Gear Bag

While putting this site together, I thought that someone might find it useful if I make reference to the photography gear and resources that I use. As part of that strategy, I have included a section that shows the exact camera and astronomy gear that I used when capturing the image on each gallery page. Additionally, I figured that I should also have pages that give an almost complete list all of the equipment and resources that I currently use, and to give a little more information on each.

Disclosure:  Please note that some of the links on the page below are affiliate links. This means that if you click on one of these items and decide to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission; however this will not incur an additional cost to you. Please understand that products on this page are those that I personally use and have found useful in my own photography – they are not here because of the small commissions that I may earn should you make a purchase.

Photography Equipment

This section contains the day-to-day camera hardware that I use for the vast majority of my images. This covers most of the categories on this site including wildlife, macro and night photography. The more specialist astronomy and astrophotography equipment I will list in its own section further down the page.

Camera and Lenses

Canon 600D / T3i:

While this particular model is a few years old now, I still find it an excellent camera body. The 1.6x crop factor is helpful for some extra reach with birds and the articulating LCD screen comes in handy in many situations (low macro shots and odd astrophotography angles to name a couple). What’s more, these days used bodies can be picked up for a few hundred dollars. (Since this camera body is discontinued, the equivalent new model would be the Canon 750D or 760D – both are excellent choices for under one thousand dollars.)

Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II SLR Lens:

This is quite a good general purpose lens and served me well starting out. I actually still use it a fair bit, but its purpose is a lot more specialized; I use it for macro work while mounted backwards with a reversing ring. In that role, it’s actually very handy! It’s light, has good image quality, and throwing a set of extension tubes into the equation gets a maximum magnification somewhere around 7x I think. There’s even an updated version on the market now.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens:

This is by far the most used lens in my bag. With the crop factor of the camera body figured in, this lens has a respectable 400mm of effective focal length – enough for many birds and other wildlife. Mounted on a set of extension tubes it becomes a pretty good budget substitute for a macro lens, with the zoom giving a good range of working distance – great if your subject tends to bite or sting. As with the 18-55mm lens above, there is an updated STM model now available.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens:

This is a fantastic little lens for the money! Mine gets the majority of its use at night, where the f/1.8 maximum aperture really drinks in the sparse photons. It’s great for some of the larger objects in the sky like constellations, the core region of the Milky Way galaxy, or if you’re far enough south, the Magellanic Clouds. My favourite use, though, is to make mosaic images of larger sections of the sky, where the detail is unparalleled! For around $100, this is an excellent value lens – there’s a reason why it’s an Amazon Top Seller! As with my other Canon lenses, there is a newer STM model now being made.

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II Digital Zoom Lens:

This is a great lens for wide angle on a crop-sensor body for a reasonable price (~$400). Obviously, I use this lens for my wide-angle, nightscape-type images and occasional time-lapses as it gives me a field of view of around 90°. I’d like to be more enthusiastic about the lens, but my copy has a small defect that prevents the lens from reaching focus at infinity, and the seller never responded to my emails (yay, eBay). I’m not sure if this is a common fault or just specific to my copy, though.

Camera Accessories

Auto Focus Macro Extension Tube Set:

Hands-down one of the best (and cheapest!) additions to my camera bag. Many of the images in my macro galleries were made with a set of these attached. They are super light and I can go from photographing birds in a nearby tree to ants at my feet in less than 10 seconds. They work well with the three Canon lenses listed above, or practically any other lens with a similar focal length, too. The shallow depth-of-field can be tricky, and it’s no Canon MP-E 65mm 1x-5x macro lens, but the cost is orders of magnitude lower, too.

Macro Reverse Ring Camera Mount Adapter:

Another great budget addition to the camera bag. I decided to grab it because it allows me to transform my humble 18-55mm “kit lens” (which wasn’t getting much use) into a high magnification macro lens! Again, it’s not a perfect solution, as the viewfinder can get VERY dark, and the DOF can be razor thin (fractions of a millimetre), but the results can be amazing if you have a little patience. These rings come in multiple sizes and are designed for a variety of lenses, so when buying, make sure you choose a size equal to the front filter thread of the lens you wish to attach it to.

