What's in my Bag?

8/17/2013 07:03:00 PM

How long does it take one, to choose a DSLR camera, once s/he decides between Canon & Nikon? How long does it take, for one to start accumulating lenses and accessories and in some cases more bodies? Over 4 years and 4 months of buying my first ever DSLR and here I am reviewing my camera bag for the first time ever. This post is more for documentation then reviewing each gear thoroughly, because firstly I am not gear expert, second it will eat up lot of time going through specifications, hence I'd leave that to Ken rockwell, whose reviews I swear by. so with out much delay, lets begin in the order of FIF.

Canon 450D ( EOS Rebel XSi in North America and EOS Kiss X2 ) - March 23/24, 2009

Dec 2008 I went for a trek in Coorg district of Western Ghats in India. That was precisely my first outing, nature trip of a different league. I was carrying, an old canon point and shoot camera, ( Don't remember the model, 2005/6 model imported from USA), and a new Nokia e71 camera phone. what I returned w/ from this trip were, a dead P&S, 2 Iconic images from a no-camera nokia phone, and a thought that If i had my druthers, I would have gone right back there w/ a good camera and have shot it all. 4 Months later, my wish was granted i.e. I held a very lightweight 450D or Rebel XSi as my first ever DSLR.

Dslr a term, that I had absolutely no idea about a few months before buying one. Nikon was out of question, since I knew I'll keep changing bodies, I think the competition was between 40D and 450D. I decided to play around w/ a crop sensor first. I am not sure why.

Serpent Eagle | Bandipur National Park
Serpent Eagle | Bandipur National Park shot using 450D and Canon 18-200 EFS

Canon 18-200 EF-S as a Kit lens

Since All I was interested in initially was travel photography, predominantly hiking shots. I wasn't ready to change the lens so often. So I decided to pick up kit offer of 18-200 with image stabilizer, a range and feature that I was really banking on, i.e. a deal of ~INR 74000 in total.

Verdict : honestly there is no way one can make a clean judgment about his/her first dslr body or lens. remember this is a tool through which photography grew in to me. Both 450D and 18-200 EFS are great body and lens. I could only curse 450D once when I was trying to shoot birds in Bandipur National Park, I thought it was slow.

18-200 EF-S is one of the fastest and best lens canon produced. but there are two issues. for one its EF-S, i.e. you cant use this lens w/ full frame bodies. well I had no idea about it until I actually understood the EF/EF-S Crop and FF in details. So not buying this as Kit, and spending a bit more and getting a 70-200 L instead, the thought did cross my mind a few times later.

A little manual focus ring, AF-MF switching issue only, if you can deal with, and this lens IMHO is one of the best all-rounder lens for Amateur photographers with excellent macros at 200.

i.e. 450D + EF-S 18-200 = Not Unhappy. 
Alternate system  I could have gone w/ = 40D + 70-200 L ( only If I had more money and if I wasn't a novice)

The Main Temple Entrance - Somanthpur
"Somnathpur Ancient temple, shot using Tokina, one of the very first after buying the lens and beginning to experiment"

Tokina 11-16 f2.8 UWA purchased July 2009 Bangalore India ~INR 24000

When Ken said, that Tokina 11-16mm is the world's fastest and sharpest ultra-wide lens for small format digital cameras, he was not kidding. If you can get over that little extra sharpness of Canon 10-22mm, you will be better off with a heavy duty Tokina any day any season.

The reason that it took me just 3 months to order my second lens and a UWA at that, was landscape and Architecture photography that I was interested in. Apart from the fact that the novice me, hated the idea that I couldn't use flash,  that the well-informed me, doesn't like the funny distortion anymore, or/and the lens can not be used with a FF body. I adore this lens for all the eternity, and the reason behind that is, its super strong built.

Tokina UWA is by far is my most used lens. I took about 8000 shots in one month of constant cavalcade called Ladakh and about 80% shots are from this lens. in past 4 years, about 70% of images are credited to tokina. dropped a few times and used like a hardcode soldier and the lens is still as good as new, No doubt, when I had to make a choice between Canon 100mm and Tokina. I went for Tokina again.

Canon 50mm f1.8  imported from USA sometime in May 2010

This is one lens that you never ever can complain about. for one thing, its the cheapest lens around, a plastic but super sharp at that. I found it little difficult to focus w/ initially and it took me some practice to get it right. while I loved the shallow DOF, just because I had hard time focussing with it quickly and it is a little too close to subject for my comfort, it doesn't fall in to my favorites and I never had it mounted on my dslr for long enough, which I could have otherwise.

