What’s In the Bag? Sony Artisan Brian Smith

I’ve known professional photographer Brian Smith for a couple of years now, and the work he does has consistently blown my mind. More importantly, he’s also perhaps one of the nicest professionals I’ve ever met: in fact, he’s looking out for all of us. His book: Art and Soul, belongs on every portrait photographer’s coffee table. Brian managed to talk to various celebrities after shooting their portraits, and got testimonials from all of them on why the arts are so important.

He’s even let me play with his gear before. While we all know that a photographer’s creative vision first, I couldn’t help but ask Brian to talk with us about what’s in his camera bag. After some quick emails back and forth, I was able to get the well-respected Sony Artisan to not only tell us what’s in the bag, but also give us a bit of a backstory on some of the pieces.

Before we start though, be sure to follow his updates and if you’re at WPPI, be sure to pop on by his Secret of Great Portrait Photography class. They’ll be giving away lots of freebies there too.

The Bag: Lowepro Roller x200

Sony a900: My workhorse camera for the past three years. The sensor is amazing for portraits and it’s built like a brick – I have two bodies each with hundreds of thousands of exposures and they’re still running great.

CZ 24-70mm/f2.8: My all-time favorite lens for portraits, this lens has the perfect focal length range from 24mm or portraits that capture the environment around the subject to 70mm for tight intimate portraits. Zeiss glass makes this the sharpest zoom I’ve ever used. Unlike Zeiss lenses for other brands – Sony Zeiss lenses are AF.

(If I had to shoot a portrait with just one body and lens – these would be it. But since I don’t, here’s the rest of the kit)

Sony a77 with 16-50mm/f2.8: Just released, the a77 adds continuous phase-detect auto-focus video in all the modes you want including 1080 in 24, 30 and 60P. With a nearly identical pixel count to the a900 and don’t let the package fool, you, Sony’s 16-50/f2.8 is no kit lens. Perfect focal range for APS-C.

Sony CZ 85mm/f1.4: I’ve always loved to shoot portraits with fast 85mm lenses wide open for minimal depth-of-field and the Zeiss glass makes this the sharpest 85 I’ve ever seen. I’ll sue this when I want a tight portrait to be just a bit “flatter” in perspective than a shot at 70mm.

Sony CZ 135mm/f1.8: Simply an incredible lens. Though I tend to shoot portraits a bit closer, this is a great lens for tight portraits if you want to flatten out the perspective a bit. Every time I shoot with it, I’m reminded that I need to use it more often.

Sony NEX-7: This is the camera I’ve been waiting for and now the ultimate camera for street photography is finally here. I love the option of built-in EVF or Live-view LCD. Never thought I’d be as big a fan of Live-view as I am, but I’ve grown to love it. I really like looking down on a tilted up LCD – it’s like using a waist level on a Hasselblad. (See hands on here.)

Sony NEX-5N: This is the camera I used when I appeared on The X Factor to shoot the show’s ten finalist. A very nice update of the NEX-5, it features lightning fast shutter response and an optional EVF that I used in combination with the LA-EA2 Alpha-NEX Mount Adapter. (See full review here)

Voightlander 50mm f1.1 Lens: My vintage rangefinder glass has gotten new life thanks for all the adapters available for Sony NEX.

SLR Magic HyperPrime 50mm f/0.95 Lens for Sony E-Mount: This insanely fast lens sells for under a grand – just a fraction of the price of a Leica Noctilux and focuses really close for portraits with paper-thin depth-of-field.

Sony NEX-5 with Holga 25mm: I’ve always loved shooting with Dianas and Holgas. I prefer getting the look in camera than from an app and now you finally can. I found a E series Holga lens on eBay for 20 bucks and it was money well spent. I just leave it on my old NEX-5 for a different look.

PocketWizard Plus II Transceiver Radio Slaves with Sony Hot Shoe Adapter FA-HS1AM: I shoot nearly everything with strobes, so I use these to sync it all up.

Sony18-55mm/f3.5-5.6 E

CF & SD Cards in Gepe Card Cases

SanDisk Extreme CF Card Reader

Extra batteries and chargers for SONY Alpha, NEX & Cybershot

Sony Hot Shoe Adapter FA-HS1AM

Giottos Rocket Air Blower

Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly 724

Visible Dust Mini Quasar 7x Sensor Loupe Sensor


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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.