Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chips, Glass and Light: Assembling an Inexpensive Camera Bag

As a newspaper photojournalist, my gear considerations were based on reliability, speed (both motor and lens) durability and image quality. My bodies were top of the line. My glass was fast, heavy, prime and expensive. I had both a daily working bag and a pool room full of specialized gear.

For the first time in twenty years, I have been buying a bag full of camera gear out of my own pocket. And while I am fortunate enough to be able to afford pretty much whatever gear bag that I decide I need, I am also re-examining every assumption I have had about gear over the last 20 years. And the results have been very surprising to me.

(More after the jump.)

Sure, it's a head trip to be the first guy on the sidelines of an NFL game to be toting around a D3. There's a pecking order to it. And don't think photographers don't notice who has what and when.

But sports is a much smaller part of my shooting equation now, and that alone radically changes your resource allocation. My priorities have changed. And the dollars being spent are my own. So I decided to put together a bag as if I were just starting out, albeit with 20+ years' shooting experience this time. Which is pretty much exactly what is happening, in a sense.

I am pretty well stocked with light (I have always maintained a personal lighting bag.) But for the sake of argument, let's integrate the lighting facet into the gear choices in the hopes that it may be useful to those of you who are buying gear without the benefit of 20 years of daily shooting.

What follows are my choices. You may be surprised at them. I know I was. I would be curious to know your version of a starter bag -- and why -- and where it would cost out. Gear is not cheap, and we have many, many readers of this site who could benefit from your experience when choosing cameras, lenses and flashes.

To be clear, I am a Nikon Guy. So you will have to interpolate for Canon. Or better yet, leave your choices in the comments.

Second, note the increased importance of light in the gear selection. No surprise there. But nothing -- nothing -- gives you the photo quality bang for the buck as does light. That is the biggest difference between how I think now and how I thought 20 years ago.


Starter Bag, Poised for Growth: $1,286.


Camera: Nikon D70s -- $500.00

I was surprised by this one myself. This is not even a current model. Nikon sometimes sells them refurbished, and they are all over eBay. Look for them on the cheap each time Nikon introduces a new model in the amateur digicam range.

Why? It is an amazing camera for the money. Sure, 6.1 megapixels is not a lot of dots. But they are pretty good dots. And 3,000+ dots on the long side is all most people really need. Besides, using light well makes your camera's output look so much better.

And the D70s is a serious flash shooter's camera. Its on-board winky flash is also is CLS commander-enabled, allowing it to wirelessly control a CLS flash in TTL, Auto or Manual mode.

Sync speed is nominally 1/500th of a second. Your flash just got twice as powerful as those cameras which sync at 1/250th. But the goodness does not stop there. You can sync at almost any speed if the D70s does not know it is controlling a flash. That makes this camera a no-brainer for a budget-conscious Nikon flash shooter.

The current model Nikon D40 (but not the D40x) has the flash sync hack, too. But it does not do built-in CLS. And CLS is what is going to be your starter wireless sync.

Neither the D70s or the D40 is a heavy-use camera. But the idea is to start with this, and move it to your #2 body when you go to a D200 or D300 as a heavier use primary camera.


Glass: Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 -- $400.00

Even more surprised at this one. Back in the day, we used to laugh at people who coughed up for the high-end Nikons and stuck third-party zooms on them. Cameras were black boxes and glass made your photos. And third-party zoom glass suc was not a good recipe for success.

Times have changed. Now, the black box very much matters. There is a lot going on in there. And lens designers have gotten better and better.

I learned about the Tamron 17-50/2.8 XR Di-II SP from a long-time photographer for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect. It is sharp. It is light. It is small. It is cheap. This particular shooter has ditched his D2's and D200's and now travels with three D80's, the Tamron 17-50, a Sigma 50-150/2.8 (will the heresies never cease?) and a pair of SB-800's.

The D80's are tiny, with great chips. He carries three, just in case. I suspect the third one stays in the hotel room. (He's never had a problem with the "A" or "B" camera.) But his daily walking bag has two bodies, 17mm-150mm range at f/2.8 all the way through, and sophisticated, multi-light capability. All for almost no weight, and working out of a small waist pack.

Back to the Tamron 17-50/2.8, I find it sharp enough to use at f/2.8 (and it stays at f/2.8 all the way through.) Stop it down and it gets better still. It is light as a feather, yet still solid. And the equivalent film range is 28-75mm. Focuses nice and close, too.

Downside: It is for APS-sized sensor camera. No can do on a Canon 5D. But they do make it in a Canon mount for the small-chip cameras. And note that the prices of these lenses have been fluctuating daily over the past couple of weeks.


Flash: Nikon SB-800 -- $320.00

Look, I told you everything was on the table, assumption-wise. But Nikon's most expensive flash for a starter bag? It'll make more sense as we look at the expansion/upgrade path at the end.

Consider the possibilities that an SB-800 yields: CLS and wireless flash, right off of the mark. At a 1/500th sync with a D70s. But the very first upgrade I would get would be a PC cord (and hot shoe/PC adapter) because that gets me the ability to sync at almost any speed on a D70s.

Besides, the SB-800 has that built-in superslave, which makes it an ideal second light later. At $320, it almost kills off the budget. But that's okay, because everything from here is cheap.


Off-Brand Light Stand -- $25

Where possible, we are pinching pennies. And stands are a good place to squeeze the budget. Example: This Interfit 8-foot stand is less than half the cost of the more compact Bogen 3373. While I love the portability of the latter, choosing the former scrapes me some money to put toward a PC cord and all that high-end flash sync if I am starting out.


Umbrella Stand Adapter -- $15

Again, the ancillary lighting gear is so cheap, relative to the camera and flash. The bang or buck you can get -- once you have the abilility to get the light off of the camera -- is amazing. You can spend more for heavier duty versions, but this one has served me well for $15.


White, Shoot-Through Umbrella -- $26.00

The convertible version is worth the extra few dollars. It gives you versatility and the ability to control your spill with that back cover. Again, cheap.


Now, The Growth Part

Looking forward, my plans would include the following, in order:

• PC cord setup, to get high sync capability. Cheap.

• A reasonably priced 70-200-ish zoom. Again, if you are using light well, your photo quality is less dependent on exotic glass.

• A second light and Pocket Wizards. My choice would be an SB-26. Again, many possibilities now. PW the '26 and slave the '800. Or go with a quick, run-and-gun SB-800 in CLS mode. PC jacks on both flashes ensure easy sync in a variety of ways.

