I’m one of those budget elitists who like to tell you that gear doesn’t matter. And it doesn’t — or shouldn’t. The truth is that I bought most of my stuff years ago and haven’t really wanted to spend much more money since then.
My big gun is the Nikon D7000. It’s a few generations old, but I got it while it was still relatively new, and it matched the lenses I had at the time. Its magnesium alloy gives it some weather proofing, but adds 130g of weight over its baby cousin, the D5000.
The D7000 has a number of handy features that I occasionally use:
- Auto-bracketing: Useful for HDR work in post processing… or if you just want your pick from multiple exposures later. It only offers 3 images in a +/- 2-stop spread, which is probably ok for me, but if you’re serious about HDR, you might want a little more room to grow.
- Interval timer: Have the camera take exposures at regular intervals. Requires a little math (there are good apps to help with this), but you can capture timelapses without the need for any expensive remotes. It even combines with the auto-bracketing to help you make HDR timelapses.
To be honest, the D7000 is starting to get a little long in the tooth, but upgrading it would almost require a full sweep of my lenses, and I have a mortgage to pay. Maybe if I sell enough prints…
Wide-angle lens: Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM
The first time I saw a sample photo from this camera, I fell in love. The way that the wide-angle distortion makes a picture just fall into the centre of the frame still gives me chills. Look at these shots!
I actually use this as a walk-around lens. If you’re careful, you can get really close to a person while providing interesting context. Just beware that the distortion at 10mm will make closeups of peoples’ faces unusual and unflattering.
Multipurpose lens: Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105MM F/3.5-5.6G ED VR
This came as a kit lens with the D7000 and it covers most of my other needs. It’s a bit heavy, but serves well at events and as a general-purpose lens. It supplanted the original kit lenses I had: an 18-55mm and a 50-200mm. I occasionally break the latter out but it generally stays at home.
Portrait lens: Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35MM F/1.8G
I don’t use this very much at all. It’s inexpensive and relatively fast, but doesn’t really focus accurately enough to be used in low-light situations while fully open. I also find that 35mm on a crop-sensor (~50mm equivalent) is too close for indoor social occasions.
Compact camera: Canon EOS M
I got this guy just as Canon was running them out of stock before the launched the newer model. The kit was very cheap, and I was able to get a wide-angle lens relatively cheap. While low-light performance and focus speed are not as good at the D7000, the image stabiliser is better, which means I have got some decent hand-held low-light shots that I might not have been able to with the D7000.
The fact that I can pack the EOS M with 2 lenses, a spare battery and a flash into a bag that is almost as small and as light as a DSLR body actually makes it preferable when traveling. I’ll always carry a DSLR when the trip is about photos, but it’s never fun to schlep 3kg of gear around the world.
I took the EOS M on my first trip to Europe, and am still very happy with the shots I got.
Everyday camera: Nexus 5X
Never knock the mobile phone. Your most likely to have it with you, and that’s really important when you’re in the moment. I went on holiday to South East Asia, and although I had the EOS M with me, it spent most of the time in my bag. Instead, I was taking photos and posting to Instagram almost constantly. In fact, almost none of my IG photos aren’t shot on my phone.
Shooting on your phone gives you immediacy — you can shoot, process and upload in minutes! While it’s possible to do this with “real” cameras, it’s pretty cumbersome, and I think that you’re only truly creative when working under limitations.
So why the Nexus 5X? Well, mostly because it came from work. If you want a great phone on your camera, you should probably buy an iPhone.
Tough camera: Olympus Stylus TG-2 Tough
I guess I haven’t really had a chance to put this to the test. I had intended to go snorkelling, but the trips keep getting cancelled. I’ve put it to personal use for shots with the family in the pool, and one or two in the surf at Bali. It’s got a pretty wide aperture for its size, and produces some really vivid colours.