WHAT'S IN THE CAMERA BAG?
Every piece of gear has to serve my photography. Only this determines what stays in the photo bag. If you like to photograph nature and perhaps you think about adding a new piece to your gear, you may find some thoughts on this site. Remember, equipment is only as good as the photographer behind it...
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Highly recommended. It serves my style of photography and shooting habits the best.
★ ★ ★ ★ Very good piece of equipment. Small limitations prevent it to be rated with five stars. There might be a newer version or different product available that is better.
★ ★ ★ Good piece of photography gear. It might be an older piece of gear and a new and better version is available and known.
★ ★ It’s in my bag, it does the job, but there is a better solution out there. My experience with this piece of gear is not that great. I look for replacement.
★ Not recommended! I’m not sure if you will ever find a one-star rating here. If a piece of gear does not serve my photography, it will be replaced.
Sigma 150-600mm / f5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports A1
The workhorse for my wildlife photography. Professional build quality. Dust and splash-proof sealing. Zoom lock (yes!). Compatible with Sigma USB-dock for user customization and adjustments via computer. I’m impressed about sharpness, bokeh, and color quality. The lens needs good support because it is heavy, but with proper technique it can be handhold and delivers very good results.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 APO MACRO DG HSM
Macro lens with true 1:1 magnification. This is the older generation without optical stabilization. Sharpness is very good but focus seems a little slow sometimes. The newer generation might be different. I use it in my wildlife, landscape, and occasionally for concert photography.
★ ★ ★ ★
Sigma APO Teleconverter 1.4x EX DG
Most of the time I use it with the Sigma 150mm f/2.8, which makes it a 210mm f/4. On the Nikon D300s it becomes a 315mm f/4. Can make the difference between getting close enough or not for a shot.
In combination with the Sigma 150-600 it makes it a f/9 at 600 mm. In sufficient light and with good contrast autofocus still works on the Nikon D750 with the teleconverter attached.
★ ★ ★ ★
SUPPORT & LIGHTING GEAR
GITZO tripod GT2931 Basalt
My first “real” tripod that I used for almost everything for many years. It was a little too short for wildlife photography with a gimbal head attached. After getting a second tripod I modified this one by removing the center column. It is now still high enough for landscape photography or any indoor shooting, and light enough to take it on a hike into the mountains.
★ ★ ★ ★
CALUMET tripod 8X CARBON CK8156
This is the house brand of Calumet Photographic, a photography retailer here in the US. The tripod is a nice alternative to some of the much more expensive name brands. It is taller than the GITZO GT2931 and supports my long lens with camera and flash light attached very well.
★ ★ ★ ★
Nikon Speedlight SB-800
When I started with digital photography all the pros shot with this speedlight. Newer models are available now but this one has everything a serious amateur or photo enthusiast can ask for. If you find a good, inexpensive used one somewhere, go for it, it will serve you well.
★ ★ ★ ★
MAGMOD MagBeam flash extender
This is an important accessory for my bird photography. It helps to bring out the colors in situations where the available light is just not sufficient or very dull and I also use it to extend the depth of field.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I have written about his flash extender more detailed in a blog post:
Flash bracket (DIY)
The flash bracket of my dreams costs about $240 here in the United States 😆, but as a machine builder by trade I like to tinker with metal and just built my own one for less than $40… 😊 I use the flash in wildlife photography mostly to boost colors. This flash bracket allows to turn the camera 90 degree from landscape to portrait orientation while the speed light still stays in the same position.
Filters - Clear glass
All of my lenses are protected with a clear glass front filter. I know there is an endless discussion on the internet whether this will degrade your image quality, because of an additional piece of glass between the camera sensor and your subject, or not. I have to work hard for any piece of equipment I add to the bag. I rather spend a few bucks for a new filter than crying for several weeks because something damaged the optics of an expensive lens. As a wildlife and landscape photographer you don’t get your best shots by standing in a parking lot, thats all what I can say…😉
I prefer the filters from German brand B+W (Schneider Optics), ★ ★ ★ ★ ★, because just the way they are built, but I have also good experience with TIFFEN ★ ★ ★ ★.
Filters - Polarizer
Important for my landscape photography to take out glare or sometimes to blur water at a waterfall. I don’t use them much to improve the color of the sky, hey, we are digital now…
I use 77 mm and 58 mm B+W F-PRO, depending on the lens ★ ★ ★ ★ ★.
Filters - Neutral Density
The 77 mm Schneider 3-stop ND.9 SE graduated filter may be sometimes a little bit too much (I don’t own a 2-stop 0.6), but that is easy to correct. Its optics and color reproduction is outstanding and it is always with me if I go out for some landscape shooting ★ ★ ★ ★ ★.
I have also a set of different COKIN ND and Graduated ND filters. They are made out of resin. Beside being not very scratch resistant, these filters also do not have the best color reproduction. On the positive side, the COKIN system is inexpensive and it is very versatile. Because of price, I can recommend it for beginners that like to learn about the use of ND filters without breaking the bank ★ ★.
During all the years, using first the Nikon D200, later the D300s, and now the D750 I have used original NIKON batteries, as well third party products, like Impact, Pearstone, or Watson. To be honest, I have not found any significant difference in performance between any of them. My tip for adding more batteries to your bag, buy the less expensive third-party brand and call it a day… ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I use rechargeable Ni-MH batteries from eneloop and Watson. Both brands served me very well in the past. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I may not follow always the advice of photography professionals about what accessories to buy or to use, because some are cost prohibitive for me. When it comes to storage of my images I do what the pros recommend, buy name brands with a good reputation. There is nothing worse than loosing a set of photos because the memory card has failed.
I use SanDisc or Lexar Memory cards. Both brands have served me without any glitch since 2007. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
If you ask me about what is an essential piece of accessories in my gear bag, I would answer, this one is the #1! I do not like to shoot with my reading glasses on, but the loupe helps me to evaluate sharpness of a picture or make adjustments in the menu on the screen at the back of the camera. Highly recommended!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Moose Peterson MP-3 V.2 Backpack (by MindShift Gear)
I can’t rave enough about this backpack. It is a high quality bag and is made for extreme weather conditions and critical environments. The backpack has lots of great details, like self-closing compartment flaps, and you can tell that many design ideas came from one of the best and experienced wildlife photographers, Moose Peterson.
It is available in three different sizes. The MP-3 is tall enough to hold the camera with the Sigma 150-600 lens attached and the lens hood mounted, ready to shoot.
After 18 months of using and testing the MP-3 V.2 I have written an article about my experience with this backpack:
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ONA messenger-style shoulder bag THE UNION STREET
This cool shoulder bag looks rotten and elegant at the same time. It doesn’t necessarily call “steal me” because it is made out of waxed canvas and doesn’t look at all like a photo bag full of expensive gear. The design and quality of this photo bag is outstanding. The gear is well protected against bumps, weather, and dirt and is lined on the inside with protective padding. It fits my life style and photography habits perfectly.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Better Beamer Flash Extender
This was an important accessory for my bird photography. It helps to bring out the colors in situations where the available light is just not sufficient or very dull. I have replaced it with the MAGMOD MagBeam. You can find the reasons for the change by clicking the link:
I still recommend this flash extender for people that are on a budget and use flash fill only occasionally.
★ ★ ★