Gary is currently in Grand Chute, WI (May 22nd, 2015)

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My Photography Gear


I couple of things have lead up to this post:

  1. I am always asked by people what camera gear I use. Most people who dabble in photography are always curious what sort of cameras people use. I ask the question myself when I meet other photographers so I completely understand it.
  2. My new sponsor, B&H Photo, recently set me up with brand new gear which makes the discussion sort of relevant. I’m heading off to Europe for a few months and I’ll be doing so with camera gear I haven’t used before, so the subject has been on my mind the last week.


Unlike most professional travel photographers, I am traveling all the time. I don’t just fly into a location to do a shoot and then go home. Because I’m traveling so much, weight and space are the biggest factors in determining what gear I use and how much of it.

I find myself sandwiched between a high end photographer carrying around several pelican cases full of lenses and a traveler who just wants a point and shoot to cut down on the weight. This means that I carry around far more photography equipment than the average traveler, but far less than a pro who parachutes in with a particular objective in mind.

Everything I carry is done with the intent of balancing my ability to get quality photos and at the same time keeping the stuff I have to carry to a minimum. Despite that, camera and computer gear is still the heaviest part of what I pack. I think I’ve achieved a balance between what I need to get good photos and what I can reasonably carry around by myself for extended periods of time.


When I started my trip back in 2007 I purchased a Nikon D200 camera and an 18-200mm VR lens. Almost every photos you’d seen on this site which was taken before October 2010 was taken with my D200. The D200 served me well and still works fine, but along the way as I figured out what I was doing with photography, I ran into a big limitation of the camera: it was horrible in low light situations. There were hundreds of photos from inside buildings, early mornings and evenings which I never got because the noise in the images was so bad whenever the ISO was above 400. I compensated by getting a really fast 50mm f/1.4 lens, but that still didn’t solve the ultimate problem with the camera.

In September of last year I finally upgraded my camera body to the Nikon D300s, which was the latest in the Nikon DX family of cameras. I stuck with the DX camera line just because I didn’t want to get all new lenses, which would have cost more than the camera…and an FX camera would cost more than DX camera on top of that.

Before I go any further I should explain the difference between the the Nikon DX and FX cameras, or more generically, the difference between crop-sensor and full-sensor cameras.

A full frame sensor is roughly the same size as a single frame of 35mm film. In digital camera terms, that is pretty big. Silicon, however, costs a lot of money and it is the most expensive part of any digital camera, so most affordable cameras use a smaller silicon sensor. A smaller piece of silicon means that fewer photos of light will be hitting it and if you pack a lot of pixels on that silicon, then each pixel will be very small and have few photos of light hitting it.

My D200 was a 10.2 megapixel camera. My new D700 has 12.1 megapixels. The number of pixels is about 20% greater, but as you can tell from the graph, the area of the sensor is MUCH larger. That means any given pixel will have more photons hitting it, which means you can take better photos when there aren’t a lot of photons around (ie: low light). Most of the photographers who use full frame Nikon cameras (usually the D3 or D3x which has the exact same senors as the D700) say they can shoot at ISO 1600 and not have to worry at all about noise.

All the images on my site to date have been taken with a crop-sensor DX camera, so it is a testament to the quality of the images it can produce. My move to a full frame sensor has everything to do with taking photos in low light.

In May I’ll be returning to Rome for a day and I’m seriously considering returning to St. Peter’s Basilica just so I can take photos. You can’t bring a tripod into St. Peter’s, so the next best thing would be a camera that works well at high ISO….which is exactly what I’ll have :)

The Gear

Ok, enough talk. What exactly am I using now?

Nikon D700 – I went with the D700 over the D3 or D3x because the body weighs less. The D3 has a much larger and heavier body (and sturdier) but I wanted something smaller to carry. Because the sensors are exactly the same, I didn’t feel I was compromising much.

NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6GNIKKOR 70-300mm VR f/4.5-5.6G This lens is going to sort of replace the 18-200 VR lens I’ve been using for the last 4 years. There are two big differences: It can zoom out father and it isn’t as wide. The extra reach will come in handy, but losing the wide angle abilities on the same lens will be a bit of a sacrifice. This will give me an opportunity to try some wildlife photography, which I have always been bad at. It isn’t the fastest lens in the world, but I should be able to compensate a bit by shooting at higher ISOs.

Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8GNikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G Given how they work with lenses, crop sensor cameras actually give you a bit of a boost in zoom and full sensor cameras give you a bit of boost with wide angle. I’m really excited to be using this lens with the D700. It is a great wide angle lens and I’m guessing it is going to be what I use most of the time if I’m just taking landscape or architecture shots.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4Sigma Normal 50mm f/1.4 I think everyone needs to have a 50mm lens in their bag. This will fill in the gap between the 24mm on my wide angle lens and the 70mm on my zoom. More importantly, it is very fast so I can use it for anything which requires a very shallow depth of field.

Oben CT-3420Oben CT-3420 Carbon Fiber Tripod My previous tripod was a Manfroto carbon fiber tripod with an aluminum ball head. It was far and way the heaviest largest thing I carried with me. It was so large that I had to pick my bags around what I could fit the tripod in. The Oben tripod is significantly lighter, has a much smaller head and it folds in such away that it is much smaller. I could probably put it in a carry on bag if I had to. Yet, it still feels extremely sturdy. The weight gain in my lenses is more than compensated by carrying a slighter tripod.

Tenba Shootout BackpackTenba Shootout BackpackThe quest for a good camera bag is never ending. For me, it has to hold more than camera gear, it has to hold most of my computer equipment too.

