If you’re a frequent reader of the site then you’ve probably seen at least a few of the “What’s in My Bag” posts. Today, we are going to take a quick look at the gear that I (Mike Pouliot) am using at the moment. If you’re like me, then you spend lots of time researching equipment before pulling the trigger on a new “toy”, so feel free to post any questions you may have about the gear that I’m using in the comments section below.
It’s tough to talk about what’s in my bag because I have a rather vast collection of bags that can carry anything from a single body and lens (Retrospective 5) to basically everything I own (Airport TakeOff). Below is a list of my current collection:
- Thank Tank Retrospective 5
- Think Tank Retrospective 10
- Think Tank Shape Shifter
- Think Tank Airport TakeOff
- Lowepro Versapack 200AW
- Crumpler 6 Million Dollar Home
Obviously, I do not use all of these bags at once and there is some overlap (e.g. the Retrospective 10 and 6 Million Dollar Home are basically the same size), but I love each of these bags for various reasons and I do use all of them. Out of the group, I use the Retrospective 20, Airport TakeOff and the Shape Shifter the most.
- The Retrospective 10 gets the most use out in the field because it can carry my Canon 5D and my three core lenses, the Canon 17-40mm f/4L, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II, and the Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS. Along with all of that, I still have room for my compact flash card wallet, lens cloth, small notebook and a snack. Like all Think Tank products, this bag is extremely well made and it is just the right size for me. I also like the fact that it comes with a rain fly that I can use to quickly cover my gear when the weather gets less than ideal. Read my full review of the Think Tank Retrospective 10.
- If I could only use one bag it would probably be the Shape Shifter backpack. I truly LOVE this bag. It can hold all of the gear mentioned above plus my Canon 580 EX II, 15″ Macbook Pro, OWC External Hard Drive, tripod (attached using included harness), filters, and basically every accessory I need for my camera and laptop. This bag can go form very slim and compact to a big powerhouse of a backpack to transport a decent sized kit and laptop. The best part is the bag is comfortable to use, even when loaded up. My only complaint about this bag is there is no quick access to your gear. You have to take off the bag, fiddle with the storage pouches (more on this in the full review) and put everything back together. Now, for me this isn’t a big deal as my 50mm is usually glued to my 5D but that may be a deal breaker for some. Read my full review (with video) of the Think Tank Photo Shape Shifter backpack.
- After adding a few bags to my collection, I noticed that I kept misplacing things. I would shoot with one bag one day and another a few days later but I would always leave something in that first bag. In addition to that, I didn’t have a bag that could truly transport ALL of my photographic equipment at once. Enter the Airport TakeOff. This wonderful rolling bag can hold all of my equipment when traveling plus it acts as a storage locker for all of my gear. When I come back from shooting, I simply dump all of my gear back into the Airport TakeOff. This ensures that the next time I go out to shoot, everything I need will be in one place. Read my full review (with video) of the Think Tank Airport Takeoff.
Photography has always been more of a hobby than a career path of me, so I rarely do any type of paid job. Because of this, the need for multiple bodies has never really been a factor for me. I usually sell my current body to fund the purchase of a new one which means I typically have one body in my kit. If I do a paid gig, I either rent or borrow a second body which is much more cost effective solution. My current body is an original Canon 5D and I have to say I really love this camera. I started off shooting film back in high school and I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the look you get with film. For me, the only digital camera that I’ve used that can come close to that look is the original Canon 5D. I also like the fact that the 5D’s menus are simple and it doesn’t have a ton of bells and whistles. I’m kind of a geek when it comes to new tech so I’m afraid I would spend too much time tinkering with a camera that offered lots of toys instead of just getting out there and shooting.
With the introduction of the 5D MKIII, many 5D owners that didn’t make the jump to the Canon 5D MKII are now making the leap to the MKIII, so you can find really good deals on the original 5D. I’ve seen them going for around $700 on Craigslist which I think is a steal. If you are a Canon shooter that has yet to go full frame, I highly recommend checking out an original 5D. Yes, it may be over 6 years old but it’s wonderful full frame sensor can still hang with the latest and greatest bodies.
