter. I pack all of this into the same Domke F2 classic camera bag , which also contains a Canon 580EX strobe and off-camera strobe cord.
Odds & Ends
New additions to the basic kit: I now routinely carry a range of neutral density (ND) filters for these lenses in a filter pouch that fits nicely in the back lengthwise pocket of the Domke bag. (As anyone following the site knows, I’m doing a lot of long-exposure work these days.) I also have a cheap little intervalometer cable release that works on both of my Canon camera bodies.
More Mic Stuff: a Beachtek XLR mic adapter for my Mark IV camera. This little box screws into the tripod socket on the bottom of the camera and allows me to use any type of microphone with my Mark IV camera. This is amazing! Now I can use wireless lavalier mics, shotgun mics, plug into an audio feed, etc. It truly makes the Mark IV a fantastic video camera, thanks to the cinematic ‘look and feel’ that you get by using regular DSLR camera lenses instead of flat-field, prosumer video lenses (like the lens that comes on the XH A1 video camera).
Tripods: in addition to my trusty Leitz Tiltall tripod (the very same one I was using two years ago), I also now carry a diminutive second stand made by Vanguard . It’s great for backpacking and other situations where I can’t justify the weight/bulk of the Tiltall but still want to have some kind of stand available.
My lighting equipment is almost unchanged: I keep a Norman 200C strobe pack along with a couple of strobe heads, reflectors, and cords in a bag in my trunk. This is a great little kit when you need a bit of studio-quality light but don’t have access to AC power.
For big shoots or situations in which I need to light a large space, I’m still using my bulletproof Speedotron 2401 lighting equipment with 102 light heads. These are very, very dependable. In over 20 years in the field my power pack has needed servicing only twice. Speedotron had it back to me in a week both times.
New lighting: because of video work, I now always keep a Lowell Tota Light in my trunk as well. These are sturdy, versatile and relatively cheap. They put out a lot of light and can make all the difference when you’re shooting video.
Hallelujah, hallelujah! I’m writing this article on a sleek, beautiful, fast Macintosh Apple MacBook Pro
. (Probably the single most important equipment upgrade that I’ve made in the past two years.) The switch came about because of the amount of video that I’m shooting now, but every other aspect of my workflow has benefited as well. The Apple OS and Final Cut Pro editing software are clearly superior products if you are doing this work, and it’s been a wonderful change. I also have a big powerful new Mac desktop machine which handles the bulk of the daily video production, tricked out with three big hard drives and lots of RAM.
Tricaster Studio video switcher/computer. About a year ago we began doing daily formatted video shows from the edge of our newsroom for our online affiliate, NOLA.com, and the heart of soul of this operation is the Tricaster. These are amazing machines, like having a satellite truck on your desktop, a TV photographer buddy of mine describes it. We keep three Canon XH A1 cameras hooked up to it at all times for live switching and are getting ready to add two more.
Along with the Tricaster, we’re using DeSisti daylight-balanced lights. These are great because they’re fluorescent and stay cool and the tubes last forever. I have these mounted on classic Mathews C-Stands because we weren’t able to go into the ceiling for a grid installation.
That about wraps it up for the current equipment setup. As you can see, lots of changes, but the core gear has remained pretty stable. I’m using most of this stuff every week in one way or another, and I can vouch for the sturdiness and durability of all of it. If it wasn’t durable, I wouldn’t be using it!
Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog