Up

Last updated on: June 5, 2024

Cameras

Nikon Z9 - This is now my primary camera body for action, wildlife, and portraits. I also use the Z9 for landscape and astrophotography though the bulk of the Z9 can be an issue on my little star tracker.

Nikon Z8 - This is now my primary camera body for landscape and astrophotography. The Z8's low light capabilities that match or exceed the Z9's and its reduced weight makes it the better choice for astrophotography. I also use the Z8 for action and wildlife in those circumstances where I'm traveling lighter or when I'm using dual cameras for example the Z9 with the 100-400 and the Z8 with the 24-120.

Nikon Z6ii - This is my backup camera body for astrophotography and some Behind the Scenes photos. I am contemplating converting the Z6ii for greater sensitivity to hydrogen-alpha wave lengths that add those red nebula gases to astrophotography images. with its built in shutter speeds for greater than 30 seconds for long exposure photos, light weight and good tradeoff between pixel density and image size. I am also very happy with the improved autofocusing in the Z6ii versus my Z7.

Nikon Z7ii (sold) - This was my primary camera body for landscape work and some astrophotography, when I'm running time-lapse sequences on the Z6ii, with its built in shutter speeds for greater than 30 seconds for long exposure photos, light weight and great pixel density and image size. I am also very happy with the improved autofocusing in the Z7ii versus my Z7.

Nikon D850 (sold)- This was a great camera, and it was my primary camera for landscapes, portraits, flowers, nature and as the second body when shooting sports. When shooting sports, I could attach the D850's battery grip to get additional power and to get controls that are easier to use when holding the camera in a vertical orientation, and I also really appreciated the way the D850 showed a red border around the image area when selecting the DX "crop sensor" mode. With that red border, I can see when a subject will be entering the frame whereas with the Z cameras, the viewfinder zooms in or blacks out the border areas outside of the image area being captured. I also used this camera for digitizing negatives, and slides when I want the extra pixels, especially in a tethered setup when I can directly capture the photos to Lightroom on my computer.

Nikon D500 (retired)- This was my primary camera for my sports and action photography when I most frequently paired it with the 70-200 zoom and possibly the 1.4 converter. It is a crop sensor camera, so I got smaller files and an apparent better reach than using the same lenses on the cameras with a full frame sensor. The DX cameras do not actually change the amount of telephoto compression produced by a given lens. DX camera sensors just don't capture light passing through the outer portions of the lens.

Nikon D750 (sold)- This camera was, somewhat, Elena's for the last few years. It was the one that I let her use when she wanted to do action or other photography outside her iPhone's capabilities. I also used this camera for digitizing slides unless I need the extra pixels of my D850.

Nikon D800 (sold)- This was my primary landscape and portrait camera for many years until I upgraded to the D850 to get the improved low light / high ISO performance of that camera. Given the decline in the camera's resale value, I am considering having it converted to full spectrum so that I can try infrared photography and also capture information outside the visible spectrum in "deep sky" images such as nebulae.

Fuji X100s - This is my stealthy, walk around camera that still captures photos in a RAW format for editing in Lightroom. It is also a fun camera to use when I want to limit myself to a fixed focal length.

Lenses

Zoom Lenses

Nikon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 S - for the Z camera bodies. This lens is now my primary "sports & action" lens. It's not as fast as the 70-200, but the extra reach of 400mm helps a lot.

Nikon 24-120 f4 S - for the Z camera bodies. This lens is one of my primary "sports & action" and landscape lenses. When photographing fox hunting and other sports, I normally have this lens on my Z8 to capture the wide angle views, such as the huntsman and hounds or group photos at the meet, while also being able to get moderately close up at the meet or when there's not enough room for me to use the 100-400 in an action image.

Nikon 70-200 f2.8 S - for the Z camera bodies. This lens is one of my primary "sports & action" lenses, and I recently added the Z 1.4 teleconverter to my bag to give me a 98 to 300 f4 lens. I feel that this lens really is better than the 70-200 f2.8 F mount lens that I still have for use with my D500 and D850.

Nikon 14-24 f2.8 S - for the Z camera bodies. This is becoming my favorite astrophotography lens with its sharpness and wide field of view. I also really like it for landscape work. I really like using this on time-lapse photos, since it captures so much of the scene.

Nikon 24-70 f2.8 S - I still use this lens a lot for landscapes, portraits and astrophotography, but it has been supplanted by the 24-120 lens for sports and as a knock around lens. I probably need to sell this one, but the bokeh at f2.8 is nice for portraits, and the extra stop of light is good for astrophotography.

Nikon 24-70 f2.8 VR (sold) - for the D850 and D500. This was the third Nikon 24-70 f2.8 that I owned, and I used the lens so frequently, that I purchased the current version when the diaphragm got stuck on the previous one, and it had to go in to Nikon for repairs.

Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VRII - for the D500, D850 and with the FTZ adapter on the Z7ii and Z6ii. This lens, and the earlier versions, is one of my primary "sports & action" lenses especially when I mount it on my D500 with the D500's crop sensor giving me an effective 140 to 300 zoom range for the field of view, and optionally, 196 to 420 at f4 with the TC1.4 II teleconverter.

Nikon 200-500 f5.6-6.3 - for the D500. (sold) This was a wonderful but heavy lens. In its last days, I tended to leave it mounted on a spare camera body in my kitchen or living room where I could quickly grab it for backyard wildlife shots..

