My first digital camera was a G1, chosen after reading everything I could about non-professional digital cameras. I bought it in June 2001 and have taken tens of thousands of photos with it. Iíve always liked its brick-like styling and still shoot with the G1 today, although now itís used exclusively for infrared photography.
Several months after buying the G1, the G2 came out and I immediately bought two -- one for Leela and one for me -- with the hope that it would focus faster and more accurately. That was the advance word, but it turned out not to be true. But it did offer superior light metering and it was worth it just for that.
My primary tripod is a Manfrotto 055. It is very sturdy and the cameras look a little small sitting on top, but itís unwavering in the wind and a pleasure to use. The center shaft can be turned upside down and also fitted sideways to angle out from the side of the tripod.
My secondary tripod is a Gitzo 0012 tabletop tripod which was only slightly less expensive than the Manfrotto but has the advantage of a large base that easily accommodates my ballhead and whose center shaft also inserts upside down for very close tabletop macro shots.
I use a Kenko FP-100 ballhead, overkill for the G-series cameras but so silky smooth to operate that Iíve never regretted buying it, even though it cost more than either tripod.
A small Hakuba quick-release base is permanently mounted on the ballhead and matching, lightweight Hakuba quick-release plates are permanently fitted to each camera.
Once I tried the native macro function on the G1, I realized I wanted to get closer and a little research led me to Lensmate. I canít say enough about the products and the two people who back them up -- Susan and Tony. The adapters not only protect the lens barrel and lens (with the addition of a permanent UV filter) but theyíve allowed me to explore macro photography in greater depth. I use Lensmate 49mm adapters on both cameras -- on the G1 for my infrared filter and on the G2 for the UV plus other filters -- and they stay on permanently.
I originally bought the Hoya Macro Set consisting of three filters -- +1, +2, +4. Quite often I found myself using all three stacked on top of one another for a total of +7 diopters. They worked quite well and there was no vignetting (cutting off of corners) with the 49mm Lensmate adapters.
Later, looking for more magnification, I added a Hoya 2-element Macros Lens +10. This is a wonderful piece of glass that is front-threaded so that other macro filters can be screwed on the front. (Conventional wisdom holds that the strongest filter should be closest to the camera lens, therefore front threads allow adding more macro power.)
Circular Polarizer -- I have one and even used it on occasion but the native blue-sky colors of the G2 are good enough for anything but over-the-top advertising work.
Neutral Density Filter -- I was sure I needed one of the (+4) and have used it once. Didnít like the photo I took with it but Iím sure it wasnít the filterís fault. Just a little fussy for my style of photography and I usually forget that itís in the bag. Iíll keep you posted.
If youíre looking for E-TTL (Electronic Through-The-Lens) metering capabilities with the G1 and G2 -- I was -- then you have two choices of external flash: a Canon 420EX or 550EX. Considering the considerable cost difference and the rave reviews for the smaller, lighter 420EX, thatís what I chose. While Iím not a fan of flash photography, at least in my own hands, it does allow the capture of photos youíre not going to get any other way, and for that I like the 420EX.
I have a Sto-fen Omnibounce diffuser permanently attached to the flash. Considering the number of times people extol the virtues of bouncing the flash off walls or ceilings, it is unfortunate that they don't, in the same breath, mention the frequent lack of walls and ceilings from which to do this. The Sto-fen enables you to shoot directly at your subject with mostly pleasing results.
I also have a Canon Off-Camera Shoe Cord 2 that allows me to move the flash up to two feet away from the camera. This proved invaluable for the Banana Grove photos where I illuminated some of the maroon petals from behind, and for lighting small insects from the side when a camera-mounted flash would have shot a foot above their tiny heads.
Once I had all this equipment, I looked for a convenient way to carry it. When I was carrying two Nikon film SLRs and two large lenses, I owned the Domke J-1 and liked it a lot, especially the non-slip shoulder strap. So for the smaller digitals, I purchased the Domke J-3 Bag. It holds the G1 and G2, external flash, tabletop tripod, ballhead, assorted filters and the usual paraphernalia of life you'd like to have with you.
On 25 June 2003, I had all my equipment stolen and had the opportunity to make all my equipment decisions again. I was so satisfied over my two years of experience with my initial purchases that I only tweaked a couple of items.
I replaced the Hoya 3-filter Macro Set with a single B+W +5 diopter filter (B+W is a brand name; it does not mean black-and-white here). I found that I was using all three of the filters in the 3-set at the same time, which multiplies the layers of glass through which light must travel, as well as creating vignetting when they were stacked on the thicker Hoya +10. Plus three filters are just fussy, especially when one is only a +1. Too many pieces, too many decisions in the field.
The new B+W +5 and the replacement Hoya Macro Lens +10 are a perfect combination, giving me +5 or +10 or (stacked) +15. There is plenty of difference in these steps and choosing the right filter is easy after a little experimenting -- an important consideration when you have to look at a bug and decide which filter(s) to use.
Since I wrote that last paragraph, I've added another Hoya +10 to create my own "3-filter set." With a +5 and two +10s, I now have a +5, +10, +15, +20 and +25.
The second time around I probably had a bit more money in my pocket and noted that the Canon 550EX was 40% more powerful than the 420EX, so I bought it. Iím still not a fan of flash photography but itís nice to know I can use it to illuminate more acreage or blind a mugger.
Replacing gear was my first priority, but having something to carry it in was a close second. I liked the original Domke J-3 so much that I purchased it again -- and was pleased to find many improvements: ballistic nylon, bigger plastic rails on the bottom, padded removable inserts for the side pockets, better hand-carrying strap -- all for the same price I originally paid. Itís a wonderful bag that I tend to use as a briefcase for camera gear and everything else an urban, urbane man on the move might want. And it only weighs half a ton properly packed.