Photographic Equipment





Some of my friends ask me what equipment I use. Since most doing the asking are not greatly advanced digital photographers, I tell them that in my view, learning to manage the basic resources of any camera, especially modern SLR’s, is more important than the camera itself. Quality lenses are also essential. And just as important is software and the skills to use it wisely. But the simple skills of learning to manually control your camera for the results you want are far more important than the camera itself.

For anyone who want's to know, then here's a list of my current photography equipment. But some notes first.

I basically traded my last old Nikon F2 (I had three) and several lenses, for a Nikon D70 kit in about 2005. I was always a Nikon user, so it just followed. Once I started selling micro stock, it paid for itself in the first two months. A year later I added a D200 and several lenses. I had a hit stock shot that paid for that in a month, with money left over for a whole new camera system, the first of two MacBook Pros, and my first post processing external monitor. At that time the Canon 5D Mark II came out and it was essentially the best digital full frame camera body on the market. Nikon had nothing like it. The money was rolling in so I bought one and four lenses. But then I was buried in Canon gear. To be fair, I think the higher end Nikons were much more usable cameras, much more photographer friendly. But they didn’t have the resolution or the dynamic range. Today that’s different. Sony and Nikon have full lines of the best “35mm” digital SLR’s out there.


But in the end, the ability to compose, expose, manage simplicities like depth of field, shutter speed, and ISO settings, and handle the manual controls of any camera is the key. Better cameras and lenses help to take it all to a higher level, but a poor camera in skilled hands is better than a $50,000 100 megapixel digital in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it. Professionals have proven the point over the years by shooting with cheap little cameras with spectacular results, just to show quality is as much in the hands of the the operator as in the machine.


For me, I mostly shoot in Aperture Priority set at f8 or f11. The shutter speeds are slow and so are my lenses. But then I use a tripod as often as possible, and f8-f11 is the resolution sweet spot for most lenses. The only time I violate this is to get the shutter speed up for hand held shots, or to get more depth of field in the other direction. If you know what I’m talking about, I also exposure bracket as often as I find the need, and blend exposures with Photoshop Luminosity Masking.


My camera bodies are getting a bit old and it’s way past due to upgrade. The Canon 5D Mark II has been such an excellent shooter I just haven’t felt the need. The Mark III was just not that much of an improvement over the Mark II, especially for the money. The cost of moving back to Nikon would require yet more Nikon mount full frame lenses, making the price point a bit intimidating. So the Canon 5D Mark II has been my best camera, and the little 16mp Nikon D5100 is the one I throw in the saddle bags to get knocked around with my spurs. The other two Nikons have become legacies.


Among my considerations is the new Canon 5D Mark IV. It’s definitely looking good, and I have a reasonable array of solid Canon L lenses. Another option is the Nikon D850. It’s looking over the top, but I’d have to add several more expensive lenses to make it a solid kit. And what would I do with the Canon lenses? So I’m up in the air for the moment.



(Addendum: no longer up in the air. Bought the Canon 5D Mark IV, largely because I can view and control images through my cell phone using the Canon phone app!)

There are several absolutely great resources for those looking to buy a camera, whether it’s your first point and shoot or the latest pro-level SLR you’re adding to your kit. Personally, I can’t stress enough that learning to use the following three resources is the most important thing you can do for yourself. I absolutely love them all, especially the third one. You can look up a lens and launch a popup that allows you to see a 3D graph of the sharpness in the center and at all four corners. Sliders change the focal length and the aperture. You can see the center and corner qualities of the given lens at all settings. You can also popup the same for chromatic aberration. Being able to tell a soft cornered lens from a flat one by just going online is basically gold. DXOMark lab tests camera sensors and lenses, and pairs any selected lens with any body it will fit for total resolution achievable, chromatic aberration, and light transmission. MUCH better than having to ship a lens or camera body back, because you basically can't handle or buy either at local stores any longer. Digital Photography Review tests cameras and they do a great job of it. Do yourself a favor. Check these out.

Digital Photography Review

DXOMark

Digital Camera Reviews

They're all indispensable. But as an example, here's what I mean about the usefulness of  the Digital Camera Reviews website. Below is a link to the easy-to-comprehend 3D resolution lab results for one of my Canon lenses. This chart was set for a full frame camera, and not the APS/DX format. The corners for any lens on a full frame body are typically softer. As you can see, it sucks wide open, especially at the wider focal lengths. But stop it down to f8 and it's a reasonably sharp lens. Not perfect, but acceptably sharp. This tells me that unless I need to shoot hand held at very low light levels, or maybe the Milky Way as is popular these days, I don't need to spend three times as much for the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM. The latter lens doesn't test out any sharper. It's just faster.


Digital Camera Reviews lab results for the sharpness of the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM.


What you're looking for here are low numbers on the right color chart, down in the blue or magenta range, at least at the aperture range and focal range you're targeting. Anything under #2 at the corners and near #1 in the center is a fairly good lens. What you don't want are colors up in the green or red. Lenses that keep the numbers down to #1, especially at wide open apertures and at all four corners, are scarce. They're out there, but they will cost you. A LOT.