• Second body: D200 or D300. This becomes your primary camera, saving the mileage on the D70s for when you need the high-speed sync. But it is worth noting that you can get the whole starter setup for less than the price of a lensless D200 body alone.


I was very surprised by my choices after I set aside all of my assumptions and photojournalist biases. But I am out the door for a reasonable amount of cash. I can travel light, I can make cool light. And I haven't boxed myself for expansion. Heck, my daily PJ bag (pictured up top) cost over $10,000.00. But it is also designed to crank out 500 shots a day, every day. There is no need to pay for that kind of duty cycle if you do not need it.

And again, light gets a much higher priority when you have been doing this for a while. When I was green, it was all about saving for a 300/2.8. Yikes, think of the pictures you could make with that kind of money, put toward a well-chosen bag.

Have you gone through a similar decision-making process, or do you just buy gear when the bug hits you? Are you going through the process right now? Stick your choices -- and briefly why -- in the comments. You'll be helping someone a few steps behind you in the process.


__________

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62 Comments:

Blogger Foto Finish1 said...

David Hobby continues to both amaze and inform me about photography. First of all the basic concept of Strobist has just blown my mind. But there is more. His ability and willingness to share his thinking process is as appreciated as it is uncommon. It is little wonder that the community he has spawned has shown such grace!

August 30, 2007 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Andre said...

I want that BAG!

August 30, 2007 2:50 PM  
Blogger Eric Vichich said...

Great post David.
Very nice to hear this topic from your perspective. As it turns out, this is pretty much my main setup. D70 and D70s, 2 SB-800s, 1 SB-600, GI/cacus remotes, Tamron 17-50 2.8 on one body, 50 or 85 1.8 on the other (other glass I won't mention), 10' adorama lightstand, big convertible umbrella. I mainly shoot weddings so my needs are similar to news PJ. The adorama lightstand is cumbersome, but 10' comes in handy when trying to light the dance floor in a reception hall with high ceilings. Love that Tamron close-focus ability for getting detail shots.

Only piece I am missing is 70-200 2.8 VR. But since I use photography as a second job to bring in income it doesn't make sense to just drop all the profit back into equipment at this point.

August 30, 2007 2:52 PM  
Blogger Graham Taylor said...

Great post. Any information on the basic gear I need is helpful as money is always tight. Started with a Nikon D80, have one light stand and sb600, reflective umbrella and am going from there.

Still saving for pocket wizards but will do lots of research for more flashes at that time too.

I was a little confused as an earlier post said a silver umbrella gave more bang for the buck, but now I feel like a shoot through would be more helpful. It will come eventually.

August 30, 2007 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My starter kit, some of which is in the mail right now:

Nikon D40 kit. No CLS, but that could be added w/ a SU-800. $650 with a 4 year full accidental damage warranty from Best Buy. I could drop this camera off a roof 1459 days after the purchase date and they'd replace it. Woo!

Lowepro EX 140 bag - free w/ Best Buy award points after the camera purchase. :)

Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AIS lens circa 1986 from ebay. $35.50 shipped.

Sunpak 333 flash from ebay. Tilt, swivel, zoom and manual power step down to 1/16th. $17 shipped.

Generic hot shoe to PC adapter off ebay. $0.01. (+$5.00 shipping!)

B&H:
Impact 6' stand $19, umbrella mount $14, 33' PC extension $14

Adorama:
Convertible 40" umbrella, coated silver inside the black cover $16, "Sunpak to PC" adapter cord $5.50

On hand already:
3' long x 8" wide canvas duffle bag from surplus store, perfect for light stands, etc.

All in so far:
About $800 including a 2gb SD card and some misc stuff.

Still to be ordered:
Naneu Pro "Lima" bag, $40

August 30, 2007 3:07 PM  
Blogger vince. said...

First David, this is a great post. I follow you and Ken Rockwell because you are both all about busting camera myths that say you have to have great gear, etc. Those myths are crap, and you two (plus several thousand dollars) are what stand between starving student/dropouts like myself and some serious consumerism. Thank you.

I shoot Canon and would substitute 20D for the D70, throw in two pocket wizards a Nikon SB 24 and 26 instead of 2 800’s. The 20D might perform better then the D70, but at the cost of losing the Nikon Flash advantage and higher syncing speed. Everything else would stay the same except for the extra $200.

This sound right? I am sure more Canon guys will weigh in.

What do you think about the new Canon's and Nikon's toting increased dynamic range? Is it as they say it is? Will it make much difference?

August 30, 2007 3:24 PM  
Anonymous pmiska said...

I really have to echo the sentiments about the sb800. I know many will say, "why not save a bundle and get the 600 instead?"

Well, the 600 is crippled from an off camera light perspective... It does not have a PC port. Sounds dumb right? well, consider the cost of a wired hot shoe adapter. Then, add the cost of a sto-fen, gels (ok, they don't cost much, but you have ones that fit under said sto-fen), and you have an extra stop worth of power. Well, when you "move up" to a D200 or similar camera, it will pay for itself when you are forced to sync at a 250th in broad daylight... Don't forget CLS commander/receiver options and the uber optical slave... being able to dial it down to a 1/128th power... very nice when in close

lastly... that uber slave and the pc port will make the flash unit super functional well into the future regardless of what camera brand you use.

August 30, 2007 3:38 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Nice post David. It's not too different between Nikon and Canon to get the point.

For Canon users, the Tamron 28-75 2.8 is near L quality (as long as you get a good copy) and can be had for $300. I love my copy and everyone I know that has that lens does too.

I bought the "nifty fifty" 50 1.8 since it was cheap and everyone recommended it. I never use it. I'd recommend saving the $80 and buying a flash with the money. Yeah, it's a good lens, but so is the Tamron and it's more handy for my uses.

August 30, 2007 3:44 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

It's always great to get a look inside someone's bag and inside their thought process on putting it together. Here's my future bag (hopefully the near future). Some of the gear I own already.
-Nikon D80 (It makes sense since I have a good collection of SD cards already, plus it has the CLS commander functionality.)
-Nikon D50
-Nikon 50/1.4 (It's way pricier than the 50/1.8 but that extra f-stop and build quality really make it worthwhile.)
-Tamron 17-50/2.8 (It amazes me how many people love this lens and with good reason; tack sharp, light as a feather and a third as much as the Nikon 17-55.)
-Nikon MB-D80 Vertical Grip + extra battery
-Nikon SB-800, SB-600 & SB-24
-Bogen 3353 light stand
-Combo Umbrella
-eBay remote trigger (I use 'em with the SB-24 in a pinch.)
-Upstrap SLR Classic camera strap (Best camera strap on the planet. Your camera will never slide off your shoulder again. www.upstrap-pro.com)

Eventually I want some Pocket Wizards and another D80 body but I guess it can wait.

