Here is what I haveÖ
I actually have three camera bags that I change between depending on where Iím going.† All my camera bags are the backpack style which I like because they are easy on the back and you can carry a lot of weight comfortably.† They are less convenient for changing lenses.† If Iím going to a photo shot or traveling on vacation I take all my main lenses and use my venerable LowePro bag with lots of room for my stuff.† Here are the main items in my bag:
∑ Nikon D200 Camera Ė This was a great upgrade to my D70.† It is a solid camera and takes great pictures.† The focal length multiplier is 1.5x.
I have always bought Nikon brand film camera lenses for my camera, not the DX lenses made especially for digital camerasÖ and Iím glad I did because Iím ready for the full frame sensor cameras like the D700.† I try to get the best and fastest lens I can afford.
∑ Nikon Lens 24-85 f/2.8 Ė This is my main travel and utility lens.† Having 24 mm focal length is really nice.† The lens is reasonably sharp.
∑ Nikon Lens 18-35 f/3.5-4.5 Ė This is my wide angle lens which is especially needed for digital cameras without a full frame sensor.† Itís actually a very sharp lens, but not expensive.
∑ Nikon Lens 35-70 f/2.8 Ė This is a great sharp lens I use for portrait work,† but is heavy and has a narrow focal length so it doesnít travel with me.
∑ Nikon Lens 80-200 f/2.8 Ė This is a fast telephoto zoom that has been made by Nikon for a long time.† It is a great lens and is at f/2.8 over the whole zoom range.† They have since come out with the 70-200 vibration reduction version which is also nice. †I carry this lens with me a lot, but itís heavy.† If I am really doing some heavy duty climbing Iíll leave it behind.
You need a few other accessories like a flash:
∑ Nikon SB-800 Speed Flash Ė I have a built-in flash on my D200, but having a separate flash with adjustable direction is great.† It has a lot more power too.
∑ I have two manual extension tubes PK-12 (14 mm) and PK-13 (27.5 mm).† You can use them together or individually to make any lens a macro lens.† It not quite as good as a fine macro lens, but they are very useful.† Some of my lenses have macro capability which allows them to focus more closely than normal.
∑ An SC-17 flash cord allows you to remove the flash from your camera, but still maintain all the automatic features.† This is great for close up macro work when you want a little bit of side lighting.
I donít carry a cable release for my camera.† I use the self timer feature set to 2 seconds which allows me to take my hands off the camera before the picture is taken, but not have such a lag that Iím waiting a long time.
Itís not in my camera bag, but a tripod is essential for taking good pictures.† It took me a long time to believe this essential fact that if your camera doesnít shake your focus is better!†† Vibration reduction lenses are a great alternative if these are available for your camera, but low light shots still need a tripod.† I take the biggest tripod I can when I travel because you get the best results.† My tripod has Manfrotto 3021BN legs and a Gitzo G1275M offset ball head.† I also have a Manfrotto tripod strap so I can sling this over my shoulder for hiking.† A few words about tripods:
∑ Video or still head?† Still and video tripods have different heads.† The panning head of a video tripod has a handle that extends to allow you to move the video camera smoothly.† This gets in the way for still photography.† Get a ball head with no handle.
∑ How to attach your camera?† The best way to attach our camera is by mounting a special plate on your camera and using a clamp to hold the plate.† This ensures a perfect vibration free mount between the camera and the head.† This eliminates the cork backing that is there because you canít tighten the screw hard enough.
∑ Braced legs?† Some tripods have braced legs to increase stability.† This increases the weight of the tripod and makes it difficult to get low angle shots.† It is better to get tripod legs that do not have braced legs.
∑ How much should your tripod weigh?† A rule of thumb is that the tripod should weigh the same as your camera.† This is a very general rule that says that if you have a heavy camera and lens you shouldnít use a light tripod for good results.† In other words how much does your camera and lens weigh then get the appropriate tripod.† Weight of a tripod really means how stable is the tripod and how is resists vibration.† Carbon fiber tripods are very light, but extremely stiff.† You can always hang your camera bag on your tripod to make it more stable and many tripods provide a hook for hanging your bag.† Note that all ball heads have a rating for the amount of weight they are designed for.
∑ How many leg sections?† The more leg sections you have the smaller your tripod will be when it is collapsed.† More leg section usually result in the bottom sections being thinner.† I have a three-section tripod that is really long.† I travel with a separate tripod case for it because it only fits in my largest luggage.
