My Gear

I have decided that maintaining a “gear I use” list may be less helpful to others than I originally imagined. There is a risk of reinforcing the notion that photography  is about gear. It isn’t. Gear is not unimportant, but gear collecting for its own sake or a belief that the most important photography question are about gear can be unfortunate diversions from making photographs, which is the real point.

Contact me via the contact page or by email if you have questions or are interested in more information about my choices.  If you are looking for more information here about gear, there are a few useful resources:

  •  The DEALS page lists a lot of current specials on various sorts of photography equipment, along with links to site affiliates such as B&H
  • The ARTICLES page links to many of my posts that discuss gear.

Please do not misinterpret my recommendations as lists of The Very Best Photography Equipment That You Must Own. This is equipment that has served me well for the types of photography that I do, but different gear could be as good or better for your particular types of photography. For example:

  • If you are just getting started with DSLR photography, I would generally recommend that you not go out and buy this stuff just because it is on my list.
  • If your mix of photographic subjects is different than mine (which tend to be heavy on landscape and nature and night photography and some urban subjects, and light on portrait photography or event photography, etc.) then you might well want to look at other alternatives in some cases.
  • If you tend toward somewhat more “informal” photography – e.g. not using a tripod, etc. – then other gear might make more sense.
  • If you don’t print much or at all, some of what I have listed here could well be inappropriate for your needs, as it you quite likely don’t need full frame or expensive lenses.
  • If you have a predilection for another brand, that is fine with me – I’m not a brand bigot!
And, important point, gear is just gear. Perhaps because shopping for and buying gear is so much fun for some people (though not especially for me) or because many want to own the things that signify “photographer,” a lot of people seem to fetishize photographic equipment and focus on it more than on photography itself. Equipment is not unimportant, but it is certainly far from the most important thing when it comes to creating valuable, compelling, and beautiful photography. Avoid the Gear Lust malady, for which the primarily symptom includes being more enthusiastic about photographic equipment than about photographs. You might also find some useful information on the Tests & Reports page, where I link to a number of previous posts about equipment and other related topics.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | |LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

18 thoughts on “My Gear”

  1. Thank you Dan.

    I’ve been looking around your site and gaining fresh inspiration to get myself out into the Peak District of northern England.

    Thank you for the tip about a calibration tool. I’m one of the few I know who still use a CRT, in my case an AOC which has served well and is surprisingly consistent.
    Also I’ve added a 5D1 to my 40D and feel like I’m relearning photography. It’s the best purchase I’ve made to date and my 17-40 has come to life.


  2. Hi G Dan

    I’m used to your great advice on PhotoNet and am delighted to find your site; it’s excellent.

    You mention the possibility of a hard/software page and that would be interesting. My personal bogey is colour calibration and I still haven’t bought a tool yet.

    Thank you again for sharing your knowledge.

    Best wishes


    1. Hi, Jim: Glad you found the blog, and thanks for visiting and posting.

      There are some “hardware” reviews and reports at the blog. You can find a link to them at the very top of the page. (Actually, it goes to a page that includes many links but perhaps not all. The search function may turn up a few more.)

      I haven’t really reviewed software. That is an interesting idea, though so for when I have written about software I have focused more on how to use it than on comparisons. Regarding color calibrations… do get a calibration system. Even one of the inexpensive ones will do a pretty good job and without it you are pretty much reduced to making test prints, making “blind” adjustments, making more test prints, and repeating until it looks about right. Calibration isn’t a panacea – an image displayed via backlight on a screen is never really going to look exactly the same as an image printed on paper and illuminated from above. However, calibration can both get you a lot closer and make the monitors behavior much more consistent.


  3. Actually, I like the iMac display a great deal – though I understand that not everyone feels the same way. The dynamic range is greater on the reflective display and the blacks are deeper, which gives me a better sense of how things will look on the lustre paper I generally print on. I will say that one reason that this works well for me is that there is nothing to create reflections behind me in my work space.

