It seems like a thing these days to share what gear I’m using, and a little about how I chose it and how I like it. I’m a proud gear-head, so that’s no problem! Get in touch with any questions.
First, a little history might be in order: My gear journey so far!
I was always interested in the idea of photography, and certainly always attracted to beautiful photos. In my youth there was no such thing as consumer digital photography, of course, so I started with film and never got deeply into it because of the cost and general inconvenience. Once digital came along, I started out with some truly awful cheap point-and-shoot digitals–fixed lens, fixed focus, fixed aperture, low resolution, just total garbage only good for the occasional better-than-nothing snapshot. I eventually moved up to better point-and-shoot “bridge”-type cameras: dSLR form factor and good image quality, but non-interchangeable zoom lens.
Then my first daughter was born, and the overall clunkiness and shutter delay of those P&S cameras became annoying. So I finally got my first dSLR, a Canon Rebel XT (350D). At that point the only real players in the dSLR space were Canon and Nikon–I chose Canon primarily because I didn’t have scads of money to spend on lenses, and I had learned that the Canon EF mount could be adapted to lots of old manual-focus lenses. So I collected a number of those and played with that for a few years, which was a great learning experience. I moved up to a 50D, then a 7D and a 7D Mark II–all crop-sensor cameras, but all really good cameras. I did paid family and wedding photography for a few years, so I picked up some good modern lenses, and that kit served me very well. I kinda got to the point where I figured I had the best kit I’d ever have, and left it at that. But then.
Two things happened. First, consumer drones took a HUGE leap forward in quality and convenience. And second, the new breed of mirrorless cameras came along. (Sidenote: I’m partial to the acronym EVIL for these cameras: Electronic Viewfinder, Interchangeable Lens. That should really have caught on!)
The idea of aerial photography was always VERY appealing to me, but of course for years drones were large and complex and unaffordable, out of reach for most average people. DJI came along and changed all that, putting out drones like the Mini 2 which offered excellent image quality for photos and videos in a small, easy-to-use package. I snapped up one of those, and loved it. But the Mini 2 could do 4k video, and my 7D2 couldn’t–so after several years of stasis, I finally looked around and noticed the new mirrorless options.
I’d not really paid any attention to the Canon R or RP, which seemed not fully baked in my mind. But the R5 and R6 were another story, and looked like truly revolutionary–if expensive–pieces of gear. But the new features and benefits seemed worth it, and I could use my old EF glass, so I took the leap and got an R6. I fell in love with it, being just such a leap forward in technology and quality. But I hated the EF-to-RF adapter, so it wasn’t long before I started buying RF lenses to go with it. And then the 20 megapixels felt like I was missing out, so I sold the R6 and got an R5 instead. (Now I’m drooling over the R3 with its 195 frame-per-second burst mode and 240 fps video, but nevermind that now.)
So here’s what I’m using these days, with some thoughts along the way!
Mirrorless Cameras and Lenses
The R5 is the best camera I’ve ever owned, hands down. I was always reluctant about mirrorless cameras, thinking that an electronic viewfinder could never take the place of optical. But it actually opens up so many new and useful possibilities–exposure simulation, focus magnification, and live histogram right in the viewfinder! 45 megapixels provides outstanding sharpness with plenty of leeway for cropping. The autofocus is a game-changer–it can lock onto a subject anywhere in the frame, and focus right to the eye of people or animals. Without a mirror, the electronic shutter is silent and super fast, both big benefits for wildlife. And the performance at high ISOs is pretty darn good. As I said above, the R3 is tempting, but I imagine I’ll stick with the R5 at least until the R5 Mark II comes along!
Canon EOS R7
The R5 is amazing, but as my first full-frame digital camera, I found that I sometimes missed the APS-C crop factor I was used to, especially when shooting wildlife and macro where that extra 1.6x on the focal length means filling more of my frame with the subject. So when Canon introduced the R7 and R10, I was interested, and eventually jumped on a deal for the R7. It’s another fantastic camera, of course, using the same autofocus system as its full-frame siblings, and no slouch at 32.5MP. Paired with my RF 100-500mm (see below), it’s an amazing kit for birds and other critters.
I probably should have gone with the smaller/lighter/cheaper 14-35mm f/4L, but having f/2.8 as an option is nice. I’ll say this here, but know it applies to the next few lenses as well: Canon’s new RF glass is just incredible. I haven’t found a single bit of bad performance in the bunch.
As above, the 24-105mm f/4L would probably have served me well, but I’ve never before owned the first-party 24-70mm f/2.8, and this one is just superb.
I had the EF 100-400mm L lens, which was amazing–and this one is even better. The additional 100mm is great, of course, but the performance of this lens is outstanding across the board. It can even do decent macro from a distance, focusing to about 4 feet at the long end. I wish it were a tad faster aperture-wise, but aside from that it’s just fantastic. Works well with the 1.4x teleconverter, too.
As above, I had the EF 100mm Macro lens, which was great–and this one is an improvement. It focuses even closer for 1.4x magnification, and the sharpness and stabilization are top-notch. The only thing I’m iffy about is the Spherical Aberration control, which I’ve found useless. But it’s easy enough to ignore!