August 30, 2007 3:52 PM  
Blogger Jacob said...

This does provoke interest... I love seeing some of the super-high quality shots, and then learn they were made with a pro-sumer camera.

I also DESPISE the "How many pocket wizards do you own?" threads. How about we just call it "How much extra cash do you have sitting around?" What does that prove? Typically I don't like to talk about what gear I own. I'd rather have people see my photos and say "Thats a great photo," not "What camera did you shoot it with?" But I'll let my guard down a bit for this thread, as I find it very interesting.

I'm a Canon shooter now, but just made the switch - I used to shoot Minolta in the film days. It was a difficult decision between the two.

I ended up choosing the 30D over the D200 as the 30D was cheaper and the reviews were solid. I considered the D70, but wanted those extra few megapixels the 30D offered (8 vs. 6). My plans are to use it for wedding and portrait photography, but I do have a penchant for blowing up landscape images as big as I can get them. One thing about the D200 - the ergonomics were (for me) far better than the Canon. Which some people may scoff at, but I think it's a valid consideration if you're going to be spending time with it.

Then on to glass. I really had trouble deciding which lens to go with as a starter. I wanted a 24-70ish type zoom, with 2.8 all the way through. Tamaron made one, and Canon makes one - the Tamaron was 2/3 the price. I read the reviews, I asked everyone I know, I did my research. I ended up purchasing the Canon version. I liked the fact that it was weather sealed (though my body isn't). I liked the weight behind it. Yes, some days I wish it were lighter, but my takeaway from my research was this: the Tamaron lens will make just as good of an image as the Canon lens. (In some reviews, even better). However, everyone I spoke with said their L-lenses are tanks from a build standpoint. I'm hoping "heavy" doesn't equate to "perceived ruggedness", but I'm in at this point. And history has proven that I'm hard on gear.

I've since added the super-affordable 50mm 1.8. And I'm saving for a 70-200 2.8 (non-IS version). My light consists of 3 SB-28's, purchased for $60/piece (just before the strobist rage hit). A few stands and umbrellas on the cheap round things out. Oh, and the Skyports replaced my ebay triggers as I needed reliability when with clients.

That rounds it out for now. Luckily, I have a day job to support my habit. Someday a full frame sensor would be cool, but does one really need it? I dunno. I suppose it depends on what you're shooting.

Sorry David, I think you said keep it short. Funny thing is, this IS my short.

August 30, 2007 3:58 PM  
Anonymous erik said...

Starting out in digital 5 years ago I got a Canon G2 because I couldn't afford a Nikon dig body to go with my pack of Nikon lenses. Once the D70 came out I bought that and have been happy with it, but I don't do any sports with it, just macro stuff, architecture and street photography. All my sports stuff is done with canon because thats what they supply for my staff position at the newspaper.

I've had some Tamron and tokina over the years with Nikon but once I could afford it, I went with all Nikon. But I'm not one to go with the newest or greatest zoom. I do have a 20-35 and 12-24 nikon zooms but they are a few years old. I've been doing this 10 years and when I'm shooting my with my Nikon stuff for freelance or just myself I find that using a 50mm 1.4 or 85 1.8 lens and zooming with my feet rather than the lens is better. I find it causes me to focus on framing the photo better, paying attention to the edges to clean them up etc.

I am going thru this process of discovery with lighting equipment tho. I've spent the past few years acquiring a bogen clamp here or there, some light stands from calumet photo etc. But my couple nikon flashes, that I use a lot for staff work with the canon equipment, and some clamps were stuffed into an old and small tamrac bag. Just this week I bought a rolling case from calumet photo so I could put my nikon strobes, pw's, "A" clamps, super clamps and various other things into one bag. Haven't used it yet for a work assignment, but I can tell in setting it up to get everything into the bag it will be so much easier. This will be the first time I've actually had much of what I would or might need on an assignment all in one bag.

Usually it goes something like, "hmm, I've got the stobes and clamps I need... but shoot I could use 2 "A" clamps and a small backdrop for this or that photo. Unfortunately the clamps are at home."

And David, you're right, stobes, even small ones make mediocre to decent photos much better. I've always known that, but I haven't always followed thru. Soemtimes there isn't time to set a light up, but lots of times there are. And as many here who work on newspaper staffs know, the assignments aren't always the best. I've lost count how many assn's I've had where I wish I could go back at another time to shoot something but its not always possible, so sometimes having a little bit of unique light manages to make a boring photo at least a look like a "great photo." It's cheating a little of course because it's still a boring photo, but the way I figure it, especially on deadline, a boring photo with great light beats a boring photo without great light.

August 30, 2007 4:04 PM  
Anonymous z1qr20 said...

What I did not mention in my starter kit post above:

Ditch the CLS altogether if you are starting out. Learn the manual flash technics and use sync cords or cheap ebay radio stuff. Save your pennies for Top Ramen.

Used Sunpak flashes are dirt cheap. For the price of one SB-800 you could buy two Sunpak 333's AND light stand/umbrella setups. And a bag. And a hamburger.

Great blog BTW. :D

August 30, 2007 4:05 PM  
Anonymous trythil said...

I think I'm actually just barely past the "must get long fast lens" stage that you mentioned.

Before I started looking into lighting it was all about saving up for a Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM, because I found myself doing a lot of portrait work in low light.

Then I realized that in many of my photo situations, the only reason why I was putting up with that sort of light is because I didn't know what the heck I was doing.

A few months later, I still don't think I exactly know what I'm doing with light, but I know some about the subject. More importantly, I'm continuously finding out what I don't know. :P

I now have the 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM off my to-get list, which is nice because it's an extra $2,000 I know I can put somewhere else. Like, say, rent and food.

I'll probably still end up getting a long lens at some point, just because their reach is quite useful, but I don't think I'll have a need for the big, heavy glass.

August 30, 2007 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Frédéric Solenthaler said...

Very informative!

I'm going through growing right now...

The two major mistakes I made were buying the D50 instead of the D70 because of the CLS function, and buying the SB600 instead of the SB800 (although I was misinformed about CLS by the salesperson).
But my absolute favourite lens so far (from the 4 I own) is the Nikon 50mm 1.8. I shoot portraits mostly, and it's at a good zoom where I can stay close to my model, and have a great DOF - while still being able to take amazing macros and still lifes. And it only cost CAN$250 and is super-light. (Also supposedly sharper than the Nikon 50mm 1.4)

August 30, 2007 4:11 PM  
Anonymous Norbert Bosman said...

