by Roger N. Clark
Photographers often ask me about the photo gear I use. Here is what I use and recommend
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I push limits with my photography, so I do need excellent gear. Fortunately as of 2013-2014, two excellent cameras that surpass previous pro series cameras were introduced. This puts pro level gear within budgetary reach of many more people. I am a Canon user so I will be recommending gear that works with Canon cameras. Note that some gear works with other manufacturers, such as tripods, tripod heads, night photography tracking mounts, and 3rd party lenses, like the amazing Sigma 35 mm f/1.4 DG Art lens. In other cases, other manufacturers have equivalent lenses, like 300 mm f/2.8, or 300 mm f/4 lenses also with great performance.
Advanced amateur and pro photographers usually want two cameras, so one can be a backup on an important photo trip. Currently my three cameras I commonly use are:
Canon EOS 90D DSLR Camera,
Canon EOS R5 Mirrorless Digital Camera, which also has great 4K video, and
Canon EOS 6D Mark II DSLR Camera.
The key to the above cameras are:
My previous cameras, which are still excellent thatI used I use are a Canon 6D, full frame 20 megapixels, and a Canon 7D Mark II APS C crop camera.
The Canon 6D is excellent for wide angle landscapes, superb at low light
and night photography, and the center autofocus point provides
excellent response in tracking action.
Canon EOS 6D DSLR Camera at B&H Photo
Read my review of the Canon 6D sensor here.
The Canon 7D Mark II is the new pro level action camera that is also
a great astrophotography and low light camera. It tracks action similar
to Canon pro level 1D series cameras.
Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR Camera at B&H Photo
Read my review of the Canon 7D Mark II sensor here.
The combination of the Canon 6D and Canon 7D Mark II provide a formidable combination able to tackle just about any photographic situation given appropriate lenses.
You need fast memory cards for these cameras. I use only 32 GB and larger, and mix both Lexar and Sandisk (both have proven to be excellent products in extreme conditions for me).
64GB Professional 1066x Compact Flash Memory Card (UDMA 7)
32GB Professional 1066x Compact Flash Memory Card (UDMA 7, 2-Pack)
32GB Professional 1066x Compact Flash Memory Card (UDMA 7)
32GB Extreme Pro CompactFlash Memory Card (160MB/s)
64GB Extreme Pro CompactFlash Memory Card (160MB/s)
SD Memory Cards for the Canon 6D:
64GB Extreme UHS-I Speed Class 3 SDHC Memory Card (Class 10)
64GB SDXC Memory Card Extreme Pro Class 10 UHS-I
Batteries for the above cameras:
LP-E6N Lithium-Ion Battery Pack
The Canon 300 mm f/2.8 L IS version II is amazing on wildlife action,
birds in flight, and astrophotography lens. It has faster autofocus than
the larger telephotos and with the 7D Mark II, the reach is better than
could be done with 1D series pro cameras and 500+ mm lenses of just
a few years ago, and with better autofocus capability. This lens is my
preferred lens for wildlife action, birds in flight, and deep sky astrophotography.
The 300 f/2.8 plus 2x teleconverter and the 7D Mark II gives an angular
pixel size of just 1.4 arc-seconds (the size of a 1 mm spot at 206 meters distance;
that is 1/25 of an inch at distance of over 2 football fields).
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens at B&H Photo
The Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II USM Lens is impressively sharp, very fast autofocus, and fast f-ratio for low light work. It is excellent for astrophotos wide open with excellent star images. The lens takes teleconverters well. EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens
The Canon 70-200 f/4 L IS is a great small telephoto. I elected the f/4 version
instead of the f/2.8 version when I want to travel light because of its low weight and and less bulk
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Lens at B&H Photo
The Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS lens is my all-around wide to short telephoto lens.
If I am on a trip and can carry only one lens, this is the lens I take.
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens at B&H Photo
The Sigma 35 mm f/1.4 DG Art lens is the top lens for low light wide field photography.
It is my choice for nightscapes as well as indoor people photography and
other low light situations. It performs well on both the Canon 6D and 7D Mark II.
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras at B&H Photo
24 mm f/1.4: all lenses I have tested in this category have some aberrations toward the edges and corners. The Sigma Art lens is pretty good and I use it for low light work when I need a little wider field of view. It is great for meteors and aurora too. Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF DSLR Cameras
When I want a telephoto and still travel light, I use a 300 f/4 L IS lens. The 300 f/4 L IS telephoto is an excellent starter lens for beginning as well as advanced wildlife photography. Combined with the 7D Mark II gives one a powerful combination enabling pro level wildlife, and action images to be made in many situations. Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM Lens at B&H Photo
Canon Extender EF 1.4X III at B&H Photo
Canon Extender EF 2X III at B&H Photo
I also have a Canon 500 mm f/4 L IS, and recommend the version II. The 500 mm with
a 2x TC and the 7D Mark II would give an angular pixel size of an amazing
0.84 arc-seconds per pixel. However, at angular pixel sizes nearing 1 arc-second,
the atmosphere is rarely stable enough to take advantage of such
extreme magnifications, whether wildlife action at a distance, or astrophotography.
For this reason I prefer the faster and lighter 300 f/2.8 (faster f/ratio and faster autofocus) most of the time.