Fixed Focal Length Lenses

Nikon 600mm f4 TC S. This is my primary lens for birds and other wildlife and for getting really close photos of the moon. It is only slightly heavier than the 800mm PF lens, but it is much more versatile in that with a flip of the switch I can activate its internal teleconverter to switch between 600mm at f/4.0 to 840mm at f/5.6, so I get a slightly wider field of view at 600mm and a slightly tighter field of view at 840mm that is a third stop faster, allows more light, that the 800mm f/6.3. Also the 600mm TC appears to be a sharper lens than the 800mm PF.

Nikon 600mm PF S. I purchased this lens for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse to have a lighter weight lens with the most reach that would take the solar filters I used to capture the partially eclipsed sun and then to get the sun as large as possible during totality without losing the corona. I was very happy with the photos I captured, and I might hang onto this lens until the next solar eclipse. It is certainly lighter and easier to pack and use than the 600 TC, but it isn't as sharp.

Nikon 135mm f/1.9 Plena S. Wow. This lens has incredible bokeh, and it will be my primary portrait lens. I haven't had a chance to try it for astrophotography, and it may weigh a little too much to use on my little star tracker.

Nikon 800mm f6.3 PF S. This was my primary lens for birds and other wildlife and for getting really close photos of the moon. Now that I splurged on the 600mm TC, I will be selling this lens soon.

Nikon 500mm f5.6 PF (sold) - I used this lens when I needed a bit more reach than the 100-400 but not the frame filling of the 800mm, and when I did't want to lose the 1.4 stops of light from using the teleconverter on the 100-400. With the FTZ adapter, I used this lens on my Z bodies.

Nikon 20mm f1.8 S - this is now one of my primary astrophotography lenses. It is incredibly sharp even at the corners wide open, and I frequently use it stopped down to f2 or even f2.8 for even greater sharpness.

Nikon 50mm f1.8 S - I use this lens most often in astrophotography when I want a close view of the Milky Way core or some constellations. It is nice and sharp even at the corners wide open, though I frequently use it stopped down to f2 or even f2.8 for even greater sharpness.

Macro Lenses

Nikon 105mm f2.8 S - my new primary macro lens for the Z cameras. I also will use this lens for portraits as the 105 focal length gives me some physical separation from my subject, and the medium telephoto compression produces pleasing facial features. This lens is also light enough to use on my star tracker for some medium telephoto astro photos.

Nikon 60mm f2.8 G - my primary lens for digitizing slides and negatives.

Supports

I use the Really Right Stuff Versa Tripod TVC-24L tripod as my primary tripod since the extra length gives me some additional flexibility when setting up the tripod on steeply sloping ground and when shooting photos of night sky objects that are overhead instead of near the horizon.

I now use the Really Right Stuff TA-2U Leveling Base and the Manfrotto 500AH fluid head to mount cameras and lenses to the TVC-24L tripod instead of using a ballhead. I replaced the Manfrotto lens plate on the 500AH with an Arca Swiss compatible plate from Kirk Enterprises. The fluid head gives me close to gimbal like panning and tilting when shooting wildlife once I get the fluid head level on the TA-2U. The fluid head is also handy with landscape and astrophotography in that I can get the camera close to level or the startracker aligned with Polaris, and then make minor pan or tilt changes / corrections without impacting the other axis.

I use a Leofoto Ranger model LS-284CEX as my hiking or secondary tripod. It is a little small, so I do wind up bending over a bit more to look through the viewfinder or use the LCD screens, but the addition of the spiked feet gets it very close to a perfect working height. I like that the Leofoto tripod has a built in leveling base.

I use an Arcatech Panoramic Head on the Leofoto tripod. Like the fluid head, the Arcatech Panoramic head has separate pan and tilt locking knobs, so I can change the horizontal or vertical direction without impacting the other.

I use mostly Kirk Enterprises 'L' brackets/plates on all of my newer camera bodies. I used 'L' brackets even before moving to the 500AH and the Arcatech tripod heads because 'L' plates allow me to keep the camera centered over the tripod instead of flipping the ballhead into the notch to get a vertical orientation. I also use Kirk Enterprises replacement feet for my 70-200 and 500mm lenses, since Nikon still doesn't natively support the Arca Swiss dovetail mount.

Astrophotography

The Move Shoot Move rotator is the main component of my astrophotography kit. This small little rotator has a laser pointer for aligning with Polaris and it allows me to use shutter speeds in the minutes while taking photos of the Milky Way or even constellations with my lighter weight camera and lens combinations. I was even able to push the MSM rotator's limits with my 500mm lens and the Z6 to photograph the January 2020 Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction.

I have the Move Shoot Move Allyn Wallace Z plate that I will mount to the rotator if I am trying to do Milky Way panoramas in still conditions. The Z plate allows me to level the base of the lightweight ballhead I use for mounting the camera. If it is breezy, I will mount a ballhead directly to the MSM rotator.

I have two lens warmers that I can wrap around the lens in cold or humid conditions to prevent condensation on the lens during the longer exposures. The best lenswarmer in my kit is the Kiwifotos available from Amazon

Retired Equipment

Nikon 80-400 f4.5-5.6 VRII (sold) - retired after purchasing the 200-500 zoom and finally sold. I used this lens for my shots of the 2017 Solar Eclipse, and for some sports and wildlife before I purchased the 200-500 zoom.

Nikon 17-35 f2.8 - this lens was one of my primary astrophotography lenses, to get the wider angle of view, until I purchased the 14-24 S mount lens, and this lens will still work with my two old film bodies, if I ever decide to use them.

Nikon 105mm f2.8 G - this was my primary lens for flower and other macro photography work.

Nikon 50mm f1.8 G - for those times when I want to force myself to think in a different way or want a lighter and smaller lens than the zooms.

Nikon 24mm f2.8 which will also work in full manual mode with the old film bodies and provides me a small and lightweight wide angle fixed focal length lens for my D SLRs.