I get a lot of emails from photographers. And a lot of those photographers have questions about my camera bodies and lenses. Instead of individually fielding every question that comes into my email inbox regarding my equipment, I decided to finally create a blog post with all the details about the contents of my camera bag. Yay for saving time and sharing! But first, a bit of equipment back story.
My first DSLR was a Canon 40D. At the time, the 40D was the latest cropped sensor body out there, and the Canon 5DmkII had yet to be released. The 40D was an amazing camera body to learn with. With a lot of obsessive study, I made huge strides very quickly (and made a lot of cringe-worthy mistakes along the way as well). I purchased the Canon 50mm f1.4 prime lens at first, and soon after, invested in the Canon 24-70mm f2.8L zoom. After a LOT of practice and portfolio building, it was this equipment that led me to launching my business in the start of 2009.
As soon as the 5DmkII release date became available, I decided I was going to upgrade my camera body. The difference was AMAZING. A full body frame really helped to improve my images, and fueled another phase of obsessive study into how to take my images to the next level.
Around this time, I started falling out of love with my 24-70mm f2.8L. I didn’t like using such a narrow aperture for indoor sessions where there wasn’t a lot of light and it wasn’t as sharp as my 50mm prime. I researched enough about it to come to the conclusion that primes were a better fit for me. So out went the 24-70 and in came the Canon 85mm f1.2L. Not long after, the Canon 35mm 1.4L came to live here, followed by the Canon 100mm f2.8L Macro. Finally, the Canon 5DmkIII body showed up on my doorstep shortly after it’s release earlier this year. And that brings us to today! Now the details…
MAIN BODY: CANON 5D MKIII
What can I say about my new ‘baby’, other than that I ADORE THIS THING. Due to some issues with my 5DmkII, I had been patiently awaiting this release for, well, years. And it was most definitely worth the wait. The focal system is out of this world (61 focal points? YES, PLEASE!), the ISO capabilities are ridiculous, and it’s just all around lovely to use. Plus the shutter button has such a nice click to it. Sounds silly, but I love it!
I prefer to use my camera bodies with a battery grip, as I love the extra battery life, the vertical controls, and it’s just much more comfortable in my hand. The 5DIII grip only became available recently and it was such a relief to have my body/grip combo back. Love it all!
BACKUP BODY: CANON 5D MKII
I credit the 5DmkII with a lot in the growth of my business. This camera body was a huge step up for me, and a fantastic one at that. I ADORED working with a full frame body, particularly one that allowed for such amazing low light capabilities. I could definitely have lived with this for quite a bit longer than I did, since it truly is an awesome piece of equipment.
In saying that, it was not without its downfalls. The biggest issue I had with this body was the focal system. Out of the 9 focal points, the center point was really the only one that was reliably and consistently accurate. Not that every shot using a different focal point was out of focus (in fact, the vast majority were perfect). But there were more images than I would have liked that were not tack sharp, and I KNEW it wasn’t user error. It wasn’t enough to fuel hatred for this camera body, but was certainly enough to annoy me.
LENS: CANON 85mm f1.2L
Sigh. I love this lens so very much. It is pure creamy bokeh, tack sharp goodness. I use this lens for almost every outdoor session and it rocks it on every occasion. It is, in my opinion, the perfect portrait focal length and has been worth every single penny of that expensive price tag.
The only thing I don’t like about the 85L is that it is quite slow to focus at times, which can really work against you when you are dealing with lighting fast toddlers running circles around you. I haven’t found it to be a huge hindrance for my family sessions, but I would certainly appreciate a bit quicker focus sometimes. Even with that issue, I still can’t recommend this lens enough.
LENS: CANON 35mm 1.4L
This lens is amazing. So sharp…so creamy…so delicious…and most importantly, so capable of allowing me into the smallest shooting space imaginable (which is an invaluable tool for on location newborn work). It has become my go to for on location newborn sessions. I always have plenty of space to work with, and can always count on sharp, gorgeous images. 90% of the newborn images (and most of the indoor family images) on my website have been taken with this lens.
There is a downside to this lens, however, and that is lens distortion. Because it’s a wide angle lens, there is some distortion around the edges, which means that I don’t use it for close ups, detail shots, or really anything where baby parts are close to the edge of the frame. That is the major reason that I invested in my macro lens. However, even with the distortion inconvenience, this lens has been an excellent on location workhorse lens for me.
LENS: CANON 100mm 2.8L MACRO
I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but this lens is just amazing. It is the sharpest lens in my bag. It picks up the tiniest flakes of newborn skin and just brings them to life. I was on the fence about investing in a macro lens and I am SO GLAD that I did. All of my close up shots, newborn detail shots, and interesting angled shots are taken with this lens. I have yet to use it outdoors for portraits, but I have read many a rave review about its portrait capabilities.
This is perhaps the only lens I own for which I haven’t yet found a downside! It really is all that and a bag of chips 😉
Some 100mm f2.8L macro example images can be seen in all of the close up and detail newborn images HERE.
LENS: CANON 50mm f1.4
I have to admit that this lens has been a bit forgotten in my bag lately. I quite literally had to wipe the dust off of it when I pulled it out for this photograph. However, that’s not because it’s not a fantastic lens…quite the contrary! It’s more to do with the fact that I work on location and didn’t have as much use for a 50mm focal length as I would if I were shooting out of a studio (where I would have more space to work with).
I have read many debates on online forums whether the Canon 50mm 1.2L was worth the extra money when the 1.4 was already so fantastic. Particularly given it’s price. It is the lens I most recommend to beginners, due to its sharpness, ability to shoot in low light situations, and its incredible value for money. In saying all that, I do find marginal differences between this lens and the L series lenses (primarily saturation and contrast). So being the perfectionist that I am, I will be investing in the 50mm 1.2L as soon as my studio is finished in a few months time. I have a feeling that lens will then become my studio newborn preference, and I will continue to use the 35mm for on location sessions. But if you are looking for a fabulous 50mm focal length lens without the $1900+ price tag, then the 50mm f1.4 would most definitely be a perfect choice.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is it! Next on my purchase list will be the Canon 50mm 1.2L, followed by the Canon 70 200mm f2.8L IS II (which I will use for outdoor sessions). Hope this post helps some of you struggling to find a lens that will work for you!