What's in the Bag?
You hear all the time, it's not the equipment - it's the person using it. It's not the camera, it's the photographer that makes the shot. Well, I couldn't agree more, however, having the right equipment for the job can help you achieve the desired results.
Another saying I like is that the best camera is the one you have with you and I'd have to whole-heartedly agree. I don't always have my 'big' gun with me, but I always have my iPhone, currently the 5S. I'm amazed at the quality this 8mp camera delivers. And to think, my first digital camera, the legendary Nikon D1 was a whopping 2.47 Megapixels and cost over $8000.00! But there's also something new. More on that later...
Before we get into what I'm currently carrying, I'll give you a brief walk-through of my equipment journey.
I started out with a Balda 'Baldix' that my Dad gave me. It was a square format fold-up camera that used 120 roll film. You had to wind the film forward after each shot and 'cock' the shutter before firing. There was no light meter to calculate exposure. It was trial and error, taking notes and guesstimation. At the time, I didn't even know a light meter was an option!
From there, I upgraded (my Dad again) to the venerable Yashica LM Twin-Lens Reflex Camera. This camera came out the year I was born, 1957. The LM stood for 'Light-Meter'. Now this was a modern camera! One lens to compose and focus through and the other to capture the shot with. You looked down through the top of the camera and the image was reversed, but at least it was right-side-up.
This is also a square format camera that accepted 120 roll film. Pictured with the Yashica is a roll of Kodak Verichrome Pan Film (VP 120) still in it's orginal box, unopened with the 'Develop Before' date of March, 1967.
These were great cameras and are still working today. They sit in a place of honour on the mantle in my den. Every now and then I pick one up, set the shutter and fire off a round or two. That solid mechanical 'click' was something to experience.
Photography took the back-burner for a while but when the interest came up again near the end of high school, my first 'real' camera was the Canon FTb. So to all you Canon users that knock me for using Nikon... I actually did start out with Canon. In fact, along with the two cameras above, one of my three Canon F1's sits in a place of honour on the mantle.
My Canon career took me through the FTb, two AE-1's, three Canon F1's, a T-90 (a camera way ahead of it's time as far as I'm concerned) and an EF (also ahead of it's time but never really caught on).
And yes, that's an old Speedotron 2401A Power Pack the F1 is sitting on!
It was near the end of my Canon days that I made the move to Professional Photography. Shooting weddings 'back in the day' wasn't considered professional unless you shot with Medium Format. Bronica, Mamiya, Hasselblad and Pentax were the big names.
I tried the Mamiya RZ67 for a while, but it was just too big (6x7 format) to hand-hold at weddings. Otherwise, this was an amazing camera! So I started to look for a smaller medium format camera. I avoided the Hasselblad counter at Vistek like the plague. It was expensive and I didn't want to go there. But after trying the competition I finally gave in and tried one. It was love at first click! As soon as I picked up the 503cx I knew it was my camera. I wish I still had it, the 503cx or later the 503cw.
They were beautifully crafted and definitely work-horses. The Zeiss lenses were second to none and I had 4 of the best, the 50mm, 80mm, 120 Macro and 150mm. Funny how now I have three zooms and find that restricting. I don't even have a picture of either of my beloved Hassy's. So sad. This one of the 503cw is borrowed off the internet and styled to coordinate with the page. Maybe one day I'll pick up a used one just to sit on the shelf next to my other 'antiques'.
The Hasselblads lasted for nearly 15 years. Not one repair, never a break-down. Some of my best, all-time favourite images were taken with those two cameras.
I have also used, and still have a Calumet 4x5 Rail Camera with an outstanding Linhof Lens. I haven't used it in years, and only once for a professional job. This is a slow camera to use, with the image being not only reversed, but upside down in the viewfinder. This camera forces you to learn composition like no other. I still have some 4x5 film holders and maybe someday will load a couple just for the joy of it.
AND THEN CAME DIGITAL
The world was changing and going digital. Talk about a roller-coaster ride. Well, in summary, the Hasselblads got traded in, along with the Canon (all except my F1) and digital I went.
