I’ve always debated a post like this, one where I share with readers what camera equipment I use. Mostly because I’ve seen so many other photographers detail their gear, that I’ve long thought I had nothing new to offer to the conversation. But then I realized: 1) People always love to hear about other people’s gear, even if it’s the same variation of the same combination of equipment in all our bags and 2) I field this question enough (at least 10-12 times a year) from people who comment on the blog and from photographers who email me, that it’ll be nice to put my answers in one place for easy reference! So, without further ado, let me introduce to you what’s in my camera bag:
My Body: Canon 5D Mkii
When I first starting studying photography as a serious hobbyist, I bought a Canon Rebel body (that links to a recent version; mine was an older model circa 2006, but they’re all just about the same). I tell aspiring photographers over and over again than when they are looking for that first DSLR, they need to go with purchasing JUST the body (not a kit with a lens), and then go with the fixed 50 mm 1.8 lens for their starter lens. For the money, this is the best first-gear set-up you can get your hands on! (Then buy Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure, the best guide to learning manual I’ve ever found).
From my Rebel, I purchased an original Canon 5D and it was love at first sight. I STILL love that camera, six years later. It’s my second body now at weddings and, because I’m so sentimental about it, I still shoot with it quite a bit (and have a third 5D body as my back-up to my back-up!) In 2011, I upgraded to the MkII and have found it to be a excellent camera body as well. They say the best camera is the one in your hands, and I’ve been lucky with every body I’ve ever purchased from Canon—I find that nothing beats the color quality from them (though I know my Nikon friends try to win me over on focus factor!)
If I only had two lens to carry with me for the rest of my life, these would be it. I’m a 50 girl–it’s my favorite focal distance to shoot and for large chunks of a wedding day, you’ll see this lens on my camera body, especially for portraits of the bride and groom. I actually bought my 50 mm 1.2 (after upgrading from the 1.4, which is a nice step up from the 1.8) used from BorrowLens.com, a site I HIGHLY recommend if you’re looking to try out new gear (you can rent it first) and/or are interested in investing in used gear (since photography is, well, you know, definitely not cheap). As for my 35 mm 1.4, I just LOVE this focal length. This is also the lens that Annie Leibovitz loves best too. (So, you know, this means I’m just as qualified to shoot Vanity Fair covers now, right? Ha!). It allows for more of the environment around a subject to enter the frame and so, when I travel, it’s usually the lens I keep on my camera most, for street photography in particular. It’s the perfect lens for how the eye “sees” the world.
I know people who do it, but I don’t recommend shooting weddings or sports events without a great telephoto lens. I have friends who swear by the 135mm (the bokeh on that lens IS divine), but the standard workhorse is the 70-200. It’s a good thing that this bad boy has image stabilization, because it’s a BEAST of a lens. I often find that my arm/wrist is killing me after a ceremony where I’ve been using it heavily. (This seems to happen most with Catholic masses; those ceremonies are typically an hour-plus, combined with many of the churches requiring photographers to stay far back from the action, so it’s essential to use a zoom lens.) I purchased my macro lens about four years ago and really love it for detail shots, though I really don’t use it for much else. I always tell myself I’ll pull it out for more nature photography (I think close-ups with it of flowers and dewy grass are just incredible), but never have the time!
So there you have it—those are the tried and true lens in my bag. I also own a 85mm lens that I seldom use (I know some photographers love it, but it’s too much of a crop for me); a 28mm lens that I use mostly for group portraits during a wedding’s family portrait time (having an extra wide lens for large groupings on a wedding day makes this lens worth it alone); and a fisheye lens that I still like to pop on at least a couple of times at receptions, just to add a little zany variety to those shots of people getting down on the dance floor! (for which I also use my 28)
One last thing to note: I have always bought lens that were Canon, being a firm believer in sticking with the brand I know best and the brand that fits the camera body intended. Also, with the exception of a 24-135mm lens I bought shortly after I got into photography (and sold at a loss less than a year later, its ability to get down only to a 3.5 f-stop proving a severe limitation) and my 70-200, my lens purchases have all been fixed (prime) lens. I’m a big believer that these are all-around the best lens you can work with, so even if it means I’m changing them out more in my bag, it’s worth it for the look and feel they give me in providing the body of work that defines my photographic style.
Got more questions for me about gear? Let me have ‘em … just know I’ll be adding on to this post so I can come back to it for those who need help and/or advice from me on the subject in the future!