    My feeling is that both types of displays have their issues, and in the end no display can really look like a paper print. The matte displays are also subject to reflections, though they occur as a general lessening of contrast across the display. The “glossy” displays are more subject to mirror-like reflections. It is probably best to use either in locations where ambient light and reflections can be controlled.

    The Dell is just about the cheapest flat panel I could find. It holds only menus and palettes, so that I can use the main screen for display of the photograph I am editing.

    I haven’t gotten on the SSD bandwagon yet, but I think your analysis is correct as to advantages and the price trends.

    Take care,


  4. I recently bought a 27″ NEC display (this one – to pair it with my souped-up MacBook Pro (souped up with RAM, a 100GB SSD drive for boot & applications, and a 1TB hard drive for data). The iMac is terrific, but the displays are unfortunately reflective (Mr Jobs is a stubborn man) but I suspect your main processing/softproofing etc is done on the Dell.

    The SSD make a big difference. I can’t wait for prices to come down and for capacities to go up. I think that as photogtaphers, we are in for interesting times in the next 3-5 years. I am expecting the next upgrade to 5DII to include a better AF system.

  5. Interesting point. I may either add that here eventually, or perhaps do a separate page with computer hardware/software. Here is a quick rundown for now:

    24″ iMac with plenty of RAM and several hard drives

    External 19″ Dell monitor to extend my work space

    Backup system that includes attached hard drives, additional drives elsewhere on the network, and off-site storage. (I keep three separate backups in addition to the original files.

    I’m a bit Photoshop user, so my workflow goes through Adobe Camera RAW to Photoshop. I’ve used Lightroom and eventually I’ll get it for certain specialized purposes.


  6. About the backpacking lens question, there is a whole page on just that topic here:

    I often do take two lenses on pack trips. In fact, I rarely take more than two for this, especially on the longer trips. My core lens is the EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS. 24mm is wide enough for almost everything and 105mm is OK. A little secret: on my recent week-long southern Sierra pack trip, every photo was made with that lens.

    In general, the second lens is the EF 17-40mm f/4. I first took this because I used to be more fond of super wide angle shots than I am these days, though I still find that perspective to be quite useful at times. In addition, it fits into the bottom of the chest-strap-carried Lowerpo Topload bag that carries my camera with the 24-105 attached, making for a relatively efficient carry.

    As things have evolved, I have become more interested in shooting with the 70-200, and I have taken that on a few pack trips (along with the other two lenses) when the distance wasn’t far, the terrain wasn’t too difficult, and when the main goal was photography. It is a great lens for the “intimate landscape” stuff and does provide a bit more reach. The downside is the size and somewhat the weight. I have to carry it in the main compartment of my pack, enclosed in a padded case, so it is less convenient and it takes up extra space.

    So, simple answer:

    1 lens – 24-105
    2 lenses – most likely the 24-105 plus the 17-40, though in the right situation the 70-200 might be preferable.
    3 lenses – all three of these.

    I can imagine certain special circumstances in which a different set might work.

  7. The color peaks about that same time here along the Wasatch Range, too. After that, it’s fun to follow the colors down into the valleys, then further south into southern UT. Zion NP in the autumn is one of the best places to shoot…after all the tourists have left.

    If you only had room in your backpack to take two lenses on your next Sierra adventure, which two would you bring?


  8. So true! Once a teacher, always a teacher. I’ll strive to become an honor student ;-)

    Another trip to the Sierra’s is time well spent. Do you know if the autumn colors have hit the higher elevations, yet? My first 2-wk pack trip into the Sierra’s was sponsored by a De Anza College geology professor way back in 1968. I was the youngest one in the group. The impact of that trip influenced my love of the outdoors and geology for the rest of my life.

    Enjoy your break from post-processing! I look forward to seeing the images you choose to put online.


  9. Hah! No… It will be a week or so before I’m back in the Sierra. I want to squeeze in at least one more pack trip this season, with this one focused entirely on photography. I may get one more after that if a group of my friends observe a tradition of trying to do a mid-October late-season trip. This week I’ve been working by way through a backlog of photographs from the past month of travel and making a number of prints. So I’m close to the computer and often looking for an excuse to do something other than post-processing for a few minutes.

