camera gear

The gear you need to tell stories with your photography

Daniel Schafer did a piece for Japan Camera Hunter: The Storytellers Kit where he discusses focal lengths useful for telling parts of a story.

PetaPixel has reposted it: The Storyteller’s Kit: The Gear You Need to Tell Stories with Your Photography.

They are essentially the same piece although with different comment threads under them. Choose one and read it. I promise you you’ll find it useful no matter what your experience with photography.

Gear does not make the photographer, allow me to state that for the record before we dive in here. A talented artist can make an image with whatever falls into their palm, but for those of us who have the luxury of choice, be it the pocket sized Ricoh dangling from Moriyama’s wrist, or Crewdson’s cherrywood 8×10, a powerful image is about the framing of a moment, the machine it is seen through when chosen properly, serves to simplify and streamline the process.

This is a brilliant piece, the sentiment of which is right on the money and very timely and meaningful to me as I experiment with different cameras in different settings.

A smaller walk-around camera kit

City walking bag, old and new meet up in perfect harmony

Flickr member Steve J Makin has posted an interesting shot of his current city walk-around camera kit and this is the kind of kit that interests me.

This is not an inexpensive kit but it’s a lot smaller than its DSLR equivalent.

Fujifilm X-Pro 1 Digital Camera $1699.95
Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 XF R Lens (on camera): $599.95
Fujifilm 18mm f/2.0 XF R Lens $599.95
Fujifilm 60mm f/2.4 XF Macro Lens $649.95
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 Digital Camera $648

Total Fuji/Sony kit: $4197.80

There are other pieces to Steve’s kit but they’d be part of any kit.

No doubt some reading this will balk at the combined total cost of this kit but in fact, if one looks at this kit as a high end DSLR replacement kit that cost (with all the lenses) is about right. Here’s an example kit of Canon gear that might parallel Steve’s kit (keeping the Sony point and shoot

Canon EOS 7D SLR Digital Camera $1499
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM Wide-Angle Autofocus Lens $1329
Canon Super Wide Angle EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Autofocus Lens $489
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens $409
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 Digital Camera $648

Total Canon/Sony kit: $4374.00

Granted, I used a very high end Canon 35mm lens in the comparison so let’s substitute a cheaper one to even things out (I don’t know the quality of the Fuji lenses parallel to Canon’s line).

Canon Wide Angle EF 35mm f/2.0 Autofocus Lens $309

Total Canon/Sony kit with cheaper 35mm lens: $3354.00

If you pulled the Sony out and put in a cheaper Canon PowerShot S100 at $363.95 knowing that you’d use the Fuji’s bigger sensor most of the time and why blow an extra $300 on the backup camera the price drops a bit.

This is a fascinating study and while there are pieces of it that are subjective (does one like using the Fuji camera?) assuming that both camera systems make excellent images (they do) and one likes using them (many like each) and assuming that Fuji’s lenses are in the same league as Canon’s (I don’t know this but the reviews are good) we have real choices now. And, the Fuji kit is much smaller and lighter. This really appeals to me.

There is a lot of talk that the Fuji X-Pro 1 is slow to focus but so are some of Canon’s lenses listed above. There is the issue of few lens choices in the newer Fuji ecosystem but how many choices does one need? A few good zooms and a few good primes and a macro and one is set for everything short of birds and sports. The talk is that a firmware update for the Fuji X-Pro 1 will solve some of its AF problems. We shall see.

I have an aging Canon 5D and a few nice lenses left in my collection. Selling that gear could finance much of Steve’s kit above but I’d have to grow fonder of Fuji cameras to want to do this.

I do, however, want a smaller, lighter kit for walking around New York and possibly to take on hikes where spending some time shooting wouldn’t get in the way of hiking and what Steve has posted appeals to me a lot.

Alternative to camera backpacks for hiking

lowepro_mini_trekker_awAt the time of this posting, B&H Photo has 306 backpacks and daypacks dedicated to holding camera equipment. For many years I had and used a Lowepro MiniTrekker AW (pictured here) which is no longer made. Fully loaded with my gear the pack weighed upwards of 20 pounds or more and it was hell to carry around. Also, most packs like these have little provision for carrying the kinds of things one needs on a serious hike: extra clothing, food, water, first aid and more. In other words, they’re made to carry a lot of camera equipment over short distances. Some are better than others and following the B&H link above will no doubt turn up a lot of packs but few will be useful to hikers doing serious hikes in the wilderness.

canon_g11My solution to this was to simply not carry my big gear, instead carrying a small Canon G11 in a small (Lowepro) pouch on the shoulder strap of my more comfortable hiking pack. I continue to do this and it’s working well for me.





Pack, camera bag, tripod

Recently, however, I thought it would be fun to bring my bigger gear up to a beaver pond I’ve been hiking to and photographing. It would be great to get a picture of the beaver with a 5D and 300mm lens.

One idea I had was to simply place my Lowepro Stealth Reporter 200shoulder bag inside my hiking pack. This would leave room for extra clothing and food and rain gear and afford the camera gear protection. However, this is where a great feature of the particular shoulder bag I have is extremely useful. Note, any bag or foam insert can be used for this idea.

The idea
The idea is simple: take the foam insert out of the shoulder bag and place it in the bottom of a hiking pack, allowing safe carrying of camera gear and in addition, carrying all the necessary hiking gear.

1. Take a Lowepro Stealth Reporter 200 shoulder bag and fill it comfortably with the gear you’ll need on the hike.

Lowepro Stealth Reporter 200 Lowepro Stealth Reporter 200 loaded Lowepro Stealth Reporter 200 unloaded

2. Remove padded foam insert from bag. It’s held in by velcro which is easily ripped apart.

Lowepro Stealth Reporter 200 empty Lowepro Stealth Reporter 200 foam insert Lowepro Stealth Reporter 200 foam insert

3. Take any comfortable hiking pack and empty it. Note, the pack needs to be big enough to hold the padded insert. This is an REI Trail 25, about the smallest, cheapest hiking pack that could be used for this.

REI Trail 25 pack

4. Place foam insert in bottom of pack.

REI Trail 25 pack with foam insert REI Trail 25 pack with foam insert

5. Load insert with camera gear. In this case I’m able to get a Canon 300mm f/4 lens in where I could not get it in the shoulder bag, this setup gives me more headroom for long lenses.

REI Trail 25 pack with foam insert and gear

6. Add more hiking gear on top and close bag. Add small tripod to side, fitting a leg into the water bottle holder.

REI Trail 25 pack with foam insert and gear REI Trail 25 pack with foam insert and gear

An additional plus to this idea is that this type of pack doesn’t advertise that you’re carrying a camera (if you leave the tripod off the outside).

An alternative to this idea is to use lens cases and a camera wrap and place the camera gear in the bag along with all the other hiking gear. That may be best in the long run and I’ll experiment with it as well. I do, however, like the idea of using a regular hiking pack rather than a dedicated camera pack for occasional carrying of larger gear on hikes.

If you have experience hiking with a DSLR I’d love to hear about it.

Lowepro Stealth Reporter 200 at B&H
REI Trail 25 pack at REI

Experience and camera gear

In a discussion on flickr on what it takes to be a “great photographer” the conjecture is that one can’t do it with a point and shoot camera. It’s both an immature conjecture and an interesting consideration wrapped up together.

O/T Point and Shoot Rant

In one of my replies as I was struggling to voice an opinion I came up with this, which may be my first koan in the photographic world:

An experienced photographer can do more with less. An inexperienced photographer does less with more.