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My Photography Gear: The Cameras and Equipment I Use Daily

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Preemptive note! Don’t forget my massive 2016 Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals page here.  I’ve been updating it every few hours all day today with new deals, and expect to continue to update it constantly throughout the next few days.

One of the most common questions I see in blog posts that’s not specifically which GPS watch to get, is what cameras I use for various posts.  While on the flight back last night I figured I’d take a moment to dive through it.  Consider it a Thanksgiving break from sports tech!

On average, I take about 100GB of photos and video each week in the course of putting together this site (I shot 150GB in just the last 48 hours alone).  That’s thousands of photos and videos, across a wide range of cameras.  Like anything else in life, I have certain cameras that I use for specific purposes.  This post attempts to cover all the gear I use day to day.  Obviously, I test out numerous action cams in the course of creating reviews, but those cams don’t necessarily make the list as a trusted companion for non-testing days.

I’ll start off with my higher end photography/video gear, and then talk action cams and drones.  Note, that while 99.99% of review photos are with my DSLR cameras, the weekly ‘5 Random Things’ posts are about 50-75% taken on my phone, an iPhone 6.  As a general rule on the site you can hover over a picture and figure out which camera they’re taken with by the name.  Ones that start with GO are from a GoPro, ones that start with VIRB are from a Garmin VIRB, ones with DSC are my Nikon D500 DX, and ones with IMG are from my Canon 7D.  iPhone ones are labeled as such, or have a date (as they are sync’d from Dropbox usually).

Finally – this is all about the ‘why’ behind what I use.  It’s not a review of these products in a technical sense.  I obviously have reviews of some of these things, but this is just an explainer of what I use and the reasons I select a specific product.  I use all this gear for both work (the blog) as well as personal use.  I make almost no distinction between the two when it comes to my photography gear.  Oh – and everything here I’ve bought myself.

DSLR Camera Gear:

First up is all the stuff that makes the pretty review photos.  Watch shots might not be the most exciting photos, but they are pretty.  I think that having well shot photos for reviews makes a huge difference in how consumers see a product.  Even for the suckiest of products out there, I aim to make the photography aspect shine through.

This past spring I made a huge leap – from Canon to Nikon.  Despite having almost a dozen Canon lenses, and numerous Canon DSLR bodies (and 15 years of experience with Canon), I jumped because Canon simply isn’t keeping up with technological advancements when it comes to connectivity.  From an image quality standpoint, I’m thrilled with either.  But I wanted the ability to go to a tradeshow, race (i.e. the Tour de France), or other event and quickly transfer photos from DSLR to phone.  At the time, Canon didn’t have that.

So I settled on the Nikon D500 DX DSLR.  This is in their Prosumer range, though not their top dog.  I just don’t need the speed or other aspects for an even higher end camera.  Plus, lenses tend to be a far bigger differentiator anyway.

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Overall the camera works quite well for me.  The Nikon app to transfer photos is horrible, though that shouldn’t surprise me.  Still, it gets the job done, I just wish it was more dependable like the GoPro mobile.  From a camera standpoint I’ve mostly re-learned everything in the Nikon way, though I think I’m still faster in some setting areas on Canon.

I’ve purposefully kept the quantity of lenses I’ve bought relatively small.  This is because my core shooting range is at a distance of 1-10ft.  That’s it.  Sure, I shoot races and stuff at other distances, but for the most part my subjects (watches) don’t move.  Plus, having so many Canon lenses I realized I rarely used them all.  Things like the super-wide fisheye shot I’d use once every 1-2 years.  Plus, I could use a GoPro for most of those shots to achieve that anyway.  Long range telephoto I use again, at races, but that’s it.  For the most part I shoot between 18-100mm.

So my main lens is a 16-80mm f/2.8.  This is without question my workhorse that’s on my camera virtually all day long.

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It’s what 99.9% of shots in reviews are taken with.  And thus far, I’m really happy with it.

I’ve also got another cheaper zoom that I bought originally – the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6.  It works just fine, though with the higher end one above, I just don’t use it too much.  The Girl doesn’t like it, since she thinks it looks silly-small on the D500.  Like, inadequate small.  True enough, it fits inside a cupcake tin.

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Next, I have long-term borrowed two lenses from my friend Hitchen (of Liz and Hitchen – seen on various adventures).  They’re long-time Nikon users.  The first is a telephoto lens, the Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8, which I used for much of my Tour de France and related race shots this summer.

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And the other is a wide angle, the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.5.  This I use almost exclusively when shooting in the DCR Cave, because otherwise with the crop factor on the D500 DX during video operations, the 16-80mm lens doesn’t allow me to get a wide enough shot (really, the DCR Cave isn’t much bigger in usable floor space than a small car), so I use the wide angle for those.

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I suspect that I’ll soon purchase the Sigma wide angle lens, though I don’t think I’ll purchase the telephoto lens.  I haven’t quite decided what I’ll use though instead.  I wish a service like Lensrentals.com was available in continental Europe.  I often used it in the US for renting lenses for specific events (like going on a safari).  But alas, I’m not aware of anything in Europe.

