Equipment Reviews

Equipment is fundamental to photography and the right tool must be selected for the job. I’ve primarily used an SLR because I believe it to be the best 'all round' tool for many applications. The system has an exhaustive range of lenses and accessories to aid one's photographic objectives.

The following is a list of major equipment used to capture the images on this site. Some items I no longer have while others I have had for years. These are short statements on personal reflection using this equipment in the field rather than a scientific approach.

Fuji G617 with Fuji SW 105mm F/8

After purchasing two books of Colin Prior’s work I could instantly see the appeal of panoramic photography and marvelled at how well it suited Scotland’s landscape. I found an excellent sample on eBay and quickly loved its simplicity and quality. It is very well built and simple to use. Looking through the clear viewfinder at the world beyond is exciting. The quality of the Fuji Velvia transparencies produced by this camera is incredible. I can pick out the smallest details in rock, sand and vegetation. The fixed lens has horizontal coverage equivalent to about 22mm in the 35mm format and is ideal for my use. After scanning I can comfortably reach resolution over 100 megapixels which is well ahead of what any of my digital cameras give me and the colours are rich and vibrant. However, it is heavy and expensive to run, at about £3 for film and processing costs with each press of the shutter as I am limited to only four shots with every roll of film.

Canon EOS 20D

My first step into digital photography was a breath of fresh air. All the images looked much healthier and clearer than shots from my APS compact. I bought it to accompany me on hill walking trips and it helped me to hone my photographic techniques.

Canon EOS 5D

This is the camera that had the biggest impact on my photography. Finally I had a film-like viewfinder and rich, clean images with plenty of detail. It was well built and never malfunctioned in three years of use. It survived being used in sub zero conditions, at the beach, in snow, and was in the bottom of a backpack as I slid down the slopes of Aonach Mor; albeit with a minor scuff. I was sad to see it go but the resolution increase and crucially, Live View, made picture taking a better experience.

Canon EOS 5DmkII

Firstly, the 21.1MP sensor resolves fantastic detail. This is especially useful when cropping for panoramic pictures. I’m often asked how much better this is over a 5D and when I resize the shots down to the 5D’s dimensions the new model is clearly a winner. Its Live View opened up new creative possibilities as I could now shoot from awkward angels with a greater degree of comfort. The addition of HD video too meant I could record my experiences in ways previously impossible to me.

Canon EF 17-40mm F/4 L USM

This was my first lens for the EOS system. Once I had expanded to a full frame camera this lens really shone. I could now use this lens to its full potential with its super wide 17mm view. This lens served me excellently for five years and produced images with excellent clarity and colour reproduction. It is very well built, nicely weighted and I like the internal zooming/focusing.

Canon EF 15mm F/2.8 Fisheye

This is a quirky and well built lens with a unique fisheye characteristic. With an approximate 170 degree horizontal coverage I find it useful for creating unique panoramic landscapes. It is also incredibly sharp for its design and it’s fast aperture make it ideal for star shots.

Canon EF 24-70mm F/2.8 L USM

This lens was a favourite of mine for several years. The focal length is perfect for walk-around photography and if I had only one lens for the Canon system this would be it. I like its reverse-zoom construction and semi macro capabilities. Built like a tank it has never let me down.

Canon EF 24-70mm F/4 L USM IS

After much deliberation I decided to replace my workhorse 24-70 f/2.8 for something smaller and lighter. I was doing less private portrait work so it was a natural choice to replace with a lighter equivalent. This new f/4 is an optical match for my excellent f/2.8 version and weighs 350g less; a notable reduction in my pack. The retained 77mm filter size, image stabilization and macro features are welcome bonuses.

Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8 L USM IS

I did have a 100-400mm L but found the 70-200 superior both optically and in build. It has a useful range for compressing distant scenes and also for capturing close range wildlife. While its weight is sometimes an issue but this is easy to forget while viewing the superb results this lens produces.

Canon EF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 L USM IS

Similarly for my mid-range zoom I replaced the 70-200mm with a smaller and lighter lens (about 650g) and retained the same standard of optical quality with an additional 300mm too. Its corner to corner results even wide-open are impressive. The zoom lock and compact size also allow for vertical storage in my bag and.

Canon EF-S 10-22mm F/3.5-4.5 USM

This was the first lens I owned which offered a super wide angle of view. This was a perfect companion to my 20D and the equivalent 16-35mm range was ideal for capturing a variety of subjects. This lens was redundant and subsequently sold when I bought my full frame 5D.

