Photography: The Cameras and Equipment I Use

(Current as of July 14th, 2014)

I like taking lots of photos, and I get a lot of questions on the gear I use – both for everyday photos for the blog, as well as on trips.  So here’s the complete rundown.

Cameras

First up are the cameras I use.  By and large, I use two cameras.  A little point and shoot for everyday stuff, and then a digital SLR (DSLR) camera for prettier photography.

Normal everyday shots:

Lumix TS-3 Waterproof Camera

P1090524

The little pocket sized Lumix is the camera I take running, cycling and swimming.  It’s waterproof down to 4 meters, which is basically all I need for everyday use (or beach use).  While the shutter speed isn’t the fastest out there, it works well for virtually everything.  I noticed the TS-4 is out now, and a bit cheaper than the TS-3, plus there’s also some even cheaper variants within the same product line, so you may want to check that out instead.  All my images taken with this camera start with ‘P####’, if you’re curious which are which (I use the original name in all photos on the blog).

P1110086

 

 

Travel & Trips and/or Really Nice Looking shots:

Canon 7D DSLR Camera:

IMG_1102(Canon 7D, 10mm @ F9, 1/250s at ISO-100, -.3)

canon7d

This is my new best friend.  I’ve been using DSLR cameras for years now, and this one came out this past October.  It does both still photography, as well as HD video (1080p & 720p).  I find it great for quickly swapping back and forth between taking short videos and taking incredibly clear photos.  If you’re looking for a cheaper option (at less than half the price), my wife has the Canon T1i camera, which includes 720p HD video as well as all the usual photography stuffs.

All my images taken with the 7D (or other DSLR’s I use) start with ‘IMG_####’.  I also have an older Canon XTi as well that sorta floats around the house.

Nikon 1 AW Waterproof DSLR

DSC_2592

This DSLR is fully waterproofed and sorta drop-proof.  I picked this up early in 2014 and have been using it when travelling on shorter trips (such as work trips).  It also works great for pool shots where I don’t want to deal with getting my full underwater setup (below) all put together.  It also automatically adds the GPS position into all the photos, which is handy.  I bought the package with both lenses (11-27.5mm and 10mm).  While the pancake is nice from a size perspective, I find that I most often use the 11-27.5mm, simply because it gives me a bit of flexibility.

Lenses:

I originally had the Canon Digital Rebel (300D), which uses any EOS SLR lens.  Over time I upgraded the camera body to the XTi, and now the 7D.  The lenses are compatible with all of these.  Here’s what I use the, in order of using it the most, to least:

50mm F1.8 This is my favorite lens.  Virtually all of my cooking photos are taken using this. It has incredible depth of field for less than $100.  There’s a F1.2 and F1.4 version that are great…but again, the F1.8 is only $90ish and awesome.

IMG_4732[2](Canon 7D, 50mm @ F1.8, 1/60s at ISO-500)

Canon 10-22 EF-S F3.5-4.5 – I got this at the same time as the 7D, and it’s quickly become a great travel lens.  It’s a wide angle, but it works really well in low light, and produces very sharp shots.

IMG_4278(Canon 7D, 22mm @ F4.5, 1/30s at ISO-1250)

Canon 17-40 F/4L – While this overlaps a bit with the 10-22, it’s a great walkaround lens, and similar in zoom to the 18-55 included stock on many Canon’s – though with incredible optics.  Of primary importance to me is that it works in my underwater case (noted below).

IMG_0473 (Canon 7D with 17-40, 25mm @ F/10, 1/250s at ISO-100, –.3)

Canon 75-300 Image Stabilized – This is my primary lens for any long range shots.  I mostly use this overseas, especially in Africa.  While the 75-300 is no longer made, the 70-300 is still made – so I linked to that instead.  Also note that there is the image stabilized version (IS) and one without IS.  For shooting on the 300-side of things, I can’t recommend the IS enough, it really helps to make super crisp pictures.

IMG_5081A(Canon XTi, 270mm @ F9, 1/640s at ISO-400, -.3)

Sigma 70-200 2.8 EX DG II – This lens is great for sports photography, and is very comparable in many ways to the L-series 70-200 offered, but without the expense.  I also use it in Africa a bit, but because of its weight and girth, don’t generally take it on international trips (except Africa).

IMG_0660(Canon XTi, 76mm @ F2.8, 1/1000s at ISO-100)

Sigma Fisheye 15mm 2.8EX – I got this back a number of years ago because I thought it would be fun.  And it is fun.  But it’s also not very sharp, and honestly a bit of a waste of money.  Get the Canon 10-22 instead.  But…it’s fun…occasionally. ;)

IMG_7592 (Canon XTi with Sigma 15mm @ F13, 1/650s at ISO-400, –.3)

Action Cameras

VIRB00441

I use a lot of action cameras in random shots, but I’m not particularly loyal to a specific camera 100% of the time.  Instead, I tend to switch between the Garmin VIRB Elite, and the GoPro Hero3+ Black.  I’ve tried many others, but these two are the ones that I use the most primarily for their flexibility in mounts as well as the feature-rich software.  In the case of the GoPro I can tune the video quality easier in post-production, whereas in the case of the VIRB I can get sensor data like speed/power/cadence (and the battery life is far better).  If you can’t decide, check out the end of my Garmin VIRB review where I dive into which one I’d recommend for different cases. Also, I talk to the other models in my recommendations guide.

