Best photography purchases of 2015
Last year’s post on the best (and worst) photography purchases turned out to be quite popular. So many responses! Some needed to vent a bit, and also declare their love for favorite pieces of photo gear. In the same way, looking back over this past year, I’m sure you too are happy with some of your purchases, but inevitably, there will also be those purchases you regret.
For myself, this was the year I decided I was going to calm down a bit with buying new gear – but then, plans change. Looking towards expanding what I do, I had to acquire some more gear to enable these new directions. I know, I know, you’re just going to tell me that I was justifying it for myself … but really, I needed all the new stuff I bought! Really. In fact, I’m happy with most of my purchases this year. Here’s my list of best purchases, along with some tentative purchases – gear that will potentially open up new avenues for me.
Add yours to the list of Best / Worst Photo related purchases, by posting in the comments section. What photo gear did you acquire which you believe will make a difference to your photography and your business in the upcoming years?
Let’s hear from you:
Let us know what photo-related goodies you bought this year which you loved, and those you didn’t love as much. Which of them do you think will make a difference to your photography and your business.
To make it interesting, this book on portrait photography was the prize for one lucky winner. Entries closed on Wednesday 29th Dec. Chris with entry #7 drew the lucky number.
Even though this contest has closed, please add your comments – we would all love to hear:
Faces: the Art of Portraiture
This comprehensive book on portrait photography, contains stunning images. Each image is paired with a lighting diagram, a description of why the type of image was chosen, and then takes you through post-production to put the finishing touches on.
There is a wide breadth of portraits — from street shots to studio shots. The emphasis is on the the techniques used to photograph these striking portraits – all the how-to when it comes to composition, posing, lighting, and even legal and model info.
If you are curious about the premise of this book, you can order it through Amazon USA or Amazon UK.
My best photography purchases for 2015
Many of my purchases this year hinged on new directions that I want to explore with my photography work – time-lapse photography, video, and product photography. They are quite diverse areas – all still propelled by my curiosity about photography and learning more about what this medium is capable of.
I felt I made really good decisions for the most part this year, with nothing I could really say was a bad buy. Pretty much everything was bought with a clear motive.
The only transitional purchase was to side-grade my Fuji X100s for a Fuji X-E2, which I am now selling with my eye on one of the Sony A7-series cameras. What draws me there is the absolutely silent shutter of the Sony a7R II (affiliate). That silent shutter feature is something that is so necessary with quiet events. I cringe every time I photograph a corporate event and my Nikon D4 shutter trips. It’s so loud! So don’t be surprised if there is a Sony system in my 2016 future!
Some of the items I bought, weren’t new to me, but rather gear which helps me maintain what I am doing, or improve what I am doing, such as:
– a fifth Profoto D1 flash for the studio
– a second Profoto B1 flash because they are so easy to use. If ever I had to revert to a back-up during a shoot, using a bunch of speed lights suddenly would’ve been a pain. So I got a second B1. It just seemed necessary.
Here is my list of a few choice items that I purchased this year that helped me … followed by a description of some of the gear that I bought with the intention of future expansion of my photography work.
Magmod gel kit and grids
The MagMod flash modifier set impressed me with how easy it was to add a grid or a gel, or swap it out again. Magnets!
The photo right at the top of this pageshows the setup, with a slaved speedlight lighting up the background. The color changes depending on which gel I have on the speedlight. (The back wall is grey, which helps.)
With magnets holding the items together, it is super-quick to change out gels, or add a grid – all to control your speedlight’s output and the spread of light. You literally just place the grid or gel, and the magnets snap it into place – and keep it there. Simple as that.
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E VR
I love my Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G VR … as I loved it’s predecessor, The Tank as the bulky Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 was also known. This lens was a huge improvement over the push-pull 35-70mm f/2.8D … yet that 35-70mm lens was the zoom lens that convinced me that there’s a real difference between the pro range of zooms, and the consumer range. It was just that much better.
Every iteration of this lens has improved on the previous one. Just how good this one performs in relation to the G (non-VR) optic, I will still have to see in a direct comparison test. But so far, I love it – it is razor sharp. Just as expected. But now it has Vibration Reduction added. It allows me to shoot details at events at slow shutter speeds (to get enough DoF), without much risk of camera shake. Hence, it makes my life easier. A review is coming soon!
Lighted make-up table for the studio
I attended a huge photography studio auction in New York, and among the thousands and thousands of items, there were some lighted tables for make-up and hair-dressers. I really needed one for the studio … and I was able to snag one of the last two tables for a mere $300. Not bad! It did cost me nearly as much for the truck rental, etc, to get it to my studio. But still, a very good price for this massive table. It makes a huge difference in the use of the studio. This table featured in a recent article on Boudoir photography with a Hollywood glamor feel. As a side note, I do offer my studio as a as a rental studio, if anyone is interested in taking on some studio projects of their own.
Nikon PC-E 85mm f/2.8D micro tilt-shift lens
Tilt-shift lenses are one of those items, which, for certain needs, nothing else will quite suffice. I bought the Nikon PC-E 85mm f/2.8D micro tilt-shift lens with a specific goal in mind – getting the required depth-of-field with product photography.
Working at close distances to items on a product table, you can’t always get enough D0F just by stopping down. Even f/32 won’t cover the DoF if your item is placed at an angle, or if you are photographing a staggered group of items. With a tilt-shift lens you can tilt part of the lens so that the plane of focus shifts … and give you more depth-of-fieldaccordingly. If this sounds like voodoo to you, it is! Optical magickery via the Scheimpflug Principle.
Now that I have this toy (and a white infinity curve product table), I need to put it to good use. We’ll add that to my list of stuff I want to do in 2016.
Defy G2x gimbal
The convergence between photography and video happened when DSLRs adopted video recording as just one more feature that you can expect as a given. Recently, the price of gimbals – stabilized hand-held support for cameras – dropped in price to where it is accessible to any serious videographer. You don’t need a Hollywood-sized budget anymore for stable video movement! They are priced now such that gimbals are going to become standard pieces of gear for videography.
I decided on the Defy G2x gimbal, as described in this post – first steps in shooting video with a stabilized gimbal. It is a very cool piece of camera gear. While there is a learning curve, it easily allows you to create video segments with smooth movement.
Here is another clip – one of the first times I properly used a gimbal. Even with just a little bit of practice under the belt at the time, I think it looks pretty good!
[ For more videos, follow me on Vimeo / YouTube ]
Of course, acquiring this gimbal had a knock-on effect in the gear I needed to make this work. I started off with my Canon 6D and Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS combination (affiliate). The one challenge with a zoom on a gimbal, is that when you change the zoom length, the glass elements inside shift position … and the gimbal is unbalanced again. Not such a huge issue with a stabilized gimbal, since it can take up some of the slack – but it does work harder when it has to fight against the center of gravity of the camera & lens combo.
I then settled on a Nikon D750 and Nikon 20mm f/1.8G combination (affiliate) for specific reasons. That lens is razor sharp, and has very little distortion. The main reason I went with the Nikon and prime lens combo, is that the Nikon allows 1080p video at full-frame, and with the DX crop. This meant I could shoot video with the 20mm lens, which then effectively becomes a 30mm lens … all without unbalancing the gimbal!
BTW, If you want to argue the point about the 20mm lens effectively becoming a 30mm lens on the crop-sensor, join us here instead: Full-frame vs Crop-sensor comparison : Depth-of-field & perspective
Various items for time-lapse photography
On the topic of acquiring gear with the eye on exploring new areas of photography, I expanded the time-lapse gear I have. In the photo above is a long-term time-lapse rig set up on location to photograph construction work. The white dome on the right is the waterproof housing which holds the camera and triggering system and battery. The white object on the left is the solar panel which powers this rig indefinitely. Very cool. But how this long-term investment in my business will turn out … only time will tell.
I also upgraded the motion controller of my Dynamic Perception dolly to digital controllers instead of the annoyingly inconsistent analog controllers. What a difference the accuracy makes! I also bought the Dynamic Perception Tilt / Pan controller for rotational time-lapse. I recently posted this test clip: Rotational time-lapse video (example)
Right before Halloween this year, Google Photos constructed a pumpkin patch in Times Square. Above is one of the final time-lapse sequences I photographed during the night. Of the total of 20 time-lapse sequences shot of the entire event as they built the pumpkin patch, two were finally used as a very brief intro to Google Photos’ promotional video. Yes, all of 3 seconds! Still, I’ll take it as an achievement.
Let us know what photo-related goodies you bought this year which you loved, and those you didn’t.
- Other best photography purchases, listed by year
- Gear list – Starting out with off-camera flash
54 Comments, Add Your Own
1Jaques Scheepers Photography says
Best piece of gear I bought in 2015 was an Elinchrom Quadra Ranger RX with 2 Elinchrom softboxes. Not cheap but definitely worth every cent!
2Petra Hall says
You’ll laugh. Worst purchase was a selfie stick. I returned it and used the money towards a new iPad mini instead.
3sheri j says
On your bts shot, what is the flash attached to on the light stand allowing it to turn another direction?
3.1Neil vN says
It’s just a small ball-head clamp.
3.1.1sheri j says
thank you! I hadn’t seen one of these yet obviously. I have wanted to turn my flash in the other orientation but didn’t know how.
220.127.116.11Stephen S says
You can also put your flash on one of these and then onto a mini tripod on the floor:
Phottix Varos II BG Umbrella Holder
4Rick Krueger says
Neil, having the benefit of being your business neighbor, it was a really fun year watching you roam the halls at the studio with all of these new toys!!!
Without a doubt, for me, there are 3 purchases I made in 2015 with which I’m absolutely obsessed:
1. RoundFlash Collapsible Beauty Dish
This little modifier folds up just like a 5-in-1 reflector and gives me a GREAT modifier for my speedlights when I want to travel light. I couple this with one of my Yongnuo 560 III’s and a Manfrotto Nano Stand for a great on-the-go kit (I generally tend towards one light, so it’s perfect).
2. Westcott Ice Light 2
I’ve had a love / hate relationship with my 1st generation Ice Light since the day I bought it. It’s beautiful and very soft light, but not really powerful enough for a lot of situations where I’d want to use it. Enter the second gen. this is 50% brighter than the original, has a removable battery, and is awaiting a firmware update that will allow bluetooth control. I know a lot of people hate these lights, but the V2 is just incredible.
3. Lee Filters Seven5 System (too many pieces to post links)
I always looked at Lee Filters as kit for landscape shooters, until I tried them at the recommendation of a friend. This Seven5 system is relatively new and made for smaller mirrorless cameras (like my Fuji X-T1). Adding 0.6 and 0.9 graduated ND filters to my normal kit has introduced a moodiness and drama to my fashion, glamour, and boudoir images right in the camera, which means I don’t need to spend as much time editing. This filter set has become part of my “desert island kit” consisting of the gear I just couldn’t live without.
