I sometimes get asked about my camera and gear. Since I don’t plan to post a lot of gear reviews, I thought I’d lay it all out in one post. This post includes everything from camera to lenses to what’s in my camera bag with a light review. If it’s in my bag, I like it – but that doesn’t mean I love everything about it!

After this post, you’ll know all the gear-behind-the-photos.

Camera

I currently use a Sony A7II full-frame 24.3 mp camera. Some of my earlier photos were created using a point-and-shoot Sony DSC-HX90v.

I like my Sony a lot, it was my first full-frame camera. I push it a bit though especially when I’m photographing dancers in low-light and the camera will complain, but it will also get the shot. I chose not to get the A7II as my first full-frame camera since I didn’t think I needed the megapixel power right away – this might be changing soon.

I still carry the little Sony DSC-HX90v point-and-shoot as a backup camera when I travel. It only shoots in jpg, but that’s not necessarily a problem for street photography, and it’s fully manual. It has GPS tracking (unlike my A7II) so I sometimes grab a quick pic on the little camera just to place a series of shots. The point-and-shoot is also less conspicuous. Recently, in a non-tourist area of Bulgaria, my larger camera was attracting too much attention, so I switched to my powerful, little back-up.

Here is a series of photos of a tree that I love. I’ve returned to this tree a number of times in different seasons to take photos. Sometimes with my Sony DSC-HX90v and sometimes with my Sony A7II. I’ve not necessarily kept the same post-processing on these images so they aren’t meant as a direct comparison, but just to show that the point-and-shoot holds it’s own.

Lenses

I shoot almost exclusively with Sony lenses:

The 24-240mm is my walking-around lens. I put it on the camera when I’m going into a situation that I’ve not encountered before. It gives me the maximum flexibility in terms of focal length. The wide focal length covers me for street photography and most city architecture, though I sometimes switch to my wide-angle or telephoto for specific architectural photos.

Before I got this lens, I would often miss shots simply because I had the wrong lens on my camera – I needed a wide-angle, but had the telephoto on or vise versa. This lens has a reputation for being a bit soft and admittedly some of my other lenses are a bit sharper, but the 24-240mm is no slouch. It gets the job done.

At the time I purchased the 70-300mm telephoto, this was the longest lens that Sony made. Recently, they’ve been coming out with longer lenses, but I don’t photograph wildlife or sports very often so I’m getting by with the 300mm reach.

I love my 16-35mm wide-angle and wish the f2.8 would have been available when I purchased this lens. I use this lens a lot for landscape photography and architecture.

These two images were made at the same place on the same evening. The top photo was made with my 16-35mm and the bottom with my 24-240mm. I didn’t control for the post-processing – and frankly immediately forgot which lens I had on my camera. The examples are to show why I’m happy walking around with the 24-240mm on my camera most of the time.

Photo Pier at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge just before sunset. Pier at Wolf Creek. Near Carbondale, Illinois. Made with the Sony 16-35mm lens.

Photo Pier at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge just before sunset. Pier at Wolf Creek. Near Carbondale, Illinois. Made with the Sony 24-240mm lens.

The 90mm macro lens is a super sharp lens. It works for macro, but it also works for portraiture. I wouldn’t mind having a faster “nifty-fifty”, but I’m in no hurry to purchase one since I like the 90mm. It is sometimes a bit slow to auto-focus and for macro this isn’t a problem, but I do have to pace myself when shooting portraits with this lens – not necessarily a bad thing since it slows me down.

The Rokinon 14mm is a recent purchase and I bought it specifically to photograph astrophotography. It’s a great lens and especially terrific considering the low price. It is manual focus only, but so is astrophotography!

Accessories

I have a range of accessories, but let’s start with those that are permanently attached to my camera. My camera is fitted with an L-bracket (basic brand) and a ProDot Shutter Button Upgrade.

The L-bracket is a must for mounting my camera on a tripod. I love to be able to quickly flip from landscape to portrait orientation. It makes the camera heavier, but it also protects the camera body. There have been a couple of times that the L-bracket has taken a knock rather than my camera!

The ProDot is a little raised rubber dot that sticks onto my shutter button. It’s made of little rubber nubs that are satisfying to stroke back and forth – and that’s the point. I roll my finger over the shutter button rather than stabbing at it. I know Sonys are image stabilized as are most of my lenses, but I credit the ProDot with allowing me to hand-hold at shutter speeds of 1/3 of a second and sometimes even 0.4″ seconds. Don’t underestimate this little black dot! I love this “upgrade” so much that I carry extras in my camera bag. About every 6 months or so (or when the temperature is extremely hot) my button starts to slide and eventually falls off. I feel like I’ve lost a finger and I need to immediately replace the dot.

I also regularly use my lens hoods. These protect my lenses from the occasional bump inflicted when I’m moving around in my travels – or just generally being a klutz.

I also have a set of Breakthrough filters: a 3-stop, a 6-stop, and a 10-stop neutral density filter as well as a polarizer. Luckily Sony seems to have figured out that we probably want lenses of the same size. All but my 90mm take 72mm filters so I can easily interchange the filters on my various lenses. I use these filters a lot in my long-exposures – I really like calm, silky water! I have a couple of UV filters, but they aren’t on my lenses as a general rule. If I’m concerned about dust or water splashes, I can easily screw one on for some protection.

Photo STL in the Morning.

STL in the Morning. St. Louis cityscape over the Mississippi River at sunrise.
Sony A7II 32mm 2.5sec@f11 ISO100

Other accessories travel with me for occasional use: a remote shutter release for extra long exposures in bulb mode, a head lamp, and an Arctic Butterfly brush in case I get grit on my sensor (happens all the time with mirrorless cameras). 

