I am often asked what camera equipment I use so I figured I’d write this to answer that question.
As a photographer who runs a wedding and event photography studio (you can check out my work here), I have two sets of cameras. For my wedding and event work, I still use Canon 5D cameras (a Mark II and a Mark III) with a complete series of Canon L lenses (16-35mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm). That said, I am looking to transition to my absolute favorite cameras and the ones I use for my personal and travel photography.
That system is the Fuji X system and I love it for many reasons. First off, the size and weight make it easy to carry all day. I can easily fit one (or two) of the Fuji X-T1 cameras with two or three lenses in the space occupied by a Canon 5D Mark III and the 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens. And it would weigh less which is important if you’re carrying it around all day.
Next, the image quality. It is superb. No other way to describe it. The JPEGs that come out of these cameras are very usable and a lot of times that’s all I use. While I have the RAW files also in case I want to fine tune an image a lot more, the JPEGs straight out of camera (SOOC) are usually good enough. That surprised me and it is something I was forced into since my first Fuji X camera was the X Pro 1 before Adobe Lightroom had support for it – I had no choice but to use the JPEGs!
The film emulations are right on – specially the monochrome (black and white). I love black and white photography and a lot of times I will shoot in RAW + monochrome which gives me a RAW file (color) that I can easily work with plus a monochrome JPEG that is “delicious”. Yes, that’s how I describe the black and white JPEGs that come out of these cameras.
The EVF (electronic view finder) gives me on the fly exposure validation so I don’t have to “chimp” after the shots and allows me to get the photos “right” in camera.
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So, what is my current kit? I own two Fuji X-T1 camera bodies and travel with both. I don’t shoot both at the same time, but I don’t want to be somewhere and have something go wrong with my camera and be stuck with nothing but my phone – not that my Samsung Note 4 does not take some good photos in good light, but those are not always the shooting situations one faces.
Along with those two bodies, I have a selection of very good Fuji lenses. These currently include:
- Fuji XF 14mm f/2.8 R – this is a superb lens with almost no distortion at the edges. It is probably my second most used lens.
- Fuji XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS – an amazing lens with the focal range I like to have when I’m traveling. While f/4 is not the fastest around, it is excellent for outdoor work and between the OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and the camera’s really good high ISO quality, it can be used indoor just as well. This is probably my most used lens due to the focal range (I love to shoot wide) as well as its ability to re-enforce lazy photographer syndrome with the zoom!
- Fuji XF 23mm f/1.4 R – I love this lens. It is fast, sharp as a knife, and it is excellent for street photography. I’d say this is probably my third most used lens.
- Fuji XF 35mm f/1.4 R – this too is a very good lens though for some reason I don’t use it as much as the others. I think it’s the focal distance – it’s neither wide enough nor long enough for the way I shoot. Of course, being a “normal” lens (whatever that means!), I keep it around and do use it every once in a while. Usually it’s when the 23mm is not long enough and the 56mm is too long.
- Fuji XF 56mm f/1.2 R – speaking of the 56mm, this thing is a work of art. Sharper than a knife, beautiful color, no distortion, faster than a speeding bullet, and great bokeh. Perfect portrait lens (yes, I do use this system at times for portraits and even weddings) and a good medium telephoto focal distance.
- Fuji XF 16-55 f/2.8 R LM WR – this is a recent addition and I haven’t had many opportunities to use it yet. The main reason I purchased this lens is for wedding and event work, but I can see it coming in well on some travel photography since it overlaps and extends the 10-24.
- Fuji XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR – let me say that’s a lot of letters after the basic information. This is a “linear motor”, optical image stabilized, weather resistant lens. This is a beast. It is the largest of the lenses I have and it is a beauty. I don’t use it much, but when I have it has been sharp, fast, and has produced excellent images.
A couple of other pieces of equipment I really like in order to get the photos right in camera are:
- Circular polarizing filter – as with your polarized sunglasses, this cuts down on reflections (or adds them – depending how you rotate it) and also helps bring out the deep blue in the sky. I use the Hoya Pro1 filter.