Yongnuo YN 560-III Professional Flash Speedlight:

This is a relatively recent purchase on my part, but I was pleased with it from day 1. Previously, I had been using the on-camera flash, which is definitely handy, but tends to be fairly slow to recycle and sucks up the camera battery quite quickly with constant use. While new to using a dedicated Speedlite, I’ve still noticed that it makes a difference to my photography. The adjustable output allows me to adapt the light to a wider variety of situations, and to minimize battery use, plus I find myself trying shots that I would have otherwise skipped due to poor lighting.

Slik Sprint Pro II Tripod:

This is a very handy, lightweight tripod. It fits nicely inside my daypack and, at under one kilogram, it’s certainly easy on the shoulders – even after carrying it for several hours. It’s sturdy enough to hold the camera; though I wouldn’t load it up with all your heaviest camera gear in a high wind. It’s too small for that. Then again, I didn’t want to buy a heavy-duty, expensive tripod that I needed to lug around in the back of my car, I wanted something I could easily carry to a location on my back, and this certainly fits the bill.

Interfit Strobies Small On Camera Diffuser:

If you’ve ever used your flash, you’ll know that it can result in harsh, direct light and unattractive, hard shadows – especially in macro images. That’s where a diffuser comes in. While there are plenty of DIY diffuser plans available on the net, I still think this on-camera, pop-up offering is one of the best solutions I’ve seen. I keep it folded away in my pocket with the extension tubes until I need it, and then it just pops onto the front of my lens. It works perfectly with either the on-camera flash or a hotshoe mounted speedlite too.

Neewer LCD Timer Shutter Release Remote Control (Intervalometer):

I generally use this intervalometer to release the shutter without vibrating the camera, or when taking a series of long-exposure shots to make a time-lapse. For those purposes, it works perfectly, and it is significantly cheaper than the Canon equivalent. 

Astronomy Equipment

Here is where you’ll find the equipment I use for astrophotography and more general astronomy. Astrophotography is a hugely diverse area, and equipment varies significantly depending on the exact class of object that is being imaged. In general, my equipment has been purchased with a number of uses in mind and is used for both photography and public outreach events.

Telescopes

Celestron CPC 800 XLT Computerized Telescope:

This is a fantastic telescope for my purposes. The 8″ aperture is large enough to see those faint fuzzy objects, and the two-part construction plus GPS system allow for quick-and-easy setup and object location/tracking within just a couple of minutes. At 2032mm, the focal length is long enough for planetary imaging yet short enough for many of the brighter deep sky objects to fit within the field of view. I wouldn’t say that it is the perfect scope for any one of my specific uses, but I think it IS the best telescope for the combination of jobs that I throw at it.

LUNT LS50THA 50MM PRESSURE TUNED H-ALPHA TELESCOPE:

The best solar telescope available for under one thousand dollars – hands down. This scope has proven to be very useful both for school outreach events and for solar photography in hydrogen-alpha. Its small size means that I can actually attach it to a camera piggyback mount on my Celestron CPC 800, and use the larger scope for tracking. With the addition of a suitable white light filter to the Celestron, I can also view or image the Sun in both white-light and in hydrogen-alpha simultaneously.

Astronomy Camera

ZWO ASI120MM Monochrome Astronomy Camera:

This is a fine camera for planetary, lunar and solar imaging. I use it attached to the Lunt solar telescope for narrow-band, hydrogen alpha images of the Sun, or on the Celestron CPC 800 for planetary  or high-resolution lunar imaging. There were some technical reasons why I chose the monochrome version of this camera, however, there is a colour version also available.

Astrophotography Accessories

Celestron f/6.3 Focal Reducer-Corrector:

The Celestron CPC 800 has a drawback for astrophotography – when using a crop frame camera like the Canon 600D, the effective focal length of 3000mm+ is too large to fit the Moon or the Sun (plus some similar-sized deep sky objects) into the field of view. Hence, I bought this focal reducer. Problem solved.

Thousand Oaks 8-inch Polymer Solar Filter:

Yeah, so if you want to view the Sun through a normal telescope without turning your head into a smouldering, charred mess, you’ll need one of these. They filter out some 99.999% of the Sun’s rays and come in polymer and glass versions. I own both. Of course, make sure you get one that is the right size for your telescope!

Celestron T-Ring for Canon EOS:

If you want to attach a Canon DSLR to a telescope for astrophotography (or even digiscoping), you’ll need one of these. They provide a way for the bayonet-type lens mount of your camera to lock onto the telescope. Some telescopes, such as mine, also require the use of a T-adapter.