What’s in my bag, what IS my bag, what is BEYOND my bag and what I want in my bag! An evolution…

The custom Timbuk2 bags get this tag…

Lots of photo blogs seem to have a list of all the things the photographer has in his or her bag.  I’m going to follow that pattern, but over time I’m going to expand it to cover my whole kit and use it as a working list for why I have the particular item, so if you see a link inside the description it will be to a post with the larger story about that piece of gear or some aspect of it.  Hopefully my thought process (or lack of it) on acquiring something will help you, even if that means you deciding to avoid the same purchase. You’ll also notice the term “bag” is a little bit of a cheat – I have three at the moment. It is situational. 😉

A couple notes – you’ll notice I’ve included links for places to buy many of these things (usually B&H).  This is done to help, not because I’m making any money from it.  It would be great to make money from this site, but at this point there is no ad or referral revenue coming from the site (or any kind of revenue, for that matter).  Also, you can keep track with the latest posts and reviews by following this blog, “liking” the Enthusiast Photographer Facebook page or following Enthusphoto on Twitter.

The body – Nikon D300s:  This replaced my Nikon D90 (which is still an extremely capable camera, and a terrific deal for what they are selling for used these days).  Lots of “latest technology” bullies on the internet will say you should have the latest thing, but I’m loving it!  It has the pro controls that put things like auto-focus modes, metering modes and more on switches instead of button combinations and menus.  It isn’t the latest sensor, but the D7000 would have cost enough that I couldn’t afford my Tamron 28-75, and that wouldn’t be much fun at all.  I’d rather be one generation back than have the latest body and be glass-poor.

The Lenses:

  • Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 (non-BIM):  (aka “the Tammy”):  This lens heightened my love of the D90 and D300s.  It is the older model without a built-in motor (“non-BIM”).  It delivers super sharp pictures in all kinds of light, and has terrific, contrasty colors.  If you can’t get to Nikon’s 28-70 f/2.8 or more recent 24-70 f/2.8 (which are around $1,000 and $1500 used, respectively) or don’t want to handle their pro-glass weight, this lens is a flat-out bargain at $300-$350 used.  The newer versions don’t seem to have the enthusiastic following this model does, but are still terrific bang-for-the-buck lenses.  I love the images it helps me capture so much it stays mounted on my camera 90% of the time.
  • Nikon 35mm f/1.8G:  For shooting in low light or creating shallow depth of field, this “prime” lens (i.e. fixed focal length, in this case 35mm) is a key part of the kit.  Think shooting by the light of only birthday candles or a nice, fuzzy background (“bokeh”) when you want to isolate your subject.  This is a really sharp lens, too.  If you want to see some f/1.8 handiwork, and the advantage it offers for shallow depth of field, check out my Touristy Photos post.  (Nikon 35 f/1.8 at B&H)
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.4G:  The probable successor to the 35mm.  Even better low-light performance and will work on a full-frame camera if I ever go that way.  I got an amazing deal on a used one, so I grabbed it.  Does everything the 35mm does but better – we’ll see if the 35mm stays in my bag.  I think everyone should have one or the other.
  • Tokina 11-16 f/2.8:  Shooting DX means wide angle is hard to achieve.  On Nikon, the 1.5X “crop factor” it means that the short end (28mm) of my 28-75 lens looks like a 42mm lens on an FX or film camera (sorta – it is really a “field of view” equivalent to 42mm, but that is a topic I inderstand but am hard-pressed to explain.)  The next shortest focal length in my bag (18mm on my 18-200) looks like 27mm, which is still too wide for the room I have to maneuver in some situations, plus it is a “slower” lens.  At 2.8 you have almost twice as much light to work with vs. the minimum aperture of the 18-200 at f/3.5 (and it gets worse as you zoom out). The Tokina 11-16 gives me a really wide field of view and a constant 2.8 aperture, so when I was in a bunch of old churches this summer during my vacation to Europe, I had lots of flexibility for zoom and light. (Tokina 11-16 at B&H)
  • Nikon 18-200 VRII f/3.5-5.6:  This lens has a huge zoom range, and delivers a lot of quality at the same time.  It isn’t as good in low light as my f/2.8 lenses or as sharp as my primes, but is really versatile and pretty much the perfect travel lens or what to take when you can only take one.  Not cheap, but does the work of a lot of lenses, and does it with a lot of quality.  The older VRI has the same stabilization.  It lacks the zoom lock which keeps the lens from creeping/zooming out while you’re carrying it around.  The lock is useful since my lens does creep, but it seems like the used price is well over $100 less for the VRI models.  That makes them a really good deal in my opinion…
  • Nikon 70-200 VR f/4:  Insanely sharp, reasonably fast constant aperture of f/4, snappy autofocus and a pound lighter than my old 80-200.  What’s not to like?  (other than the price tag, which is worth it…) (Nikon 70-200 f/4 at B&H)
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.8G:  This is the ultimate portrait lens for the Enthusiast Photographer.  It is affordable, even sharper than the f/1.4 version that is three times more expensive and still gives you awesome low-light performance and lovely backgrounds.  It isn’t a highly versatile lens – it is a little long to walk around with as a prime unless you’ve got some room to move and you need the low-light capability.  If I can get away with f/2.8, my Tamron is a much more flexible choice.  When I want to shoot portraits though…this is the lens. (Nikon 85mm f/1.8G at B&H)

