People often ask me what camera I use to capture the pictures I share on my blog. I love photography and have done ever since I had my first camera at the age of ten. I’ve had a number of cameras since then and nearly all of these were second-hand. Professional cameras don’t come cheap but it was only after I bought my first professional level camera, a pre-loved Canon EOS 5, that my photos started to sell.
I’ve since jumped camp to Nikon and here’s a rundown on my current standard camera kit – a great all-purpose set-up for travel photography for when you don’t want to or simply can’t lug around extra lenses (I’m thinking the silly low 5 kg hand luggage allowance on certain long haul flights here).
2018 UPDATE: Since writing this post a few years ago, I’ve actually started using my phone’s camera more and more. It’s a Samsung Galaxy S8 and it takes great images that I’m happy to share on my blog. While I still reach for my Nikon D700 if I want the best quality photos possible, and it’s essential for photographing wildlife, more and more I’m leaving it at home and using my phone (who’d have thought!). You can see an example of an article illustrated only with photos taken on my phone here, The New Forest.
Nikon D700 Digital SLR Camera Body (12.1MP) 3 inch LCD
Nearly all the pictures you see on Travel With Kat I have taken with my Nikon D700. I’ve had it about 5 years now and it is no longer being manufactured, having been replaced with the D750.
The D700’s quality is rather over kill for a blog but I do also sell some of my photos through stock image libraries, such as Alamy, who will only accept photographs taken by cameras with professional specs such as the D700.
For a long time I resisted buying a digital camera to replace my Canon EOS 5 and kept using film with my preference being Fuji’s Provia or Velvia. Initially digital cameras simply didn’t come close to capturing the sharp, vibrant images that could be taken on these films. It wasn’t until I tried the D700 that I was satisfied with the quality a digital camera could produce.
Compared to most modern cameras it is rather bulky and heavy but it’s very well made and tough with a magnesium alloy body that’s moisture and dust resistant. It will put up with extreme’s of temperature that would cause many a lesser camera to keel over and die.
Full Frame verses Crop Frame Cameras
The D700 is a full frame camera (as is the D750) meaning that the image is captured on a sensor that is the same size as a 35mm film negative (36×24 mm). Many digital cameras use a smaller sensor referred to as a crop frame sensor, as when using a lens with the same focal length, the smaller sensor crops the image when compared to a full frame sensor. In effect it actually increases the focal length of any lens you use bringing you nearer to the subject and gives you a bigger depth of field.
Without going into too many details the full frame sensor being bigger will enlarge to give superb quality images and works beautifully in low light conditions. The shorter depth of field is often a great plus being perfect for portraits or when you want to blur a cluttered background. Full frame sensors are, however, very expensive compared to crop frame sensors.
Above: One of my favourite low light pictures. It was taken on my D700, ISO 6400, with the aperture wide open and hand-held at 1/50th shutter speed.
Below: Using a shallow depth of field to separate the subject from the background, making the latter less distracting.
Buy Second Hand
I’ve bought a lot of second-hand photographic equipment over the years and never been disappointed so if you can’t afford a new Nikon D610 Digital SLR Camera which retails at around £1,200 for the body alone, let alone the D750 which is nearer £1,800 check your local camera shops for a pre-loved D700. I’ve just bought a reconditioned one with the following battery pack for £800 (although I’ve seen them available cheaper online).
Nikon Battery Pack
Nikon MB-D10 Battery Pack for D700 (and the D300)
I recently started using my camera with a battery pack. This is a grip that goes on the bottom of the camera with the essential dials at one end so whether you have your camera vertical or horizontal the shutter release and two command dials are in exactly the same place for much more comfortable shooting. It also helps balance the camera if using it with a larger lens.
You can have a fully charged battery in both the camera itself and another in the grip which means you can take twice as many photos without the need to change batteries. However, seeing how long a battery lasts this isn’t really necessary.
On the downside, it isn’t cheap and it adds bulk and some weight to an already large and heavy camera. I may well decide to take it off when I’m opting for the paired down camera kit.
You can currently buy this grip on Amazon for around £220.
Nikon 24-85mm lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens
This is a great general purpose lens that suits most of my photographic needs when I’m travelling or on a press trip. For indoor shots I’d prefer something just a tad wider and for wildlife shots something longer. A faster lens, that is to say one with a wider aperture, would also be very handy but if you want to take just one quality lens with you to cover a wide range of subjects this is a great choice.
AF-S: Autofocus Silent
Focusing is driven by a “Silent Wave” motor in the lens instead of the focus drive motor in the camera.
VR: Vibration Reduction
This helps reduce camera shake. It means you can shoot at a lower shutter speed without any image blur. To quote Nikon “It offers the equivalent of shooting at a shutter speed three stops faster, allowing sharper handheld pictures with longer lenses. The system even automatically detects when a photographer pans while photographing a moving subject.”
ED: Extra-low Dispersion glass
Without going in to lots of jargon, this simply gives superior sharpness and contrast, even with the aperture wide open.
M/A: Manual/Auto Focus
A focusing mode which allows you to switch from automatic to manual focusing by simply turning the focusing ring on the lens.
You can currently buy this lens on Amazon for £399.
Above: The view through a window of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, taken with my Nikon D700 and my Nikkor 24 to 85mm at 78mm focal length and a small aperture to give a greater depth of field,
Below: Sake tasting in Dubai, taken with the same camera and lens but at the 24mm focal length and with a wide aperture to give a smaller depth of field resulting in a blurred, less distracting background.
Ultra Violet Filter
Hoya 72mm Pro-1 Digital UV Screw in Filter
This absorbs the ultraviolet rays which often makes outdoor photographs hazy and indistinct, while also protect an expensive lens from fingerprints and scratches. Hoya is a good make and I can’t see the point of putting a cheap filter on an expensive lens.
You can buy a range of Hoya filters at great prices on Amazon.
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