The Camera Kit

From left to right, Nikon’s AF-S 24mm f/1.4, AF-S 50mm f/1.4, AF-S 85mm f/1.4 and AF 135mm f/2 DC. Photo by Samuel Morse

So, I’ve had several times where people ask me what camera gear I have and why I use it. I had to compile this list for the Air Force Public Affairs Agency to recommend equipment for their pre-assembled kits they send out to the field, so here’s more of that information. All gear is Nikon brand unless otherwise specified. Feel free to ask me about any of this gear. I’ve also included my shooting combos I most frequently use, so you can see how I assemble my kit to go on a shoot.

You can see additional camera purchasing advice here.

Camera: D700
(Benefits: smaller/lighter, built-in flash for wireless TTL with Nikon flashes, would prefer D3s though. Still with a battery grip, it will shoot 8 fps.)

Wide zoom: AF-S 16-35mm f/4 VR
(Benefits: Smaller/lighter than 14-24mm, sharp, slight barrel distortion at wide end reduces stretching caused by ultra-wide rectilinear lenses, Accepts 77mm filters, VR allows for easy hand holding at 1/4 sec)

Medium zoom: AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8
(Benefits: high reproduction ratio, very good bokeh at normal lens-to-subject distances, fast aperture, much faster autofocus than other normal zooms)

Tele zoom: AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II
(Benefits: Ultra-fast focusing, much better VR than previous model allowing handheld operation at 1/15 sec, minimal distortion/vignetting, better minimum focusing distance)

Teleconverter: TC-20E III
(Benefits: Works perfectly with new version of 70-200mm delivering a 140-400mm f/5.6 that’s fast focusing and relatively sharp, cheaper/lighter than carrying a separate lens for 400mm, also combines with other f/2.8 super tele lenses)

Wide prime: AF-S 24mm f/1.4
(Benefits: One-of-a-kind lens, shallow depth of field despite wide angle, great for low light action, very short minimum focusing distance, much better bokeh than 24-70mm)—note, sometimes use a AF 35mm f/2

Medium prime: AF-S 50mm f/1.4
 (Benefits: If you don’t know the benefits of this lens, you’re not a photographer)

Medium tele prime: AF-S 85mm f/1.4
(Benefits: Beautiful portrait lens, great companion to the 24mm if deciding to just shoot with two prime lenses, shallowest depth of field of all my lenses)

Tele prime: AF 135mm f/2 DC
(Benefits: While often left home in favor of the 85mm or 70-200mm, great portrait lens, defocus control for adjusting spherical aberration or introducing soft focus, shallow depth of field, lighter than 70-200mm)

Flash: SB-900
(Benefits: Fast recycle times when used with NiMH rechargeable, easy-to-use controls, can read bar codes on included filters to automatically adjust camera’s white balance to match the filter, high power, large zoom range of 17-200mm coverage)

Radio flash triggers: PocketWizard MiniTT1 (1x) and FlexTT5 (2x)
(Benefits: much smaller than previous models, MiniTT1 can be left on camera without issue, TTL compatible, faster response than built-in IR transmission from flashes, Auto FP modes, ability to use flash banks for faster recycle time, no line of sight needed, not affected by daylight)

Tripod: SLIK Pro 340DX
(Benefits: great balance of size, weight, and strength)

Monopod: Generic monopod with ball head

ND-8 Neutral Density filter
(Benefits: Reduces exposure for easy photos of propeller aircraft and daylight main flash techniques, ND-12 would work too)

DK-19 Eyecup for easier viewing

DK-17M Eyepiece for enlarging viewfinder, not necessary for D3 series


What I carry with me on various types of shooting assignments:

Low-profile creative work:
D700 with 24mm and 85mm lenses, one in a Nikon lens pouch (the type that comes with the 24-70mm)

Medium profile work or when I’m in blues:
D700 with all three zooms, SB-900, and 85mm lens. The three spare lenses are in a Shootsac lens bag with the SB-900 on the camera or in its Nikon pouch attached to the Shootsac

High profile/high action:
D700 with all three zooms, 85mm, TC-20E III or 50mm, 24mm, and SB-900, in ThinkTank belt and harness modular system to distribute weight. Often carrying monopod attached to D-ring or flash umbrella rig for off-camera diffused flash.

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  1. Pingback: Camera purchasing advice | Blue Sky Above and a Camera Kit

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