Gear doesn’t make the photographer, gear enables the photographer. If a camera and lens are the hammer and saw, software is the chisel and sandpaper helping to refine your creation. We can talk all day about purism or documentation vs art. Fact of the matter, at least to me is that photography and digital artistic creation are fun, and I love having different tools to achieve different results.
I research and choose my gear very intentionally. If you are going to buy a camera, lens or the like doing so through affiliate links costs no extra but does give the affiliates in question (me in this case) a small reference commission and helps me keep this site going. I link to the gear I review throughout my articles and everything can be found on this page as well. Any purchases through these links are greatly appreciated. If you have any questions about these, or any other pieces of gear, please email, or contact me through the contact page above. As you may know, I do love talking about gear. Thanks all! Tyson
Topaz Labs – A great, relatively low cost set of amazing plugins. I feel that Denoise5 is the best noise reduction software plugin currently available. Adjust adds punch to images in a unique way, Clarity is an awesome contrast enhancement plugin and ReMask is ESSENTIAL if you select and mask anything in Photoshop. Glow, Impression, B&W Effects2 and Clean3 are great bangs for their respective bucks as well, you really can’t go wrong. I get a small commission from Topaz as well through this link, so thank you in advance if you do choose to buy through my affiliate link.
Skylum Software – Powerful, user friendly plugins with remarkable results. Previously MacPhun, Skylum is now available for both Windows and Mac OS. Aurora HDR has become the new standard for HDR processing. Use my code “TYSON” at checkout for discounts on all Skylum software.
Alien Skin Software – I believe that Exposure is the best pure film simulation software on the market (for both B&W and Color). Bokeh and Snap Art are a lot of fun and can be very handy as well. I use them all the time. I’m now an affiliate with Alien Skin as well and if you use the promo code “tysonrobichaud10” in the checkout coupon field, you receive 10% off any non sale software!
Photomatix HDRsoft – Still, in my mind the gold standard of HDR processing software. The deghosting algorithm is unmatched and this software acts as both a plugin or standalone. You can get a 15% discount by using the code “TRP15“.
Tiffen Dfx – Tiffen’s digital effects software offers an amazing amount of creative filters, film recreations, effects and the like. Definitely worth a free trial. I don’t make money from this one either, but I do really like the plugin.
If you are looking to shop online, using these links will help me out with a small commission from anything you buy. I have been burned in the past through a couple online or third party sales sites, so let my unfortunate experience lend a hand. When online, I will only shop direct, and do so from ADORAMA.com or BHphotovideo.com as they’re the only online stores I feel are 100% above board and normally have the absolutely lowest legitimate pricing. Thank you in advance, it really is appreciated!
CAMERA GEAR I LIKE
Canon EOS (EF lens mount): Canon 5D Mk III (at Adorama HERE at B&H HERE) – Like a 5D Mk II with a fully functional, sports shooter’s AF system. Spendy, especially considering the price of it’s older sibling, but with incremental increases in key functions, it is all around a better camera from top to bottom.
Sony a7II (FE – full frame E mount):
Sony a7II (at Adorama HERE at B&H HERE) – The Sony alpha 7 mark II is the first full frame digital camera to incorporate on sensor, in body image stabilization (IBIS). Building on the success of the original alpha 7 series, this new camera uses the same 24mp sensor as the original a7, but has a substantially improved design and boasts an increased AF sensitivity along with other cool bells and whistles.
