Cameras I Currently Use

We’ve all heard the adage “It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.”

While true to an extent, having a capable camera that allows the photographer more control does make a difference in creating a compelling photo. Sure a good photographer can take a good photo with a 35mm disposable camera, but the chances of getting a good photo of the aurora borealis or capturing the fraction of a second it takes for a frog to extend its tongue to capture an insect with one is highly unlikely, if not impossible. On the same note, you can throw the latest camera and sharpest, fastest lens available into the hands of an unskilled snap shooter and the likelihood of them producing a compelling image is not much better.

It’s not just the camera, but it’s not just the photographer either. The truth is, it’s a little bit of both.

I have four different “cameras” I use regularly. Each camera fills a unique niche. There are photographs I’ve taken with my DSLRs that I could never replicate with my smartphone, but there are some pretty unique photos I have with my smaller cameras that I would have missed entirely if I had tried to shoot them with a full frame professional bodied Canon. Photographers should learn how to use every camera tool available to them, as well as recognize the limitations of different systems.

My two current DSLR cameras are a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 1D Mark IV. The 5D2 is a bit more compact than the 1D4 and has slightly higher resolution, making it a better option for carrying while hiking to get landscape photos. However, the 1D Mark 4 has a much better autofocus system (shooting moving subjects with the 5D2 is frustrating to say the least) as well as a cropped sensor, so it is my preferred camera for shooting sports and wildlife. In general, when I am shooting photos with the intent to sell them, print them, and get the highest quality image, I prefer shooting with DSLRs. However there are times when my other cameras are better options.


Photo with my 5D Mark II. For waterfalls, you can’t beat a DSLR. Shooting with a DSLR allowed me to shoot with a slow shutter speed, use a polarizing filter, and mount to a sturdy tripod, all of which are less easy to do with smaller cameras. This photo would make a gorgeous statement art piece hung on a wall, and thanks to shooting with a high resolution camera, it will hold up to being printed big.

One of the biggest advantages of shooting with my iPhone 6 is that I usually have it on me. Sure it’s a phone and an older model; the newest iPhone and smartphone models have higher resolution front and rear cameras, as well as the option to shoot RAW (DNG) using the Adobe Lightroom app. Yet even shooting 8MP jpegs, I have gotten some great images; I have had folks request to buy quick shots taken with my phone and posted to Instagram more than once. My first DSLR (a Nikon D70) was only 6 megapixels, and when I started shooting with it I only shot JPEG because I was too poor to afford higher capacity memory cards and RAW processing software – the photos on my website from 2005 and sports photos from 2006 were all shot this way. My iPhone is great because it fits in my pocket, captures high dynamic range sunrises and sunsets quite beautifully thanks to its built in HDR, records video with the swipe of a finger, and allows me to share and post images instantly. When I am shooting everyday life, convenience goes a long way, and even if the iPhone lacks a lot in terms of professional features, its portability and ease of use makes it the camera I probably use more than any other.


Photo with my iPhone. I didn’t bring my DSLR to Montreal with me to celebrate my birthday with a friend a few years ago, and even if I had I would have needed a tripod to capture a still image of this beautiful old building in the fading light. My iPhone enabled me to capture a shot of this beautiful sunset, even when it wasn’t a part of the plan.

The other camera I have that I really like is my GoPro Hero 5 Black. Like the iPhone, the GoPro is small and portable, but it has the advantage of being waterproof and weatherproof. Whenever I am doing water sports or headed out in the cold, I bring my GoPro with me. It’s super easy to operate with gloves on and doesn’t suffer from non-existent battery life in cold weather (my phone pretty much dies whenever temps drop below freezing, which is pretty much all of winter here in New Hampshire). It is small enough to wear while doing activities, such as mountain biking or snowboarding, where carrying a larger camera is not only impractical, but also dangerous. The wide angle of view makes it the perfect point-of-view camera, as it was intended, and its small stature makes it one of the best “selfie” cameras, especially if you are a fan of capturing more of your surroundings. Like my iPhone, the GoPro is pretty easy to use when it comes to taking snap-shots – no focusing is required – so it’s a much easier camera to hand to friends so they can take your picture if needed. The Hero 5 is the first GoPro to capture RAW stills, which makes editing and polishing your photos even easier.


Photo with my GoPro. The GoPro is an ideal wearable camera for when you want to capture an image but need your hands free. The GoPro Hero 5 also allows you to control the camera with your voice, an added benefit when you need your hands for something other than pressing the shutter. Bonus: It’s waterproof, and while I trust myself to keep my DSLR dry while kayaking on flat water, all bets are off when you add a dog to the mix. Kayaking with Winston is like having a bowling ball in the boat. My GoPro enables me to capture images like this without taking huge risks.

I’ve resisted posting photos taken with the latter two, smaller, “inferior” cameras to my website, but those images regularly end up on my Instagram feed and personal social media pages. Maybe I’ll get bolder about sharing them more widely. When presented in the right way and printed appropriately sized, photographs taken with these cameras are just as beautiful as those taken with my professional cameras, and sometimes, because of the unique opportunities shooting with these cameras present, I cherish the images even more.