The Bag(s):

  • Timbuk2 Laptop Messenger bag with Snoop Insert:  My do-everything bag.  It carries my latop, my camera and all the…stuff…I’d ever want with an amazing amount of grace and good looks.  I had it custom made, which was a lot of fun – you can do that, too.  The more I carry it, the more I like it.  So much to say I wrote two articles.
  • Timbuk2 Snoop Messenger:  My dedicated camera bag.  Lots of the features of the Laptop Messenger in a smaller package.  It means I don’t have to unpack my work stuff to go shooting.  I do not have a bag problem.  I don’t.
  • Think Tank Urban Disguise 60 v2:  (I really don’t have a bag problem – I have bag solutions!)  This bag swallows up everything.  Pretty much every bit of camera gear plus the ThinkPad, ThinkPad Tablet 2 and all my work gear.  Impressive.  Here’s my quick review.

The Rest:

  • 2 x 16GB Lexar Professional 400X SDHC memory cards (Class 10):  I trust Lexar as they have significant control over their chips and I have a better impression of their top-to-bottom quality in their product lines.  Their Pro series cards also come with their ImageRescue software which helps recovery files from a corrupted card (which I haven’t had happen) or a card accidentally erased and/or formatted (I’m pleading the 5th…).  For different reasons, memory and batteries seem like singularly bad places to cheap out.  If you lose a card, you’re going to be one unhappy Enthusiast Photographer, and the difference just isn’t that much these days. I got a two-pack at B&H.
  • 2 x 16GB Lexar 1000X CompactFlash cards (UDMA 7):  My D300s has one SD and of CF slot, which can do a variety of things: Mirror/backup, one holds RAW and one JPEG or one takes over when the other gets full.  I got a pair at B&H.
    What do more X’s get you?  Check out my post about the benefits of card speed.
  • Nikon SB-700 Flash:  Fairly inexpensive and very capable.  An Enthusiast Photographer flash if there ever was one.  More details later.
  • Singh-Ray variable filter:  This thing is so cool – it is Dial-a-light!  It is a polarizer, but also has the ability to darken from 2 stops to as much as 8 stops of light!  Why do you need it?  If you want to do the “silky water” thing, extending your shutter speed is often necessary.  It was also a big help in Charleston one morning when I couldn’t shoot in the direction I wanted to without overexposing big chunks of the sky (I was composing in the general direction of the rising sun) – I popped on the Sing-Ray, dialed up four stops and I was all set!  So cool…  (but, like most things cool, a little pricey…).  Check out some additional thoughts on Serious Amateur Photography.
  • 2 Extra Nikon EN-EL3e Batteries:  I have a total of three batteries.  Just like memory, if you don’t have batteries, you’re not shooting, so three doesn’t seem like too many.  And also like memory, it is a poor place to economize.  Knockoff batteries often have capacities lower than advertised (i.e. they don’t last as long as they should), have lower quality (they won’t last very long in your bag) or they don’t have good support.  Many have all three issues.  I have heard some anecdotal stories about SterlingTek being a good vendor.  But we’re just talking about three batteries, and the difference just isn’t that much.
  • Gitzo 2531 tripod:  It is hard to describe how much more I like this setup than my old Manfrotto 190XPROB and 322RC2 head.  I’m not saying the old setup wasn’t reasonable quality, especially for the money, but I can’t say it enough times: if you’re shooting from a tripod, invest in the best one you can afford.  That doesn’t mean you have to buy a Gitzo or RRS tripod – there are lots of very decent products coming from China these days – but it is hard to go wrong with either of these brands for any of their products.  Ball heads are a whole other world, too and a topic for another day.
  • SUNWAYFOTO XB-44 ball head:  I volunteered to review this head for SUNWAYFOTO, and I really like it.  Enough that I sold my Really Right Stuff BH-40 head…
  • Really Right Stuff L-bracket(s):  I have one of these Arca-Swiss-compatible tripod plates for each of my camera configurations (with and without the grip).  The big benefit of  giving you a really fast, easy, stable and secure way to attach your camera to your tripod and quicky remove it as well.  They also allow you a plate position to attach your camera in portrait or landscape mode, so you don’t have to use the less-stable and far less convenient drop notches when you want to shoot in vertical (portrait) orientation.  They are also a key component of my Black Rapid rig…