In addition to my 5D, I also have a Panasonic GF-1 Micro Four Thirds (M43) body. I was hesitant to buy into another system, but I’ve been rather impressed with the growth of this market. Personally, I think the Panasonic GF-1 is one of the best looking cameras out there at the moment. It’s also a great size and makes for a wonderful travel camera. I took my GF-1 and the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 to Europe for 2 weeks as my only photographic equipment and I had an absolute blast. Did I miss my 5D? Yes, on occasion but the compact size of the GF-1 and the excellent images it produced made me feel better about leaving my 5D at home. With the recent release of the Panasonic GX1 and the Olympus E-P3, you can get a GF-1 for next to nothing on eBay. I highly recommend getting one if you are thinking about getting a M43 body but you don’t want to drop lots of money on something that may be a third or forth camera.
After buying the 5D, I realized that this camera will quickly display any faults in your lenses. In other words, you can’t use cheap glass with the 5D. Thankfully, the 17-40 and the 70-200 shine on the 5D. And even though the nifty fifty only costs a little over $100, it still produces excellent images when paired to the 5D. With that being said, my next purchase will be a new 50mm lens. I’ve shot with the Canon 50mm f/1.4, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 and the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 and they all performed much better than the nifty fifty. After shooting with all of these lenses, it looks like Sigma is going to get my money although I have to say I did love shooting with the Zeiss.
Out of the lenses below, my favorite lens is easily the 70-200mm f/4L IS. This lens is remarkable. No matter the focal length or the aperture setting, this lens is tack sharp and the bokeh is beautiful. I wish all zooms where this good. If you are on a tight budget, check out the non IS version as you can pick up a used one around $500. For me, the benefit of IS made it worth the price but if you are planning on using a tripod you can save yourself a good chunk of cash by going with the non IS version.
I currently have two tripods, a Benro A1691TB0 and a Gitzo G2258 with G1178M ball head. I use the Benro mostly when I’m traveling light or when I’m shooting at night with the GF-1. It is a pretty nice tripod for the money and it can hold the 5D but with nothing longer than the 17-40mm lens. The Gitzo on the other hand, that thing is a beast. My Gitzo setup can hold my 5D with the 70-200mm attached and there is little to no creep. I do like this setup, especially for reviewing products, but my plan is to sell both tripods and pickup a lighter Gitzo setup, most likely something from the traveler series.
Like most photographers, I have lots of accessories that I use on a regular basis. I have blowers, cloths, lens pens, extra batteries, grips, filters and more. I don’t want to bore you with all of them, so I picked out a few of may favorites and most used items, see below:
I do use a screen calibration device for my laptop and external screen, but I wanted to focus on what’s in my bag and not what’s on my desk…that’s a completely separate post. When I’m out shooting, I always have my X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. This device can serve many roles like setting a custom white balance in the field, but its main purpose is creating custom color profiles in post process to get extremely accurate colors. If you struggle with color accuracy or even white balance accuracy, this device will save you lots of time in post.
Unlike the Canon 5D MKII or MKIII, the original 5D did not have an internal sensor cleaning system. This means you have to clean the sensor yourself…something not for the faint of heart. Sticking something against your pricey camera body’s sensor can pretty scary, but you slowly get used to the process. After trying swabs and brushes, I found that, for me, the best cleaning gear is a combination of the Gittos Rocket Blower and the LensPen SensorKlear. I’ve had great success with both products and I can now clean my sensor in a few minutes with no hassle.
Most of my bags have pretty good storage compartments but there is organizational device that I ALWAYS take with me and that is my Think Tank Photo Pee Wee Pixel Pocket Rocket. Yes, that’s quite a name. I love this little media card wallet, it even has room for your business cards. My only gripe is the use of Velcro, but that has only been an issue on a few occasions.
I’ve never been a big fan or traditional camera straps, I usually end up wrapping them around my hand instead of wearing the camera around my neck. A few years ago I stumbled across Camdapter.com. They make beautiful leather hand straps in a bunch of shapes and sizes. They even have plates to fit most tripods (e.g. Manfrotto and Arca Swiss). This thing is pretty much glued to my 5D. The only time I’ll remove it is if I’m taking some sort of long exposure shot. If slings and straps aren’t quite your thing, then check out Camdapter.com.
If I’m shooting an event or I only go out with my camera and one lens, my Black Rapid strap is bound to be with me. I will even use this in conjunction with the Camdapter hand strap.