Other Gear

Nikon SB-900 Flash I don’t use my flash nearly as much as I should, but I’d like to change that.

Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible Inverted Dome Diffuser Flashes can be great, but harsh light isn’t. The diffuser is light and takes up little space in my bag.

15″ MacBook Pro I purchased this computer in Vietnam and have been using it every since. Editing photos on the road is a bit of a pain, but necessary.

Adobe Lightroom 3 Since I moved from editing photos in Photoshop to Lightroom, it has improved my productivity dramatically.

Adobe Photoshop CS5 Moving to Lightroom has removed most of the need I had for Photoshop, but there are still a few things I need it for.

I’ll be creating a permanent page which lists all the gear I carry, photography and otherwise, and will be updating it as I

  • 22 Comments... What's your take?

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  1. Just wondering when you will be posting about your upgrade in photography gear . . . .

  2. Prashikchand says:

    …convincing details.Iam thinking of starting with Nikon d3200 with 18-55 vr lenses.I would like a feed back so that I could improve on it and gear up.

  3. Still using your D700? Would you consider moving to a “system camera” now like the Olympus OM-D or Fuji X-Pro 1? Just curious what your thoughts are.

  4. Jehzeel says:

    The Tenba camera bag looks good. I think I’ll buy one of those in eBay. Just stumbled upon here searching for camera bags. :)

  5. I am surprised that you don’t find the need for a 2nd body. I am planning to do some extensive travel and I am a photographer,and I have the D300 and am looking to buy the D3, and plan to continue to carry both bodies around. Tell me your thoughts on this. Your photos are fabulous by the way.

    • Gary says:

      Because I am always on the road, the weight and space of a 2nd body and 2 sets of lenses doesn’t make it practical. I’m already over weight for most flights with my carry on. Bring even more gear would give me a back ache.

  6. This is a great post, but raises an additional question for me. If you have an entire backpack dedicated to your camera gear and laptop, how do you carry all the rest of your gear?

  7. Christopher says:

    I feel there’smore satisfaction to shoot beautiful and meaningful pictures with lesser equipments :)

  8. wally says:

    #1 Who are you?
    #2Nikkor lens?
    #3 I’m guessing you know someone at B&H

    • Gary Arndt says:

      1) I’m Gary
      2) Nikkor lenses, but the 50mm is Sigma
      3) I didn’t know anyone at B&H before a month ago. They contacted me.

  9. Jeff Revell says:

    Great choices on gear Gary, I think you would have found the D3s to be a little heavy after a while. The nice thing about the D700 is that you can add the battery grip down the road if you like and then you get the benefit of the larger, more stabile body and more battery power. The grip will accomodate the EN-EL4 as well as the En-EL3 that comes with the D700.

    I am surprised that you didn’t go with the 28-300 since it is the full-frame equivalent to the 18-200. The 70-300 is a very sharp lens though for the money. One thing though, you don’t actually get any more reach from it than you did with the 18-200 on your D200. The 18-200 is a DX lens that has a crop factor of 1.5, making it about the same field of view as a 300 on a full frame sensor.

    I would say that the only thing you are missing from your new stable of lenses is the 24-70 f/2.8. It is a fantastic lens that will suit most of your day to day shooting needs.

    Enjoy the new gear and put it to good use on your travels. I’ll be looking forward to your shots.


  10. Joel Duncan says:

    Fortunately, my sister is a photographer and became and even better sister when she handed down her D70 to me. I have since acquired the NIKKOR 70-300mm VR f/4.5-5.6G and the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 to compliment the 18-55mm kit lens. I am pretty new to the DSLR world but I am working hard to develop my photography and tool-kit daily.

    My question for Gary and you other travel writers/bloggers is – How important is it to have a tripod while traveling? Obviously space and weight are important factors to consider, but do you think that it is worth the hassle?

    • Gary Arndt says:

      If you want to take great photos, the answer is an easy, yes. A tripod is the one thing which will improve anyone’s photographs.

      I did a study of my favorite photos once to see what they had in common. They were almost all taken with my tripod.

      I never travel without mine.

    • Kirte says:

      I agree…you have to have some form of tripod. The carbon fiber pods are lightweight, yet very stable.

  11. Tom Bricker says:

    I’m still using the D200 and I agree that anything above ISO 400 gets noisy. But I shoot when I need to above it and use the noise reduction in Ps5 or LR3 or convert it to B&W. However, I’ve been buying lenses like the 70-200mm rather than buying the latest greatest body,although I’m envious of the full frame shooters!

    I really love the Tenba med. Shootout bag. It is a great travel bag.

  12. Seth says:

    I’m curious about you buying a MacBook in Vietnam. Are they widely available there?

  13. Kirte says:

    I also have a D700 (and a D300). Certainly where weight is an issue, I can understand going with the 70-300. The new 28-300 would make for a really nice all-around lens, although pricey. I resisted buying an SB-900 for too long based upon some early reviews, but now that I have it, I wish I had purchased it when it first came out. It is an amazing piece of equipment. I would like to know how the Sigma lens performs for you. I am envious of your oportunity and wish you well. Keep us posted!!

  14. Keith says:

    Congrats on securing a sponsor – this equipment looks fantastic. I have a point-and-shoot but I can already visualize the future in which I’ll need this equipment.

    • Ray says:

      Don’t throw away you point and shoot. I have a D80 and 3 of the 4 lens above as well as two point and shoots (Canon G7 & SD1200is. When I travel it’s only the point and shoots that go along. And that’s with far simpler travel than a a tourist as we have a home and car there and friends all over the place. For a pro, weight is a necessary burden. For even the most serious of amateur photographers, weight is a pita.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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