‘DC Rainmaker DSLR Gear list’ compatibleStreet PriceAmazon LinkClever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10MHD)More Info
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2016 @ 9:31 am
Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens$479LinkN/AN/A
Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 80-200mm f/2.8D ED Zoom Len$1,221LinkN/AN/A
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED Vibration Reduction Lens$1,066LinkN/AN/A
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G$245LinkN/AN/A
Nikon D500 DX DSLR Camera$1,799LinkN/AN/A

DSLR Accessories:

Next, we’ve got various photography accessories I use day to day.  First up are tripods.  My main tripod while travelling is the Manfrotto compact action tripod, which easily fits both into my roller-board suitcase, but also hooked onto the outside of a backpack while walking around:

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Then for use in the DCR Cave, I use this much more heavy duty one, the Manfrotto MT055XPRO3.  The head is a Manfrotto MVH502AH, and it’s freakin’ awesome for video work.

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It sits on a slider which I use sparingly, sometimes for various product review videos. Unfortunately, it has zero markings on it, so I have no idea what it is.

For framing on videos, I use this small display from iKan (VL35) to be able to validate I’m still in the shot.  Since I shoot everything myself, I waste an astounding amount of time on framing video shoots.  If I had someone else doing the video, I wouldn’t bother with this.  Oh, and I use a small adapter so that both my mic and display can share the shoe adapter.  Plus an HDMI cable between them.

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I virtually always use natural lighting in my shots, with many shots done outside (such as this post Randy put together on my photo shoots).  For example, I’ll almost never unbox products at night, because I hate the look of it.  The only exceptions being trainers (they don’t fit on my unboxing table near the window) and if a product comes in late at night and I need to take it on a trip the next morning.  That said, within the DCR Cave I use lighting to help mostly with videos, though sometimes photos on trainers.  As the name implies, the cave is totally underground and without any windows.  It’s great in that I have specific kelvin values for that space and I can nail the lighting every single time.  But, it’s still not natural light.

In any case, I use these LED panels from StudioPro.  I have two, though I’ll likely pickup another one to round-out some dark spots in the corners.  I use these wall ceiling mounts to mount them to the wall, which gives me flexibility in where I point the light.

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Next on the audio side (the bane of my video existence), I use wireless mics from Saraomonic, the UWMIC10 set.  I continue to struggle with the settings on these – and mics in general.  Sometimes I’ll get great audio, and other times it’ll peak too much.  I’m about 99% sure the error is on my side.

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I also often use this little iPhone wired mic from Rode. When I do this I have to merge the audio tracks in post, which becomes a solid pain in the ass when it’s a multi-clip and multi-camera video filmed over a longer period of time.  Still, I’ve gotten mostly efficient with it – and the audio does frankly come out beautiful every time.

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Finally, for photo editing I use Adobe Lightroom on a Windows 10 PC (Lenovo T440s).  Meanwhile, for video editing I use Final Cut Pro X on a Macbook Air (from 2012).  Yes, that old beast can still rock through 4K footage in surprisingly good time.  Of course, like any video editor I’m always looking for something faster.  But with the new MacBook’s lacking both regular USB ports and an SD card adapter, I’m not a buyer.  If they had those, I’d already have purchased a new one.

‘DC Rainmaker DSLR Accessories Gear list’ compatibleStreet PriceAmazon LinkClever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10MHD)More Info
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2016 @ 9:31 am
iKan VL35 3.5" 4K HDMI On-Camera LCD Monitor$249LinkN/AN/A
Manfrotto MVH502AH Pro Video Tripod Head$199LinkN/AN/A
Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 Aluminium 3-Section Tripod$189LinkN/AN/A
Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod (MKC3-H01/MKCOMPACTACN)$69LinkN/AN/A
Rode smartLav+ Lavalier Microphone for iPhone and Smartphones$79LinkN/AN/A
Movo Photo HVA20 Heavy-Duty Video Accessory Dual Shoe Bracket$14LinkN/AN/A
SanDisk Ultra 128GB microSDXC UHS-I Card$39LinkN/AN/A
Saramonic UWMIC10 96-Channel Digital UHF Wireless Lavalier Microphone System$399LinkN/AN/A
ePhoto Photography Photo Studio Video Wall Ceiling Mount$14LinkN/AN/A
StudioPRO 600 S-600B Bi Color LED Light Panels$196LinkN/AN/A

Action Cams:

GoPro-Vs-Garmin

I use action cams constantly in reviews, mostly for on-bike and on-run shots, but also while swimming and even in review videos for second and third camera angle shots.  With the new linear/similar modes on the GoPro Hero5 Black and VIRB Ultra 30, I can mix this content in somewhat seamlessly.  Though, neither offers that mode in 4K, which is what I tend to upload most of my videos in.  Oh, and sometimes when I’m lazy I’ll just use the audio off the GoPro Hero5 Black (I find the audio/mics slightly better there than on the VIRB Ultra 30).

Anyway, for regular action cam use I totally oscillate between the GoPro Hero5 Black and Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 depending on what I’m doing.  I bought two of each.  For just bumbling around the city, or to the beach – I’ll take the GoPro Hero5 Black with me. Out on a ride and just want it for photos, again, the Hero5 Black.  But…if I’m doing video work while cycling (or running or whatever), then I’ll usually shift to the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 instead.

