Photographers generally like their toys, and I'm definitely no exception to that rule. Here is some of the gear I use, and recommend.
Camera Bodies and Lenses:
Before I got into wildlife and nature photography, I used to putter around with entry level Nikon gear. I still really like Nikon's high end professional gear and the images I get with their systems (including the background owl image on this web site), but after doing a bunch of research about the "best" (and slightly less expensive) used gear for wildlife photography, I decided to make the switch to Canon.
Would I still go the same way? Maybe. Maybe not. It's still a hard choice. I really like the Nikon D800 and their 500mm lens. That's a killer combo for what and how I like to shoot. If I had an unlimited budget and was shopping for "new" gear? Hard to say. That D800 and 500mm lens is very hard to beat.
On the "new" Canon gear side I really like the DX1 and all their big, lighter glass. But I don't like their new gear prices. Maybe some day. But for now (Dec 2013), this is what fills most of my current toy box. I bought these bodies and lenses "used":
Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS USM Super Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras (very used). As I write this description, there are none listed on Amazon, but click here for a review and description of the lens.
Other "Must Have" Gear
My gear includes more than just cameras and lenses, such as these items that I believe are must haves:
- NIKON 7294 Monarch ATB 8x42 Binocular
Great for birding. Super optics. Light and small enough to carry in the bag or even on my belt. Indispensable. I use these *all* the time for wildlife photography.
- Gitzo Series 3 Systematic 4 Section X Long Tripod GT3542XLS
Got a big lens? Need a big tripod. I'm 6' 5" tall, so I also needed to spend a few extra bucks on the long legs. I carry the lens and camera set up on the tripod a lot, so I needed (okay, "wanted") the carbon fiber legs for weight. Again, indispensable.
- Gura Gear Bataflae 32L Backpack
This thing is amazing. It actually fits all my gear, including the huge 600mm lens, which fills half the bag. The rest holds the 70-200 lens, two other lenses, two extenders, two bodies with L-brackets, extension tubes, a speed flash, the binos, a CamRanger, a Better Beamer, a blower, all my chargers, filters, cleaners, manuals, rain covers, etc... and the huge tripod with gimbal head even straps on the outside. I can even throw water bottles in the side pockets. And I can carry it all on my back to a shooting site, or carry it onto a plane and fit it into the overhead bins. Full. There aren't any wheels and it's not real sylish, but it really is a game changer for staying organized and traveling by car or plane with all my gear.
- Wimberley WH-200 Gimbal Tripod Head II. For the monster 600mm lens, again, a must have. Expensive, but worth it. (Not sold on Amazon, but you can get it here at B&H).
Other "Really Cool" Gear
What's a "CamRanger" you ask? Well, it's what makes night photography way easier and short range wildlife photography way possible. Must have? Well, no. But it sure makes the stuff I like to do much easier and more fun.
I can set up my camera for night photography, and then go climb in a dry tent and shoot from my nice, warm sleeping bag. (Did I mention sleeping bags are *warm*?) I can also set up for close wildlife shots with a wide or macro lens, and then go to a distant hide (or heated car) and capture the image without scaring away the subject. Did I mention cars are *warm* too? And they have these really cool things called "reclining padded seats" that are enclosed in a wind-, rain- and bear-proof glass and metal bubble. (Okay yeah, I'm sounding kinda wimpy. You be macho - I'll be comfortable).
The CamRanger lets you control the camera wirelessly, from your phone, iPad or computer, via a personal wifi connection. And I'm not talking just triggering the shutter. You control the whole camera. The focus, the aperture, the shutter speed, the ISO setting... You can pretty much do everything remotely except reposition the camera itself.
And it's an intervalometer. You can program a series of timed shots for star trails, lightning or time lapse photography.
And... you use the monitor on your phone, tablet or computer as your live view screen. Makes setting up those night shots a million times easier, especially if your camera is pointing up.
You can then view and review what you just shot on that same remote screen, and/or download the shots to your connected device.
As I said, really cool gear. If you do night work or wildlife photography, it may even be another "must have".