What Gear Do I Use, and What Do I Recommend? A Comprehensive Overview

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I get asked fairly frequently what camera equipment I use, or what I recommend. Rather than answering that on a 1:1 basis every time, I thought I’d create a comprehensive resource outlining both the equipment I use, as well as the gear I recommend to people, because those aren’t always the same. I will cover why I use an item, and other good alternatives, based on budget, usage needs, etc. The links to products, for the most part, are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you purchase items through them, I get a small amount of money from Amazon, which helps support me! 

If you are wondering about any other gear, drop a comment below and I’ll answer the question / update the post with the information.


Camera system

My cameras:

Canon 5D mark IV - This camera gets the most usage by far for commercial work because of its larger image size (31MP), which allows for cropping while still retaining a high resolution image, or when I’m not shooting sports and don’t need the high frames per second of the 1Dx. 

Canon 1Dx - Great for very fast moving subjects where there’s a moment of peak action you’re trying to capture. There’s a new version out now, which is  wetter, but this one is still working great. 

Camera recommendations:

If you’re looking for a pro DSLR, I love the 5D mark IV. If you’re a beginning looking to get into photography, or want a secondary small camera for travel, look at the Sony RX100 mark VI or Sony a6500. Just keep in mind the downside still of having two camera bodies of different brands from a lens compatibility standpoint. If you want a Canon DSLR and Sony mirrorless, you can use a Metabones adapter for using Canon lenses on a Sony camera body.

My lenses:

Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS - A really great lens that has image stabilization. Only downside is not great in low light because of f/4 aperture.

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II - Currently favorite all around lens. Just love the images out of it.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II - Tried and true telephoto lens. If this is out of budget, consider the Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC G2 (that’s a mouthful).

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART - Sigma has made a name for itself with the ART series lenses. They’re so sharp it hurts.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART - 50mm is a classic focal length because (they say) it’s approximately the view of the human eye (on a full frame sensor). Whether it’s for that reason or not, it’s a beautiful lens.

Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS - A very solid macro lens with a not outrageous price tag. Also - doens’t only have to be used for macro!

Canon 135mm f/2L - 135mm is a weird focal length; it’s definitely not wide, but it’s not really long either. Once you adjust to it, the photos are beautiful and sharp, even at f/2, and that extra stop of light (compared to a f/2.8 lens) can be incredibly helpful in waning light.

Lens recommendations:

This is a very tough one. It’s almost impossible to flat out recommend a lens or focal length without considering the application. For instance, for landscape photography, you’d generally want a wider angle, and for shooting wildlife, you need a longer telephoto. That being said, if I had to choose a starting spot that gives the most flexibility, I’d start with a 24-70 (or equivalent) lens, and a second lens  being either a 35mm or 50mm based on preference. The Canon 24-70 is absolutely primo, but if it’s out of budget, the Tamron is a very good alternative, and offers image stabilization.

Memory cards

Hoodman RAW Steel Compact Flash cards - I have other cards from before getting these, but for the last few years, these are the only ones I’ve bought. They’re expensive but really durable. You don’t have to get the best but definitely don’t get cheap ones. Delkin Devices and Sandisk have good midrange ones.  Be sure memory card write speeds are fast enough for your needs (4K video requires a very fast card, for instance, so the more expensive cards are often higher performing, not just more durable. 

Electronics

Computer / peripherals

2018 Apple MacBookPro - 2.7ghz i7 / 32 GB RAM / Vega 20 graphics / 1 TB SSD. My only input on computers is to make sure you have plenty of RAM, at least 16GB. There isn’t really a minimum processor type or speed. I opted for a 1TB internal SSD because I want to keep the projects I’m currently working on locally on the computer until I’m finished with them, then transfer them to my long term storage drives (Western Digital 8TB USB3)

BenQ SW271 4K monitor - I did a lot of research on 4K monitors before purchasing this one. Dell makes some solid options too. If you recently won the lottery, get an Eizo. I made a video reviewing this monitor and it’s big brother, the 32” BenQ SW320 (see below):

X-Rite ColorMunki - A good display doesn’t do you much good if the color isn’t accurate. This one is fine, it’s pretty bare bones.

DisplayCal monitor calibration - The software that comes with the calibration devices is really bad in my opinion. I can run the same calibration 5 times back to back and get 5 different results. I switched to a free (open source?) software called DisplayCal and it’s awesome so use that. 

OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock - If you’re going to run a laptop-as-a-desktop setup like I currently am doing, you’ll really want a dock / hub. Here’s what you need to know: This is one of the few Thunderbolt 3 docks, not just a USB-C dock. This matters a lot. It will allow data speeds from connected drives to be faster, as it has a much faster connection. The other hugely important thing is that no USB-C dock will connect to a 4K display at 60hz, they’re 30hz max. I tried using a monitor at 30hz once and it’s virtually unusable for any tasks involving precise mouse movements. This dock will work flawlessly with 4K 60hz, and can support 2 monitors. Also, you need this 14 port version if you’re using a 15” MacBookPro because it pushes 85W power. The cheaper 12 port version pushes 65W, which is enough for 13” laptops.

Twelve South BookArc - Not a necessary piece of hardware, and kind of expensive for what it is, but it really makes the desk look nice, and holds the laptop very securely. An all rubber laptop slot means it wont mar the computer.

Logitech MX Master 2S mouse - I used the Apple Magic Mouse for nearly 10 years, but I switched to this because it’s just a better mouse from a technical standpoint, and is more ergonomic. The one thing that Magic Mouse has as an advantage is the ability to do horizontal scrolling by swiping the surface, which can be nice in Photoshop.

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Logitech Craft keyboard - Like with the mouse, I’ve been using the Apple wireless keyboard for forever. I chose this one because it’s got a similar low-profile design as Apple’s but I think is a better feeling keyboard. The key caps are concave, making the keystrokes feel secure and I know I’m centered on the keys (whereas the apple keys are flat). It’s backlit too, which is nice when I’m working in low light in my office.

Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II Noise Cancelling headphones - These changed my life. I work on my laptop in public spaces (coffee shops, etc) very often, and these kill all the distracting noise. So good.

Dbrand vinyl laptop skin - An extremely precisely cut vinyl skin to protect the laptop—top and bottom—from scratches. And it looks cool.

Hard drives:

Western Digital 8TB USB3 for archiving / long-term storage. The drives that hold all my photos don’t need to be super fast because I don’t access old files all that often. These drives are traditional hard drives that have spinning disks inside. The ones that are loud and make whirring sounds. They’re more prone to failure so I keep duplicate physical backups of these drives. They’re great because they’re cheap - 1.8 cents per GB. That’s hard to beat.

G-Tech Mobile SSD 500 GB for in the field / on the road.. This is a USB-C drive (it comes in a Thunderbolt 3 Pro version as well for editing 4K video right off the drive, which is excessive for my needs, but a nice option. These drives are small and sturdy, and because they’re solid state drives (SSD), they have no moving parts inside, which makes them both much faster, and less prone to physical damage from being tossed around. Samsung T5 are also good, a little less rugged. Either is solid, you might find the Samsung on sale sometimes.

Backblaze - tertiary backup because it’s pretty cheap and why not. It makes me sleep better at night. 

Tethering

Tether Tools Tether Pro cable - You’ll wonder why a 15’ USB cable costs $45. I have no idea. But they’re the only show in town for long cables for tethering. They are nice and thick quality cables, and are high visibility organge, which is incredibly nice on set for not, you know, tripping on them and knocking over either a $4000 computer, of $8000 camera rig, or both.

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Inovativ DigiCase kit - This is a luxury item, but it’s handy. It’s a hard case that holds all the tethering essentials: the laptop bracket, hood, accessories, as well as the laptop itself. If I’m bringing a lot of gear to a shoot, it’s super easy to just have this ready to go and throw it in the car along with the rest of my gear cases. I wrote an in depth article about the benefits of shooting tethered, and talk about this system there as well: Shooting Tethered Pays Off: A Guide for Photographers


Backpacks / gear transport

Atlas Packs Athlete Pack - I switched to Atlas Packs over a year ago from Fstop Gear and haven’t looked back. The Athlete is a mid-sized, versatile pack which is great for both hauling camera gear, and other gear (camping, hiking, etc). It’s camera core fits a standard DSLR or mirrorless body with a lens attached, but won’t fit a gripped / pro body (like a 1Dx) while sitting upright. You can stuff a camping overnight’s amount of stuff inside, in addition to the camera gear.

Atlas Packs Adventure Pack - This pack is great for hauling a lot of camera equipment (and not a lot of other stuff). It’s deeper, and fits pro / gripped bodies upright, with lenses attached. I use this one less than the Athlete, but it’s clutch when I need it.

Topo Designs Klettersack - I’m currently using this as my everyday carry bag, taking my laptop to coffee shops to work, etc. I dig the black on black, but Topo Designs does a lot of awesome color blocked bags.

Topo Designs accessory bags - These are great for keeping cables, hard drives, etc organized in a bag. When I’m traveling, I’ll put my mouse, external drives, and card reader in one of these brightly colored bags to keep track of it, and keep everything together.