If you want a 500 f/4 telephoto, order it here:
Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens at B&H Photo
Other great astrophotography and low light lenses that I use are:
Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM Lens
Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
For wider lenses, I use the Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Lens but usually I just do a mosaic.
Tripods, Tripod Heads, and Tracking Mounts
For wide field nightscape and astrophotography I use two tracking mounts to track the stars: and iOptron SkyTracker, and an Astrotrac.
iOptron SkyTracker Camera Mount with Polar Scope (Black) at B&H Photo
Astrotrac (best to do a google search to find retailers and availability).
Gitzo Carbon Fiber (CF) Tripods. My Gitzo CF tripods have served me for for well over a decade with no issues. I use my gear in extreme environments, from rain, wind, snow, salt water, deserts, to the dusty Serengeti. Here are the current equivalent Gitzo CF tripods to my now out-of-production G1228 and G1325 tripods. If you can find good quality used G1228 and G1325 tripods, they should serve you well for many years. For similar performing new tripods, see these models:
For landscape photography and light telephoto work, e.g. with a 300 mm f/2.8 and Wimberley sidekick, as will as wide field astrophotography with the iOptron, the Gitzo GT1542T and GT1544T are excellent (a little lighter than the older G1228): GT1542T Series 1 Traveler 6x Carbon Fiber 4-Section Tripod w/ G-Lock and GT1544T Series 1 Traveler 6x Carbon Fiber 4-Section Tripod
The Gitzo 2542 and 2543L have a little more capability but weigh a little more than the G1228. It is an excellent all-around tripod in between the older G1228 and G1325. Be sure they will fit in your suitcase if you intend to travel with these tripods. GT2542 Mountaineer Series 2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and GT2543L Mountaineer Series 2 Carbon Fiber Tripod (Long)
Tripod heads: Arca Swiss MonoBall for the small tripod, the new model: Monoball Z1 sp (Single Pan) Ballhead with 3/8" Screw - Supports 130 lb (59 kg)
The ball head needs a clamp. I use Wimberley clamps (Arca-Swiss compatible): C-12 Quick Release Clamp (2.5", 6.4 cm Long)
Wimberley gimbal mount on the Gitzo 1325 for long telephoto work. Note, I mostly hand hold the 300 f/2.8 when doing wildlife action and birds in flight. In a safari vehicle, I hand hold or use a beanbag. WH-200 Gimbal Tripod Head II with Quick Release Base
Flash bracket system for the Wimberley head: F-9 Flash Bracket for Wimberley Head Version II
An alternative to the full Wimberley gimbal mount for lighter telephoto lenses is the Wimberley sidekick, which fits nicely in a ball head to give gimbal-type performance. I use the sidekick with 300 f/2.8 lenses and smaller. I would not recommend it for larger lenses. Arca Sidekick Ball to Gimbal Head Adapter
Safarisack 4.2 Beanbag Camera Support (Black) at B&H Photo
Poly Bead Fill for SafariSack 4.2
Carrying your Gear
To carry all my gear, I use a lightweight photo backpack. Personally, I want the lightest backpack that protects my gear and will easily carry all of it, up to 500 mm f/4. It also must be carry-on legal on airlines. I would also like a computer slot for carrying a small laptop. My ideal photo backpack does not exist. An important consideration in my opinion in a backpack is can the big telephoto with camera on, extender on and the lens hood on (so the camera is ready to shoot) fit in the backpack without disassembling the rig? Here is my current compromise. The Gura Gear Bataflae 32L will hold my 300 f/2.8 lens with the hood on, a 2x TC, and the 7D Mark II. When on a photo trip, like an African safari, or simpler trips to a National Park, one needs the gear ready to go but still protected. This works well for me:
Gura Gear Bataflae 32L Backpack (Black) or Bataflae 32L Backpack (Stone Green)
Some photo backpack options:
United Airline legal exterior: 14 x 9 x 22 inches (other airlines are similar); but this may change, check with your airline.
====================================================================================== Photo backpack internal camera space (inches): Lowepro Gura Gear Thinktank f-stop Lowepro Pro Runner 26L 32L StreetWalker Tilopa BC computrekker 450 AW HardDrive + XL Pro ICU plus AW (my previous bag) width 12.2 13 13 11.0 10.5 13 length 18.5 17 20 19.0 18 18.9 depth 6.7 7 7 6 6.5 5.3 weight (lbs) 5.94 4-4.9 4.2-5.3 3.6-4.6 6.01 6.06 United Airline NO Yes Yes Yes NO Yes Legal ======================================================================================
My take in searching for the ideal photo backpack: I really like the design of the f-stop, but the inside width is too small for my gear. I like the low weight of the thinktank, but the internal width is too small. I like the internal room of the lowepro, but not the weight. The Gura Gear 32L is ideal for internal space and low weight but does not have a slot for a laptop. If the laptop were put in a protective sleeve, it could be put in the main compartment of the Gura Gear 32L My Lowepro computrekker plus AW was my previous bag and was great except a little heavy (the zippers wore out after years of use traveling the world).
With the Gura Gear 32L, I use an separate simple padded laptop bag for my laptop.
When one has expensive photo gear, it is best to store it in a good safe. I do.
First Published November 30, 2014.
Last updated October 11, 2021.