Shooting With Dinosaurs

4 June, 2017
4 June, 2017 Matt

The real point I want to drive home here is simple and that is, it’s not the camera gear that makes the photographer. Pretty straight forward right?

I recently had a friend on Facebook post up some pictures of a new lens he bought, and he commented about how the purchase helped to finish off his kit, and it got me thinking about my gear.

Most of my friends in the photo pit shoot with something like a Canon 5D Mk 2 or 3 and one or two lenses like a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 or a 24-105mm f/2.8 plus a 70-200mm f/2.8 (sorry but I’m not sure what the Nikon equivalent are) which are great. Quality through the roof and it’s a proven combination that helps get great results time and time again, but I seem to have gone a different route.

My workhorses are Canon EOS-1 series cameras. What does that mean? Well, these are Canon’s flagship cameras, built like tanks for working professional photographers and yes the price is probably as insane as you might be thinking. Well, at least it was when these bad-boys were brand new.

Let me explain.

Meet the family.

(L-R) Canon 28-70mm f/2.8L, a Canon 1D Mark 2, a Canon 1Ds Mark 3 and a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8


Above is a picture of my main kit. To the uninitiated, all of the letters and numbers will mean nothing but those that know, will know that this is an excellent pair of lenses to have with a practical and reliable focal range.

The cameras bodies are dinosaurs though.

I won’t bore you all with the technical shit but my workhorse, the camera I take into every photo pit is the 1D Mark 2 (1D2), and this was initially released for sale in 2004 and only has 8.2 megapixels.

Think about that for a second. The camera on your phone probably has more megapixels than that!

When it was first released thirteen years ago, I think this camera sold for around $4 or 5K but when I bought mine from a friend back in 2013 it cost me about $600.

Unfortunately, used copies of this little gem are getting hard to come by, but there’s still a few around if you’re willing to hunt for them and you’ll be able to pick them up for peanuts depending on its condition.

Additionally, I bought my 28-70mm f/2.8L lens used back in 2015 from a different friend who was downsizing his gear, and I was lucky enough to grab this beauty for a steal.

Initially introduced to the market back in 1993, it is one kick ass piece of glass which is what you’d expect from something from Canon sporting the ‘L’ badge and the red ring, and you can still pick them up on eBay from around $600.

In my opinion, this is a great investment if you are in the market even if this lens is now discontinued from the manufacturer.

These aren’t scratches; they are battle scars.


The one thing I don’t like about this camera at all is the size of the screen on the back, but honestly, I don’t use the preview mode much at all these days, so it’s no biggie.

I’ve learned to adapt and overcome this shortcoming because I don’t have many other options if I want to continue shooting with this camera.

To give you an idea of the image quality this lens and camera combination still puts out, the photo of The Darkness below was taken at the recent Groovin The Moo festival, and I am certainly not complaining.

I’ll keep shooting with this camera until it dies.

The Darkness. Taken with my Canon 1D Mk2 and Canon 28-70mm f/2.8 lens.


That brings me to my second set up which is another camera I bought secondhand for $700 back in 2015 and has been my first dally into the wonderful world of full frame cameras, the Canon 1Ds Mark 3 (1Ds3).

Again, I’m not going to list all of the technical shit here other than 2007 was the year it was released, it has a whopping 21 megapixels and with a list price of $6,999. That’s right, $7K and that didn’t include a lens! Has a whopping 21 megapixels and with a list price of $6,999. That’s right, $7K and that didn’t include a lens!

As a studio camera this thing is da-bomb, but as a live action camera, it just outright sucks. That’s because, at 21mp, it takes a life time for the information to read from the camera to the memory card.

Mostly that means I can only take a couple of shots and then have to wait for the photos to be transferred to the memory card (and I have a 95 MB/s Sandisk Extreme Pro that I use with this camera) before I can take another shot.

Not a great thing when you only have three songs to get your shots, so the solution for me was to bump this (technically superior) camera to the back and make it my number 2 rig.

Check out the colours and the detail in the photo below, and you might understand why I love this camera so much especially when it’s coupled with my super awesome Sigma 70-200mm lens.

Telly Smith from The Word Alive. Taken with my Canon 1Ds Mk3 and Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 lens


The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 was one of the few major pieces of equipment I bought brand new and at the time cost me around $1500 from memory.

Why did I buy a Sigma lens rather than a Canon one? Simple, the price. The Canon equivalent would have cost me at least another $500-ish that I just didn’t have, and the reviews on this lens were very decent.

It’s because of this lens that I ended up buying other Sigma lenses, why I want to buy more Sigma lenses and why I can’t vouch for this product or brand enough.

Apparently, I use these cameras with different lens combinations depending on the situation, subject or feel I am trying to achieve but my point is that you don’t need the latest gear to get great results.

You just don’t.

Yes, it’s shiny. Yes, the marketing people do a fantastic job making you think it will improve the quality of your work and yes they make the notion of spending all that money like it’s the best idea in the world.

I get it. Honestly, but the bottom line is that I have been using gear that is over a decade old and have been getting great results consistently and you can as well.

Look, if the new gear is what you want, and you have the cash to get it then more power to you but if you’re like me and have to watch what you’re spending then don’t scoff at the thought of buying some pre-loved gear.

You can use any camera, in any situation and get usable results if you have the know-how and the determination to make it happen. What’s the saying? “The best camera is the one you have on you.” not “The best camera is the newest one on the market.”

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Comments (4)

  1. Nicely written mate. Love my Sigma lenses. I remember doing a LOT of research on the 24-70 f2.8 and the 70-200 f2.8 and they’re both brilliant and much more affordable than the Nikkor equivalents. When you do upgrade, I think you’ll be surprised at how far the tech has advanced for our kind of shooting, but the important thing is to be out there shooting. btw how good were The Darkness? They’re like Steel Panther for togs, rock god shots everywhere! 🙂

    • I think the main advancement I’m looking forward to would be to have a higher usable ISO for those time when the lighting guy stayed home. Other than that I’m still happy with the setup I have now although that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t complain if Canon suddenly came up and offered me some new gear. (are you listening Canon? haha)

      The Darkness were my favourite band of the festival and you’re right, just like Steel Panther with their energy and stage presence. It sure makes for great photos!

  2. Great post! I used to use the 1D MkIIn for all my concert shoots for a very long time, until I realised I found it too heavy to use for festivals etc. These days I use two 40D’s that I picked up for $300 total and couldn’t be happier. I just love the look they provide, and how little space the raw files take up compared to today’s behemoth’s!

    • The weight sure is a pain in the spinal column Doug, you’ve got that right! That’s one of the reasons why I’m looking at buying a preloved Fuji X100T or something for urban crawling on family trips.

      My first camera was a 30D and I sued that for years with a kit lens before even thinking about upgrading so I certainly appreciate your love for the 40D you use. Great cameras and are still extremely capable of making great photos.

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