Now, onto my compact, travel and everyday system… Micro 4/3:
Panasonic GX8 (at Adorama HERE, at Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera (Body Only, Black)” target=”_blank”>B&H HERE) – By improving almost everything about the already killer GX7, Panasonic has created a new benchmark for the m4/3 system in a rangefinder style body. A new, 20mp sensor, weather sealing, improved IBIS and 4K are the marquee features, but most every other feature and component has been improved upon. Just about everything one could want in a compact system camera body. Panasonic GM1 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – Currently, the tiniest interchangeable system camera available. Taking into consideration that its sensor is sizably larger than anything that even comes close in overall size reduction is impressive. I’ve been shooting with this camera for months and it is awesome. Tiny, and awesome. See the GM1 At B&H Here, At ADORAMA Here
Panasonic GM5 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – While the internals are shared with it’s previous iteration, the GM5 takes the wonderful little GM1 and adds a hotshoe and EVF while still maintaining almost the same body dimensions, which is kind of insane. I’m not upgrading from the GM1 anytime soon, but if I were buying today, the GM5 would be the one I’d choose. Amazing IQ in an absolutely tiny, pocketable package, plus the 12-32 kit lens included is the best kit zoom I’ve used for this system by far.
Panasonic GH4 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – Not much smaller than an entry level DSLR, but it packs an amazing amount of direct control, beautiful 4K video as well as killer stills, and weather sealing into this body. No need for a third party video hack, it’s all there. This camera is a game changer, and a trend setter. It has upped the game and many other manufacturers have had to follow suit, offering 4K video while needing to try and compete with the GH4’s low pricing. For a stills/video hybrid, I don’t think there is a better value available anywhere.
Sony FE mount: I’ve recently started shooting with the Sony a7II. I use a lot of adapted optics, like my Canon lenses listed below via the Metabones adapter. The Zeiss 55mm lens though, that one is a beauty and a lens that I may just stick with the Sony a system for.
Metabones EF>E mount Smart Adapter (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – This adapter enables the transmission of all EXIF data from the Canon EF lenses to the Sony alpha cameras as well as allowing for auto focus and IS operation. The Auto Focus started off very slow, but with recent firmware updates, it is insanely fast comparatively (see my video comparisons HERE), and all necessary info is passed to the camera to communicate for any IBIS and EXIF info. The other key here is that you can adjust the lens aperture via the camera, which is hugely useful.
Canon EF mount: I shoot with Canon cameras for much of my work projects. I chose it largely because I came from a Canon film camera, that’s mostly it. Here are the lenses I have boiled my quiver down to and use all the time.
Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – An amazing value for an UWA rectilinear prime lens. While it suffers a little from the pesky mustache distortion so common with UWA lenses, it is easily correctible in post, and for a tiny fraction of the cost for the native L version, this lens is my go to for sweeping landscape or interior imagery. EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – If you have the extra to spring for the 16-35, by all means, gain the extra stop. For me, especially with the current ISO performance with modern cameras, the savings is easy to justify. Seeing that a majority of work I do with this lens is on a tripod, or walking around in decent light, I don’t miss the stop at all, and like the savings which I was able to parlay into another lens purchase :). EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – I know that the Sigma has gotten a lot of attention of late, and I admit, I’m curious. That said, I cannot say one even remotely negative thing about this lens. I’ve owned it for years and if faced with photographic tragedy, it would probably be the single lens I would save from a fire if I could only save one. It is my go to for walk-around, travel, low light, event and just general shooting. I love it. EF 70-200 f/2.8 L IS USM II (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – Heavy, bulky and kind of the ugly kid of my bunch (I actually still own the v1 of this lens), it’s quality and usefulness cannot be ignored. As long as I don’t have to carry it around my neck or shoulder for any extended period of time, I try to find excuses to use it. In a studio or controlled setting, if it is on a tripod, etc, I will shoot all day with this beauty. For a more budget friendly version, look to the non IS, or f/4 iterations. All of them are great, and are a mainstay for many pros. EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro L IS USM (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – After my debacle with the Oly 60mm macro for the micro 4/3 system, I was left wanting for a quality, hi performing macro lens. This lens is everything that any other lesser macro lens is missing. It’s amazing and the IS is very handy when using it for any handheld applications. Doubles as a great portrait lens as well. One of the better values in the Canon lens lineup as far as I’m concerned. EF 135 f/2 L USM (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – Speaking of values, this lens might be the absolute best lens for the cost in the EF lineup. It’s fast, it’s amazingly sharp and it is just about the perfect portrait lens for me. A great event lens, street lens, and of course any portraiture project you can throw in front of it will be flattered by it’s magic. Warning, you may need to soften things up a bit for portraiture, it’s that sharp. EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM II (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – Want to blow your clients away? Use one of these fast super teles to see why some of these lenses cost as much as a brand new compact car. I have only rented these lenses for specific shoots, which I highly suggest, but for those who shoot a lot of sports, wildlife or the like, a 300mm, 400mm, 600mm or 800mm prime is a tool that once used, is hard to part with. EF Tele Extender 1.4x III (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – Only compatible with longer L lenses (my only lenses this works with are my 135L and 70-200, but it instantly gives me a 189mm f/2.8 lens and a 100-280mm f/4 IS lens which is pretty awesome when the reach is needed.) Keep in mind that you lose one stop of light when using this (or two stops if using the 2x extender). Most compatible lenses will still function with all current AF systems, but check your camera’s spec sheet to make sure if you’re worried.
Micro 4/3 mount: After a lot of testing, trying, shooting and research, I chose the micro 4/3 system as my everyday/travel camera system. I do shoot with it for certain work as well. It is fully capable, and offers enough of a size reduction to justify holding onto both it, and my full frame setup as they both offer me different upsides. I feel the micro 4/3 system is far and away the most mature mirrorless system, and while it is bested in certain specs by other systems, the balance of size and quality is unique and the best balance for me. You’ll notice I’m a fan of the quality prime lenses for the system, with a couple zooms thrown in for good measure. If I were to shoot with this system primarily, the zooms would be higher up on my importance scale, but for everyday shooting, a low profile, lightweight quality prime lens is the ticket for me! Each focal length listed will require a 2x crop factor multiplier to “match” the equivalent field of view (E-FOV) for a full frame or 35mm format field of view. Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (15mm E-FOV linear fisheye lens) A low profile, well built but lightweight, sharp, manual focus steal of a lens. Also built and marketed under different names for different markets. Check the BOWER version, as sometimes, it’s cheaper!
Voigtlander 10.5mm f/0.95 Nokton (at Adorama HERE coming soon, at B&H HERE) – Well, in my opinion, Panasonic and Olympus have left a large hole in the lens lineup in the ultra wide angle range. Fear not, in swoops Voigtlander/Cosina with yet another remarkably fast option for the stills/video hybrid shooter. Offering the ability to switch to a click less aperture for film, or hard stops for stills, this lens offers something unique for the system, and you can shoot in the dark as well.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 pancake zoom (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (24-64mm E-FOV) A true wide angle kit zoom that is remarkably sharp and does an amazing job at handling flare and CA. I’ve not seen a kit zoom perform as well as this little lens before and when taking into consideration that it is minuscule, it’s a keeper in my book. Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm f/2 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (24mm E-FOV) A beautiful ultra wide angle prime. Fast, sharp, metal, awesome. Panasonic Lumix 14mm f/2.5 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (28mm E-FOV) An amazing optical feat taking into consideration this lens measures about 3/4″ deep. A pancake in every sense. Very quick AF, better than average optical performance and it weighs so little you may forget you have it in your pocket. Panasonic – Leica Summilux 15mm f/1.7 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (30mm E-FOV) Perhaps a little overpriced on the surface, like many of the system lenses, but below that surface lies a remarkable little optical tool that can potentially provide a one lens solution to replace the 14mm, 17mm and 20mm lenses in a shooter’s list. That adds a bit of perspective to the cost. Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (34mm E-FOV) Built like the Oly 12mm lens, it has the same push/pull AF/MF implementation with a distance scale handy for zone focusing. Solid and sound. I would be pressed to grab this over the Lumix 20mm pancake, but I do love the traditional 34mm field of view. Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 vII (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (40mm E-FOV) This lens started off my love affair with the micro 4/3 system. While it has since been exposed for having slower than normal AF speed, it is just fine unless you’re trying to shoot quickly moving subjects. It is fast, discreet, almost as small as the 14mm pancake, and sharp wide open. A beautiful lens. Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4 Summilux (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (50mm E-FOV) Currently, my favorite lens for the system hands down. The second fastest proprietary AF lens currently available only to its big brother Nocticron below, it renders color beautifully and it’s out of focus rendering is lovely as well. While only a Leica stepchild, this one strives to perform on par with its illustrious cousins and yes, I got weird and somewhat inbred with my familial comparison there. Panasonic/Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 OIS (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (85mm E-FOV) Well, how about that. Arguably the most overpriced lens (because it’s currently the most expensive) for the system natively. Ignore the price for a second… This lens compares favorably to some comparably performing optics that cost $2,000 to $10,000 for other systems. While I feel the Oly75 is around 30% more than it should be compared to the average 85 f/1.8 lens (comparing like for like material wise, not equivalent crop wise), this PL 42.5 is actually cheaper, or at least very comparably priced compared to current 50mm f/1.2 AF lenses (or 55mm f/1.4) available, so, it might actually be a better value than the 75, and it comes with a hood and OIS, just saying…
Voigtländer Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (85mm E-FOV) This is a special lens, and yet another amazing portrait prime for this system. Best for those who don’t require the automated focus of modern AF lenses, but with focus peaking, it can make manually focusing a cake walk. Producing a black hole, capable of sucking in all available light around it, this thing is a low light, shallow DOF monster for the micro 4/3 system.
Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (90mm E-FOV) A great, reasonably affordable portrait lens/short tele equivalent lens. It’s light weight and very small comparatively. A great lens, worthy of its reputation. Panasonic/Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (90mm E-FOV) Boasting optical image stabilization and a wonderful optical formulation (it’s designed by Leica for crying out loud), it is a beautiful addition to the system’s offerings. The slowest of this list of primes, it’s qualities more than make up for it. Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (150mm E-FOV) Dayummm. Listed by many test sites as the sharpest lens for the system, I feel it’s only limitations are brought about by the limitations of the current sensors. As the sensors get better for the system, so too will this lens. While a bit spendy, its quality cannot be questioned. Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (24-100mm E-FOV) A weather sealed (see dust and moisture resistant, not water proof mind you) standard zoom that when mated with a weather sealed body like the OM-D E-M5 or GH3 offers a great environmentally sealed outdoor, walkaround lens, albeit while shooting in good light, or from a tripod. It has a very handy 42mm 1:2 macro setting as well. It’s not quite up to snuff with the next two lenses, but on a budget, this lens should not be ignored. Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm f/2.8 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (24-70mm E-FOV) A truly pro-spec’d standard zoom lens. It’s compact, sharp and relatively fast. For shooters using this system professionally, this lens could be the go to “everything” lens, and would serve very well for studio or event shooting. Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (24-80mm E-FOV) A tossup between this lens and the Lumix 12-35 is more or less inevitable. If you require optical image stabilization, the Lumix has it, the Oly doesn’t, but otherwise this lens is cheaper and has a longer focal range adding 5mm (10mm equivalent) on the long end. Panasonic Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (70-200mm E-FOV) The mate to the 12-35, rounding out the pro-spec tele zoom range giving system shooters the ability to shoot from ultra wide through tele at a constant f/2.8. This lens is a studio, event, portrait or sideline sport shooter’s tool, and has Panasonic’s OIS to boot.
Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (80-300mm E-FOV) Olympus has taken the traditional 24-200mm f/2.8 range and increased it. Between the 12-40 and this 40-150, one gains about all the range one would need for most all photography while maintaining a semi-speedy f/2.8 max aperture. This lens can also be combined with the 1.4x Tele Converter for even more reach…
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 1.4x Teleconverter for the 40-150 f/2.8 lens (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – Converting your 40-150mm f/2.8 (80-300mm E-FOV) lens into a 56-210mm f/4 (112-420mm E-FOV) lens gives shooters of this lens an extra bit of bonus reach. Here’s to hoping that this TC will work with future Olympus Tele lenses, but for now, it is a very useful addition for the sport/wildlife/tele shooter.
Panasonic Lumix 100-300mm f/4-5.6 (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – (200-600mm E-FOV) What can I say about a 600mm equivalent lens with f/5.6 light gathering capabilities, for under $500? Nowhere else, in any other system does this exist, and it’s pretty damn nice optically to boot!
MISC GEAR Lensbaby! (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – Creative selective focus lens housings and a huge range of optics abound! It’s more an artistic system than it is a singular lens. If you’ve read my blog for any period of time, you’re probably familiar with my love of Lensbaby. They’re an awesome company based in Portland, OR that strives to provide creative, artistic tools for photographers and videographers. I’m partial to the Composer Pro with the Sweet 35 and Edge 80 optics, or the Scout with the Fisheye. Tons of fun. (also to my new friends at B&H, keep an eye out for yours truly on your soon to be new Lensbaby product training videos!)
Oben CC-2361L Carbon Fiber Tripod – (at B&H HERE) – A lightweight, vibration dampening carbon tripod with an articulating central column. It handles around 17lbs of gear, weighs just over 3 lbs without a head, and does well when needing to adjust a tripod to shoot at odd angles. Great for product photography and closeup/macro photography.
Manfrotto 055XPROB Aluminum Tripod (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – This tripod is solid and has never let me down. Yes it weighs 5 lbs (without a head), but I was able to buy this AND the SLIK below for less than what a cheap carbon fiber tripod would have cost me. I use this guy whenever I don’t have to pack it around with me for long distances, and it is great. If weight isn’t an issue, a good aluminum tripod will offer a far better bang for the buck than a carbon tripod.
Oben BE-126 Tripod Head (At Oben BE-126 Ball Head” target=”_blank”>B&H HERE) – When purchasing my Oben tripod, I looked for a reasonable head with both pan and tilt knobs, a weight capacity near or above 20lbs (more than I’d ever need) and one that was fairly light weight and compact. After researching many, this is what I came to buy. After months of use, I’ve been very happy with it and while not as flashy, nor capable of boasting some of the other specs that more expensive heads can, I am very happy. It weighs in at just about a pound even, measures in at 2″ in diameter at the base and is under 4″ tall, it has two bubble levels (handy), supports over 26lbs of camera/lens weight (plenty substantial for me), has separate pan and tilt adjustments (important for me) with very smooth movement, and a good Arca Swiss style quick release plate. No slippage on the ball, and it has a slender profile making it a great, relatively lightweight solution for a medium to heavy duty head.
SLIK Mini II Tripod (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – A great, low weight (under 2 lbs with head!) alternative to the expensive carbon fiber tripods. While not rock solid, it has held my larger full frame rigs with larger lenses just fine once I replaced the ball head. My absolute go to when traveling or hiking/packing, and it won’t break the bank. The included ball head isn’t great, but works for smaller cameras. See below for my suggestions for small, light, better quality heads to add to this tripod.
Sinui C-10 compact Ballhead (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – If you prefer the Arca-Swiss style quick release plate system, this compact ball head is awesome. It weighs under a half pound, is only about 3 inches high and has separate tilt and pan adjustments. Oh, and it supports 33lbs which is insane for a ball head this size. This has replaced the Manfrotto for me and on my SLIK mini tripod is my remarkably lightweight and compact backpacking/travel tripod+head combo. Nodal Ninja NN4 Panoramic Tripod Head (at Adorama HERE, at B&H HERE) – Need to shoot interiors, sweeping panoramas or huge stitched collages of a 360 degree view? This bad boy is what I use, and it is awesome as well as relatively affordable (certainly cheap compared to many alternatives out there). Highly recommended.
Really Right Stuff – Manufacturers of tripods, heads and quick release plates customized for a ton of cameras, their stuff is top notch. While my experience with this company’s gear is still somewhat in it’s infancy, I can say that what I have used is rock solid. Because of the grip and plate combo for the Oly OM-D E-M5, it has led me to replace all my QR heads with Arca Swiss style release plates for my tripod heads and has me looking to adding body plates and accessories for my other cameras. This is not an affiliate link, just a link to their site because I like their stuff.