It's also useful to run the test for chromatic aberration for a given lens at the same site. CA is correctable, whereas softness is not so much, but it's still tough to deal with if it's bad enough that software alone can't fix it. 

So if you're interested in maybe two or three similar lenses in a similar price range produced by different manufacturers, it might make sense to select the one with the best qualities.

There will be photographers that might argue that too much attention on equipment and not enough on composure and technique are not the best approach to great images. And they're right. I stated that at the outset. But paying an arm and a leg for what you think might be a fine lens, traveling to a good location, sleeping in the cold, getting up before the sun, shooting that perfect shot where the sky is never going to be the same, and coming back to find that the corners are so soft the best shots are all but useless, is not all that great either. I've been there, which is why I really love those three  resources. So should you, IMHO.


My Photo Tools

EVERYTHING listed here was purchased with stock shot earnings between 2007 - 2017.

Cameras and Lenses

    Full Frame


•            Canon 5D Mark IV 30.4mp
•            Canon Battery Grip BG-E20 for 5D Mark IV
•            Canon 5D Mark II 21.1mp
•            Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM  (1st gen)
•            Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
•            Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM  (1st gen)
•            Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM
•            Canon Extension Tube EF 25 II  (auto connect)

    APS-C/DX Frame

•            Nikon D70 6.2mp
•            Nikon D200 10.2mp
•            Nikon D5100 16.2mp
•            Nikon AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED DX
•            Nikon AF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G DX VR IF-ED VR (DX 1st gen)
•            Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR IF-ED (FX 1st gen)
•            Nikon AF 70-300/4-5.6 D ED (FX aperture ring, screw driven auto focus)
•            Nikon 60mm Macro (FX aperture ring, screw driven auto focus)

Support tools


•        Kirk Quick Release Plate for Canon BG-E20 5D IV Battery Grip (Arca)
•        Sunwayphoto 5DIV Quick Release Plate for Canon 5D IV Body (Arca)  
•        Markins Quick Release Plates, Fitted to 5D II and Nikon 5100 Bodies (Arca)
•        Manfrotto 3001 Aluminum Tripod and Ball Head
•        Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 Carbon Fiber Tripod
•        Markins Q-3 Emille Traveler Ball Head
•        OBO T360C 14” 5 Section Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod (light, light, light)
•        OBO B-36 Ball Head (annoyingly sticky, but very light)

•        Op/Tech USA Pro Loop Neoprene Camera Strap

Carry and Field Tools


•        Lowe Pro Photo Sport 200 AW Ultralight Backpack (go to bag)
•        Camelback Hydration System for Sport 200
•        Lowe Pro Primus LP35092PEU AW Arctic Blue Backpack (HUGE)
•        Tamrac 5769 Velocity 9x Pro Photo Sling Pack Bag
•        Tarmac 5732 Adventure 2 Backpack
•        Tarmac 5547 Adventure 7 Backpack
•        Thule and CineBags Laptop Cases
•        Lowe Pro Shoulder Bag (field storage for filter kits, batteries, data cards, etc)
•        Eagle Creek Pocket Bags (quick grab kits of tools, data cards, batteries, etc.)

•       Hoodman Eyepiece for Canon 5D Mark II
•       Hoodman Eyepiece for Canon 5D Mark Iv
•        A $h*t load of chargers, batteries, lens cases, cables, et. al.
•        A 12v DC to 120v AC Converter for ALL (instead of a slew of car chargers)
•        Hoya/Kenko/Cokin UV, Color Correction, Color Compensation, and Pola Filters

•        About 200 Gigabytes of CF and SD Camera Storage Cards
 
Post Processing and Storage Tools

    Hardware


•            MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013)
•                Quadcore 2.6 GHz i7 Processor
•                16 Gigs DDR3L Memory
•                1 Terrabyte SSD
•            NEC PA272W-BK-SV LED Backlit Wide Gamut External Monitor with Hood
•            NEC SpectraViewII Calibration Sensor (for the NEC)   
•            ColorMunki Calibration Sensor (for everything else)
•            Redundant Firewire, USB3, and Thunderbolt Full System Backup Drives
•            Cannon 500lb Fireproof Floor Safe (equipment and backup drive storage)
•            Two Large Fireproof/Waterproof Document Safes For Redundant Backups

 
    Software


•            MacOS 10.12.6 Sierra
•            Adobe Photoshop Version: CS5 12.0.4 (old but it’s paid for)
•            Adobe Bridge CS5 (old but it’s also paid for)
•            Adobe Camera Raw 6.7 (old but it’s also paid for)

•            Canon Digital Photo Professional 4 (converts 5DIV RAW to Adobe Cam. RAW)
•            Canon Camera Connect Android Wi-Fi App (connects phone to 5DIV)
•            NEC SpectraViewII Calibration Software
•            ColorMunki Calibration Software
•            Tony Kuyper’s TK Actions (Luminosity Masking Tools for Photoshop CS5)
•            Macphun Noisless CK 2016 (advanced noise reduction tool)


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