Pelican 1615 Air with TrekPak Dividers - When I’m not needing to carry gear on my back, it’s great to carry it in hard rolling cases. This huge case can fit my lighting and ALL of my camera gear. TrekPak dividers are awesome because they’re so customizable, and are very space efficient. The only downside is they provide less protection against shock due to having less padding material. Still better than foam or padded dividers though.

Pelican 1535 Air with TrekPak Dividers - This case has been a favorite among traveling photographers for a very long time. It’s the largest size that will fit in the overhead compartment on airplanes, and the new Air version is 50% lighter than it’s predecessor, the 1510. I also have this with TrekPak, and it’s the best.

SKB light stand case - It’s really nice to have (almost) all my lighting equipment in one case. This thing is heavy and kind of cumbersome, but at least it has wheels, and it holds a few light stands, boom arm, a few umbrellas, a 6’x6’ scrim, two tripods, and some other goodies.


Lighting

I use Profoto strobes for a few reasons. The B1s are self-contained units, meaning they have a battery attached right into the flash units, and internal radio receivers. Just put it on a light stand and turn it on and it’s ready to go, which is super nice for fast-moving shoots. They’re also consistent and reliable. I really really really don’t want to sit around on a shoot troubleshooting why my lights wont fire. That being said, I’ve been using these for a number of years, and there are other solid options on the market now.  Elinchrom makes some great options, like the ELB500. Godox as well. Profoto is really expensive and I would never recommend them to someone just getting into lighting. Below is my equipment, and below that, are some alternatives, depending on your experience. 

Profoto B1 (x2) - Great for fast movement and the self-contained, no-cord setup is awesome for on-location shooting (which is what I do 95% of the time).

Profoto Air Remote TTL-C - A remote trigger that allows the B1s to use TTL.

Profoto Deep Umbrella silver - Large (51”) + diffuser - A very versatile modifier. I can use it as a bare silver umbrella for a harder light, or with the diffusion panel to make it look like a large softbox.

Profoto Deep Umbrella white - Medium (41”) - A smaller alternative to the silver umbrella.

Profoto 22” beauty dish - white - Beauty dish give a beautiful, soft light, especially for portraits.

Profoto Magnum reflector - My favorite hard light reflector. Because it’s larger than most reflectors, it creates a larger light source, while still being hard, so the shadows are less harsh and have an interesting wrap and shadow. Works well on skin / faces, which is not typical of a hard reflector.

Kupo High Baby Light Stand for when I’m putting a large light / softbox up night, or using a boom arm, because it’s very sturdy and heavy.

Kupo Baby Kit Stand for more “normal” lighting positions because they’re a lot more compact and lightweight.

Kupo Baby Boom Arm - A very study steel boom for getting a light (or camera) out over a subject, while keeping it out of frame.

Westcott Scrim Jim - 6’ x 6 - It’s just a big, collapsible 6’x6’ square with either a translucent, white, or silver screen, to help control light.


Tripod

Induro carbon fiber tripod - I chose a mid-size carbon fiber tripod because I wanted one that I could use for any application, including traveling. I really like Induro’s products, and recommend them if you’re in the market. I’d also recommend Benro aluminum tripods if you don’t care about carbon fiber, and want to save some coin.

Giottos MH1302 ball head - A good, mid-size, mid-price option. I’ve been using it for a number of years and it’s held up well. I would love to have a Really Right Stuff BH 55 LR ball head, but they’re really expensive (but really good), and I don’t shoot on a tripod all that often. If I was a heavier user of my tripod, I’d probably invest in one. When the Giottos wears out, I’ll probably opt for this one.


Printing / Portfolio

In the last year, I decided I wanted to print my work more. So much of what I do ends up on website, digital ads, Instagram, and just the internet in general. I wanted to see my work on paper! I also wanted to be able to print my own professional-grade portfolio book, so I dove in. Below is a fun, fast-paced video I made about the process of producing the book:

Canon PRO1000 - This is a really solid printer for creating professional quality prints at home, up to 17”x22.” The options seemed to be this one or the Epson P400. I opted for the Canon because according to users, as long as it’s plugged in, it keeps the ink cycling to keep the print heads from becoming clogged. I read a lot of reviews that other printers dont’ do well with sitting for prolonged periods of not being used. I want to print, but am not doing to be doing it weekly. I printed my portfolio with this and am extremely happy with the outcome. 

Moab Paper - Moab is awesome, I used their paper for my portfolio (Lasal Photo Matte 235) because it works well for a book and being handled, and my photos look nice on it. I have a huge assortment of their paper to fit the project that needs to be printed. 

Case Envy / Lost Luggage custom portfolio - They produced the case for my portfolio with my custom logo design laser etched into the cover. It looks so good. See my video below about the process of designing and creating my print portfolio. 

Caleb Kerr