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What equipment we use in our photography business: complete (to be:-) gear list.

alex koloskov our photography equipment
Our photography equipment

It was a long time since I’ve decided to write this article, and eventually I’ve got enough time to finish big piece of it and publish. This suppose to be the complete list of gear we use for our photography business: cameras, lighting, support, light modifiers, etc.
This should be relatively interesting topic for those who just entering photography field, I remember how I was searching for the right equipment when we were just starting out.
I will be trying to explain why we use specific thing, plus, a mini-review of each. This article will be updated every week: so many things is not covered yet, plus, I constantly in search for a new, more efficient tools, meaning all newcomers will be listed here.

Each item will have a link to a place where I bought it (usually it is [email protected] and white-lighting.com), answering “where did you get it from” question.


Table of contents:

 


 

Cameras:

1. Cambo Ultima D  view camera:

Cambo ultima D with Schneider 120mm macro HM lens
Cambo ultima D with Schneider 120mm macro HM lens

 

The Ultima 45 is Cambo’s sophisticated 4×5″ view camera, designed for high precision with digital applications, with fine geared movements on all movements, including lateral shift, rise and fall, swings, tilts and fine focussing.

As its name implies, the Ultima offers the ultimate in precision imagecontrol for both digital and traditional large format photographers. Cambo’snewest view camera represents an entirely new and distinctive designcreated for high performance, maximum flexibility, and pinpoint accuracy.The Ultima’s compact, symmetrical shape and sleek, aluminum constructionprovide utmost stability, while its fluid-smooth, geared movements,progressive brakes and positive position locks instill a sense of precisionand fingertip control.Cambo designers have incorporated numerous special features beneficialto today’s digital photographer, including a revolutionary “depth adjustment”which allows the user to position the digital chip of all backs precisely whereit needs to be for maximum performance.

 

 

 

1. Canon EOS 5D mark II DSLR:

canon-5d-mark-2Canon’s update to the wildly popular full frame EOS 5D is here, and it’s better than ever.

The EOS 5D Mark II has a stunning 21.1-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with DIGIC 4 Image Processor, a vast ISO Range of 100-6400 (expandable to ISO L: 50, H1: 12800 and H2: 25600), plus EOS technologies like Auto Lighting Optimizer and Peripheral Illumination Correction. It supports Live View shooting, Live View HD videos, and more. It can shoot up to 3.9 fps, has 9 AF points plus 6 AF assist points, a new 98% coverage viewfinder, a 3.0-inch Clear View LCD (920,000 dots/VGA) and a rugged build. Full-frame shooters rejoice!

 

 

 

 

Lenses:

All-purpose and tele-zoom:

  1. Canon 70-200mm F2.8 L IS.canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens The best zoom lens I have. I even can say (based on what I’ve read) that this is the sharpest canon’s tele-photo zoom lens. The same (or slightly better) sharpness has non-IS lens. I use it for most of my portrait/fashion work. Mounted on 1Ds MKIII, lens feels not heavy and well balanced. Auto-focus is fast, as we can expect from L grade lens.
    MTF Charts(full spec)
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS.
    canon 100-400mm f4 lens
    canon 100-400mm f4 lens

    Similar by it’s size to a 70-200mm lens, this is out least used lens. It is considerably softer then 70-200mm one, and it’s pull-push design is great when you shoot action or running wildlife, but it attracts good amount of dust inside the lens every time I squeeze it:-). Still nice lens, but our studio is not a right place for it. I keep it only for our future outdoor activities, when kids will grow bigger and run faster:-)
    MTF Charts (full spec)

  • Canon 24-70mm F2.8 L.
    canon 24-70mm f.8 lens
    canon 24-70mm f.8 lens

    This is a good prime lens, I use it for most of all-purpose work outside the studio. Not much for it in a studio: for products I prefer to use non-zoom macro lenses, for people I use 70-200mm F2.8L. Lens is very well built, not heavy and fast.Great to carry everywhere with you while traveling.
    MTF Charts

  • Canon 17-40mm F4.0 L.
    canon 17-40mm F4.0 L lens
    canon 17-40mm F4.0 L lens

    This is ultra-wide zoom lens, used mostly for architectural work. It was a main lens for interiors before I’ve got 14mm F2.8 L non-zoom. Now it mostly sits on a shell, used only when I need something between 14 and 24mm. Lens has considerable amount of barrel distortion, especially on a wide end. I also noticed slightly warm color tone on images from this lens. Not my favorite one:-)
    MTF Charts

Non-zoom lenses (my favorite type:-):

