I had buyer's remorse after picking up the K-3 after realizing that the K-3ii had a built-in astrotracer and GPS (which I needed for my Iceland trip). The trade-off is that the K-3ii doesn't have a flash.
I've actually only ever used this camera a few times. I quickly replaced it with the K-3ii when I realized that it was better for what I needed. Currently trying to sell it on Amazon at a loss.
The Pentax K5 has been my main DSLR for the better part of two years. I bought the body as an upgrade to the K-x. Right off the bat, the most noticeable quality of the K5 was its low light performance (the K-x was no slacker in that area either). Performance is quick, the body is relatively compact, and it feels like a very well-made camera all around. Since then, Pentax has come out with the K5 II, but the K5 suits my purposes.
For a sample of the K5, check out my 2014 Tribute In Light photo set.
Canon PowerShot S110
For those times when you're on vacation and can't carry around a DSLR, and a camera phone just won't cut it, you need a point and shoot. At least, that was my rationale behind picking up the PowerShot S110 before my trip to Europe. It's a very compact camera (less than an inch in depth with the lens retracted) and the quality is pretty good. Low light performance isn't great and it is prone to blur with longer exposures (then again, it's so tiny that any amount of wind would probably cause it to move). It also has some fancy features like a touch screen and Wi-Fi, but I try not to use either.
A lot of the photos from my Food In London photo set were taken with the S110.
There's only so much praise I can heap onto the Pentax K-x. It's widely known to be one of the best bang-for-your-buck entry-level DSLRs. It has a super small form factor (you can comfortably operate it with one hand). It performs relatively well in low light. Photo quality is good. Plus, it takes AA batteries! You never have to worry about forgetting an extra battery pack because you can just go to the local convenience store. My only complaint would be that the viewfinder is a bit small. I put in an aftermarket split focus screen so I would be able to use manual focus lens more easily. I have since given my white K-x (the "Stormtrooper") away to a friend as a gift, but she served me well.
One of the last photo sets I took with the K-x was the one at Brooklyn Bridge Park/DUMBO.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35
I purchased the Lumix DMC-FZ35 (not the easiest to remember name) as a replacement for the Finepix S700, which started to fail after a hard-worked 3 years. At the time, I was still obsessed with super-zoom bridge cameras, and occasionally recorded video at concerts, and the Lumix came highly regarded in both areas. Unfortunately, I only used the Lumix a handful of times before upgrading again to the Pentax K-x.
One of the only concerts that I brought the Lumix to was Nicole Atkins at Bowery Ballroom.
Fujifilm Finepix S700
The Fujifilm Finepix S700 was the my first foray into super-zoom bridge cameras. I wanted something I could bring into concert venues without having issues, and at the time, the S700 was one of the best quality budget cameras on the market. It was compact. It zoomed in fast and far. The video quality wasn't great, and the microphone could have been better, but I'll always hold the S700 dear to me. I eventually stopped using it when the auto-focus was on the fritz. But I sure did get a lot of mileage out of it. By my count, it was close to 7,500 shots.
The last photo set I shot with the S700 was Meg & Dia at Webster Hall.
Pentax DA 35mm f/2.8
I bought this to fill the gap between my FA 50mm (which is wonderfully sharp, but not always useful for up close shots) and the DA 21mm (which is a great focal length, but doesn't open wide enough). The DA 35mm is a great compromise, and it's my current go-to lens for concert photography.
Pentax SMC FA 50mm f/1.7
Even though it has limited uses, my favorite Pentax lens is probably the Pentax SMC FA 50mm. It comes in several versions, but I have the f/1.7 one. It's lightweight (plastic but durable) and with a small form factor, but the quality is excellent. There's barely any chromatic abberation, and it's sharp as a tack. Best of all, it's highly affordable. I've seen it go for under $300 on the used marketplace. At the price point and focal length, there's really nothing better.
To shoot the We Are The Wilderness at Cake Shop photo set, I used the FA 50mm with my Pentax K5.
Pentax DA 21mm f/3.2
I bought the DA 21mm prime because I needed something with a shorter focal length, and have always been a fan of Pentax prime lenses (usually better quality all around). I got the DA 21 off the used market and it became one of my go-to lenses. The quality isn't as good as the FA 50mm, but it's a lot more versatile. Like the 50mm, it has a very small form factor and can easily fit in your back pocket while shooting.
For my 2014 Tribute In Light photo set, I used the DA 21mm with my Pentax K5.
