Beginner’s Guide to Building a Better Sony Alpha Camera Kit

I firmly believe that you don’t need a lot of camera gear to take great images. I often leave home with just one camera and a single lens – especially if I am testing a new lens for Sony. If, however, you have just purchased your first ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera) there are a few additional low-cost items that will make the experience of making creative photographs a little more enjoyable and a little less frustrating. The movie below highlights some of the items I would recommend purchasing from new. I have concentrated on affordable items and items that can be packed in a small ‘messenger’ of ‘sling’ bag.

Warning: One Bag is Never Enough

The bag in the movie is no longer available so I have listed the closest one to it. You may have seen photographers working from backpacks, but these are overkill (and annoying to work out of) if you are not carrying around heavy DSLRs and Sports/Wildlife lenses. I personally have a range of camera bags (because one is never enough) and will switch to a messenger bag with a waist strap if I intend to increase the weight of the gear I am going to carry around all day. This is especially important if I am going to carry a full-frame mirrorless camera and a long telephoto lenses. The largest of these is my ThinkTank Speed Racer V2.0 which I have featured in another movie. This messenger bag can quite easily take up to 7 KG (15.4 lbs) camera equipment (the maximum carry-on baggage limit for most airlines working outside of the USA). I also own a fancy Italian leather messenger bag that does not look like a camera bag, and it is this bag that also doubles up as my work laptop bag (an ONA Brixton). I still own a backpack and use it when I need to move a large amount of gear to a new location (7+ Kilos). Although it is nice having lots of bags to choose from, the one featured in the movie is an excellent size and price, and even if you graduate up to a larger bag in the future you will still end up using the smaller one from time to time when you want to travel light.

Another word about Camera Straps

I also have an additional sling strap (apart from my Jobo) for my full-frame Alpha cameras which is made by Peak Design. With this strap I can quickly switch between their Cuff Strap and the Sling Strap in a matter of seconds. A second strap also make sense when you are working with two cameras on a commercial shoot. Peak Design’s clever design means that the anchor point that attaches to the base of the camera also doubles up as the base plate for my larger tripods. Peak Design also make camera bags if you like what this company does with camera straps.

Another Word about Tripods

Most messenger bags are not large enough to accomodate full-sized tripods inside the bag, but some will allow the tripods to be attached underneath or to the side of the messenger bag (a standard design feature for backpacks). If you want a much taller tripod than the ones shown I would strongly recommend investing in a Carbon Fibre tripod rather than an Aluminium one. I have affordable Carbon Fibre tripods made by SIRUI and [pro]master (XC525C). If I can save a kilo on a tripod I am much more likely to want to travel with it to the location. Watch my movie about lightweight tripods. It is also worth noting that the Sony Cameras with SteadyShot inside (A6500 and all the second series A7 cameras) are able to shoot landscape images at dawn or dusk without the use of a tripod. I can hand-hold one of these cameras at 1/5 second when using a wide angle focal length (16mm or wider) and this allows me to keep the ISO low, even when using some of the smaller apertures.

What I forgot to mention in the movie above

In the small bag that I pulled from the messenger bag (the one with the spare battery and memory card) I also had a cleaning cloth for cleaning the front element of my lenses and two filters. I personally only use ND filters and don’t have a need for Graduated filters, UV filters or Polarising Filters (this is just my personal choice). The ND filters I use can be screwed onto the front of my lens for one of two reasons – to enable me to use a shutter speed of 1/50 second when recording movies on bright sunny days (an ND64) and when I want to extend the shutter speed for exposures up to 30 seconds to render the water in my images still (ND400). I choose not to use a single Variable Neutral Density Filter as the optical quality is usually not as good as using an ND filter of a fixed density. If you can’t afford to purchase filters that fit all of your lenses then choose the lens with the largest diameter and use step down rings to fit the lenses that use a smaller thread size. I typically only use the ND400 on my wide-angle zoom lens for landscapes so don’t use step-down rings either.

I created a movie that highlights how much gear you can carry and still stay on or under the 7 KG carry-on weight limit of International Airlines.

Mark is a Global Imaging Ambassador for Sony, an experienced educator and an Imaging Ambassador for Adobe. As well as public speaking he offers training in the form of creative workshops and one-on-one training.