Camera Gear
 
 
What’s in that bag?
When I started a few years ago, I naively thought that a camera body, a lens, and a memory card would do. OK, maybe a camera bag as well. And a polarizing filter. And maybe a telephoto lens.  Oh, and a larger bag. How about a tripod?  Gah!
If you're into photography, you know that this really never stops. On these pages I'll share with you what I have acquired (so far), what is hot, and what is not. I have divided my reviews up into the following sections:
  1. Camera accessories (flash, remote release, etc) [not yet written]
  2. Backpacks, tripods, hides, camouflage [not yet written]
  3. Printing, color calibration, book publishing [not yet written]
 
Part 1: Camera bodies and lenses
 
The Canon EOS 1D Mk II almost gives me a hard-on as it rattles through more than 8 frames per second.  It is built like a brick and sports some of the best camera technology available.  Well, that was until Canon released the EOS 1Ds Mk II and the 1D Mk II N.  Apart from occasional lockups it has served me well.
You can read a review on the 1D Mk II on Luminous Landscape.
 
Released in the fall of 2005, The Canon EOS 5D initially didn’t appeal to me. It was too expensive, and I didn’t need the full-frame sensor, as I was mainly doing bird photography. Witha growing interest in wedding and portrait photography and a drop in prices, I couldn’t talk myself out of it anymore. This is a great camera, especially if you’re shooting weddings. In combination with the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L or the EF 85mm f/1.2 you can shoot weddings all day long.  I was initially concerned that I would miss the 8 frames per second on the 1D, but the 5D is quite fast and it has a large buffer which I rarely fill up.  My only criticism is the LCD screen on the back which doesn’t work well in bright sunlight. The 5D is also reviewed on the Luminous Landscape.
 
The Canon 17-40mm f/4L is a ultra-wide zoom and a good economic alternative to the faster 16-35mm f/2.8L.  Although it has a good range, many people are still waiting for Canon to come out with better wide-angle lenses.  Others think that the lens is fine, reminding us that checking images in 100% on the screen is something we never did with film.
Most of my nature shots are taken with this lens as it accepts my 77mm polarizing filters.
 
The TS 24mm f/3.5L is one of Canon’s three lenses that offers camera movement, i.e., shifts and tilts.  I use shift for photographing buildings and tilts for getting infinite depth-of-field.  The lens doesn’t autofocus, the camera doesn’t meter right when you’re tilting, and you need to be on a tripod so you can figure out the right setting of all the knobs.  But master this lens and you can take otherwise impossible shots.  For instance, you can take a shot of a mirror, seemingly head-on, but without the camera in the picture.  It helps to have a large viewfinder (as on the 5D) so that you can see what you are focusing on, and you might also want to try Canon’s angular view finder which lets you enlarge the viewfinder image by 150%.
 
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 is inexpensive and light, but quite sharp and very fast. If you’re into available-light photography (dark churches, anyone?) you might benefit from this lens in combination with ISO 800 or so.  For the money, it’s really a no-brainer.
For a couple of hundred dollars more you can get the EF 50mm f/1.4, a somewhat faster lens.  Shame that Canon has discontinued the EF 50mm f/1.0.
 
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L is a great walk-around lens.  It is superbly sharp, even on f/2.8, and focuses faster than any human eye.  Some people find it a bit heavy, but you’ll forget that the next day once you see what it can produce.
Recently, Canon announced the EF 24-105 f/4L IS which has more reach and benefits from image stabilization.  I would however miss that extra stop of light and don’t think IS would help me so much: the ability to take portraits at slow shutter speeds only increases the chances of motion blur.
 
The Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 was my most recent acquisition.  I bought it solely based on what others had told me, or from pictures I had seen on the internet. If you think this lens is redundant if you have the 70-200 f/2.8, think again.  The difference in bokeh is amazing.  You can take portraits where the depth-of-field is only a few millimeters, rendering the eye sharp but the nose slightly out of focus. With this lens, I have discovered what is meant by “selective focusing”.  Wide-open, this lens requires special handling, and I have written about it in my blog.
 
For a long time, I tried to convince myself I didn’t need the Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 L IS.  I had the 24-70 and the 100-400, so there wasn’t much of a gap to fill, in terms of focal length anyway.  However, I had already seen the 300mm f/2.8 and what it could do wide-open.  And this lens has a constant f/2.8 throughout the zoom range.
This lens is absolutely great for weddings and portraits, throwing the background out of focus.  It also features Canon’s latest IS technology so that you can hand-hold this lens at 70mm for 1/6th of a second!
 
The Canon 300mm f/2.8 L IS is supposedly one of the sharpest lenses ever made for the 35mm market.  I have used it for wildlife shots, sometimes with a 1.4 extender.  While the 2x extender also works, conditions needs to be right to get a good shot.
I can  handhold this lens most of the day as long as I can put it down once in a while.  I usually just put it down on the ground, camera up, since the front element is located at the bottom of a paper bin.  A monopod helps, but can also be in the way if you’re photographing birds flying all over the hemisphere.  Everything about this lens reeks of quality, but for bird photography it is a little bit short.  So I had to get the 500mm f/4.  I have AF acquisition on this lens to be better than e.g. the 500mm f/4 which tends to hunt more.  It was my lens of choice while photographing the Sea Eagles in Norway.
 
I recently acquired the “forgotten lens”, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6, to replace my previous 100-400mm zoom.  The 100-400mm was a pretty good lens, but I found that I was almost always using it at the 400mm end, unfortunately not the sharpest end of that lens.  The 400mm f/5.6 is however sharp, even wide open.  It is great while tracking birds since it can easily be carried all day.  It does however not have image stabilization and it requires a lot of light since it’s only f/5.6.  The recent improvements in camera noise reductions makes this old Canon lens an attractive choice again.  It is tempting to wish for f/4 and IS, but I don’t know if the added weight would be welcome.
 
And in november of 2005 I picked up the Canon 500mm f/4 L IS and my initial impressions were (a) it is heavy, sitting in its case, but (b) the lens itself is not that heavy, I can handhold it for a minute or two.  I am glad I followed the advice of others not to get the 600mm f/4 which is almost 2 kgs heavier.
When you buy a lens this size there are a few other things you want to invest in as well.  The first is a gimbal mount, for example the Wimberley Head.  The new WH-200 came out in April of 2006 and it works like a charm, essentially making the lens weightless. Don’t even think about putting a lens this heavy on a ballhead. The second item to get is a foot replacement, namely the Naturescapes Custom Lens Adapter Plate.  This plate fits into the WH-200 and also reduces the size of the lens in your backpack.  The third item is a neopren camouflage cover which not only protects the lens, but makes it less noticeable. Neoprene covers can be bought for about £10 from Wildlife Watching Supplies or around $100 from Naturescapes or Art Morris.  Finally, IKEA sells a set of plastic containers where one of the lids works perfectly as a lens cap for this lens.  That IKEA lid will certainly be the cheapest part of your adventures into super telephoto lenses!