5Sasa T says
My best purchases were Sigma 35 ART for my Nikon D610, Think Tank Retrospective 30 and a MacBook Air
Are you using the MagMod MagGels regularly in your client work? In other words, are they reliable enough for you to replace the “cut gel + gaffer’s tape” setup you talked about in the past?
This seems more usable than the SpinLight 360 attachments.
Best: a second D810 body – the sharpness, dynamic range and croppable resolution makes the files a joy to work on. I definitely need a 2nd B1 as well, the various “oopsies” throughout the year has left it looking like a broken beater.
Also, the 27″ retina iMac and iPad Pro are the best ways to view and edit the photos taken on the d810 cameras :)
The Sigma 35mm Art lens has been a lot of fun as well, my first off-brand lens purchase in maybe 10 years – great to give Nikon some serious competition!
Worst: had good luck this year
That silent shutter on A7Rii is quite slow: https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/56291766
… thus unusable with flash.
8.1Neil vN says
This is disappointing, because the silent shutter would then be rendered useless for any event photography.
The only option for me then is to rent one and see exactly how it translates to actual photography beyond the oscilloscope screen captures.
8.1.1Steve N says
Following on from this, my worst decision this year was getting rid of my D700, 24-70, 70-200 and pair of SB900’s as I wasn’t using them enough to justify owning them. I wanted a simple set up that was capable of great results and fancied a bit of a change. After several weeks of reading reviews I decided on the Sony A7II with Zeiss 55/1.8. Admittedly not the A7RII as discussed but a close relative!
I had hoped that this combination would satisfy my needs on the odd occasion that I now take photos although I knew it would not in any way compare with the capabilities of my previous set up. While I like the direction that Sony is going with this series and the IQ available is amazing there are just too many issues to make it a serious contender.
AF accuracy is great (especially since the recent software update) but this does not take into account all the lost images where the camera has failed to focus at all!! Do not underestimate how poor the AF is, it is now way near a D4!! To top that it usually takes at least a second to start up if it has been used recently. If it has been off for an hour or more it can take up to 5 seconds!!!
I had to reduce my Nikon gear but every time I use the A7II I want to smash it against a wall. ‘should’ve just got a D750 and kept my 50mm.
My best purchase of 2015 is undoubtably my Profoto B2 flash. Great piece of equipment :))
10stephen morgan says
Well i may as admit this , one of my latest purchases has been a mannequin female head and wig. , I needed something that resembles near to skin tone .
Was this a bad buy ? Absolutely not .
Im not a full time photographer so learning how light behaves takes a little more time , so every spare minute i have generally , i get the model out and practice for many hours .
At first i was quite embarrised about it but thought what the hell .
Now not only do i learn light patterns and work the interplay with light and shadow be it soft or hard , i get more familier with my lighting gear.
When i use this doll i mix one lencarta 300 with my nikon flashes using the SU mode mostly .
I am very happy with this purchase for the fact that my mind has retained most lighting patterns and general use of light behaviour.
I must add i have litteraly had neils books out mainly on bounce and tested out what has been published.
As an example on the mannequin , flash shadows were created on purpose by bringing my on board flash close to the wall ( now creating a small light , hard shadows ) to show hard shadows . Flat light , broad lighting and short lighting etc were created and still experimenting to this day . I wont waffle on any more but u get me drift.
O and yes i do go out and shoot real people and models , just for the record .
The lastolite Ezybox 2 switch. Inches @ 35/17. Opening up to 35/35. This to me is fab .
The massive light box @ 35/35 gives of great soft light of which i want for a shoot thats coming up , this will give me an option to fold down narrow to a strip light to 35/17 for a more creative purpose i have in mind .
The set up is very quick .
My top purchase Fuji xT1. Totaly fab with the 14mm 2.8
Worst purchase has to be. Pixapro boom arm and bracket. It was just naf and did nt last two minutes. What ever .
And last but not least i finaly got rid of my lastolite flash bracket that i never used .
10.1Stephen S says
As you learn the best lighting setups, are you recording them down with measurements of distances and settings so you have a “playbook” to refer to in the future. I also want to get a mannequin to practice with. Never can learn enough to get better at lighting.
11Roy Barnes says
Best purchase this year came after I lost or misplaced the old 50mm f/1.8 lens. I was going to replace it and opted for the f/1.4 version instead. Marginally dearer but a whole lot better than the little plastic fantastic. The f/1.4 version is a lot of fun to use. I also changed my speedlites for the 600 EX-RT versions, making my other flash/transmitters/receivers instantly redundant. The reliability of the 600 EX-RT system is wonderful.
On the downside, I bought the Arctic Butterfly gizmo to clean my sensor. At $199 (Australian dollars) it was expensive. And an expensive dud. The brush part came off after two uses and the plastic part which connects the brush to the motor cracked when I tried to reconnect it. It sits there now, a relic with no real future. Perhaps the nice case it came in can be put to another use!
12Bill King says
Best purchase: Pentax K3ii to replace my steam-driven K7. Not all upgrades are wasteful. I avoid buying new stuff I don’t need but this really made a difference. For wildlife enthusiasts it is a fab camera. It is also opening up the world of astrophotography for me. When Pentax puts out a FF in 2016 they could be back in the game with Nikon and Canon.
