I’d been waiting a while to make this post, but since we’re so close to the holidays and I know that the recurring question of “I want a nice camera… what do you recommend?” will be inevitable, so I thought I’d save myself the trouble and write this now. This post is for gear that I have; tomorrow, I’ll have a post on photography gift ideas!
Just a note: some of the items will be links to Amazon.com. If you buy anything, I get a small percentage of that sale. I’m saving my nickels to buy a dream lens, so don’t be shy about spending your dimes! :)
So at every wedding, I tote these around:
2 Nikon D700 camera bodies. One of these is my primary camera (the other is a backup in case the first one glitches, falls into a pond, etc). I love this camera because it has a full-frame sensor, has amazing low-light capabilities, and is so intuitive to use. I have my cameras set up the way I want them, and can change settings in fractions of a second. I wouldn’t mind a second CF card slot (my only complaint) but it’s well worth the money if you’re looking to shoot weddings, portraits, or if you feel that you’ve reached a limit of what you can do with your crop-frame camera body.
1 Nikon D90 camera body. This is my backup-backup camera, although I’ve been known to wield it during wedding ceremonies with my 70-200mm lens to get really close to the action without physically getting in the way. The crop-sensor appears to “magnify” images so I can get in really close at 200mm (the DX equivalent of ~250mm). The D90 also shoots video (so there are a lot of videos of my cats being adorable stored on my hard drive).
50mm f/1.4 lens (Nikon or Sigma). This is my absolute favorite focal length. If you’re using a 50mm on a full-frame body, what you see is what you get when you lift the camera to your eye. The shallow aperture is dreamy and the bokeh (little blobs of blurred light) in the unfocused areas is lovely. This is also the focal length I shot with in high school so it feels familiar to me.
Nikon 35mm f/2 lens. I’m not a person who likes to shoot super wide (I don’t like the distortion on the edges), so 35mm is as wide as I go. While there’s a lot of talk about the new Nikon 35mm f/1.4 lens (which is appropriately dreamy), the f/2 is a fraction of the cost and does a great job. Plus, it’s pretty light, so when you’re hauling your gear on your shoulder like a pack mule, you learn to appreciate its slight weight.
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens. This is a beautiful portrait and detail lens. I call it my dream-maker. Nikon has its old 85 D for a comparable price, but the Sigma focuses much faster; the new Nikon 85 G is probably amazing, but Sigma’s is easier on the wallet :)
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 (VR I) lens. (Pick up the newer 70-200 VR II here.) This bad boy is so heavy that I only use it during ceremonies when I need it, and then it goes back into my bag. It’s fast to focus, yields crisp images, and allows me to sneak around on the outskirts of ceremonies without trampling over the couples or their guests.
Kenko extension tubes. I don’t have a dedicated macro lens (and may never will), so I throw on a 25mm extension tube to get close to certain details — usually the rings.
3 Nikon SB-28 flashes. I know, you were expecting me to say that I own Nikon SB-900s, the Nikon flagship flash. The truth is, at $500 a flash, the SB-900 is a little too rich for my blood. The SB-28 is an older model, but works really well for manual control and you can find them used for around $100 each. Plus, they recycle fast and don’t eat batteries.
2 Cybersync transmitters and 5 Cybersync receivers. I use these radio receivers to synchronize my SB-28s when they are perched on light stands during the reception. I have more than I need just in case.
A Shootsac. I made do with an old neoprene laptop case for a while, but finally broke down and bought the Shootsac. Its fabric hugs my lenses and there are 6 pockets, so I can carry 2 lenses and my water bottle in the front side, and extra CF cards, my wallet, business cards, phone, and bag of almonds in the back.
All housed in the Lowepro X100 Rolling Camera Bag. I admit, if I end up buying even one more lens this will be too small, but right now this case is perfect. It glides on wheels, and if you need to, you can unzip it from its wheel set to use as a backpack. It’s small enough to pack as carry-on for most American flights, and even comes with a TSA combination lock.
Stay tuned for my photography-related gift guide that I will post tomorrow!