What's in my bag today?

Portrait of a student for the Kipp School Annual Report.

It's a guilty pleasure but I'll admit it.  I'm enough of a gear junky to be curious about what's in other photographers bags on a day to day basis.  When my friend, Paul, the architectural photographer started using digital Hasselblads for his high end projects I invited him to lunch and made sure to invite his camera bag along too.  His rolling case had two Hasselblad bodies and two backs at the time.  A 31 megapixel back and a 40 megapixel back.  He had the Hasselblad shift adapter and just about every medium format shift lens you can think of in the case.

I recently changed over from shooting Canon to shooting Sony.  I thought the Canon cameras and lenses were just fine.  I could shoot them without caveat but I like new technology that makes my life easier and I was anxious to move to cameras with EVF finders.  When I bought into the Sony system I swore I'd just get a couple of really good zooms and try to be the ultimate minimalist.  I should know myself better by now.

I did a location shoot with lots of variables for a client last week.  I didn't know exactly what to expect because we'd be shooting interiors with people and machines, some narrow DOF portraits and some very wide exteriors.  What to pack?

Here's what ended up in the camera bag:  Two Sony a77 bodies (doing this for money? You gotta have a back up camera!) Four batteries for said cameras.  16-50mm f2.8 zoom lens.  70-200mm f2.8 G zoom lens.  Sigma 10-20mm Zoom lens.  Sony 30mm DT Macro lens. Sony 50mm 1.4 lens.  Sony 85mm 1.4 lens and the Sony 35mm 1.8 lens.  As you can see from the selection my sweet spot for optics is between 24mm and 85mm.  Everything else is a specialty focal length.  We've got them but we don't use them a lot.

I brought circular polarizers for all the filter sizes as well as a Minolta flash meter.

I brought along a Tiltall tripod because I like it this week.  I also brought along two small light stands and two small umbrella in case I wanted to diffuse the LEDs.

I mostly lit things with several Fotodiox LED Panels but I hedged my bets by sticking in a couple of the big Sony flashes in case we suddenly decided to rush outside and try to do portraits in full sun.  I also brought along my Swiss Army Knife, a few Cliff Bars and extra batteries for the lights.  I brought a Moleskine notebook and a good pen with which to take notes and an old Ian Flemming book in case I had to wait for someone.

It all fit in one Domke camera bag and one Think Tank rolling case.

This is a case of rolling light and moving fast.  We did 12 set-ups that day without really missing a beat.

When I left the studio today and went for (95 degree (f)) walk downtown I carried only a Hasselblad 501cm camera with an 80mm lens.  Two rolls of film (Fuji Velvia 100)  in my pocket and no meter.  Hell, everything was in Texas sun.  It's always 1/250th, f8.5 @100.  Unless someone snuck and ND filter on the ionosphere.  And judging by the need for good sunglasses I'm discounting cosmic neutral density.

Don't know if this is interesting to anyone but it is what it is.


  1. such is life, we always start with the best intentions and then we cannot help ourselves :-)

    i am starting this next week a very important (to me) series of portraits and my intention is to bring ONE camera, one prime lens, one 17-70 zoom, a small reflector, a folding background ... spare batteries and cards (oh, and a recording device to document these people's stories). i hope i can stick to this plan :-)

    glad to hear on your 'fun' outings you still take out the 'old' hasselblad!

    great portrait, as always; silly question: is the dot on the subject's right hand side from the background, or sensor dust? i find that -if it is the case- to be one side of shooting digital that i do not enjoy!

  2. I'm just a big coward I guess, I'd never have the guts to go out sans meter loaded up with Velvia. Proof you are a real Texan for sure. :-)

  3. Can't you do all that with an iPhone?

  4. Sure. If you want your images to look like hammered crap.

  5. I've been trying to just go out with one lens at a time for the past few weeks. I don't do anything for money so it's not too big a deal if I could have done better with 2 lenses. I'm sure it would be completely different if I was doing it for money.
    So was the shot above done with the LED panel?

    1. Joel, No. It's flash in a large, large Ocatbank done about four years ago for the Kipp Schools. Pretty sure we used a Sony R1 to shoot the project.

  6. I've only really shot with Sony as a system camera so don't have a point of reference against Canikon stuff. Primarily use an a900 now and very happy. I'm one of the few that went from learning on an EVF a55 to the FF OVF a900 and whilst I love the thing I miss the functionality of an EVF and look forward to changing back when/if the a99 is launched.

    I think the 35mm f/1.8 is a bargain and think it's an outstanding lens coupled with some of the smaller alpha DSLT's. An a55/a33 (cheap on used market) with that lens is a relatively small walk around that's not that much bigger than the MFT stuff and offers great image quality.

    My surprise is how good some of the Sigma stuff is. The 50mm f/1.4 and the 85mm f/1.4 are great lenses if you are primarily interested in shooting wide open and have a bias toward central sharpness and smooth bokeh.

    The sigma 85 is significantly cheaper than the Sony CZ counterpart and my copy produces results I prefer. Take that with a pinch of salt - had limited use of The Sony CZ lens and understand it's much better in the corners and when stopped down but I got that lens for impressive shallow depth of field and have no regrets. Also if you really want to be shooting at f/2.8 at that focal length and smaller than the 85mm f/2.8 is stellar at a fraction of the price and size.

    Sigma's 50mm f/1.4 is something else. I understand Sigma's copies vary but I've never had a problem. My copy is significantly better than my old Sony f/1.4 (R.I.P). It's my walkabout and favourite lens. I think it gives better results than the Sony version in all aspects I care about, especially at f/1.4. It's larger and more expensive than the Sony one (and Cannon and Nikon versions) but It would be the one lens I wouldn't trade.

    I'm not suggesting changing if you own the existing ones but they are worth a look. Also if rumours are true there will be a Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.2 out shortly and that's making my heart salivate and my wallet worried :)

    A bit of a ramble but it's awesome to see professionals using the Sony stuff. I think The 35mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/2.8 are no awesome value if you are looking at the Sony platform.


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