On Assignment: The contents of my bag

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I thought you may all be curious to see what I’m bringing to Switzerland for my current assignment. Let’s just say there’s a hell of a lot of stuff here:

Primary system:
– Nikon D800E
– AFS 28/1.8G
– AFS 60/2.8 G Micro
– PCE 85/2.8 Micro
– ZM 28/2.8 plus Leica M to Nikon F adaptor

Backup system:
– Olympus OM-D with HLD-6 grip – I plan to do some walking around too, and I don’t want to carry the D800E.
– Olympus ZD 12/2
– Olympus 45/1.8
– Panasonic 20/1.7 G
– Panasonic Leica 45/2.8 Macro
– That little clip on flash thingy to trigger the SB900s in SU4 mode
– Nikon G to M4/3 adaptor

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– Nikon SB900 x3
– Custom made perspex diffuser and case, various cards, papers and laminates for backdrops and diffusion.
– Manfrotto 5001B compact light stands plus heads and flash stands x3

– Gitzo GT1542T Traveller 6X carbon fiber tripod
– Manfrotto 468RC0 Hydrostat ball head
– Manfrotto micro positioning rail

– Apple MacBook Air 11″
– Apple iPhone 4
– Western Digital MyPassport 1TB 2.5″ USB drive for backups
– Sandisk Extreme SD/CF USB card reader
– Chargers and universal adaptors

Other accessories:
– Spare batteries and chargers for both cameras
– 8 sets of Sanyo Eneloop AA batteries for the SB9000s
– Two sets of Kenko Pro DG extension tubes
– Adaptor plugs and multi strip
– SD cards; Sandisk Extreme HD 32 GB x4
– MAHA C801D fast AA charger
– Nikon SC-31IR flash deflector panel for D800E built in
– Rocket air blower
– Soft white cloths
– Blu tack
– Duct tape
– Magic tape (for removing dust)
– WhiBal cards
– Small lens pouches

– Think Tank Airport International v1
– Billingham Hadley Pro, without the internal dividers but with some small lens pouches and a camera wrap, packed into my check-in luggage
– Manfrotto MBAG80P for light stands and tripod

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Here’s most of it packed in. What you don’t see is the diffuser case, which is quite enormous and wouldn’t fit into the picture…


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  1. Any reason you choose to go with the 20mm 1.7 vs the 25mm 1.4? I can imagine the obvious answer being size but is that all? Or in a perfect world you would actually love the 25mm if it was just that much smaller? You know what, I’ll retract that statement. I don’t take you for the kind of guy that would settle for size VS beter optics/bokeh (in a some what same focal range). There must be a reason!

    • It IS size, in this case. I didn’t see the point of having a small camera but losing that portability to a large lens. The optical differences are narrow enough that I can overlook them in favor of portability.

      • Size wins it then! Thanks, for your response.

        I have to say, I’ve been coming back to your site on a daily basis. I found out about you by doing a google image search while researching some M4/3 lenses. I was trying to pick out well executed shots from the M4/3 world. In the midst of it all I finally found someone I can follow. What’s intriguing about your work is your versatility with different formats. I’m trying to appreciate the world of M4/3 (or you can say photography in general) and I’m doing so though the works of photographers like your self. I am a professional photographer as well, but I never had any formal training. I’m self taught by basically doing what I just described. Nothing beats being taught hands on but our distances makes that near to impossible (I’m from Miami, FL) So I’m hoping that what you have to say about what you do, and how you do it rubs off on me. I’m not looking to copy, but just to undertand the world of photography as you see it through your writings and your photos. So I can appreciate the world around me in a different light. Hopefully, making me a better photographer in the process.

        Thanks again! 🙂

        • Thanks Andrew. Yes, size it is – when I want ultimate quality, I’ll break out the D800E, Gitzo 5-series systematic and Zeiss ZF.2 glass.

          I might be closer than you think, there seems to be some interest brewing in a San Francisco and/or New York City workshop next year…I sent about 10% of the DVDs to California!

  2. Dimitris Glynos says:

    Hi Ming, I wish from you a review of the AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G which I saw that you got on the Nikon D800E on your primary system.
    I am thinking to buy this lens for my Nikon D700 and your opinion is valuable to me. My other alternative is the Zeiss Distagon T* 28mm f/2 ZF.2 which here in Greece aligns double the price of the Nikkor, almost 1200€. Thank you.

  3. What? No Leicas?

  4. Ming, may I know your opinion on Nikon 60mm 2.8g vs. Zeiss 50mm Makro, please?

  5. Ming . I have Zeiss 50/2.0 ZF2 and want to use it on GF3. What kind of adapter I should buy? Nikon G->M43 Adapter? or Nikon D->M43 Adapter?