The reason is that I like the ability to do data overlays and have the GPS track merged in with the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30.  While GoPro just introduced that capability, it’s still woefully horrible.  Maybe by this time next year it’ll be better.

GoPro-Hero5-Black-vs-Garmin-VIRB-Ultra-30

From a technical standpoint, I very much appreciate both camera’s ability to do 2.7K with video stabilization (Garmin recently added this via software update).  This allows me to use this within review videos and remove the little bit of shake when I’m hand-holding the camera (such as riding or walking).  While it doesn’t seamlessly fit into other 4K content I shoot, it does for the 99% of people that never watch the 4K variant.  Yes, I know that Sony has hardware image stabilization on their cameras, but seriously – their app is so horrible that it makes the whole thing super frustrating to use.  I’ve bought virtually all the Sony Action Cams to test, and they’re all non-starters because of both the app and the user interface.

There are minor areas I wish each camera did differently to fill gaps of the other.  For example, I wish Garmin would record the separate mic audio channels to independent .WAV files like GoPro’s new Hero5 Black does.  And I wish Garmin recorded RAW photo files like GoPro does.  I also wish I could let the Garmin VIRB sync via WiFi to Dropbox.  That one item alone would probably make me a complete VIRB convert since it fits my workflow best (more on that later).  And on the GoPro side I wish the whole WiFi/GoPro Plus thing didn’t suck.  I’d pay either GoPro/Garmin the same $5 they charge for GoPro Plus to allow me to sync full res to Dropbox.  Don’t re-invent the wheel, just hop on someone else’s wheel.  Oh – and I wish both cameras allowed me to change the prefix to avoid duplicate file names (i.e. GOC1- for GoPro camera 1, etc…).

Finally, on mounts, as discussed in my gear recommendations post – I use almost exclusively K-Edge mounts for my action cams.  Oh, and I use the GoPro 3-Way Pole a ton (with both Garmin and GoPro).  Like, boatloads of the time on the bike especially.

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I use a blend of combo mounts (Garmin Edge quarter-turn + GoPro mount under it), and straight GoPro out-front mounts.  Plus saddle mounts.  I tend to use the combo mounts when I’m just riding doing my own thing.  Whereas the GoPro-only mounts I’ll use for action cam testing or cases where I’m running more than one camera at a time.

‘DCR Action Cam Gear’ compatibleStreet Price / PriceAmazon LinkClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programMore Info / Review
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2016 @ 9:31 am
K-Edge Action Cam Out Front Mount$39LinkN/AN/A
GoPro Hero5 Black$399LinkLinkLink
Garmin VIRB Ultra 30$399LinkLinkLink
K-Edge Garmin/GoPro Combo Out-Front Mount (Cycling)$53LinkN/ALink
GoPro 3-Way Grip/Arm/Tripod$69LinkLinkLink

Drones:

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Phew, almost to the end!  I’ve gone through a lot of drones over the years, and have a stash of about a dozen of them.  I’ve got virtually every one of the consumer/prosumer focused units from DJI, as well as drones from 3DR, GoPro (albeit now-recalled), Airdog, Hexo, Parrot, and a bunch of Kickstarter no-names that don’t matter.

Up until a few weeks ago I primarily would use the still only 6-month old Phantom 4 (and before it, the Phantom 3 Pro).  However, now I’ve switched to the new DJI Mavic, and there’s no going back.  Seriously, you can rip it out of my cold dead hands.  It’s mother-f’in brilliant.  Quite possibly the most impressive piece of design in a tech product I’ve seen in years.

It’s not just the size (smaller than a shoe), but the fact that so many pieces are just so well designed.  For example, in the combo package (what I bought), it includes a four-battery charger.  That charger is the size of a deck of cards.  Oh, and it works with the car and house charger and I’m able to charge DJI Mavic batteries in about 35-40 minutes in the car.  Flight time is 25 minutes.  With the three batteries in the combo pack, I can almost fly constantly.  I did 20 flights over the course of 9 hours yesterday alone, in preparation for my review.

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It’s the fact that the controller also folds up and can be attached to your phone.  Or, you can use just the controller.  Or just the phone (though, this is cumbersome).  Or the fact that the props are tiny and fold up, and can be easily transported.

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Or, it’s just that it’s as resilient at @#$#.  I plowed through multiple trees yesterday during some tests and it kept flying, recovering each time (well, until the fourth time).  Even then, the unit wasn’t damaged at all (minus a cheap prop) and is a happy camper flying again. No issues with light rain either.  All while capturing beautiful 4K footage every time.

Yes, I love what Airdog is doing with their drones for sports action scenarios, and the DJI Mavic sucks in that regard (DJI’s follow-me & Active Track are horrible for all but wandering around an empty field).  But for everything else, the Mavic is just so much better.  It fits into the back of my cycling jersey pocket and is easily deployed and in the air in under 90 seconds.  Brilliant.  And it fits in my laptop bag for vacations.

Note again that I bought the DJI Mavic ‘Fly More’ combo package, which includes the Mavic Pro, the controller, three batteries, four sets of extra props, a car charger, a house charger, and a 4-port multi-battery charger adapter.  Oh, and a hideous man-purse carrying case.  It’s the singular time I’d ever recommend buying a bundle for something.  While you can never have too many batteries, I’m finding three is about perfect given how small they are to carry and charge.

