The Photo Equipment I Use in 2011

The basic kit in 2011 retains many of the items that were already present two years ago, but there have been important changes. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

The basic kit in 2011 retains many of the items that were already present two years ago, but there have been important changes. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

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:

Camera Bodies

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.

New Camera

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.

Lenses

My basic lens selection is simple and unchanged, no more and no less than I need to do the work I'm doing. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

My basic lens selection is simple and unchanged, no more and no less than I need for the work I'm doing. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

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).

Sticks

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.

Lighting Equipment

In addition to my strobes that have been mainstays for years, I've added some continuous lighting for the video shooting I'm now doing. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

In addition to my strobes that have been mainstays for years, I've added some continuous lighting for the video shooting I'm now doing. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

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.

Computers

The Tricaster Studio video switcher, Mac Tower and MacBook Pro are all new additions to the kit in 2011. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

The Tricaster Studio video switcher, Mac Tower and MacBook Pro are all new additions to the kit in 2011. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

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

Posted in: Equipment

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

6 Comments on "The Photo Equipment I Use in 2011"

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  1. Greg (gerg1967) says:

    I’m kind of surprised you don’t really have a lens to cover the 35-70 range other than your 50mm, like the 28-70mm f/2.8L that Canon has. I know the 50mm can do a lot of that work, but I’m just curious why no zoom to cover that range?

  2. Hey Greg,
    Thanks for your excellent question. I guess a few reasons: it wasn’t that long ago that I carried around an 18mm, 24mm, 50mm, 85mm and 180mm fixed lenses. When something needed to be a bit closer or a bit further away, you achieved this with your feet! Now that I have the luxury of sharp zooms in the 16-35 and 70-200, with my razor sharp macro 50 in the middle, it doesn’t seem like work to adjust when I need to with the 50. Also, the expense. Also, it’s a bit bulky for what I would get from it…but it is a beautiful lens, nonetheless.

  3. Guy says:

    Regarding Final Cut Pro, have you heard the fuss that video pros are making about the latest upgrade? It won’t even import projects from the previous version.

    See http://www.betanews.com/joewilcox/article/Final-Cut-Pro-X-is-Mac-App-Stores-top-seller-but-buyer-reviews-are-scathing/1308710448.

    Regards

    Guy

  4. Ouch. Thanks for the heads-up, although I’m not upgrading anytime soon…hopefully they’ll get this fixed.

  5. Regarding your camera equipment:
    A nice summary, which seems to be a good advise, Andrew. For most of the time I have my 24-105mm zoom mounted to my 5DMkII. I guess it gets time to switch – at least for some time – to another lens and see what that experience will be about. For example to my fixed 50mm or the 16-35mm zoom.

    Regarding the new Final Cut Pro X:
    Lately I have been interesting in video (classic: Reverie, the reason to buy the 5DMkII). I try to understand that professional people, who depend on this software to make their living, argue a lot against the new version. I think most people know by now the “unwillingness” of Apple to be more transparent in matters of announcements or so. I guess it can be done much better. I personally guess that I do not need the Final Cut Pro 7 version and everybody having this most probably will stick to it – at least for a while. But yes, if the number is right that Apple’s share on that market is about 50%, then it was a pretty bad move, how they introduced the new version. Time will tell how it will evolve, there are also a couple of voices comparing the introduction with the switch from MacOS9 to MacOS X.
    You are doing right not to upgrade at this time.
    It’s just my personal point of view with the background that I do not know FCP7 or any other software alike and I am not making a living out of it.

    Regarding Mac:
    Congratulation, I love my MacBook Pro with SSD (2011), incredibly fast. Downside, it’s “just” 128GB, so not very much space for data – at least compared to “normal” hard disk capacities nowadays. Here a proper external Thunderbolt drive will become very handy (Hell, where is it?). At a later stage I may also replace the internal DVD drive with an internal Hard drive or so for data. But due to warranty reasons, I will not do it right now. I have not used the DVD drive a lot anyway.
    I plan to modify my MacPro to boot via SDD also at some later stage. That will be fun…

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