Second best purchase: Manfrotto 055 tripod. Chunky and heavy but stable! You cannot do birds-in-flight with a light weight travel tripod.
Third best purchase: Pentax DA 1.4 TC teleconverter. Less cropping means sharper, more detailed images.
Next purchase: Nikon 1 Aw1 all terrain camera. Coz the wildlife is awesome under the surface around here too.
Purchase after that: Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art. Huge, heavy but awesome IQ. Can’t wait to get it on my camera.
1) NEC PA272W-BK, a great 27″ wide gamut display with awesome colors and amazing control for calibration. Paid less than $400 for a refurbished model, and couldn’t be happier.
2) Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO: This lens is a gem. It renders very similarly to the amazing 200 f/2, and is as sharp, if not sharper, wide open, at a fraction of side and weight. Only if it had AF… But even with MF, it has become our go-to lens for static portrait shots.
3) Nikon 58mm f/1.4G. I was initially concerned about the wide-open sharpness of this one. It is certainly not as sharp as my Sigma 50/1.4 ART but it is so small/light and yet it renders so beautifully (including the out of focus areas) that it has become our most-used everyday lens. You should just stay way from MFD and should make sure to nail the focus, and the results will make you happy.
4) Profoto Magnum Reflector (and its grid) for our B1: Great reflector for outdoor shots, particularly when you are competing with the sun. Very sturdy and portable and produces beautiful light, not too soft and not too contrasty.
Recent Purchases (haven’t used enough yet to judge):
1) Litepanels Croma: I haven’t used LED lights in the past. Bought it on your recommendation when they went on sale on B&H recently. Will see how I will like it over the next few months.
2) CamRanger: Another impulse buy when it recently went on sale at B&H. It is certainly cool to control our camera using our iPad. But I am not sure how much I will use it given the type of shoots we do. It will probably get used most for focus stacking when I want to have fun with macro photography.
14Michael M says
Best purchases of 2015:
1.) Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II. This lens lives up to its reputation. The only negative is that now I hate my other lenses!
2.) Induro Grand Turismo AGT214 Travel Tripod Kit. This had been discontinued and I got a super deal on it through B&H. It’s a really nice solid tripod in a small package.
3.) Op/Tech Double Sling Strap. When I shoot events, I like to have both of my cameras ready to use. The Op/Tech Double Sling Strap does that without breaking the bank. (Plus, I prefer that it connects to my camera using the strap lugs rather than the tripod mount of my cameras.)
4.) Other World Computing Data Doubler for my Mac. It allowed me to install a 2 TB hard drive next to my 256 GB SSD.
15Randell John says
I spent most of my cash on lighting this year.
I wanted to start using video lighting for weddings, and I plumped for a Lowel id light.
I’m very disappointed in the performance of this light, even with the 100W bulb fitted it’s severerly underpowered and I started looking for an althernative pretty quickly.
It’s low power output, poor battery performance (Li-Io), and the extortionate price of the combined package, is probabably one of the worst purchaces I’ve ever made.
I had no problems with replacing the Lowel id video light with a mains powered alternative.
I bought a Bowens (Limelight) Pixel unit.
At 300W it has more than enough output for my needs and it’s a very solidly made.
I bought this light from Bowens, with a set of barn doors for less than £275.
I’m really happy with this light, it produces a really nice spot and flood effect, and I think it will give me many years of service.
The only downside to the Pixel Lite is the cost of replacement bulbs at £30/ea. A quick search around eBay though and I managed to buy a pack of 3 for the same price as 1 bulb, and they shipped from Germany within a couple of days.
I looked at the Profoto B1 Air, and I’m just not convinced that a) I need ETTL in strobe, b) That it’s severerly overpriced, c) Their TX, modifiers and accessrories are overpriced d) Their batteries aren’t up to the job. e) That the Profoto B1 Air isn’t as powerful as all the reviews would have us believe.
I started looking for cheaper, more powerful alternatives.
I took a bit of a gamble and bought a Godox RS600P (Cheetah Stand CL600 (USA)), (Lencarta Safari)
I have to say that for a quarter of the price of the B1 Air, I have a portable strobe as powerful as the B1 Air, is easy to use, and has proven itself to be reliable and very easy to use.
(I know the Godox isn’t a self contained unit, but this really isn’t a major concern for me. I just don’t like the thought of dangling a £1200 strobe on top of a light stand outdoors).
I really had some concerns about buying the Godox RS600P though, as earlier variants had problems with the battery pack.
I shouldn’t have worried, the latest version is much improved, and I’ve used it at every event and wedding I’ve shot this year, it hasn’t let me down once.
It’s by far my favourite purchase this year and has already paid for itself a few times over.
15.1Randell John says
P.S. I also ditched my Pocket Wizard Plus II’s and bought a set of Yongnuo 622C’s and a 622C TX. I now have full control of my Canon 580EXII Speedlites with ETTL plus Hypersync.
I’d been plagued with misfiring problems with the 580EXII and Pocket Wizard combination.
The Yongnuo’s have performed flawlessly.
How Pocket Wizard have managed to stay in business, must be one of the conundrums of 2015.
16Hendrik van der Merwe says
I had a few good purchases. The first being the Profoto B2 location kit with a number of OCF light modifiers. I use it at my pageant events. I used to use my B1 but it was just too heavy.
Second purchase was a Nikon D750 with a battery grip as backup for my D4. I now tend to use it a lot more than just being a backup body.
