Some folks asked me what do I carry in my bag, when I have a photography assignment. Well, I thought it would be nice to write down about my “things” I take with me in my photo bag.
Of course, the content of the bag is strongly related to the total stuff I actually own. And this stuff is strongly related to my very limited budget. That type of budget will always force you to think, compare, assess and get the best of it with the minimum expenses. It’s nice to find out, over the years, that in some cases, you don’t need the most expensive items, to get your job very well. In some cases.
If I make a list with what I use, some of you will consider it’s not enough to even hope to get the job done like a real pro, while others will say this is more than enough. Of course, great photography is done by an inspired, creative, careful person, not by the camera – which is just a tool. But, you know, those tools help a lot.
I used to have a DSLR kit before, but after I have made my switch to Mirrorless, Fujifilm, to be more specific (Thank God!), my bag became lighter and smaller. With my ex Fuji X-Pro1 + XF 18mm F2.0 and XF 35mm F1.4 (and some other stuff like spare batteries, SD cards and 1 Manual Focus lens with M42 adapter to Fuji X Mount), a small Lowepro Messenger 100 Bag, designed to carry a mirrorless set-up, was the perfect bag for my “travel light” kit.
Afterwards, the very welcome Fujifilm X-T1 with 2 zoom lenses arrived, replacing the Fujinon primes and the X-Pro1. With a bigger and heavier kit (but still light and compact, compared to its DSLR equivalents), I think I need a larger bag. So what do I use, finally?
Fujifilm X-T1 with large hand grip always mounted on the camera body, the amazing Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR, the very good Fujinon XF 55-200 F3.5-4.8 OIS, Manual Focus Pentacon 135mm F2.8 (which is used less and less, thanks to the XF 55-200mm which offers image stabilization and superior sharpness), Manual Focus Helios 58mm F2.0 (which in fact is a Russian Carl Zeiss Biotar – the same optic formula), coming from my Zenit film camera (this one I use with Fuji Superia ISO400 film, most of the times), the marvelous Fujifilm X100S with a fixed 23mm f2.0 lens (I got this instead of Fujinon XF 23mm F1.4), one Yongnuo 560 III manual mode flash (it works like a charm – I need another one) with two Yongnuo RF-603C II triggers (those are the ones that actually work really good with Fuji X cameras – I have tested them on X-Pro1, X100S and X-T1), a small, white reflector, a cheap diffuser umbrella with a simple stand, one external Hard Disk Drive coupled with a 15″ Dell notebook, cable remote for X-T1, smartphone (using the Fuji Camera Remote App, your smartphone becomes the coolest camera controller, with live-view and several controls on your phone’s screen), which is an Oppo Find 7a (no iPhones or Galaxies around here), 2 tripods, spare SD cards, 2 spare batteries for Fujifilm X100S and 3 spare batteries for Fujifilm X-T1, Lenspen air blower and Lenspen carbon tip brush, cleaning tissues, Hoya UV filters on all my lenses (I like to protect my lenses and for the empirical approximation of 0.5% in quality and light loss, it’s worth having them installed on my lenses most of the times), Hoya circular polarizing filter, one Hoya ND8x filter and one Kenko ND1000 filter for long exposure photography.
Actually my “everyday bag” has the Fuji X-T1 + XF 16-55mm F2.8 + XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 OIS, batteries, filters, cable remote, SD cards and Fuji X100S (for its 35mm field-of-view in Full Frame format). Sometimes I add an item from the list described above (flash, or tripod, or the Manual Focus lenses when I don’t need the big advantage of AF), according to the situations.
There is “one more bag” actually – the minimal kit (and this is one more reason I love Fujifilm products). What am I talking about? It’s the Fujifilm X100S + spare battery. That’s it! I love it because it’s small, but powerful, with its APS-C X-Trans sensor inside and its sharp 23mm F2.0 lens with a silent leaf-shutter. My review of this small technical wonder can be found here.
In conclusion, there is no fixed list of items you put in your bag. Every situation, every place, require special settings, different lenses and accessories and planning ahead is the best way to be fully prepared. But there is one interesting thing I’ve noticed in my short and modest experience as a passionate photographer : the more you carry, the less your efficiency. Of course, you will say there are exceptions, and there are. But when you know you have your heavy backpack with 2, 3 camera bodies, 4 zooms and 6 primes and 100 accessories, you may feel you are “prepared for everything”, but in fact you get tired of all that weight, you get confused (what lens should I mount on my camera for this special moment), you waste time and miss valuable shots changing lenses, bodies, searching for accessories and your creativity may suffer. Why? Because when you travel light, as I do (since I have switched from DSLR to Mirrorless), I am forced to think more, to compose more carefully my shots, do adapt myself and make the best of it from my limited tools. So plan ahead, get only the essential and enjoy the good light!