As I myself enjoy reading about and seeing photos of what equipment other people use when for spotting, I decided to share what’s in my camera bag with you as well.
The below is, by no means, supposed to be a the “best” or “must-have” kit, but rather just a peek into what equipment I use to document my trips and airport visits. Also, the article doesn’t talk about the tripods I use. If you are interested in that, check my article looking at the best travel tripods under $100.
In the end, the equipment are just tools that help us enjoy what we love – aircraft. Whether it is iPhone’s built in camera or the latest DSLR. In fact, I had photos taken by an iPhone published in a magazine before, and I have taken photos with my DSLR that even my mom would decline to call “beautiful.”
Anyways, let’s dive into the bag! …but first a disclosure.
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Until early last year, I was using only a DSLR and an iPhone, however, with my focus on flying increasing, I found the quality of the iPhone too low for some “trip report” shots, while the DSLR was too cumbersome. As such, I have purchased the Canon G7X compact camera.
With its 1” sensor and ability to shoot in RAW, it is more than sufficient for most of the shots I need for trip reports – whether it is shots of the crew, meals or wing shots.
In fact, for wing shots, in many cases, I find it better than the DSLR due to its smaller lens diameter and thus easier ability to avoid dirty and scratched spots of the window.
Now, an updated “Mark II” version of the camera is available.
Having purchased it in September 2016, the Canon 80D is currently my main DSLR body for both spotting, trip report photography, and other cases when I want the highest possible quality of output.
While I was contemplating buying a full frame sensor camera instead, I decided that at this point, I didn’t really have a need for the benefits of a full frame sensor. With the 100% viewfinder coverage, 7 fps continuous shooting and 45 focus points, it really is all that an enthusiast, blogger, and magazine contributor like me needs.
As for the camera’s resolution, it has 24 megapixels, but I stopped caring about the number of megapixels at 18 megapixels of my old Canon 550D, as in most cases it was more than enough.
This was my main body until I bought the 80D. Having only previously used the three-digit series, I had no problem using it. The image quality was good, and it served its purpose.
As such, I can only recommend it and by extension its successors such as the Canon 1300D (Rebel T6) for people just starting out or with a limited budget.
Currently, it stays at home most of the time. However, it serves as a back-up body on longer trips, and I also use it occasionally at locations where having only one body would mean changing lenses frequently.
My go-to lens for cabin shots, cockpit shots, as well as many shots unrelated to aviation when both my 18-55mm and G7X lenses are not wide enough. It is one of the most affordable ultra-wide-angle lenses out there, and for its price of less than 300 dollars offers an exceptional quality.
This lens came in a kit together with my 550D. Before I got the next lens, the “24-105L,” it was my primary all-around lens. While nowadays I use it minimally, I still keep it in my bag for the occasional time I need to shoot through a chainlink fence (for which it is ideal) or for the times when 18mm of the 10-18mm is too short and 24mm is too long.
Currently, this is my main spotting lens for spots where the taxiway is close to me, and so on. While the lens is considered to be one of the worse “L” lenses, I find it more than sufficient. The quality of course does not match the 70-200 that I write about below, but it is still a solid choice for the wide to medium focal range.
Simply said, my workhorse. I got this lens more than four years ago, and to date it is by far the best investment I made into photo equipment. I opted to go for the f/4 non-IS version, since I rarely shoot in situations where I would require the extra f-stops of the f/2.8 or the IS.
I got this external flash second hand before the first Iranian Skies & Cities tour as I thought it might be useful for cockpit shots. And indeed, it was. While a lot of the time it stays at home, it is part of my kit whenever I take special flights and expect to take a lot of cockpit, cabin, and crew photos. While my bodies have built in flash, the extra power, as well as the fact that it does not leave shadows on wide angle photos make it a useful tool.
All of the above and some other things such as extra batteries memory cards, and my laptop are housed in this low cost camera backpack. I mainly use it on my bigger trips, as it fits all of the equipment I need perfectly, and also has a laptop compartment which, for me, is a must.
On smaller spotting outings, etc., I just put the camera and lens(es) I need into individual padded pouches and take my regular backpack.
In the past, I used to use a larger (and much more expensive) LowePro backpack, however, nowadays that one almost never leaves the house. For less than 50 dollars, the Amazon bag is a steal.
Currently, the above equipment provides me with what I need for the purposes of this website, my personal photo collection, as well as magazine contributions. As such, I am not planning any major investments in cameras in the near future.
However, the one thing I occasionally wish for is longer reach. I am currently considering my options ranging from the fairly pricey updated 100-400mm lens all the way to a second hand Canon 1.4x teleconverter. Given that I do not think I will need it too often, I am leaning towards the cheaper options, but let’s see!
What is your favorite piece of photo equipment?
What do you store and carry your photo equipment in?
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