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My Gear Box

My Caveat:  Buy the Best Gear You Can. Period.

I like to buy nice equipment.  And I only like to buy it once  As a professional wedding and portrait photographer I often buy my professional grade photography gear knowing that I’ll grow into it.  For example:   What I mean by this is that when I purchased my Profoto lighting gear more than 5 years ago, I knew it was more power than I needed but knew that I need it in the years to come. Each time I use it pay me a dividen.  Profoto is pretty much bullet proof lighting gear.  Yes, it is more expensive than most other brands.  But, the lighting temperature (measured in degrees kelvin) is super consistent.  Their lights  don’t get hot.  You don’t need to let them cool after a shoot.  You can just pack up and go.  Profoto is an industry standard and their light modifiers (also crazy expensive) fit on all their heads right across their product line, universally.  This comes in handy when renting or when traveling and you need to rent a piece of Profoto gear.  I’ve never once had a problem with their strobes.  They consistently out put the exact F Stop that I set them for and give me fantastic quality light.  There were allot of other brands that I could have chosen, but  some of the reasons above were the deal makers for me.   Consistency is really important to me.  I want to know that I can create without gear glitches.

I’ll say it again:  When it comes to photography gear, I’ll only use the best gear that money can buy.  I don’t believe in cutting corners on my gear or on my product line, which is completely archival and hand selected for its uniqueness and quality.

My Gear

Canon Cameras
Canon EOS 5D
Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Canon EOS 1D Mark III
Canon G7 for in house HD Video (soon to switch to an iPhone G4)

Canon Prime Lenses
24 mm 1.4 L
50 mm 1.2 L
85 mm 1.2 L
85 mm 1.8
135 mm 1.2 L
15 mm 2.8

Why So Many Prime Lenses?

Here’s the deal.  I’m a huge blog stalker.  A few years ago I was checking out Jessica Claire’s site and  I really liked the clarity of her images.  This was just around the time that everyone was going gaga over the 50 1.2 L.  In fact so gaga that the 50 1.2 were really hard to find for a bit.  Always looking to raise the bar I just wasn’t satisfied sometimes with the sharpness and clarity of my zooms.  And, I really love the separation of subject and background that is created from the delicious bokeh from prime lenses when shooting at wider apertures.  So I invested several thousand dollars in primes.   I already had the 85 1.2 L and the 135 1.2.  Calvin Hayes turned me onto the 85 1.2 L early on in my career at a WPPI seminar.  The 85 1.2 L is mostly used for studio and commercial jobs.  I just find it too heavy and too slow focusing to use at weddings.  Instead I take my trusty 85 1.8 to weddings with me.  It’s super sharp, fast focusing, a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the weight.  My buddy Kevin Connors turned me on to the 135 1.2 while creating some portraits of me in his garage.  I instantly feel in love with the razor sharpness and gorgeous bokeh of this lens at 2.0!  That afternoon visit with Kevin set me back just under a grand.  The 135 is a portrait lens but Oh My! what a lens.  Below you’ll see some photographs with captions denoting the lens used and the unique qualities and why I chose to purchase the particular lens.

The newest prime additions in the last two years are the 50 mm 1.2 L and the 24 mm 1.4 L.  If I needed to, I could photograph an entire wedding with the 50 1.2 L.  Its tack sharp and gives a creamy bokeh.  Initially I purchased a 35 mm 1.4 L but replaced it pretty quickly with the 24 mm 1.4 L.  The 35 was not quite wide enough for me.  A couple of things that I love about the 24 mm 1.4 L is that (a) it has macro capabilities and can get within 6 inches of your subject, (b) when using it as a portrait lens, really close up, it gives a unique distortion that i really enjoy.

The image of Owen below was captured with the 50mm 1.2 L at 1/200 sec @ f/ 5.0 ISO 400 on an EOS-1D Mark III.  Kids move around fast so sometimes you only get a small window of opportunity so I set my aperture to 5.0  When shooting wide open often times you need to take lots of exposures because the margin of misfocusing error is higher.  Most time I’ll shoot much wider like 2.0.  You’ll notice that Owen’s eyes are tack sharp and even at f/ 5.0 at close range (only a few feet from him) the rest of his face quickly falls out of focus and the back ground turns softly out of focus.

Both images of Jessica (below) were photographed on the beach after the sun went down past the horizon line with a 50 mm 1.2 at 1/500 sec at f/2.2 Manual mode, ISO 800 on an EOS-1D Mark III.  Shot with a wider aperture these pictures of Jessica have a timeless quality.  Partly due to the style of her vintage bathing suit but also the amount of bokeh.  I chose to shoot this at a wider aperture with Jessica because I knew that she’d hold still for me for a bit.  And I had more margin for misfocusing error.  Typically I’ll pop off 5 – 7 frames when shooting at a wider aperture to ensure that I’ve “got” the shot.  I instinctively know that by using a wider aperture that I can isolate Jessica and make her the center of the viewers focus.  *Note: When shooting wide open there is a very small area of focus.  When shooting wide open you have to be careful to chose your focusing point and stick with it.  Had I focused on her eyes and then moved the camera radically to recompose, her eyes would have been out of focus because.  Because in moving the camera’s visual framing I’d be changing the very small area called “the plane of focus” from her eyes to somewhere else in the frame.