  • Black Rapid RS-7 Curve with my home-cooked Arca-compatibility setup and safety strap:  The Black Rapid changes how you carry your camera, making it less obtrusive, more comfortable and more ready to shoot.  You hear stories about cameras falling of of these, but I’m a firm believer that a massive majority of these are user errors.  If you’d like to have one and are worried, just use the same safety strap I use in my setup, attached to one of  the old camera loop mounts.  I’m pretty sure you’ll love it.
  • Nikon MH-19 Multi-Charger:  This thing will charge two batteries at once, which is great.  It has AC and DC cords, so I can charge on the plane or in a car.
  • Vello 10-pin cable release:  If you shoot off a tripod, you should get one of these (or a wireless equivalent).  You’ll love how much crisper everything gets.  Nikon charges big money for these things, and while there are places where I definitely believe in sticking with the original manufacturer or high quality provider (Lexar, etc.), the remote isn’t one of those situations.  Under $10 vs. $60 for the Nikon-brand…
  • Tiffen Filter case with my three Circular Polarizers: – a Hoya Pro1 Digital 77mm for the 80-200, a B+W 72e Slim polarizer for the 18-200 and a B+W F-Pro for the Tammy.  The case has four slots, so the free one is used for the UV filter I pull off the lens to use the polarizer.
  • Purosol Lens Cleaner with a MF cloth:  I’m not exactly blown away here.  The cleaner doesn’t seem to wipe away very cleanly.  I generally seem more successful when I breathe on a lens and use the cloth, but the included one is inconveniently small.
  • LensPens: To replace the Purosol cleaning, I picked up a couple LensPens while I was at CES.  These things are really, really cool.  One of those things you write off as a gimmick until you use one.  Then you’re hooked.  I have the Lens and Filter models (which just have slightly different heads – I got a package deal) as well as their new SideKick for tablets.
  • 12’x12″ low-nap MF cloth:  I swiped this from my own car-detailing kit for use on auto glass.  It isn’t the cheap, taller nap cloths you see at Sam’s Club, etc.  Those are terrible for glass  and often have small nuggets of melted nylon along the hem that will scratch whatever you’re cleaning with it.
  • Hex Wrenches:  the ones used to tighen the legs on my tripod, attach the head to the tripod and attach the L-bracket to my camera.  These are a pain in the butt to carry – until you need one.
  • Giotto Rocket Blower:  Cleaning is hard.  This makes it easier.  I use it when I’m trying to get rid of dust specks for product shoots, too…
  • Swiss Army Knife – Officer model:  A nice knife with a lot of functions.  Room for improvement – see the WANT list below.
  • Flashlight:  After my recent mini-adventure in the darkness, I threw a cheapie mini-light in my bag as a just-in-case until I can complete my research on a high quality light.  More coming here, too…

So that is it.  I’ll take pictures, add to the descriptions and even create whole posts on some of these items.  If you see one you’d like to hear more about, or are wondering why I don’t have something, shout out!

What do I WANT in my bag?

I’ll constrain this list to reasonable reality.  If there is anything I’ve learned about photography, there is always some other lens, another gadget or some kind of upgrade you want.  I’ve got three spawn, so I try to keep the list to a minimum.  I’m unsuccessful.

  • Fenix LD-20:  As mentioned earlier, I want a really bright, rugged, small light that takes AA batteries.  I’m still researching, but this looks like the safest bet so far.  I’m looking at the products from SUNWAYMAN as well..
  • Leatherman Curve TTi:  I like my Swiss Army Knife, but the Curve offers a much sharper and higher-quality cutting blade, a cutting tool for seat belts, cords, etc, the pliers and much better usability – I don’t like how the tools on the bottom of the Swiss Army knife stick  out from the middle.  It severely limits the usefulness of the flat-head screw drivers and the awl – the corkscrew is the only tool that makes sense there.  Lastly, all of the tools lock on the TTi, which is a much safer way to operate.  And it is manly cool.
  • Nikon D400:  I know I don’t need it, but I do want it.  I mean, what I’d really like to have is a D3s, but we’re staying real here…  I’ll be dreaming about what the D400 is…]
  • Filters:  I’d like to have a Graduated ND filter

What WAS in my bag?