Canon put out the high-end RF glass first, but a few consumer-grade options have appeared, cheap enough to snap up. I love small and light prime walkaround lenses, and this is a great option for wide-angle. It’s actually wider than 16mm, it’s just designed to crop down in post-processing to fix distortion. Still, image quality is very good, especially for such a small, light, and inexpensive lens.
The RF 35mm is labeled Macro, though it only magnifies to 0.5x. But it’s a lot smaller than the 100mm macro, and still provides excellent sharpness and stabilization. This is easily my favorite of Canon’s cheaper RF prime lenses: It’s optically excellent, small and light, a very useful focal length for both full-frame and APS-C sensors, and the IS makes it really handy in low light. Highly recommended for your RF kit, and get yourself a third-party tulip-type lens hood for it as well.
The latest incarnation of Canon’s venerable Nifty Fifty. I would love the 50mm f/1.2L, of course, but that’s a price difference I can’t justify. For the price, this one is of course excellent. Waiting for an f/1.4 to come out!
I initially got the 600mm version of this lens, and then I got the 100-500mm so it didn’t offer much extra. So I sold the 600mm and got the 800mm instead, and it’s a keeper. It has its limitations, like the fixed f/11 aperture and 20-foot minimum focusing distance, but it can produce excellent results in good light. It’s big, but it’s not too heavy.
This lens is fully manual in terms of focus and aperture, but depth of field is pretty large so focusing isn’t a problem. Built like a tank, nice and sharp, worth its small price tag.
This is definitely a specialty lens, which really requires a tripod with macro rail, good light, focus stacking in post, and lots of patience to get the most out of it. But it’s nice and sharp and can produce some great images that you can’t get otherwise.
Drone and Video Gear
My first drone was a DJI Mini 2, which was such a phenomenal leap forward in drone technology in terms of capability and ease of use. I upgraded from there to an Air 2S, which is even more fantastic–but it’s larger and heavier, which means it’s significantly louder in flight, and I like to be a bit more unobtrusive when I’m flying a drone. I loved that the Mini 2 basically disappears in sight and sound once it gets up in the air. So the Mini 3 Pro came along and improved on the Mini 2 in every way, from image quality to flight time to obstacle avoidance and subject tracking–it was an easy choice to make to sell the Air 2S and get the Mini 3 instead. And as a bonus, it’s actually even more quiet than the Mini 2! The new RC controller with the built-in screen is pretty awesome too. Looking forward to getting out and about with this thing a lot more!
Be aware that if you get the Fly More Plus kit (which includes two extended-flight-duration batteries), the drone goes above 249g and therefore requires FAA registration in the United States. But that only takes $5 and a few minutes to do online, really not much of a hassle.
When I got into video blogging I wanted a pocket-sized, stabilized camera for the talking-head stuff. Looking around, the Pocket 2 seemed like a good option, and I’ve been very pleased with it. Good video quality, solid gimbal and face tracking, and the All-In-One handle paired with the wireless microphone adds flexibility.
Tripod, Accessories, Etc.
I’m not even sure if this model is made anymore, but it’s served me well for years. It’s aluminum rather than carbon-fiber, so a bit on the heavy side. I have a fairly generic trigger-release ballhead on it, with an Arca-Swiss macro rail attached. I actually don’t use a tripod too often, mainly just when I’m doing long-exposure or macro work. That’s why I haven’t upgraded to a fancy carbon-fiber tripod for travel. Maybe one of these days!
Like most photographers, I’ve gone through a million bags of all sorts: shoulder bags, messenger bags, sling packs, backpacks. This is the only one I’ve liked enough to brag about. It’s a back-access design, which seems more secure to me, and keeps the back panel clean and dry when setting it down to access your gear. The 20L is a nice size, holds plenty of gear without being too large or heavy. To me it’s very nicely made, but not as pricey as similar high-end bags.
Peak Design stuff is on the expensive side, but it’s really good! The Capture clip lives on the strap of my Tenba backpack, and while I’m sure it looks silly, it’s a convenient and comfortable way to carry a camera when I’m hiking. It puts the weight onto the backpack straps, and actually counterweights the pack a bit, so it ends up being a lot easier on my shoulders and neck than a strap. Definitely recommend!
When I’m not going out with a full pack, I use a smaller messenger bag for lenses and keep the camera on a strap, cross-body style. The Slide is very nice for that–solid and comfortable, with a smooth side for sliding, and a grippy side when you don’t want the sliding. Easy length adjustment with the clips, and easy to attach and remove with the little nubs that attach to the camera. Peak Design indeed.
There are scads of accessories available for drones–some truly useful, some really not. Here are some thoughts on that.
-Landing Pad. Seems useful, but really not. It’s something else to pack and unpack, and frankly it’s not necessary. If you’re in uneven terrain, or sand/water, just launch and catch by hand instead.
-Neutral Density filters. Crucial for video if you want to follow the 180-degree Rule (which says your shutter speed should be double your frame rate for cinematic motion blur). So if you’re shooting 24p video, your shutter speed should be 1/50s, which is only possible in bright daylight if you use an ND filter.
-Propeller Holder. This is a bit that straps around the drone to hold the props in place. I think it’s good to have one, as a safeguard against damaging the props (which are pretty flimsy, really) when going in and out of a bag or pocket.