Well, actually I have 3, one for each of the three dslr’s that I just can’t get rid of.
Bag #3 This vintage love I got for $10 about 5 years ago from the big camera store in downtown Austin, Precision Camera.
I just couldn’t pass it up. All boxy and brown, it holds my “vintage” rebel. I use this camera on auto (gasp) with the flash popping up for snapshots around my house. I try to keep it handy, but it often doesn’t even have a flash card in it. My husband also says this is his camera and he likes to take pictures of fans and other random things.
The “kit lens” stays attached to it at all times. I didn’t know any better back then. I didn’t have someone like me to tell me not to buy the kit lens. More on that later.
Bag #2 This Lowepro bag looks like a camera bag, right?
I got a lot of miles off of this one. I think I got it in 2003 for my Minolta film slr. I actually really like it and was torn when I parted with it for the Jill-e bag. Very functional, highly recommended. It currently houses my Canon 20D body with accompanying 50mm 1.4 lens. The lens I traded in for the 1.8 just because it seemed like I was supposed to.
I often take this bag and camera as my backup on shoots, but sometimes I forget. Lately, my main camera is “struggling” so the 20D comes along–just in case. With each of my camera bodies, I replaced them shortly after they began “struggling.”
With my rebel, one day I was taking pics of my friends kids when all of a sudden, the weirdest thing, I got images like this:
What in the world? Sick feeling in my stomach….I was glad it didn’t happen at the wedding I was shooting a few weeks before since that was my only camera at the time. Not good. Always have a backup for paid clients.
I jokingly said her kids broke my camera, but that wasn’t very nice of me. Luckily, she has forgiven me and allowed me to take unlimited pictures of her gorgeous girls whenever I see them (which unfortunately isn’t as often as I’d like since we now live a thousand miles apart). I sent it to Canon expecting to pay, and they fixed it for me. Works great today!
Then, about two years ago, my 20D started flashing ERROR 99 every so often. I didn’t know what that meant, but I do know that the word “error” is never good when it comes to something electronic. I had read on a photography forum that the dreaded ERROR 99 was a common one, and it only meant one thing—a pre cursor to death. It still works, but I only use it occasionally and try not to over exert this old soul so he can stay around with me for a while longer. This all happened just before I was flying to San Diego to photograph a wedding, and I knew I needed to invest in a new main camera.
Now what you really want to know~My main gear.
Then came my Canon 5D which currently occupies bag #1—housed by a snazzy brown suade Jill-e bag (isn’t she pretty?).
It holds a lot, and most people don’t know it is a camera bag. I love that. Mainly, I wanted something less obtrusive when I travel that doesn’t scream “very expensive equipment inside—please steal me!” I love the beauty of the jill-e bag, but I’ve had 2 and the straps have broken. I do carry a lot of heave equipment in it though.
This July will be 2 years since I got my 5D and guess what? In the past two weeks, I’ve seen some odd warnings flash randomly across my screen and I’ve got that pit in my stomach that says I need to upgrade again. Darn electronics! Are you all feeling it? That un-easiness that says….”NO! Say it isn’t so!” You hoped you would buy that one camera and it would last you forever (like my husband thinks a car should). Sad but true, all electronics die—eventually. My equipment will have a shorter life span because I take a LOT of pictures. But two years seems to be my track record. I’d say if you are just “shooting” family/friends, you’ve got at least double or triple that.
Now, enough of all that—what you really want to hear are the lenses.
I have a tie for my two favorite lenses:
Canon 70-200 4.0L IS and Canon 85mm 1.4
When I pull out the 70-200, I get respect. It’s a big dawg and at $1k, it better be pretty good. I actually first purchased the 2.8 version which is a whopping $1600 price tag. I plopped it on and it was HEAVY and quite large. After a week, it just felt too bulky and though it produced amazing images, I thought I would be perfectly happy with the 4.0 and returned it. Since the majority of my images are outside, the 2.8 isn’t altogether necessary.
I love this lens for the zoom, though I wouldn’t mind zooming a little more. It is a well known lens in the photography world and I had read many positive reviews. It offers great bokeh, or BLUR (as many of you asked about). Besides a low f-stop, having a good zoom lens will give great “blur” or show a nice depth of field. I do use it a lot for portraits…individuals and families. I love it at my boys’ soccer games, too. As I said, Big Dawg=respect. So I usually start with this lens at my sessions, and use it for most family shots, as I need to be above 4.0 anyway and with a group you don’t notice that slight difference in crispness.
My 85mm I wasn’t sure if I’d care or need it as much because I have the 50mm that I already loved. Before I purchased it, I remember hearing another photographer say she took it with her on an outing to the zoo and she had to “stand in the parking lot” to get a picture of her child with the animal. That mental image has stuck with me because it emphasizes the point that you have to really be a decent distance away from the subject at 85mm. I have grown to LOVE this lens, and almost prefer it to my 70-200 because it produces much more CRISP images. Sharp as a tack. With a prime/fixed lens, you get that. With a zoom, it just isn’t there as much. But I don’t think you need to start with this. Though I believe it is about $350, I still recommend starting with the 50mm and get used to that before heading to the 85mm. I use this for most of my up close individual shots for sure because I can get the 1.4 fstop from it.
The third lens I use in a photo shoot is a generic lens. The Tamron 28-75mm 2.8. I like to call this my “all purpose” lens. When I was shopping around and eventually bought this, I knew I wanted something that could go wide angle, but I didn’t need to spend $1k on the Canon glass. I rarely use this in a shoot, mostly to capture the scene of a building or sky in perspective of the individuals I am capturing. I’ve found I do use it every session, but only for a fraction of the shots. Because it is used for the scene and not close ups, I thought generic was just fine. Once again, highly recommended by photographers, I snatched it up for about $350 (I think). I also use this often when I am in my home or using my backdrop because I need that extra space it provides.
I also have a Canon 580ex flash and lightsphere that I use occasionally. At home, I don’t bother pulling it out. Natural light, my old Rebel with pop up flash, or my orange pocket camera does the trick. I actually don’t use this flash a ton, but when I do, I love the lightsphere to diffuse the harsh light.
That’s about it. I don’t use light meters or pocket wizards or reflectors (though I want to sometimes). I have 4 rechargeable batteries and lots of 4gb CF cards because I get nervous having too many images on one card. One family session can fit about 300 RAW images on my 4 gb cards and that is perfect for me. I carry business cards in the pocket of my bag and if people see me out and ask for one, I’ll give them one.
Ok, so my advice to those of you looking to buy a dslr: Don’t buy the kit lens! It will be very tempting because it comes as a discount with a package, but the kits lens isn’t great. I suggest finding the body you like and buy just that. Then buy the 50mm 1.8 at $100 and if you want one more to start out with, go for the Tamron wide angle that I mentioned for $300. Those of you that already bought a kit lens—it’s ok. You probably didn’t know any better. I did, too. But once you get a better lens, you will see the difference.
Lets end with something pretty I shot last weekend. A landscape shot of the Texas countryside in the spring.
To see more, head to my blog.
Did I cover all you ever wanted to know about my camera and lenses?
P.S. How is last week’s challenge coming? You may not see results overnight, but keep at it!
P.S.S. Next week—editing and photoshop.