  1. Canon 180mm F3.5 L Macro.
    canon 180mm f3.5 L macro lens
    canon 180mm f3.5 L macro lens

    So far this is our best lens for product photography. It is incredibly sharp from F5.6 to f16, still delivering very good results till F29. Look at it’s MFT chart below, it looks very good. Suppose to be a good choise for outdor macro photography: you can shoot little insects from a good distance, without touching bug with the lens’s hood:-)
    MFT chart:

  2. Canon 100mm F2.8L IS Macro.
    canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens
    canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens

    Our recent purchase. Good lens, very nice bokeh when used for portraits with wide-open aperture (example). It is slightly under performing 180mm macro, but because of it’s shorter focal length lens is very useful in closeup macro photography: it provides deeper DOF at the same aperture level (comparing to a 180mm macro). Very sharp and contrast images down till F22. You can see 100% crops from the images made by this lens on this post at various aperture.
    MFT chart (full spec):

  3. Canon Macro MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Manual Focus.
    Canon super macro lens MP-E 65mm 1-5x
    Canon super macro lens MP-E 65mm 1-5x

    Very special lens, we use it for super macro work. It does not have focusing ring in it’s regular meaning. More about this lens can be found on this article I’ve posted a while ago: Lens and lights for super macro photography: surgery on a shooting table.
    MFT chart (full spec):

  4. Canon 14mm F2.8L.
    canon 14mm f2.8 L wide angle lens
    canon 14mm f2.8 L wide angle lens

    One of our most expensive lenses:-) Great for interiors and other architecture work, it is virtually distortion-free. Very sharp through wide aperture settings, it can be also used for a funny lifestyle images: here is the example of such use: our visit to Maharaj. One of my favorite lens.
    MFT Chart (full spec):

  5. Canon EF 50mm F1.4.
    canon 50mm f1.4 lens
    canon 50mm f1.4 lens

    Sorry to say, but this is our worst performer. I’ve got this lens few years ago thinking to use for a lifestyle (non-commercial) travel photography. The idea was to have small camera (5D) with a small lent to carry with us when we go out with kids. We used it few times, and found to be slow focus and low resolution lens.
    However, lens may perform very well, considering it’s cost, I know photographers who used it and like it. There is no other lens for $300 which you can use at F1.4, which is really cool for portraits. (example @ F1.8) Working with L grade lenses may have spoiled me, and I can’t accept such performer. Will be on sale soon.
    MFT chart (full spec):

  6. Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Makro-Symmar HM LensMACRO-SYMMAR HM 120/5.6 CPL #0Amazingly sharp and high contrast lens. 
  7. Sigma 105mm F2.8 macro.
    Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens
    Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens

    This is our first macro lens, we got it about 6-7 years ago, now it has been replaced by Canon L grade macro lens(es). Very sharp between F3.5 and F10, great for portraits and non-demanding macro work. It has very-very slow auto-focus and despite it maximum aperture of F42, diffraction kills contrast and details starting after F10, making it useless after F16. Going to sell it soon.

Lighting and light modifiers.

Studio monolights:

Currently we are using Paul C Buff units: White lighting and Alien Bees studio monolights. Both model lines has 640WS, 320Ws and 160Ws units, the difference is on its size and controls: AlienBees aimed to student/beginner photographers, WhiteLightning is more towards pro shooters. WhiteLightning also has X3200 model good for output of 1280 Ws of power.

However, now all those units is not worth to buy/have, IMO. Paul have (back-ordered;-) all-digital Einstein 640: for a little more money you’ll get much more serious flash. More about Einstein 640 can be found on manufacture website.
We have ordered several units, the plan was to replace all our monolights with Einstein.. However, nothing has been shipped yet, after 5 month of waiting. Must be a very popular strobe, or very poor suppliers:-)

Here is our current workers:


Einstein monolights:

This is a fully digital strobe, amazing list of features and extremely i short flash duration. Full review with some test shots on the video, or here:

PCB E640 Einstein monolight creative shot
PCB E640 Einstein monolight creative shot

AlienBees

AlienBees AB400 flash unit
AlienBees AB400 flash unit

AlienBees ring flash monolight

This ABR800 ring flash is a cool thing for fashion and portraits, see this example image created with the help of this ring flash. I have a larger parabolic reflector for it as well.

WhiteLigtning:

WhiteLightning X1600 flash unit

Remote controller/trigger for Paul C Buff units:

CST Trigger Transmitter and CyberSync™ Plus Receiver. Simple units; one is attached to a camera’s hot shoe, another on the flash. Plus (+) receiver can be controlled by CyberCommander, meaning we can adjust power of flash and modeling light remotely via 16 channels. To get all monolights equipped with such receiver (I have 8 of them) cost money, but the convenience is priceless!