The Dark Side

Fifteen or so years ago, I got my very first SLR, a Nikon N65. When I went digital, I purchased a Nikon D70, and a couple of years later a Nikon D200, before switching to Canon in 2007. I’ve been shooting Canon for the past decade, and have owned four different Canon digital bodies (1D Mark II N, 5D Mark II, 7D, and 1D Mark IV), as well as a Canon point-and-shoot and Panasonic micro four-thirds system.

Brad Tupa, Augsburg College, York College of Pennsylvania, Duane Bastress, wrestling, NCAA, NCAA Division III, D3, championship, The College of New Jersey
Determination : Prints Available

This photograph was taken in 2006, using my very first DSLR, a Nikon D70. It’s still a great picture today.

I got away from shooting professionally several years ago, so haven’t given much thought to upgrading gear or dropping a few grand on a new body or lens. Its just not as much a priority as it used to be, and right now I’d rather get a new mountain bike than a new camera. However, I have started shooting more frequently again and have been doing more action photography and photographs where fast shutter speeds are required in low light. I know many folks shooting action sports and animals on the run aren’t using eight year old camera bodies, so I’ve started to look at what’s out there, and my how the times have changed.

In 2007, when I decided to sell my D200 and all of my Nikon mount lenses, I did so because I was shooting alongside Canon shooters who were easily able to shoot a solid two stops higher ISO with the same amount of noise, meaning when I was stuck at ISO 400 and getting blurry images, they could bump their ISO to 800 or 1600 and actually freeze the action of a moving subject. I was also getting to the point where investing in some long glass for wildlife was an obvious next step, and at the time Nikon didn’t have VR (vibration reduction) on any of their long telephoto lenses (the longest lens with VR at the time was a 200-400mm f/4) and their super teles (500mm and 600mm lenses) cost easily $2-3k higher than equivalent Canon lenses with IS (image stabilization). So I took a bold step, sold every Nikon specific thing I owned, and bought a Canon 1D Mark II N and 300mm f/2.8 with 1.4x and 2x teleconverters to make the switch.

I’ve been a happy Canon shooter for the past ten years and haven’t ever really doubted switching, or thought about switching back, until recently. Now, I spend more time shooting my mostly black dog in our tree shaded backyard or window lit home, or walking up ski slopes to photograph mountain bikers racing downhill through heavily wooded forests, sometimes at speeds of 30-40mph. In these situations, being able to bump my ISO even higher would allow me shoot at faster shutter speeds and get sharp, detailed shots of moving subjects even in low light situations. With my current cameras, I feel comfortable bumping my ISO up to about 1600, but know that the noise I’ll get in shadow areas will degrade significantly if I shoot at ISOs much higher than that.

In poking around to see how much ISO noise and dynamic range on digital sensors has improved in the past ten years, I stumbled across high ISO samples of the past two iterations of Canon’s two best pro level cameras, the pro-body 1DX and 1DX II and smaller-sized 5D Mark III and 5D Mark IV and, while better, they don’t come close to the shadow detail and clean high ISO shots of Sony’s cameras or Nikon’s D810 (and newly announced D850). So am I going to switch to Nikon? Probably not.

Charles Drake Field, Landmark College, Landmark Sharks, Reed Bishop, athletics, college, soccer, sports, turf field
Corner Kick : Prints Available

This image was captured just a last month using a Canon 1D Mark IV, a camera released in October 2009. This camera body is eight years old and still allows me to take great pictures.

I have two Canon bodies, six Canon mount lenses, and two Canon mount teleconverters and extension tubes, including some pretty nice glass that I am unlikely to be able to replace for the price point I paid for it. Since switching to Canon, I’ve almost always bought used gear and often bodies that are at least one generation old. It would literally cost me thousands of dollars to make the switch. I don’t shoot professionally much anymore, so having the latest, greatest gear isn’t going to drastically impact my image sales or livelihood, and I’m unlikely to see a return on the investment I make in switching gear. Even with Nikon being ahead in dynamic range, ISO noise, and resolution, Canon still produces some amazing action cameras with high FPS and incredible autofocus. Many pro sports shooters are still using long white lenses, and let’s not forget that images made a decade ago on equipment at least as old are still getting published, winning awards, and making people happy. If Canon falls horribly behind Nikon and Sony in the years to come, I might switch back to Nikon at some point, but I’m not there yet.

I think it’s only a matter of time before the favor will switch back into Canon’s direction. Just ten years ago, things were completely different and I am pretty sure that Nikon and Sony aren’t going to just leave Canon bankrupt in the dust anytime soon. I would love for Canon to release an improved 1DX or 5D series model with higher megapixels and better dynamic range and high ISO performance while staying at a competitive price point and adding features like GPS, WiFi, multiple exposures, long exposure settings, and other features that come standard on some models. While I’m not entirely confident Canon’s next new release will rival everything already out there, I think it is coming. Over the years, when the playing field tends to tip in one direction, it swings back the other way in time. For now, I’ll probably keep my eye out on deals from all the other people jumping ship and switching from Canon to Nikon or Sony, and maybe I’ll buy a new camera when the next generation comes out and makes today’s most current Canon flagship cost half as much. After all, I love buying barely used gear for a fraction of the price. 😉