Travel Tips

What’s In My Camera Bag?

October 13, 2014

What's In My Camera Bag? - Photography Equipment For Intermediate Photographers

Nine years ago I held my first DSLR. It was so big and bulky in my hands, I couldn’t understand why my friend had paid so much money for it when our little pocket-sized cameras seemed to do the job just fine. Then a few months later, I was checking out profiles on Facebook (this was before the creation of the news feed) and happened to land on hers. I was blown away by the quality of her photos, and more than a little jealous knowing I’d never be able to capture anything near that nice with my old Kodak point-and-shoot. That was the first day I started saving for my own DSLR. It took me over five years to do it, but in 2011 I purchased my very first “professional” camera, and I’ve never looked back.

I’m not a photographer, at least in any professional sense, and I’ve never had any formal training or classes. Everything I know I’ve learned from books and online tutorials and the old tried-and-true practice-makes-perfect method. Taking photos is just a hobby for me, and I’m fairly certain I never want it to be any more than that, but I do get pretty passionate about this little hobby of mine. So much so that I’d rather wear shoes with holes in the soles and keep saving for the next lens than buy new shoes that’ll make me look like less of a hobo. That’s a true story. I finally just threw those shoes out last week.

Camera bodies. Lenses. Filters. Flashes. Tripods. Photography equipment, even the cheap stuff, doesn’t come cheap. When I bought that first camera with its accompanying kit lens, I thought that was it. I thought I’d never buy a single other piece of equipment ever again. (Go ahead – take a moment to laugh at my naivety for a moment. I’ll wait.) Photography is addictive – you’re never done learning and improving, and it just generally follows that you’re never done buying the bits and pieces that will help you produce the shots you’re learning to take.

So today, since I love learning what equipment other bloggers and photographs choose to shoot with, I thought I’d share what’s in my camera bag. I’ve included affiliate links to each item on Amazon (I’ll make a few pennies if you purchase through those links), but all of these items can also be found at camera shops or at big box stores like Best Buy.

What's In My Camera Bag? - Photography Equipment For Intermediate Photographers

First off, you probably need to know I only shoot with Canon bodies and lenses. I know very little about Nikon or companies like Tamron and Sigma that makes lenses for multiple camera brands. There is no scientific reason why I first went with Canon – I had done my research between Canon and Nikon which led me to believe I’d probably be happy with whichever brand I chose, but when I went to the store, the Canon fit most naturally in my hands. Simple as that.

Camera

Currently I’m shooting with a Canon EOS 6D. It’s my first full frame and I’ve only been using it since July, so I’m still getting to know it, but I can already tell I’m going to be happy with it for a long time. It performs remarkably well in low light, and I’m amazed at how much of a difference a full frame sensor makes in my resulting photos, particularly when using a wide aperture. In some ways, I feel like I’m having to learn things all over again, but when I get it right, the quality is just outstanding.

Lenses

When I bought the 6D, I purchased it as part of a package deal that came with the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L lens. (That package deal can be found here.) This lens is my first L-lens, which is Canon’s top-of-the-line series of lenses. The 24-105mm is a rather large lens, but it does just about everything I need it to do, making it the perfect walk-around lens. At 24mm, I can take wide landscape shots, but also get those lovely sharp shots with bokeh in the background if I zoom in and use a wide aperture. I use this one most often when we’re traveling because it’s so versatile, but its size and weight can be a burden after awhile which leads me to my second favorite lens, the 50mm.

Two years ago I bought the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens, and after I put it on my camera for the first time, I hardly ever took it off again. It’s a very fast lens that produces a perfectly crisp shot for me nearly every time. Considering the price and the quality of the shots it takes, if I had to recommend only one lens to someone, this one would probably be it. While it definitely has its limitations, especially when I need to zoom further in than my feet can go, its portability and light weight make it a great choice for traveling as well.

