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Date: 11/14/22 13:16
Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: broken_link

Hey all.

A question came up on a post of mine on the Western Board regarding what type of camera I use. Another poster responded that this would be the appropriate location for that type of question, and I agree.

I'll get the party started. Feel free to share what you shoot and edit with.


Sony A7RIII (35mm full frame) camera
14-24mm, 24-105mm, and 100-400mm zoom lenses (The 24-105mm and 100-400mm are my most used for rail photography if lighting is good)
20mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 110mm (macro), and 135mm prime lenses (Mostly used in low light situations or when I'm going for a certain look)

Photo and Video:
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mk II, Panasonic G85, and Panasonic G7 (Micro Four-Thirds) cameras
12-40mm, 12-60mm, 14-140mm, and 40-150mm zoom lenses providing 35mm equivalent 24-300mm coverage. (The 12-40mm and 40-150mm are constant aperture f2.8 and my most used four-thirds lenses.)
12mm, 20mm, 45mm, 75mm, and 200mm prime lenses spanning 24mm to 400mm in 35mm equivalent field of view

I only shoot raw for photos. Editing is done in Adobe Lightroom, and occasionally I'll need to use Photoshop for some heavy lifting. I use Silver Efex Pro 2 for black and white conversions. The micro four-thirds kit is used mostly for travel where weight and volume are a key consideration, and I shoot almost all my video (4k) with these cameras. For video I edit in Apple Final Cut Pro X.

For support I use equipment from Gitzo, Really Right Stuff, and Kirk. (Tripods and a monopod) I also have various neutral-density, graduated neutral-desity, polarizers, etc., for various lens filter diameters, but I generally avoid putting something in front of my lens if I can avoid it.

Prior to March  2021 I was shooting with a full frame Nikon DSLR instead of the Sony. I had been in the Nikon DSLR camp for over a decade, in addition to having a micro four-thirds kit. I sold off all of the Nikon equipment and invested in building up the Sony kit. I have no regrets going all in with mirrorless. There is a good deal more I can do with mirrorless with IBIS (handheld) and on-sensor phase detect AF augmented by contrast detect AF. In situations where silent shooting is required you can use an all electronic shutter while still using the viewfinder. There is no mirror to move out of the way when doing delicate work that requires a steady camera. Focus coverage is great. Tracking is very good. Metering uses the full sensor. I also appreciate that Sony's E-mount lens standard is open to 3rd party developers, unlike Nikon's which requires reverse engineering. There are a number of great third party options for Sony as a result of this, and my kit includes lenses from Sony, Sigma, and Voigtländer.

My mid-2015 Apple MacBook Pro with an Intel processor (Core i7) was extremely sluggish with the 24MP raw files from the Nikon and almost became unusable with the 42MP Sony files. I replaced it with a late 2021 Apple MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro processor, and it's a night and day difference for photo and video editing work.

This is a rather serious kit for someone starting out, and I do some paid work to help cover the costs.

If I were starting out today and on a budget but wanting to build a kit that was competent or could grow, I'd probably give a serious look at Fujifilm's X mount (APS-C) cameras, or I'd look at an APS-C camera from Sony. I'd be a little more on the fence to recommend micro four-thirds, as much as I love it. I find myself grabbing the Sony more often than not, despite the weight. The images and prints I can get from it are just that good. That said the Olympus OM-D E-M1 cameras are fantastic tools in their own right when it comes to speed and focus, and there are plenty of good lens options for micro four-thirds. Finally, for a really tight budget but wanting something beyond what a smartphone could do, I'd look at a 1" or four-thirds sensor compact with a good zoom. (e.g. Sony RX-10 or RX-100 series cameras, Panasonic FZ-1000 II or LX-100 II) I've sold 13"x19" landscape prints I've taken with my Sony RX-100 while backpacking, so I wouldn't fully write off what some of these compacts can do.

Date: 11/14/22 14:00
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: norm1153

Well, lets see here.  For still photo shots, a Canon 1Ds mk iii plus a large mix of lenses.  For video, a Sony FDR-ax53.   I think that covers everything.

Date: 11/14/22 14:43
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: Gothic__Albany

  • I have a Panasonic GH5S for video (and occasional stills as well if something is not moving) but at 4 years old I will probably upgrade next year to something that can do 10 bit video.
  • Lenses are a Panasonic Lumix G 12-35 F2.8, 45-150 F4-5.6, and a Sigma 16mm F1.4 prime (multiply 2x for 35mm equivalent  focal length)
  • I have a JVC HMQ10 as a backup that hasn't been used in years. 
  • Audio uses the GH5S XLR to hot-shoe adapter and I have Sennheiser ME66 and ME67 mikes. At 25 years old, this is my oldest equipment still in use. 
  • Drone is a DJI Mini3 Pro with a Mini2 for a backup.
  • Main Tripod is Robus RC-8880 legs with a Libec NM30 75mm ball head. I am in love with this tripod combination. It is just the right weight, solid, but not crazy heavy. The legs are way better than gitzo at half the cost, and with a height up to 80" it is perfect for getting above brush on a hillside. Tripods matter, don't overlook them if you shoot video. I also have an assortment of smaller backup and travel tripods.
  • For a gimbel I use the  DJI Ronin-SC. This has turned out to be a very useful tool for on-board shots and even holds stable on tele shots. 
  • I have an assortment of portable LED worklights, most in the 2000 Lumen Range for night video. 
  • I use Final Cut for editing. 

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/15/22 20:11 by Gothic__Albany.

Date: 11/14/22 19:57
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: Arved

I don't railfan much anymore, but when I do, Nikon D850 with a 24-120/4 AF Nikkor. 70-200/4 VRII and 200-500/5.6 are sometimes available. The big guns tend to slow me down.