Remote triggers: receiver and transmitter for AlienBees and White Lighting
Remote triggers: receiver and transmitter for AlienBees and White Lighting

CyberCommander controller:

Very cool unit, when it works as supposed to:-) More info on a manufacture website: Cyber Commander.

Paul C Buff Cyber Commander remote flash controller
Paul C Buff Cyber Commander remote flash controller

Dedicate hot shoe flash units:

We have 4 Canon SpeedLites: 580EX II, 580EX, 430EX, 420EX and ST-E2 Speedlite Transmitter. I rarely use more then one unit when I shoot outside, mostly using it in a studio for high-speed photography like water splash, or to highlight interior.

Canon speedlite flash units with remote controller
Canon speedlite flash units with remote controller

The main reason to use these units is an extreme short flash duration (around 1/10.000 of a sec), if used at 1/4 and lower power level. This is a low-cost solution for studio hi-speed shooting, and most of them will be replaced by Profoto 7A power generator soon: I need more power.. much more then speedlite can provide.

Support (stands, booms, etc)

Lighting stands:

Genaral purpose 10 ft lighting standWe use Paul C Buff stands, 10 and 13 feet, plus, few very old noname brands (like currently dead Amvona).  PCB stuff if lightweight ind relatively good for it’s price.. no complains.

Camera stands:

Bogen 055 XPROB Tripod

Manfrotto 055XPROB Aluminum Tripod Legs (Black)

A very good tripod, a little bit heavy for every day carry out, but since I work in a studio, it is not a problem for me.

405 geared head

Manfrotto 405 Pro Digital Geared Head

The best head i know for a studio photography. Precise movements, heavy load (it works with my view camera!) makes it one of the best investments.

Fatif heavy duty studio stand.

studio stand laptop mounted notebook support arm photography

I’ve got a post about this stand: My new monster toys: AKELstudio equipment upgrade.

Simply love this monster:-)

I remember how frustrating it was when I accidentally hit one of  tripod’s leg while shooting super (3x lifesize) macro: the whole composition was ruined in a fraction of a second.

Now, with such studio stand it won’t be a problem: it has more then 2 times smaller footprint than my tripod, it is easy to move it when wheels are engaged, and it solid when locked.

Accessories:

Flash meter. (Added 10/17/2010)

Sekonic L-358 Flash Master Meter. Probably cool thing, but I’ve never used it. This is why. There was a big discussion on DpReview.com regarding my post (love the last post, where the guy explains one of my photo:-), the I’ve heard a lot of good reasons why to use it. However, till now, I do not use it. I can easily replicate any of my lighting setups, as I have all of them photographed for blog. The ratio between lights is not important to know for me: in any case I adjust it individually for each subject, using my eyes and computer’s monitor. Plus, I can easily save the lighting setup specification on a Cyber Commander.

Sekonic L-358 Flash Master Meter
Sekonic L-358 Flash Master Meter

This is just a beginning:-)

I am going to continue this article, adding more from the stuff we use: light modifiers, stands, tripods, reflectors and diffuser panels, shooting tables, glue, cleaning solutions: virtually everything we use will be here:-) I really hope this will be interesting read for those who just entering photography field as well as for a professionals, who can found some useful info here as well.

I also will be gratefully appreciated to any useful comments, links and other information on how and what other photographers are using: there are so many cool things which I know nothing about … yet:-)

Stay tuned!

~Alex

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32 responses on "What equipment we use in our photography business: complete (to be:-) gear list."

  1. thnks Alex
    pls can you send me the list of those items, where to buy it and prices. thanks

  2. sorry for my English:)

  3. Hi Alex,

    I am a beginner, which only is starting the adventure with the product photography. At present I am using continuous lights, but I want to change them and to buy strobe lights. What lamps in Europe could you recommend?

  4. I need to these equipment… where can I buy?

  5. Hi Alex,

    How did you use L-358 with Cyber Commander?

  6. Hi Alex,

    I am just starting product photography and love your website and ebooks

    Could you recommend a focussing rail ?
    I am currently looking at the Manfrotto 454
    and the Novoflex CASTEL-CROSS-Q Focusing Rack

    Many thanks
    Dot

  7. I see what your saying… A table of any size and shape, covered with that film and the film then making a nice gentle arc up and back to the bar. For me anyway… That makes WAY more sense then spending $600+. I’d read in another place how much you liked that film, I’ll have to check it out as it sounds like very usefull stuff… That won’t break the bank!

    Thanks once more Alex!

  8. Thank’s so much Alex…. I see what your saying about the ease of manipulating reflectors around a smaller table. Makes sense.

    Now my mind is a WHIRL thinking about building a “very flexible and configurable shooting table. small or large, with seamless bents, etc. Much easier and at fraction of a real table cost”!!!

