(and a little more about me)
Occasionally I get asked what photography gear I use. While gear isn’t nearly as important as the photographer, the proper gear can help you achieve your vision much easier (or in some cases, get the shot period). I’ll go into what gear I’m currently using and why in this post. Please keep in mind that any links on this page will be Amazon affiliate links. If you click the link and purchase anything, Amazon will throw a few cents my direction. This costs you nothing but does add up over time for me (well, I might be able to buy a cup of coffee). I appreciate the clicks!
I feel a bit of my gear history is in order before going into my current setup. It helps with some of the reasoning behind my current gear decisions.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ME AND PHOTOGRAPHY
I didn’t decide to make my photography a focus until 2013. Up to that point I was busy with life, helping raise two kids and working full-time in corporate America. I owned a point and shoot for holidays and special occasions. Most of those where Olympus cameras. In 2013, by the encouragement of my wife, I picked up my first “real” camera, a Canon 60D APS-C camera with a Sigma 24-70mm lens. This was a recommended budget setup from a friend who was a long-time photographer. It didn’t take long for the photographer in me to go wild and I was really, really enjoying taking photos. I had taken photography courses as a young man and knew my way around film cameras. As a career I had been in IT for over 25 years so I was at home with this new digital camera. Also as a certified gear addict, learning about what was out there for these cameras really kicked in. It took no time at all for me to start acquiring more lenses, eventually new bodies, and on and on. All this time I was learning new photo techniques like wildlife photography (long lenses), astrophotography (wide, fast lenses) and portrait work using off camera flash.
I was a Canon shooter up until mid 2017. Here’s a list of the gear I can remember owning from memory.
- Canon 60D
- Canon 6D
- Canon 7D Mark II
- Canon 5DSr
- Canon M3
- Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L
- Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L
- Canon 70-200mm f/4 L
- Canon 16-35mm f/4 L
- Canon 50mm f/1.8
- Canon 200mm f/2.8 L
- Canon 300mm f/4 L
- Canon 500mm f/4 L (my absolute favorite lens and most used at the time)
- Canon 65mm f/2.8 Macro
- Canon 24mm f/2.8 Pancake
- Canon 35mm f/1.4 L
I think that’s it but I’m sure I left a few off. I went through a LOT of gear during those four years. I thought I needed the absolute best to be the photographer I wanted to be. I’ve since learned that gear is just a tool to get the job done. It’s the photographer that makes the shot. Once you learn that and focus more on learning techniques and styles, you’ll be a better photographer! Gear shouldn’t get in the way of what you are trying to accomplish however. Only buy new gear when the current gear gets in your way!
It’s the photographer that makes the shot.
So seeing all the gear I had above, what am I using now? Well, mirrorless was just starting to take off in 2017 and didn’t have the frame rates I needed for wildlife photography, nor did it have the long glass needed. That is until I came across the Olympus E-M1 Mark II camera! But before I get into that though, understand that by now my wife and I knew we were going to be selling our house and traveling the USA for a minimum of a year. The many bags of heavy, expensive gear I felt wasn’t going to be conducive to our new lifestyle. My 500mm f/4 L had it’s own bag because of it’s size and weighed a LOT! I wanted lighter weight and portable. I really wanted to get all of my gear down to one backpack that would cover all the photography genres I shoot (which as you’ve learned is pretty much all of them).
So now that you understand what I needed, what did I get? I came across the Olympus E-M1 Mark II camera while researching gear. I had never used m43 (micro fourth-thirds) gear before but it appeared on the surface to be exactly what I was looking for travel wise. The sensor, compared to a full-frame 35mm sensor, was half the size. This means the lenses don’t need to be as big and thus the glass is smaller and lighter. I did weeks of research because I needed to be sure. I’d spent tens of thousands of dollars on my Canon gear (really, I have a spreadsheet) and loved it. Canon makes wonderful gear. So selling it all (always at a loss) was going to be a hard sell but we were making tough choices to do our traveling.
Well, I finally decided to purchase the E-M1 Mark II and the newly released (at the time) Olympus 12-100mm f/4 Pro lens. I wanted to try it out before I made the leap. I could always pair down my Canon collection and just keep my most used lenses (but the 500mm f/4 L was still a beast, no getting around that) if I didn’t like it or it didn’t perform to my standards. Well, I was in for a pleasant surprise! It performed beyond my expectations. The Olympus 12-100mm f/4 was an amazing lens (and one of the sharpest I’d seen) and with it’s 35mm effective focal length of 24-200mm, I was replacing several of my Canon lenses with one lens! The E-M1 Mark II was blazing fast with up to 30 frames per second in electronic shutter mode (which I now use exclusively for wildlife since it makes no sound), is completely weather sealed (Olympus makes some of the best weather sealed gear on the market) and the AF (autofocus) is amazing! Most of the stuff I’d read online about m43 sensors having noise issues at higher ISO’s was mostly false (if you know how to work around it’s constraints) and turned out not to be an issue for me at all. I shoot a lot at night so this was important and was a non-issue.
So the sale of all my Canon gear started and as I sold stuff I picked up more m43 gear. Fortunately Canon gear (especially the L series lenses) sell very easily and hold their value well so I ended up ahead money wise even after buying all my m43 gear! One major initial issue was that there weren’t many long lenses available for m43. Olympus only made the 300mm f/4 at the time and it was a bit more than I wanted to spend and I was going for versatility as a primary focus. So I picked up the Panasonic-Leica 100-400mm lens as my wildlife lens. I guess I got lucky as my copy was very sharp and I loved it. With just the Olympus 12-100mm and the Leica 100-400mm, I had a complete 35mm equivalent focal range of 24mm-800mm in just two lenses! And great lenses to boot! I was thrilled. I only needed one more lens, a macro. So I picked up the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro lens along with the macro flash setup. It look some getting used to but it’s a fantastic combo! I wanted a second body (as a backup) so I got the Olympus E-M5 Mark II. Another fantastic camera but unfortunately I dropped it just a few months into our journey and it died an early death. I picked up the Panasonic-Lumix GX-85 as my backup camera to replace the E-M5.
So I was set with a compact, lightweight and pro-level gear bag. That’s what I started our journey with, however, it has changed over time. In late 2018, I got the bug and decided that I needed a “better” astrophotography and low light camera. I would occasionally get some noise in my nighttime shots and thought something else might be better. We are on a budget (I’m still not working) so I picked up a Sony A7II and Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 and Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. It was a great setup, but I wasn’t completely happy with it’s low light performance either. I used it as my primary general camera for about a year but eventually realized my Olympus gear was just as good or better. Having two different systems was also not very conducive to our travel lifestyle. So I sold it and picked up some more Olympus gear. Even though Olympus has sold off their camera division (and there is some uncertainty regarding it’s future) I was all-in with their gear again. I’m happy to say I have no regrets. Here is my current list of gear:
- Olympus/OM System OM-1
- Olympus OMD E-M1 Mark II
- Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro
- Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro
- Olympus 300mm f/4 Pro
- Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro
- Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro
- Olympus 8mm f/1.8 Pro Fisheye
- Olympus STF-8 Macro Flash
- Amazon Basics Camera Backpack
- Gitzo Mountaineer Tripod
This is the current combo of gear I plan to use for the foreseeable future. I do look forward to what the new owners (JIP) of the Olympus camera division do with future releases. Crossing my fingers they are even better and innovative! After purchasing the OM-1 I’m confident that OM System cameras will continue to be most excellent! I absolutely love my new OM-1! Best camera I’ve ever owned!
Any questions? Ask below in the comments!