A year and a half ago I bought the double-zoom Olympus E500 kit. This contained:

- an E500 body (duh);
- a Zuiko Digital 14-45mm f3.5-5.6
- a Zuiko Digital 40-150mm f3.5-4.5

My reasons for going for the Olympus:
- very good reviews - which i.m.o. have proven to be correct. I'm very pleased with the image quality, the lenses and the build quality. And I find the often criticised noise 'problem' at hight ISOs not as big of a problem as some people make it look. Don't care much for the small viewfinder, however.
- a lot of camera for the money
- the dust-reduction system (which Canon now introduces on their cameras as being revolutionary)
- a compact and light body and glass

A benefit that I learned later on is that the flange-to-sensor distance on a 4/3-system camera like the E500 is smaller than on most other (d)SRLs. Which means that with a €25,= adapter you can stick about any piece of glass on it. Browse eBay for some (analog) glass and compare prices...

I bought a 50mm f1.8 OM Zuiko for €6.50. It acts as a great portrait lens on my E500 (on which it acts as a 100mm, since the cropfactor is 2)

My lighting equipment:
- Olympus FL36 (for TTL shooting)
- SB 24 (read David's post on this one for the reason)
- Sunpak 433D (because I saw it in a store for €10,=)
- Elinchrom Skyports - transmitter and two receivers (I started out with the eBay triggers, but I found those to be too unreliable. PW were a bit on the expensive side).
- Two €15,- lightstands
- Two €20,= umbrella clamps
- One €15,= white shoot through umbrella
- One €15,- silver umbrella
- A €15,= set of gels
- A lot of cardbord, duct tape and cereal boxes

August 30, 2007 4:22 PM  
Blogger Lucas said...

David,
As a beginner photojournalist (senior in college) I have to agree with every word you've said. Many professors that I have asked for equipment advice have said almost the exact same things.

I still only carry one body (D70 with 3 lenses: 12-24 f/4 Tokina, 17-70 2.8 Tamron, and 80-200 2.8 Nikon), but I have two flashes (SB 800 and a 285) and a MPEX light kit with the Japan remotes.

This has served me well through college and even some small freelance work. It definately offers the chance for upgrades as you said.

You're really doing a great service to beginner photographers, especially college students. Professors of mine have sourced your blog in classes for advice. Getting started is tough, money-wise, and you're doing a great help to beginning poor students.

If you're working from a newspaper standpoint I can't see someone needing extremely high end megapixel cameras at the beginning. Your image is run on shite paper and seldom very large. You've got it right on as a starter camera with the D70s. Although a good high frame-per-second body does come in handy.

August 30, 2007 4:31 PM  
Blogger SeanMcC said...

I've been doing the buy sell thing for ages to get gear I've wanted. I'm still not there yet, but if I was I would still go for the best straight off. As I've mentioned before, I'm a Canon shooter. As with most, I started that way. Nikon make a great system too (better flashes!), but no one mentions you're buying a system, not a camera!
Currently I'm using a 30D, 24-70L 2.8, 70-200L 2.8 (non IS) and a Sigma 10-20. If I had the 5D, the 24 would be wide enough for me and I would sell the Sigma.
Lightwise I'm using older stuff: 550ex, 540ez and a Sigma Ef500. They work and can do wireless ettl (except the 540) if needed.
If I was buying, I'd get the 5D, 24-70L, 70-200L IS and 3 580 II, but that's not budget by any means!

August 30, 2007 4:33 PM  
Anonymous jeffegg2 said...

So my bag has: Nikon D40.
same chip as D70, no wireless commander. Do I really need it? With my cactus wireless remotes and vivitar 285hv? What can commander do that I cannot?

the four lenses that I have in my bag: kit lens 18-55, 55-200VR, 50mm 1.8, vivitar 28mm 2.5.

pretty versitile. nice stands, convertable umbrellas, brackets. I like my set-up. hmmm?

August 30, 2007 4:36 PM  
Blogger HansSolo said...

Yeah, if you're on a budget, check out the Skyport system. They're light (both in your bag and on your camera), cheaper than PW:s and not as flimsy as they look.

August 30, 2007 4:53 PM  
Blogger Marten said...

One thing I would add to that is the great Sigma 30mm f/1.4, which is more like a f/1.2 in practice. Just a little wider than the 50mm which on a crop-factor camera isn't really normal anymore.

August 30, 2007 5:03 PM  
Blogger Raghavendran said...

David,
How would you approach deciding on a tripod? Again ..in strobist style .. more brain .. less money.

One other thought, AI/AIS lenses are a great choice if one cannot afford AF lenses. I bought Nikon 105mm/2.5 on ebay. This lens is a gem. Metering works in D200.

August 30, 2007 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

Thanks, David. Good to see that I am on the mark with my gear choices. Seems we have a very similar bag:

Nikon D50 body

Tamron 17-50mm/2.8 (LOVE this lens)

Tamron 70-300mm/4-5.6 The price was very right on this one at about $130.00.

SB-600 (with Sto-Fen)

SB-28

2 no-name light stands

2 shoot-through umbrellas (30" & 43")

A set of "Poverty Wizards" (the cheapy eBay/Chinese ones with two receivers and one transmitter.)

Also have a Wein Safesync for when I need to go with a PC cord, a Nikon N80 body (film), a 40" 5-in-1 reflector and various filters.

I have found that this gets me through pretty much anything I have needed to shoot so far.

Thanks again for sharing.

www.thesisdesignlab.com

August 30, 2007 5:08 PM  
Blogger Nicholaus Haskins said...

Wow, nobody gives Canon any love

To start off with Canon

Rebel XTi - $400
17-55 f/4 IS - $500
580EX - $400
2 PW's - $200
Adaptors, Stands, Misc - $300

Total - about $1800

One thing I wish I would NOT have bought in the beginning...a flash meter and studio equipment....I sold it all within a month!

August 30, 2007 5:24 PM  
Anonymous ogalthorpe said...

Body: 20D (40D soon)
Glass:: 10-22, 24-105 4L IS, 70-200 2.8L IS
Bag: Crumpler Bucket inside a Timbuk2 messenger bag. This way no one (until now) knows what I'm carrying.
Bag Contents: body with 24-105 mounted, 10-22, 4 pocket wizards, misc. crap. The 70-200 is a tank and only comes along when needed.

WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR: one bag to hold all the lighting gear with pocket wizards and flashes each stored separately (in their own bag) all carried in one big bag, preferrably padded (for tranport).

August 30, 2007 5:52 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

I love my D200, but every once in a while I have pangs of regret that I gave up the D70 to get it.