Accessories

As for my accessories, I use this Manfrotto Compact Tripod. It’s good for the price, but you’ll certainly get much sturdier material if you’re willing to spend a little more. Right now, this one works for me, but I do see an upgrade some day in the future. My camera bag is the ONA Bowery Bag pictured above in Antique Cognac. This bag isn’t large, but I was specifically looking for something small that wouldn’t feel bulky. It fits my 6D with the 24-105mm lens attached, but that’s pretty much it. With a smaller lens attached, like the 50mm, there’s plenty of extra space.

Learning Resources

Just in case you’re looking for a little reading material, I highly recommend all three of these books, especially if you’re just beginning to move into manual photography. The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby is not a technical book by any means, but more of a here’s-what-you-should-do-in-this-type-of-situation book. Very easy to read and understand. The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman is without a doubt the prettiest book I own. This one is all about teaching composition and taking creative photos. And finally, Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson – my favorite of the three. Teaches exactly what the title states. I’m already looking at more of his books just because I’m learning so much.

What's In My Camera Bag? - Photography Equipment For Beginners

Everything I just listed out above is perfect for an intermediate photographer, but what if you’re just a beginner and you’re not sure you want to shell out $3,000 for a camera and lens? In that case, this is what I’d recommend.

Camera

I started with a Canon Rebel T3i/600D, but that particular model has since been improved upon a good deal. The current model is the Canon EOS Rebel T5i. As far as beginner DSLRs go, this series is a really good one, especially if you’re not sure you want to jump right into using full frame.

Lenses

When purchased as a package deal, the T5i comes with the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Kit lenses are not always the best lenses, but they’re enough to get you started. The price of upgrading to a package deal vs body only is not really that much different (and exactly the same if you purchase on Amazon), so in my opinion it’s worth it. Use the kit lens for a few months while you start figuring out the kind of shots you like to take the most and then you can think about purchasing other lenses.

The first lenses I bought after playing around with the kit lens for a year were the 50mm prime lens I mentioned above and the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 lens. While I didn’t use this telephoto lens on a day-to-day basis, I loved it for photographing the wildlife around our house in Tennessee and even used it in Paris when we climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower. But keep in mind, if you purchase an EF-S lens, it will work with the T5i and any other crop body Canon, but not on full frame camera. So I’ll say it again, if you can only buy one, buy the 50mm – it works with both!

Accessories

I know you can hardly see it in the photo, but the first camera bag I ever bought was this Canon Backpack-Style Camera Bag. Even though I love my ONA bag, this one is much, much better if you’ve got a lot of equipment to carry. It can hold the Canon 6D with the 24-105mm attached, the Canon T3i with the 18-55mm attached, the 50mm in a separate pocket, and there’s still space for other small accessories in another pocket. The inside has padded velcro that can be rearranged in any pattern allowing for quite a few different arrangements. Even with all of our camera equipment in here, we can still fit everything else we travel with like money, phones, and water bottles in, too. It even has a spot along the bottom to strap in a tripod. It is truly the ultimate travel bag, especially if you have a traveling companion willing to carry all of that extra weight for you. :)

Learning Resources

If you’re a real beginner and don’t have the first clue where to start, the Canon Rebel For Dummies series books are a great supplement to your camera manual. This book, combined with more YouTube tutorials than I care to recall, was a decent alternative to paid classes. Of course, if you can afford classes – do that!

And that about sums it up. I know this is a lot of information for one post, but I hope it has been at least somewhat helpful. Now that I’m starting to get the hang of using a full frame, I think I’m just about ready to start my first foray into editing. I’m starting out with Lightroom 5, so if anyone has any tips or suggestions, please send them my way!

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  • Photography definitely is addicting! But it really does feel like buying new equipment is a never-ending process – I’ve upgraded to a Canon 70D earlier this year and while I probably won’t buy a new camera in a long time, the process has now just moved on to deciding which lenses I’d like to invest in, what tripod I should buy and which filters I should use… never-ending! ;) Thanks for sharing this view into your camera bag – I’m always interested to learn what equipment other people are using! :)

    • Buying lenses is the most fun part, I think! I have yet to get into filters. I know many people will keep a UV filter on their lenses for protection, but I normally shoot with a lens hood on anyway, so I feel like that will at least help were I to drop the camera or slam it into something. :) Eventually I’d like to get a polarizing filter though – I love seeing the photos people are able to get with one of those on.