‘DCR Drone Gear’ compatibleStreet PriceAmazon LinkClever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10MHD)More Info
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2016 @ 9:31 am
DJI Mavic Pro Fly More Combo$1,299LinkN/AN/A

How I deal with storage:

Finally, for those still geek-curious about my photography archives, I figured I’d spend a few moments to chat about that.  I capture all my stuff onto SD and micro-SD cards.  I primarily use 128GB microSD cards from SanDisk for action cams.  I do it that way so I don’t have to manage multiple cards.  For my Nikon DSLR, I use a blend of 128GB SD cards and 64GB SD cards, though primarily the 128GB Lexar Pro cards.

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Once done shooting, I transfer everything to a set of external hard drives, mostly from Western Digital, each 4TB.  These are what I travel with and serve as my primary storage point during travel and day to day usage.  They’re color coded and I fill a new one every 4-8 months (faster now than a year ago as I shoot more 4K footage).  I also have a secondary 2TB internal drive in my laptop, which I’ll use for short-term storage.  So for example if I’m on a plane and want to edit stuff, I’ll transfer content there to use.  Same goes for tradeshows.  However, a master copy is always on the small portable hard drives (which require no external power).

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Once back at the DCR Cave/Studio, I transfer everything to a small NAS storage device from Western Digital, the MyCloud EX2.  When I do this I categorize everything into various folders, which allows me to easily find older photos sorted by device type (i.e. GPS watches, trainers, trade shows, travel, etc…), and then brand, then model.  In theory anyways.  Sometimes the re-categorization doesn’t always happen and things get put into temporary bins.

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Also, all my iPhone photos get sync’d to Dropbox, where I grab them from my laptop.  Further, the new GoPro cameras will sync low-res video copies via WiFi to GoPro Plus, and photos there as well.  Though, most of the time that fails and tells me to factory reset the unit (again) or flat out doesn’t work, so I can’t really depend on that in my workflow.

Finally, all of that gets sync to Amazon cloud services for longer term backup.  I used to sync to Amazon S3, and then do archive to Amazon Glacier.  But now I just sync straight to Amazon’s Drive, which is unlimited and $59/year.  That’s a heck of a lot cheaper than I used to pay for S3 storage.  I very rarely pull things from the archive, so it’s more of a disaster recovery scheme than a day to day storage locale.

‘DCR Photo Storage Gear’ compatibleStreet PriceAmazon LinkClever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10MHD)More Info
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2016 @ 9:31 am
WD 4TB Black My Passport Ultra Portable External Hard Drive$119LinkN/AN/A
WD 8TB My Cloud EX2 Network Attached Storage$478LinkN/AN/A
Lexar Professional 1000x 128GB SDXC UHS-II/U3 Card$59LinkN/AN/A
SanDisk Ultra 128GB microSDXC UHS-I Card$39LinkN/AN/A

Frequently Asked Questions:

While I’m sure there will be plenty of other questions, here’s a list of random things I figure folks might ask.  Feel free to drop others down below!

What’d you do with your Canon 7D gear?

I use it sparingly for various things – like taking photos of Nikon gear.  Plus, The Girl has Canon still, so she uses some of my gear.

What lenses did you use on the Canon?

Here’s the list below.  The Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 is without question the best value for you there.  The EF-S 10-22mm was one of my favorites for both day to day shooting as well as trade shows.  While the 17-40mm is what I’d use for product shots.

‘DC Rainmaker Canon Lens List’ compatibleStreet PriceAmazon LinkClever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10MHD)More Info
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2016 @ 9:31 am
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens$999LinkN/AN/A
Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX Fisheye DSLR Lens$609LinkN/AN/A
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG DSLR Lens$1,199LinkN/AN/A
Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DSLR Lens$649LinkN/AN/A
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L DSLR Lens$799LinkN/AN/A
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 DSLR Lens$599LinkN/AN/A
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens$125LinkN/AN/A

What happened to the edge of that Nikon lens?

Electrical tape, obviously.

Oh, you mean before that?  It flew off a treadmill.

What about 360° cameras?

Not yet.  They all have some degree of suck to them, either hardware or software (I’ve bought every unit on the market).  Even the Nikon Key Mission 360 4K I’ve been trying lately is just too sucky in too many departments to use day to day.  That said, if I had to pick one to use, it’d be the 360Fly 4K variant.  I did a review of the non-4K variant earlier this year.  It’s the cleanest package of hardware and software.  In general, software is the piece that hoses up most 360 cams.  For example, the software from Nikon and Kodak is beyond hideous. If GoPro or Garmin ever get into this game, they’ll dominate the sector (assuming they don’t somehow regress on software), it’ll be like taking candy from children.

Didn’t you use to have a Nikon 1 AW waterproof DSLR camera?

Yup.  But it hasn’t worked for a year.  One of these days I’ll ride the 1KM over to Bastille to the Nikon repair shop to fix it. I really like that camera otherwise (though it’s a bit slow).

What about the small red camera you used to use?

