I have had quite a few photographers ask me recently what kit we are currently using and why, so here goes !
I am currently using a mix of the Canon 5d MkIII and 5d MkII camera bodies and Phill uses the Canon 5d MkIII for filming. We made the decision to upgrade to the MkIII at the end of last year after any initial teething problems had been sorted with the camera. Having used it for almost a whole wedding season now I’m not sure that I would switch back ! The main benefits for me are as follows :
- Low light capability – the MkIII is fine until ISO6400, the MkII really reached its limit about ISO3200. This means that we can get better photographs in very low light, typically most of the churches that we work in don’t allow the use of flash and for me the camera settings would be 1/100 sec f4.0 ISO3200. I have found that I can easily handhold the kit at this speed (even the 70-200) and it gives enough depth of field and the noise isn’t an issue. For the first dance and other night shots I will be working at ISO6400 and using the ambient light. Personally I prefer working without flash when practicable although in some venues they just “eat” light and there isn’t a lot of option.
- Focus System – This has improved a lot from the MkII. I found when I was using the MkII the only way I could get accurate focus was to stick to the centre focus point and recompose after focussing. With the MkIII it has a lot more cross hair sensor points and they work ! This does make it easier, particularly if you have a moving subject off centre…. The focus system also works a lot better in low light than it ever used to and one combination I love is the 5dMkIII with the Canon 85mm f1.8 lens
We haven’t gone out and spent lots of money on new lenses this year… To be honest the ones I have are working very well for me, the only exception is the 70-200 which I will cover in a moment..
- Canon 24-70 f2.8 L – This is the lens that if I had to I could photograph a whole wedding with. It is a very versatile lens that works well throughout its range; you lose a very slight amount of sharpness at f2.8 but in general with the higher ISO’s available on modern camera bodies this isn’t normally a problem. This lens is normally on the 5dMkIII for most of the day.
- Canon 70-200 f2.8 IS L – This is a big heavy lens and is the one thing that if I could find a workable alternative I would change. By the time you have this on a camera body with a flash unit you are looking at about 3kg….. I work with two cameras so with this over one shoulder all day and the other combination I normally carry weighing in at 2.5kg on the other shoulder it is a lot of heavy kit and at the end of a 12hr day you feel it…. This lens also doesn’t work very well at f2.8, the images are too soft so I have found that the limit I’m happy to use it at is f4.0, I must admit this does make me wonder why I still use it somedays if it can’t produce images good enough for me to use within its spec !
- Canon 85 f1.8 – This really is the baby brother to the massive 85 f1.2 lens but produce some superb images for a fraction of the price. I have been using this lens more and more during the first dance and other very low light situations instead of the 70-200. It doesn’t have the same focal length but it does allow you to get in quite close and for lots of these shots you are not the other side of a large room from your subject ! It is less than a third of the weight of the 70-200 and if it means I can work without needing a flash unit it halves the total weight of the camera/lens combination.
- Canon 16-35 f2.8 L – This is another lens that works really well at f2.8 and is great for the very wide angle architectural or landscape shots. You have to be aware of the distortion that it can create but you can use this to your advantage 🙂
This doesn’t include the lenses that Phill uses for the video side or the “spares” that don’t normally come out of the camera bag 🙂
This really falls in to two sections….. the on-camera flash units that I have are all Canon 580 EXII speedlights. I also normally have the Elinchrom radio triggers with me that I can connect up and use these off camera making them a very easy portable solution. I have never really got on with Canons in-camera flash triggering system…. if I’m going to the trouble of¬†separating¬†the lighting from the camera then I would normally want manual control and meter it all¬†separately so I just use the normal trigger system that I use for the rest of my lighting.
For the off-camera lighting I either use a hand held video light (a Lowell-id light) that runs off a shoulder carry battery pack. This has a dimmer so you can vary the power and a dial so you can focus or spread the beam of light. This is a tungsten light so ideal for use inside or evening / outside shots but you do need to be aware of how the different light colours will affect your white balance.
Last but by no means least are the Elinchrom Quadras. These aren’t a cheap bit of kit. The set of two lights with control pack and batteries costs just over ¬£1,500 but it does enable you to produce photographs that you just can’t do without them. In short it provides a very portable studio quality lighting solution…. I normally use these with the Lastolite EzyBoxes… my current favourite is the Large Octa and I’m finding that I’m using this more and more in the studio as well as at weddings.
¬†Miscellaneous bits and pieces
It is always interesting seeing what people carry in their camera bags… all the odds and ends that have proved useful… here is a list of some of the “odds” from my bag 🙂
- Light meter
- Spare batteries
- Memory cards
- Safety Pins
- Spare bulb for Lowell-id light
- Sewing kit
- Bodyshop face blotting papers
- Ear plugs (for some of the things we do these are a necessity !!)
- Grey card / colour profile card
- Diffusers for flash
- Honeycombs for speedlights
- Spare cash
- Camera manual
- Colour balance gels
- “foot” stands for speedlights
- Business cards
- Empty bin bag
- Microfibre cloth
- “puffer” brush
Anyway, I hope this answers a few of the questions on the kit that I use for the photography side of the business 🙂 If you would like me to go in to similar detail for the filming side of the business just let me know !