What’s in Patti’s camera bag?

A few people have asked me what I shoot with. I’m a bit of a geeky gearhead, and it’s hard for me to resist buying equipment, so I have a lot of it.

Here’s a partial list:


Canon Digitial Rebel XT My first digital SLR, and a fine choice for a beginner. The Digital Rebel series cameras are amazingly capable tools at a reasonable price.

Canon 5D This is the camera that I bought when I started feeling limited by my XT. It is a magnificently powerful tool. The 5D allows me to take excellent photos, and at it also teaches me new things about photography.  With the arrival of the Mark II, though, it’s mostly become my backup body.

Canon 5D Mark II I’m wildly in love with this camera.  Not only is it a dream to use, but it eats up high ISOs like nobody’s business.  I understand it also does high-definition video as well, though I don’t do much of that myself.

Canon EOS 3 I was feeling retro recently, and went hunting for a used film body. At the same time, award-winning nature photographer Joe Decker (who kindly allows me to use his images as examples on this site) announced that he was selling his old film body. I figured the universe was sending me a message, and scooped it up.


Canon 17-40 f/4L I don’t shoot wide-angle very often, but when I do the 17-40 goes on the camera. It’s a bargain for Canon L glass, and it’s quite good.

Canon 24-105 f/4L IS I use this lens for general-purpose shooting, and for shooting indoors at close range. It’s an excellent working range on the 5D, and the image stabilization is a great help in low light. Between IS and the excellent high-ISO performance of the 5D, I’ve been able to capture images that should have failed miserably.

Canon 70-200 f/4L IS This is incredibly sharp glass, and Canon claims four stops of image stabilization on it. I believe it! It’s light enough to hand-hold and to carry around without breaking your back, and it’s tack sharp.

Canon 50mm f/1.8 The Nifty Fifty is a tremendous bargain. It’s great for portraits and for shooting indoors in low light. For less than $100, every Canon shooter should have this lens.

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro lens Macro photography is one of my passions, and the Sigma is a good tool for it. The 100mm range is a good one for macro work, neither too short nor too long, and the Sigma optics on this lens are fantastic. The autofocus is mediocre, but I never use autofocus for macro anyway so I don’t care.

Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens This is a specialist’s tool that takes a great deal of experience and additional support equipment to use well. I’m still learning its ins and outs, but it’s great to be able to shoot a single grain of pollen.


Canon 580EX The 580EX and 580EX II are Canon’s high-end strobes. They’re powerful and highly -controllable. (The link takes you to the EX II.)

Canon MT-24EX The macro twin light is a specialized macro flash to use with the MP-E 65mm. Unless you’re a crazy macro shooter like me, you won’t have much interest in this.

Sigma EM 140DG This is a macro ring light from Sigma. Again with the crazy macro shooter thing.

Other Gear

Gitzo 2258 tripod, now replaced by the 2541. A couple of years ago, after nearly throwing my cheap 20-year-old Velbon tripod through a window, I went on a search for the Final Ultimate Solution To The Tripod Problem. The Gitzo was the right answer– lightweight, sturdy, reliable, indestructible, and with an articulating stem that’s great for shooting macro. (Macro macro macro… do you notice a theme here?)

Kirk BH-1 ball hhead

various Kirk mounting plates and a focusing rail

Tamron 1.4x pro teleconverter and Tamron 2x pro teleconverter I wanted teleconverters for the occasional extra-long telephoto, but most of them can only be used with certain lenses. The Tamron pro series doesn’t have that limitation, and the optics are quite good. When I’m feeling wild and crazy I’ve even been known to stack them, but I really don’t recommend this behavior.

Rental Gear

When I need specialized equipment for a specific project, and won’t use it enough that buying it is worthwhile, I rent gear from BorrowLenses.  They’re an excellent company with a great selection of equipment at extremely competitive prices.  If you’re local to the San Francisco bay area, you can even pick up your equipment in person at one of their locations.

6 responses to “What’s in Patti’s camera bag?

  1. Michael Wishvashi

    Thanks a lot!

    This really helped me get a clear view of photography. I purchased my first dSLR, a Sony Alpha 200 and your class is really excellent.

  2. TJ

    I saw an ad on craigslist for a 300mm F2.8 lens today. And I drooled. I have not begun to get to the end of my current equipment. But I lust for faster lenses. When I can’t get a shot that I want, I often think, if my lens was just faster… :) Today I was wondering is there ever a reason to want a slow lens? What do slow lenses do that fast ones won’t?

  3. stopshootingauto

    Slower lenses generally do have some advantages. They’re smaller, lighter, and less expensive than fast lenses. Here’s a page that compares the Canon 70-200 f/4L, the Canon 70-200 f/2.8L, and the IS versions of both lenses.


    The price comparison is dramatic. The 70-200 f/4L is about $600, while the f/2.8 is $1200. The IS versions of the two lenses come in at $1100 and $1700.

  4. Chad B

    Do you have any advice in regards to filters? Someone told me a UV filter is a must. Thak you for sharing all your knowledge!!

    • stopshootingauto

      A UV filter is somewhat useful for protecting the front of your lens if you drop it. A lens hood is too, though, and I think it’s more optically valuable. I don’t find a whole lot of use for a UV filter in my shooting.

      The only filter I use is a circular polarizer, and that only occasionally.

  5. Thanks for mentioning a lens rental company that’s local to me. There are lenses I’d like to try, but I’m not too keen on all of that shipping. :-)

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