As I move things out of my bag, this is the place to see what I thought of the “old” stuff…

  • Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 ED:  This was the “two-ring” version, a venerable but still-in-production pro-quality long zoom.  It used to be the pinnacle of the product line before the 80-200 AFS replaced it, followed later by the 70-200 VRI and VRII zooms. It delivers incredible optics, sharpness and low-light performance.  It feels like a piece of military hardware – you can tell this is made for professionals.  That is also code-talk for a big ol’ heavy lens, but it is completely worth it.  I’d buy this one over any long zoom from Tamron or Sigma.  If you can get one of the newer 70-200 f/2.8 lenses (which are both $1500 used) they are certainly better, but this thing is a steal for the money.  I loved it, but ultimately the weight lead me to the 70-200 f/4.
  • Flip UltraHD video camera:  Quick and easy video – surprisingly good.  At least it was until my son left it outside to get rained on… [UPDATE – after months of sitting in my office, my wife asked me to see if I could recover the video that was on the camera so we could throw it away.  I wasn’t optimistic.  When I put new batteries in it, it would power up briefly and then shut off.  I plugged it into my ThinkPad, pressed the power button and to my amazement it showed up on the desktop.  I copied all the movies, and since then it appears to work fine.  Sound and video are just as good as before.  Amazing…]
  • Nikon D90:  If there was ever a bargain for the Enthusiast Photographer, this camera is it.  As I write this, they are selling for around $400 used, about $350 less than a used D7000 that replaced it.  Sure the D7000 does pretty much everything better, but you can get a 35mm f/1.8 new or a used Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 for that difference and still have enough for a nice meal.

34 thoughts on “What’s in my bag, what IS my bag, what is BEYOND my bag and what I want in my bag! An evolution…

  1. Dude the d7k was in our virtual cart and as we hit buy i t turned out that it was no longer available. My heart frickin sank! It’s whatever because we ended up with a dd90 and two new lenses kinda like you said. So far sooooo great actually. The 35mm 1.8 is beast!

    • It sounds like a happy accident! Honestly, I covet a D7000 a lot, but I’m not stretching the limits of the D90, and the tripod setup is giving me more dividends than the D7K would. If I win the lottery, what I really want is whatever replaces the D300s (presumably the D400). After getting a chance to shoot the D4 a little at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) recently, I’d love to have one of those, too.

      For now, the D90 is great, and I’m don’t have to deal with the file sizes a 16MP+ camera is going to create…

  2. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your post about your bag. I am actually looking at the waxed canvas as well. I can’t decided between the large or medium. Did you get the large? Do you find it too big? Any suggestions or comments you can offer about the size would be really helpful. Thanks!

    • Ryan – thanks for stopping by Enthusiast Photographer, and I’m glad you enjoyed it! You might check out the reviews I wrote of the bag itself as well as the medium Snoop I bought later, but to net it out, I think the large bag is terrific if you’re carrying everything. For what I needed, the Large bag is really the deal. It is a bit overly-roomy when the Snoop insert isn’t in it, but the compression straps make that less of an issue. The Medium bag doesn’t hold too much extra – less roomy, and probably carries better day-to-day without the insert, so it might be a good fit for you if you don’t need the maximum. If you have any other questions, feel free to let me know – I’d be happy to take additional photos if you like! Cheers!

  3. Thanks for your reply. More pictures would be helpful. You can email them to me if you want. Thanks!
    The compression straps make a lot of sense actually. I didn’t think of that.
    I read the review of the bag too, very insightful. One question, do have any experience flying with it? I am wondering, if not fully loaded, if the airline would consider it carry-on piece or personal item (laptop, under the seat bag). Thanks again!

  4. Good job Lee.
    I’ve had all those lenses except for the Tokina.
    Keep shooting and have fun!
    Thanks for visiting my page.

    • Tom – I love the Tokina. It is my first really wide lens, and I’m amazed at what I’m capturing. It isn’t super-flexible since the zoom range is somewhat limited, but for baseball games and indoor shots, it is already proving itself an invaluable part of my bag!

      Thanks for swinging by Enthusiast Photographer!

  5. Pingback: Sunwayfoto DDH-02 and DT-01 Review | Enthusiast Photographer

  6. I’m new to your blog, but I like that you seem in a similar place to me! For your cheap flashlight, though, I have a cheap alternative. Costco…and I am so new to this site that I don’t know if you have one near you…sells a three pack of 200 lumen semi-tactical flashlights for only 19.95. I keep one in my bag all the time. I use it, which is to say used it once, to illuminate the foreground of one of my night time long exposures. I intend to continue using it because it worked very nicely. I’ve been trying to decide what kind of flash to get, too. I was thinking an SB-400 or maybe an off brand since I’m not sure how I want to use it. Anyway, thank you I look forward to looking over your site.

