I shoot Canon gear only because the first film SLR I bought in 1998 was a Canon and thus, as my hobby grew, so did the Canon equipment I owned. I'm certain had I bought a Nikon instead of a Canon back then, I would be happily shooting Nikon gear today. Many photographers spend too much time obsessing over equipment and not enough time obsessing over their skills. Just as it is the runner and not the shoe who wins the race, it is the photographer and not the equipment who creates the image.
Current (Sep 2019) tools:
- -Canon 7D Mark II body (for birds, wildlife, and occasionally macro because of the extra apparent reach of the smaller sensor).
- -Canon 5D Mark III body (full frame and used for everything else).
- -Canon vertical/battery grips on both bodies. These make shooting verticals as easy as shooting horizontal photos. Instead of having your right hand over the top of the camera, with these, you can keep it on the right side of the camera using the controls on the vertical grip.
- -Kirk L-brackets on both bodies. If you shoot landscape verticals from a tripod with a DSLR I can't imagine doing so without one of these. They allow you to quickly and easily go from horizontal to vertical format with little to no change in composition.
- -Gitzo carbon fiber tripod. I bought my first Gitzo in 2003. Most other tripods I've tried feel flimsy and inferior.
- -Kirk BH1 ball head. I have an Arca-Swiss B1 on my old Gitzo but went with a Kirk head on the new one because the latest Arca-Swiss is glued together.
- -Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L lens (bought 2014).
- -Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L lens (bought 2019). I wish Canon had made this an f/5.6 lens because it is so large I find myself rarely carrying it. I don't need the speed of an f/4 and would carry and use this awesome lens more frequently if it was smaller and lighter.
- -Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS (bought 2019 to replace the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II which replaced the 16-35mm f/2.8L I which replaced the 17-35mm f/2.8L which itself had replaced the 20mm f/2.8). As you can see, I've gone through several wide angles. I found I didn't need the f/2.8 and, now that I'm older, have been trying to pare down on the weight of the equipment I'm carrying around. I think this f/4 is actually sharper than the f/2.8 and, although I rarely use the IS feature, find I use the lens all the time.
- -Canon 24mm f/3.5L II TS-E lens (bought 2015 as a replacement for the original 24mm f/3.5L). Some people digitally stretch their photos to fix perspective distortion. As you'll find if you read my "About Me" page, I don't like to create digital art and try to do everything in the field. This is my go-to lens for any type of architecture. I never use the tilt function but always use shift to keep lines parallel and avoid making buildings or trees appear to lean back.
- -Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens (bought 2015 as a replacement for the 24-70mm f/2.8L I lens which replaced the 28-70mm f/2.8L when the AF died). I considered trading for the f/4L IS version, but the weight difference is negligible so have kept this f/2.8.
- -Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS lens (bought 2012). I find myself carrying this more and more when travelling in place of the 24-70mm lens. The 24-70mm is sharper but I strongly prefer this lens' 77mm filter ring and it is still very sharp. If I want only one camera and lens for general photography, this is also the lens I will take.
- -Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens (bought 2019 to replace the 70-200 f/4L). After killing myself hiking around Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park in 2017 with my heavy f/2.8L IS II lens, I decided I needed to cut back on weight so bought the non-IS version of this lens shortly after I returned. Later, I decided having IS was worth the minimal increase in weight, so swapped it for the IS version, and now carry this lens whenever I travel. I find my f/2.8L IS II is sharper than this v1 IS lens, but not by much.
- Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens (bought 2014 as an upgrade from the 70-200mm f/2.8L non-IS lens).
- -Canon 180mm f/3.5L lens (bought 1999 and still going strong).
- -Canon 300mm f/4L IS lens (bought 2012).
- -Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens (bought 2007 as a replacement for the 500mm f/4.5L).
- -three Canon 580EX II flashes (replaced the 550EX I had previously which replaced the 540EZ).
- -Wimberly Sidekick (bought 2006). The full Wimberly head is way too expensive. This thing costs one fourth as much and works just as well. Plus, it packs up smaller!
- -Wimberly flash bracket. This gets the flash (with a better beamer of course) up away from the camera when using a super telephoto lens like the 500mm allowing you to cut down a bit on red or steel eye. You need an off camera shoe cord to use with it.
- -Wimberly lens plates for 70-200mm, 180mm, 300mm, & 500mm.
- -Tiffen glass graduated neutral density filters (2 stop & 3 stop). I like glass filters because they are more scratch resistant. I only wish Tiffen made glass reverse grad-ND filters, although Cokin now makes that exact filter and I may end up buying one or two.
