What Gear Does the Photography Life Team Use?

At Photography Life, our staff has handled tens of thousands of photography-related items, including tens of thousands of cameras, hundreds of lenses, and thousands of other photographic accessories.

But what kind of equipment do we utilize on a daily basis? In response to that question, we’re going to publish a series of pieces written by various members of our team. I’m going to begin today’s first item in that series with a discussion of my own gear.

It’s important that you know that I’ve been putting off publishing this post for a time, and the main reason for that is that I believe photographers have a tendency to put much too much stock into one another’s selection of equipment. If I had shot with a Canon or Sony camera instead of a Nikon one, or if I had used a crop-sensor camera instead of a full-frame one, the end result would not be much different. The vast majority of pieces of apparatus are compatible with at least one or two other types of items on the market. At the end of the day, what matters is the photographer who took the picture.

The number of inquiries I get about my camera gear, on the other hand, makes it very evident that there is some interest in learning about the equipment that professional nature photographer uses in their actual work. Because everyone under the sun is trying to sell you some new gadget, and because I only find a handful of them to really be useful, the camera accessories are arguably the most significant portion of this piece.

In instead of stuffing the post that follows with a million affiliate links to B&H or Amazon, I have combined everything into a single B&H wishlist that can be found further down in the article. When it came to equipment that could no longer be purchased brand new, I either linked to its page on eBay or added the more recent version to the B&H list, depending on the circumstances.

If you make a purchase of any camera equipment through these links, eBay or B&H will donate one to four percent of the total purchase price to Photography Life. It might not seem like much, but it’s a quick and simple method for you to express gratitude without incurring any more costs on your end.

My Digital Camera Equipment

1. Cameras

In addition to my active usage of one DSLR and two mirrorless cameras, I also make use of a GoPro Hero 8 and an iPhone 11 for capturing footage for our YouTube videos. I also take both still photographs and videos with a DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone, which has a sensor of 1 inch in size.

The Nikon Z6, the Nikon Z7, and a Nikon D7000 that has had its IR conversion done are the interchangeable lens cameras that I use. I sold my DSLR camera at the time, a Nikon D800E, and placed an order for a Z7 on the first day it was available for purchase. The IR-converted D7000 is a recent addition to my backpack; nonetheless, the Z6 and Z7 are the cameras that I mostly use on a day-to-day basis.

My go-to camera for capturing footage for our YouTube channel and for nighttime astronomical photography is the Nikon Z6. It also serves as my backup camera when I travel internationally. On the other hand, the Z7 is the camera that I like to use when I’m photographing landscapes, at least when I’m shooting digital rather than large format film (more on that later).

It’s possible that the original Z6 and Z7 are starting to appear a little bit antiquated now that time has marched on and Nikon has continued to improve the Z system. Additionally, they are no longer available to purchase brand new and can only be located on eBay (Z6 here and Z7 here). However, upgrading to a Z7 II wouldn’t help me too much with my landscape photography as I already have a good camera. Depending on the capabilities of the Z7 III when it finally arrives, I might make the switch.

You might be curious about whether or not I switched to the Z9 after giving it such high ratings in our review, as I gave it such high reviews. The correct response is “no.” The astrophotography features of the Z9 would be good to have, but I want my digital package to be as lightweight as possible so that I can bring it on long walks and with me when I travel internationally. If I don’t start doing more wildlife photography, then I have no intention of purchasing a Z9.

Why choose Nikon when you might go with Canon or Sony? The Z lenses and the possibility of the enormous Nikon Z mount are two things that really excite me. However, the primary reason is due to inertia. Since I bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D5100, I’ve been using their products exclusively, and at this point I’m very familiar with their cameras. Switching to another brand won’t usually get you much but a lighter wallet, and Nikon appears to have a bright future ahead of them nonetheless. For the time being, I have no plans to make a change.

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2. Lenses

I now only use three lenses with the Z6 and Z7: the 14-30mm f/4, the 24-200mm f/4-6.3, and the F-mount 105mm f/2.8 Macro. My primary kit consists of just two lenses because I don’t typically bring the macro lens with me anywhere.