Tripod

I have a MeFOTO travel tripod, Road Trip model — in bright blue. It weighs 3.6 lbs. It folds to about 15″ and extends to just over 5′. It fits perfectly in a carry-on or attaches to my main camera bags. 

It doesn’t go all the way to the ground, but I’m ok with that. If I’m shooting low, I often balance the camera on my camera bag or a rock. I occasionally have to take the tripod apart to clean and lubricate the legs – but usually only when I’ve had it submerged in a lake or something.

The tripod converts to a monopod, a feature that I really should use more often!

Camera Bags

I’m a Peak Design fan-girl. I discovered these bags when the company was running a kick-starter for their messenger bags. I bought the 20L Backpack first, than the Everyday Sling. I also have the Everyday Tote and Field Pouch and I have the Slide Lite strap on my camera — did I mention that I was a fan-girl?

peak-design-promo-codes-coupons

Get 10% discount by Coupon Code: WitsEnd

I’ve probably over-purchased camera bags (don’t we all!), but I use the different bags in different situations.

I use the Sling as my day-to-day camera bag. I can fit a lens, my camera (or another lens), and my ND filters and other various other accessories that I need ready to-hand in the main compartment. There are also places to zip in 4 batteries, extra SD cards, and some extra lens cloths and business cards.

The front compartment is stuffed with all those things I need to make a photoshoot comfortable and successful. Everything from rain covers for my camera, to sunscreen and insect repellant, to an energy bar to stave off hunger long enough to get those last few photos. An amazing amount of stuff fits in this little bag!

Photo What's in my Sling camera bag

What’s in my Sling camera bag: a couple of lenses, lens cloths, remote trigger, extra batteries, ND filters, polarizer, step-up rings, extra SD cards, business cards, lens caps, bag for filters, lens cleaner, energy bar & drink, extra shutter dot & connector for camera strap, gel packs, sunscreen, insect repellant, hand warmer, duct tape, 2 gallon plastic bags as rain protectors, absorbent cloth, mini-reflector, head lamp, Arctic Butterfly sensor brush, and a pen. I also usually throw in my reading glasses, cell phone, and some cash or a credit card.

I especially like the way I can access the Sling by just pulling it around to the front of my hip. It functions as a shelf if I’m changing lenses and I never have to put my bag on the ground if I don’t want to.

I switch to the Field Pouch when I don’t need to carry another lens like when I’m shooting street photography. The camera strap on my camera can be switched over to be used on the Field Pouch, but instead I’ve put carabiner clips on the bag and clip these to my belt loops. This is better than having two camera straps around my neck or carrying my camera in another way. The pouch can be threaded through my belt, but the clips allows me to quickly remove the pouch without taking off my belt.

The Field Pouch fits a couple of extra batteries, SD cards, lens cloths and smaller versions of my comfort items like individual packets of insect repellant. The only thing I wish for is a bit stickier velcro on the closing flap. I do sometimes pop the bag open if it’s a bit full.

Photo What's in my Field Pouch camera bag

What’s in my Field Pouch camera bag: insect repellant, a pen, lens cloths, extra batteries, business cards, extra SD cards, lens cleaner, 2 gallon plastic bags as rain protectors, duct tape, and hand warmers. I also usually throw in my cell phone and some cash or a credit card.

When I travel to Europe or a trip that where I’ll likely be hiking distances, I often switch to my 20L backpack. I’m not as wild about the arrangement of the pockets on the backpack as I am on the Sling and I dislike having to put the bag on the ground to access anything. I do like that I can put my camera on top for easy access, but I still have to take the bag off and put it on the ground or tabletop to access my camera. Peak Design makes clips that will hang the camera from the straps on the backpack, but I’m not comfortable with carrying my camera this way.

It will fit my camera, two additional lenses and my ND filters. Batteries and accessories fit into the pockets, but as I mentioned, I’m not wild about the arrangement of the pockets and it’s difficult to get batteries in and out of their pouches. My Macbook will also fit, but I’m careful not to overstuff this bag as I’m not confident in the protection it provides for my laptop, but I like the way I can slide my laptop and phone into a separate pocket from my computer which makes getting these items out on the plane easy.

My tripod can be strapped into one of the outside pockets, but I find the straps a bit fiddly.

There are also straps tucked into the front of the backpack and if I pull them out, I can attach my Sling to the front of the backpack – to the eye of a random airline check-in person, my sling and backpack together can look like one carry-on item. Neat trick, but I then have to carry both through the airport!

Photo Camerabags

Attach my Sling to my Backpack to create one carry-on item

I’ve just recently bought the Everyday Tote. There are times when I would like my camera bag to look a bit less like a camera bag and more like a purse. The tote will achieve this. Note: the Messenger bag made by Peak Design also doesn’t look like a regular camera bag. I can use the Tote in a city or at a festival – anytime I don’t want to look like a photographer. The only down side seems to be that I can’t attach my tripod to the bag – but I’m trying to be incognito anyway so the tripod would give me away!

Wrap Up

That about covers it. I’m not very into gear and probably won’t be writing a lot of gear-review posts. I’m of the school of thought that the photographer’s eye is more important than the gear. Find what you’re comfortable with and go for it!

Gear should never become the excuse for not getting out and photographing. It’s only when I’ve truly hit an impasse – when I simply can’t get the shot that I want because of a gear limitation – that’s when I’ve purchased a piece of equipment or lens. But not just to have the newest, swishest gear.

Having said this – I’m sure we all asked for camera gear for Christmas!!