This is the workhorse. This is the camera that’ll be with me at almost all times. It’s a big step up from the 5D Mark II both in quality and price; but it’s totally worth it. I can not profess my love for this camera enough. The high ISO performance is great (though, I’d like even more, of course), and the overall image quality as well. Shooting six pictures in a second (with a buffer around 20 photos), it’s great for concerts paired with the ISO capabilities. The grip has a really good shape, so it sits perfectly in your hands, something that’s really important to me, since I have to move around a lot. The autofocus of this camera, compared to its predecessor, works really well, and you get loads of focus points to choose from. I don’t think I ever could go back to fewer focus points, since having so many, has become such an important part of my workflow when shooting concerts.
Obviously, since this is my camera, I’m terribly biased when talking about it. But I can at least guarantee that if you get this camera, it can get you fantastic shots. Even if Nikon or Pentax or Sony at the moment has something better on the marked (I honestly don’t know).
The 5D Mark II used to be my main camera body, but now more or less lives in a box as back-up. I pull it out at times if I want to do video productions with more than one camera angle, as the video function is pretty amazing even if the camera is quite old at this point. Being a full frame camera, the images it produces are very good and it handles noise quite well. I can’t stand noise, but I could still push it up 2000 ISO and get acceptable results. There is a downside with this camera, though, and it’s a big one. The auto-focus is terrible. Since I shoot mostly concerts, I rely heavily on auto-focus. I don’t think I found it to be a huge problem before I got the 5D Mark III, but going back to the Mark II now, I see just how bad it is. Still, this camera got me great results when I used it.
A brand new addition to my kit, so I haven’t used it too much yet. Mostly, I use it on my Phantom 2 drone. I find the video quality to be great, but the image quality is just OK. I my opinion, the photos could be sharper, and noise performance is terrible for both video and stills (or maybe I’m just spoiled!) even in just slightly low light. And, while I know it’s designed to be that way, I wish the fish-eye effect could be a little more subtle. It’s easy enough to correct in post, but when you just have 12 MP, you don’t want to waste precious pixels in post-correction.
I’ve read somewhere that when you’re a landscape photographer, you want the widest lens possible that’s not a fisheye. The same thing rings true for music photography, as long as one specific condition is fulfilled. You need to get close. Really close. Like, bumping-into-guitars-close. Then, this will give you brilliant shots. It’s tack sharp and the distortion isn’t bad at all (in my opinion fisheye, while even wider, gets old real quick). So that’s why I use this lens most frequently when shooting at smaller clubs where you are right in the artists face (if you can manage that without them noticing, you’re doing your job right!). When shooting larger venues with taller stages it’s a great lens for getting shots of the whole stage and audience shots, as well.
Of all my zoom-lenses this is probably, at least optically, the weakest in my kit. It’s not nearly as sharp as the others, has no stabilization and extends quite a bit at the wide end (which is kind of counterintuitive, when you think about it). And yet, this is the lens I use the most. This is my walk-around lens. While somewhat flawed, it’s great for most things, really. It goes wide, and close enough for more or less anything as long as you can move around a bit. I don’t think I’ve shot a single gig without picking up this lens since I got it. Likewise, when doing any kind of photojournalism, I’ll usually use this lens exclusively. Since it’s so versatile, you can focus on getting the shots and not running back and forth from your bag, changing lenses all the time. It just does the job. If I had to get rid of all my lenses but one, this is the one I’d keep.
In my opinion, this is the one lens you absolutely must have at bigger stages. It gets you really close, and yet 70mm is short enough to get a full body shot quickly by just moving a little bit. Without a doubt my most used lens when shooting big/open air stages. My copy is pretty beat up, so it’s no longer as sharp as it used to be, but much like the 24-70mm it still does a great job. The image stabilization gives you a few stops of extra light and the autofocus is lightning fast and very precise, even when subject move around a lot. Of course, it’s a speciality lens, so if you’re not shooting big stages, you don’t need it. That said, this should be high on any concert photographers list, especially if you want to shoot the big acts.
Just got this one. Will add a description as fast as I’ve got an impression of the lens.
This lens in a way, comes with a particular style in mind. It blurs almost all of the frame, except one “sweet spot” that you can move around by tilting the ballhead. It’s manual focus, so I find it really difficult to use, but it gives an interesting look. I find that it works best with backstage shots and black & white live shots. What you’re going for with this lens, isn’t tack sharp shots, but rather you’re going for soft, moody pictures. Manually controlling both the “sweet spot” and the focus is hard, though, so I have to admit that I don’t use the Lensbaby nearly as much as I should.