    • Jim: Thanks for stopping by Enthusiast Photographer, and thanks especially for turning my head back toward the blog!

      I got a couple small, inexpensive flashlights and they’ve been fine so far. If I find they aren’t up to what I’m doing, I’ll definitely check Costco out!

      Off-camera flash opens up a whole other world in photography. I’d highly recommend you check out Strobist, a site dedicated to flash photography.

      As for what flash itself, the SB-400 offers a lot more power and flexibility than the built-in flash, but if you think you’ll really want to test flash photography out, I’d either look for a used SB-600 (I’ve seen them well under $200 on Fredmiranda.com’s buy/sell board) or a new/used SB-700 (~$250+ used, $327 new at B&H). They give you even more power and far more flexibility for bouncing light, etc.

      Thanks again for visiting – I’ve put a lot of miles on the road in the last three months, so it is time to get back to posting! Visit often!

  7. Hello!
    Came across your blog (I am new to blogs) while researching the Nikon 70-200 f4. I have had the Nikon D7000 for a year now and have only begun to work successfully with Aperture, ISO, Shutter Speeds, Histograms and all that cool stuff. My glass includes the Nikon 35mm G, 50mm G, 85mm G, and 18-105mm. I shoot RAW in M and A modes, and touch up the photos in Lightroom 3. I believe I would classify myself as a beginning enthusiast. Much, much more to learn, and having fun for the fun of it. My current project is taking a photo a day for a year, practicing the various techniques that will result in good photography.

    I stepped up from the point-and-click to DSLR to get better photo quality. My main subjects are and will always be my four grandchildren, ages 4 to 9. I also love shooting barns, old farm machinery, stone walls and the like (don’t know how you would classify this type of photography).
    I have navigated your blog a little and will give it more attention in the coming days. What I am interested to hear more of is your use of the Nikon 70-200 f4 (read your article). Baseball is around the corner, and my grandsons will be providing me with action shots. They also play basketball. The 70-200 f4 has been referred to as glass for the “photography enthusiast.”

    Will this lens meet my needs for shooting outdoor sports? How about inside sports in gyms that are not always well-lit? Can’t afford the “professional” 70-200 f2.8 (I could buy 2 to 3 lens for that price) so I need to aim a little lower. You mention it is all about the glass and choosing the glass best for the shooting situation.

    Appreciate you weighing in with any thoughts and recommendations you have.



    • David – first of all, thanks for visiting Enthusiast Photographer! You’re exactly the kind of person I hope this blog helps, and I’m always gratified to have comments and inquiries.

      If you haven’t already, I’d check out Scott Kelby’s “Digital Photography” series (there are four books, first three are sold as a set, and are plenty) as well as Bryan Peterson’s “Undertanding Exposure” – these books are my go-to recommendation for any enthusiasts looking to advance their understanding and skills. Scott’s books have several sections on shooting sports.

      You like to shoot some of the same things I do, too. It is semi-landscape but ultimately I wind up shooting a lot of what I call “texture” – the little details that catch your eye. When I was on trips to Asia and Europe this summer, those texture shots were my favorites and really help me re-live the experience and communicate it to friends and family.

      It also seems like you’ve got a really nice kit of glass, fairly similar to mine (other than I don’t have a 50mm and have the 18-200 instead of the 18-105), but you dont’ have anything on the long end, so it is pretty natural to look a the 70-200 f/4. I have had this lens for six weeks or so, and I love it. It is so much lighter than my old 80-200 f/2.8 and that keeps it in my bag. But it isn’t cheap, especially compared to the excellent 70-300 lenses from Nikon and Tamron. Unfortunately, if you’re shooting sports at night or indoors, they aren’t going to be great since they’ll be a stop “slower” (i.e. force you to shoot at smaller apertures like f/5.6) at the long end where you’re likely to live shooting from the stands or even the sidelines. Even though you’ll be shooting at high ISO, you’ll have to work to keep your shutter speeds up – VR won’t help with motion blur.

      I think the 70-200 f/4 would be a good choice since the D7000 gives you very nice images at higher ISO. If weight isn’t a big issue for you. the same money should get you a nice used 70-200 f/2.8 VRI, which is a terrific lens on a D7000 and gives you another stop of light – allowing you faster shutter speeds, lower ISO or a mix of both.

