What's in my camera bag?
My preferred equipment has slowly changed over time. I’m sure it will continue to change when I have the budget to upgrade or as my shooting style evolves, but for now this is a snap shot of what I bring with me to a photoshoot.
I look at my gear as tools. Tools that help me get the photo that I see in my head as quickly as possible. I could use other equipment and get the same or similar results. But it all comes down to how comfortable I am with my equipment. I know my lenses inside out. The type of flare they produce, their style of bokeh, their sharpness or softness at given f-stops etc. Knowing your equipments strong and weak points really helps when it comes to quickly capturing the photo that is in your head.
Canon EOS 5D MK III
I only upgraded to this body a year ago. For me it was a huge set up from the MK II regarding auto focus accuracy. For that alone it was worth the money as it gave me more confidence when shooting. Before hand I was doing a lot of manual focus when shooting at f/1.2 as I felt I did a better job than the camera. But manual focusing is slow which isn’t ideal.
Image quality is very similar to the MK II. So much so that I have no issues using both cameras side by side as they both produce very similar results.
Canon EOS 5D MK II
I’ve had this camera a very long time and it has served me well. Image quality is very close to the MK III which is great. But now I only really carry it as a back up on the off chance that something were to happen to my main camera. I do use it on occasions when I don’t have time to change lenses (and for first looks which I’ll touch on later), but I’d prefer not to as I’m just more comfortable with the MK III. Plus it doesn’t have a silent shutter mode which I use quite a lot.
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 MK II
I’ve had this lens for quite a while now and I’ve come to form a love/hate relationship with it. I love the build quality, the natural perspective, the bokeh, the flaring, the sharpness etc. Sure it has some issues like fringing wide open, but I don’t hate those issues. Generally they are easily fixed afterwards. What I dislike is the narrowness of the 85mm focal range. Like I said, I love the natural perspective this focal range creates. It’s very truthful. But things just feel too narrow and so I find I tend to keep a large distance from the subject. It can be a challenge to make the subject feel a part of their surroundings as this focal length can be very isolating. But if done right the result can look so natural. Combine that with this lenses style of bokeh and sharpness and you can create some stunning shots.
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 MK I
I bought this lens around the same time I got the 5D MK III. So it’s a recent enough addition to my camera bag. Build quality is not as good as my 85mm, but it’s still sturdy (unfortunately it has no weather seal) for professional work. It’s also not as sharp as the 85mm and can be a little heavy handed with vignetting, but those aren’t issues to me. What it does have is a charming bokeh. Something that actually drew me to the lens in the first place. Photos shot around the f/1.4 mark just have a beautiful quality to the bokeh. It’s not over bearing or screaming for attention. Instead it feels more subtle, pushing your attention to the areas in focus. But it retains just enough character to make you wonder what is happening in the out of focus areas. A great quality to have for a lens that I use mainly for documentary style photos.
I used to shoot an old Olympus OM-1n film camera. As a result I built up a small collection of lenses for that system. When moving over to digital I made sure that the system I chose was able to use these old lens with the help of an adapter.
All these lenses are manual focus and the aperture must be set manually on the lens itself.
Olympus G-Zuiko Auto-S 55mm f/1.2
A very old single coated lens (with rare earth elements) which has a handful of issues. Because it is single coated it has huge issues with flaring and ghosting. The lens is also very soft. The softest lens I’ve ever used to the point that it is extremely hard to focus at f/1.2 because the area that is in focus still looks a little out. But I absolutely adore this lens. All of its weak points actually give it a very unique character that under the right conditions create a wonderfully dreamy photo. Its bokeh is also my favorite out of all my lenses. It can be a little distracting, but in a good way.
Nowadays I only use this during the portraits session as I have more time to work with the lens to insure accurate focus.
Also for some reason, the single coated element (and its weaknesses) really compliment black and white photography.
As much as I love this lens I would like to get the Canon 50mm f/1.2 as I feel I would get more use out of that lens.
Olympus Zuiko Auto-S 40mm f/2
This lens was one of the later lenses released in the Zuiko OM range. It’s as sharp as my 85mm and its bokeh is the most pleasing/nutural out of all my lenses. I use this lens a lot less now that I have the 35mm which has more character. But I do reach for the 40mm for some free-lensing stuff. When I use it without the adapter I can recess the lens a little into the mount opening which allows for some tilt-shift style photos.
It’s a time consuming process so I only do this when I have the time & option to experiment a little.
Olympus Zuiko Auto-W 24mm f/2
This is a last resort lens for times when my 35mm isn’t wide enough and moving further away isn’t an option. I would actually like to use the 24mm range more, but this lens technically isn’t the best which results in more post processing work. Ideally I would like to replace this with the Canon 24mm f/1.4 someday.
Canon Extension Tube EF12 II
Very handy little device to carry around. Pretty much turns any of my lenses into a macro lens. Ideal for photos of wedding rings, flowers etc.
If I use it with my 85mm I can still retain some distance. It gets me a bit closer, but without it feeling like a macro shot. When used with my 35mm I can get very close for more detailed photos typical from a macro lens.
Remote Trigger & Tripod
Sometime for first look sessions, I may set up my second camera and remotely trigger it. I only do it on occasions where I feel I can’t capture both of their expressions. Otherwise the tripod says in the car.
Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash
I’ll be honest. I really dislike using flash. But you can get some really dramatic and fun dance floor photos with it.
Generally speaking I’m a natural/available light kind of guy so you’ll never see me reach for this flash outside of the dance floor. So far I’ve only had to use this flash on one occasion for group portraits during a winter wedding and I’d prefer to keep it that way. But it’s always in my bag on the off chance that I need it.
What can I say about this other than always make sure you have more than you need. 2/3 is normally enough for me to get through a full wedding day. The rest are back-ups.
Compact Flash Memory Cards
I normally prefer to use smaller capacity cards rather that one really large one. If a worst case scenario were to happen and a card became corrupted or damaged I would lose only a portion of my photos. It’s still bad, but not as bad as loosing all photos from a full days shoot.
Yeah you read right, a glass prism. I’ve been experimenting with using this in from of the lens to reflect light in from different angles. I still have a lot to learn as I’ve only started to experiment with it. But it’s fun trying new things along with seeing your clients faces when you pull a prism out of your pocket and start waving it in front of the camera.