Third purchase was a GoPro Hero 4 Black also to be used at my pageant events. The pageant moms are going to love the video clips of their daughters walking the stage.
Fourth purchase was a Fuji XT-1 bundle, I got a XA body with a lens as part of the bundle at no extra charge. That camera and lens will now be a Christmast present for my son. I use my XT-1 as a travel camera and love the image quality. In addition I got myself the 10-24mm f4 and 35mm f1.4 lenses.
At the moment I can’t think of a bad purchase. For 2016 I have another B1 on the list.
17Alan Cutler says
I made several a few purchases this year.
I boosted my lighting (which was only speedlites) with a strobe and new softbox; an Einstein E640 along with a 3′ Profoto Octabox. The Einstein along with the Octabox throws very soft wrapping light. To control the Einstein from my camera, I bought a PocketWizard MC2.
I also bought two 1′ x 1′ led lights that I place next to each side of the face to give nice edge rim light.
18Stephen S says
pending consideration / testing / review:
1) Wacom Intuos Pro Pen and Touch Small Tablet (PTH451) – havent had a chance to use it yet and learn how to setit all up for LR. Had some other priorities so we will ve to wait and see on this one. Always wanted one.
2) Westcott Luna Grip – still pending testing
3) Rokinon FE14M-C 14mm F2.8 Ultra Wide Lens for Canon – Just ordered. Pending testing
4) Dolica TX570DS Ultra Compact Tripod with Professional Ball Head and Built-In Monopod – Pending testing
5) Rogue FlashBenders ROGUERELG Large Positionable Reflector – Pending testing
1) Westcott Rapid Box 10″ x 24″ Strip Bank
2) Phottix Varos II BG Umbrella Holder – An awesome fully manuverable flash/umbrella holder for the low price
3) Storacell Powerpax AA Battery Caddy, Black or Orange, 4-Pack:
Best way to store and organize your rechargeable batteries and prevent the contacts from touching each other. Comes in black or orange color so you can have a set for dead or fresh batteries.
4) Pedco UltraPod II Lightweight Camera Tripod – awesome little inexpensive tripod for small cameras or to get really low low low ground shots. folds up and is really compact for your bag,
5) AmazonBasics Backpack for SLR/DSLR Cameras and Accessories – Black :
The BEST bang for your buck camera backpack. So happy with this I boight TWO of them. Cant go wrong for the price.
6) Lowepro Event Messenger 150 Medium Shoulder Camera Bag with Tablet Compartment LP36415 :
I love this shoulder bag when I take out my a6000 for street photography or when I want to just carry the minimal gear like my 6D and my 40mm pancake lens.
7) ICE 77mm ND1000 Filter Neutral Density ND 1000 77 10 Stop Optical Glass :
Best 10x ND filter for the price
8) Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN Lens (Sony E) – Love this light lens for my a6000
Obviously I had some G.A.S. this year and bought more than I could test in a normal time.
Hope you all get a GOOD one from Santa this year to make up for all your bad ones you had to deal with
1) Fotodiox Pro Lens Mount Auto Adapter – Canon EOS (EF / EF-s) Mount Lens to Sony NEX Alpha E-Mount Camera:
Did not allow me to attach my Canon EF-S 10-22 lens to my a6000 even though it was advertised as being able to fit EF-S lenses. Also focus was very slow if non-existant on my of my canon lenses.
I got rid of some Canon OEM stuff and replaced it with other stuff, mostly making money in the process.
I sold my Canon 50mm 1.2 and Sigma 50mm 1.4 DG and replaced them with Sigma Art. I also sold my old Canon 50mm 1.8 and replaced it with the new 50mm 1.8STM (and optional hood). What a great little lens, it’s light enuf so that carrying a 5Dmkiii with it attached seems effortless and the lens is sharp enough in the corners to do my street style and blogger shoots.
I sold my Canon 35mm 1.4 v1 and replaced with Sigma Art.
I bought the Sigma Art 24mm 1.4. I didn’t have anything to trade for that, so buying the 20mm 1.4 will have to wait a while. Can you tell I love these lenses?
When Sigma came out with the 34-35mm f/2 Art, I thought like many others, what the hell can you do with that? So I didn’t buy it for a while. Then I realized that it was the perfect lens to do a project that I am working on of artists in their homes. So I bought it and it is great for that.
I added to my Canon 600EX-RT collection by buying the Yongnuo equivalents. I use these as my studio flashes. I already had five Canons, but this allows me to have extra lights for backgrounds etc. I cannot emphasize how much better the Yongnuo ST-ET trigger is over the Canon, with its ability to throw an AF beam. Of course who knows what the reliability will be, so I bought a pair, and sold my Canon version.
20Gregg Heckler says
My number best purchases I made this year are the following: A Profoto Umbrella Deep, Silver, Large. Love this modifier. I made a custom Avenger D200 grip head so I can use it with my Ranger Quadra. I also love my Manfrotto Pro Roller 70. And then there’s my new Epson P600. I replaced my old R2400 and the P600 is fantastic. I don’t have a much gear I don’t like, just a lot I don’t use often enough.
1) Phottix Odin Mitros Plus Flash – I was already using Phottix Odins to trigger my studio strobes & Canon OCF’s, but these flashes work just like the 600RT’s, so I no longer need all those receivers for my flashes & they WORK every time & you don’t need a degree to figure out another new flash…I bought 2 this year & will probably get another cpl next year.