      This a tough call – it is a big investment. You might see if your local camera shop will rent you a 70-200 f/2.8 VRI and carry it around for a weekend. It is nearly a pound and a half more than the f/4, but for the same money it is a whole stop faster. If the weight is too much, the next step is the f/4 and I think it is a great all-around choice – relatively light, sharp and very reasonably fast.

      This was a long and sorta rambling response – please let me know if you still have some questions or additional thoughts. Thanks again for stopping by!

      • Thanks for the detailed response, Lee. Can I safely asume that the 70-200 f2.8 will cover both outdoors (day and night) and indoors sports more than adeuqtely? Should I be looking at a combination of other lenses to cover these venues and differing exposures? I know investing in good glass is paramount, and if the 70-200 f2.8 covers my needs and then some, it needs to be considered. However, I am concerned that it would be too much lens for the D7000. It is a “professional” lens. My goal is not to be a professional photographer, just one who who likes to capture life’s quality moments with great-looking photographs.

      • David – there are plenty of pros who carry the D7000, too! 🙂 “Pro” lenses tend to denote three things in my mind: Absolute performance, outstanding durability and a hefty price tag. I think both the 70-200 f/4 and the f/2.8 qualify under all those terms. While the f/4 doesn’t have the military-grade build my old 80-200 f/2.8 had and both 70-200 f/2.8’s have, it is still a very sturdy lens. All of these lenses give great performance and sharpness – no real tradeoff there other than f/2.8 vs. f/4. Also, the D7000 was a pretty big step forward for resolution, so there aren’t really any lenses that are too good for it. It rewards good glass (but that would describe both lenses 🙂 ).

        Believe me, there are plenty of amateurs/enthusiasts carrying “pro” f/2.8 glass, and yes I think you could safely assume it will cover day and night sports as well as you can on a D7000. I guess it just depends on what percentage of your shooting sports is and what your tolerance is for weight and the tradeoff of a stop of light. If you rent the 70-200 f/2.8, you can alternate shooting between f/2.8 and f/4 and see what it does to your images as well as get a sense for the weight of the thing. It isn’t double the f/4, but it ain’t far. For me, the heft literally and figuratively outweighed the value of the additional stop of light and I couldn’t be happier with the f/4. I guess my only hesitation in recommending it to you without reservation is I don’t shoot sports, and I’m not sure if that stop of light is critical enough on a D7000. I suspect you’d be fine, but it is worth some experimentation.

        The other option is to grab an f/4 and get out there and shoot. B&H has an excellent return policy, and I suspect you’ll wind up happy with it. It is designed for guys like us. 🙂

    • David – I’d be very happy if you did. Feel free to subscribe to the blog or follow on Facebook or Twitter.

      Also, I’ll be interested to know what you decide and how it turns out!

      • Hello, Lee.

        Enjoyed your Scrapyard Visit post.

        Been looking at another option. Before the Nikon 70-200 f4 came along, I had been looking into the Nikon 70-300 f4.5. Will spending the $800 + more for the 70-200 result in exceptionally better image quality over the 70-300 and provide more versatility of use? I expect to use this lens 33% of the time shooting sports. That $800 savings (by purchasing the 70-300) could buy a wide angle lens, which is missing from my bag.


      • David:

        I’ve heard the Tamron version of that lens is even more affordable (especially after a $100 mail-in rebate) and very nearly as good.
        Nikon: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=449088&is=USA&Q=&A=details
        Tamron: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/728343-REG/Tamron_AFA005NII700_SP_70_300mm_f_4_5_6_Di.html

        But here’s the “problem” – they are both variable aperture lenses. That means the farther out you zoom, the maximum aperture becomes smaller. At 300mm your fastest shutter speed will be half what it is at 70mm (or you’ll have to double your ISO). Shooting sports at night, it will be much tougher to keep your shutter speeds up, and you generally want to be well over 1/500 for sports.

        I’ve heard excellent things about both of the lenses above in terms of sharpness and value-for-money, though 300mm isn’t as big a jump as you might think (I found this on the web as an example: http://photographylife.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/FoV-difference-between-200mm-and-300mm.jpg).

        What is your longest lens now? You might go out one night and shoot it at f/5.6 one night just to see what kind of photos you get, what kind of ISO you’ll have to shoot at, etc. As you zoom farther out, you need faster shutter speeds to have sharp pictures, so it might not be a 100% accurate test, but should give you an idea. The other option is to rent one from a local camera shop.