    I’m actually a college faculty member, which probably does make me a salesman… in an academic sort of way.


  10. Your prompt answer tells me you’re probably not “schlepping” over the rugged Sierra peaks this afternoon. Thanks for the great response. Are you sure you weren’t as brilliant a salesman in a former life as you are a photographer these days? I’m sold.

    My camera/lens needs are varied. A couple of my main camera considerations are durability and weight. Would it be easy to haul on my back or in a bag? How well can it handle fine desert dust or freezing temperatures for my favorite time to shoot outdoors is when the weather is wild. My primary stomping grounds run from the redwood forests of Santa Cruz, east to the Rockies, and south to red-rock country. Landscape photography is my passion, though I’m told I do great portraits. Making, teaching, and shooting jewelry is my source of income.

    So, now that my camera research appears to finally be done, it’s time to focus on the lenses. I’ll have to read your posts on those this evening.

    Thanks again! I’m beyond excited to get a nice digital camera that will allow me to shoot clear images that are large enough to be printed and seen without the aid of a magnifying glass.


  11. Thanks for posting, Julie, and I’m glad to hear that someone finds this useful so soon after I posted it!

    About the 1DsIII v. 5D2 choice… For what I mostly do and for the ways I do it, the 5D2 actually makes more sense for me on a number of counts. This is not to say that the 5D2 is a better choice for everyone, nor that either of these cameras are necessarily better choices than others from Canon or other manufacturers. Here were some of the decision points for me:

    • Price – I do not automatically assume that the more expensive thing is going to be the better thing. The “betterness” is entirely relative to my circumstances. I will pay a premium for a product that offers important value to me, but only if it does that. For some photographers the feature set of the 1DsIII is just what they need, and for them the extra cost will be appropriate. For me and my photography the feature set does not offer added value, and some of the features would actually be negatives for me.
    • Weight/bulk – Since much of my photography is done while traveling on foot, and I regularly schlep gear over difficult Sierra passes to get into the back-country, I am very concerned with the weight and bulk of my gear. While a studio photographer might not worry about this, the added weight and bulk of the 1DsIII is a negative for me.
    • Image quality – In the end, both of these cameras can produce outstanding image quality that will stand up to large prints – any differences between them in this regard are likely to be inconsequential.
    • Durability – Certainly the 1-series bodies are built to a more durable standard than the 5D2 and other “lesser” bodies. But the question isn’t so much “which is the most solid body?” as much as it is “is the body I get going to hold up to my use?”. I’ve used a 5D and a 5D2 in relatively challenging situations, often carrying it in on the trail and using it in conditions including desert heat and dust, light snow and rain, ocean spray, and fog… and it has performed just fine.
    • Other features – The 1DsIII can do some things that the 5D2 cannot do, but once again the question is whether these added capabilities are worth the added cost, bulk, and weight for my photography. For example, the 1-series bodies can auto-focus at f/8, while other bodies like the 5D2 must have an aperture of at least f/5.6 – this means that I cannot use 2X teleconverters on my zooms and can’t even use the 1.4x on my 100-400. If I needed to use these TCs, this might be a deal breaker for me, but I don’t use them. The 1-series cameras have a more powerful auto-focus system – but once again, the AF system of the 5D2 works just fine for my photography.

    Again, let me emphasize that this isn’t so much about which camera is “better” in some generic sense – it is about which camera is “best” for my photography. The personal “what is best for me” question can have a wide range of answers, and I urge buyers to pay a lot of attention to their own particular needs – more so than to “best” recommendations.

    Hope that helps!


  12. Thank you SO much for creating this list! It’s very helpful. Since the world changed from film to digital, I’ve never had a “real” digital camera with quality lenses that have the capability to make my vision a reality. I’m researching equipment now…but with the prices I’m seeing for what I’d like…wow! If you have a moment, would you share with me why you chose a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Canon 5D over a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III? Thanks.

Join the discussion — leave a comment or question on this post.

Daily photographs, news, observations, and ideas about photography

Optimization WordPress Plugins & Solutions by W3 EDGE
%d bloggers like this: