This article covers which cameras, lenses, storage and backup I use and recommend.
Which camera do you use? It has been a recurrent question to which I always reply variation of the following: it doesn’t depend on the camera, but more on the lenses, the camera settings and the post-processing. And more importantly, of course, the weather condition, the time of the day, the framing and the place. But of course, I have my preferences so here are my advice. Please keep in mind that this advice is in the spirit of Totoro Times photography and therefore my very own opinions.
Camera & Lenses
I wouldn’t recommend to go for a little (crop) DSLR camera with this budget. Lenses will always have to be added, you will end-up with more and more gear of average quality. However, many photographers would probably tell you that it is fine to start. I love quality and I don’t like to waste my money so I would go for gear that really worth it. I myself lost money by buying/trying cheap lenses but to be honest, I almost didn’t lose anything by getting very good ones, they are investments. So for less than 1,000$, my advice is simple. Invest in a smartphone with a good camera (Galaxy S6, iPhone 6) or, if you really like to have a stand-alone camera, get something like the Canon PowerShot SX700 HS. You will not be disappointed, especially for the price.
Serious (1,000$ ~ 3,000$)
That’s where comes the Micro Four-Third cameras. I personally love the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and it is 70% cheaper than a Pro DSLR with, often, equivalent results! The lenses are cheaper, the body is small, it focus extremely fast and well, easy to use and convenient. I know many people who sold their expensive gear for a little OM-D. Anything bad about it? Well, the images aren’t as pixel-perfect as a Pro DSLR, a lot more distortion in wide shots, less dynamic range… but don’t think too much about it.
OM-D E-M5 Mark II 940$ used ~ 1,099$ new
Zuiko 12mm f/2.0 799$ new
Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 429$ used ~ 548$ new
My favorite lens with the OM-D for landscape and ruins is the Olympus M. Zuiko 12mm f/2.0. Small, sharp, perfect contrasts and colors. Then, for close-up, the Panasonic Leica 25mm F1.4 is a perfect choice.
The OM-D and the lenses are easy to sell as well. Just take care of your gear and they will just cost you a very small rental fee 🙂
Pro (> 3,500$)
I felt in love with the Nikon D800 then the Nikon D810. The reason why I choose Nikon is the amazing dynamic range this brand can deliver. This camera is a beast, and the set below the best I have experienced for landscapes and night photography.
Nikon D810 2,400$ used ~ 2,990$ new
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 1,400$ used ~ 1,990$ new
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 900$ used ~ 1,890$ new
My favorite lens for landscapes is also a Nikon: the famous 14-24mm f/2.8. It is an ultra-wide lens with acceptable distortion, clear and sharp everywhere. This combination allows you to take a lot of details in only one shot. The images are simply spectacular.
Wide shots are awesome but sometimes you’ll want to isolate something particular, might it be a bunch of trees, a flower, or a forgotten scary doll. In that case, I would recommend the 24-70mm f/2.8.
This gear is expensive but don’t forget: if it is maintained perfectly, you can sell it easily two or three years later for 70-80% of the original price.
What about Canon?
What about Canon then, you might ask? I was actually previously a Canon user. I owned a Canon 7D and loved it with the 17-55mm lens! As of today, I prefer Nikon because I shoot mostly landscapes. However, if I was more into portraits, I would go for Canon. Also, Canon has a fantastic macro lens called the MP-E 65 which I would also definitely get. Here is my dream set for Canon, for portraits and macro.
Canon 5D Mark III 1,900$ used ~ 3,099$ new
Canon 85mm f/1.2 1,649$ used ~ 1,999$ new
Canon MP-E 65mm 800$ used ~ 1,049$ new
If you plan to shoot landscapes, ruins or night views then a tripod is more than mandatory. Also, I like to use ND gradual filters and PL filters.
Honestly, when I hike a mountain or explore an abandoned place, I don’t want to have my heavy camera constantly swinging around my neck. I tried a few straps but none of them were really good. However, the BlackRapid Strap did it for me. It’s the strap to use. I also strongly recommend you to get the Lockstar and the Tether Kit to ensure your camera is secured to the strap. Better to be safe than sorry! And you will thanks me for this advice, trust me!
BlackRapid Strap (62$)
BlackRapid Lockstar (10$)
BlackRapid Tether Kit (22$)
Storage & Backup
After years of trying different kind of set-up, I finally found the most comfortable one. I installed a NAS (Network Attached Storage) on my home network: the Synology DS1515+. It can takes five hard-drives (3 GO in each slot) and I use the redundancy features (Synology Hybrid RAID). If one of my hard-drives dies, I can simply remove it (without turning off the NAS) and replace it (and automatically the NAS will continue his job). I can access my NAS through Internet from anywhere and have my Lightroom manage my remote files. Sounds like a dream and it is just like one! I love this NAS.
So now what if there is a big earthquake (I live in Japan) and a fire? A proper backup is required. I use Amazon Cloud’s Unlimited Photos Plan (11.19$ / year) and have it set up on my photo folder on my NAS.
Since I don’t think it’s enough, I also use CrashPlan to backup my whole Synology system (my photos are also included). CrashPlan also has version control, to even if you modify your images directly or simply your Lightroom catalogs, you will be able to restore any versions of them.
Is there anything else you would like me to cover? Thanks for reading!