August 30, 2007 6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have D70s, D200, Sigma 28-70 2.8, Sigma 70-200 2.0, Nikon 12-24 2.8, Nikon 50 1.8, Lens Baby 2.0. 1 SB800, 3 SB600, 4 PW Plus IIs. 2 convertible umbrellas, 1 medium Chimera bank. Bunch of stands, sand bag. Home made Sun Swatter, and 2 home made light panels. I've just ordered 4 1600Ws White lightnings, 2 battery packs, 4 13' stands, a boom. 1 beauty light, another medium bank.
All I need now is some customers so I can pay back this $15,000 debt! :)
I'm lucky enough to work full time at a studio so I can learn how all this stuff works.

August 30, 2007 6:20 PM  
Anonymous PixelMover said...

Your blog has radically changed my way of thinking/working and for the better. I'm fortunate enough to have a fairly well paying 'main job' so I could go a bit beyond the beginner's bag. But many choices I've made have been made with your comments on this blog in mind and they have proven to be the right choices so far. Also, bear in mind that almost none of this kit was new. Each and every one bit was an absolute bargain, only had by trawling eBay and classifieds for months carefully... slowly, slowly catchy monkey...

- D2x I LOVE this camera.
- Nikon AFS 17-55/2,8DX
- Nikon 50mm/1.8D
- Nikon AFS 2.8/80-200
- SB-800 (only one bought new!)
- 2x SB-26, for the built in slave and manual sttings
- Minolta Flashmeter V (enormous bargain, although I find I use it less and less...)
- 3x Bogen 3373 stand
- 2x Westcott black/white double folding
- 1x Westcott silver double folding
- 3x cheapo umbrellas swivels /w hotshoe
- 15ft Male to male PC cord
- LowePro mini roller backpack/roller case in one.. Brilliant!
-Home made light modifirers. Many.
As incredible as this may sound, this 'advanced bag' didn't actually cost more than US $2200. As I said, patience and perseverance pay off in the end.

August 30, 2007 6:31 PM  
Blogger troyk said...

I have been shooting the Canon 20D for two years with the 580ex, 50mm f1.4 and 70-200mm f/4L. I just recently purchased the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS (not really cheap).

I have a photoflex stand, umbrella and multiclamp. They are not really low cost options but they are nice and work well. I use the ST-E2 to control my 580ex and for focus assist.

If you're looking for a 70-200mm lens the f/4L is amazing when you can control your light and it's cheap compared to other L glass lenses. You really don't have to get the f/2.8L if you're not going to shoot in a lot of ambient light.

f/4L Example

August 30, 2007 7:28 PM  
Anonymous Gary Cosby Jr said...

I am just about to take the plunge and buy gear for a side/freelance business I am cranking up to supplement my photojournalism pay. (Come on, all you pj's stop laughing now.) I am going for the EOS 5D with a 24-70 and 70-200 f2.8s and a 1.4 converter. It's a pricey bag but it will do just about everything I need to do for this new side gig.

August 30, 2007 7:42 PM  
Anonymous Howard Mager said...

David-

My camera equipment is based upon need and is purchased as such. After trying to shoot ice skating and soccer with a FUJI S2 (great camera but not for sports) I decided to splurge and go for the D200 with its larger buffer, faster focusing and quicker fps. With the faster focusing of the D200 I decided to sell the Nikkor 80-200 and purchase the AF-S 70-200 to keep up the the camera. I did own a Tamron 35-70 2.8 but was never happy with it. I sold it along with some other items and purchased the DX17-55 2.8 which I love, but is a monster.

Lighting is another issue.
As a collector of photographic "stuff" for over thirty five years, I still own my original Reflectasol umbrella and stand along with a shoot through umbrella and an Aliens Bee flash. I tend to find my lighting accessory gear through yard sales and second hand dealers. I take old flashes and convert them to dedicated slaves by re-wiring them and attaching a cheater cord to them. I link them together with extension cords and trigger them with a peanut slave. Along with the D200 I have two SB-800 flashes and a couple of used Nikkor Micro's , a 60AF and a 105 Ais.
Howard, Fulton MD

August 30, 2007 7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am an addict to this site and love the less money more brains ethos.
i shoot with a canon 400d(xti), great camera and cheap and bought all my lenses second hand
(except 17-85efs and a sigma 10-20)
which include 24mm2.8, 85mm 1.8,
75-300 4-5.6 and a really old 35-135 4-5.6
i shoot predominately products, architecture
and corporate work, and started out in the time of film and still shoot medium format from time to time.
i own three studio lights but have embraced the strobist ideal and now shoot with one sb28, one sb24 and a much greater appreciation of what can be done working with the available light as well.
less gear, less money and less weight-
my camera bag used to weigh 20kilos and the lighting kit was more like 30... too hard!!!
i'm going to get some ebay remotes but havent found any double fold umbrellas available in australia.
thanks so much for the info and the expertise,
great to hear from others who are interested in making a living and not just who has the most expensive gear

August 30, 2007 7:46 PM  
Anonymous Gary Cosby Jr said...

I am setting up a bag right now to begin a freelance biz on the side. I am a pj by profession and have a similar work set to David. My personal set will be an EOS 5D with a 24-70 2.8 and a 70-200 2.8. I will be lighting with a pair of Vivitar 285HVs for now with light stands and umbrellas and pocket wizards. I don't think I need the motor speed but I am looking for the the sweetness of full frame again.

August 30, 2007 7:48 PM  
Anonymous z1qr20 said...

ogalthorpe said...
"WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR: one bag to hold all the lighting gear with pocket wizards and flashes each stored separately (in their own bag) all carried in one big bag, preferrably padded (for tranport)."

Adorama has Pelican padded stand cases with side pockets...

http://www.adorama.com/PLTB48.html?searchinfo=pelican&item_no=2

Pretty cool. The pelican soft camera bags I've seen in person are quite robust. I'd imagine these are built the same.

August 30, 2007 8:01 PM  
Blogger M, J, & G said...

Nikon v. Canon... :chuckle:

Those of us shooting Sigma cameras, however... :g:

I've actually had to scrape together the gear as the money trickled in, so careful planning wasn't really in the cards from the outset.

For lenses I only have the option of using Sigmas and various converted M42 glass. Sigma's EX series rocks, and one can't argue with the pricetag. And most every photographer I've worked with has (but is hesitant to fess up to owning) that same Tamron lens.

My flashes are equally odd -- an SB-24 for $55 (thanks for jacking up the prices, David! lol) and my wonderously freakish Patterson eFlash.

