As a full-time pro for nearly 30 years, the gear I take on assignment today depends on what is needed. Contrary to what it might look like, I prefer to work with the minimum amount of equipment.
Being familiar with the gear is most important to me. To that end, I’ve always carried some form of Leica or Canon camera in my kit. With their cameras and lenses, I don’t have to think. I just do. When Leica discontinued their 35mm SLR “R” system, I switched to the autofocus Canon EOS 35mm full-frame SLR.
Around the same time, I also switched from Kodachrome 25 to Fujichrome Velvia 50 slide film. When digital camera image quality evolved to a more than satisfactory level, I transitioned to Canon’s DSLR camera bodies and their latest L lenses for my editorial and commercial work.
For flash, the Profoto B1X portable lighting system has proven ideal for moving subjects both outdoors and indoors. A pair of these are always added to my kit and used as needed. A Zacuto Z-finder and a Rode microphone handle basic video. Apple’s latest Macbook Pro, with Lacie external hard drives remain essential on the road.
Photography equipment is simply a tool. Seeing and having something to say are MUCH more important. That said, I look for gear that is of the highest quality, easy to use, and has characterful rendering.
Note: The following list is constantly being updated.
I. MAIN KIT (Randy – DP):
Canon EOS 5DS R camera (stellar image quality, 50 MP stills)
Canon EOS 5DS R camera #2 with three spare batteries
Canon EOS 1DX camera with two spare batteries (12 fps, lovely for action)
Canon 16-35mm f/4 EF-L IS lens (incredible sharpness and sunstars)
Canon 50mm f/1.4 EF lens (better than you think)
24-105 EF-L IS lens (excellent all-around lens for when you cannot change your position)
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 EF-L II lens (one of the best of its type with great bokeh)
Canon Tele-Extender EF 1.4X III and 12mm extension tube (makes for a longer and/or closer focusing lens)
Canon 250D close-up lens (converts the 50mm into an excellent macro lens)
#1. DP Carry On Main Kit – Rolling Pelican Case:
Main Kit above, plus storage cards, batteries, chargers , polarizers, ND filters, remote releases, sensor cleaning kit , chamois, small reflector, plastic covers for everything
#2. DP Carry On Back Pack – Backpack or Small Filson Dry Bag:
Leica Q with 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens (24 MP, mirrorless full-frame, 10 FPS, always nearby), Mac Book Pro and external hard drives, Spare LiOn batteries for flash and drone, headphones, music, sunscreen, eye drops, passport, cellphone, wallet, money, papers, snacks, water bottle, change of clothes, and small dopp kit
#3. Asst.Carry On – Backpack:
Canon 5D Mk III with Canon and Canon 35mm f/2 EF IS lens (bright and easy to use for stabilized stills or video), Zacuto Z-finder, Rode on-camera microphone, Go Pro camera, knee pads, passports, money, another backed-up external hard drive , cellphone, wallets, snacks, water bottle, change of clothes and dopp kit
#4. Checked Bag – Large Rolling Pelican Case:
Gitzo 320 tripod w/ Micro-D ball head, C Stand, #1 Profoto B1X kit with Pocket Wizards, Soft box, reflectors, Bogen Super Clamp
#5. Checked Bag – Medium Rolling Pelican Case (Optional):
DJI Phantom 4 Pro Version 2.0 + drone, controller, ND filters, spare batteries, and chargers, chamois
II. LARGER PRODUCTIONS:
#6 Checked Bag – Back Up Kit (2nd Assistant)
Everything from the main kit not in #1 or #2 Case – plus Profoto B1 (#2) , Pocket Wizards, flash adaptor rings, Canon 24mm f/1.4 EF-L II lens , Canon 500mm f/4 EF-L IS lens , walkie talkies, extension cord, external hard drive, Tenba or backpack shoot bag , more clothes, including rain jacket and pants
#7. Checked Bag – Large Rolling Pelican Case:
Canon EOS 5D MK II camera (easy to use for stills and video files)
Gitzo 226 tripod w/ Leica ball head and small fluid head with Super Clamp and flash stud, Wescott Ice light and charger, extra flash tube, 4-channel recorder, Headphones. More GoPro kits and mounts, , right angle finder, bean bag, extension tube , ND Filters, mMore storage cards and batteries, gaffer tape
#8 Checked Bag – Rolling Cooler:
Bogen fluid head, Canon 15mm f/2.8 EF lens, Rode on-camera microphone #2 , GoPros w/ bacpac battery and viewer plus mounts (2-7 units), Leitz table tripod, Super Clamps, and Leitz all head, Filson Dry Duffel Bag
#9.Checked Bag – Large Rolling Pelican Case (Optional):
Complete video rig (see below), shoulder mount, Marshall monitor with sun shield , Rode Blimp with Sennheiser shotgun microphone, etc.
II. BIGGER PRODUCTIONS
Stills: As needed. All of the above, plus another assistant or two.
Godox 600 portable lighting kit , Mathews suction cups and Manfrotto Super Clamp, More: Marshall monitor, cables, Soft boxes for ProFoto , A/C Flash, Tungsten Lighting: Lowell Tota-light kit, Daylight Lighting: LED lights, Westcott 150W Ice Light Portable Studio: Overhead Silk, Backdrops and free-standing support stands, Manfrotto Avenger C stands, Super Clamps, sand bags, ladder, camera car, harness, broom, leaf blower, smoke machine, and air purifier. Budget!
More for Production Video:
Canon C300 camera, Gitzo 404 or 504 tripod and large Bogen fluid head, KenLab Gyrostabilizer, DJI Ronin, Roxant Pro camera stabilizer for GoPro , Wimberly head , Canon 600EX-RT flash units , Intermit battery, Leica SF20 flash , More Zacuto eyepieces, Marshall monitors and hoods , Hasselblad Pro lens shades, filter adapters, Leitz table tripod with ball head, dolly roller, Handgrip, roller table, light meter. Budget!
III. BIGGEST PRODUCTIONS
As needed, All of the above, plus two or more strong assistants:
More Gear for Stills (All Rented):
Medium format digital cameras and lenses (various), More portable ARRI and AC flash systems, More light stands, soft boxes, umbrellas and grids. Budget!
More Gear for Video (All Rented):
Canon C Video Cameras. Steady Cam and operator, Arri Mini, Alexa and/or Red Epic with Leica lens adapters, Bron Kobold or Joker Bug HMI, Marshall monitors, audio rigs . Various handgrips, rigs, sticks, sliders, rollers & dollies, More Drones , Chase Car Budget!
Analog: Leica M system, Leica SL/R system, Nikon F system, Nikons V and 28mm f/2.8, Canon EOS, Hasselblad V system, Fuji G617. BUDGET!
More lenses for video (larger production with several assistants):
Leica R Lens Kit – adapted to Canon EF:
Leica 28mm f/2.8 II – R lens (one of the best R lenses made)
Leica 35 f/2 – II R lens (lovely depth of field)
Leica 50mm f/2 – II R lens (sharp, great contrast)
Leica 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens (3-D, lifelike)
Leica 80mm f/1.4 – R lens (one of the best rendering lenses ever)
Leica 180mm f/3.4 APO-R lens (still competitive, especially wide open)
Leica R-Extension tube
Leica R 2X APO Extender (makes the 180 into an excellent 360mm APO)
Nikon lenses – adapted to Canon EF:
Nikkor UD 20mm f/3.5 AI
Nikkor 28mm f/2 AI
Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 AI
Nikon 55mm f/2.8 Macro AIS
Nikkor 105 f/2.5 Type 6 AI
P.S. My kit for personal work is a digital Leica camera, usually the Q with its 28mm f/1.7 and an M digital rangefinder with a 50mm lens. This is for pure seeing, shooting slowly and deliberately. Leica M-mount lenses of 18mm, 35mm, 90mm, 135mm and 400mm focal length are available as needed.
Note that there is back up redundancy throughout. After the shoot, the written-on digital cards stay in a secure holder inside a zippered vest pocket on my person. As soon as I return to my hotel, the RAW files are backed up on my computer, Dropbox, and at least one hard drive. All drives are kept in different locations, or one is FedExed home. I love what I do, but I’ve also learned not to assume anything.