  • This is a great post, thank you so much for sharing! You are a fantastic photographer and I always enjoy seeing your work. I got my first DSLR camera a couple of months ago but still did not find the time to completely figure it out. I guess I need to get such a Dummies book. :) I really want to learn how to use the camera. It is just a beginner’s camera but that’s fine for now.

    • A beginner DSLR is where I started, too. No shame in that! When I got my first one, I read the manual front to back and was still confused. That’s why I bought the Dummies book. That book really helped me to understand things better because the language used was a lot less technical. And if the author did get technical, she made sure to explain herself. It really is a good investment!

      • The beginner camera is absolutely fine for me for now. But I agree, the manual was not very helpful since I do not know much about photography. So I guess I will get the Dummies book and try to learn something! Thank you!

  • I bought the Canon 50mm lens and then took it back because on my cropped body camera, I felt it was too zoomed in—just 5mm short of my kit lens. But, I am hoping to get the equivalent lens for Christmas though!

    • The 50mm definitely looks different on a crop body than a full frame, but I still loved it on my crop body, too. But you’re right, it is very “zoomed in”. Maybe try a 35mm – that will give you a wider view than the 50mm on your camera, but you’ll still be able to use a wide open aperture for pretty shots.

  • I’m pretty hesitant to make the DSLR jump… this post was really helpful! Thanks!

    • I was, too, so I totally get that. You can get really decent point-and-shoot cameras if you’re not ready to delve into the world of DSLRs. Let me know if you need any advice choosing one of those. Another blogger friend of mine takes fabulous photos with her point-and-shoot – you’d never know the difference between her photos and those of an amateur DSLR user!

  • Jen

    Great camera bag! I have been looking for some resource books, thank you-I will be checking into these.
    I hope you are well! Hugs!

    • These are all really good – let me know if you get one of them! By the way, I’ve seen the shoots you’ve done recently on your photo blog – great job!

  • Thanks for writing such a thorough post! It’s so interesting to learn what other bloggers use and how they’ve developed their technique. And you know what? I have both the Scott Kelby book and the Michael Freeman book. When I saw that picture, I was like, no way.

    • That is too funny! They’re great books, so I’m not surprised! Do you have any others that you’d recommend?

  • I really need a good camera bag. It’s definitely something I’ve been shopping around for. I’d also like to invest in a tripod sometime soon, but alas, funds are limited. Photography can be a very expensive hobby! x

    • I don’t use my tripod nearly as often as I probably should, but there have been times where it has REALLY helped, particularly with night shots when we’re traveling. However, if you’re resourceful and use steady surfaces around you, a lot of the time you can get away without using one! That’s what my husband does because I’m always hogging the tripod. :)

  • I do love a peek into other peoples camera bags (and wardrobes!) I definitely need to get myself sorted…!

    • I am happy to share what’s in my camera bag, but my closet – not so much. That would be one very lame post. :)

  • rorybore

    I have the EF 50 on my Amazon wish list!! I just got my Canon Rebel T3i last Christmas, and it has definitely proven to be a great DSLR for beginners. It came with that standard lens you mentioned, and I since added the telephoto lens (because I am addicted to trying to shoot the moon), and a wide angle/macro lens (that one is cheap and I am not thrilled, but it is workable for now.) What I really need is a portable tripod to add to my camera backpack. I have one at home, but it is not portable.
    Who am I kidding? I have lots of accessories and lenses I want to buy. ha!

    • Shooting the moon is difficult! Especially if you want anything else in the frame with it. When the supermoon came around a few years ago, I attempted the same with my telephoto and out of like 50 shots, only had 4-5 decent ones. :)

      I’d love to have one of those tripods that can grip onto anything, like the sides of buildings or lightpoles. That would come in so handy for city shooting!

  • This is such a helpful post, Sarah! I’ve been thinking about upgrading my Canon T1i [oh yes, from 2009!] to the 6D kit and I’ve heard really good things- Now that you’ve been using it for a while, is there anything that you maybe DON’T like about it so much? Thanks! :)

    • Oh, boy! The T1i! I’d say it’s about time for an upgrade! ;) I’ve been using the 6D for almost a year now and I don’t have a SINGLE complaint about it. I love the lens that came with it, the camera itself, how the menus are laid out, where the buttons are, how much less noise I get even at a high ISO… really, everything.