2) Mag Mod Filter….where have you been all my life?!
1) Being primarily a portrait photographer, I thought I’d get out of my comfort zone & shake up my creativity by taking a week long landscape workshop w/ a phenomenal landscape photog ( that was still a great decision!) Unfortunately, before leaving for it, I started a buying frenzy! I stopped myself from buying the Canon 16-35mm L lens because I didn’t want to spend too much, but ended up spending almost as much on 3 Singhray Filters, so I would be able to do all the special effects with waterfall images & modify the super bright sun. They do what they’re supposed to, but what was I thinking spending that kind of $ on top of the line equipment before I even knew how much I’d use it? I got so caught up in all the new ideas, but would have used the lens much more down the road, or would have preferred getting some other stuff I used during the workshop. Don’t splurge or impulse buy BEFORE a workshop or event!
2) LED lights….bought because I liked what others were doing with these, but I wasn’t ready to practice with them, so they’ve just been sitting in my closet.
22Brian Hendler says
Based on your review Neil, I bought the Canon 16-35L f/4 IS. Very nice piece of glass that replaces my stolen 16-35L f/2.8. Canon Israel gave me a deal that was less than B+H and Amazon.
Then because I use my Sony mobile phone’s HD video incessantly, I bought a rechargable, 13000mAh RAVPower, portable battery with a max 4.5mAh output. $30.- Brilliant!
Lastly to speed up my desk top and photo applications I bought a Sandisk 480Gb Extreme Pro SSD that will become my hard drive.
Merry Christmas ? and great New Year!
Best piece of gear I purchased this year was the Canon 85mm 1.8 lens for my blooming headshot/portrait business.
Worst purchase was a background holder that was not very sturdy apparently, first time I used it, it collapsed in the middle. A photographer friend was kind enough to order me what I needed, thick and sturdy metal.
24David Hall says
My best purchases were my third B1 as I now have a three light kit. Also, the Sigma 35mm ART lens. My “NEXT” great purchase (which is looking more like it will be next year) will be the new D5. Rumor has it, it’s coming soon.
25Jon Palmer says
Best must be my Canon 600EX-RT, for the ability to rotate it 180 degrees in both directions.
26Kristin G says
Best purchase, far and away, was a Rock n Roller Multicart/ R6RT.
No more struggling to carry everything in one trip and no more having to lug a massively heavy hand truck around. I should have bought it years ago.
My best purchases of 2015?
Godox AD360 – a superb and powerful flash, that I absolutely love. Loads of power in a speedlite sized package (albeit with an external battery pack) The battery pack just lasts and lasts though.
A great light, and the bare bulb fill modifiers beautifully.
Godox V850. A great complimentary flash to the AD360. The li-ion battery pack in this is great too. Quick recycling and lasts forever, and a breeze to change in a hurry. another couple of these are definitely on the cards for 2016.
A 24″ IPS monitor and spyder calibration kit. Really needed these, and was so relieved to finally get them!
Walimex 109cm umbrella box – I’ve bought A LOT of umbrellas and softboxes in the past, for various uses, and I was looking for something med/large but it had to be light weight, and be able to be setup in seconds. This was perfect as the front diffusion is fixed in place, so it literally pops up in two seconds.
It is the type where the flash goes in through the front, in a hole in the diffusion, and a drawstring is tightened.
Thankfully, I haven’t really had any bad purchases in 2015. I’ve had plenty in previous years, so hopefully its all out of my system now!
28Johan Schmidt says
Bought a Nikon 400 f2.8 for sports photography – absolute game changer! Used a 200-400 f4 before that, and even though the zoom was convenient, the 400 is a beast in terms of sharpness – keepers have gone up significantly.
Thanks for all the excellent teaching posts this year Neil.
– Canon 6D: Blown away by FF!! Amazing low-light performance.
– Colour-correction gels: Didn’t think it would make such a big difference, but I was pleasantly surprised.
– Cable release: Only used once, but was very happy not to be dependent on 10s timer for slow-shutter shots.
– Three-flash bracket: Thought i would use this a lot, but I’ve been trying to work more with natural light lately.
29.1Colin MacLaren says
What were you using before the 6D? I’ve got a 70D and still have a hankering for FF – I started on film. 6D is on my list, but wasn’t sure if it was too late to buy one or wait for a 6D2?
My best purchase has to be the Sony RX100M4. Got it just before my trip to Spain. It’s an amazing little camera. The images look great. It’s the best point and shoot I have ever owned. I’m using it more than my Fuji X100s as the zoom lens gave me that extra reach.
Hi Neil and others…this is easy. My best “gear” purchases of 2015 include a Yonguo YN568EX iTTL/HSS flash for my Nikon D40 (yes I am that ancient in the modern FF world) and 2 of Neil’s books – Direction and Quality of Light and On-Camera Flash. My worst gear of 2015 is “me” :). I haven’t gotten around to reading those books with as much enthusiasm as I bought them. Consequently, I did not improve!! My next purchase could be a D7200 or a D750. Not sure which direction to go into w.r.t to sensors.
Neil…congrats on your purchases and good luck sailing into new & uncharted directions. I am sure you will continue to stun us with clever usage of your new gear and great photographs to boot!!
everyone – a warm and merry Xmas and New year’s to you and your loved ones. Keep the eggnog flowing.