The series of  images below  of Jennifer & Steve during their engagement session at the Mission San Jaun Capistrano is  photographed using the 24 mm 1.4 L at 1/500 sec at f/2.0  ISO 400 on an EOS-1D Mark III.  I often like to stop down 1- 2 stops on my primes.  It just makes for a sharper image and ensures more focus  area coverage.  One thing that I really love about the 24 mm 1.4 L is the bit of distortion that it lends to the image.  It just exaggerates it bit and I enjoy a bit of that other worldly kind of look.  The 24 also allows me to get super close to my subject and creates a bit more intimacy.

Pictured below is Maisy photographed with the 135 mm 1.2 L  at 1/400 sec at f /2.2 in Manual mode ISO 500 captured with an EOS-1D Mark III.  Notice the almost painterly quality of the 135 mm 1.2 L and the grogeous bokeh which immediately separates Maisy from the background.  I’ll typically only use my 135 for a single subject.   I always bring along my 135 for outdoor portrait sessions.  There is nothing like it for a razor sharp image at 2.0 (closed down two stops from 1.2) and amazing separation and isolation from the background.

Primes are super fast. Another aspect of of primes that’s important to me is the ability to shoot “wide open.” Meaning at the widest aperture I can still achieve tack sharp images. By shooting wide open I can create a portrait where my subjects eyes are tack sharp and the focus falls off at their ears.  I do find by stopping down two stops creates an overall sharper image.  Creating a photograph like this allows me to direct the viewer where I want them to look.  And that’s at the subject, not the background.  When shooting “wide open,”  the background  falls off into a beautiful soft blur.  Viewing a photograph, our eyes seek out the sharpest element first.  For me shooting with prime lenses also lets me achieve a unique look which is part of my style not to mention that shooting with primes also allows me to create images in really low light situations with no flash.  Often when I’m photographing beach engagement sessions, I see other photographer leave as soon as the sun falls below the horizon.  IMHO this is some of the most beautiful light of the day.  When shooting wide open, or close to it I can create gorgeous portraits.  I’m proud to be the last photographer leaving the beach.

I’m not a scientist or an engineer, but I do know that with zooms you’re moving around allot of glass.  Even with the pro-grade zooms listed below, the light has to travel through multiple pieces of glass and is refracted at a much longer interval than when traveling through the glass of a prime lens.  Hence the primes are just sharper.

Canon Zoom Lenses
16-35 mm 2.8 L
24-70 mm 2.8 L
70-200 mm IS 2.8 L  The IS stand for image stabilization.  Yes it costs a bit more but is so worth it.  The IS has a built in gyro that offsets camera shake when shooting at low speeds.  Say a 30th of a second.  Using the IS will efectively triple the shutter speed to a 90th of a second.  Pretty cool when your are hand holding at a 30th/sec. or a 15th/sec. while shooting in available light.  This often comes in super handy during an early evening wedding shoot when the light is falling off quickly.

Compact Flash Memory Cards

Over the years I’ve acquired a number of different CF cards from different manufacturers.  I wanted to find out the life expectancy of a CF cards.  They’re solid state and have no moving parts. But, I needed to find out how often and if they needed to be replaced.  At first I thought that I’d had to replace them every year.  Heck, when I used to shoot film my yearly bill for film and processing was above 15k. So the thought of having to replace my CF cards on a yearly basis seemed pretty painless in comparison.  After a conversation with my camera rep Barry at Samy’s in Santa Ana, who’s a really knowledgeable guy, I thought that I’d give Hoodman a call and see what I could learn from them about the longevity of their CF cards.  Here’s what I found out.  According to Hoodman, where I spoke to one of the owners of the company by phone (pretty cool that you can do that….try doing that with Lexar or SanDisk), their cards are built to last for 500,000 cycles.  In other words, you could shot on their cards and erase the info 500,000 times before they are supposed to fail.  That’s allot.  In fact Hoodman cards are built to last twice as long as any other card on the market.  The second thing and this is pretty amazing and its a HUGE one is that:  Hoodman claims they have never had a case of data loss in the field. Which means that no photographer has ever lost data while using one of their cards.  That’s great peace of mind.  Hoodman CF cards are likely the most expensive CF cards on the market.  But remember:  You get what you pay for. And the peace of mind when photographing high end weddings and high profile commercial jobs is worth it IMHO.  You just can’t afford to loose that data.  And if you feel like your wallet is a bit smaller after purchasing Hoodman UDMA RAW compact flash, just think about if you needed to shoot everything in film.  “Big bucks you’ll spend,”  says Yoda.  You’ve gotta keep it in perspective.  As far as speed and failure of cards there is info that goes contra to some of Hoodman’s pedigree and you can read that here.

