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photo adventures with Ilya Fedorov

About Equipment

Quite often people would ask me what camera do I use to take my photos. And what camera to buy. The question is often asked in perception that camera defines the success of the shot. The reality is quite different,  so “it depends”.

Whatever you have been told about equipment, always do your own research, make one step at a time and experiment a lot. I found that it is cheaper to buy high quality, expensive gear from day one than to upgrade later.

Cameras

You can produce decent photos on almost any camera that has manual settings and it gets enough light to produce images without noise. Having camera with high light sensitivity (the larger the sensor the better) saves time and does bring extra details that would be lost with noise reduction otherwise.

Majority of pros would go for high end cameras in order to minimize time they spend for postprocessing – noise reduction, lens correction and a like. It is because they have to produce volumes of photos. For hobbyists it does not hurt to spend some extra time in Lightroom or Photoshop and to correct camera artifacts.

Contradiction is experienced photographers can take beautiful photos with almost any camera because they know limitation of the equipment they use. For beginers, despite temptation to start with cheaper camera, it may make sense to invest into something that is more forgiving to technical mistakes beginers are likely to do. In the end, we would like to enjoy learining photography, wouldn’t we?

I started off with fullframe Nikon D700 for that exact reason, and I never looked back. It is reasonably fast and does good in low light conditions. Meaning I could focus on what I would like to photograph and do not worry about technical limitations. That was a good investment and I still use it for 99% of my photos.

Lenses

My main three lenses are zooms to cover wide and tele range. There will be always camps of people advocating to use prime lenses (with fixed focal length) or zooms (the ones you can zoom in or out).

For beginers it is better to stick with zooms because they give more flexibility to frame the shot. After some time you will develop your style and it will define focal length that works for you best. Even then it may or may not makes sense to switch to primes, you will work it out yourself one day.

I have 3 lenses in my bag:

Nikkor 14-24mm – it is my favorite lens, I found that I tend to use it at 14mm more often than not. It is hard to figure out the composition at such a wide angle but if you nail it, the resutls are very rewarding.

Nikkor 24-70mm – that is probably the best Nikon midrange zoom – sharp at all settings and gives little or no distorsion.  Akwadly enough I do not use it often as I tend to opt for ultrawide angles.

Nikkor 80-200mm – this is an old telephoto lens, it costs 2 times cheaper than the latest Nikkor 70-200mm zoom, but gives around the same image quality. It is almost impossible to take a bad shot with this one. Just set it at 2.8 setting and fire away! Great for portraits and the cases when you need to “cut” a frame from a distant scene.

Tripod

Tripod is a must if you shoot in low light conditions like sunsets and sunrises. Otherwize there is no way you are going to get sharp photos. Sure you could crank up ISO, but with high ISO you will loose details and tonal range (number of different colors your camera can capture). The rule of thumb is to shoot on the lowest ISO available using tripod to stabilize the camera.

Besides image quality tripod allows you to do many interesting things like shooting long exposures to blur water or have traces of cars headlights or to take multiple exposures and do HDR later.

I use Really Right Stuff camera plate and ballhead – pretty expensive but of great quality, so I never need to pay for ballhead again.

Filters

I have Neutral Gray filter and Polarizer.

Neutral Gray is used to reduce amout of light coming towards camera. It is handy if you would like to take long exposures at daylight. I do not use it ofthen though.

Polarizer is a must have filter. It allows you to remove or emphasize reflections of water and some other reflective surfaces. Also it helps to saturate the sky for those daylight shots.