IN THE BAG

Gear. The one thing that few photographers can resist talking about, fawning over, or indeed, sometimes even arguing endlessly about.

But as every dedicated photographer knows, any piece of gear is only a tool to help achieve a desired goal. I want this page to be a resource to help other photographers. Maybe you are just starting out, or maybe you just don’t travel much, whatever the case may be, my hope is this page can be a help for you. My intent is to give you a look at what I bring on a general assignment and why. On this page and under each tab you will find an overview of that gear. It is not a complete list, nor is it a stagnate list. But it should give you a good starting point if that is what you are looking for. The first tab is a packing list, it is also changing, so what is in my camera bag this week you may not find it there next week.

This is by no means a complete list of my gear. The myriad 35mm film cameras in my possession are absent, including Nikons from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, as well as an eclectic selection of Brownies, 110 Instamatics, etc, etc. They’re rarely, if ever, used, relegated instead to the shelves and drawers of history; digital having long ago supplanted my workflow.

Cameras

Since about 1984, I’ve been a devout Nikon user. To read more about the evolution in my choice of kit over the years, be sure to read The Camera and Eye – A Lifelong Relationship with Photography.

Fujifilm X-T2

Imagine an X-T1 with the guts of the X-Pro2, plus further enhanced speed and operability, and you have the X-T2, a camera that builds on what made the original model so great, but on steroids. No longer do we need to apologize for sluggish autofocus tracking — the X-T2 will track as well as cameras like the Nikon D7200 or Canon 7DII, for example … a first for mirrorless cameras (read my post about these performance attributes here). If you prefer the shooting style of a SLR, with plenty of mechanical-style dials and controls, and lots of horsepower, the X-T2 should make you happy.

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Fujifilm X-T2 with VPB-XT2 Battery Grip

Fujifilm X-Pro 2

The successor to Fujifilm’s innovative X-Pro1 from 2012, the X-Pro2 dramatically improves upon the formula in almost every way, with a brand new 24mp APS-C sensor, faster processor, full weather sealing, twin card slots, dedicated focusing joystick, and myriad other operational features and improvements. Yours truly was one of five X-Photographers in Canada selected to pre-shoot with a prototype of the X-Pro2, and you can read more about my experiences with it here. Though many may disagree, IMHO this is what the modern Leica M camera should be.

X-Pro 2
Fujifilm X-Pro 2

Fujifilm X-T1

As of 2015, the X-T1 uses the latest iteration of the 16mp X-Trans sensor, dubbed X-Trans II. It differs from the X-Pro series primarily in offering a SLR body style, as opposed to a hybrid rangefinder style. Faster overall operational speed, a large, bright, 2.6m dot EVF, wi-fi, film simulation modes, and a vertical grip are some of its hallmarks over previous X-Series interchangeable lens cameras. While the black version is shown below, I personally use the Graphite Silver Edition you see featured prominently on this page, with the VG-XT 1 Vertical Battery Grip attached, doubling the battery capacity (valuable for mirrorless cameras) and making it easier to handhold with longer lenses such as the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR.

Fujifilm X-T1
Fujifilm X-T1

Fujifilm X100T

This is the second successor to the wildly successful X100, a camera I owned back in 2011 and took to Africa. Small, unobtrusive, yet tremendously powerful with a 16mp X-Trans sensor and 23mm f/2 lens (35mm equiv. in so-called full frame terms), the X100 series has quickly become one of the most iconic cameras of the 21st century with its retro good-looks and a feature set capable of meeting many professional demands. A camera David Hobby, Zack Arias, and yours truly fell in love with … despite those early quirks (ironed out in the X100T, I must point out).

Fujifilm X100T
Fujifilm X100T

Fujifilm X-Pro 1

My original, though admittedly lengthy, review of the X-Pro1 is here.

Fujfilm X-Pro 1
Fujfilm X-Pro 1

Nikon D3s

Introduced to instant acclaim in 2009, the D3s was the fourth digital camera in Nikon’s line to feature a 24x36mm sensor, and to this day remains a viable and top-spec workhorse that is widely regarded as one of the company’s hall of fame products. Though it’s big and heavy, it’s a tough, bullet-proof beast of a camera that you can throw in the bag, confident in the knowledge that it will get the job done under the most grueling of circumstances. In fact, when it comes to durability, talk to most any camera repair specialist and they’ll tell you that the D3/D3s remains the toughest, strongest DSLR ever built … beyond the D4/D5 or anything from the Canon EOS 1D series.

And while it’s “only” 12mp, they’re big, fat, juicy megapixels, with wonderful tonal response and excellent low light capability (native ISO equivalency from 200 to 12800), even by 2016 standards.

Possessed of outstanding autofocus, capable of tracking moving subjects at 9fps, an enormous buffer (48 RAW frames in one burst), dual card slots, and a bevy of features most pros may never even use, it also forms the core of the extensive Nikon System, arguably the single most comprehensive camera system in the history of photography, dating all the way back to the legendary F 35mm SLR. While its feature set has been usurped by the D4 series, and D5, those cameras are really just iterations of the basic formula that was established with the D3s.