Indeed, I used to use a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS25 for all of my action/riding/etc shots, specifically since it was waterproof.  However, with the Hero5 Black now being waterproof, there’s really no reason I need the little red camera anymore.  Plus, I killed it earlier this year somehow.

How do you do underwater/swim shots?

Mostly with the action cams these days. It’s just a million times easier than lugging a huge underwater DSLR rig to a pool, which is often frowned upon anyway.  I usually will setup the camera underwater on timelapse photo mode, taking photos every half a second.  And then I’ll just swim.  Afterwards, I find the shots I need.  Sometimes if it’s timing sensitive, I’ll leave it on video mode and then just screenshot what I need later.

For some openwater stuff, I’ll place the camera on the bottom of the ocean using a small flexible tripod (this one).  This provides stability, and usually the camera doesn’t go anywhere. Shots looking up to the sun from underwater often turn out quite cool.  Without fins I can get down to about 10m (30ft) on a single breath, so that covers most scenarios.  Beyond that, I just don’t drop the camera!  That little mini-tripod attached to a GoPro will easily fit along my leg under jammer-style swim shorts.

Are there any cameras you’re eyeing?

Yes, the Sony A6300.  I know the A6500 just came out, but the A6300 is still pretty new.  Plus the A6500 is $400 more for non-relevant features to me.  I loved the A6300 when I tried it out shooting all of Sea Otter on it (on the stock lenses).  Brilliant low-light quality for both video and photos.  The mobile app is just as suck as Nikon’s, but again, I can get things copied over.  I see this as an awesome travel/vacation camera when I don’t want to take my bulkier DSLR but still want good shots occasionally.

Have you thought about getting a DJI Inspire?

The new DJI Inspire 2 is brilliant (as is the new Phantom 4 Pro), both of which have optical object avoidance sensors now on all sides, versus just front/down like on the Mavic.

However, I just wouldn’t find much use for it day to day.  It’s not permitted to fly drones in Paris, so I can’t just walk outside and use it.  If I lived somewhere I could walk out and fly instantly, then I might consider it – but even then it’s unlikely I’d justify the added expense.

The Inspire is (for me) too bulky for just regular travel (obviously, people travel with it just fine, but it’s one more thing for me that I don’t really need).  And while I used to take my Phantom 4 everywhere, now having the size of the Mavic, there’s no way I’d go back.  But if DJI releases a Mavic2 next spring with the features of the Phantom 4 Pro (specifically 360° optical sensors and the 4K/60fps), then I’m an instant buyer.  Size is just more important these days to me.

What about gimbals?

With the new image stabilization options on both Garmin and GoPro I’m using gimbals less than I did just a few short months ago.  Still, I use them here and there when shooting bike computer shots while riding.  For that I use the Feiyu Tech G4, though that doesn’t fit either new GoPro/Garmin well (I can kinda make it work).  I don’t much use the wearable gimbal anymore.  Also, I find the new GoPro Karma Grip gimbal just too bulky and cumbersome to use, specifically, when wearing it on the backpack straps as they advertise, the buttons are blocked by your chest (as is the screen).  Thus, a pain in the ass.

I don’t use any gimbals or Steady Cams for my DSLR’s, because I shoot myself, so a tripod is more functional.

Do you have an underwater case for your DSLR?

I used to for my Canon 7D DSLR.  I had an Ikelite hard-shell case that costs just about as much as the camera.  And the two together produced absolutely stunning photos, like these in the Maldives.  But I won’t buy one for the Nikon.  It’s just too pricey and too bulky to carry with me for barely any use.  If I move to a tropical island, then for sure, I’d buy one again.  But living in land-locked Paris it just doesn’t make sense for once or twice a year.  Plus, GoPro image quality is so good these days that you can cover most wide-shot scenarios easily that way.

However, if I bought the Sony 6300, and I could find a cheap hard-shell underwater case for that (soft-shell bag ones mostly suck), then I’d be tempted.

Bazinga – done!  So there ya go – everything you ever wanted to know about how I take photos and videos, what I take them with, and what software and platforms I use to edit them.

Thanks for reading!

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51 Comments

    int(0) int(51) bool(true) bool(false) bool(false)
  1. Trey

    So much focus on the gear! Very neat stuff.

    For file storage, do you use any special software for organizing and tagging media (i.e., Adobe Lightroom)?

    And happy Thanksgiving to you and the family!

    Reply
    • No, I know I could learn Adobe Lightroom cataloging better (or at all), but I just do it by good ol’ fashioned file folders. This helps as I often go cross-platform, since I’ll be doing photo editing in LR on a PC, but then video editing in FCPX on a Mac, it’s just easier to sort by folders on drives.

      Mentally I can keep track of that fairly well. It gets a bit trickier when I do multiple ‘shoots’ of a product, such as doing a pre-prod shoot of the Fenix3, then a CES launch shoot of the Fenix3, then my actual review shoots/photos, followed by random new-feature post shoots of the Fenix3. I somewhat categorize them by type (i.e. pre-prod, prod, new stuff), and that mostly works.

      Where it breaks down slightly is oddly enough this very post. That’s because this doesn’t really ‘fit’ into my photo categories well, being a bunch of one-off shots of random items. So the drone shot comes from my Mavic review pile, and the action cams from my action cam reviews pile. But the storage/tripod shots…are totally random. Still, a minor problem to have.

