As a follow up to my most recent article about making a living using nothing more than an iPhone camera, I wanted to dig a little deeper into my entire gear setup. Yes, contrary to popular belief I do own more than just an iPhone, though as primarily a mobile photographer the limitation of the phone can be both a blessing and a curse. With just a few more pieces I have been able to absolutely perfect a minimalist photography setup for any all-around professional shooter.
I truly don't care what camera I use to produce an image. Whether that is for professional campaign work or my own personal hobby of shooting anything and everything I find of interest to me. I simply look to produce the best image possible, period. The tools I use to take that image are simply that, a tool. Yes, I do understand that a more professional level cameras offer greater dynamic range and adding the right lens can create sharper images with plenty of delicious bokeh. Let's get right into what I use and where I use it and how it works perfect for my needs.
Get What You Need, Not What You Want
I'll admit I have fantasized about grabbing the biggest and the best camera body and snatching up any prime lens that holds the fabled 1.2 aperture, but it's worthless in my mind. I will always hunt for the perfect setup that will create the best results for what I want every single time over what everyone else is using or what the industry finds the norm. I never let gear limit what or where I shoot, including a professional soccer game here in Indianapolis, example shot below. I shot this game using a single fast prime lens paired with a Canon 60D. My iPhone was my primary camera for speed as the client asked for shots to be edited and uploaded immediately while on the go. Using what I had you can see shooting through an Olloclip lens attachment was a simple way to bring something new to the look and feel of the teams page.
Starting out just four years ago, I used my iPhone to explore the world of photography and build upon that. I then moved into my first camera, a respectable Canon T3 and kit lens. It didn't take long before I found the limitations in this entry level cameras features, including poor ISO performance, lack of full white balance control, and sadly build quality. The lens was garbage so I grabbed a 50mm 1.4. I was fully aware of some of the T3's limitations but didn't quite understand that would hurt simple shooting in the long run. That brought me to the absolute perfect setup at very little cost starting out.
Getting to The Perfect DSLR Setup
I first picked up Canon for the overall feel and the ease of use in the interface, as well as knowing a handful of people that used Canon that were gracious enough to allow me to borrow and play with various lenses through my second and third years shooting. My father-in-law in particular had a strong hobby for photography as well as the money to back it. For years 2-3 I kept the borrowed 50 1.4 glued to my camera body while also using the iPhone as a very capable backup in wider situations.
Next up was the camera setup that has lasted me the just over a year and built a hobby and career I could have only dreamed about in those first three years. I held strong with my 60D even though urges and other pros were pushing me to the full frame market. I searched high and low for one lens to be the perfect all around lens. The Sigma 30 1.4 was perfection. With the surge in Sigma's lineup the last couple years especially in prime lenses it was the simple choice considering it was half the cost of the highly toted 35 1.4.
Pictured above is a setup I played with for a few weekends and it was a test of sorts to see what all the fuss was about while using the top end Canon gear on the market. In my workflow I found quite a few issues but overall these are incredibly capable options for any shooter but when it comes down to it they were just so far over priced for what I can get for a fraction of the cost in a mid range DSLR and solid lens option I mentioned before. For me many factors go into play with selecting the perfect setup. A few things I look for are listed below.
- Image Quality
- User Interface/ Functionality
Some of these might seem generic but overall cost plays a huge factor in any photographer whether starting out or going full time freelance. You don't want to go too far and lose money in your investment while you also don't want to fall behind and grab cheap gear. Image quality is always a discussion and one I feel is strong with many camera systems. Right now I find micro 4/3 through full frame to be solid and fully capable sensor sizes for great image quality but with the right app you can create outstandingly sharp shots with a solid smartphone. Overall look, feel, and functionality need to be easily understood and accessible to me when I need it without question. Weight is at the bottom of this list but don't count it less important than the first three. When creating the perfect kit you want to be sure it won't weigh you down when on the go especially for travel or long shoot days.
iPhone is Still King
This last year has been by far my most successful and most freeing creatively thanks to limiting my options in lenses, and sticking with my trusty, and highly capable, older camera body. I can't stress enough though the most important tool in my kit, and the camera I use more professionally than any other, is my iPhone. People always ask me what camera equipment I use, or how many lenses I have as if I will quickly answer with this huge list of fancy and expensive camera gear. I am far from rich and a realist when it comes to what I can afford and should purchase when it comes to photography.
The gear I have to compliment my iPhone include two Moment lenses, a 60mm and 18mm, which in my opinion are the best mobile lenses on the market. On top of that I have added a Joby tripod and an Anker portable charger since my camera just happens to also be my most used device for editing, email, texting, calling, and so on. This setup is what I have on me everywhere I go and has easily trumped the DSLR setup in my mind for most of my shoots.
The limitation in gear overall has helped me become a better photographer and produce the best work possible for myself and my clients. What do you think? Do I have too little gear? Too much? Have you found that less gear has produced far better results in the end with creating a vision for a project?