Photography Gear and Equipment
Digital photography is certainly not a cheap hobby. Although its not all about the gear, it makes life easier having the right equipment, and buying the wrong stuff could prove costly. Below I've listed the gear I currently use or have used in the past. This is by no means a technical review. I would recommend checking out Digital Photography Review or Ken Rockwell when considering purchasing new gear.
I enjoy ragging Canon photographers about using Canon instead of Nikon, but at the end of the day, camera's nowadays (at least at this level) are much of a muchness, they are both good cameras. When I stood in the camera store with a Nikon D90 in my hand and the Canon equivalent, for me the deciding factor was firstly the sound of the shutter from the D90 and it's solid, hardy feel in my hand.
This camera has been ideal for starting out and now 5 years later, still has everything I need. I think the only downfall is that it isn’t great at handling noise and has a cropped sensor.
Nikon CoolPix P7000
I had a few travelling holidays lined up and decided that unlike the last few years of travelling, I wanted to enjoy the holiday through 2 eyes instead of 1, so I purchased the Nikon P7000. The two main things I was looking for, was the ability to shoot in RAW (NEF) format and that the camera would be small enough to fit in my pocket in order to travel light. If I’m indoors and need an extra kick of light, I just attach my SB600 or SB900 which has also been a handy feature.
I'm also very impressed with the macro feature on this camera. I’ve used this camera on food shoots when I’ve needed to get in close. Of course, like most compact cameras, the downfall is of course, the shutter lag.
SB 600 and SB 900 Speedlights
These are great flashes for when you want to travel light and dont want to cart a studio around with you. I think the SB600 has been discontinued but the SB900 is worth getting your hands on. I use both of these lights when taking corporate portraits and make use of Nikon's creative lighting system (CLS) by using the on-board flash to set off both lights.
50mm Nikon 1.8 - This is an inexpensive lens that is worth more than its weight in gold.
When do I use it? : With the ability to shoot at an F-stop of 1.8, its ideal for low light. I mostly use this lens for portraits, although do find 50mm restrictive in tight spaces. It's a prime lens, so its fast, and is one of the sharpest lenses in my bag. As i mentioned above, this is a fairly cheap lens and I reckon a must for anyone's camera bag.
18-105mm Nikon 3.5 - This lens offers great flexibility and I find it ideal for travelling.
When do I use it? : I use it most when travelling as I can make use of its 105mm reach and benefit from the wide 18mm when I need to get a landscape shot. I have an ND (neutral density) filter for this lens (68mm thread) and so use this when I want to capture long exposures.
70-300mm Tamron 4.0 - When I purchased my D90, i got a reduced price on this lens as part of a bundle, which was one of, if not, the cheapest lens on the shelf. What got my attention then was the impressive zoom it offered.
When do I use it? : I use this lens every time I’m out doing street photography. I find its lightweight and is not as intrusive as my other zoom lenses. It is also useful in getting those candid shots without disturbing anybody or looking like a peeping Tom. This lens works well outdoors, where there is plenty of light. The only downside with this lens for me, and it may just be that I landed up with a dodgy one off the shelf, is that I have to shoot with it on manual focus about 80% of the time, as the auto focus zoom motor is far too slow and jams now and then. I have subsequently lost out on opportunities, not something you want in wildlife photography when most things only happen once.
70-200mm Sigma 2.8 - When I purchased this lens, I realized that when it comes to equipment, especially lenses, you get what you pay for.
When do I use it? : This was my first Sigma lens and I have since been a fan of the workmanship and quality of their lenses. I use this lens for the majority of my corporate portraits now. I know this is a popular choice of lens for wedding photographers. With it being F2.8, it’s great in low light and is tack sharp. I have used this for a number of wildlife shots as its fast and can get a good depth of field. Technically this lens would be ideal for street photography, but I find it’s a little heavy after a while and you tend to stick out in the crowd.
50-500mm Sigma 4.0 - This lens isn't ideal in low light conditions, but is handy when you need to capture something far off and then switch to something close by.
When do i use it? : I really enjoy this lens. The range with this lens it superb and because this lens is quick (Sigma’s Hyper Sonic Motor) and sharp, it’s always in my bag when I know there is wildlife about. Besides low lighting conditions, the only drawback is its weight, as it weighs in just under 2KG. After an hour or two, you start to feel it in your forearm or in your backpack.
Side Note:I use a UV filter on my lenses to protect them from getting scratched. The mistake I made in the beginning was buying an expensive lens and then screwing on a cheap £10 filter. I nearly got rid of my 50-500mm lens at a stage, as I was unable to get a sharp image, even when I had it on a tripod with VR turned off. I was ready to send it into Sigma for analysis, when I decided to get rid of the cheap UV filter and replaced it with Sigma's £80 filter. The results were worlds apart.