Everyone should have a 50mm lens. I use this when I don’t want to stand out too much, like fly-on-the-wall-situations. While the 24-70mm is a great lens to use for most things, it still is a fairly big lens to carry around. People notice you, and that affects the situation. The 50mm on the other hand, is small enough that it’s easy to just melt into the background. I use it a lot when shooting artists backstage. A 35mm would be a good alternative, but I find that the 50mm range is just long enough that you don’t have to move around too much to get the shots, i.e. you don’t bring too much attention to yourself. I’m not too fond of the bokeh it produces, but at this moment, if you want a small lens, it’s the best option in my opinion. It’s also great for street photography, and being a f/1.4 lens, it has saved me many times when shooting particularly dark gigs at smaller venues. The autofocus is alright. Not as quick as an L-lens, but still more than acceptable. Not tack sharp wide open, but if you stop down to around f/2.2, you should be ok.
A fairly new addition to my bag. I’m finding myself using it more and more at concerts. If you want to read a more in-depth article about some of my first experiences using this lens it that context, click here. Of course, this is primarily a portrait lens. The best one on the market according to most photographers (me included!). It gives a soft and dreamy look at the magical f/1.2 (the bokeh is fantastic!), but still manages to keep the focus extremely sharp. The depth of field when shot wide open is very narrow, so it can be a bit tricky to hit focus when not used on a tripod, and the autofocus is very-very slow. However, in general, you won’t be using a lens like this for moving subjects, so it’s not really a big deal. I use it a lot for promo- and editorial shots, and lately I’ve used it for a few video productions, as well.
A speciality lens to say the least. I almost never get to use it, but I love all things macro! It’s not as sharp as the L-version and it has a bit of a plastic feel to it, but I have no complaints on the results. It can get you quite nice results as a portrait lens as well, but I don’t really use it for anything but macro work, since I have other lenses better fit to all other purposes. Marco on my part, more or less means shooting insects and other small animals, so it being 100mm is a huge benefit, since you can stand a meter or so away and still get the magnification you want without scaring away your subjects.
While the 70-200mm gets you a long way, sometimes it’s not enough. In Norway it’s quite unusual, but every now and then, you have to shoot a gig from the soundboard (FOH or “front of house”, as it’s called). Generally you only run into this with big pop acts, but when you do, 200mm isn’t enough. If you don’t have really deep pockets to get an even longer lens, having an extender is invaluable in that situation. There is a significant drop in both image quality and speed, but it’s way better than cropping. It’s also worth noting that you lose most of your focus points (the only ones left are two rows in the center of the frame) with an extender attached. But, like I said, when you need it, you really need it. It’s also nice to have if you, like me, enjoy shooting birds and other animals.
Concerts where you are allowed to use a flash are few and far between. But, at some gigs, you definitely have to have one (typically extreme metal shows with a lot of smoke and backlight). This will give you both power and charge to get through a gig like that. The recharge time is phenomenal, so you almost never have to wait for the flash to be ready, you can just shoot away and let it do it’s thing. I have three of these, and I primarily use them for promo shots, often in conjunction with a softbox and usually trigger one or more wirelessly, either with the ST-E2 or an additional 580EX. Wherever I use them, I usually set them to E-TTL (“automatic”) and only adjust the power slightly on camera. You can control them manually, even wirelessly, right on your camera, but in general I find the E-TTL mode to work so well that there isn’t any need for fiddling with manual mode (and you’re always in a rush when shooting musicians!).
If you want to trigger a flash off-camera without the hassle of a wire, this is an option. I say an option, since it has many limitations. It uses infrared to communicate wirelessly with a flash, so it’s barely usable in daylight and unusable in sunlight. It works quite well inside and after dark, though. You can use a 580EX II flash in the same way, but this isn’t nearly as heavy, so I find that it’s a bit easier to work with on long shoots. You can also control the power of the flash right on the unit instead of fumbling around in the menus on your camera or at the back of your flash, which is quite nice.
