One of the number one questions I receive from people is regarding the photography gear that I use to create my images (some of my personal favorites are above). While gear is clearly only part of the equation, gear choice and proper use can greatly improve a photographer's success. I learned this quickly in 2011 when I realized there were images I had a vision for that my gear would not let me achieve. This is particularly true in night photography, where lens choice and camera sensor play a large role in image quality. Quick disclaimer - the links to products here are affiliate links and do help support my ability to produce more (and better) images. Thanks for your support!
1. Camera: Sony a7RII - I switched from Nikon to Sony in late 2016 in the hopes of significantly reducing the weight of my camera equipment. While weight is not a factor for most landscape photographers, it is incredibly important to me due to the fact that the majority of my images are produced while on long backpacking trips into the wilderness or on mountain climbs. Additionally, I have found the image quality to be superior to any other camera I have used. The camera is also a joy to use. I no longer worry about blowing out highlights - the "zebras" on the digital viewfinder help me out with getting the correct exposure. There is no guessing needed! I love this camera. My only concern with it is the lack of really solid weather sealing, so I have to be careful while in the field if it is raining.
2. Wide angle lenses: My go-to for backpacking is the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8. I am absolutely in love with this lens. It produces incredible sunstars, has very little coma, weighs very little, and is quite small. It is great for landscapes and astro-photography. It is a very solid performer. As a bonus, the lens accepts a very compact filter system that weighs almost nothing and takes up very little space. More on that system later. I only wish this lens was a little wider.
For ultra wide angle shots, including astro-photography, I depend on the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G lens. This lens produces incredibly sharp wide-angle photographs in a very small package. The only down-side is that it only goes to f/4; however, with the sensor on the A7RII able to go up to 10,000 for night photography, this does not bother me much.
3. Mid-range prime: Sony 55mm FE f/1.8. This lens really has it all. It weighs almost nothing. It is sharper than any lens I have ever used. It is very small and compact. Paired with the Sony a7R2, this thing can produce stunning Milky Way images at 10s and ISO 10,000. Seriously.
4. Telephoto zoom: Sony FE 70-300. I love this lens. It is not perfect, but it excels at everything I need it to. I used to lug around a heavy 70-200 f/2.8 lens, which was incredible; however, I really love the added zoom ability of this lens as well as the significantly reduced weight. In addition, when mounted on the Sony a7r2, I can fit the camera and lens into my LowePro AW55 chest harness, which is usually how I carry my camera while hiking.
7. For the ultimate portrait lens, I decided to go with the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens. I will be providing a full review on this site soon about this lens and am planning a fun portrait project to highlight this lens' capability.
6. Tripod and Ballhead: I love my lightweight carbon fiber tripod (it is certainly not the lightest you can find, but it is also very solid and durable). My choice is the Feisol Tournament 3442 tripod paired with the Photo Clam Pro Gold II ballhead, which is amazingly light and has lots of awesome features.
6. Filters: I really enjoy the versatility and low weight of my Formatt Hitech 67mm aluminum filter holder and their Firecrest line-up. These are great for shooting waterfalls, lakes, etc. As a Formatt Hitech ambassador, I can say that these are some of the best filters in the world. They are very high quality and are built to last. You can use my ambassador code, "PAYNE10" at checkout for a 10% discount on filters and filter kits.
For a full listing of my gear and other accessories I use, visit this page. Thanks for reading!