It remains in the bag, What’s that saying? “From my cold, dead hands…”

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Nikon D3s

Nikon D7000

Though growing a little older now since the introduction of the D7100 and D7200, the original D7000 remains a supremely capable camera, and was a true powerhouse when it was introduced back in 2010. Featuring a 2,016-segment RGB color exposure meter, built-in interval timer, 39 focus points, dual card slots, and weather and moisture sealing, the camera utilized a 16mp APS-C sensor with usable performance up to ISO 1600. Grippy, chunky, and with responsive controls and speedy operation, I still enjoy shooting with this camera from time to time, typically if I need the attributes of a DSLR in a compact package. Mine sports the MB-D11 vertical battery grip.

Nikon D7000
Nikon D7000

Olympus OM-D E-M1

Maligned by some — typically those who don’t know any better — as having a sensor that is “too small”, Olympus’ (and Panasonic’s) micro four-thirds system (m4/3) is actually supremely capable in many respects, offering reduced overall size and weight (body and lenses), an outstanding array of high quality optics, IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) in the case of Olympus, and a bespoke set of features not found anywhere else.

Additional benefits of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 include a rugged, weather-sealed, pro-spec body, direct ergonomic controls, and a large, bright EVF, along with features such as keystone correction, live bulb and live composite modes, focus stacking and focus bracketing modes, and an array of customization options. Focus is extremely swift in single point mode, particularly in good light, and focus points extend across the entire frame.

Image quality is excellent between ISO 200 and 800, reasonable at ISO 1600, and usable at ISO 3200, depending upon your application. Noise is a little more prominent as the ISOs climb, but it’s rarely distracting or unpleasant, easily managed, and effectively disappears altogether if you’re printing. At the same time, I would characterize sharpness, corner-to-corner, to be superior to larger-sensor cameras. Realistically, I would say overall IQ is neck-and-neck with the Nikon D7000, despite the OM-D E-M1 having a slightly smaller (though admittedly newer) sensor.

And sometimes that smaller sensor is actually a good thing. Without wanting to get into all the technical weeds here, I’ll just suggest you check out the website of award-winning professional UK photographer, Lindsay Dobson. A highly intelligent and literate shooter, she has a couple of in-depth posts where she logically discusses some of the significant benefits m4/3 brings to the table, which you can read about here and here. Contrary to conventional wisdom, suffice to say that under certain shooting scenarios, having more depth of field (as opposed to less) at larger apertures can be distinctly advantageous.

I use my OM-D E-M1 with the HLD-7 Battery Grip, as you see pictured below. Again, mirrorless cameras are power-hungry and with twin batteries I can get about 800 frames before I need to switch out (roughly the same as the Fujfilm X-T1).

Think of the OM-D E-M1 as a worthy digital successor to Olympus’ original OM-4 35mm SLR.

Olympus OM-D E-M1
Olympus OM-D E-M1

Lenses

Since about 1984, I’ve been a devout Nikon user. To read more about the evolution in my choice of kit over the years, be sure to read The Camera and Eye – A Lifelong Relationship with Photography.

Fujinon XF18mm f/2R

Equivalent to a 27mm lens in “full frame” sensor terms, this lens…

Fujinon XF 18mm f/2R
Fujinon XF18mm f/2R

 

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Fujifilm X-Pro1 with Fujinon XF18mm f/2R | 1/30 sec | f/2.8 | IS0 2000

Fujinon XF35mm f/1.4R

This lens is an absolutely stellar performer, optically…

Fujinon XF35mm f/1.4R
Fujinon XF35mm f/1.4R

 

Fujinon XF35mm f/1.4R | 1/15 sec | f/4 | IS0 640
Fujifilm X-Pro1 with Fujinon XF35mm f/1.4R | 1/15 sec | f/4 | IS0 640

Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 R WR

Think of this as Fujifilm’s answer to the Leica 50mm Summicron; a slightly slower lens than the f/1.4, but with superior build quality, weather resistance, and a smaller, tapered profile that doesn’t block the X-Pro cameras’ advanced optical hybrid viewfinder. Plus it sports a nine-bladed aperture diaphragm for nice out-of-focus bokeh. I find results near indistinguishable from the 35mm f/1.4 at f/2.

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Fujinon XF35mm f/2R WR

 

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF35mm f/2R WR | 1/200 sec | f/2.8 | IS0 1000

Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R

A gorgeous prime lens equivalent to an 85mm focal length in “so-called” full frame terms. Plenty of soft, out-of-focus “dreaminess”, even though DOF behaves more like f/1.8 on full frame. Excellent for low light and for portraits in tight quarters or at close distances when you want DOF that’s shallow.

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Fujinon XF56mm f/1.2R

 

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Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF56mm f/1.2R | 1/60 sec | f/3.2 | IS0 800