Photo Gear

My Camera and Lenses

May 10, 2019
Canon 5d (this one was a Mark 3 but I have a Mark 4 now)
This is my most asked question online. If you only want the answer, it’s currently a Canon 5D mark 4 but if you really want to know how to take great photos, the answer is much more complex and buying the same camera may not be your answer.

My current arsenal of lenses include the 17-40mm f4, 24-70mm mark 2 f2.8, 70-200mm f4, 50mm f1.2, 85mm f1.8, 135mm f2. When I hike, my current favorite is normally the 24-70mm. With the camera body, this is serious weight (2lbs for the body and 2lbs for the 24-70mm). It’s also pretty darn big hanging off your body as you scramble up rocks and it’s almost too big to hide under a spacious rain jacket if the rain starts pouring down unexpectedly. I have this camera for several reasons- I would like the option to print large and to seriously crop my images. For me, the full frame camera is great but I don’t think most pet owners want to carry such a large weight for those reasons. I’m also working in photography so have an “excuse” for a camera in this price range, and the willingness to carry the kit up and down the mountains. If you already own a dslr and the size/weight becomes an excuse to leave it behind, then I would not suggest anything larger.

135mm f2 gives a really creamy bokeh

I really believe the picture you take is always better than the picture you don’t take and a wonderful option are the mirrorless options that are out there now. I just LOVED the Fuji XT1 that we had. It was tiny, pretty tough in the rain, light, perfect for female hands, and the lenses were amazing quality. I much prefered the Fuji body but technically it didn’t stand up to the 5D. I’m also considering moving to the Sony A7 III, and may do soon enough, just for the potential of a better autofocus system (they have dog specific focusing that I’ve not yet tested). Mirrorless cameras include the Canon M100, Canon RP, Nikon Z6, the Sonys (thinking about moving to) and Fujis (I really love the Fuji body).

50mm f1.2 at it’s widest

Another option is a cropped frame DSLR sporty camera that has great auto-focusing abilities but is smaller and cheaper than the full frame options. We used to own two cropped-frame Nikon D-90s that were wonderful and lasted 5+ years of photos. Cropped frame cameras include the Nikon D3500, D7200, D500, Canon 80D, Canon 760D, Canon Rebel (my first!), and so many others.

Lenses

24-70mm f2.4 that I carry on most of my trips
70-200mm f4 at the longest, you need two people for this one for dogs

Lens choices are personal. They depend on the type of photos you like to take, your ability to carry them, and the environment and situation you shoot in. I prefer zoom lenses in most places because as Whiskey moves, I can quickly adapt and get shots that are not just her posing in a certain location. I’m also usually in very restricted spaces where backing up is not an option (like a cliff) so zoom lenses really help with flexibility. In so many cases something amazing is happening and I wouldn’t have much time to switch lenses and I don’t want to be stuck on a prime without knowing what type of photo I’m taking before I start a hike. Also, Whiskey is trained to stay really close to me on trails, and unless my husband is with me, she’s not usually far away enough for me to control (pose) from a great length, so I don’t usually bring a long lens. Overall my go-to is the 24-70mm f2.8 mark 2 which is a big lens but covers most of the range and just captures wonderfully sharp images in difficult situations (ie flares, backlighting, little distortion). Of course, my ability to carry lenses up mountains and hikes severely restrict my options.

50mm f1.2 I struggle for the lens to pick her eye

Primes are better if you are not hiking for hours with a pack on, or if you are aiming for a particular look with short depth of field. If we are going out for a photoshoot, I do love my 135mm. It’s a very specialized lens but has the creamiest bokeh and makes anything look great.

135mm f2 is beautiful but I was backing up in snowshoes in hip deep snow!

Remember, I shoot dogs which are shorter and smaller than humans so the same lens might not look the same for humans. I’m constantly trying to learn how to use and work with my lenses, and sometimes will just go out with one I haven’t tried in ages. The 50mm 1.2 is the hardest for Whiskey, the short depth of field with a camouflage dog seems like an autofocus challenge, especially in the forest or busy environment. I don’t have as much trouble with a person, but once I start adding foreground elements, it seems like everything including the ground, the trees, and the leaves have more contrast and interest for the autofocus to grab onto than Whiskey’s soft monochrome fur.

17-40mm f4 for super wide images

7 Comments

  • Reply Arvind May 16, 2019 at 1:02 am

    Thanks for the info. How do u carry the camera during hikes ? Do you use something like the peak design capture ? Do you store your lenses inside your backpack and switch them out when needed or ?

    • Reply whiskeygirl May 16, 2019 at 4:54 am

      It depends on the length and type of hike I’m doing. Yes I love the peak design clip, and I also use the peak design bag on shorter hikes (it’s not a hiking bag though so more for photoshoots where I’m not really hiking). Otherwise I’ll keep lenses in my bag and pull them out when needed. The most I carry is 2 extra lenses outside of the one on my camera but that’s pretty heavy!

  • Reply Adrienne May 16, 2019 at 3:02 am

    I love your input, and honestly wish I understood most of it!! Your pics are always beautiful! I just got a Canon EOS Rebel T6 to photograph our Dalmatians, but really feel out of my depth. I guess I need a photography class, idk.

    • Reply whiskeygirl May 16, 2019 at 4:57 am

      I started my digital world on the Rebel! It’s a wonderful camera. At that point I was also using and developing film. Just keep taking photos and study the photos you take. Why aren’t they working? What do you need to learn? And just google and youtube everything. Take some time and try out different settings on your camera. There is so much free information online that you don’t really need to pay for a course unless you have the funds to! I teach private classes, which is a much faster way to get you there, but I also actively try to learn and get better all the time.

  • Reply Stacey May 16, 2019 at 3:12 am

    Great insights! Thank you for sharing! I shoot with the Olympus OMD EM2 and have a variety of lenses. It’s another great mirrorless option and packs a serious problem much at less weight than my previous canon 50D.

    • Reply Stacey May 16, 2019 at 3:14 am

      I meant it packs a serious punch!!

    • Reply whiskeygirl May 16, 2019 at 4:59 am

      I would love to really test out the Sony option but it’s a huge financial commitment to just “try” πŸ™‚ I have used a older Sony and Fuji mirrorless before my current setup and both had the advantages and disadvantages. The Sony that I’m thinking of won’t really lighten the load with the lenses so the weight won’t change…it’s more the autofocus that I’m curious about

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.