      Reply
  2. Mark D

    I’m currently looking at getting some camera gear for my forthcoming honeymoon. Was considering a GoPro/Virb plus a compact, but you seem to imply here the photos on the cams are pretty good. Is it worth still getting a compact? I won’t be looking at wildlife particularly so big zoom isn’t a must.

    Reply
    • It’ll depend a little bit on what type of pictures you plan to take. I find that for short vacations/trips, I’m pretty much just getting away with a GoPro/VIRB and my cell phone camera.

      Low-light is really the only area were both of these struggle. Though even then, if you just find a tripod (i.e. holding it on a beer glass), it tends to work out.

      Reply
    • Nathan

      That first sentence made me laugh. Thanks :)

      Reply
  3. Scott E

    You must be nearing the edge of battery apocalypse hell. Besides the massive USB charging station of note from a year or two ago, how in the world do ever know which gear to grab that is ready to go. I have to constantly over charge everything because it is not easy to track, and hate it when gear dies halfway in the middle of use. Just a bike ride adds up to seven separate batteries. Almost need a dedicated iPhone app that does nothing but poll Bluetooth and ANT+ devices to show the battery level.

    As always, great insights from your write ups — Happy Thanksgiving to the tribe.

    Reply
  4. The Sony Camera is a great camera (I have the a6100, the sony a6000 series cameras are mirrorless). All the photography magazines only cover Canon and Nikon cameras, they seem to ignore the Sony. I think you will love the Sony.

    Reply
  5. It has been a long time since I’ve stopped by.

    Great write-up. I dropped S3 years ago because storage finally crossed that price point. But it’s a pain keeping so many different physical disks in different places, especially since we’ve moved so many times over the past several years.

    But Drive looks to be a good deal. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Mike Robinson

      I’m not up on DSLR tech at all, but what did you mean by “Canon simply isn’t keeping up with technological advancements when it comes to connectivity”?

      What does Nikon support that Canon doesn’t?

      Reply
    • Mike Robinson

      oops… posted this as a reply rather than a new comment….

      Reply
    • Back this past winter, when the Nikon was announced, Canon had nothing in the WiFi-connected game except for super-expensive adapters.

      Now, the 5D Mark IV has it, which I might have converted to from the 7D series. The 7D can now accept an SD card from Canon (W-E1) that adds WiFi, but then it takes up the SD card slot and you’d be back to using CF (which means more adapters). Not a huge miss.

      If I had waited till now, then perhaps it might have worked out better with Canon. In some ways, I’m still open to other options. I’ve only spent ~$1K on Nikon lenses, so my investment is minimal if I wanted to switch back. But, with the 5D Mark IV is $3,500 vs the D500 DX at $1,500-$2,000. Of course there’s variances there that could justify the higher price, but none of them really apply to my specific use cases.

      Reply
    • Josh

      I’ve had the Canon 6D since April 2013. It’s an entry level full frame camera and has WiFi connectivity built in – no need for an adapter. Canon has had an app since release which allows you to download pics to your phone.

      Reply
    • Yeah, that’s actually the kicker! They added it to entry-level cameras, but not the higher end ones. Go figure.

      Reply
    • Aasen

      Again, thanks for a great writeup.
      I have also had the canon 6D since 2013, and it has had had the wifi connection which has worked nicely when needed.
      I would not consider the 6D as an entry Level camera. Think Canon refers to it as a Prosumer type, as it still is full frame.
      If the main selection point was wifi you could have saved on lenses.
      However, it is a few years old an some of the newer ones have better quality. Im hoping for a 6Dmk2 soon.

      Reply
    • Josh

      That’s correct, it’s canon’s entry level to ‘full frame’ and a step up in image quality to the 7D series, although lacking some features of the 7D mkii…

      Reply
    • Yeah, 4K video shooting was my other main requirement.

      Reply
  6. Chris

    The 128GB microSD cards from SanDisk you suggested are at a all time low price today at $30 each. Thank you, grabbed two for the new Ultra 30.

    Reply
  7. Mark

    Off topic but have you received and had chance to try out the tacx flux yet?

    Reply
  8. Rick

    In your opinion what is the best “selfie” photo camera? I mean auto-timer, when you are mountain biking alone and you want to stop and take picture of yourself and mountains, what camera would come out from your back pocket?

    Reply
    • I’d say either a GoPro or VIRB. For that scenario, both are great because they have voice commands, so you can just yell at your camera. Both also have variants of auto-timers (I tend to use the timelapse photo option for exactly that, set at .5s intervals so I know I’ve got a few shots to choose from).

      Reply
  9. Gabe

    Ray

    What memory card type and size are you recommending for the the Mavic Pro ?

    I see that some flyers use 16 GB cards and rotate SD cards with every battery switch to minimize on video corruptions – ie you lose all your video on that one 128 GB card.

    Given that at 4k @ 20minutes of fly time < 16 GB of data maybe it makes sense but seems more of a pia

    Also what are the specs of your mbp

    Reply
    • I use the 128GB ones, the exact ones noted above are what I’m using for everything. They’re even down to $25-$29 on Amazon today (price keeps moving throughout day).