        The “is it worth it?” debate is really tough. Shooting in decent light, the 70-300 lenses above are very good. Shooting sports escalates the demands on your entire system. Scott Kelby’s chapter on shooting sports is pretty amusing – it is titled “Shooting Sports Like a Pro: Better Bring Your Checkbook.” It boils down to how much you shoot that kind of thing at night (or indoors) and how important absolute quality and getting the shots in those situations is worth and what other priorities you have in your bag.

        You might consider keeping an eye out on the Buy/Sell board over at Fredmiranda.com (http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/board/10) – I’ve seen a couple copies of the 70-200 f/4 pass through there already at several hundred dollars below list. That saving is balanced against Nikon’s five year warranty for the original owner of a lens.

        I’m about as conflicted here are you are – any of the fixed-aperture zooms (f/4 or f/2.8) are big investments. The newer bodies are a lot better at higher ISO than my D300s, and if you aren’t printing at large size maybe the noise isn’t a big issue if you wind up with a 70-300 shooting at f/5.6. As I said earlier, it is probably worth some experimentation and maybe renting a couple of the options to see how it works for you.

        I hope all of that is of some use – I’m happy to be a sounding board if you have any more thoughts or questions. If you were local, I’d say come try out my f/4!


  8. Lee:

    First, thank you for recommending Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure. I have completed 50% of it and it has helped to validate that my past year’s learning curve with the D7000 is heading in the right direction. His “clutter-free” explanations coupled with real-world examples have shown me how to fine tune the exposure skills I have acquired so far.

    My longest lens right now is the Nikon 18-105. Last year in the spring I used it to shoot action shots (had more misses than hits) of my grandsons playing soccer and baseball. My shutter speed skills were still in the infant stages, not to mention using C and setting the focus to AF-C (so much to remember). Your comment: “But here’s the “problem” – they are both variable aperture lenses. That means the farther out you zoom, the maximum aperture becomes smaller. At 300mm your fastest shutter speed will be half what it is at 70mm (or you’ll have to double your ISO).” This is where I need more experience: that zooming out impacts aperture and shutter. I have read that there are zoom lenses that keep a constant aperture.

    I also have Kelby’s books, and have read the chapter (Book 1) on sports.

    Taking your advice and will do some night shooting as well as visit the local camera store to test some lenses. Will also d continue reading Bryan Peterson. I love all of this, I really do! Thanks for the help.

    Happy Easter!


    • David:

      I’m thrilled to be able to help! Glad you’re enjoying the books. Our conversation inspired me to re-read “Understanding Exposure”, and I’m getting some good reminders and learning a few things I missed the first time or two!

      The two expensive lenses we were first talking about (the 70-200 f/2.8 VRI and the 70-200 f/4) are both fixed aperture lenses (which is why they are expensive). What it means is you can keep a constant f/2.8 or f/4 no matter how far out you zoom (you can still set higher apertures, and they won’t be affected by zooming either).

      With the (less expensive) 70-300 lenses, they are f/4.5 on the short end, but the farther out you zoom, the higher the f/stop becomes. At the long end, you’re losing half the light (1 stop) vs. the f/4 lens and you have a quarter the light (two stops) vs. the f/2.8 lens. That means you’ll have to bump your ISO or cut your shutter speeds to get the correct exposure. When shooting sports at night or indoors, neither of those are attractive options.

      I borrowed a buddy’s 70-200 f/2.8 VRI, and I’m going to see if I can do some experimentation to see if I can come up with a more specific opinion/recommendation.

      Have a great Easter weekend!


  9. Hello, Lee.

    I recently saw your video comparing the two 70-200 Nikon lenses. The local camera store (which promotes Canon) did not have a 70-200 f/4 so I was unable to test drive it as I said in my previous post. After watching your recent video and reviewing your responses in previous posts, I have decided to get the 70-200 f/4.

    I also read your recent post on Japan and China in which you mentioned you were transitioning from Lightroom 3 to 4. I have been using Lightroom 3 for almost a year and have only in recent months been using it to fine tune my photos. I use Kelby’s book as my guide. I am hoping you can help me with an organizational concern I have.

    I chose to save my Lightroom photos to my E Drive instead of putting them in the My Photos on the C Drive. On the E Drive I created a folder Lightroom 3 Photos. In this folder I store my Lightroom photos. My Lightroom Catalog is also in this folder. I also dragged in a folder of Premiere Elements 7 photos.

    Upon reviewing Kelby ‘s chapter on organizing photos, I perhaps should have initially created a folder titled My Photos (on the E Drive) and then created the sub folder Lightroom 3 Photos within the E Drive My Photos.

    Is my organization ok or do I need to re-organize?



    • David:

      I actually grabbed my buddy’s 70-200 f/2.8 in order to get out one evening and shoot some basketball at a local gym. I’m hoping to get out thre one night in the next week or so.