Looking back over the last few months since I made the purchase, I have to say that the Cam Ranger was the biggest game changer for me this year. No longer do I have to endure the hot breath of an art director peering over my shoulder or the inconvenience of being tied to a laptop with an umbilical cord.
When I do corporate headshots, I can, in client mode, stream images from a cramped conference room to which I am usually assigned down the hall to another office where my subjects can review and select their favorite images. By the time I finish shooting, I already have an order in hand.
Switching over to live view for industrial products, I can have a marketing person literally watch me frame an image and guide me from a comfortable distance. Once the camera is in the desired position, I can shoot multiple frames, bracketing exposures or changing focus points without touching the camera itself.
Clients can download the free app and install it on their own devices. When synched to my camera, team members can follow the progress of the session from their own offices within the range of the signal.
And when I switch off my camera, nothing remains on my iPad or the devices of my clients.
A rolling camera bag. I love to wander the older parts of town with a model looking for opportunities and having my gear on wheels makes all the difference.
23″ monitor and spyder 4
Every umbrella adapter I have ever owned, there is something wrong with the design of every one. Screws fall out, the cold shoe grounds out the flash, something.
Best purchase this year: The new Canon 7D II to replace my 60D. A great piece of equipment for sport photography!
Let’s say the truth. Once you are in photography, buying allegedly useful new gear becomes a kind of OCD.
36Glen Mahan says
I’ve made a few purchases this year that have been great so far. Also at least one that the jury is still out on but I believe will turn out very nice.
1) I purchased a Nikon D810 that I am very excited about. Stepping up from a D700, which in itself is still a fantastic camera, I had to really convince myself to make this purchase. After I started working with this camera a little, I am really glad that I made the jump.
2) my second big purchase was two Paul C Buff Einstein lights with the vagabond mini battery and two MC2 wireless controllers that allow me to shoot with my speed lights also. I can also adjust the power on all my lights with my AC3 zone controller.
3) this one I’m not sure about but I’m happy with it so far, but have not used it much yet. It’s a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod with a SBH 100 ball head.
37Claude Carrier says
Best : Yongnuo YN622N-TX transceiver + 2 YN-622N TT for wireless flash used. Way more reliable than depending on using the built-in flash for wireless control of external flashes. Easy to use a good range for what I do.
38Frank Wolff says
Worst: YN-622n transceiver and receiver kit. Stopped working after 40 days and Yongou from China replied to my request for refund with ‘We are sorry that we don’t provide refund/replacement service and there is no YONGNUO service center abroad for the moment.”
They also said they would repair if I sent back to China, postage paid there and back. Duh, sure. Fortunately I have good relations with Amazon, and even though it was past 30 days, I sent it back to Amazon and received partial refund. Thank you Amazon and never again with companies with no representatives in US, no matter how cheap. What would of happened if it failed 6 months later in the middle of a wedding? I have no time for disposable equipment.
Replaced with Phottix Stratos II receiver & transceiver. Good reliable product from a company that backs up their products and exists in the US.
1) Strobies 360 from Interfit Photographic. The 360 is powerful and with the adjustable radio, I can change power settings from camera location. A simple reliable no nonsense set-up.
2) Interfit Photographic customer service. I recently had warranty work done for an Interfit TLi-N speed-light and online orders for the holidays. It was all handled promptly with excellent customer service; Returning my emails and real people answering the phones from a company that actually exists in the US. Thanks again.
If your a professional don’t buy junk, it will come back to haunt you.
39Patti B. says
I received for Christmas the Sigma 150 – 600 lens! I am very excited about this lens for bird, nature photography. I tested it out this weekend and found that this is on beast of a lens! I was handholding the lens and found it very heavy. I want to try again, using either a monopod or tripod to take the weight off my arms. I am hopeful that with the extra “reach” of a 600mm, my images will improve greatly.
40Owen Lloyd says
Best things I’ve bought in 2015:-
1) Cheap 640 watt tungsten hot lights with Fresnel based focusing mechanisms, barn doors and inline dimmers! I bought 3 for a variety of uses – introducing controlled blur into a shot combined with flash, https://www.flickr.com/photos/owenlloyd/23457232925/in/dateposted-public/ 1930’s Hollywood style lighting, and I’ve started to dabble in video and fancied creating some of the same lighting I use in stills with flash, so needed something powerful enough to compete with existing light. Shipped from China.
I read Frank Wolff’s tale of his YN622’s and the poor response from Yongnuo, and it got me thinking about my approach to buying from China. It can work, as long as you accept that it is a one way pipe and buy on that basis – if it breaks, you have to be able to fix it yourself or have more units than you need so you can afford to throw faulty ones away. My £100 hot lights are basically big lumps of some anonymous alloy with a reflector, a glass Fresnel lens and a standard theatre light tungsten bulb. I can fix these lights myself if they break. I also have half a dozen YN622Ns and a couple of YN622N-TX’s – all still working after 2 years or so, but if one breaks, well hey – they’re £25 :) I would not buy anything expensive and complicated via this route though, as Frank says – for all practical purposes, there really isn’t any kind of warranty, and even if the vendor paid all the shipping costs, the round trip for a repair would likely be 2 weeks or more.
2) PromptSmart teleprompter for iPad/iPhone. This is really clever: it knows when you’re reading the script and scrolls it as fast as you read it, and if you go off script and start ad-lib’ing it stops scrolling, and resumes when you start reading off the script again. I’ve used other teleprompters that you can start and stop remotely but this is all hands (and thought) free. Very cool.
