This blog is primarily focussed on photography with a few rambling words thrown in for good measure. As such I thought I’d add a little section outlining the equipment I use to take the images for this blog and my other social media accounts.
My very first camera was a little polaroid compact that my parents let me borrow when I was a kid, I think that ignited my passion for photography, capturing the things I saw around me was fascinating and a lot of fun to do. Fast forward a few years and for my 18th birthday I received a Nikon Coolpix 2000, a 2 megapixel compact camera that at the time was crazy expensive and well featured. Fast forward more than a decade and it’s now consigned to the history books, although I think I still have it in a box somewhere.
After I outgrew the Nikon, I started using my Dad’s Kodak camera which had a far more impressive 5 megapixels and was generally a better all-round camera. It was on this one I started to learn the technical aspects of photography as it had full manual controls and not just spray and pray modes as previous encounters.
I finally purchased my first “big” camera when I picked up a Canon 350D an EF-S 18-55mm kit lens several years ago. It was such a sea-change from the little digital compacts and really opened up my creativity. I wanted more though and saved up for my current SLR, a Canon 40D which I complemented with a Canon 50mm F1.8 or “nifty fifty” lens which served me very well until it’s untimely demise following a fall.
Reflecting my ever changing needs I soon got tired of lugging a bag full of bodies and lenses around and wished for something smaller. I purchased a Panasonic LX1 which frankly was a heap of crap when compared with my SLRs. So I bided my time while the manufacturers improved their models and slowly brought them up to speed with their bigger siblings. Step forward Fujifilm who hit marketing gold a few years ago when they decided to start making retro inspired cameras, beginning with the fabled X100 and my first serious compact, the X10. I called it Fred and it was an amazing little camera up until that horrifying moment in Brno when I accidentally leaned on it in the tent and heard that sickening crunch of the lens element crying out in agony.
And so that brings us up to the present day and “Frank”, my Fujifilm X30 and current workhorse camera that has been used to take 95% of the pictures on this blog since I purchased him in January 2015. I’ll now go into a bit more detail on the specifics of my photography equipment.
FRANK (FUJIFILM X30)
My trusty and valiant steed, my Fujifilm X30 is my go to camera for 90% of the time. With a 28-112mm equivalent lens and a fast F2.0-2.8 aperture the built in zoom lens is more than capable of capturing the majority of shots I’d need to take. I love the Wifi feature as it allows me to send photos to my phone and edit them right there and then and have them on my Instagram feed mere minutes after taking the shot. The tilting screen is another great addition which I’ve never had on a camera before but really comes in handy for capturing those interesting and hard to reach angles. The X30 is definitely a worthy upgrade from the X10 and I would highly recommend it as the perfect carry-around camera for when you want to leave the bulky SLR at home.
BOB (CANON EOS 40D)
Bob is getting on a bit in years (he doesn’t even shoot video!) but you know what, he still takes a damn good picture. The Canon 40D has been replaced by the 50D, 60D and most recently, the 70D so it’s by no means a top of the range camera but as Chase Jarvis says “The best camera is the one you have with you” and when I have Bob with me I know I can get decent photos. I mainly bring him out when I need a bit more reach with his telephoto lens or if I’m shooting low light and need a faster lens (more on those later on). He has more than enough bells and whistles to get creative and you can pick up a second-hand 40D for next to nothing these days.
Canon EF-S 18-55mm F3.5-5.6
I’m pretty sure that 99.9% of DSLR owners in the world own the bog standard 18-55mm kit lens. Every manufacturer produces one and for beginners they do the job, they take decent enough pictures and get the job done. However, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of playing around with a Canon L lens you’ll know that the kit lens is……meh. But that’s all it’s supposed to be, it gets you by until you can upgrade to the fancy glass.