Everything shy of the stands, umbrella, and tripod fit in a kick-butt Pelican 1550 hardshell case. I mostly do portrait work (of various kinds), so I don't have to go ultralight. I have a tiny Sigma shoulder bag that works great for a body, two lenses, and my Wolverine data drive. That goes to the zoo with the family. :g:

August 30, 2007 8:13 PM  
Blogger Kurtis said...

Great article David. Gear has not been so much the focus as of late but more of a problem of what to put it in. I mean there are a lot of great bags out there but I have never really found one that was perfect. I am hoping the new Primus is this bag.

I wonder how others are choosing their bags in other lines of work. I mean when you are on the go, a 25lb bag is just too much

August 30, 2007 8:17 PM  
Blogger Aleks said...

My gear:

Nikon D80
Nikon 17-200mm f4-5.6 VR (I'm not that big on swapping lenses)
Sekonic L-308S Flashmeter (I use this less now than when I was shooting film, because it's usually easier to just shoot and chimp)
MPEX Strobist kit with Vivitar 285HV and PC-hotshoe adapter

The main things on my wishlist are a second flash and umbrella stand and a macro lens.

I'm surprised by how much love the SB800 is getting. Maybe it's because I learned on a Pentax K1000, but I feel a lot more comfortable with manual control than trying to learn some proprietary interface. All I need from my flash is that it goes off when I tell it to.

August 30, 2007 8:22 PM  
Anonymous ss944 said...

Awesome post David!

With 20/20 hindsight, this is what I'd put together as a starter bag currently:

-Canon Rebel XTi ($600)
-Canon 3.5-5.6/18-55 ($100)
-Canon 1.8/50 ($70)
-Canon 2.8/135 ($230)
-Sunpak 383 (x2) (@$65)
-Optical hot-shoe slaves via eBay (x2) (@$15)
-IR trigger via eBay ($30)
-Umbrella/stand/holder kit ($60)
-LumiQuest minisoftbox ($20)
-Gell kit ($10)
-LowePro Nova3 ($40)
-Canon monopod ($30)

Total = $1350

Notes:

-Yeah, you might cringe at the 3.5-5.6/17-55, but it gets the job done until you can spring for the Tamron, it's an easily affordable passable zoom. The 1.8/50 is a great ambient light lens for the price (I frequently use it for headshots). The 2.8/135 soft focus is *awesome* for the price and it's easier to lug than my 2.8/70-200, not to mention fantastically cheaper.

-Never hear anybody mention the Sunpak 383's, but I love them and use them *much* more than my 580EX or 550EX. They have a GN of 120 and can use high-voltage packs when you grow.

-Having had optical slaves, eBay radio slaves, and now PW's, I would definitely start with the optical and skip the eBay jobbies until I could afford the PW's... unless I had to do weddings then, of course, optical is out. I just found the eBay radio slaves to be almost more frustration than they were worth and nearly almost found myself using a hybrid setup of optical and eBay radio. Now on PW, I'd never touch eBay radio again, but still supplement with optical triggers.

-I very frequently use one light handheld with the mini-softbox and really like the flexibility.

-Highly recommend the monopod. First, it's a self defense device permissible in public places. ;) Second for hand-holding my on-human flash farther away than arms will permit. Third for putting the camera places that I can't or won't easily go. Highly recommended!

-Upgrade path (roughly in order assuming already have home-made snoots, grids, etc.): SuperClamp, 2.8/24-70, decent tripod (Bogen 3021BP), PocketWizards, Sunpak 383 (two more), 2.8/70-200 (if shooting sports), Canon 40D (if shooting sports), Canon 5D (if weddings, not sports), 580exII, etc, etc, etc.

August 30, 2007 8:40 PM  
Anonymous Spartacus said...

I use a 4x5 Camulet Cadet with a scanning back and the SB-800 modeling light. I usualy take 28 minute exposurese and get a 102mp file.

Actually, I use a Nikon D50 with a Seriess. Total cost: 800. Plus a lot of E 50mm F1.8 and SB24s/SB25s triggered remotly with Cactus remotes. I love softboxes and use homemade carboard box ones.

Occasionally I will get out a Minolta 7000(the version exxon sued over) and a 50 1.7.

August 30, 2007 9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, popular post David.

Depending on the kind of shooting I would maybe substitute a zoom for a couple of manual focus nikkors. They are an absolute steal these days. For instance the 55mm micro nikkors for macro work. They won't meter with a D70 but whos needin' a freakin' meter anyway?

August 30, 2007 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

David, hey I went back through your posts and saw you recommeded using silver umbrellas since they throw back more light and are more efficient for little flashes. In your gear bag you say you have a white shoot through....what gives? By the way, your site is awesome and has changed the way I shoot!

August 30, 2007 10:44 PM  
Blogger Jan Klier said...

By co-incidence I wrote my thoughts on Canon camera choices on my blog this morning: camera choices. Similiar choices, starting out on the low end, then moving up selectively making the lower end the backup cameras, and for focal length flexibility.

For lighting, I go with one 580EX II for wireless control, and a few 430EX as slaves.

With lightstands and tripods I'm committed to Manfrotto for their quality. Some thoughts on those choices in an earlier post.

For lenses, it seems to make sense to go for quality rather than quantity, so I tend to buy Canon and L-glass whenever possible, but going for prime or non-IS to be more cost effective.

August 30, 2007 11:10 PM  
Anonymous samsaragraphic said...

my starter kit - I have ALOT of retail camera experience & recently purchased a starter digital dslr kit & strobist gear.
Canon 350D W/ side grip (holds 2 batteries) - $750
Tamron 17-35 2.8-4 & Tamron 28-75 2.8 (both full frame)- $400 each
Flashes - 2 Sunpack 383 ($50 each), Sunpack 120J (parabolic) w/ external battery pack ($80 eBay), an old white lightning coffee can (donated), pc cords & gadget infinity remotes.
Accs. manfrototo tripod-$120, 2 strobist kits (3733s,umbrellas & adapters - $100 each & 1 bogen superclamp - $40
Total - $2,090
Future purchases
a canon L 70-200 F:4 IS w. 1.4teleconverter
Pocket wizards
light/flash meter
A better body (& this is why I got full frame lenses) type unknown
A pair of monolights w. portable battery

August 30, 2007 11:43 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

David, when you update a post how do we know what has changed? Just like you just did with this post.

Kevin, Waldo, procrastinator

August 31, 2007 12:08 AM  
Anonymous Chris Bensen said...

I'm a wildlife and nature photographer but small portable flash equipment can be very important from bird photography to small critters. I agree that expensive equipment doesn't make the photograph but without specialized equipment certain photos aren't possible.