Canon EF 50mm F/1.4 USM

This lightweight and sharp lens has been useful for low light event and portrait work. For landscapes it provides a very natural perspective and makes me think more carefully about framing shots. The colours are very natural and pleasing.

Canon 90mm F/2.8 TS-E

This is probably the best performing of my SLR lenses. It has brilliant resolving power from wide open even in the corners. It has practically zero distortion and produces colours very accurately. I use its shift function for panoramic stitching with excellent results.

Nikon 14-24mm F/2.8 G

I use this lens manually on my EOS cameras with a special adapter available from 16-9.net. This lens replaced my 17-40mm and 15mm fisheye lenses. The adapter is very solidly built and allows easy aperture control. The 14mm view is handy for capturing both sides of a wide glen or sweeping mountain ranges in a single shot. The extra width over my Canon wide zooms is very noticeable especially when taking pictures of the night sky. At the time there was no Canon equivalent to this special piece of kit.

Sigma 300mm F/2.8 EX DG

I picked this up as a second hand bargain and was immediately impressed with its build and optical quality. The depth of field of f/2.8 at 300mm was a new experience and I quickly realised how useful it would be for photographing wildlife. This lens is sharp wide open and corners are excellent for landscapes. When paired with my Sigma 2x teleconverter, it’s great for wildlife and I am able to pick out details on subjects from tens of miles away.

Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 tripod and 804RC2 head

Firstly I'm glad I opted for this lighter carbon fibre tripod over its all metal and heavier sibling. The three-way head allows independent locking in any of its axis and is ideal for panning. It’s also strong enough so that my camera does not 'creep' downward while in portrait orientation. This overall combination of head and legs weighs about 2kg and provides excellent weight and stability, especially for its price.

Fujifilm X-Pro1

A lighter bag is always welcome and by 2014 I had decided the mirrorless market had matured enough to rival the quality of more established formats. From using their medium format cameras, I knew Fuji were capable of making top quality products and while the Pro-1 didn’t exactly offer the ease of use I had anticipated, the lenses were simply excellent. Good also are the film simulations and indeed I found the Fuji to deliver much more punchy and accurate colours than the Canon, very similar to the Velvia film I had grown to love.

Fujifilm X-T1

This for me is what the Pro-1 should have been. This camera is weather sealed, responsive, writes to the memory card very quickly, has selectable focus areas for manual focusing and the viewfinder is the best non-optical viewfinder I have ever used. Finally, I had the ease and pleasure of shooting an SLR in a smaller format. Higher resolution would be nice but the detail provided in the files is excellent and already sufficient for my needs.

Fujinon XF 14mm F/2.8 R

This is a very compact and sharp lens, with almost zero distortion. Its wide angle and great resolution from wide open make it a superb landscape lens, and is especially useful for shooting the Northern Lights. The focus distance can also be mechanically locked, meaning the lens can be set up quickly when necessary and I’m safe in the knowledge it will focus perfectly for me.

Fujinon XF 18mm F/2 R

This lens was a cheap addition to the X-Pro 1 and the angle of field was nice and the lens itself was very light. Ultimately I sold it as I preferred the angle of view and the look of the 14mm images and already had 18mm covered by other lenses.

Fujinon XF 35mm F/1.4 R

I had this lens for a long time before acquiring the 18-55mm. It’s one of the sharpest lenses I’ve used and its fast aperture is superb for my private portrait work.

Fujinon XF 10-24mm F/4 R OIS

This is definitely my most used Fuji-X lens. With an equivalent view to a 15-36mm full frame lens, I immediately became at home with its range and uses. It’s built especially well and the focus ring is a pleasure to use and nicely rubberized. It’s optically comparable to the Nikon and although a stop slower, is only 40% of the weight and can take conventional filters. This is a great addition to my kit.

Fujinon XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R LM OIS

Though often regarded a ‘kit lens’ this optic is nothing but. It’s optically on a par with the professional grade 10-24mm at overlapping focal lengths and it’s much lighter and cheaper. It also shares the same filter size as the 14mm which is a bonus.

Fujinon XF 55-200mm F/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of this lens. It produces very sharp images and has one of the best stabilizers I’ve ever used. Its range is superb and is fantastic for capturing the suns glow on faraway hills.

Samyang 12mm F/2 CS X

I bought this lens for one purpose – night time photography. As it lets in twice as much light as the 14mm with a wider view and four times as much as the wide zoom, its bargain price and great wide open quality were hard to ignore. I hope to use this lens more when the Northern Lights are on show.