What Photographic Gear Do I Use?
First and foremost, you can make great photos with cheap gear and you can make rubbish with expensive gear. Before purchasing new gear, you should always ask yourself why it will be useful/beneficial. I opted out of making one of those photos showing all my gear, because things add up over time and a photo with 50 items would be misleading. Don’t be a victim of Gear Acquisition Syndrome, think through what you really need and put a plan together on how to find the funds.
Camera & Lenses
The following is a list of gear that I actually use regularly. I won’t mention anything that is not being used regularly.
- Pentax K-50 (Pentax 50mm DA F1.8, Pentax 35mm DA f2.4)
- Pentax K-1 (Pentax 15-30mm D-FA f2.8 ED SDM WR, Pentax 100mm D-FA f2.8 WR, Pentax 50mm FA f1.4)
All the K-50 gear is APS-C and the K-1 full frame. I haven’t had a chance to use the 50mm FA f1.4 yet, I purchased it from Amazon and sent it to my parents’ home in Germany. Looking forward to picking it up and using it. I started with Pentax, really like its menu and how the K-1 has a button for everything important. Means, I don’t have to access the menu or scroll through things, I just click the button and presto. If you’re starting out with photography, and looking for a dSLR, have a good look at Pentax. They offer more functionality at a cheaper price than Canon and Nikon.
- Siriu T-005KX
This is a light travel tripod and needs to be upgraded very soon. It’s not made for a heavy camera like the K-1 and due to its design (the neck is fixed and stands about 30 cm above the three legs) it shakes a lot in windy conditions. I also don’t like the maximum and minimum working heights and it’s overall stability.
This is a good point about one getting by without having great gear though. I know that my next tripod will set me back 600-800 NZD. Making landscape photography requires a good, sturdy, light tripod that can easily be set up with one hand. However, this is a lot of money and I need a plan earn this money first.
I’m using the Lee Filter SW150 II filter holder and lens adapter. My 15-30mm doesn’t have a screw-on thread so the filter adapter is somewhat elaborate (and expensive). If you are wondering if the SW150II adapter designed for the Tamron 15-30mm works perfectly on the Pentax 15-30mm, IT DOES!
- SW150 II Kit
- Big stopper 150x150mm 10 stop ND filter
- Small stopper 150x150mm 6 stop ND filter
- 0.6 Soft Grad 150x170mm 2 stop soft grad ND
- I purchased the Lee SW150 Filter Pouch. (Those filters are expensive and need to be stored properly)
I hardly use the 0.6 soft grad. Just don’t like the idea of using two filters at the same time, and this one is a dust magnet. It is made from a different material than the stoppers.
Desktop Computer & Post Processing Software
I use a dedicated desktop computer for photography processing and backup. It runs Windows 7 and Gimp 2.8 and LightZone. These are open-source, free software products. Read my article on “Photography Workflow & Post-Processing” for more information. It won’t be as powerful as Photoshop and LightRoom, but what the main differences are, are tricky to quantify. When you spend enough time with LightZone, you’ll notice that it can do a lot, even things LightRoom can’t do. Unfortunately, the internet is filled with copy and paste and reviews on LightZone are usually overshadowed by the fact that the reviewer doesn’t give it a fair chance and enough time to learn how to use it.
Backpack & Other Gear
- Lowepro Fastpack BP250 AW II
- Two Speed-Lights (flash, with remotes)
- Light bouncer
- simple watch (with timer, stop watch)
- head torch with red light function + secondary torch
- heavy duty plastic
- gum boots
- warm, functional clothing
- cleaning gear: sensor cleaning gear, micro fibre cloths, manual blower
I like my “side-loader” camera backpack a lot. I’ve been asked if the “side-loader” option is useful. I use it 90% of the time. Often I’m on a beach, somewhere steep or muddy, and taking the big camera out of the pack without having to set it down is easy. I will eventually need a bigger bag for big trips where I need all my gear. However, if you’re purchasing a pack think about your style of photography. There’s a good chance that a “side-loader” option is useful for you.
You’ll need a flash. My K-1 doesn’t have one, the one on the K-50 is often inadequate. Remote triggers cost little money and they can be very helpful. I paid 100 Euros for two flash units with the remotes. I’ll eventually get a Pentax one, but it costs 3-4 times more than the brand I have.
The light bouncer is a circular (radius of ca. 50cm) bouncer with various reflective materials. I often use the gold reflector when photographing people with the sun in their background. It’s not ideal to hold the bouncer and make the photo, but still better than not using a bouncer.
The watch is an important tool. Especially for long exposures, let’s me know how long it’ll take until the photo is made. If I do a 10 minute long exposure and allow for camera internal long-expo noise remover, it will take about 20 minutes. So it helps to know when 20 minutes will be over.
Torches are important when you’re out in the forest or remote areas, even if you don’t plan to stay until dark. Having a red light function in a head torch is great so you’re eyes don’t have to adjust from seeing in the dark to a bright light. Pentax even has a red backlit screen option, so I can view the menu or other screen settings at night without my eyes having to readjust.
Take a big rubbish bag with you. My pack fits in it, I use it when I’m on the beach or during rain etc.
A bit of rope and knife can always come in handy. Hasn’t so far apart me having to cut a rock out of my foot when I hiked barefoot. At the moment I don’t have any hiking boots or any closed shoes apart from my gum boots. I walk with them for long periods, no problem. They protect my feet up to half-way to my knee and they’re only 40 bucks a pair. Don’t fall into the water with gum boots on, you won’t be able to take them off easily. I just mention the gum boots to let you know that you don’t necessarily need expensive hiking shoes.
I usually wear military style short pants with big pockets. Easy to store gear in. In terms of cleaning gear, I clean my sensor. It’s easy, you just need the appropriate kit and watch a youtube video on how it is done. In terms of cleaning, don’t over do it, use your gear in a fashion where cleaning is not necessary. Protect your sensor when changing lenses and always start with the blower to get dust off. I always shake the micro fibre cloth before applying it (you don’t want it to contain a sand corn when applying it to the lens). I also put the micro fibre cloth away for washing once I used it to get rid of anything oily or salty. If I’m doing long exposures at the beach on a windy day, I won’t reuse the cloth until it has been washed.
As a general rule, I purchase these cloths with every purchase I do on amazon. They cost a handful of Euros for a dozen. Further, no one is allowed to touch any of my gear without my permission. Not even a cleaning cloth. People do strange things. I had a lens brush once and a friend wanted to know what it is made of, so he touched the brush with his fingers. I threw it away. Another friend wanted to use one of my cloths to clean his lens. It looked like he had lunch on his lens…
How I Purchase New Gear
Before purchasing new gear I evaluate the need. If it is really needed like a tripod or filter, I read reviews about what is best for my use and go for top shelf gear. It’s better to buy high-quality than constantly low quality. However, I wait until the money is made through photography or sponsors etc. before purchasing it. At the moment, I’m doing a website for a lady with photography and can use some of that money to purchase a high-end tripod.
Buy the best gear you can afford. Be wary of spending lots of money on APS-C lenses. If you can’t justify or afford a FF camera, keep it simple in terms of lenses with your APS-C camera. Either purchase lenses that work for full frame as well, or save money and earn money through jobs until you can afford the FF gear.
You will get by without having the gear you wish for. Great gear doesn’t make great photos, and it is important to keep your overheads low. One way to find money to purchase new gear is to take on jobs you usually wouldn’t want to. It could be a tutoring job, a website job or a simple shoot.
Sometimes jobs come out of seemingly no-where. For instance, I was offered to partake in a documentary. Something I didn’t plan for and the fee was enough to purchase ff camera and lenses.