Last Updated: January 2019 (In progress!)
My photography equipment has to travel around the world with me. As I work in remote areas, it needs to be totally reliable. Preferably small and light, too. Also, inexpensive is good.
I don’t ask for much, right?
I’ve completely changed camera system this year, so I thought I’d best update this post to reflect that. Since I’ve been taking underwater and wildlife photos fairly obsessively since I got my first camera in 2013, I’ve got a fairly good idea of which lenses etc I use the most now, which means I’ve been able to refine things down to the bare essentials… though your idea of essential (ALL THE CAMERAS) may differ from mine.
Because I’ve only had my Sony system since June 2018, and I’ll only get it underwater for the first time in September 2018, most of the photos I’ve added here were taken with my previous camera, an Olympus OM-D E-M1.
My camera: Sony A7rIII
I’ve written up a full review and setup guide for underwater photography with the A7rIII. You’re welcome.
Reef manta ray at night in Ari Atoll, Maldives, with Indigo Safaris.
Whale shark at Talisayan, Indonesia, with David McCann and Scuba Junkie Sangalaki.
Underwater Housing: Nauticam NA-A7R3
I use Nauticam housings for underwater photography, and I suggest you do too. They’re brilliant. Get a vacuum system too, you’ll thank me later. I also use dual Sea & Sea YS-D2 strobes with Panasonic Eneloop batteries and Ultralight arms with a few floats to make the system neutrally buoyant.
Comes with a cool protective bag, which was a nice touch.
I’ve got three lenses for the A7rIII at present. I have two lenses for underwater photography:
- The Canon 8-15 mm fisheye. There’s no native autofocus fisheye lens for the Sony mount, which is a huge pain.
Reef manta ray at Nusa Penida, Indonesia, with Big Fish Diving.
Whale shark in the Galapagos with Alexandra Watts and the Galapagos Whale Shark Project.
Hawksbill turtle at Maratua Island, Indonesia, with Scuba Junkie Sangalaki.
Whale shark at Mafia Island, Tanzania, with The Whale Safari and Marine Megafauna Foundation.
Just as an aside, I really like using fisheye lenses for wildlife if the subjects are amenable:
Marine iguanas at Isabela Island, Galapagos.
2. The Sony 90 mm macro.
3. For wildlife, I use the Sony 100-400 mm.
Sharp, close focus.
Peak Designs Slide Lite
I’m also likely to bite the bullet and pick up a wide angle lens at some point. At this stage, I think my #1 pick would be the Sony 16-35 mm f/2.8. Sharp, takes filters, for my hypothetical landscape photography adventures, and the f/2.8 makes it great for low light astro, and potentially as a wide-angle portrait lens at a pinch. Expensive though… although I kinda think I might as well save up and get the best lens available for my use-case scenario, rather than making do. I want this camera system to last me a long time, and the lens’ of course are likely to be useful for longer than the camera body.
Drone: DJI Phantom 4 Pro
I’ve had a couple of drones before this, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ (it drowned; RIP) and the Phantom 3 Pro (that cliff came out of nowhere; RIP). This Phantom 4 Pro is a really major upgrade in both still and video quality. It’s got a much larger camera sensor, which makes a big difference in quality, and the battery life has dramatically improved from earlier models. It’s much easier to get smooth video, too.
The Mavic 2 has now been released, one of which will probably be the better option for most people.
Pro: same 1′ sensor size as the 4 Pro, although I haven’t seen a comparison between the two yet. 28 mm equivalent field of view, compared to 24 mm in the 4 Pro. Major size advantage over the 4 Pro. The larger size of the 4 Pro might make it a bit easier to hand launch and catch out of boats though, which is a major consideration for me. I’d love to downsize, but I’ll keep the 4 Pro until at least next year.
The Mavic 2 Zoon also looks cool – it’s got the same body design as the 2 Zoom, but it has a 24-48 mm equivalent zoom lens. At this stage, I’d say that the 2 Pro is probably the best option for most aerial photographers, while the 2 Zoom might be the better option for most videographers. They both look excellent.
I was annoyed on my first few flights, as the DJI Go app kept crashing on my Nexus 6 phone. It would overheat and drain the battery, too. Putting the phone into flight mode (funnily enough) did improve things, but I’d kind of wanted an iPad Mini 4 for reading anyway, so I got a refurbished iPad which works much better with the drone too.
Sunset over Komodo National Park, Indonesia, with Scuba Junkie Komodo.
Sangalaki Island, Indonesia, with Scuba Junkie Sangalaki.
Maratua Island, Indonesia, with Scuba Junkie Sangalaki.
Camera bag: Think Tank Airport Accelerator
This bag fits my drone – with the Think Tank dividers – as well as my dome ports, cameras, and lenses. It’s a beast. It obviously doesn’t look too conspicuous though, as I’ve never once had to weigh it. #winning
If you have a drone, but not lots of other stuff, there’s a specialist Think Tank drone backpack too.
You’ll want a bunch of memory cards. Don’t cheap out on these, they’re an important part of the system so it’s worth getting decent ones.
I always travel with a lenspen to keep my lens clean.
I bought various filters and a torch from Fire Dive Gear to try out fluorescence photography.
Fluoro diving at Nosy Sakatia, Madagascar, with Aqua-Firma and Sakatia Lodge.
I managed to drown my Sony RX100 mkIII compact during heavy rain in Borneo. Oops. I’m still trying to decide if I’ll replace it. My phone seems to be dying, so I’m tempted to just buy a new phone that has a really good camera (likely a Pixel 2, so I can keep using my Project Fi sim card). I’ve normally got my phone with me, so it’d be convenient.
However, the Olympus TG5 is also a neat tough camera (with awesome macro) that would be useful for taking photos on wet boats, which I do spend a lot of time on. Hmmm.
If someone would put out a large-sensor waterproof compact, I’d be throwing my wallet at the screen right now.
Photography software: Adobe Lightroom Classic CC
I use Adobe Lightroom Classic CC for organising and editing my photos. It comes as a monthly subscription with Photoshop, which I’ll learn to use… eventually. As an aside, if you don’t know how to use Lightroom yet, I found the Stuck in Customs video tutorial series really useful.
If you’re not already shooting in raw and editing your photos, you should learn – it can dramatically improve your output.
Laptop computer: MacBook Pro 13′ (2015)
My travel (and office) computer is a 2015 MacBook Pro with a 13′ screen. I’ve got the 512 gb hard drive, 8 gb RAM configuration. It’s a couple of years old now, but still going strong.
Apple put out an updated version in 2016, but I’m not in any hurry to upgrade.
External hard drive: Seagate Backup Plus 5TB
I’ve got a couple of these. I want ALL THE STORAGE.
Travel insurance: World Nomads
After a fair bit of research, World Nomads is the best insurance option for me at this stage. They cover normal travel stuff, health things, diving and other activities, and at least partially cover my gear. (Add this to the other pages too.)
That’s it for camera gear!
Hope that’s helpful and / or interesting. It was fun going back through some of my photos from the year anyway.
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