      I’ve honestly never heard of, or seen corruption on any DJI products I’ve owned (or even action cams). The bigger concern for me is actually just losing the drone entirely (i.e. kerplunk into the water). I use the streaming to device option, so at least I have a 720p video copy. But I find that it’s not foolproof, and sometimes I won’t get a streamed copy in the DJI Go App for unknown reasons.

      My MacBook Air is late-2012 edition. I had 8GB of RAM, and then last winter I upgraded to a 256GB SSD. Here’s the official specs: link to support.apple.com

      (Sorry, I had a typo above in post, should have been Air.)

      Reply
  10. Bikeman

    Thanks for doing this write-up. Lots of useful info for us camera buffs. I was curious about your new Nikon. I’ve been shooting a Sony A6000 since it was introduced and I’m quite satisfied on the hardware side but the menu system is not fun to deal with. I do lust after the 6500 but it’s not in the budget after placing an order for the Flux with CT. My credit card company thanks you for all the great work you do.

    Reply
    • Yeah, I keep hoping to see a Sony A6300 Black Friday deal somewhere. So far…not so good (and I’m literally a professional Black Friday deal watcher). I figure the A6500 has no chance of a deal.

      Reply
  11. Mark

    Great article – many thanks.
    Do you have a preferred camera bag for use when in tourist mode, ie walking around with the family rather than when riding or running?
    I’m thinking of investing in a Billingham but interested in any alternatives…
    Cheers

    Reply
    • I tend to just toss things in a small backpack usually. I use a cheap one from REI that I picked up. Doesn’t scream camera gear. Albeit, it’s also not super well protected as-is, but once I toss in a hoodie/etc, then it adds protection.

      Reply
    • Steve

      When I want to carry the camera kit (a 6D, 24-105mm f/4L IS, 70-200mm f/4L IS, 50mm f/1.8, and 430 flash) inconspicuously I use an older Timbuk2 Snoop insert in a messenger bag (a Banjo Bros bag, but it could be any medium sized messenger bag.) And I have room for a small laptop if I want to carry one. It is about as inconspicuous as you can get a kit to be. I’ve had several people comment that they had no idea I was carrying the camera around in it including the TSA. A small backpack would have been better hiking in and out of Exit glacier or around Homer but my insert will only work in a messenger bag. I think the current Snoop insert will work in either.

      Reply
  12. Uwe Hercksen

    A service like Lensrentals.com is available in continental Europe, I tried “Objektive Verleih” and “location objectif” as input for a good search machine and found many such services in Germany and France. For instance link to objectif-location.fr
    Of course their website is written in french.

    Reply
    • That’s not a bad option actually, at least for lenses. Prices for same lenses are better than Lensrentals.com (for a few random ones I selected).

      Though, they lack camera body rentals. One of the things that’s neat about LR is just the massive volume of unique things you can rent. Last time in the US I tried out a DJI Osmo setup and the Sony A6300 via it. Glad I tried the Osmo that way first vs buying it. Just didn’t fit my needs like I thought it might.

      Reply
    • Uwe Hercksen

      location objectif is only one of several such services in Europe, some of the other services may offer camera bodies too. For instance http://www.objektiv-verleih.de has Canon, Nikon and Sony bodies for rent. In France there is http://www.pixloc.fr with bodies from 6 different manufacturers. But these two companies are only examples, using a good search machine you will find more offers of body rentals.

      Reply
    • Oh wow, Pixloc looks great, tons of interesting stuff there. Thanks for the links!

      Reply
    • Uwe Hercksen

      Hello again,

      here are some more links:
      link to photogalerie.com
      link to fr.zilok.com
      link to reflex-location.fr
      link to photographie.direct

      Bodies, lenses, flashes, studio light and more acessories.

      Reply
  13. Do you use metadata/meta-tags? That way the digital file folders won’t really be a problem when a picture doesn’t fit into a certain folder.

    Reply
    • Nah. If I had more time in the day I might. I’m so bad at LR catalogs for example that I literally just create new LR Catalogs every few weeks and delete the old ones (I understand metadata/tags aren’t the same, just giving you clarity on how little I try and address it).

      Ironically, when it comes to actual posts on the blog, I’m pretty darn good with metatags/data in posts, making it pretty easy to find content based on product names.

      Reply
  14. Nicholas

    I completely feel you on the issue of ports and the latest Macbook Pro’s Ray. My current laptop is the 2010 Macbook Pro which despite several upgrades was getting too long in the tooth for most day to day things. I decided to treat myself to the prior gen 2015 Macbook Pro due to my need for ports and fear of dongle life. The performance will be massively improved over what I have now and I saved myself $700 when buying the top end model compared to current Apple pricing. ($2100 vs $2800) It might be a path to consider. At a minimum it will get you four or five years down the road when all this wireless connectivity and the apps that enable it will have hopefully improved and been sorted out.

    Reply
  15. Mark

    Before you get the Sigma 10-20, you should check out the two Tokinas. 11-20 f/2.8 and/or 12-24 f/4 are about the same price, a little less wide, but everyone says they are better glass quality – constant aperture and all. I haven’t used the Sigma, but the Tokinas are really great.