∑ How do I take low angle shots?† This is something that you may want to do, especially for macro photography.† As mentioned braces on the legs really limit the ability to get low angle shots.† Make sure your tripod can go flat and what is required to change modes.† (Hint: My tripod above requires a screwdriver to do this which I carry in my bag.)
∑ What type of feet should I have?† Tripods come with rubber feet, spikes and some that can change between the two.† Spikes are only good for outdoors.† I have found that rubber feet are the best for all conditions although they wear out and have to be replaced.† The only place where spikes would come in very handy is if you are on ice taking pictures.
∑ Panoramic pictures?† Some ball heads have an additional axis of movement that allows you to swivel and lock the ball head in a horizontal plane so you can easily take panoramic pictures.† This is a great feature and is on my Gitzo offset ball head.
I also carry a Manfrotto table top tripod with a small #342 ball head.† This is not a wimpy tripod, but a cast aluminum solid tripod that can be used to prop your camera on a handy tree, light post or other stable object.† It has been a great tripod and I recommend it.† Recently, Iíve been using a knock off of the Gitzo Traveler tripod which is great.† It has three sections and packs up very nicely in your carry on bag.
Here is what I would like to haveÖ
I have a pretty good idea of what my equipment will do by taking lots of pictureÖ but what if I had the opportunity to do it all over again???† Here are some of the things I would like to have.† Please send them to me!
∑ Nikon D700 camera body.† My D200 is great, but graininess tends to become obvious at over 400 ASA.† Having a full frame sensor with increased light gathering ability would allow me to shoot a lot more in natural light or with a lot less flash fill.† An increase from 10.2 megapixels to 12.2 megapixels would be great too.† Iím surprised that Nikon didnít go to 14 megapixels with this camera.† The price, unfortunately, is a killer right now for me and difficult to justify.
∑ Vibration reduction lenses.† I donít have any of these because I donít like the offering that Nikon has.† It seems that Canon has chosen zoom ranges better for this.† The one lens that I like from Nikon is the 70-200, f/2.8 VR lens.† This is perfect for hand held photography and the additional stops help to ensure a great picture even at lower shutter speeds.
∑ Nikon 17-35 f/2.8.† This is a lens that has had rave reviews ever since it came out for its exceptional sharpness.† I would like to have one although my own wide angle is perfectly good.† I try to get the fastest lenses possible.
∑ A lighter tripod.† Iíve accepted the fact that Iíll always have to carry some weight.† A carbon fiber tripod would be great to have and a lighter ball head.
∑ A lighter ball head.† I like the Acratech Ultimate Ball Head with Quick Release plate.† This takes plates made by the Really Right Stuff Company.† You can order plates specifically for your camera.
∑ A heavier ball head.† I really like the Arca Swiss ball heads for studio work.† They are extremely finely made, easy to control and solid.† They are rated for about 60 lb.† There was a used one for sale that I passed up.† Maybe next timeÖ† Iíll take my existing tripod legs and put the Arca Swiss ball head when I get my Acratech ball head and carbon fiber tripod legs!!
∑ A new camera bag.† I know I already have three camera bags, but my main camera bag is getting a bit tired.† It also doesnít have any place to put a water bottle or an all weather cover so I have to carry an emergency plastic bag.† New camera bags come with built-in tripod holders which could be handy.
Here are some other interesting itemsÖ
If Iím traveling on business I have to cut down on what Iím going to take to make the weight reasonable.† I have a smaller travel LowePro bag for travel, but sometimes Iíll use an inconspicuous back pack with a foam insert I got in my first camera bag.† Here are some things other things you may find useful:
∑ Bags are not waterproof unless you get a bag with a rain cover like the LowePro AW series.† I carry an emergency poncho with me at all times (basically a plastic sheet in a pouch) to protect me and my camera gear in case I get caught in a downpour.
∑ Some more things about rain.† You can take pictures in the rain by putting your camera in a 1 gallon freezer bag.† The bag is clear enough so you can line up your shot using a tripod, then you can take the bag off to take a shot while you shield your camera with an umbrella.
∑ Make sure you have lots of flash cards to keep your pictures.† I shoot JPEG Fine most of the time, but if I am doing studio work or find a scene I really like I will take a RAW and JPEG Fine image at the same time.† This takes a lot of memory, but I have a lot of flash cards!!