February 14, 2008

Equipment & What’s in my Bag


A few months ago, a good friend of mine was planning a trip to Peru and asked my opinion on cameras and what she should bring for this exciting trip. I figured this might be useful to those of you out there looking into digital photography, especially using a DSLR (aka the fancy looking ones with lenses).

Here were my recommendations to her…

I’ve looked up info on cameras and they’re a lot cheaper than I originally thought. You can get them on ebay for around $300 if you play your cards right. Here’s the lowdown…

  • You want a Canon Digital Rebel, Canon Digital Rebel XT, or Canon Digital Rebel XTi. They are the same with the exception of megapixels. Each camera has a few more than the one before. And why would you want more megapixels? To take up more space on your hard drive. For the average person’s use, you don’t need a 100 megapixel camera but people have clung on to that idea since they don’t know what other metrics to use to distinguish between DSLRs. So, any of those will be fine for you and will print a perfectly good 3×5, 4×6, 5×7, 8×10, and larger depending on the picture quality. It’s a great digital camera; it’s light, it’s hardy, and it’s simply ideal for any hobbyist to semi-pro. It’s the first rung on the “prosumer” DSLR cameras and gets great ratings anywhere you look. I have the XT and it has done me just fine.
  • You want a zoom lens. You want one that covers about 20-100mm. For traveling purposes, you might want to sacrifice the higher end (75mm+) for the lower end (<50mm)>
  • You want some CF memory cards. They’ve become really cheap lately. Get maybe one 512MG, three 1G, and maybe one 2G. I’m suggesting you get the smaller cards because, if you lose or ruin one, you won’t want to have lost an entire week’s worth of pictures. This is the same reason I mostly use small cards. Reliable brands are Sandisk, Lexar, and Kingston.
  • You want a card reader so you can dump your pictures onto your computer without using your camera which zaps battery and takes for-ev-er.
  • You want a small camera bag to hold said batteries and cards. It doesn’t need to be a big one and can double as a purse the majority of the time.

This is the minimum I would get if I were you. Other things you could buy are:

  • 1A filter (clear) for the front of your lens to give it some protection against scratching
  • 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens for getting stuff that’s far away
  • data device to dump your cards into when you’re away from your computer
  • comfy strap for your camera for obvious reasons

Where to get these magical items:

  • Ebay if you’re not easily swindled. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  • Keep an eye open on Craigslist but don’t spend any more than you would on ebay.
  • If you want to browse around for what these items cost retail… B&H, Amazon, and KEH (used equip)

Those are the basics if you want to feel more like a photographer than a tourist on vacation. If you’re simply curious, go get a Canon Rebel (any kind) and a cheap lens. A lot of them come with 17-55mm lenses and those are just fine for most situations. Don’t go crazy unless you know this is for you. Get a CF memory card or two.

When I was starting out in digital, my father had given me a Canon Digital Rebel XT and a Quantaray 70-300mm f4 lens. I later bought a Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 to get the wider angles. These lenses did me beautifully until I decided to go into photography full time.

What’s in My Bag
Here is the gear that I currently own (I’ll be specific for those of you taking notes):

The Essentials

The Extras

Here’s my bag tonight. It’s usually a lot cozier in there but the Quantum battery is out at the shop and I used the Rebel XT and 18-55mm f3.5 for the pictures. My reflector is in another pocket. I absolutely love the yellow lining in Kata bags so that I don’t lose any of those small black camera pieces that disappear in other bags. This is my second Kata bag, the first being a great backpack that I still use on occasion.

If you have any gear questions, feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer them asap.

Happy shooting!

Photography is not about cameras, gadgets and gismos. Photography is about photographers. A camera didn’t make a great picture any more than a typewriter wrote a great novel. – Peter Adams – Sydney 1978

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