Equipment

As you would expect the camera equipment I have used has changed over the years. With the ever improving world of digital photography it is often hard to keep up with the latest developments. Having said that, digital photography can be a relatively cheap past time, particularly when compared to the cost of film photography.

SLR camera bodies

Having started with Nikon, I have stuck with this brand and I am very happy to have done so. I am sure if Canon had been my first choice I would still be using that. It is difficult to change brands with the high cost of lenses and accessories.

I started digital SLR photography with a Nikon D70, moving on to D200, D2x, D700 & D4. My current cameras are the D4 & D800, although both are relative newcomers.

The biggest change for me has been the move to full frame format. This has been a huge step forward, allowing shooting at much higher ISO settings. This is particularly useful in low light situations, where flash cannot be used. This was the case on a recent trip to photograph Mountain Gorillas, where ISO settings of over 1000 were almost essential.

I also like the large bright viewfinder on the full formats. Having said that, if low light shooting is not essential, cameras such as D300s can be excellent and the cropped sensor magnification is sometimes an advantage.

About 2 years ago I acquired a new Nikon D4, the flagship Nikon SLR (Thank you Mr Saito!)

This really is a stunning camera, with it’s ridiculously high ISO setting and 11 frames a second shutter speed, it is great for wildlife photography. To be honest it is somewhat wasted in my hands but I am hoping to learn to develop with a camera that is all I can handle.

What has impressed me with the Nikon single digit pro cameras (D1, D2, D3 & D4) is the build quality. Although the other Nikon cameras are excellent the fore mentioned cameras are built like tanks.

I have recently changed my D700 body for a D800, which has proved quite a change. I always viewed the D700 as a back up camera to the D4, although it was a great camera. The D800 is a totally different camera and I use it for different tasks to the D4. With it huge pixel count and file sizes up to 90 Megs (when converted to Tiffs) it is not a camera for high speed action, like the D4. I use the D800 mainly for landscape and macro photography, where its incredible resolution is a big advantage. Having said that, the file sizes do take some getting use to and they soon fill up the memory cards.

 

 

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Nikon D4

Current lenses

  • Nikon 500f4 ED-IF AF-S VR 11
  • Nikon 70-200f2.8 ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom
  • Nikon 105f2.8 Macro
  • Nikon 16-35f2.8 Wide Angle Zoom.
  • Nikon TC-14E 11 Teleconverter.
  • Nikon TC-17E 11 Teleconverter.

The top two Nikon lenses are my main tools, however the  105 Macro certainly gets is fair share of use.

The Nikkor 500f4 is my main lens for bird photography.  There is no getting away from the fact that it is heavy but I am prepared to put up with this for the results produced. When using it now with the full frame bodies, I am surprised how often I use it with a converter attached. When used with the new D4 the auto focus is improved when the 1.7 converter is coupled, compared to previous Nikons. The D4 also allows me to maintain high shutter speeds.

The 70-200f2.8 is a fantastic lens, probably the best I have used. It is easy to handle, fast and produces great results. It also works extremely well when coupled with either of the converters. I love using this lens for a range of wildlife applications, it is particularly good for birds in flight.

I am finding that I am spending more time in macro mode with the 105mm lens, a good deal of the time with a Macro flash set up. 

I take most of my landscapes and scenery shots with a Nikon 16mm – 35mm wide angle lens. I like this lens as it can take threaded filter mounts that some other wide angle zooms will not. I also use a  a compact Canon G12 which is quick to use and saves changing lenses.

Two lenses not listed above that, in the past, I have used for many years deserve a mention.
For nearly 10 years my main wildlife lens was a Sigma 120-300f2.8 zoom. This lens has taken many of my pictures, it was excellent quality but also reasonably portable. Highly recommended for those on a budget, although not that cheap.
The other lens is a Sigma 10-20mm zoom. I loved using this lens for scenery and it was great fun to use. Unfortunately it is not compatible with FX bodies, so has gone to a new home.

Flash

For some years I have used a Nikon SB800 with all my cameras. Although this is pretty old now, it still seems to perform very well.
I have recently bought the Nikon R1C1 Commander kit. I am using this for macro photography and have found it very flexible and easy to use.
The SU-800 commander is very useful when paired with the SB800 for off camera flash.

Supports

I have a couple of tripods, a lightweight carbon Giottos and a 4 section Gitzo system tripod. They both work well, I would like larger options but it is always a compromise with portability. The 4 section Gitzo is a great tripod, (It should be for the price!) It is not the ideal Gitzo System tripod but it packs down to a very short length, making it very portable.

In conjunction with these tripods I am regularly using a “Really Right Stuff” ball head. This is a fantastic bit of kit, the best ball head I have used. The RRS equipment in general seems to be amazing quality, it’s just a shame there are no stockist this side of the pond.

Two Manfrotto products that I love are the 035 clamps and the 393 monopod bracket.

Manfrotto 393 head + 035 clamp fitted with 500f4 lens

I have used the 035 clamps for many years, these are fantastic when working from game drive vehicles that have large tubular frames.

The 393 is quoted as a Monopod bracket but I use this most of the time on a tripod in its “U” position. A great feature of this bit of kit is that it works really well when fixed to the roof bars on game vehicle, with the bracket hanging down. I have found the 393 equal to other more expensive “gimbal” devices I have tried.

In addition to the above my faithful bean bag is never far away. This is an essential piece of kit to me, particularly when on the move, taking pictures from a vehicle.