- Variable neutral density filter – like a circular polarizer, this is a filter you rotate and it simply darkens (without impacting colors) the entire image. This is helpful if you want to use a slow shutter speed to control motion or very wide aperture to control depth of field in bright lighting.
- Graduated neutral density filters – similar to the variable neutral density, but these are just “sheets” that you slide up and down in front of your lens to control exposure (dark/light) in some parts of the image. This is useful when you’re photographing with bright skies and dark foreground (e.g., mountains with bright sky, dark trees) and allows you to darken that sky but not affect the foreground. While some will argue that you can do this in Photoshop, I will simply say that you can’t darken details into a sky that is blown out. I use a system from Formatt-Hitech that I’m very happy with. These filters require a holder and I have the one from Formatt-Hitech which has worked well. The one issue I’ve had (my fault) is that when shooting at 10mm (really wide), I’ve had times when I haven’t set it up perfectly level and I get a bit of vignetting.
- Lightweight travel tripod. I have been very happy with the MeFoto RoadTrip tripod and it has made several trips with me. It is lightweight and small, fits into a suitcase just fine, or simply strap it at the bottom of your backpack.
Speaking of backpack, I have gone through so many different camera bags looking for the “perfect one” that I have a closet full of them. I finally realized that there is no “perfect bag” but I found what works for me. What works for me is a bag in a bag in a bag. Yes, I travel with three “bags” which may seem counter intuitive but it is the best solution for me. It starts with an interior padded case such as the ones I use from Ape Case. I have two, the 8.5×6.5 and the 10.5×7. These keep my gear well protected and I slip them in a Mountainsmith Day TLS bag (I don’t use the waitbelt – just the shoulder strap, but haven’t found the courage to cut off the waistbelt). This bag is lightweight yet large enough for all the gear I will use in a day. It has two outer pouches large enough to accommodate my Klean Kanteen 32 oz water bottle and sunglasses, a front pocket for the filters and holders, spare batteries, and extra SD cards..
When I’m actually traveling, I tuck the Ape Cases inside the Mountainsmith bag and then slip that inside a backpack – I’ve been using this Granite Gear which is “tall and deep”. Why would I do that? It goes back to the “perfect bag” – there is no such thing. This combination gives me a day bag for when I go out shooting for a day that I can customize with the Ape Case how I want to, gives me a backpack that I can use the Ape Case in if I want more room for other things, gives me ease of carrying on an airplane by using the backpack, or if I go nuts and purchase things to bring back, I can use the backpack as a carry-on and the Mountainsmith as my “personal item” on my flight back. Oh, and my MeFoto tripod fits nicely attached to the straps at the bottom of the backpack.
Another benefit of these bags is that they do not look like camera bags – which helps disguise what you are carrying a bit more. Speaking of safety, one item that I use in my car and sometimes travel with is the PacSafe “bag protector”. Most cars have “loops” in the trunk or hatch that are directly attached to the body. The PacSafe wraps around your bag and then attaches to one of these loops. While I don’t believe it will be 100% effective, it will certainly slow down a thief to the point where they may move on.
So, there you have it. That’s my current travel photography kit – it is high quality, lightweight, small, and has served me quite well. I will probably add the Fuji X Pro 2 in the near future as that camera adds a few features I want (mostly as a way to replace my Canon kit for weddings) including faster focusing, higher megapixel count, and dual memory cards.
The photograph at the top of this article shows the entire kit I’ve described above – both Fuji X-T1 bodies, all six lenses, one of the Ape Case cases, the Mountainsmith bag (with the other Ape Case inside), and the Granite Gear backpack.
Oh, those straps? They’re from Gordy’s and they sure are sexy!
One final comment. If you are relatively new to using a capable camera or only use it in one of the automatic modes, I strongly encourage you to get this book. It’ll be one of the best investments you ever make on your photography.