Another one shot in Banglore this time at an Ancient Shiva temple near Nandi hills and with tokina 100mm f2.8

Tokina 100mm f2.8  purchased Feb 2011 ~23000 in India.

Macro and Travel are two completely different genre, and 180 degrees- off each other, but for someone who is in to alternative or experimental photography, Macro is good way to find out what exists on the other side. So its pretty evident then when I was looking forward to learn and diversify my portfolio, I went on to buy a 100mm and a tokina at that. the good thing about 100mm macro is apart from shooting macros, you can get incredible portraits from the lens. though 85 might be perfect, 100mm is no far for a good close-up either. I really enjoy this lens for clicking a quick stranger or a procession portrait, while running around a bustling city or on the busy streets with local culture full-spread. Most of the culture shots that I took from kerala onam parade are all shot using this lens. and after having lot of background issues with Cochin Carnival photos, I could not be happier with the results from this lens.

Macbook (Adobe photoshop) purchased april 2010 ~$1000 Apple Store USA

"Once you go mac, you never go back." Do you believe in this saying? if you don't, you'd believe it now. even if it was just a 13 inches traditional macbook with extra 2GB RAM, that I technically brought at the wrong time, i.e. apple announcing the transition to intel processors, it is one of my favorite possession till date. I have an entire adobe CS5 suite installed in my mac, though I only use Photoshop and a little bit of Lightroom 3 and have absolutely no skills from illustrator or anything else though I would love to learn it sometime in future.

As far as photoshop skills are concerned, I think I have gone from 0 to 3-4 in past four years ( I am being moderate to myself ;)) But honestly there is lot to learn about photoshop  yet and get an expertise, I think as I transition towards fine art, which I see happening very soon, it'll be great to hone some extra photoshop skills and I am sure the macbook that i have right now is still be enough for next 2-3 years. i.e. No pro or air for me as of now.

Maha Kumbh Mela Prayag Jan 14th 2013 5:20 AM. Makar Sankranti First Shahi Snan | Apple iPhone |  Lightroom  | PS CS5 | Color
My family trips are mostly iphone trips because its so hard to convince parents to let me carry DSLR bag and all the drama that comes w/ being a photog. this one from kumbh mela shot at dawn using iPhone4S.

iPad 2 + iPhone 4S purchased in USA Nov 2011 ~$450, Feb 2012 ~$700+accessories respectively.

I will admit, I went on shooting silly pictures with iPad 2 in my numerous flights from Bangalore to Delhi and vice versa. however I did not fully utilize the gear for photography or otherwise as well. I ended up buying iPhone4S with in next 3 months, I handed it over to my bro. and used iPhone4S extensively.

So let me tell you the truth. iPhone can screw the photographer in you, and it does that mercilessly. the whole point of buying an iPhone is not buying a camera phone, but getting access to thousands of apps that come w/ it. there was this time when you were ruined by instagram and filters or shall I say you are continuously getting extirpated by even now.

At one time i went App-Crazy and had about 500 applications on my iPhone and about 400 was just photography. clearly I dint used many of these, and also, I realized, the good ones are mostly paid apps. the iPhone Art is one of the emerging and most interesting photography art in the recent times. and I have seen some great work done on both iPhone and iPad and continue to see that. the question is can I do that? the answer is I am still trying.

Do I need to buy a 5 or iPhone6 ?
I do not. I am content with the 4S, including w/ the other phone features if comes. clearly my second favorite phone after Nokia e71. which after 5 years still is working pretty much fine.

I'd rather be riding my motorcycle thinking about God than sitting in church thinking about my motorcycle. - Sharing The Harley Davidson Love ;)
SFPD's Harley Davison bokeh, shot during Chinese parade. handheld.

Hitech ND Grad Soft 0.9, Hard 0.9 w/ Ring ~$250 USA late 2009 or early 2010

I was suggested these two filters by one of the very famous photographer, though I could hardly used them, for the landscapes that I shot then, I dint need any filters let alone the grad filter. in fact, this is when I let go of other filters that I had accumulated, such as Hoya haze and polarizers. If at all they are on my lens, they were there just for lens protection alone.

