Mzungu Photographer Gear Review: Is bigger always better

Since my recent trip to Uganda and another one overseas I have heard allot of questions about the gear I use. Many people assume to come back with the pictures I take I must have the top of the line everything.

At the risk of blowing this mythology, here is an inside track on the gear I use on the move and why I use it.

Lenses:

The measure of what makes a great lenses these days is basically:

Does it have a red ring at the end, how big is it? If it's grey it must be good right? and for the more technical "how fast is it"? I am over simplifying and many people who read this may have other specific criteria... but here is what I pack and why

In Uganda I had 2 Lenses

Sigma 18-200 mm f/3,5-6,3 DC Macro OS HSM

Sigma 18-200 mm f/3,5-6,3 DC Macro OS HSM

As you can probably tell... this lens is FAR from being fast. So why would I take such a lens?

*Practically speaking out in the field I get to have 1 lens that can do everything from wide angles at 18mm to good zooming capability at 200mm portraits between 50-85mm.

*The size and weight make it a great traveling buddy it also has a locking function preventing the zoom from expanding on it's own. At a fraction of the price and size of a canon 70-200 f/2.8L USM you have a larger focal range (the Canon is by far superior quality optics no argument here)

*what about Aperture don't I suffer from having such a "slow lens"? When I am in the field I am usually doing one of two things, the first is situational portraits which I will usually shoot between f/5,6 and f/8 and Landscapes which I will shoot at f/16 f/22 and even smaller apertures if I can (smaller because the higher the f/# the smaller the opening of the Iris the less light it takes in)

 

Canon 50mm f/1.8 II

Canon 50mm f/1.8 II

The nifty fifty. on the road I take this for 2 purposes first will be portraits if it's not a spur of the moment thing. Second and main reason I bring it is to record video. Again, It's light takes up very little space and is not expensive (although in France since last year these have seen almost a 50% price increase from 99 to 140€.

Cameras:

Manufactures are marketing their camera by the number of pixels. Other parts of the equipment are far more advanced, but the reality is that consumers are the ones that base the value of the camera on the number of pixels. The reality is for someone that is just posting on Facebook, Model Mayhem or even my own site... with 5Mpix I would be fine. Of course no one would take me seriously.

Canon T3i

Canon T3i

My Camera of Choice in the field is the Canon T3i... Wait What? you don't bring a "professional" camera?... that's right I don't always bring a full frame. And this is why:

Size and weight: the T3i weighs a fraction of my 1DsMk IV even with a battery grip and wither of the lenses listed up there it will fit in a compact waist belt camera case.

The rotating screen: this is one of Canon's only camera lines that has the rotating screen making allot of shots much easier especially for video. This also allows me to rotate the screen ALL the way around so that it's protected from dust it also helps in low light situations to not be blinded by the light of the screen when trying to look through the view finder.

The 18Mpix still allow me to print huge prints upon my return.

One of my assistance on a wedding this summer was asking me about upgrading her Canon 5D mkII to the mkIII. after trying to understand her reasons and just getting "its a better camera, therefor I will take better pictures" as a response I told her that until she has pushed the limits of her current camera and knows it inside out and starts feeling the limits of the camera it was foolish to upgrade for the sake of upgrading. The quality of your pictures will improve much more if your skills with the camera improve. The best photographer is not the one with the best gear he/she is the one with the best eye.