My Gear – Part 2

by Anthony Morganti

Gear

This is Part 2 of me telling you about my gear. In Part 1 I talked about the camera bodies and lenses that I own — In this, Part 2, we’ll discuss some of my other gear. I try to explain why I choose to use the gear that I use and how I might use it.

Flashes

Nikon SB-910 Speedlight

This is one of the best speedlights ever made. It has an excellent refresh time, it has excellent build quality, is very reliable and of course it’s very powerful. This is such a great flash that I know of many Canon users that use this flash. Of course they can’t use it in TTL mode but they’re using it as off camera flash anyway.

 

Xit XTDF260N Elite Series Digital SLR Auto-Focus Power Zoom E-TTL Flash

I wanted a second flash but wasn’t very keen on spending all the cash to get a second SB910 so I decided to explore a cheaper aftermarket alternative. Everyone that blogged about inexpensive flashes were very enthusiastic about the Yongnuo line of flashes. I was going to get one of them but, at that time, they weren’t making a TTL version so I decided to get this flash. For less than $100 I found it to be a  great flash. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as good as my Nikon SB910 but the SB910 isn’t 6 times better either which is what the price difference might suggest.

The Xit flash works well and is reliable with a surprisingly fast refresh rate. My main complaint is with the battery door. It’s extremely flimsy and I must take great care when putting in batteries because the door can get broken off very easily in my opinion.

 

Sigma EM-140 DG Macro Ring Flash

I labored for a bit trying to choose a ring flash for my macro work. Why I decided to get the Sigma ring flash is because with it, you’re able to turn off half of the ring so you can simulate side lighting. Creatively, I thought I could take advantage of that feature but I must admit that to this point, I haven’t — mainly because I haven’t had a situation where I felt that I could have taken advantage of that feature.  All in all though, I like this flash and it works very well.

 

Tripods & Monopods

Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs

One of the problems I encounter living in Buffalo, New York, is that we don’t have a large camera store where I could go to see and touch product. Because of that, I’m forced to buy mail order — I’ve wasted more money on tripods than anything else. I’ve had some with the features I coveted but they were either too heavy or too flimsy. The one’s that were sturdy yet light generally didn’t have the features that I wanted. I finally found a tripod that provides for me in the way that I need it to. I don’t want a lot of leg sections because that takes a lot of time to undo and redo the individual leg clamps. This Vanguard has three leg sections with two clamps. The downside of that is the tripod isn’t very compact when folded closed. I can live with that. I also need a super sturdy tripod, this one is and because it’s carbon fiber, it’s doesn’t weigh as much as it looks like it should. Finally, I need a tripod that I could use for macro work. The legs on this tripod spray way out and the center column will tilt so it has what I need for macro work.

I mentioned one downside in that it isn’t very compact when folded up. Another is that despite being Carbon fiber, it’s relatively heavy but because it has the features that I covet, I can live with those two issues.

Vanguard SBH-250 Magnesium Ballhead

I wanted a ballhead for the tipod and I’m very happy with the SBH-250. The main thing when using ballheads is that when you clamp it down, it doesn’t move and the Vanguard SBH-250 holds steady and sure. I’m very happy with this ballhead.

 

SIRUI P-326 6 Section Carbon Fiber Monopod

I don’t often use a monopod but I can’t gush enough about my Sirui.  I read a review somewhere and as I recall, in the review, they mentioned that Sirui was a new company trying to make their mark in the market. It’s amazing that you can get a Carbon Fiber Monopod for less than $100 with the quality that you’d expect from a $300 monopod. You get that with the Siriui.

Vanguard SBH-100 Small Magnesium Alloy Ballhead

For my monopod, I chose to use the same ballhead that I’m using on my tripod, only smaller. I use the SBH-250 on my tripod and the SBH-100 on my monopod. Of course I mentioned that this is a great ballhead but additionally, it has the same baseplate so I don’t have to keep switching the baseplates off of my cameras as I switch from my tripod to my monopod.

 

Camera Bag

Domke 700-02A F-2 Bag

I mentioned that I’ve wasted a lot of money on tripods. I’ve also wasted a lot of cash on camera bags. I’ve settled on this Domke bag and couldn’t be happier. I do admit that my choices are limited to begin with because, for personal reasons, I won’t use leather. This Domke bag is waxwear canvas and very sturdy. The downside of this bag is that it comes with a padded insert that I think stinks. I purchased another one that I feel is better. Also, the strap isn’t padded so I bought a padded addition for the strap.

Despite those shortcomings, I love this bag. I can fit in my D800e with lens, two more lenses and my other camera body as well. Of course it has room for filters, filter holders, lens brushes etc.

Case Logic SLRC-206 SLR Camera and 15.4-Inch Laptop Backpack

I don’t actually toss this on my back and go out shooting. I mainly use it to take a large assortment of camera equipment and my laptop when I go on a trip. It’s heavily padded and the equipment is easily accessed so it works for me.

 

Memory Cards

Lexar Professional Memory Cards

I’ve had a lot of problems with memory card data loss until I switched to Lexar Professional Cards. They may cost a bit more but in my opinion, they’re worth it. I’ve yet to have a problem with one of these cards (knock on wood).

 

Filters

B+W Circular Polarizer

I use a lot of different brand filters but when it comes to Circular Polarizers, I use B+W exclusively. They simply work great — minimize lens flare, no color shifts. They cost a bit more but again, I believe they’re worth the extra cost.

The other filters I use are ND filters and I have a large assortment made by various manufacturers including B+W, Formatt Hitech and Lee.  I use round B+W filters and square filters from the other manufactures. The main issue you should be concerned about when using ND filters is color shift and I’ve found that those three manufactures make quality filters with little or no color shift.

 

Flash Triggers

PocketWizard Plus X Radio Trigger with 10 Channels

In my opinion, PocketWizard make the best triggers. I believe the Plus X is their cheapest model but it works great and I recommend it highly. If you need triggers for zones and more elaborate lighting setups, one of their more expensive models will fill the bill.

 

Studio Lighting

 

Elinchrom EL 20852KIT D-LITE RX 4/4 Kit with Stands

I don’t have a studio and I rarely shoot in a studio setting. For the few times I need it, I require a setup that is transportable yet affordable. This Elinchrom setup fits the bill and it works well.

 

Cleaning

 

Nikon 7072 Lens Pen Cleaning System

For cleaning my lenses, I use the Nikon 7072 lens cleaning system and Nikon Moist Lens Cleaner Cloths. Don’t let the fact that they’re Nikon branded product dissuade you from using them if you allegiance is with a different manufacturer. These are excellent, and work great.

I use the large Giottos AA1900 Rocket Air Blaster to dust off my lenses and cameras and finally, I use the Copperhill Sensor Cleaning Kit to clean the image sensors on my cameras.

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Well, that’s it — that’s my gear. Remember, don’t use what I use just because I use it. What works for me may not work for you. Hopefully you have a larger camera store near you so that you could actually see and touch the product you’re interested in. If that were the case for me here in Buffalo, I wouldn’t have purchased so many tripods and probably could have been able to afford a Lamborghini today 🙂