    Reply
    • Will have to take a look.

      For me filming in the cave, the 10-22 even just barely works with the crop factor when you switch to video mode on the D500 DX. I still have to mount the camera across the room, with the tripod usually half-way on the treadmill.

      Reply
    • Jake

      I really liked my old Sigma 10-20 but I bought it at a time when the Tokina 11-16/2.8 had yet to hit the market. If the Tokina was available, I would have gotten that instead. The image quality surpasses the Sigma’s. The aforementioned Tokina 11-20/2.8 is an evolution and carries on the quality of the 11-16. I had intended to switch to the Tokina but ended up switching to FX and went with the Nikon 14-24/2.8.

      That said, since you seem to be using ultra-wide angles for video and most people I know who shoot video tend to manually focus, you might want to consider the Rokinon 10mm f/2.8 prime. Image quality is just as good, faster aperture, and it’s cheaper.

      To be honest, if you’re struggling with your angle-of-views being too tight, then you probably should be looking to move to FX and probably the Sigma 12-24 since that will give you a larger AoV and wider field-of-view with less distortion and convergence effects. The new Sigma 12-24/4 Art is part of Sigma’s revamped lens program and is of significantly higher quality than their previous lens formulas.

      Reply
  16. Mikael K.

    Hi, Ray!

    I just order myself a MyCloud EX2 Ultra, and I wonder if it’s possible to sync selected content directly from the MyCloud EX2 Ultra to Amazone Cloud, or do I need to set up my computer to do that?

    Reply
    • You can do MyCloud to Amazon S3 via daily backups, but you have to then pay the S3 costs versus the Amazon all-you-can-eat option.

      So I just schedule an older computer to map a drive to the EX2 and then sync that way to Amazon.

      Reply
    • Mikael K.

      Thanks :-)

      Reply
  17. Scott Buchanan

    Sorry, can’t find anywhere else to put this but….

    Went for a long run along the Seine ending as usual at the Cupcakery….. errrrr where did it go????

    Reply
  18. Speaking of the Sony 6300 or 6500, wait until the 6500 is available – in body image stabilization, deep image buffer – 100 RAW. Then get the Metabones IV adapter for Canon lenses to Sony E mount. I have a Canon 7D and a whole bunch of Canon, Sigma, Tamron, lenses. The main reason I switched to a Sony A7R II was the Metabones adapter so I could use my Canon mount lenses. Each firmware update improves the auto focusing.

    Reply
  19. Ray

    Ray, check out the Staaker drone. I just read about it trying to find info on the Karma.

    Reply
    • Interesting stuff, hadn’t seen it before. Just watched some clips on it.

      I’m not seeing how it’s any better (or worse) than the Airdog. Basically just looks like a copy of it, albeit slightly smaller (maybe, hard to tell). The challenge with this unit is that the GoPro is exposed to the elements, whereas at least on the Airdog it’s inside the plastic shell.

      Also, it lacks object avoidance – something I’m kinda moving to be considered as a baseline requirement for any new follow-me drones. I’d certainly entertain testing one, but I’m probably not a buyer at this point. If I was to plunk another $1,200 down on something for testing/curiosity (that I don’t already have), it’d be to pickup a P4 Pro.

      Reply
  20. Hi Ray,

    If you’re having trouble with audio from your wireless mic, you likely need to think about gain structure a little bit more.

    Setting proper gain in audio is very similar to focusing a lens. In the sweet spot, everything is sharp and looks perfect. But, when the subject moves, the sharp focus is lost, so you adjust and make it perfect again.

    What’s extra tricky about wireless mics is that there are several gain settings that all need to be adjusted to get perfect sound:

    1) The audio input level on the camera needs to be adjusted
    2) The audio output level of the wireless receiver needs to be adjusted
    3) The audio input level of the wireless transmitter needs to be adjusted

    It’s like having to focus three lenses just to use a single mic.

    Seems like a lot, but really, it’s not too difficult.

    You just need to form a habit of setting proper audio levels every time you use mics.

    For the wireless system, set your levels in the reverse order I listed them in. Put the lav mic on your shirt, then set the level on your transmitter. Then, move to the wireless receiver and set the output level. Lastly, set the audio input level on the camera.

    You set the levels by speaking at the same volume you’re going to speak at during filming. If the audio meters are marked, you try to adjust the levels to -12dB. If the meters aren’t marked, you adjust them so that they’re bouncing around 3/4 of the way up the meter. Sometimes there is just a hash mark (a little line or a triangle) on the meter showing you where -12dB would be. Adjust the levels so that they’re around this mark.

    It’s a pain in the butt, but, forming the habit of setting proper gain structure every time you shoot will eliminate bad audio issues from your work.

    Reply
  21. carl

    Great write up. Your small flexible tripod link goes to a camera tripod.

    Reply
  22. Alex Bridgeforth

    have you ever had issues using the ultra series micro sims with Garmin/GoPro instead of the extreme?

    Reply
  23. Bikeman

    The Camera Store recently named the 500 “Camera of the Year.” Starts @ the 13:10 mark although the whole video can be entertaining if you have enough beverage. They did.

    link to youtube.com

    Reply