    Thank you again Alex for all you do!

    Steve

  9. Perhaps a better question might be… What are the types of products you find a table like the Manfrotto most useful for?

    Sorry… didn’t know how to edit the post above.

    Steve

  10. Hi Alex… I’m setting up a small (very small) product studio in my home (room is actually 12 ft x 12 ft). I’m looking at every way possible to economize on the total equipment foot print including use of at least 2 or 3 wall mounted booms for lights, autopoles for background, camera stand etc., while trying to maintain as much flexibility as possible. All of this in an effort to reduce the clutter on the floor and make it a little bit easier to move around in such a small space while shooting.

    I’ve watched many of your videos and looked through many of your tutorials… At least so far, the only time I’ve seen you use your Manfrotto shooting table was on food related shots. At least within the content of the educational info you’ve posted here, it would seem you improvise on “Tables” more than you use the Manfrotto. How important is having a dedicated shooting table like the Manfrotto to your product business?

    Thank you so much for all the info here!

    Steve

    • Steve,
      Most of the time I use Manfrotto table is small or non-glossy large subjects.. food shots. It is very easy to build a setup on the table, with all these flexi and articulated arms connected.
      for glossy stuff i use smaller, custom-made support solutions, as it is easy to manipulate with reflectors around a little table.

      However, if I would need a large shooting table now, I won’t buy Manfrotto: instead, I’ll get this roll of white plastic diffuser and will build very flexible and configurable shooting table. small or large, with seamless bents, etc. Much easier and at fraction of a real table cost.

      Hope this will help,
      Thank you:-)

  11. Hi Alex, this is so wonderful what you and your wife are doing here. I was looking for some information about how to shoot small objects and i just found your blog.
    I had this project where I need to shoot around 6000 mechanical object (small or medium) and need your advice. I’m about to do some shopping on the webstde that you said, but before I want to ask you what are the MUST accessories that have to buy. I had Nikon D300s, lenses 18-200mm and 2 cheap stand lights.

    Also, I meant to ask you what do you use to shoot live from your computer? I had only lightroom3, can I use it? What cable do I need? I’m sorry I might ask stupid questions but this is all new to me and I want to get on the right track and learn step-by-step.

    Thank you Alex & Genia.

    • Dana,
      I am creating a wish list on a BHphotovideo, it should have all that little (and not only) things I use already or going to buy soon. I can’t really suggest what exactly you must to have, as this is highly depends on your personal preferences and your own workflow. I can only share what I use, and you will decide if anything form this list will work for you.
      Will post this wish list soon.

      Lightroom 3 is great for tethered shooting, it will work with your nikon. Nikon also should have remote shooting alternative: usually it has better control over the camera then LR3, but usually it not as convenient:-) You’ll need to use long USB cable.

      Good luck with the shopping and the project, of course!

      • @Alex Koloskov,

        Thank you Alex, that sounds awesome. Let us know when you post the wish list.

        I bought 2 additional lights and the soft box :( which I should have listen to you that you do not use it; it’s all wrinkled I have to iron it. I thought I should go with cheap gear and later on buy good gear. But hey, this is a learning process :)
        I took some shoots, I will love to show you here :( but can’t upload pictures. My only concern is the white background is not so white; How can you achieve the white background that is exactly the same white from websites? I think might need powerful lights? I manipulate the background with lightroom but has different values. Also the exposure was 1/320 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400, shutter speed 320-400. See I have no idea if this date is teh one that supposed to be. I will send you an email with the pictures.

        Your help will be really really appreciated.
        Thank you again

        p.s.
        Also I attach my website. Was just a fun experiment when first I bought the camera. Your feedback will be much much appreciated! thanks Alekx

  12. Thanks for the link. I’ll check those diffusers out. I prefer to look at them in the store, too, but my local shops don’t have a lot of selection.

    I’m not the owner of ThinkGeek, just one of two pretty busy product photographers. :-)

  13. I’d be interested to know which diffusers you use in the studio. I’m a product photographer, and I really enjoy using a large Lastolite diffuser in my product work. It’s round and a bit cumbersome in tight spaces, so I think I’d do better with some of the diffusers I’ve seen in your setup shots. I’ve found that it’s hard to know exactly what you are buying just from looking somewhere like B&H.

    Love watching your work on the blog!

  14. Alex –
    What type of (tripod) head and laptop support are you using on your monostand?

  15. Great gear , I have some of those as well , but I didn’t now that you do large format photography too .
    I bought Shen-Hao XPO 4X5 Kit recently , I feel this type of photography need patience and special care of films , I put them in the refrigerator till I found suitable time and weather .
    Nasser

  16. Congrats! U are doing a great job!
    – Erin Judy

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