Pentax 16-45mm f/4.0
The Pentax 16-45mm lens (sometime branded as Samsung, like in my case) is definitely an upgrade over most kit lenses. I've used it a lot due to how wide it's able to get, but it is a bit prone to fringing in bright light. That said, quality is good, but not great (definitely not better than any of the primes I have). But it fills a niche, and if you need versatility above all else, a zoom is always a good bet.
It was the exclusive lens that I used for my 2013 trip to South America. For samples of quality, here's my Paracas Peru photo set. I used the lens with the Pentax K5.
Samyang 14mm f/2.8 Fisheye
There was a time when I was obsessed with fisheye lenses for their sheer wide-ness (for lack of a better term). Since then, I've come to see them as a novelty. That said, the Samyang 14mm was my second prime (after the Zenitar 16mm). It's sometimes branded as Rokinon, so if you're looking for one, that bit of information may help. It was definitely an upgrade in quality, but the size of the lens, along with lack of auto-focus really limited its utility for me. It's not a bad lens by any stretch, but it just fell out of use in my collection.
Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye
The Zenitar 16mm was my first fisheye. Compared to the Samyang I later bought, it featured a lot smaller form factor, but the glass was heavy all the same. Like the Samyang, the lack of auto-focus was a big limiting factor. What's cool about the Zenitar is that it's a Russian lense, and if you buy it in factory packaging, it comes with a Russian manual and QC document. However, there are some quality control issues with these lenses. A few have a focus-to-infinity issue, but it's very easy to fix with a small Phillips head screwdriver.
Some of the shots from my Wye Oak at Rock Shop Brooklyn photo set were taken with the Zenitar 16mm. If it's not obvious, there was probably some de-fishing involved.
Pentax DA 50-200mm f/4-5.6
I bought this lens thinking I'd be doing more nature photography, but I just never got around to it. It's a light lens (plastic construction), which means minimal to no lens creep. Quality is good, as is build quality (the weather resistant version is probably preferable). But like I said, I barely used the lens and it's just collecting dust on my shelf. I actually have it currently listed on the Amazon marketplace for a fraction of what I paid for it.
Metz Mecablitz 44 AF-1 Flash
I'm still learning the nuances of the Mecablitz 44. It's one of the handful of affordable third-party flashes that supports Pentax's PTTL. I bought it to start shooting events, but have only had limited uses with it.
Vivitar Ring Flash
This flash is a bit more of a novelty. I bought it for close-up product shots and the occasional portrait, but it's since been collecting dust on my shelf. These days, I don't use flash for almost anything.
Evecase SLR Camera Bag
I picked up this bag from Amazon because I was looking for a bag that could carry my 13" Ultrabook, my camera, and some lenses. So far, so good. It can even hold a light tripod with the straps.
Incase DSLR Pro Sling Pack
If you need a relatively big camera bag that's affordable and not ugly, you can't beat Incase. I bought it for my 2014 trip to Europe, and was able to use it not only for my camera, but also for extra clothes that didn't fit in my other bag. I ended up using the Incase as a carry-on bag. The single-strap is a big tough on your shoulders if you're doing a lot of walking, but weight is distributed as best as it can be. The inside compartments use velcro and can be adjusted or rearranged.
Lowepro SlingShot 200 AW
This is a wonderful backpack. Along with a ton of storage space (without being a gigantic bag), you also have the ability to swing it around your body so you don't need to take it off to access your camera. The compartments inside are also held in place with velcro and rearrangeable, which is a great feature. It also comes with a built in rain pouch that covers the entire bag. I've only had to use it a few times, but every time, I was glad it was there.
Case Logic SLR Sling
I basically only use this bag when I need a lower profile and can get by with just one other extra lens (concerts, for instance). It doesn't provide the most padding, but it protects your camera from bumping around with this cool suspension sleeve. Definitely worth checking out if you need something casual that's not too bulky. Like the Lowepro SlingShot, you can swing this around to access your equipment, though it's not as smooth.
Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Messenger Bag
I bought this for my 2013 South America trip because I needed something to store both my camera and a small laptop, while still being small enough for a carry-on bag. The Timbuk2 Snoop served me well, but at the end of the day, it was just a little too big (I had the medium one). That said, the thing is built like a tank and will probably last another half decade or so. I recently sold it, and it was in as good as condition as it was before my trip.
Slik AMT Tripod
I got the Slik AMT tripod used off of Craigslist, and it is built like a beast. I'm sure it'll last another decade. Each leg articulates independently, which is a super useful feature. Action is smooth as well. That said, it's also pretty heavy. Not exactly the easiest thing to lug around, though I have biked around with it in a hiking backpack. Not fun, but doable.
