04 May

We have been asked a few questions lately which prompted this small piece about camera gear. We will not compare brands. So much of that is just so biased and influenced by marketing that it's not worth it, besides which there are so many really good reviews out there already. A word of caution on reviews, only pay attention to those reviews which review all major brands as the others will just not be as reliable. 

The first question and the first caution 

The first question you need to ask yourself is "What will I mainly photograph?" as the answer to that will greatly influence what gear you get. Then avoid GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). The gear people would hate me for saying that. Why? THEY SELL GEAR and so want you to have GAS. It is expensive to have gear you do not use, it also takes up space and can in fact lose value by becoming obsolete. Is once a year enough use?  No!. Yes, it's great fun to shop for tons of gear but sorry, it's also a bit silly. 

So what gear do we have? 

Perhaps to answer that is that we need to look at what photography we do (more than once a year, that is). We do mainly wildlife but also do landscapes, astro, macro and still life. We also dabble a bit in the odd event, sport and portrait shoot. We have between us, 7 Nikon camera bodies, 5 of which are full frame bodies, about a dozen lenses, ranging from 14mm to 600mm in focal length, 2 teleconverters (1.4x and 2x), 3 speedlights, a power pack, a macro flash, a macro ring light, filter adaptors, a set of filters, a number of tripods, 2 monopods, and a host of accessories which include cable releases, reflectors, chargers, remote triggers, flash brackets and beanbags. Is that a serious case of GAS? Given what we do, possibly not, as all of that gets used, more than once a year in each case. Faced honestly, most of our tripods are superfluous but not really worth selling. 

So what gear do you really need?

Once you have decided what type or types of photography you do, you will have a way better idea of what you need. A few general comments on that:

  1. Wildlife (portrait and behavioural): Camera body/ies which offer excellent focus, decent to high resolution, rather high frame rates (we suggest minimum 8fps), high max shooting speeds, use fast memory cards and have great buffer capacity, fast and precise focussing well balanced lenses ranging from about 70mm to 600mm for different circumstances, possibly shorter focal lengths where you get close and want to do more environmental shots, quite trendy nowadays, maybe a flash with off camera brackets and cables or remote triggers and beanbags monopod and other forms of stabilisation. Teleconertes are very useful but to be used with some caution as the combinations need to be suited and in low light situations, they are best not used. 
  2. Landscapes: Camera body/ies which preferably offer high resolution, probably full frame, high quality wide angle lenses ranging from about 10 -30mm. There are  circumstances when longer focal lengths work well. A good solid tripod (we recommend quick release Arca Swiss fittings), a cable release an L-bracket and a filter system.  This applies to astro too, although the filters lose their importance here. Bright foregrounds can benefit from graduated filters used upside down.
  3. Macro (insect): Camera body/ies which offer fairly high resolution, probably full frame, high quality macro lenses ranging from 60mm to 200mm or so (we recommend 105mm f2.8 lenses). There are certain techniques like lenses reversed and macro filters too. The quality is generally a bit doubtful. Good flashes or a dedicated macro multi head flash or ring lights with suitable methods of diffusing the flash or having it off camera. Power packs are a definite advantage. Our experience is that off camera hand held flash leads to problems as depths of field in macro are really limited. Extension tubes are most useful and the types which allow the camera to auto focus are preferable.  

We have not delved into studio lighting or other specialised equipment which pertains to other genres which this site does not concern itself with.

We trust that this really short summary helps. Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a comment. Keep the passion!!

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