- -Cokin & B+W circular polarizers.
- -Singh-Ray blue/gold polarizer.
- -Canon 1.4x & 2x teleconverters.
- -stack of Canon extension tubes (three 25mm & one 12mm).
- -double bubble hot shoe levels (accurate to within +/-5 degrees). Since my DSLRs have built-in digital levels, I don't use these any more.
- -Lowepro photo packs.
- -A variety of other items like Cokin filter holders, step-up rings, off-camera shoe cords, flash diffusers, and 5-in-1 photo discs.
Of course, I do not carry everything with me and instead pack only what I believe I will need based on what I plan to photograph. Typically when I travel via airplane I carry one body and three core lenses: 16-35mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm. Those three lenses along with some extension tubes and a 2x teleconverter give me macro capability and coverage from 16-400mm. If I know I'll be shooting a lot of architecture I'll also bring along the 24mm f3.5L TS-E lens. Only when I'm driving somewhere do I carry the 180mm macro, 300mm, or 500mm lenses.
As you can see, although I don't obsess over gear, I certainly think about it as my gear is the tool which allows me to capture the photographs I want. I do keep track of new equipment and, when a better tool comes out and the price is right, I upgrade. My 500mm lens is v1 and cost half what the v2 lens does. The v2 may be ever-so-slightly sharper, but that slight sharpness isn't worth spending an additional $5,000 to me. I also try to and recommend purchase of used lenses because of the cost savings. In fact, not one of the lenses I currently use was purchased new. I do ensure the used lenses are in good condition, however.
Former and current camera bodies:
- 1998-1999: Canon EOS Rebel G film SLR
- 1999-2002: Canon EOS Elan II film SLR (mirror lock-up)
- 2002-2005: Canon EOS 3 film SLR (weather sealing, better flash sync, better exposure control)
- 2003-2006: Canon D60 digital SLR (6MP; first venture into digital SLRs)
- 2006-2008: Canon 30D digital SLR (8MP; better noise handling, more data, better/easier controls)
- 2008-2011: Canon 50D digital SLR (15MP; double the data, highlight tone priority, ultrasonic sensor cleaning, Live View)
- 2011-2015: Canon 7D digital SLR (18MP; vastly improved focus system, 100% viewfinder, electronic level, weather sealing)
- 2013-2017: Canon 5D Mark II digital SLR (21MP; full frame to get full use of my wide angle lens)
- 2015-present: Canon 7D Mark II digital SLR (20MP; amazingly clean high ISO performance, digital level, f/8 center sensor AF)
- 2017-present: Canon 5D Mark III digital SLR (22MP; video, digital level, good high ISO performane, f/8 center sensor AF)
I've also gone through a variety of lenses to get to the current complement I use. After initially buying a few Sigma and Quantaray lenses I found I wasn't happy with their build or image quality so decided to stick with the more expensive name-brand glass. Here are the Canon lenses I've previously used: 20mm f/2.8 USM replaced with a 17-35mm f/2.8L for versatility then replaced with my current 16-35mm f/2.8L, 28-70mm f/2.8L upgraded to the 24-70mm f/2.8L after the AF stopped being consistent, 50mm f/1.4 USM for low light hand-held shooting sold shortly after I switched to digital and gained adjustable ISO, Canon 300mm f/4L sold after I bought a 70-200mm f/2.8L because I had almost the same thing with the 70-200mm and a 1.4x teleconverter (actually a 98-280mm f/4 but close enough), Canon 500mm f/4.5L upgraded to the 500mm f/4L IS because it had IS and was half a stop faster which allowed me to autofocus when coupled with a 1.4x teleconverter. The funny thing about the 300mm f/4L lens is that I now own the IS version. The IS version is a great lens for handheld action shooting and also complements my macro lens nicely as it focuses quite close (especially with extension tubes). I also got more action shot keepers with the 300mm than with the 70-200mm non-IS lens and teleconverter combination. I had a Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II lens for a while thinking I would photograph people, but I found I never used it so sold it after two years. I had a Canon 28-135mm IS lens but didn't like the image quality and saw no advantage to the IS in it so never used it and sold it about a year after purchase. It's really in the longer lenses that I find IS shines. I also had a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS lens for a while thinking it would make a good lightweight telephoto. However, I was constantly disappointed with the images coming through that lens. They lacked color and were very soft compared with all my other L glass. That surprised me because the DO is both expensive and rumored to be like an L lens. My experience shows otherwise which is why I sold it.