What’s in my Camera Bag?

Nikon DSLR cameras, Nikkor lenses and other related gear, that I have been using in the last 15 years (since year 2000).

I have been a Nikon photographer for close to 50 years, going back to my high school days in the late 1960s. I have lost count of how many Nikon cameras and lenses I have used and owned in those years, but it is a fairly large number. I have also used other (larger format) brands of cameras over those years (Sinar, Hasselblad, Mamiya, Bronica, etc.), the large format cameras were used mainly for product and other commercial photography assignments in Los Angeles and Bangkok.

At the time when commercially useful digital cameras first came out in the 1990s, I was writing a newspaper column (Bangkok Post) and magazine articles about Macintosh Desktop Publishing, so it only seemed natural for me to also start writing about the new digital photography revolution. Working both in the USA and Thailand at the time, I was therefor fortunate to be able to experiment with many camera, from Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Sony, Casio, Panasonic, Leica and many other brands.


Nikon DSLR Cameras: I am currently using or planning to use

Nikon D610 – FX format – 24.3 megapixel (purchased in November of 2014 – I am currently using the D610 as my main camera) – I am very happy with the Nikon D610 and am planning to add a Nikon D750 to my camera bag. As far as I am concerned the D610 is the long awaited D300 replacement.

Nikon D750 – FX format – I am planning for this to be my next DSLR purchase. The main reason for purchasing the Nikon D750 will be for the tilting vari-angle LCD display, as the image sensor is essentially the same for both cameras.

I am basically a two camera and two lens kind of photographer. I am concerned about dust getting in the camera, but I don’t want to be obsessed or concerned about it. So I decide which cameras and what lenses I want to use before I go on a shoot. Which means that I will usually not change lenses all day. I will just take two camera bodies and two lenses and work with them. In some situations I of course have to bring another lens or two, but I will only switch lenses in the field when it is absolutely necessary to get the shot.


Nikon DSLR Cameras: I have used in the past

Nikon D5100 – DX format – 16.2 megapixel (from 2013 to 2014) – I was actually very happy with the D5100, it was an interim camera after I sold the D300, but it was also an experiment to see if I could work with a lighter camera body and at the same time wanted to experiment with DSLR video. Due to several sensor and shutter problems with the D600 I waited for the problems to be resolved and finally made the switch to full frame with the Nikon D610.

Nikon D300 – DX format – 12.3 megapixel (from 2007 to 2013) – Not only for me but for many photographers this was an ideal camera. Size, features, weight, balance, it all came to us with the Nikon D300. Many photographers are still waiting for a replacement (the D400?) because the D7000 series was never accepted as being the same as the beloved D300. I reluctantly sold mine in 2013 but I knew that I would have to switch to the FX format fairly soon.

Nikon D80 – DX format – 10.2 megapixel (from 2007 to 2013) – Not really one of my favorite cameras, but it did produce good quality images. Just something about the weight and balance that did not agree with me. It was my back-up camera for the Nikon D300.

Nikon D40 – DX format – 6.1 megapixel (from 2006 to 2008) – This is the camera that made me realize that less can be more. Small camera, very light weight, limited features, lower resolution, but very high image quality.

Nikon D200 – DX format – 10.2 megapixel (from 2005 to 2006) – This camera was on loan from Nikon USA (for a review article) when it first came on the market, I used it in Down East Maine and on a road-trip from Maine to California. Breaking the 10 megapixel barrier was a big thing and the camera had a good feel to it.

Nikon D70 – DX format – 6 megapixel (from 2004 to 2006) – The D70 was on a long term loan from Nikon Thailand (NIKS) while I was writing a column for the Bangkok Post and posting on-line articles. NIKS at that time provided me with a large number of Nikon cameras, lenses and accessories for review. The D70 unfortunately broke down on me while I was in the USA, so it sat in my closet for a long time.

Nikon D1 and D2 – these were great cameras and I had regular access to them but even then the high end Nikon cameras were too heavy for my style of photography. OK for commercial shoots but not for my day to day use, or travel photography.

I have used all of the above Nikon DSLRs for extended periods of time, but I have also tested and used quite a few other Nikon cameras. Including the very early professional Nikon D1 and D2 camera bodies, as well as some of the early Kodak-Nikon DSLRs.


Nikkor DSLR lenses that I am currently using :

I am currently using these lenses on the Nikon D610. From this point forward I will only be using FX (full-frame) Nikon DSLRs, which means that I can once again think of the old manual focus Nikkor lenses, in terms that I am familiar with from the 35mm film days.

Some readers of this post are probably wondering why I do not mention or use, any of the Nikon compatible lenses available from Sigma, Zeiss, Tamron, etc. Quite honestly I have not used anything but Nikon Nikkor lenses on any of my Nikon SLR cameras since my student days.

Lens manufacturers use different lens coatings, construction design, ergonomics, etc. Even Nikon itself changes the look and feel of their cameras and lenses over time, so I like to stay as unconfused as possible by sticking to Nikon-Only when it comes to my camera bodies, lenses and as many of the accessories as possible.


FX – Nikkor AF-S 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 G ED

This is a great wide angle zoom lens for travel photography, very lightweight and according to all the lens testing sites just as sharp as the more expensive faster WA Nikkor zoom lenses. It would be nice to also have the faster lenses, but that is part of the reason I am testing these older Ai-S lenses and plan to also start looking at more of the newer AF-S prime lenses.


Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G IF-ED VR

I might not carry this lens every day but I do take it with me when I am traveling. The performance of this lens is really outstanding at f/8 and f/11. There are faster lenses available to cover this range, but since there would have to be at least two of them to cover the entire range, they would be almost impossible to travel with. It is also primarily a tripod lens (especially when zoomed out to 300mm), but I don’t really mind that. If Nikon is looking for suggestions, I would like to see a version of this lens with a tripod mount on the lens.