      Now, I have no experience with the Mark 5D, but I do know that one has quite a few capabilities the 6D doesn’t, so if you’re wanting a full frame that does everything, then that would be the way to go. If I could afford it, that’s what I would have done. But if it’s out of your price range, too, I am certain you’ll be perfectly happy with the 6D. (Be prepared for it to make your T1i feel like a toy – it’s so much heavier with the kit lens attached!)

      The only thing that took a little getting used to was moving from a crop sensor to a full frame. I love it now, but it threw me off a lot in the beginning because I’d grown so accustomed to how lenses work with a crop body. I noticed it the most in regards to depth of field. A few weeks and a lot of usage, though, and you’ll adapt!

      Sorry for the novel. :) I could talk cameras all day long!

      • Oh geez, I’m terribly long-winded, so no need to apologize there! I definitely appreciate all the info and if I thought I could justify the 5DMIII, I would in a heartbeat. But, photography is just a hobby for me as well so I’m thinking the 6D is going to be as good as it gets without giving my husband a heart attack lol

        The 6D is still a pretty big purchase, so I’m glad to hear you’ve been so happy with it. I’m definitely due for an upgrade and I’m actually excited about learning and getting used to something new- I feel like I keep pushing my T1i to do things it’s just not capable of and I’m getting frustrated with the limitations. But this is a very recent issue, otherwise it has been a wonderful starter DSLR for the last 6 years [in case anyone is considering the Rebel series!!].

        I’m glad to hear good things about the kit lens too- I’ve always heard over and over that you should steer away from the kit, but when I saw that they’ve packaged the 6D with an L-series lens [and for such an amazing price!], I started to question that theory and wonder “Is there such a thing as a bad L lens?!”. Ooof. So much to take into consideration! But again, I really appreciate your feedback, Sarah! …Even if it’s made me a teensy bit more impatient to get my hands on a new camera! :)

        • I have heard the same thing about kit lenses, but I tend to agree with you – any L-series lens is going to an an improvement over one that’s not! :) I was eyeing the 24-70mm f/2.8 L at the same time that I was considering upgrading my camera to the 6D. It was sort of an either/or situation for me. I could either buy that particular lens and use it with my T3i or buy the 6D with the kit lens. Obviously you know which one I chose. ;) I’ll eventually be able to start adding more high quality lenses to my collection, but for now, since I’m just a hobbyist like you, this one has worked just fine for me! Let me know how much you love it after you upgrade! ;)

  • Mindy Diaz

    Hi Sarah!

    First of all, I love your blog. It inspires to take more photos daily. I currently use Canon rebel t3i with either canon 24mm f2.8 or 50mm f1.8, depending on what I shoot. I’ve been wanting to upgrade for awhile. Of course, my dream camera has been canon 5d mark iii but it is too expensive and I won’t need that much of a high end camera. So I narrowed it down to either canon 7d mark ii or 6d. I’ve been wanting a full frame camera so your post helped me lean towards 6d. I love the features of sharper image and ability to use with low light settings. Which lens is your go to lens for everyday use?? I hope to hear from you soon!

    • Hi Mindy! Thanks for your comment! For everyday use, I tend to stick with my Canon 24-105mm f/4. The range this lens has makes it ideal for photographing in many different situations, which is why I love it for traveling. Occasionally I wish it had the ability to open wider than f/4, particularly in low light or when I need to shoot fast, but those situations are few and far between for me personally. That said, it has some drawbacks, weight mainly, so when I feel like weight will be an issue, I just use my 50mm f/1.8. Since you use that lens as well, I’m sure you already understand its limitations. :) Let me know if you have any more questions. And good luck making your decision!

      • Mindy Diaz

        Thanks for your prompt response Sarah! I will let you know once I make my decision! I have been researching a lot lately and so much people do love the ability of 6D. It’s a tough call! Happy shooting :)