Best photography purchases of 2017
It’s that time of the year again – the list of Best & Worst Photography purchases of 2017. Same as with previous years’ lists of best photography purchases, I would love to hear what camera gear you bought that you loved … or didn’t love. As before, there are two book prizes to be had, chosen by random number generator. Here then is my list of my best photography purchases of 2017, along with the reasons why I think they were good decisions. I also add a few items that I was less excited about. Same as last year, I was a little wiser with my money and tried to limit the more frivolous expenditure … but who can resist a good deal on a Manfrotto Snake Arm (affiliate).
About the photo above – the New York skyline after a rain storm – it was taken with the Fuji X-T20 and 18-55mm lens (B&H / Amazon) that I bought this year as my take-everywhere and travel camera … except I don’t travel enough. Sadly it sees too much time in a drawer in my office. Still, it’s a nifty little camera. And this is illustrative perhaps of how our original ideas and intent changes. Sometimes its not that something is a bad product that we bought – oftentimes our plans, ideas and circumstance change. Still, I am mostly happy with the photo gear I bought this year. In addition there were a number of very tempting items that I got to play with … but couldn’t pull the trigger on.
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? Post your replies in the comments.
Let’s hear from you:
Even though the contest is closed by now, you are more than welcome to still add your comments.
Studio Anywhere, by Nick Fancher. A photographer’s guide to shooting in unconventional locations.
With photographer Nick Fancher as your guide, you will learn how to get portfolio-ready photos while working i some of my most problematic scenarios imaginable … with a minimum of gear. There is no need for an expensive studio 0 you just have to get creative.
the other book prize
Boudoir Photography Cookbook: In 60 easily digestible sections, (aka the recipes), Jen Rozenbaum presents essential skills that will help you with boudoir photography. Of course I am a little biased when it comes to this book – Anelisa is on the cover.
While Jennifer covers lighting, wardrobe, and other aspects of boudoir photography, the core of those book focuses on posing. The book has a targeted look at various posing strategies that will really enhance your subject.
My best photography purchases for 2017
For a long time I didn’t have a longer lens than my 70-200mm f/2.8 but when the solar eclipse of 2017 rolled near, I decided to buy the Nikon 300mm f/4E PF lens (B&H / Amazon) to use with a 1.4x converter for extra reach. What swayed me was that it uses a 77mm filter. I didn’t expect to be so blown away by the sharpness of this lens, and just how compact it is. (Less than 6″ long.) It easily fits into my camera bag, and it has already helped me at one wedding this year where the church lady banished me to the back and outer perimeter of the church. This lens gave me the reach I needed without cropping.
I have used it at engagement photo sessions, but while it is super compact and light-weight, it is just too long to work within earshot of the couple. The sharpness and bokeh are just wonderful.
For now this lens will be in my camera bag as my secret weapon for when I unexpectedly need a longer lens.
I’ve been playing more and more with vintage lenses, using a Sony A72. In getting my hands on a Sony A7R3 for review purposes, I was stuck without a proper, modern lens for the Sony mirrorless bodies. I decided to invest in the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 lens (B&H / Amazon), and was blown away by this little gem. It is razor-sharp. Autofocus is fast, and it is compact. Just a brilliant little optic and already a favorite.
- Here is the review: Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 Lens
Every now and then I am loaned new gear for review purposes. (For example, from my friends at B&H). Occasionally the item is so good that I decide to purchase it to own it, and not have to return it.
The Profoto A1 flash (affiliate) is one of these. It fits in so well with the rest of my Profoto gear, that I will be buying at least another one as soon as they become more readily available in the USA. Even though it is spendy, it is powerful, can be fired fast, is reliable … and works as a transmitter as well.
Even better, when I shot with the Sony 85mm f/1.8 and needed off-camera flash, I was able to fire my Nikon-mount Profoto A1 with the Profoto transmitter for Sony. For me that extends the usability of the flash even further.
- This video review of the review: Profoto A1 flash will explain more why I was so impressed with this flash.
Previously I have been okay with just the usual camera straps on my cameras, but since my adventure in Italy, I needed a harness system to help me not feel fatigued carrying one or two cameras with me during photo shoots and weddings. Listening to advice that I got from various other photographers, I relented on the idea of not wearing bondage gear at weddings.
Oh, and if you are also annoyed by how the metal rings squeak when you walk, then a simple dab of lip balm where the metal rings touch, helps wonders!
Other purchases I am very happy with
- The unusual Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 lens (review article).
- The rectangular Angler Parsail 60″ Umbrellas (review article), for headshots where the ceiling height is low.
- Solar eclipse stuff for the Solar Eclipse 2017, even though I was limited to staying in New York for the event.
- I bought another Drobo 5Dt RAID array for the ever-expanding amount of photos shot for time-lapse projects.
- Another Nikon D810 just for time-lapse photography. I keep the Nikon 20mm f/1.8 permanently on this camera to avoid dust on the sensor.
- A light-weight Sirui tripod that I keep in the car.
- Two Sennheiser AVX lavalier wireless sets (affiliate) for video work.
- I found a used 4×6 sized Oliphant backdrop. I’m moving up in the world!
Interesting photo gear, but I’m still undecided
As an aside, the first time I searched for it on B&H’s website, it autocorrected to “man grotto snake arm”. I’m not sure how I feel about this one.
Truly superb camera gear … that just wasn’t for me
I was really excited about the Nikon D850 (B&H / Amazon), and immediately picked one up via NPS when it was released. A state-of-the-art camera. Top of the field. Spectacular image quality. All of that. But there was just one crucial flaw for me … and I sold the camera again after a week. It just wasn’t what I needed.
Here is my review: Nikon D850 camera which will explain this in a lot more detail, with sample images. If you’re in too much of a rush to read the article, skip to the summary. It all came down to this – for the vast majority of my work, I need a camera in the 20-24 megapixel range, and the medium RAW files of the D850, which would have been perfect at 25 megapixels, were just too soft. Sadly I had to let the camera go. But it did make me love my Nikon D5 even more.
This was disappointing
I bought a Vello adapter for Nikon F to Sony E-mount from B&H with the idea that I could use my Nikon lenses on a Sony body, and without changing systems, have access to a camera with a silent shutter. Yay! Except that the adapter fried my Sony A7II.
Amazing review items that I had as loaners, but needed to return
The Canon 85mm f/1.4 IS is a spectacular lens! Razor-sharp, with stabilization.
Here is my review: Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS lens
Similarly, the Sony A7R III is a superb camera, on the same level as the Nikon D850. Astonishing technology. We have never had it so good!
The sad news – camera gear that I bought, but haven’t used yet.
Just like the under-used Fuji X-T20 that I mentioned earlier on, there are two items that I bought that are still mint in the box, unused. That’s just sad, but life and work sometimes gets in the way of everything we want to play with.
- Ikan gimbal (intended to be used with the Fuji X-T20)
- GoPro Hero 5