FX – Nikkor – Ai-S 18mm f/3.5

Sept. 13, 2015 – As promised I went out and did some tests today with the Nikkor 18mm lens. I have to say that I had forgotten how good these old manual lenses feel in your hand. There are some advantages to using the new AF-S lenses (auto-focus of course, but mainly on the image processing end, since there are no lens correction profiles for the older Non-CPU lenses).


FX – Noct-Nikkor – Ai-S 58mm f/1.2

This lens has legendary status for many reasons. Incredibly sharp when used at f/1.2, but then why else would you use it? There are a number of photographers (and government agencies) who use this lens for wide-field astrophotography,  because of it’s ability to resolve sharp points of light with very little glare, but I have no experience with this type of photography, so can not verify that at this time.


FX – Nikkor – Ai-S 180mm f/2.8

A lens that I was in love with in the film days and I am falling in love with again.


FX – Nikkor – Ai-S 135mm f/2

Great shallow depth of field portrait lens. This not a focal length I use a lot, but if you are a portrait or wedding photographer this would be a real asset. The lens is currently in Bangkok but I will bring it back to Chiang Mai on my next trip.


FX – Nikkor – Ai-S 200mm f/2

This lens is a monster, both in weight and performance. I can’t run any tests just yet because the lens is in Bangkok (and I am in Chiang Mai right now), but I will be traveling through Bangkok fairly soon and will run some tests while I am there and then bring the lens back to Chiang Mai with me.


Nikkor DSLR lenses: previously used on my Nikon DX DSLRs

DX – Nikkor – AF-S 12-24mm f/4 G IF-ED – one of my favorite all time Nikkor lenses. I first borrowed a copy of this lens from Nikon Thailand for a long period of testing and when they finally begged me to give it back, I purchased one and used it on every DX camera I had since.

DX – Nikkor – AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 G IF-ED – another really great lens that was a little heavy, but not as heavy as the new FX lenses that have replaced them in photographers camera bags.

DX – Nikkor – AF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR – there is nothing wrong with these lenses, as a matter of fact they are capable of taking great images, just nothing to get excited about.

DX – Nikkor – AF-S 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR – a good range for a kit lens but not a very exciting lens. It does the job competently.

DX – Nikkor – AF-S 55-200mm f/4-5.6 G ED VR – this is one of the most under-rated lenses Nikon sells. Most bought by people on a budget, it is actually a very good lens for a DX shooter and extremely light, so there is never a problem taking it along.

FX – Nikkor – AF-S 50mm f/1.8 G – good lens but I can’t get excited about it.

FX – Micro-Nikkor – AF 60mm f/2.8 D – this is actually a fantastic lens, all the Micro-Nikko0rs are very versatile lenses and I like to use them for very sharp portrait work.


Nikon Coolpix compact cameras:

Aside from using Nikon DSLRs I have also used a number of Nikon Coolpix compact cameras over the years. I like to always have a camera on me (the smaller the better), my main requirement is that they have manual (and automatic) controls and are capable of shooting RAW digital images, allowing for better digital image processing.


Nikon Coolpix P330 – 12.2 megapixel, this is an ideal pocket camera for a food or travel blogger. Although I use a larger DSLR for most of my work, I have also used this camera on paid assignments. Shoots RAW image files (for Adobe Lightroom editing), has a 24mm to 120mm (equiv.) zoom, f/1.8-5.6 lens, GPS, Full HD Video.


Nikon Coolpix 8800 – 8 megapixel (2005 to 2006) – more expensive at that time than the low end DSLRs are now, it was a very good and relatively compact camera with a 10x zoom lens (the super zoom of its time).

Nikon Coolpix 990 – 3.4 megapixel (2000 to 2002) this camera and the preceding Coolpix 950 were the best compact digital cameras of their time and put Nikon back in the high end consumer camera game.


Camera Bags and accessories:

I use Think Tank bags and change bags fairly often but the two bags I use the most are the Urban Disguise 60 and the Change Up, plus an assortment of Skin bags that can attach to either a belt or to a number of the bags.

For a tripod I currently use the Velbon Sherpa 200R and still have an old Gitzo ball head and monopod, but I am now looking at the new Manfroto 190GoA4TD, it has 4 section and gone back to twist locks, it really feels good and most important it fits inside my backpack and bicycle panniers.

For a strobe I still use the Nikon Speedlight SB-800, but am also looking at buying the new small SB-500 which also has LED lights built in.

I also carry my 13-inch MacBook Pro and a large assortment of adapters (for power and external monitors) with me, but I am considering switching to a lighter weight MacBook Air system for travel. I have tried a Samsung Netbook for travel, but it did not work out for me.


My Adventure Photo Trekking Bicycle:

One of the more important pieces of equipment I own and that goes with me everywhere is my bicycle. It started out as a Specialized Crosstrail Sport when bought in late 2011 in Seattle, but quickly became a touring bike project for Cambodia and Thailand, that is still a work in progress.

The panniers I use are from Jandd Mountaineering, they are sold as Grocery Bag Panniers, but I found them to be perfect for carrying camera bags and standard student style backpacks. They also fold in when not in use but I usually leave them unfolded to encourage motor vehicles to give me a wider berth.

Anyone who wants to accompany me on one of my bicycle based photo expeditions (I basically go on one every day) can contact me at – Expeditions and Digital Imaging Workshops are sources of income for me, so there will be a fee – but it is negotiable depending on the location and specific circumstances. Currently I am based out of Chiang Mai, Thailand but travel frequently in the South East Asia region.