  6. I’m pretty sure I can see your Nikon 45mm Pancake too … which will no doubt disappoint some people who think you should re-borrow the Leica 50mm APO-Summicron and use that with the M to F adaptor instead 😉

    Which actually gets to my question, which is why the M to F adaptor and the ZM lens ? I assume the combo does Macro only, but you already have the 60mm Macro, so what does the “M” lens on the Nikon give you that the Nikon 60mm doesn’t (is it higher magnification, more field curvature for artistic purposes etc ?)

    • Haha, I’m sure too. But there’d be no point, because the back flange distance of the F mount is much longer than M mount, and you don’t get infinity focus – the adaptor is strictly for macro work. There also aren’t any 50 APOs here to borrow, sadly. I changed the contents last minute – I just have the 20 and 45 Macro for M4/3, and added the Zeiss ZF.2 85/1.4 and ZF.2 21/2.8.

  7. Ming, Do you see the 800e/105Micro as a replacement for the S2/120mm?

    • No. The 105VR has too much chromatic aberration. Maybe the 85PCE or Coastal 60/4, but I haven’t had a chance to try the latter – they’re insanely expensive and hard to get…

  8. Ming, I see in your “kit” you use a Leica M to Nikon F adapter. How do you like it and if you do which one?

    • I only use it for wide angle macro work – it’s a cheap unbranded one I got off ebay. I don’t think any of the reputable manufacturers make one because it’s of very, very limited use.

  9. Ming, In an earlier post you mentioned having a polar bear. Have you trained your polar bear to carry your gear? My polar bear will carry an M9 kit while I use the camera but has refused to carry anything heavier. If you have any suggestions on polar bear management/camera carrying that would be helpful, your comments would be appreciated.

    • The polar bear is useless when it comes to carrying gear, he just tries to eat it. The only thing he’s useful for is highlight and detail testing.

  10. Fabrizio says:

    Hi Ming, what is the Leica M to Nikon F adaptor? I didn’t know it was possible to use Leica M lenses on a Nikon F body. What brand is it?
    Thanks a lot for your blog, always very informative and with very nice and professional photos.

  11. Robert Stark says:

    Ming, I know that you had focus problems with your D800 and had to send it back but from your experience with that camera and your D800E, have you any thoughts to share with us in comparing the two models? Thank you, very much, as always.


    • The D800e is definitely sharper; I can close down another stop for my macro work to win back a bit of DOF before getting the same amount of diffraction softening. And if you’re in the pre-diffraction region, then the sharpness is definitely higher…but once again, you need the very best lenses to make the most of it – which is why I’ve changed most of my glass in the last week or so.

  12. Sounds like you packed your studio to Switzerland. Have a great trip! Do provide some sharing on how OM-D performs there.

    • I did! Only going to use the OM-D as backup for the assignment; though I did go for a walk this morning around woods with the OM-D, D800E and ZF 21/2.8 and 85/1.5 combination – it’s actually an interesting idea as it gives me 21, 42, 85 and 190mm equivalents…

  13. Shah Mohd Adnan says:

    Hi Ming, thanks for sharing. A couple of questions, how heavy is your carry on bag ended up being with the laptop, camera bodies and lenses? And have you ever though of using the SU-800 commander to trigger?

    Safe trip and have exuberant amount of fun during your trip! Shah

    • No problem. 15kg but not including lighting stands, tripods, diffusers etc. Why use the SU800 when the built in works fine? One less thing to break and fewer batteries to pack. Thanks!

  14. Thanks for sharing this helpful logistical insight. I’m guessing it’s a horological shoot since you’re bringing the macro big guns (800E), no LED for food photos and to top it off, Switzerland? 🙂 BTW, I didn’t notice an extension tube for your 60mm macro to get closer than 1:1?

    • Yes, it’s a watch client. I’ve got two sets of extension tubes for a total of 144mm 🙂

      • Whoa! That’s more than 2:1 on a full frame? I’m trying to guess which client considering you’re packing for bear on this trip so it must be a very important shoot for a very important client at the Swiss HQ. And Basel is finished for the year no?

        • It’s an independent manufacture actually. Basel is done, but there are still releases and website updates etc ongoing throughout the year. I’m meeting a bunch of other prospectives and an existing client too, but no shooting though. There’s no difference between packing for bear and packing – if it’s a commercial job, that’s what I bring (with lenses varying depending on the specific job). And I’ve got enough extension tubes to get me to about 2.5:1 on full frame 🙂

  15. Eddie Marmolejo says:

    Ming – Thank you again for sharing this detail into your production. How often do you pack your LED lighting? Also, do you pack to the same level for out-of-town assignments?

    • LED panels are for food and work. I pack more for out of town because I don’t know if I can just run out to get a spare, or go back to the office if I miss something.

  16. Dear Ming, do you like performance of the 28 1.8g on d800e? How it campares to the 24 1.4? I shoot weddings quite a lot, and looking for the wide angle prime, because 24-70 doesnt impress me in terms of image quality.

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