3) Refurbished Nikon 18-35mm. I’ve mostly used a Nikon 14-24mm for wide angle landscape work over the years and it is a fantastic if heavy lens. One problem though is filters. I do have the Lee 150mm system for it and it sort of works, however even with the new rubber baffle, you still get a nice picture of the inside of your lens imposed on your shots if the exposure is too long, so using the 10 stop is out tbh. To counter this, when I need to use aggressive filtering, I switch to an old 20mm AIS, which, while it has served me well over the years and takes the standard, tried and tested Lee 100mm filter system, it often just wasn’t wide enough, and does have a large amount of vignetting and softness in the corners. Picked up the super lightweight and very sharp 18-35mm refurbished at a photography show – and it’s excellent.
4) £40 Clarke floor dryer. Pretty quiet, generates a nice volume of moving air, and will sit on the floor at 45 degrees or so. Much cheaper than a studio wind machine :)
5) Rogue Flashbender XL kit. This is just so useful, if you need to travel light, this will fit somewhere in or on most bags. I use it as a “light canopy” for insect macro, http://owenlloydphotography.com/?p=2108 and as a snoot or small softbox for portraits.
6) SJ-CAM SJ-4000 action cam for the pull-back whole studio angle on BTS video. Designed by the same guy that produced the original Go-Pro apparently. It is identical, but much cheaper at £60. Shoots HD at up to 60fps through a very wide angle lens, has a small screen on the back sufficient for aiming it and will provide a live feed to various phone apps. Comes with a waterproof housing and various mounting bits and pieces for attaching it to car fat surfaces, flash shoes, light stands, etc.
Worst things I bought in 2015
1) Lightblaster. The idea is great, and tbh it’s not a total disaster – it’s a speedlight version of those projector attachments for studio lights. You put a flash in one end, and a lens on the other end to focus the light. In the middle it has a slot for metal gobos to project various patterns and shapes, or 35mm slides onto your subject or background. It does work, but it’s an absolute pain to assemble. There is no locking mechanism on the lens mount, so you really have to be careful your expensive lens doesn’t fall off the $100 plastic light modifier, especially if it’s pointing down. Even with short lenses with wide apertures (my 20mm f/2,8 AIS works best for me) the light doesn’t fill the gobos. The metal gobos are almost impossible to remove from the plastic holders once inserted, and almost as hard to get in too. It’s a nice idea, but I think you are better off cutting holes in cardboard.
2) 10 stop ND for the Lee SW150 filter system. All this generates is a nice image of the inside of your 14-24mm lens http://owenlloydphotography.com/?p=1857 as more light reflects off the back of the filter into the lens than makes it through from the front. Even with the new Lee baffle in place. Better off taking multiple shots without filters that add up to the desired exposure time and feeding them to the Average statistical function in Photoshop. Filters for stills have had their day tbh – there are better digital solutions for almost all of them. The only one I tend to use now is a polariser.
41Neil vN says
Thank you – the contest is now closed!
Thank you everyone who participated – it’s an interesting sample of gear that was highly regarded, and that which wasn’t. The winner of the book prize is Chris with entry #7.
Even though the contest is closed now, please add your comments and ideas here. We’d all like to hear.
42Glenn Smith says
Best was the Westcott Apollo Mega Jr softlight and My Canon 50 MM 1.4. Love them both.
43Bryce Arnold says
Best purchase has got to be my new Nikon 85mm f/1.8G… My favourite lens. Now I try to use it wherever I can… Incredible bokeh. Like butter I tell you. Currently shooting off a Nikon D700
44Malou Peters says
A lot of good purchases here but one i kind of regret a littlebit. Bought the 24-70mm 2.8 Nikkor lens just before the new was announced… Should have waited a little bit longer
Sorry I am late to this. I thought I hadn’t bought much in 2015, but after giving it some thought, it turns out I actually did!
I sold my very first camera, a Nikon D90, and I bought a new Nikon D5500 to replace it. I also own a D610, but it is way to heavy for me for travel photography or everyday NY street photography.
Well, I end up only using my D610 on a tripod, for “serious” shoots, and make most of my images with the awesome “little one”.
The I realized that my lovely 50 mm 1.4 does not autofocus on this new body – bummer! So, I went out an bought a 35 mm 1.8, which is small and light, and allows me to create the same effects I get with the 50 mm on my full frame body. I love it!
Then I needed to upgrade my laptop, and bout a Macbook Pro 15″ retina display, on a Black Friday sale at B&H, 800$ off, how could I resist? Now I can shoot tethered on location, it made a huge difference in terms of showing my subjects what I need them to do live, on a larger screen. Love it.
I also bought a SantaFe Workshop in Mexico, which was totally worth the really high price tag and was the best experience of my year.
Can’t wait to put all this to good use in 2016!
46Jan van de Maat says
Best stuff bought last year
1. A new book from Neil! ;-)
2. Swapped my old trusty D700’s for a pair of D750’s
3. 2nd Elinchrom Quadra unit. Doubted a long time about the Profoto B1 but I did already own some Elinchrom stuff and I learned to use manual flash as fast as TTL. And the new ELB400 can sync up to 1/8000 ;-)
4. the new Elinchrom trigger for Nikon
5. MacBook Pro & iPhone 6
6. Pelicase 1610 for all my flash stuff
Worst: dashcam. It keeps focusing on the windshield :-/