Matt Payne's Photography Gear

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. Sony a7RIV - 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 61 megapixels allows me to print at staggering sizes and allows for creative cropping to refine my compositions. 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. If you want to use an awesome tool for determining the weight of your gear, check out the tool I built.


1. Wide angle lens: For ultra wide angle shots, including astro-photography, I depend on the Sigma 14-24 f/2.8 DG DN Art lens. This lens produces incredibly sharp wide-angle photographs in a small and lightweight package. It is manual focus only but has a very short minimum focus distance coupled with f/2.8 speed which makes it a very fun and creative lens for astro-photography and close-up wide-angle work.

Rising from the Ashes

2. 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 a7RIV, this thing can produce stunning Milky Way images at 10s and ISO 10,000.

Autumn Nights (2019)

3. Mid-range zoom: Sony FE 24-105. This lens is shockingly good. I was skeptical at first when I got this lens; however, I have never had any problems using this lens for landscape work. Its quite sharp and the 24-105 focal range makes it a very versatile weapon in my arsenal of lenses. I really enjoy this lens.

The Castles in Autumn (2019)

4. Telephoto zoom: Sony FE 100-400. I love this lens. It is a great combo when used with the Sony 24-105. With these two lenses, I can cover 90% of my photography needs with just two lenses.

Evening Trees in a Winter Yosemite (2020)


For my photography backpack system I have come to fall in love with the Shimoda Action X50 backpack. I provided an extensive review of this backpack earlier in 2019 and really do think its the best system you can get if you are a nature or landscape photographer that spends any time hiking or doing long adventures. Your shoulders will thank you for getting this set-up! You can also save 10% of any Shimoda gear using this link and the code "Payne10" at checkout.


For my style of landscape photography I needed a tripod and ballhead that finds the sweet spot between weight and stability. I do a ton of backpacking for long distances but also use a heavy lens (Sony 100-400), so finding a set-up that works well for me was really important and quite tricky! I am really lucky to work with the folks over at Fotopro - they provided me with a customized and engraved tripod and ballhead that meets my needs perfectly. It's not the world's lightest tripod, but the operation is quite smooth and the stability is fantastic. I really love the removeable center column (as it reduced weight further), and the ballhead is quite easy to use and quite stable. I use the TL-64C Global Elite Photographer version which includes the ballhead. You can check out their awesome tripods and ballheads here and if you use the code "PAYNE15" at checkout you will get a 15% discount as well.

Have any questions about my gear? Let me know!