Other Camera Equipment

There’s a lot of other random things I use, but here are the big ones:

‘Timelapse machine’ (aka Intervolometer) – I use this to create time-lapse sequences, like the one below.  The model I linked to is the official Canon model.  But for about a 1/3rd of the price you can get a generic one, I have one of those for the XTi, and it works just fine and dandy.

2009 Army 10 Miler Timelapse from Ray Maker on Vimeo.

Gorilla Pods (Tripods) – I take this EVERYWHERE in my backpack.  I originally had a smaller non-DSLR model (and still do), but it just won’t hold the weight of the DSLR in all conditions, so I picked up the DSLR model and it’s been awesome.

Ikelite Underwater Case – For any underwater photography I do, I use this camera case.  It sucks it’s so expensive – and sucks even more than if you try and rent one, it almost will cost just as much as the case itself.  Kinda stupid.  I use a DS-51 substrobe with it.  But I do love the case…

IMG_0745A(Canon 7D with 10-22, 14mm @ F/6.3, 1/100s at ISO-100)

Finally…feel free to post any questions below, and I’ll try and answer them as soon as possible.

10 Comments

  1. Michael

    Hi Ray,
    I've been a long time Canon EOS user - in part due to the easy compatibility with lenses. I just updated/upgraded to the 70D and can still use my 25 year old Canon lenses. This naturally did not stop me from picking up a couple of the newer STM lenses to go with the 70D. I'm curious if you geotag your photos with the 7D, and if so, how? I just spent 10 days in the west coast of Canada (through the mountains) and used GPS4Cam Pro with my iphone. I was really impressed with how well it worked and how easy it was to geotag all the photos at the end of each day. Definitely an impact on the phone battery but I always carried a auxiliary battery when hiking so did not run into any problems. Have you tried the Canon GP-E2 GPS receiver? I understand it is not the best integration with the 7D as you need to cable it in but for the 70D it attaches to the shoe. I'll be in the US on the weekend and it is $150 cheaper down there so am trying to decide if it adds enough value over the GPS4CAM application. I would considered it way over priced in Canada for what you get. Any experience with it?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I don't geotag the 7D photos (at least 99.99% of the time). I've played around in the past with various software apps do merge track files with them later on a PC, but it's always been a lot of work and most of the time it didn't seem to be worthwhile for me. :-/

      I've looked at the GP-E2 receiver as well a few times, but ultimately found it kinda clunky from a setup standpoint like you noted. I'm optimistic though that the next generation 7D supposedly coming out the first week of September will have both GPS and WiFi.

      Reply
    • Michael replied

      Thanks. I cannot convince myself that the $230 or so cost for the GP-E2 is worth it. Think I'll stick with using the GPS4Cam app as it really only adds three steps to the processing (take a picture of the QR code on the phone, copy all the photos to the laptop, run the app). The rest is automatic and I can always use one of the more manual software techniques when geotagging when I have not pre-planned with my iphone). Hope the next generation 7D wifi is a bit more usable than the 70D wifi!

      Reply
  2. René

    Hi guys,

    I use gps4cam pro too and I am very satisfied with the results. I used to use other software but I find gps4cam workflow based on the QRCode brilliant and easy to use. gps4cam works with any DSLR unlike a GPS module that will work only with a specific camera.

    Reply
  3. Paul Stock

    Question for you: On some of your past running races you said you carried a VIRB and used that to take quick pictures while running, but I notice you haven't done that lately. Could you explain why?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      The only reason is that lately I've been trying to take photos of watches as well during a race, and I find that using the VIRB (or even the GoPro) to take photos of watches doesn't produce really good images of the screen. Whereas the little red camera does.

      Reply
  4. Zach Riggin

    You may have already answered this but what do you do with the camera on the swim?

    Reply
    • Ray Maker replied

      Sorry Zach, missed this. I use the Lumix (the little red one). Works great since it's waterproof.

      Reply
  5. Anca

    Hi Ray thank you for all good info and you passion. QQ... Why did you switch from Pentax optio to Panasonic lumix.... And what are your thoughts on the optio wg3? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Ray Maker replied

      I found I wasn't getting great battery life (really bad actually) on the Optio, even with brand new batteries. Also, I saw issues with low-light being a bit slack.

      I haven't looked at any of the options recently, kinda waiting for my Lumix to die. Thought I might have killed it on my 106*F run, but it still seems fine again the last few days. Really going the distance.

      Reply

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