I’ve been assembling a wish list of equipment I think would help me ranging from a new computer to lenses. These are definitely wants and not needs, they would make my life easier and help improve my work but, I have what I need to do quality work right now, so no excuses. I also have resources to borrow some things I might need and I can always rent extra things I need for bigger jobs. It’s not a super-long list and some of it is not too expensive so I think these things are attainable within a reasonable amount of time. I will start with the post-production side (computer stuff) and then move into the fun camera side.
As I’ve posted before, my main computer is a fairly new 13” MacBook Pro. I switched from a desktop to a laptop many years ago but I still use my MBP as a desktop when I am home. I have an Apple 20” monitor, an external keyboard and a magic mouse. The main drawback for me is the amount of storage space, or lack thereof, which makes external drives a necessity. That’s not an altogether bad thing but creates extra work and potential for forgetting important files when I want to work remotely.
Bottom line, I am a desktop user. I can’t design on a laptop with a small screen and trackpad and I don’t think the monitors are consistent enough to do quality post-processing of photos. So the first item on my list is a 27” iMac. I’m going to go all out with this one because I want it to last. Apple recently refreshed the iMac line with the Intel i5 and i7 processors and Thunderbolt port so I think they will be valid for a while. I am going to upgrade to the i7 option and also get a 256GB solid-state drive in addition to the 1TB internal hard drive. The OS and applications will run on the SSD and files will be stored on the internal drive. This set-up will make this computer scream. It will be purely a production computer. No email, iTunes, Excel, Word or porn on this one. Just pro production apps. I’m going to keep it lean and mean.
As my workload increases I need to have a workflow in place with an emphasis on safeguarding my growing library of images and possibly video. I bought a G-Technology G-Raid mini to consolidate my photography library and have a redundant copy of it. Now it’s time to take it to the next level. Enter the G-Safe RAID drive with removable hard drives. I love this thing. I can fill up a hard drive (two, actually because they’re mirrored) and then swap them out with new ones. I’m envisioning having these drives dated and stored, to be used as backups and archives. If one goes bad, I can restore it from the other drive.
Unlike horseshoes and hand-grenades, close is not good enough when it comes to the quality of my photography. My monitor is getting old and calibrating it by eye is not cutting it. I’ve had my eye on the X-Rite ColorMunki Photo for calibration. At $500 it’s not too bad for calibrating monitors, projectors and printers. I almost rented one from borrowlenses.com but if you add in insurance and shipping it would be almost $80 for one calibration. The wonderful people at X-Rite recently released the ColorMunki Display, which is available from B&H for $169. This is perfect for me because I don’t do my own printing (I don’t even own a printer anymore). So, for less than the cost of renting one twice, I can buy my own and calibrate my monitor regularly (highly recommended). This will most likely be my first purchase from this list.
I’m still using a mouse to do my design and photography post-production. I know many photographers swear by the Wacom tablet. I think there will definitely be a learning curve to getting efficient with the pen and tablet but, from what I’ve heard, once mastered, it makes the workflow much more efficient. I can definitely see how many touch-up techniques would be easier and more accurate. I’ve been using a mouse for so long, I am definitely curious to see how long it will take me to get used to it. This purchase may get bumped up on the priority list for the reason that I would like to have it down before I get really busy.
Speedliting has come a long way since I started. My wishlist used to include a Profoto AcuteB rechargeable power pack. That’s great if you have assistants to cart that heavy stuff around with you but speedlites make that a luxury reserved for shoots with a production budget. To help with my location portraits, I will be getting a softbox with a flash mount and a set of remote triggers so I can get the flash off the camera, shape the light and not be tethered to anything. This will definitely be useful as I continue to work on my Buskers project.
After having recently solved my focusing issues while using my Zeiss manual lenses, getting new Canon lenses has become less of a priority. Still, having auto-focus lenses has it’s advantages including speed and accuracy.
The first on my list is the Canon 24-70mm 2.8L zoom lens. I like the versatility of this lens as well as the faster glass. I’ve mostly heard good things about this lens but found some complaints from people shooting with this one wide-open. All lenses have their sweet-spot and wide open isn’t usually it. Most complaints are edge clarity, which leads me to ask what these people are shooting at 2.8 where they need edge clarity.
Next on the list was the Canon 50mm 1.2L. Obviously, it’s the fast glass that makes this one attractive as well as the autofocus. With the ability to use my Zeiss 50mm 1.7, this purchase is not a top priority. I’m also considering the Zeiss 50mm 2.0 Makro Planar (not to be confused with the 50mm 1.4 Planar which, from what I’ve read, doesn’t deserve the Zeiss name). I’m giving up a stop (and a half, I think) but the great thing about Zeiss is you can shoot them wide-open with the same quality as f/5.6. So, even though the Canon is 1.2, I might only like the results when I shoot it at 2.0 or higher.
An 85mm is also a good idea for a portrait shooter and again, I’m torn between the Canon and the Zeiss. The obvious advantage to the Canon lenses is the auto-focus. But, I’m starting to get used to the manual focus and like the control it gives me. It also makes me more conscious of the focus. I’ve lost many good shots because the camera refocused on something else while I wasn’t paying attention. Having the manual focus makes me pay attention.
Last, and certainly least on my list of lenses is a tilt/shift lens. The effect has gotten increasingly popular, especially with many iPhone apps adding the effect. But, I prefer to do as much in-camera as possible. The ‘effect’ is still not quite like the real thing. The tilt/shift function can produce some very cool looks for portraits. I’m not sure what focal length I’d like to get. I will probably rent a few different ones to try them out. This would be a fun purchase when I have extra cash and need a tax write-off.
So that’s my current (shortened) wishlist. I could put many more things on this list like a Canon 5D Mk III (when it finally comes out) because it’s a good idea to have a back-up body. I’d also like to replace my Speedotron lights with a full set of Profoto lights, including a ringflash. There are a whole host of lighting and light modifiers that I have not included. Mostly, because they are not immediate needs and I am trying to determine how much I need to own and how much I lighting I should just rent as needed. If I am going to be working in New York, less is definitely more. I don't think I want to lug gear around Manhattan. Just something I want to consider.