Get in Gear – Early 2018 Edition

Fun Acronym: G.A.S.

Gear
Acquisition
Syndrome

Every year, the major and the third-party companies come out with new bodies, lenses, accessories, computers, etc.  Of course, I’m no exception and have to stuff many of that into a purpose-built backpack and custom-made shoulder bag.  This has worked for me for years, but there is another inevitable truth about photographers: WE CARRY TOO MUCH S#!t.  So this year, I made my wallet cry and bought gear that’s “good enough” in most situations and saving the heavy-duty stuff for major events and photoshoots.  Starting in 2018, I have two sets of gear loadouts: the “Go-Bag” and “Heavy Duty” setups.

Reminder – Always On

These are the absolute must haves that every photographer needs to carry, regardless of the type of shoot.  These should be familiar as all of these are pretty much required for things outside of photography**:

  • Wallet and keys (You should know why by now)
  • Smartphone or Cellphone with a notepad and writing instrument.
  • Medication
  • Stainless steel water bottle.  (I prefer to have mine in a belt pouch)
  • Sweat towel (because sleeves are bad substitutes)

I keep these in my photography vest, but you can use whatever means to carry these items.  I personal prefer the vest because I prefer having specific pockets for ease of retrieval.  Fanny packs or extra room in your photography bags works too so chose what works best for your style and photography habits.

Old Hotness – “Heavy Duty”Heavy Duty

This was my do-everything loadout that I am known to carry to everything before 2018.  Everything I had and needed was in this complete loadout.  Outdoors during the day, I might use the flashes for fill-light.  At night, I could setup the lights, both LED and flash, to light the subject.  Indoors, I could use the LED lamp for minor fill but can also use light stands and flashes for a minor studio setup.  Combined with the heavy f2.8 24-70mm zoom lens, I was prepared for any situation, including equipment failures because I had a backup for everything, including the camera and lens.

  • Think Tank Streetwalker Hardrive Backpack (version 1.0) *

(+)          Dual, thick straps distribute the weight across both shoulders, making it easier to handle a full load.
(+)          Customizable dividers as well as compartments make it very adaptable for different gear combinations.
(-)           Expensive and bulky, but many lower end options are not padded.
(-)           User would have to take off the backpack to access any gear inside.

  • Nikon D750 (mid-range full frame camera)
    • Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Zoom Lens (non-VR for sharper image quality)
    • w/ 3rd party vertical grip (due to weight of camera, it’s more comfortable for portraits)
  • Nikon D7100 (formerly top-of-the-line Crop Sensor Camera. (Note: backup)
    • Nikon AF‑S Nikkor 35mm F/1.8G ED prime lens.
  • 3 x Nikon SB-700 Speedlite flashes
  • 2 x NEEWER CN-160 LED Lamps
  • Surface 3 or Surface 4 Pro (can place other 14’’ laptops)

Unfortunately this loadout can be considered overkill while “killing” me as well.  Many of the scales I’ve used approximate my gear weight to around 30 lb. and that strain adds up during a long convention like Fanime, Anime Expo, or especially Star Wars Celebration when there is lots of walking.  The overall bulk also made it difficult to get through tight spaces like a packed parking garage.  I will still use this loadout for large conventions and is my only choice for any situation that requires a flight.  For other events, there’s my Go-Bag loadout.

The New Model – “Go-Bag”0225181536

The goal of a Go-Bag is to have a light and simple loadout that is good for most common situations: outdoor locations and brighter indoor areas.  This system will have a greater reliance on ambient lighting conditions and using minimal lighting tools for fill-light only.  In order to lighten the overall package, the pack and camera choice had to be both smaller and lighter.  This is what I came up with:

  • Lowepro Slingshot Edge 250 AW sling bag*

(+)          Sling strap means I can easily access the interior compartments without taking the entire pack off, though the clasps also make that easier to quickly take off as well.
(+)          Camera mounted in side compartment for ease of access while pack is strapped to user’s body.
(-)           Lower overall volume, less gear can be carried overall.
(-)           Strap only goes on right shoulder, cannot be swapped to the left shoulder.

  • Sony a6300 (primary choice)
    • Sony SELP18105G E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS zoom lens
    • Sony SEL35F18 35mm f/1.8 prime lens
    • Extra batteries for Alpha-series cameras
  • Nikon D750 (secondary choice) (see above for lens choice)
  • 2 x NEEWER CN-160 LED Lamps
  • (optional, attached on external cases and straps)
    • 2-3 x Nikon SB-700 Speedlite flashes (currently using the ones in Heavy Duty till replaced with Sony-compatible ones)
    • 1 x Manfrotto 5001B light stand (smaller size when collapsed and lighter)

The choice in pack is very important as it is the biggest limiting factor, especially when you do not wish to keep things in a car or hotel room.  The laptop and backup camera had to also be discarded since that’s the bulk of the “overkill” extra weight on my back.  As for why I chose a sling bag, my larger backpack would bump into people and objects frequently in tight spaces.  And while removing gear could easily be done, the massive amount of empty space inside the pack could cause items to scratch or damaged from the frequent movements that could happen.  The loss of my Surface tablet is regretful and I’m hoping to find a small replacement at a later date, but for now, my smartphone is still capable of handling most photoshoot needs.

Testing

I have tested the pack in two different situations so far: rough hikes and terrain as well as small event photography.  During the hike, the pack was very secure and very easy to both snap quick photos quickly and keeping the pack secured.  The small volume also makes it easier to transport during long travels on trains and buses where crowds can make it hard to both secure the gear as well as fit into tight spaces. With the usual Heavy Duty loadout, I would constantly bump into people and objects due to the increased bulk.  The pack has also allowed me to carry a smaller light stand externally via straps securely and without messing with my movements.  More testing is required for this setup, but I am highly encouraged of the success so far with this new loadout.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Omake

*Chargers and spare batteries unlisted.

**Possible Future Improvements to Go-Bag:

  • Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM zoom lens
    • (note: full frame lens) to replace / substitute for the 18-105mm
  • Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens for Sony E-Mount
  • Either
    • Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 prime lens
    • Sony 55mm F1.8 Sonnar T FE ZA Full Frame prime lens
  • Either
    • Thin HDMI screen (max 8 in.)
    • 8 in. tablet (Android preferred)

***Bonus Round:

  • Compact Mirror (because smartphones waste batteries and the black screen sometimes isn’t good enough)
  • Recommend – USB battery / extra battery that is compatible.
  • USB Adaptor (for when your model / friend doesn’t use the same ones you use for your battery bank).
  • Business Cards and a place to store received ones.
  • (for long-trips) – Backup camera bodies and lenses.
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~ by BlizzardTerrak on February 28, 2018.

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