      It is disappointing your local store doesn’t have the f/4 in stock, but if they have a f/2.8 that you can rent, you coul do the same thing I’m thinking about doing – go shoot and see what your f/2.8 shots look like, then shoot a while at f/4 and see what you get. We’ll see who gets a chance to get out there first! 🙂

      As for Lightroom, I was actually upgrading from Aperture 3 to Lightroom 4. My understanding is that Lightroom 4 will see and use the LR3 libraries when you upgrade. If you don’t have issues with how it is organized now, I think you’ll be fine when you upgrade. I just saw some videos of the beta for LR5, and they look really good!

      Thanks again for stopping by, and let me know if there is anything else I can help with. Cheers!


      • Why the move from Aperture to Lightroom? Is the difference worth the effort needed to make the transition?

        FWIW, I discovered your blog yesterday in researching ARCA. Adapters and found your hack to be very interesting, enought so that I’ve ordered up my own gear to do the same thing!


      • Art: Thanks for coming to visit Enthusiast Photographer! The Arca “hack” is the biggest draw to the blog, and I’ve really enjoyed mine. I think you’ll be pleased, too!.

        As far as the transition to Lightroom, mainly I’m moving from my wife’s Mac to my PC. Also, Aperture gets slower and slower all the time – I think LR might deal with large libraries better. I won’t bring everything over – just a few things. Ideally I’m going to locate my libraries on my NAS so I can access them directly in my house and anywhere via the web, too. Not sure when I’m going to do it, but I’m eventually going to figure it out. 🙂

        Visit often!

  10. How is your bag holding up? I’ve owned a Timbuk2 bag in the past and am looking to upgrade to their canvas. Do you like it? Did you ever make a video of it, or more pictures? Also, why colors of canvas did you choose? Thanks!

    • Jake:

      First – thanks very much for visiting Enthusiast Photographer! I hope you find it useful and come back often!

      The bag is holding up well overall. I’ve put this thing through a lot. It has been to Asia, it spent two weeks trekking around Europe, it went to the West Coast seven times in three months (not to mention a bunch of other flights) – for most of those trips it was jammed with multiple PC’s, a bunch of camera gear or both. Oh, and it went to work with me every day for over a year in between all of that.

      Lately, I’ve switched to a much lighter load for my daily bag, and I use the other Timbuk2 (the non-canvas Snoop) and my travel bag is something with wheels. My light carry bag is the Snoop and my full-gear bag is the ThinkTank Urban Disguise 60 because it deals with the lenses in my kit better.

      That leaves the canvas Timbuk2 in a bit of a in-between spot lately, but I know there will be trips when I need exactly what it offers – a bit of room for my PC gear and a decent amount of room in the Snoop insert for my camera stuff with a little room to spare. I’m planning another trip to Asia in a few weeks, and it may well be the bag I take with me since it more inconspicuous than the Urban Disguise (which might not look like a camera bag, but it looks like a SOMETHING bag).

      As for colors, I live in a corporate world. It isn’t super-stuffy, but I wanted something reasonably conservative with a dash of color/style. The black and olive waxed canvas allowed me to do that. I’m surprised they aren’t standard colors for Timbuk2.

      I will say it is pretty clear the canvas isn’t going to hold up as well as the ballistic nylon – that is just the nature of the materials, not a statement of Timbuk2’s quality.

      Thanks again for stopping by!


  11. Lee, thanks for getting back to me. Like yourself. It appears I may have hit the limits of Aperture as well. My primary libraries are in excess of 100GB and at that size it appears Aperture may be less than reliable. I spent the better part of last week rebuilding libraries that Aperture apparently corrupted wit the most recent update. While I was ultimately successful, it was an un-needed aggregation. Like many, I’ve been a long time Photoshop and Elements user. I my case, I’m also a Mac user as well and thought I’d give Aperture a try as it’s an intuitive step up from iPhoto. That being said, it’s probably enough for many, increasingly, it appears Aperture may no longer be the program I need.

    Again, thanks for your blog and for getting back to me as well.


    • Art – it sounds like we have Aperture for similar reasons and having similar problems. Where I liked the progression from iPhoto and the overall usability, Aperture has kinda hit the wall. As I said the my post, I think LR5 has now exceeded Aperture in capability if not outright ease of use. I guess my view now is that Lightroom gives me so much of what I’d use Photoshop is a more consistent and direct link to that program (and frankly, I try to stay out of Photoshop if at all possible). My wife uses iPhoto for the family stuff on the Mac. I do the serious photography stuff on the PC with LR4 and soon LR5. 🙂

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