Okay, let’s roll up our sleeves and talk CAMERA GEAR! But let me forewarn you, this is not the kind of talk you’d have with the guy at the camera store. This is a no-nonsense kind of talk from one friend to another. No secrets, just the nuts and bolts in plain language. Let’s call it “Me Ra Talk” :).
As many of you know, our family spent the last couple months living in Thailand’s jungle. If this is news to you, you must check out the Thailand Adventures category on the blog b/c the stories and images are fun for the whole family!
With being gone for a couple months, we had a goal. Pack as little as possible, but pack smart. We did this trip without having to check a thing. Two backpacks, one bag of homeschool materials, and one bag devoted to camera gear.
So what was in that camera bag anyways? I thought about doing the typical shot where every thing is set inside your black camera bag, and you shoot down into the black bag, shooting all your black gear. But it just seemed so…black. So here we go. Let’s lighten things up a bit!
All this was in our camera bag. Much prettier than being inside the camera bag, right!
We brought two Sony camera bodies (post has been updated with most recent equipment we are using). We had the NEX-5 and the A7. The NEX-5 is a great camera that is light in weight and easy to use. We’re teaching our kids how to use a DSLR, and the NEX-5 is the BEST teaching camera ever because of the live preview feature on the back. Using this camera to teach women at our workshops has been incredible! Not to be super direct, but this camera is the best for women. I feel like it’s the first camera I’ve ever worked with where the engineers may have had women in mind and how we think. Imagine that! 🙂 For example, with the live preview you can see the room get dark as you speed up your shutter speed or vice versa. The mystery is made clear. Finally! (Thank you Sony!)
The kids had homeschool assignments of shooting insects, flowers and crabs in the jungle, and the NEX-5 camera body was perfect for our family to grow as photographers.
Meet my Lulu! The A7 camera body is our #1 lady, and she has got style. She’s got EVERY THING! And yes, I name our cameras. (but your not really surprised, right? :)) Lulu shoots 24.6 megapixels at lightning speed. It’s pretty awesome. And the color processing within the camera, wow, it’s breath taking! I barely did any touch up to most the photos we took b/c the A7 captured the color so well within the camera. It’s a beautiful thing. Watch out Canon and Nikon!
We had an array of lenses, but I want to break each one down. So let’s come back to those.
The orange/silver box you see was our external harddrive. It’s built for travel in case it gets bumped around in the backpack. This thing is made of superman strength. If you don’t want to dump all your images on your laptop (or you want to store backup copies of all your images), you can buy one of these external harddrives for around $100 and store your images there. Trivia question, “How many external harddrives do you think we use in our studio?” 🙂
The white gadget on top of the external harddrive was our GPS Devise image tracker. This is a fun gadget that Sony just released on April 15th! It records the date, time and exact locaiton of where you took your pictures from. It’s the perfect gadgets gift for Father’s Day. Get more gadgets and gifts at Gadgets Page’s Linkedin to learn more how to get gadgets online.
We also brought extra camera batteries and battery chargers. (Don’t forget to pack converters so you can plug things in.)
The little black box that says Lexar is one of our card readers. For those of you who don’t have one, card readers are great. You can put your flash card into the card reader and transfer your images to your computer with good speed. At weddings, we’ll have three of those card readers stacked on top of each other so they are all transferring images at the same time. It’s pretty slick.
And no, we aren’t total geeks. We brought a point and shoot too. Reality is that sometimes Lulu is to much, and a point and shoot is plenty. The little blue guy is our Sony Cybershot. I can put it in my back pocket and go! It’s got this real cool face recognition software, and I can also manipulate the settings like aperture and ISO. But another favorite component on this camera is the video feature. For being such a little guy, this point and shoot kicks booty on video footage!
This leaves us with the line up of these Bad Boys!
How do you know what lens to bring on vacation? How do you know which lens makes the most sense for portrait photography, weddings or monkey watching? Shall we break it down?
Starting from the right! It’s the tall, sexy 70-200mm lens, G2, Telephoto Zoom.
This lens goes down to a 2.8 fstop (which gives you that buttery blur in the background). Most people use this zoom for capturing things that are at a distance. This is Brian’s favorite lens, and he uses it for the opposite reason. He gets in super close to people with the lens and captures tight, intimate shots.
For Thailand, we used this lens to capture a subject that wasn’t as romantic, but super fun! Monkeys!
