Best photography purchases of 2018
The regular end-of-the-year post about the best (and worst) photography purchases always sparks interest, with many others chiming in on what they bought the past year, whether for fun or professional work. I forever seem to hover between sensible purchases that are necessary to advance … and just sheer indulgence. Here are some of what I think were my wisest investments … all the way down to some dubious side-tracked choices.
Notably about the gear I purchased, 2018 was the year where I “retooled” somewhat to be able to shoot more video, and also shoot more commercial timelapse videos. This meant … new toys!
We would all love to hear what you have been up to, and what astute and interesting choices you’ve made this year.
Let’s hear from you:
To make it interesting, there are three books available as prizes to be given to three randomly chosen comments. The winners will be picked via random number generator, as before. Winners will be announced on December 25th. Fancy that!
Update: I was a little slow in wrapping this up – but here are the winners of the book prizes. I’ll be contacting everyone via email or FB messenger.
1. irene Irene McGinniss
2. Jan van der Maat
3. Bill Merritt
Shot In The Dark, by Brett Florens. A photographer’s guide to shooting in unconventional locations.
Wedding photographers are under tremendous pressure to capture once-in-a-lifetime moments. They are forced to shoot in low light in every wedding—whether in poorly lit ceremony and reception venues or, later in the day, when the peak lighting has faded. This presents myriad problems and obstacles to achieving beautiful, artfully executed images of the events of the wedding day.
the other book prizes
Portraiture Unleashed, by Travis Gadsby. “A sublime collection of 60 creativity-inspiring images from a range of talented photographers whose styles and photographic techniques vary markedly.”
The book is divided into five sections, each of which is centered around a particular creativity-enhancing topic: (1) Quick and Easy: Ideas That Can Be Added on the Fly, (2) Location-Inspired Ideas, (3) Wardrobe-Inspired Ideas, (4) Prop-Inspired Ideas, and (5) Creative Lighting Treatments.
Boudoir Photography Cookbook, by Jen Rozenbaum. This book presents 60 easily digestible sections, (aka the recipes), to discuss 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 2018
When you compare the Canon R and Nikon Z6 and Sony A7 iii to one other, the Sony still comes ahead in features. In its own way this was a ground-breaking camera in 2018.
Here is my review: Sony A7 iii mirrorless camera
Check the example video clip in the review of the Sony A7 iii, where I shot a video of a band using this lens.
I first went for the Fuji X-H1 which was a very likable camera, but I found the Fuji f/2.8 zooms weren’t as sharp overall as I needed my lenses to be. And yes, I prefer my professional lenses to be sharp. Nikon was too late with the announcement of their Z6 / Z7 mirrorless cameras, so I went with the Sony A9 (B&H / Amazon). It is just what I needed.
Aside from a few quirks, the Sony A9 is a phenomenal camera, and it quickly became the camera that I use in available light settings. For anything involving flash, I still prefer the Nikon D5. But the Sony A9 quickly proved to be very useful for my work where I need exactly this kind of camera.
I needed a gimbal that is relatively compact, ie, a gimbal that can be used with one hand, and that is strong enough to not start shaking when you zoom the lens out. The smaller gimbals struggle with the redistribution of weight as the lens expands. The Ronin-S handles this really well.
The Ronin-S is also easy to set up, and has an app for your phone to help with calibration. The slanted design of the rear arm helps in letting you see the camera’s screen. This gimbal really feels well designed and manufactured – it feels and handles like quality.
Here is a video snippet that I also showed in the review of the Sony A7 iii — shooting a music video for the band, Cut Like This, I couldn’t wait to at least show a snippet of what we got – here’s a slo-mo video segment that I love … a close-up of Brian’s guitar work. This was shot with the Sony A7iii and Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM (affiliate) on the Ronin-S gimbal (affiliate) …. slowed down 4x. Shot at f/2.8 and 3200 ISO and Auto WB.
More in my video review of the Profoto B10 flash.
This lens creates a lovely soft-focus feel … and working at a distance and with no pin-point light sources in the background, the bokeh doesn’t quite show those huge soap bubbles, but it still gives a lovely painterly quality to this portrait.
These portable and powerful continuous LED lights allow you to change the WB, making them quite versatile, whether in the studio or on location.
Below is a pull-back shot of how I set up four Litepanels Astra LED panels for a client that was renting my studio, and needed continuous lighting instead of flash.
Other purchases I am very happy with
- Abel Cine lens resolution test chart, because people weren’t convinced about my observations that the Nikon D850 medium RAW files are soft. This lens resolution test chart was also helpful in figuring out that the f/2.8 Fuji zooms I was using wasn’t as sharp as the Nikon or Sony equivalents.
- The Nikon D850 that I briefly had (for a week), convinced me that I needed a second Nikon D5 … and I was able to pick up an excellent condition used copy for only $3,500
- Embarrassingly enough, I badly damaged my Tamrac roller case that I kept my cameras in, when I backed my car over it in the driveway. No damage at all to my gear, but the bag was a mess. It was more than 12 years old, and was starting to look haggard anyway. Time for an update. So I replaced it with something larger – the Think Tank Logistics Manager 30 (B&H / Amazon)
- Ikea Fabrikor glass cabinet to display the vintage lenses I’ve acquired by now.
And then there is this thing
There is also a handy magnetic support beam (B&H) from which you can hang it, using a light-stand.
But maaaaaan, it kicked my ass for a while. I had real trouble collapsing it again, and it would take me an embarrassingly long time in front of my clients to fold it … until, with the help of some of my friends on FB, I get this helpful tip – fold it like a taco! I had no trouble collapsing smaller reflectors, but this thing had to fold in a triple kinda way, and there’s a knack to it.
So I would highly recommend this collapsible background, but there’s a bit of a learning curve with it. This video below was shot after I got it right in one go, and had my friend record me doing it … but then it took me three ties. Still, I claim victory!
That’s it for me. Now it’s your turn. 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.
- Other best photography purchases, listed by year
- What’s in my bag – lighting gear for headshots on location