I get more questions about gear than anything else so I wanted to show all of you what I carry with me every day.
Mostly I get questions about lenses and which lens will make the best astrophotos. A lot of choosing a lens depends on which camera system you may already own so that’s why I published my How to Pick a Lens for Milky Way Photography article. But there’s more to just picking a great lens for astrophotography and a lot of time people just want to know what’s in my bag so here it is:
March 12, 2014 – I’m currently traveling full-time in Europe so I’m currently going with a compact mirrorless system:
A. F-Stop Kenti camera backpack – Side access allows me to sling the bag around to access the camera and lenses without setting the bag down. Has expandable room in the roll top and a built in protective sleeve for a 13″ MacBook. I plan to add some Gatekeeper straps once I build up my new strobist setup to hold a lightstand. Since all the stuff below is relatively small and compact, the bag still has room in one of the side compartments and in the roll-top compartment so I can carry some clothes like a light jacket, gloves or rain-pants.
B. MacBook Pro Retina – I do all my photo editing and video production on this thing. Display quality is top of the line and it handles everything I throw at it including the occasional Dota 2 match. I use Lightroom 5, the Google Nik Collection, Adobe CS6 and Final Cut Pro.
C. MacBook Power Supply – It is what it is.
D. Razer Orochi 2013 Mobile Mouse – Best bluetooth mouse I’ve ever used. Has a really high scan rate of 6400dpi so movement is very smooth. Also lets you run wired if you ever run out of juice. Essential for quick Photoshop edits and late night Insurgency battles.
E. Fujifilm X-T1 with the Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 R lens – This is the best interchangeable lens compact system camera that I’ve had the pleasure of using. It’s good enough that I don’t miss my bigger, full-frame Canon EOS 6D for a second. Its low-light performance is top-notch and its non-Bayer X-Trans II sensor produces the best black and white images I’ve ever seen from a digital camera. It’s image resolution is actually on par with my EOS 6D. It’s got this cheap leather wrist strap on it which I much prefer to a neck strap. You can read my full review of the Fujifilm X-T1 here. The 35mm f/1.4 lens is an awesome standard lens for APS-C sensors with excellent sharpness and bokeh. This is my longest lens for portraits and general walk around stuff. The lens is also outfitted with a screw-in style metal lens hood which allows me to use a 49mm pinch cap instead of the stock Fujifilm rubber hood cover. I’ll take the occasional Milky Way photo with this lens too; it has a great viewing angle for stitching high resolution panoramas of the galactic center.
F. Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R – By far my favorite and most capable lens for both daytime photography and astrophotography. It’s super fast and sharp wide open so the amount of detail it can capture from the Milky Way is far and beyond any other focal length lens. It’s also long enough to still get creamy smooth bokeh for some wider angle portraits so it’s a super versatile walkaround lens.
G. Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R – Wide angle for awesome landscapes and wide angle astrophotography shots. 14mm is my most used focal length both on full-frame and APS-C just because the field of view captures so much of the scene. Depth of field is fairly large, even wide open so it’s one of the easier lenses to focus on the stars. Right now this is the fastest super wide angle lens that Fujifilm offers for the X-Series but they are working on another fast wide angle, hopefully it will be something 16mm or shorter with an f/number of f/2.0 or lower.
H. Sirui T-025X Carbon Fiber Tripod – This had been my primary tripod for almost a year now. It’s only 1.5 lbs (0.7 kg) and it fits in the side pocket of my bag or can sling on one of the backpacks side straps. Even though it’s so small, it still extends reasonably tall to 54.4″ (138cm). It supports my Canon EOS 6D but it’s a better size match to the smaller X-T1. It can also lock the legs at three different angles and the center column is removable. Finally, it’s Arca-Swiss compatible so a lot of camera mount accessories like the MHG-XT handgrip for the X-T1 can easily mount to it. Only downside is that in very windy conditions you need to hang some weight from it to prevent it from blowing over since it’s so light. It’s a small compromise but I have no hesitation bringing it everywhere because of it’s light weight. Nobody want’s to carry around a heavy tripod.
I. Allen Keys – for adjusting the tightness of the Sirui tripod legs. I like my tripod legs to be really stiff so that they are less prone to flopping to a new position when moving the tripod to a new spot. This is particularly helpful when creating hyperlapse videos.
J. Pedco Ultrapod II – Great as a quick tripod setup for timelapse or when I don’t need the full-size Sirui Tripod. It has a cinch strap that allows you to mount it to vertical poles which increases its usefulness. I like to mount my second camera (currently a Canon EOS M, which is not shown here since I used it to take the photo) to it for recording timelapses while I shoot stills with the X-T1.
K. Pedco Ultrapod – Same as the above Ultrapod II but smaller. I use this one exclusively with the below Joby GripTight and my smartphone when I want to use it to record yet another timelapse.
L. Joby GripTight – A universal clamp that holds onto your smartphone and has a 1/4-20 thread to allow you to mount it to any tripod. I use it to mount my Nexus 4 to the small Ultrapod to take simple timelapse videos.
M. Square Reader – For taking customer credit card payments on the go. Plugs into my Nexus 4 and allows me to use the Square app to complete quick payments.
N. Google Nexus 4 – My smartphone. Does what it needs to do and does it well. I use it as a backup camera when my others are occupied, particularly for timelapse creation. Too bad it can’t do astrophotography.
O. Luxe Business Cards by Moo Cards for Lonely Speck. I’ve got 5 different varieties of card, each with different astrophotos featured.
P. Vello Shutterboss Intervalometer – for making exposures longer than 30 seconds on the X-T1. Usually an intervalometer is an essential tool for timelapse but the X-T1 has a built in interval timer and I have Magic Lantern installed on my Canon EOS M so instead I just use the Shuterboss for its long exposure functionality on the X-T1. I wish camera manufacturers would make programmable Bulb functionality in their firmware so that I didn’t need one of these.
Q. Fischer Bullet Space Pen – just in case I need to write underwater, over grease or in zero gravity.
R. Streamlight Stylus Pro Flashlight – I use it as a backup to my headlamp and for light painting in my astrophotos. It’s waterproof and relatively bright for its size.
S. 2TB Western Digital My Passport Portable Hard Drive – Smallest, highest capacity portable USB 3.0 hard drive you can get.
T. Petzl Tikka XP 2 Headlamp – Super bright when you need it to be and also let’s you switch modes to only red night vision. This is the headlamp I recommend most. It’s mid range in price and the red night vision mode works in a way that allows you to enable it without having to cycle through any of the bright white modes which helps preserve night vision. I’ve had it for almost 3 years without problems. I can’t say the same for the last headlamps I owned.
U. Micro USB Charger – charges my Nexus 4
V. Sensor Swab Camera Cleaning Kit – has sensor swabs and methanol cleaning solution. I also added a micro fiber cloth and a nylon brush. All the basics to keep my lenses and camera clean. Sometimes I also have a Giottos Rocket Blaster with me but that got left behind. Rarely need to ever use the cleaning kit but also great to have on hand.
W. Fujifilm EF-X8 Flash – Came bundled with the X-T1 and is great as a backup in those rare cases where you absolutely need a fill light. Eventually I will probably build back my compact strobist kit with a Nissin i40 and some Fujifilm X-Series compatible Yongnuo flash triggers to mount to a compact Impact lightstand with a collapsible Wescott umbrella.
Y. Stock Charger for the Canon EOS M plus an extra LP-E12 battery.
Z. European plug adapters – I’m traveling in Europe so these allow me to charge the camera batteries, phone and MacBook while I’m here.