For general purpose equipment a wide-to-medium lens and a medium-to-short-telephoto will acomplish a lot of bang for the buck and most importantly weight. I find my Canon 24-105 is on my 5D more often than I care to admit.

My typical bag is:

- Canon 5D
- Canon 24-70
- Canon 100-400
- Canon 100mm Macro
- Canon 580 Flash
- Canon ST-E2

Remove either the 100-400 or the 100mm macro if the day hike is longer and depending on if I don't plan on wildlife or macro work.

You can read more about my equipment at http://www.chrisbensen.com/equipment/equipment.php and why I've choosen it. I get a lot of questions at art shows.

August 31, 2007 1:17 AM  
Anonymous fgfathome said...

I'm a hobbist photographer, value convenience a lot and like to travel light. I've got:
- Nikon D80
- 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor lens. I sold the 18-135mm kit lens I bought with the camera on ebay because I wanted a SINGLE lens with a good range so I wouldn't have to swap lenses (don't have to clean the sensor as often, don't have to carry the extra weight of multiple lenses, don't have to have an extra big camera bag). Got a VR model so I wouldn't have to lug a tripod around as much.
- instead of a macro lens, I got the Canon 500D that screws on like a filter to the 18-200 lens. Paid about $125 at B&H for it. Small, light, cheap.
- started with a single SB600 flash, then bought a second SB600 about 7 months later. Kept with the 600 because of CLS. I like the convenience of adjusting the manual flash output on both flashes right from the camera. I also didn't want to deal with the (possible) frustation of the ebay triggers.
- Bogen Neotec tripod with a ball head (model 468MGRC2)replaced my first (cheap) tripod that broke after a year. I do a lot of long exposures, night shots, and some landscapes so it's convenient to have a tripod that is so easy to use - you just pull down the legs and they lock when you stop pulling. No twisting, no turning, no hassle. Sweet.
- homemade softboxes, homemade grids, homemade poles with toilet plunger heads for holding up stuff, 2 light stands, some gels, polorizor, and some clamps.

I've got enough toys for now, time to go play...

August 31, 2007 2:17 AM  
Anonymous Dominique said...

I have collected this gear slowly over the last 15 years or so. Much of it I have bought used.

1) D70s which displaced my film bodies – two F801s and one FM

2) AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 – I love what the DX crop did to this lens and use it more since I've gone digital.

3) pre AI Nikkor 55mm micro that I had AI'ed at a local camera repair shop. I picked this up with the dedicated extention tube for about $100 several years ago. easily worth it at twice the price.

4) AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8

5) AF Nikkor 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5. This is my do everything wedding lens. Still use it mostly on my film bodies.

6) Lensbaby 2.0

7) AF Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 ED (non-D). Love this lens. Probably guilty of using it too much.

8) AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D. Yeah finally a D series lens. I would have really preferred the f/1.4 (better bokeh) but it's just not realistic cost wise.

9) Three PW's

10) SB-24

11) SB-800

I have purposely stayed away from DX lenses because I want to future proof my bag. One day I hope to go full frame again. Plus I do dig out my film bodies from time to time.

If I was starting all over again tomorrow. I'd buy a D50 or D80, 50mm f/1.8, 24-85mm F2.8-4 and the 70-300MM F4-5.6 ED with the view of trading up to faster glass.

Personally I'd really like a D3 (really want that full frame experience) and the 24-70 f/2.8. That's not going to happen, too many clams. So I see a D300 in my future. In terms of glass, I might want a wider zoom to tame the 1.5 DX crop factor but it's not going to happen for a while. I can get away with my 20mm f/2.8 .

August 31, 2007 2:26 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I have Nikon D200, Tamron 17-50, and Sigma 50-150 2.8 and I confirm they are excellent choices. Those are my main two lenses but I had to add a 18-200 for vacations when I want a single lens solution.

August 31, 2007 2:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, David. As usual, it is informed by your experience, skill, and wisdom.

I can see suggesting the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 to beginners or those on a strict budget. However, I would have great difficulty stepping back from AF-S to a screw-drive lens. The lightning-quick, silent, and accurate focusing is necessary for many subjects that I shoot.

For strobists that don't need f/2.8 for DOF reasons, consider the discontinued Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 (it was the D70 kit lens). It has AF-S and should be much cheaper than the Tamron for those on a tiny budget. Excepting the missing wider apertures (which may not be that good on the Tamron vs. the Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8), the Nikkor 18-70mm should compare very well with the Tamron. Plus, you get the useful extension to 70mm. [I have both the Nikkor 17-55mm and 18-70mm. I shoot a lot of available darkness and love narrow DOF, so you can guess my preferences here -- but we're discussing price/performance.]

Chris Leck
chrisl@chrisleck.com

August 31, 2007 4:42 AM  
Anonymous Matt Hunt said...

Excellent thread and as ever, thanks for sharing your experience with us.

I am very much starting out and in terms of lighting the bag currently holds:
Nikon F80
Nikor 18-35mm
Sigma 24-135mm
SB-26
Metz 44MZ-2 and off camera TTL cord
Helios 'cobra' flash
Optical slave
White / silver reflector

My next purchases are going to be a light stand, umbrella and clamp and then will think about going digital. Assuming I stay with Nikon, my main concerns are weather proofing and then flash synch so a D70 / 70s or a D200 are most likely.

I'll make up some snoots and gobos - following the stobist DIY mantra!

I have a second 'bag' of M42 lenses and a pair of Spotmatics for which I intend use the Helios flash on a pc cord and the 2 other guns firing as slaves.

Hopefully I'll get to use both 'bags' this weekend....then post the results.

August 31, 2007 5:13 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...

My equipment is Canon based and biased towards equestrian sports photography.

20D (glad I bought this for the fps) - will probably buy a 40D next year, would like a 1D MkIII
400D, back up and used by my daughter (15)
G7 used for remote photography (G9 would be nice, for the RAW)

Lenses are Sigma all 2.8, 24-70, 50-150, 70-200. All are brilliant, although the 24-70 isn't as nice to use as the others. Will look to add a 10-20 or similar. Canon 24 f2.8 (bought cheap without a box)

430EX flash, need to use this more, an old Braun off camera flash which could be good as a slave, and a broken Vivitar 283 :-(

As well as 2 Canon kit small zooms and a Canon 75-300 f4.5 that my daughter uses as it's light.

Manfrotto 055 tripod, light box (given to me), DIY light stands, oh and a 15M (45') monopod....

I've used this for equestrian event photography and one wedding. Want to do more experimentation with flash, lighting, and indoor studio "still-life", which is why I read this blog!

August 31, 2007 5:35 AM  
Blogger Grega said...

Currently have:
-D80
-Sigma 18-50 f2.8 MACRO EX DG and all that
-Lowepro bag (no idea which one, as long as it is black Im OK)
-IR Camera remote (ML-L3, cute name)

I have been very happy with all the purchases so far, next in line are:
- first thing I'm getting an SB800
- Powergirp for the D80
- Strobist kit from mpex (the one with the cheap remotes)
- The last thing (probobly not in the next year) is something longer and cheapish. Most likely 50-150mm Sigma. Perhaps Sigma 150mm f2.8 Macro.

Then I'm done.

Right. :]

August 31, 2007 7:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is refreshing to see that your thought process is changing as (a) you learn, and (b) technology advances.

Appreciate the open mind and your thought process!

Great post!

August 31, 2007 7:41 AM  
Anonymous Tony said...

Thank you for this very helpfull post.

I have a D70s, a Tamron 17-50 and an SB800 (lightstand, umbrella and adaptor will soon follow now).

The faith you have shown in these items takes a lot of weight off and clears the head of doubt. Now for the important bit, of using them properly. It's as well I also have a bookmark to 'Strobist' on my toolbar.

August 31, 2007 8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info on your thought process. I currently use:
D70
18-200 VR
Tokina 12-24
Sigma EX 70-200 2.8
SB-600
SB-24
Cactus remotes

I use CLS at times and remotes also, but I guess I don't understand the advantage of using PC cords? Could a PC sync also allow high sync speed on my D70? Maybe someone could advise on the PC sync vs. GI remote differences...

Also, anyone have thoughts on Nikon 17-55 2.8 vs. Tamron 17-50 that David referenced?

Thanks in advance for any insights...

Dave

August 31, 2007 10:41 AM  
Blogger Adam McAnaney said...

I'm just getting started with this, but I'm also curious about the silver umbrella vs. white shoot-through umbrella point. Here (http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101-umbrellas.html) you recommended a silver lined umbrella for greater efficiency, whereas you now recommend a white umbrella for greater flexibility. I assume they both have their advanatages and disadvantages, and part of it is presumably a question of taste, but what would you recommend to someone just starting out? I'm leaning toward the white one for flexibility...

Thanks,
Adam

August 31, 2007 10:45 AM  
Blogger Roel said...

I'm using this setup:

D70
Tamron 28-75 f2.8
Nikon 50 f1.8
Sigma 18-50 f2.8
Tamron 70-300 f4.5-5.6 macro (1:2)
Lensbaby original

First three B+W MRC UV filtered. Tamron tele normal B+W and lensbaby..

SB-600
SB-26
Philips 28 BCS (with wild colord gels for background light)

Hama Optical slave (for Philips flash)
Nikon SG-3IR (so the optical slave won't get triggerd by the CLS pre-flashes)

Unomat cheap camera stand to mount the SB-600/sb-26.
Flash barracked to mount flash left of camera.
Cheap lightstand to mount sb-600/sb-26
Table stand to mount Philips flash. Very small so ideal for background/hairlight.
DIY softbox.
Umbrella and second lightstand comming up within a few weeks.

Nikon Remote.

All packed together in 2 small lowepro bags (EX 160 for flashes, Nova 3 AW for camera and small stuff). Lightstands packed separate. SB-600 bag used for filters/gels and to store small bits and pieces (can be attached to one of my bags if needed).

September 01, 2007 8:29 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

I planned my starter kit as a D80, 18-70 kit lens and 70-300 VR. When I finally went to purchase it, the 18-135 kit lens only cost Y2,000 yen more. ($18) So I bought my two clear filters (to protect the lenses) and then picked out my bag based on what fit my kit, left me adequate space to upgrade and was the kind of bag I'd want to carry with me.

The vignetting on the kit lens drove me crazy, so I did some research, went back and exchanged it for a Sigma 18-50 2.8 Macro. (I was torn between the Sigma and the Tamron 2.8s, and was won over by the somewhat misleading "macro" name.)

In addition to the D80, 18-50 2.8 and 70-300 4.5-5.6 VR, I also purchased an air blower (something that should go in any starter kit? and a tripod. I also dug out some lint free cloths for cleaning my glasses that I've since used for wiping persistent dust off the lenses.

Six months later I purchased a 50mm f/1.4 lens, and at this point the only two things I'm really looking to purchase are a good macro lens and good flash.

September 06, 2007 7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting, and very useful post for someone relatively new to photography. Most accomplished photographers just say 'put your money into your glass' (i.e. Nikon/Canon) and leave it at that.

Can someone explain why it's so important to have low f (min. 2.8) all the way through? Is it just for available light options, or is it more about depth of field creativity?

Thanks!

September 06, 2007 5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. What do you do for a support system? Or is that not necessary for your type of photography? (and the high shutter speeds with flashes)

September 16, 2007 1:29 AM  
Blogger Q-Master said...

Some people are not that happy with the 17-50mm Tamron. Read more here

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/customer-reviews/B000EXV0QQ/ref=cm_cr_dp_all_top/104-7939610-1450342?ie=UTF8&n=502394&s=photo#customerReviews

October 04, 2007 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Hi there David,

I have gone on a mad Strobist reading frenzy reading every post you made since the beginning. I know you are extremely busy reading all the hundreds if not millions of e-mails you get everyday. I just wanted to say thanks. I have the Nikon D50 and was thinking of buying the D300 this Christmas. Instead, I went with buying poverty wizards to try mounting my SB-600 of camera and it just hit me how much more creative I can be following your blog than trying to go with the new bling bling cameras.

Instead, I have just dumped my savings into buying another SB-600, umbrellas, light stands (the works!) and am excited about playing with light.

So just a wee thank you all the way from Scotland!

January 09, 2009 8:19 PM  
Anonymous KGiger said...

I'd go with:

-Used Nikon D40 $300
-Used AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G DX $200
-MF Series E 50mm f/1.8 (or new AF version) $50
-SB-24 synced via PC (or hacked SC-17) $125
-SB-26 or SB-80DX synced via optical slave $100-$150
-2 cheap lightstands $75
-2 cheap umbrellas $40

Out the door for roughly $950, only really lacking a telephoto (maybe 55-200mm or 70-300mm, puts you to $1100 or $1400). Then the second body, agreed D200 or D300, or maybe D2H/s.
If you don't intend to upgade the body, I might go with the new AF-S 35mm f/1.8G.

April 07, 2009 3:32 PM  

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