If you’re using artificial light, you generally want it to be fairly soft. I’ve never even once shot in a studio. That means I have to carry everything around. This kit comes in two easy-to-carry bags and my Speedlites fit right into the softbox. Honestly, the light stand isn’t that great, but the softbox itself is awesome. While I do use it for promo shots, the best use for this, is photojournalistic portraits. The softbox is really quick to assemble, and comes with a handle making it very easy for either you or a journalist to hold. Seriously, if you’re considering getting a softbox, this one is worth it just because of that handle.
I used to have both an iPad and a laptop. This gives me both in one unit. While heavier than a tablet, it’s lighter than a laptop. It lives permanently in my bag where my tablet used to sit. Sure, it’s a compromise on the weight, but it’s really worth those few extra grams. You can’t get Photoshop on an iPad. With the touch screen and stylus pen, editing your shots on the go is really easy. Hell, you can even do it standing up, as long as you’re in the shade (glare is a problem at times). After getting this, working at festivals is much easier, since I don’t have to run back and forth between the venues and the press tent to edit my shots. At regular gigs, I’ll often edit a shot or two sitting on the bus on my way home to put on Instagram. (and shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I often use it to watch Netflix while editing on my desktop!)
At some point in the future I’ll do a more thorough post on my bag and what it contains, but suffice to say, I get everything I want into this bag (and then some); my camera with the 24-70mm mounted, 70-200mm, 16-35mm, 85mm, 50mm, 2x extender, Lensbaby, a flash, earplugs(!), extra batteries and memory cards, my laptop and a whole lot of junk. It comes with a rain cover tucked into the bottom which is useful for both concert beer showers and the constant Bergen rain showers.
I find the included camera strap to be an atrocity. If you leave your camera hanging on your shoulder (having it around your neck is not an option!), you constantly have to be vigilant to be sure that your camera doesn’t slip and fall off your shoulder. The Black Rapid strap solves that problem by going across your body instead. It just hangs there, and you don’t have to worry about it. It also relieves your back, since you can relax your shoulders. You connect the strap to the bottom of your camera, using the tripod mount, which actually makes it a lot easier to pick up your camera quickly.
Though I’m a music photographer, I don’t know too much about sound. That said, in my opinion, this gives you great audio in almost all circumstances. As long as you set your levels right, you can get great sound of anything, from loud concerts to interviews. It is perhaps a bit heavy on the bass, but that’s easy enough to correct in post.
To be honest, I don’t know a lot about memory cards. Obviously, I know what size I want, and I know I want them to be as fast as possible. At the moment, I have four cards. Two SanDisk Extreme Pro 64 GB, one with a writing speed of 160 MB/s, and one with 90 MB/s. In addition I have two SanDisk Extreme (not Pro) cards with a writing speed of 60 MB/s.
Since I use the Black Rapid strap, I keep these on me at all times. With the largest and fastest card usually in the camera. I’ve never had any trouble with any card I’ve ever bought, so I’ll keep buying SanDisk, but I have no idea if these are test winners or if I’ve been lucky with shitty cards.
Unless I’m shooting a festival, I rarely fill up the first card, so I’m used to the 160 MB/s writing speed. There is quite a notable difference even between the Extreme Pro cards when shooting in burst mode, as the buffer of the camera fills up quickly, so I recommend getting 160 MB/s if you’re shooting things that move fast (or rely heavily on spray ‘n’ pray).
I wanted two things when investing in a tripod. It had to be stable, and I wanted to be able to put my camera very close to the ground. This does just that. I usually work handheld, so the only two things I want to get out of a tripod is a stable tripod for video, and something to use for nature shots with long shutter speeds, like flowing rivers (and then you have to be able to get low and close). I only have one gripe, and that is the ballhead. It’s a bit tricky to set, but other than that, I really like this tripod.
I’ve just had this since December and barely used it because of the weather. It’s really easy to fly. Like childs play, in fact, and it gives you really good results almost immediately. Oh, and it’s just a lot of fun to fly! You can read a more in-depth post about my first experiences with the Phantom 2 here.
If you want to mount a camera to a drone, you need a stabilizer (or a gimbal, as they’re called). The Zenmuse H3-3D does the job very well. When I got it, it didn’t work at all, but after spending a few hours updating it (with the same file, over and over again, actually), I got it working. And when it works, it’s a great gimbal for the Phantom 2. The H3-3D is designed for the Gopro Hero 3, but it works fine with my Hero 4 after I taped a coin on the left side to balance it. I can see sometimes slight signs of jello when shooting video, but it’s rare, and not particularly relevant for me, since I mainly want to use it for photography.