Sigma 30mm F1.4
My “fancy” glass would be my Sigma 30mm F1.4 lens, not the ART lens they recently released but the older one. My example has a bit of a focussing issue in that it misses half the time and causes me to swear and curse like there’s no tomorrow. When it does nail that focus though……damn son it’s good. Of course it’s a little soft at F1.4 and more expensive lenses will run rings around it any day but it does a decent job and is my only fast lens after my poor nifty fifty bit the dust a few years ago. Would I recommend this lens? Probably not no. I’d go with the nifty fifty and use the money you’ve saved to buy a decent tripod or some nice filters.
Canon EF 75-300 F3.5-5.6
When I’m looking for a bit more reach than the 112mm max of Frank I’ll break out the telephoto and stick him on Bob. At F5.6 at the long end it’s a slow lens but it’s certainly a LOT sharper than the Sigma equivalent I first purchased that suuuuuucked big time. Of course having played with a 600mm F4 L lens before this lens isn’t amazing but as I’ve said the gear you have with you is the best gear. Once you keep your shutter speed up this lens takes really nice pictures and is one of the better entry level telephotos out there.
A tripod is of course an absolute must but I can’t emphasise enough that you should always invest in a decent model. Don’t get with that cheap Velbon one you saw in the shop for next to nothing, it will move around in the wind and most likely break after a few months. I made that mistake before and now have a nice solid Manfrotto MK394-H that is good and sturdy and will last me a long time.
Speedlights aren’t an essential for everyone but if you’ve ever taken the slightest peak at Strobist.com or seen anything by the God of Light Joe McNally then you’ll be wanting at least 75 of them 🙂 I haven’t had much opportunity to use mine since I started this blog but I’m hoping to start doing some features on interesting people in and around Hobart so will be using them with my umbrellas and radio triggers to do some nice photoshoots hopefully. I have a Canon 430EX and a Sigma 530DG Super. I’ve heard great things about Yongnuo who have been basically ripping off Canon’s products for the last few years (cheeky).
If you want to do timelapse and you’re a Canon user then you’re going to need an intervalometer. I have an Opteka remote that does just what I need and also doubles up as a remote camera trigger. If you’re a Nikon shooter then you’ll know you already have timelapse functions built in (lucky you). There is of course the Magic Lantern firmware for Canon that adds timelapse features but I haven’t played around with that so can’t comment on its effectiveness.
OTHER BITS AND PIECES
A phone…of course. Camera phones have come along in leaps and bounds in recent years and the latest smartphones take exceptional images given their teeny tiny little sensors. If it’s good enough for the New York Times or Getty Images then it’s good enough for you. I have an iPhone 5 on which I occasionally take pictures but very often edit images on. Since I got the Fujifilm X30 with it’s Wifi features I can transfer images straight to the phone and edit them there and then, thus cutting out the need for the camera on the phone essentially.
When editing images my go to app hands down is Snapseed. It’s amazing and does everything I need. Every image on my Instagram feed has been edited in Snapseed. There’s so many different options and the latest upgrade added a tonne of neat features like being able to mask in edits and stack layers just like in Photoshop. When I’m on the go and want to get an image out there fast, it’s Snapseed all the way.
I use Fujifilm’s Cam Remote app to transfer images from Frank to my phone. It’s so easy to use and even has a function whereby I can control the camera using my phone (handy for those sneaky street photography shots). Of course pretty much every manufacturer has Wifi now with app quality varying by manufacturer. I’ve heard some of them are terrible but I’m very happy with Fuji’s offering, does exactly what it says on the tin and quickly.
If I am using my phone to take pictures then I use the Camera+ app which is a step above the standard iPhone camera app. It allows you to adjust exposure compensation as well as locking exposure and focus so you can do your best to avoid those clipped highlights which are so prevalent with phone photography. It’s an easy app to use and one I’d definitely recommend for those looking for a little more control when taking pictures with their phone.
So that’s a basic rundown of my gear bar a few items here and there which I haven’t mentioned. I could write pages of this kind of stuff but I know people just want to know the basics so hopefully this helps explain a little bit of the behind the scenes of how I take my pictures. If you have any specific gear or technique related questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch.