As a full-time pro for over 25 years, the gear I take on assignment today depends on what is needed. Yes, this is how I make my living. Contrary to what it might look like, I prefer to work with the minimum amount of equipment.
Being familiar with the gear is of most importantance 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 that I was using, I needed to make a change.
So, I adapted and switched to the autofocus Canon EOS 35mm full frame SLR system and Fujichrome Velvia 50 slide film (Kodachrome was on the way out). When digital camera image quality evolved to a more than satisfactory level, I switched to Canon’s DSLR camera bodies and their latest L lenses for my editorial and commercial work. Those cameras and lenses have been constantly upgraded for the past dozen years.
For flash, the Profoto B1X portable lighting system has proven ideal for subjects outdoors or 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. My Apple Macbook Pro, with two Lacie external hard drives, remains 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.
Canon EOS 1DX Mk III camera (16 FPS Stills, 120 FPS Full HD Video)
Canon EOS 5DS R camera (stellar, 50 MP Stills)
Canon EOS 5D MK III camera (24 MP, great for basic video)
Canon 16-35mm f/4 EF-L IS lens (incredible sharpness and sunstars)
Canon 24mm f/1.4 EF-L II lens (great for low light video)
Canon 35mm f/2 EF IS lens (also great for video)
Canon 50mm f/1.4 EF lens (better than you think)
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 (makes for a longer and closer focusing telephoto)
Canon 250D close-up lens (makes the 50mm into an excellent macro lens)
#1. DP Carry On – Rolling Pelican Case (DP):
Most of the Main Kit Plus extra storage cards, batteries, chargers , extension tubes, polarizers, ND filters, remote releases, sensor cleaning kit , plastic covers
#2. DP Carry On Back Pack (Filson Dry Bag):
Mac Book Pro & External hard drives, NC headphones, music, Leica Q with 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens (a marvel, always nearby), GoPro with mount , sunscreen, eye drops, passport, phone, wallet, money, papers, snacks, water bottle, change of clothes, and dopp kit
#3. Asst. Carry on: Rolling Case:
Gitzo 226 tripod w/ Leica ball head – also serves as a light stand. Profoto B1X #1 with Pocket Wizards, Zacuto Z-finde, Rode on-camera microphone, More clothes , Charging accessories
#4. Asst. Carry On (Backpack):
Canon EOS 5D Mk II camera (easy to use for video), Canon 24-105 EF-L IS lens (great overall lens for video), Passports, money, external hard drives , cellphones, wallets, snacks, water bottle, change of clothes and dopp kit
#5.Checked Bag – Very Large Rolling Pelican Case (DP):
Gitzo 320 tripod w/ Micro-D ball head, Profoto B1 (#2) , Pocket Wizards, flash adaptor rings, Wescott Ice light and charger, Canon 500mm f/4 EF-L IS lens , walkie talkies, Canon Tele-Extender EF 2X III , Right Angle Finder, Bean bag, Extension tube , Soft boxes, reflectors, More battery chargers , Tenba or backpack shoot bag , plus plastic covers for everything
#6 Checked Bag – Large Rolling Pelican Case – Back Up Kit (Assistant)
Everything from the main kit not in #1 or #2 Case – plus Canon 1D-X camera, Leica 80mm f/1.4 R lens, Portable 4-track recorder, Headphones , ND Filters, More storage cards and batteries, Gaffer tape
#7. Checked Bag – Rolling Pelican Case:
DJI Phantom 4 Pro Version 2.0 + drone, controller, ND filters, spare batteries, and chargers, Chamois, More clothes, including rain jackets and pants
#8 Checked Bag – Rolling Cooler (Optional):
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 ball head, Filson Dry Duffel Bag
#9.Checked Bag – Large Rolling Pelican Case (Optional):
Complete video rig, shoulder mount, Marshall monitor with sun shield , Rode Blimp with Sennheiser shotgun microphone, etc.
III. SECOND KIT: BIGGER PRODUCTIONS
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:
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!
IV. THIRD KIT: 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):
Steady Cam and operator, Canon C300 cameras, 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, Canon EOS, Hasselblad V system, Fuji G617, Nikons IV. Budget
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 2X APO Extender (makes the 180 into an excellent 360mm APO)
Nikon lenses with character 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 28mm or an M rangefinder with a Leica 50mm lens. This is for pure seeing, shooting slowly and deliberately. Leica M-mount 18mm, 35mm, 90mm and 135mm lenses are also available as needed.
Note that there is back up redundancy throughout. After the shoot, the used 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 two hard drives. The 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.