The end of winter is just around the corner, and hopefully the outdoors will thaw so we can get back into the field without fear of hypothermia. I thought I would put together a buyer’s guide of essential gear for the landscape photographer because Spring is breaking soon, and all the recent new camera announcements.
Precise Moment magazine has put together an Essential Gear for Landscape Photographers in 2015, with the purpose being to provide you with carefully considered gear that will make your life easier and more productive in the field. From cameras to water purifiers to photo mugs, if you are an outdoor shutterbug that lives for being in National Parks or your local spot, this list might be for you.
Mirrorless cameras are becoming even more present in the landscape photography community because of their portability, exceptional image quality, and the ability to have a nice full-frame camera with great depth of field capability and lighter weight.
The Fujifilm X-T1 is one of the best weatherproof mirrorless cameras on the market and features the robust 16.3-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor that features an original color filter array that minimizes moire and color aberrations. The X-T1 also features phase-detection AF so that you can lock down focus on wildlife with precision and speed, while still having a lightweight body that is perfect for lugging around.
The Sony Alpha A7II is another mirrorless camera that has really impressed the photographic community because of its incredible dynamic range and performance in low-light. The A7II makes some minor improvements from the A7, like a more robust and ergonomic shape, but it is essentially the same guts as the A7 (so you’re ok if you just want to buy the older version). The A7II also features a rugged weather-resistant body that is great for photographers who like to subject themselves to the mud and rain.
DSLRs are still the bread and butter of serious amateur photographers and pros, and I hardly think this will change. Having a full-frame DSLR adds unrivaled image quality and depth of field, and performs amazingly in low-light. Of course they are a bit pricier, but as we all know we get what we pay for, and having a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera is essential for wildlife and landscape photography.
Speed is also a concern of the wildlife photographer who quickly needs an AF system that accurately focuses on fast-moving subjects. There are some amazing DSLRs that are brand new, and are must-have cameras for the serious landscape photographer.
The Nikon D750 has the full-frame 24-megapixel FX-Format CMOS sensor that comes from an impressive lineage of amazing image quality and speed from its older siblings like the D700. The D750 has a high-res 3.2-inch tilt screen that is useful when making difficult shots, and a burst rate of 6.5 FPS to stop down the action of a fast-moving animal. The D750 gives you a more affordable price point than its older brother the D810, and an equally amazing camera that’s perfect for the landscape photographer.
The Canon EOS 5DS hasn’t even shipped yet, but it has one of the highest-resolution full-frame cameras in the 35mm category. This means if you want to crop an image, you will still have enough resolution to get what you need… and then some. Or if you need a large print, the resolution of the 5DS will definitely give you enough dynamic range and detail to give you an amazing reproduction. The Canon 5D camera lines have always been the top DSLR for the landscape photographer, and it seems like Canon is continuing to release amazing DSLRs with excellent specs for photographers.
The 5DS isn’t available yet, but if you want to stay in the 5D family, the 5D Mark III is a proven road warrior that still gives you the big picture.
Drones have gotten a bad rap because of their use as remote weapons and spying on people, but there’s a photo drone that you might like to add to your quiver, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ v3.0 with Gimbal-Stabilized 14MP Camera. This little amazing camera drone has a head that gives smooth, stable 3 axis gimbal panning, and allows you to capture 14-megapixel stills or HD video with either 1080p Full HD at 30 fps, or 720p at 60 fps. With a drone, you can get unmatched perspectives and access places you can’t access by foot. This is a landscape photographers dream, and has quickly become part of a lot of professional photographers’ travel gear.
Having a sturdy, weatherproof, fluid, lightweight tripod with a head is indispensable when you’re out in the field. Not only can you get those long exposures, but you can ensure your camera is steady so that you can get tack sharp focus and gain a few stops. It was what image stabilization was in the film days before all the gyros in the body and lenses of DSLRs, but in spite of that, a tripod is the old-fashioned, trusty way of getting IS.
Here are some great tripods for the landscape photographer:
For the price, the Sunpak 5858D Aluminum Tripod with 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head can’t be beat. I have used Sunpak tripods in the past, and they are economical and do their jobs. The 5858D has a 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head, weight 1.9 lb, and can hold 8 lb.
The weather is still in the zeros on the East coast, and we are still in the frigid throes of winter. The Freehands Men’s Stretch Thinsulate Gloves allow you to expose your thumb and index finger to use your camera without fumbling around and having to take off your gloves constantly to change settings.
Nothing says photo geek more than a FotodioX LenZcup Replica Canon 70-200mm f/4L USM Lens Thermo Cup. These mugs are novelty sure, but they are one way you can afford a Canon or Nikon lens without paying hundreds to thousands of dollars for fast glass. Too bad they don’t come with interchangeable parts so you could first drink coffee and then go shoot with your mug. 😉
Outdoor elements certainly have their own challenges, including dust and other gunk. When switching out lenses in the field, you will more than likely get dust, or something on your sensor. Having a sensor cleaning kit is essential for any photographer, and the Lenspen SensorKlear Loupe Kit is good to have when you get home, or out in the field when you absolutely need it.
Adobe Lightroom 5 is a fantastic program for workflow, edits, and RAW processing, and getting ready to print photographs. I use Photoshop quite a bit, but I find myself working in Lightroom more than Photoshop because of how intuitive and easy it is. Although I’m not a big can of Adobe Creative Cloud (maybe it will grown on me one day), you can still get the software for a one-time purchase, or you can pay for it monthly. Lightroom is certainly the photographers best friend, and we landscape folks love it probably the most. Don’t worry Photoshop, we love you too.
In case your DSLR or mirrorless camera doesn’t have the weatherproofing for torrential rain, check out the Think Tank Photo Hydrophobia. It protects your DSLR from moisture, wind, dust and dirt, and is great to throw in your backpack just in case the weather conditions change rapidly.
The serious backpacker needs a durable pack that carries all essential camera gear, while at the same time keeping everything safe and sound. The Mindshift Rotation 180 Professional Backpack Waistpack Combo is the most durable photo backpack that makes overnight photo trips easy to carry your camera, lenses, and to strap on your tripod.
The Lowepro LP36505-PWW Photo Sport Pro 30L Camera Bag is built for the serious outdoor and landscape photographer. Perfect for pro-sized DSLRs, the Photo Sport Pro gives you a fast-access side pocket that lets your grab your camera without having to take off your pack, making it immediately ready and accessible. It is also affordable at $129.
Holding a DSLR for a long period of time, especially with a 70-200mm or 300mm slung on your shoulders, will wear you out quickly. To relieve some of that pressure on your shoulders, why not transfer the weight to your core? The Rainbowimaging Quick Release Dual-shoulder Camera Neck Strap allows you to strap two cameras to your body, and better yet, its price ($12.99) is pretty attractive.
The LifeStraw is probably something you don’t want to have to use, but you might be glad you had. It’s always good to be prepared for the worse case scenario, and not having water is a big problem when you’re far from civilization. The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter removes minimum 99.9% of waterborne bacteria, 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites, and costs only $20. It works great, it’s affordable and is an awesome addition to your kit.