I used this tripod for my 2012 9/11 Tribute in Light photo set.
Peak Design Capture Camera Clip
This is a unique little product. It's a camera clip that you can put on your belt, backpack, or anything else with a strap. I bought this for my South America trip because I knew I'd be doing a lot of walking/hiking. I also didn't want to bring a DSLR bag with me everywhere I went since it would limit my functionality, so I got the Peak Capture clip and used it with my daypack. It's a great little product that makes you think, "why didn't I think of that?" Your camera attaches to the clip and you just have to press a button to take it off. It makes shooting super simple and is secure enough that someone can't just snatch it off of your person. I had version 1 of the clip, which had a little bit of mobility issues (the gears would sometimes get caught). But I've spoken to Peak and they say it was a known issue that was fixed in subsequent releases. If I had the chance, I'd definitely buy the newer version.
Pedco UltraPod II Tripod
Obviously, you can't always bring a full size tripod with you everywhere (and sometimes not even a monopod), which is why the idea of the UltraPod intrigued me. The legs articulate independently, and you can fold them all in together and then use the velcro strap to tie the tripod (and your camera) onto a stable surface like a railing. At the end of the day, I didn't really use the velcro attachment, but did find a lot of use from it as a tripod. It's small enough that you can carry around in an extra pocket of your bag, but a little too big for your pants pocket (at least if you like sitting down).
I used the Ultrapod most recently for my 2014 Tribute In Light photo set.
Hardware & Devices
ASUS ZenBook UX303UB
For my 2016 trip to Iceland and Europe, I specifically wanted an Ultrabook that could handle photo editing without being too heavy or breaking the bank. It seemed like I was going to have to compromise on one of these features, but luckily, I was able to snag a deal on a refurbished ASUS ZenBook. It's definitely a workhorse and can handle most of what I throw at it.
- i7-6500U (2.5 GHz)
- 13.3" IPS screen (3200 x 1800)
- 12GB DDR3
- NVIDIA GeForce 940M (2GB)
- 512GB SSD
- Windows 10 (64-bit)
HP Pavilion p6540f Desktop Computer
I'm one of those people who feels more comfortable doing photo editing on a desktop PC. To that end, I purchased this HP desktop, which had some pretty good baseline specs, but was definitely customizable to the degree that I wanted. It's a few years old now, but it still does everything I need it to do. The current specs include:
- AMD Phenom II X4 830 processor (2.8 GHz)
- 16 GB RAM (upgrade)
- HIS Radeon HD 5770 1GB video card (upgrade)
- 1 TB Hard Drive
- Windows 7 (64-bit)
HIS Radeon HD 5770 1GB Video Card
You can't really do photo processing without a strong video card. The Radeon HD 5770 series includes multiple outputs, including HDMI, DVI and Display Port. At the moment, I have it running through two Dell 2209WA monitors, and a third output to a projector for watching movies/TV. This video card is a workhorse, and I can definitely recommend it for graphic design and editing. However, I don't do video editing anymore and don't play many games, so your mileage may vary!
Dell 2209WA IPS Monitor (x2)
These Dell monitors are now discontinued, but they were traditionally always a favorite among graphic designers - and with good reason. At the time they were released, they were one of the most affordable IPS monitors (meaning better viewing angles and more accurate color reproduction). The original stand also allowed them to be physically rotated to portrait mode (though I have since replaced them with a double monitor stand). I love these monitors and they've faithfully served me for over 4 years. I'll be heartbroken when they inevitably break down, but for the moment, they're still working as well as the day I got them. The only minor complaint I have is that the native resolution of these monitors is an awkward 1680 x 1050 (which is just a tad under full HD). The newer version (linked to on the left) solves this issue, and judging by the reviews, they probably perform just as well as their predecessor.
Pantone huey Color Calibrator
Color reproduction is one of the most important things for photo editing. For everyday use, I have the Pantone huey MEU101. It's reliable, super tiny, and does what it says. It can even continually monitor room lighting conditions and adjust your display accordingly (which is super useful if you work in a room with open windows for hours at a time). I will say that I wish I bought a calibrator that could work across multiple displays. But otherwise, a solid investment.
Google Nexus 10 Tablet
The Nexus 10 tablet is my go-to computer for traveling now. I used to have a netbook, but the hardware and OS were both severely outdated. I used to think I didn't want a tablet, but since getting one, I don't think I could go back. You really can't beat the form factor and the resolution. The Nexus 10 runs at a cool 2560 x 1600. Combined with an external card reader, I also use it for backing up photos at the end of the day. Just extra peace of mind.