In the same time I had two Hasselblads, I've gone through 8 or 9 digital cameras, starting with the Nikon D1. Then came the D1x, two D200's, a D70, two D300's, the D700 (which I still have AND use) and now the amazing Nikon D800e at a whopping 36 Megapixels.
With the Nikon D800e I finally have a digital camera that I believe is on par, if not surpases my 'Blads. The sharpness and clarity of this camera is phenomenal. When I want the absolute best possible quality, for portrait, commercial or landscape/fine art photography, this is my goto camera.
This is not a camera for the casual user. Because of the high resolution, it has to be handled with perfect technique, more like a medium format camera than an dSLR. 99% of the time I'm shooting from a Gitzo tripod or a studio stand.
Will it be my last? It may not be, but at this point I know I can at least slow down. They're going to have to come out with something pretty incredible before I'll want to upgrade this work of art.
Although the D800e is still my camera of choice for studio, commercial, portrait and landscape work, and the D700 my trusty event camera and backup, I wanted a camera that brought me back to the passion of photography that I remember when I first picked up the Balda.
I considered the Nikon DF, a 'retro' style digital SLR, with which I'd be able to use all my current Nikon gear, but I was looking for something smaller, lighter... something I could carry with me everywhere and all the time. With an interchangeable lens system, you tend to want to bring EVERYTHING with you! Not what I was interested in.
I started looking at the X-Series of FujiFilm cameras. A buddy (thanks Marty!) loaned me an X100S, the 2nd generation of the ground-breaking X100, and I loved it. I carried it with me everywhere and didn't want to give it back. By the time I decided to make this my next camera, rumours of the X100T were surfacing and I decided to wait. I hate that!
So now I have what I call my desert island camera, the FujiFilm X100T. If I were to be stranded on a desert island with only one camera, this is the one. It's 'wife approved' for travelling (she hates when I bring my pack full of gear), enough resolution for most applications, sharp, accurate, and most of all fun to use!
It's a rangefinder style camera, meaning there is an optical viewfinder that you hold to your eye for composing and focusing. It's unique, and I won't go into all the details as you can find that elsewhere online.
But to say the least, this camera has rekindled my excitement for photography. There's something about being restricted to one focal length of lens, to have full manual control (I've never used 'auto' settings) and recreate old favourite film styles to create the type of images that drew you into photography to begin with.
The great thing about this camera though, is that it's fully capable of handling assignments. The quality is outstanding. So, for the right job, this could very well be the right tool.. and has already proven to be.
So... What's in the Bag NOW!
Currently I use the following Nikon equipment, not all of which is actually in the bag:
Nikon D800e Full Frame Camera Body
Nikon D700 Full Frame Camera Body
AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8 Wide Angle Zoom (the workhorse)
AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 Standard Zoom (another workhorse)
AF-S 28-70mm f/2.8 Standard Zoom (use this in studio with my D700)
AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 Tele-Zoom (the other workhorse)
AF-S 50mm f/1.4 Standard (LOVE this lens!)
PC-Micro 85mm f/2.8 'Tilt-Shift' Lens (for product and food photography)
SB800 & SB900 Speedlights
AND the FujiFIlm X100T
Gitzo 3540 XLS Tripod
Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head
RRS L-Plates for both D700 & D800e
RRS Quick-Release Plate on BH-55
B+W 77mm Slim-Line Polarizer
B+W 77mm 3-Stop ND
Lee Filter System including Graduated ND Hard and Graduated ND Soft and the 10-Stop 'Big Stopper' ND
Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 16 ND
RFN-4s Wireless Remote
... and a whole whack of other stuff.
OH! and the Bag... it's the F-Stop Gear "Tilopa BC" Backpack. I think I've finally found the ultimate camera bag. It holds ALL my gear, including the D800e, lenses, filters, accessories and the X100T along with tripod, chest-waders, water shoes, extra clothing and food. The inside is shown here without my 70-200, but including my X100T which is usually around my neck. When I'm not needing everything, it's still the most convenient and versatile camera bag I've ever used and weighs next to nothing while carrying it.