We had a feeling that there was going to be a lot of wildlife, but we did not expect 30-40 monkeys at once every morning. This lens is also ideal for capturing the kids on the beach from a distance. It allows you to stay farther back, sometimes unnoticed, but still zoom in for a tight shot.
The next lens is what I call my “Work Horse”. She is the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T, 24-70mm and also has a 2.8 fstop.
I call her my Work Horse b/c if I only had enough money to buy one lens, and one lens only, for shooting weddings and portraits, this would be my lens. She can go pretty wide at 24 mm for group shots or scenery/landscape oriented shots, whether it’s horizontal
but she can also get in tight at 70mm for portrait like images.
Since it isn’t a big zoom, I can also get in close to my subject instead of having to stand six feet back with a big zoom.
If you had enough money to buy two lenses, I would suggest these first two lenses. The 24-70mm, 2.8 and the 70-200mm, 2.8. These two would have you covered at a range of shooting that goes as wide as 24mm but can zoom in as far as 200mm. Does that make sense? I would stay away from the type of lens that is 18-300mm. That’s two much zoom for ONE lens. With a range that big in one lens, the aperture can’t go down to a 2.8. So if you love buttery, blurred backgrounds go with these two lenses to cover the range of distance.
The third lens is the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T135mm, f1.8 Telephoto.
The 1.8fstop is so low combined with the 135mm focal length, so I can stand 25 ft away, open my aperture all the way up to a 1.8, and capture shots of Blaze on Monkey Patrol, and he doesn’t even notice me. The 1.8fstop also enables me to have the dramatic soft and quiet background.
People often ask me why I have lenses that can’t zoom in or zoom out. Why move your body if you don’t have too with a zoom? The key to a lens that has no zoom, a Prime or Fixed Lens, is that the aperture/fstop can go even LOWER! If you are the type of photographer that uses a lot of background blur to help create your story, then you want to go as low as you can in aperture.
What do all the numbers mean?
See how all these lenses have the same numbering system on the side? This one above says 1.8/135 ZA. That means the aperture/fstop goes all the way down to 1.8 (that’s AWESOME!), and it’s focal length is 135mm. The Z stands for Carl Zeiss glass. Almost all of these lenses are Zeiss glass which is top of the line.
How important is glass quality? If you want to get more serious with your photography, glass is every thing. The price difference can be hard to swallow since the Zeiss glass is often a thousand dollars more. However, it really does make a difference. The quality of your glass affects light, color and so much more. The more expensive lenses, whether they be Sony’s Zeiss collection or Canon’s L series, are worth the every penny. I didn’t believe it at first, so I rented a top of the line lens. When I tried the expensive lens, I experienced the color difference and sharpness with my own eyes. I finally believed. In fact, when Brian and I were building our business we held off on upgrading our camera bodies and put every cent into our lenses. The difference shows with the lens you use. Try it out on a weekend by renting a couple of these nicer lenses. You will go CRAZY! In fact, chime in former workshop attendees. Many of you have finished our workshop and bought one of these $1200 lenses. Was it worth it?
I know we haven’t finished talking about the five lenses, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. For today, I’m going to stop here. Let’s pick up where we left off tomorrow. For now, is all this making sense? Any questions that I can help with?
If your a Sony shooter or thinking of becoming one, I linked all the names so you can see more of the details/specs on Sony’s site. I hope this was helpful, and tomorrow we’ll finish up!
Quick update on the Seattle June Workshop! I think we’ve found a super cool location for the workshop. I’m going to do a walk through of it today. It looks like we’re leaning towards the first weekend of June. So mark your calendars b/c we’ll be starting the Early Bird Registration next week! If this lens stuff is kind of making sense but you still have questions, consider the workshop. We talk about the lens issues in depth.
TWO MORE DAYS to sign up for a chance to win the Sony A350! It’s a nationwide contest! We’ve joined forces with Women’s World magazine and Sony to do a drawing for three people to win their own DSLR A350! To sign up, visit www.refusetosaycheese.com!
Our Refuse to Say Cheese DVD series is continuing to grow, faster than we know what to do with! In the midst of unpacking luggage, I jumped on a radio interview this weekend and talked about our DVDS for 30-40 minutes! It was wonderful!! If you haven’t ordered your own copy yet, check out our popular Instructional DVDs Refuse to Say Cheese and Beyond the Green Box (They are BACK IN STOCK!! Yeah!!), our 101 Kits for starting or expanding a business in photography , click on the titles of your choice!