Canon Accessories
Extension Tube EF 25 II
Extension Tube EF 12 II
2x EF Extender II
77mm 500D Close-up Lens
Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3
CP-E4 Compact Battery Pack
ST-E2 Speedlite Transmitter
550 speed lights
550 EX speed lights
12 gb SanDisk Extreme for my 2nd photographers
8 gb Hoodman
8 gb Lexar Pro 300x
4 gb Lexar Pro 300x

Apple Computers
iMac 24″
17″ Mac Book Pro
Apple 30″ HD Cinema Display
Apple 20″ Cinema Display

Hard Drive Storage
LaCie drives 500 gb and 1Tb
G-Tech 250 and 1Tb drives
In 2008 I switched over to G-Tech drives. Love G-Tech drives. Built like a ’69 Cadillac and trusted by the motion picture industry for their digital editing. The also stack neatly on the desk top. They’ve performed flawlessly for me.
Seagate Free Agent 500 gb
My buddy Joey Carmen turned me on to these great portable drives. I purchased two and labeled the back of them for each of my Macs and use each as a dedicated drive. They come with a nifty hot synching stand and are either firewire 800 or USB enabled. I have had to rebuild the directory on one with Disk Warrior once, but that’s probably because I max’d out the drives storage. Otherwise they been a trusted travel drive that needs no other power source other the than the 800 firewire or USB source.

Lighting Gear
Flash Zebra 24″ ETTL cord
Honl 1/4 grid for speed lights
Profoto Snoot
Profoto 20 degree grid
Profoto grid and filter holder
300 WS Profoto heads
600 WS Profoto heads
Profoto AcuteB 600R
Avenger light stands
Calumet C stand
60″ Umbrella
40″ Umbrella
Shoot through umbrella
Profoto Beauty Dish
Chimera 3ft softbox
Larsen 4x6ft. softbox
Lastolite 24″ EzyBox
Bogen Super Clamps
Bogen MonoPod
Bogen Tripod
Qauntum T2 flashes
Quantum Slim Compact
Quantum Turbo

Software & Retouching
Adobe Photoshop CS3
QuickBooks Pro 2009
Adobe Lightroom 3
Nik Sharpener Pro
Nik Color Efex Pro
Eye One Match
Wacom Intuos Tablets

HP Laser Jet 2300
HP Color Laser Jet CP1518ni
Epson 3880

Fine Art Papers
Crane Museo Max
Hahnemühle Torchon
Hahnemühle William Turner
Canson Byryta Photographique

P.S. Connie and I just got back from a 5 day road trip to Northern California.  Driving the coast up through Big Sur and spending the majority of our time in Montery and Carmel By The Sea.  Drinking great coffee, eating lots of fantastic food and visiting the Talbott wine tasting room in the Carmel Valley.  One of my favorite CA wineries.  Talbott specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Totally Yummy. These were some of our high points of our trip.  I’ve been working hard and haven’t had the time for both of us to get away.  It was great spending some one on one time with my wife and unwinding.  So necessary for my creative side.

P.P.S. The majority of my landscape and doggie photography was done with my 50mm 1.2 L and my 70-200mm 2.8 IS L.  I’ll be posting images from my  trip next week on my pet photography site and here too.

P.P.S. The low point of our trip was hitting a deer jumping across the road in Carmel Valley.  Our Beamer and the deer both didn’t fair well.  We were not injured at all.  Coulda been allot worse.

P.P.P.S. I’d love to hear what your favorite gear is and why you like it.

View my Wedding Portfolio ~ View my Engagement Portfolio ~ View My Portrait Portfolio

call me: 800.943.0414

Marc Weisberg | Marc Weisberg Photograhy Blog
Marc Weisberg Weddings
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For Orange County wedding photography, Los Angeles wedding photography, Orange County wedding photojournalism, Southern California wedding photography, call Marc at 800.943.0414 to reserve a date and ask any questions that you may have concerning my services. I am an Orange County and Los Angeles wedding photographer.

Marc Weisberg is an award winning photographer and Sony Artist of Imagery based in Irvine, California. Specializing in Luxury Architecture & Real Estate Photography, Food + Wine Photography, and Weddings & Family Photography, he’s easy to work with and produces clean, crisp, and technically flawless images. Marc’s photography is published internationally in over a dozen books and magazines. You can contact Marc by phone at 800.943.0414…. or email.

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