John Doukas Photography
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John Doukas Photography Blog Page

Official Blog for John Doukas and John Doukas Photography. Talking about Photography, Life, and Food.

What's in my bag

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Recently on Instagram, I posted a photo of all the contents in my camera bag. For my small following it got more likes than usual. I was wondering if people would be interested in why I use what I use and so I hope you find this helpful. First things First

Whether I have a bag or not, I typically have a camera with me (please don't mug me!). Either I have a DSLR or my iPhone. In most circumstances I'd rather have a DSLR with me whenever I want to make a photo, but I'm somewhat normal and don't bring it with me everywhere. 

Firstly, why do I use a DSLR? I want quality and a wide range of flexibility. For now, I'm using a Canon 5D Mark 3 and love the quality of pictures it can produce. I've been a Canon boy ever since buying my first film SLR camera and have grown very comfortable with Canon through the years. Over the years I've periodically tried other brands but haven't liked how they feel in my hands, or have found the button layouts to be a bit odd. It's not to say I couldn't get used to them, but I'm happy with Canon. Plus, Canon stuff is among the best and is widely available. 

So why a 5D3? I am a firm believer in trying to get the best quality I can get my hands on and to make the best pictures I can. The full-frame sensor to me makes a huge difference. For a few years, ever since jumping to digital cameras, I used Canon Rebel cameras and models like the 30D up to the 50D. Being a nitpick, I could tell I was reaching the limits of the sensor sizes on those models. Basically I could see a wall of clarity I just couldn't get past. The lenses I had weren't exactly the best, but I could see differences in seeing what other photographers would create with a 5D or 1Ds Mark 2. 

Finally I was able to get a 5D Mark 2 and immediately I could see and feel a big difference in the overall picture quality, at least in terms of clarity. I loved that camera, despite a certain flaw it had. That flaw was it's autofocus system. The camera would focus well, in bright places, but it sucked if the lights dimmed. As a wedding photographer, this meant varied results and I couldn't trust it...but I made do. Eventually I sold the camera for a 6D, which is essentially the same camera but with better focusing. I could have gotten a Canon 7D, which was made to better photograph action and had a far superior autofocus than my 5D2, but it has the smaller sensor and I overall didn't like the subtle clarity difference. I'm a nitpick :)

I've gone full-frame and don't ever want to go back. What's full frame? In short, it's a larger sensor than many camera models. It's close to being the size of 35mm film. With film, the larger the film, the finer the detail can be made. Marketers use megapixels as a way to lure/sucker us in, but that's only have the equation. I won't go too into the technical stuff, you can google or YouTube "what is full frame?" Just walk away with the idea that having a larger sensor will generally afford your pictures to have better clarity.

Moving on from DSLR's, there's an emergence of mirrorless cameras, such as a Sony A7R I I. Those have become pretty popular and I have played with them only a bit. I'm considering jumping from Canon to Sony, but I'm held up. While the specs are amazing, I haven't yet seen pictures I like from the camera. Sony, in my opinion, the pictures look a bit unnatural to me. When digital cameras started becoming popular in the early 2000's, I didn't like the majority of them and much preferred the image quality of film. The digital images looks rather plasticy to me and often I've felt that with Sony. Once I saw a Canon DSLR look good, I jumped...at their entry level. So, for now, I'm sticking with Canon.

Lenses

There's a debate about quality versus convenience. Zoom lenses or prime/fixed lenses. For the longest time I used zoom lenses. First, it was a zoom lens that came with my camera and it did the job. Some pros I met used zoom lenses, albeit better/more expensive versions, and so I tried to follow their lead. But, I eventually ran into the same wall as I did with the camera...nitpicking about clarity. I stumbled upon a blog somewhere with a photographer talking about prime lenses. Simply put, he made the case that the cheapest prime lens would be sharper than many of the more expensive zoom lenses. So I gave the cheap lens a try, a Canon 50mm 1.8. It cost $95, which is cheap in photography. The lens was cheap plastic, but it could make some great photos. I must admit it took me getting used to not zooming with the lens, but having to move myself...but it opened me up to the reality that I shouldn't be planted in one spot. So, I eventually sold off most of my zoom lenses and bought up on prime lenses.

Another strong advantage I found with prime lenses is that they're faster with F stops. This allows further flexibility to photograph in darker situations. This matches up with wanting to be flexible. 

I still think there is a place for zooms. If you only want to carry one lens, they make sense. But, I've grown generally comfortable bringing a 40mm prime pancake. I can do group shots, portraits, and it's low profile. In fact, I get made fun of by some people because it looks tiny. Sometimes size doesn't matter ;) 

Accessorize 

Flashes, we don't need no stinking flashes! The 5D3 does not come with a built in flash. The camera is more expensive and misses a vital thing...or does it? A majority of the time, I would never use a built on flash, simply because it's in a bad location. They're better than nothing for when you do need it, but they can provide a deer in headlights look and I don't do that. Pros (trying to sound jokingly snooty) use off-camera lighting. For a portable light, I use a Canon flash or bigger studio strobes/flashes. This is a topic for another discussion, but I want light, but not on my camera.

For memory cards, I generally use Sandisk. When it comes to recording images, it's imperative to not mess around with cheap. I've tried a few cheap brands like Kingston and Patriot, but there have been critical moments where the card has failed or corrupted a large amount of images. With that, I don't do three strikes. First strike, your ass is out. I've even had that happen with Lexar brand cards, so I stick with Sandisk. They can cost a few dollars more, but they haven't failed me yet. What's more important than than ensuring your images are recorded properly? I've been trying out Samsung memory cards and they've been ok so far.

Triggers

For off camera lighting, you need to trigger them somehow. I do have hard wire connections, which can be helpful in crowded situations such as wedding receptions or parties. But generally wireless options are ideal. This brings radio signaled triggers. Pocket Wizard is a popular brand and for good reason. They're reliable and work well. They also cost a little more. For my Canon flashes, especially the 580ex2 models, Pocketwizards have been buggy due to a problem with the Canon flash. Namely, the flash doesn't always trigger and that's a killer flaw. I thought about buying newer models, but I came upon some cheap triggers on Amazon. The brand is Cowboy Studio and a set of them cost around $30. I figured it was a cheap gamble and it ended up paying off. They've been reliable and do the job.

Well, that's enough for now. Do let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below. Shalom!