For the upcoming projects I am most likely to use these two a lot, so I will review this in detail in some other post, you can actually get some understanding about how graduated filter works here 

Hoya, Zeikos - linear, Circular Polarizer and UV Haze Filters purchased Mid 2009

I bought a lot of filters earlier, thinking they'd boost my photographs in one way or other. but then I was a novice. to say it out loud, well, I would not totally put them off, but If I were to have them on my glass it'd be only for protecting my lens because I get lazy to put my lens cap or the hood on.

The lens these days are good enough alone to take care of UV haze, and you really don't need polarizing your photographs honestly. but for some extra bucks, they do have merits too like saving your images from water reflections and also if you like much flare.

Raynox macroscopic lens m-250 purchased early 2011 ~2500 INR I am guessing

So why did I buy it? Think I was looking for a great deal of magnification.
The lens is pretty good and for keeps. But I think I should use it more often, just like  I should, everything else thats in my bag right now.

Olloclip 3-in-1 iPhone photos lenses purchased May 2012 ~$55

So if you want to have a little fun with your iPhone and take your iphoneography to a whole new wild level these tiny lenses are a good add-on. You get a fish-eye, a macro and a wide in this front and back hold combo and that too of good quality. I love shooting tall buildings and tiny things basically the subjects of extreme range with these toys. having said that I am yet to utilize them to full potential.

Manfrotto 804RC2 3 Way Pan tilt head Tripod purchased in Bangalore & Delhi INR 5k + 15K respectively

I actually have two tripods, One which I bought initially in 2009 sometime,  a very light one and useless as well. yes, so I ended up buying a extremely stable but really really heavy Manfrotto in May 2010 and carried it on my own shoulder on the daily basis for 32 days in ladakh and the from India to USA in 2012. that was a punishment honestly. but tripod is great. have i been scared ever since or I just keep forgetting it, I forgot to carry it in my road trip to south India. and many other trips too.

So the light and useless one is in India at home right now, and manfrotto is in California for past one and half years while I have been on-off India-USA and now in new york. reason you dont see many night shots. but soon you will.

The other thing in the same league which I have for iphone is a sidekic Frame and a Gorillapod that I ordered from Amazon in may 2012 along with olloclip and yup its good fun.

Lowepro Street and Field Vest Harness and 4 utility bags ~2009 from Amazon USA

That was lot of investment actually for the first year of photography to be honest. its a great field vest. easy to carry the lens and change them as often as you can. a bit thick, so hard to wear in hot climate. thats all the con that i can think of right now. I love the waterproof utility bags and thats how i store all my lenses. its a pity that I forgot it back in India, now that I am guessing I might need it much more, and I guess I will end up buying something else from lowepro.

“Bless the flowers and the weeds, my birds and bees”(one of the shots I took and posted when I got really bored with continuous ladakh talks and shots.
the clarity was outstanding. there is no photoshop. told you macros make you happy. )

Other little things that I invested in to and I keep losing continuously are many Sandisk memory cards, SD card readers, Matin Lens Cleaner, Opteka Remote Control for Canon, and the Battery Chargers. :( that is my only complain about shifting places and traveling. I am guessing practice will make me perfect one day for sure, what you say?

Finally, its time for my Wishlist. well its been long time i upgraded to a new body. dont you think its time? Actually there are more reasons to buy Canon 60D and not 5DMkII or III, and a Tilt+Shift lens then just fulfilling the wishes for upgrade. the travel that I am investing on to next, are pretty expensive to say the least and definitely need better quality that a worn-out and only body that is 450D. and tilt+shift or an L lens will be incredibly supporting. I might also need to shoot some videos, starting with few short length experimental videos using iphone. but will need a good camera to get certain time-lapses I am planning to do make.

That all I have in my bag to let out right now. and thats more than enough a peek in to my upcoming adventures. until next time. with a new story.

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  1. Interesting, your list and comments have really given me something to think of before investing in my stuff.

  2. Hey Sneha.
    Thanks for reading the extra long one, glad to be of some assistance.

  3. Thanks for sharing these.. will help new bees learn a lot

  4. NIce! I'm still using micro-four thirds Panasonic GF1, with 20mm and 45mm lens. I'm yet to upgrade to DSLR. zaqijo.

    1. Your micro-four is gettin you some really nice images...

  5. Thanks for showing example shots for every lens, thinking seriously about Tokina 100mm f2.8...

    1. Thanks. Glad you liked it. 100mm is a great lens. you should get it.


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