Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gear... (a rant)

A little more serious followup to my video the other day: this post is gear-centric and will likely make almost no sense to non-photographers.

I, of course, own a BUNCH more gear than that little Canon Powershot i showed in my parody video. In fact, I haven't used that little thing in years. It's 3.2 megapixels, and my phone is 2 megapixels. It records video without sound, my phone records sound and video. I carry my phone everywhere, so I'm not carrying anything extra. If I had something along the lines of a Nikon Coolpix, I would probably carry it around and not use the camera on my phone... but I don't, so my phone works just fine.

The problem with gear, is that there is always just one more *insert hugely expensive item* that we must buy. The thing is... we never really need it!

I followed a link from Twitter the other day that took me to a feature on Nikon's website called "My Camera Bag" where you select one of the new DSLRs (D60, D90, D5000), then select from Nikon's huge assortment of lenses depending on what you want to shoot. There are scores of options to choose from.

My primary job these days is photojournalism. I shoot sports, speakers and assorted concerts/events. With that in mind, I came up with MY dream camera bag:
  • 10.5mm Nikkor Fisheye f/2.8
  • 17-55mm Nikkor Zoom f/2.8
  • 70-200mm VR Nikkor Zoom f/2.8
  • 2x D300 Body w/ grip and En-El4 batteries
With those three lenses, I can easily cover 95% of everything I need to shoot.
For my second camera body (still DX, because I LOVE the crop factor) I'd take the
  • 200-400 Nikkor Zoom f/4
Nikon (intelligently) does NOT show the prices for these items, but I'll break it down for you.

D300's -- $1800 ea.
10.5mm -- $500
17-55mm -- $1300
70-200mm -- $2000

optional 200-400mm -- $6300

Even without the (drool-worthy) long glass, I'm still at $7,300

Could I be totally content with this setup? No way! I also want:
  • 50mm f/1.4 ($500)
  • 35mm f/1.8 ($200)
And then there are the camera bodies and lenses that Nikon hasn't even thought up yet!

Then, of course, you need CompactFlash cards to store your files on. I'd settle for 2x 4gb Lexar 300x professional cards... but those run $90/ea on a good day.

From your cards, you need to get your files onto your computer. If I was buying new now, I'd get the 13" macbook, 'cause it has better stats than my current macbookpro and costs only $1200

You're never safe with just 2gb of ram, so I'd have to push it to 4 or 6gb of ram. Then 2 external Hard Drives of at least 750gb/ea (one for on-site, one somewhere else in case the house burns down). Those run about $100/ea.

Then there's the fact that a single 13" monitor is nowhere near enough desktop real estate, so I'd have to get at least 1 more monitor, 22" or larger. ($200)

Photography is insanely expensive!

The funny thing is, I can shoot without nearly all of the above gear.
I already have:
  • D300 body
  • the ancient 80-200mm f/2.8 push/pull zoom
  • a 50mm f/1.8
  • my E series (manual focus) 28mm f/2.8.
When I grab my PJ belt, that is what I grab.
I shoot to 2x 4gb SanDisk cards that run $35 if you look in the right places. They take FOREVER to load to my Hard Drive, but i've usually got nothing better to do but wait anyway. I catch up on Twitter and Facebook while they load.
My Macbookpro was expensive, but I got it as a gift and it was purchased refurbished. It wants another 2gb of ram, but that's fairly cheap these days.

If someone walked up to me and handed me $8,000...
I would get the 17-55, a second D300 body and the 70-200.
I'd be out $5,200

If nobody handed me any money....
The 17-55 is probably still my next purchase as I don't have wide, fast, autofocus glass.
It would be nice to keep that 17-55 on a second camera body... but I've gotten fast enough switching lenses on the fly that I won't miss a whole bunch. Those few shots that are possible while I'm switching lenses are not worth $1800 of my hard-earned $$$.

There you are. My thoughts on gear. It's great. I love talking about it, I'd love to buy a lot if I had unlimited funds. But I only have so much money... so I make do with the gear that I have, and that's what makes photography so much fun: the challenge of making do with what you have.