That is clearly pretty small, but then again, going light is the main point I’m trying to make with digital these days. Even though the lenses in this kit aren’t quite as sharp as many of Nikon’s Z-series primes or their f/2.8 zoom trio, this package provides excellent picture quality and covers the whole range of focal lengths that I require, from 14 to 200 millimeters. At landscape apertures like as f/8, f/11, and f/16, I’ve found that the differences aren’t significant, and both of these lenses are readily capable of producing sharp enough images for big prints.

Because none of them have been put to much use as of late, I still have a couple DSLR lenses laying around that I want to sell in the near future. In the past, the lenses that came with my DSLR camera were the Nikon 20mm f/1.8G, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art, and the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 (with the same 105mm macro lens). I’m delighted I made the transition from the previous kit to the Nikon Z lenses since they’re lighter and cover a wider range of focal lengths. Even for astronomy photography, which requires me to employ image stacking anyhow, I just do not require large apertures because I focus mostly on landscape photography.

These days, I don’t take as much macro photography as I used to, but if I did, I would give the Z-series 105mm f/2.8 Macro a serious look as a potential replacement lens. The DSLR 105mm macro lens that I use is fantastic, but the Z lens is among the very best optics I’ve ever used, and it’s also a little bit more portable than the other option.

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3. Tripod and Head

Since I’ve had the RRS TVC-24 tripod for such a long time, I fully anticipate that it will outlive me. Despite the fact that it weighs only a little bit more than the Nikon Z9, this thing is constructed like a tank! It just requires that I take it apart and clean it once or twice a year; other than that, it doesn’t have any further requirements.

I make use of two separate tripod heads. For the digital equipment, the RRS BH-40 ball head serves as the primary head for me. When I tighten it down, there is no discernible sag in it at all, and it is quite light. I have no doubt that it will stand the test of time, just like the tripod.

The Arca Swiss Cube is the second tripod head that I own. This geared head for a tripod is one of the largest currently available, making it a serious piece of equipment. It is cumbersome, costly, and exposed to the weather to some degree. (Every time I use it in the desert, I have to take extra special care to get the sand out of the gears afterward.)

Because using the Cube with my Nikon Z cameras is completely unnecessary and unnecessary in general, I seldom ever use it. Instead, I use it with big format film because, in comparison to a ball head, it enables me to make minute compositional modifications with much more ease. This is especially true when I am working with the enormous cameras that I employ.

There are two different tripod attachments that I carry with me at all times, and today they are both in my kit. The RRS TVC-24 tripod features an optional center column that, while it does diminish the setup’s overall stability by a small amount, is a very useful accessory for producing instructional videos for our YouTube channel.

(If not, the camera angle when video me instructing is just at too low of a level.) The other attachment is the Arca Swiss Quick Link Set, which you can read about in the previous review. When I go trekking in dusty circumstances, it enables me to stow the Cube in a more protected pocket of my bag and switch between the two heads of the tripod. I also have some tripod feet in the manner of claws stashed away someplace, but I generally forget to bring them with me.

Conclusion

It’s possible that camera equipment is vastly overvalued, but I believe it’s still beneficial to learn what working professionals use, even if it’s only to observe how many extras aren’t necessary. In addition, I believe that a photographer’s selection of lenses provides a fascinating glimpse into the priorities that they hold.

For me, the camera gear that I bring along is determined by the circumstances, but I always make an effort to carry the largest and highest-quality image equipment that I can bring along for any particular shoot. Whenever I get the opportunity, I go up to larger formats such as 4×5 film, 8×10 film, and finally, my monstrous 12×20 camera and lenses. This tends to be the case on lengthy hikes and foreign trips when I use my lightweight Nikon Z equipment.

The truth is, every photographer tackles the medium in their own unique way. Even if they capture the same topics, no two photographers will have the same approach, as you will see in the following “What’s in my Bag” articles from other members of the Photography Life team. These articles will be available in the near future. This is due to the fact that there is no such thing as the best camera kit; instead, there is only the camera gear that is suitable for you. I really hope that this post was of some use to you in your search.

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