I don't shoot video yet. iPhone 13 Pro with a hand held gimbal in my future? That is, I have them, but don't use them for rail videos (yet). Like the railfans who came before me saying "all those EMDs look alike" I know feel the same about all those GEs.

To tell the truth, though, I actually prefer shooting film, and digitizing it with the D850. I have too many cameras. Most frequently used are my F100, F80D (foreign version of the N80 with a databack that was never sold in the US), and a Pentax 645N. The Pentax isn't that much bigger than the D850 with it's battery pack, and if it isn't lighter, it sure is ballanced better.

Hope this helps someone.

Arved Grass
Fleming Island, FL

Date: 11/14/22 20:23
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: walstib

My go-to camera is a Nikon D6 with a 300mm f/2.8 lens. I have it set up so it's easy to grab and go from a Pelican case, with a monopod equipped with a quick release.

My other grab-and-go rig is a Nikon Z9 mirrorless with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. I wish Nikon had a Z-version of the 300mm f/2,8 on the Z-Lens roadmap, but they don't. I have a 100-400 Z lens I use sometimes.

For the time being, I have one foot each in the Nikon DSLR world, and one in the mirrorless world.

The other F-mount DSLR lenses I use are a 400mm f/2.8. It's a great lens, but a bit heavy and cumbersome at times. Not exactly a grab-and-go.

I'm also fond of my 35mm f/1.2 Nikon F-mount lens.

My newest lens is a Z-mount (for mirrorless) Nikon 40mm. I think it's an f/2. It's actually a pretty cool little lens.

I have other lenses for both DSLR and Z mirrorless cameras, but honestly, the above lenses are the ones I use most. 

When it comes to cataloging and processing photos, I use Capture One 22. (Version 23 just came out, but I haven't installed the update yet.) 

I'm not a fan of Adobe products, but I do use Photoshop when I need to do more advanced editing.

I don't do much video anymore — I prefer stills — but when I do want to roll video I mount my iPhone on a tripod and let it run while I shoot stills.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/14/22 20:25 by walstib.

Date: 11/14/22 23:11
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: RyanWilkerson

Canon Rebel with kit lens :-)

Ryan Wilkerson
Fair Oaks, CA

Date: 11/15/22 08:29
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: NormSchultze

You may want to look to DPREVIEW and ask on the Train n plane thread in the lanscape group.   Lots of train shooters there.

Date: 11/15/22 08:56
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: engineerinvirginia

RyanWilkerson Wrote:
> Canon Rebel with kit lens :-)

And you are probably getting photos as good as anyone else can get!

Canon gear for me too! Although I have a Contax NX too because film not dead!

Date: 11/15/22 09:48
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: PC1073

Two Fujifilm X-T3's.  
One with 18-135 lens
One with 100-400 lens.

They're taking their last trip with me this weekend for the CSXT Santa Train, 
then heading to B&H as the trade in for the new X-H2 and 18-300 Tamron lens, 
along with a Fujifilm 16-80 lens. 
iPhone 14 Pro is all I use for video (rarely).

Editing done in Lightroom Classic CC, and Photoshop, with some assistance
from Topaz Labs Software.

John R

Date: 11/15/22 10:11
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: engineerinvirginia

Oh I do editing if indeed I want any in Affinity Photo....because Adobe want money every month for the rest of my life and I will not give them any. And Affinity works darn well. 

Date: 11/15/22 15:46
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: march_hare

Shooting:  two Canon DSLRs. A D5markIV and a D70. I'm currently on a lengthy train riding adventure across Canada with dear spouse, and chose to leave the heavy D5 at home. On board, and for general tourist pix, I find that my iPhone does a remarkable job at still life's, on board photos, and the like. 

I think it was Annie Liebowitz,who said that the best camera to use was the one you have with you, and I agree with that. 

Editing is done on a fairly recent HP laptop running Photoshop Elements. Version 8 if memory serves. 

Date: 11/15/22 18:34
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: walstib

Here are a few photos to go with my previous post.

I typically travel with two Pelican cases in the car.

The first photo is the smaller of two cases I alternate between. It have a mirrorless camera in there, plus a DSLR, and a couple of lenses.

The second photo shows my go-to camera, a DSLR Nikon D6 with a 300mm f/2.8 lens. The monopod is at an angle, above the camera.

The third photo is my latest gizmo. It's a Nitecore BB2 electronic blower. It has three blower speeds, an LED light, and a retractable brush. It charges via a USB-C port. It's a handy little addition to my camera gear, and eliminates need for carrying a can of compressed air. They sell for about $90.

I also travel with a tripod, which has its own bag.

Date: 11/16/22 08:52
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: Arved

engineerinvirginia Wrote:
> Oh I do editing if indeed I want any in Affinity
> Photo....because Adobe want money every month for
> the rest of my life and I will not give them any.
> And Affinity works darn well. 

I've severed my ties with Adobe as well. ACDSee has replaced Lightroom, and Affinity has replaced Photoshop.

I call Adobe products "ransomware." 

I hope I didn't start/restart a pro/anti Adobe discussion. Adobe makes a very good product, and if you don't mind the blackmail, more power to you. I did that ever since the subscription model started. There was a time when there wasn't an alternative that produced the results as good and easy as Adobe's products, but the market has seen a void Adobe has created, and gone to fill that void with aplomb.

Arved Grass
Fleming Island, FL

Date: 11/16/22 13:18
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: Lurch_in_ABQ

An Argus C3 replaced by a Nikon D50 replaced by a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 replaced by a Samsung Galaxy S22+ after the Note 4 battery overheated and destroyed the display.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/16/22 13:21 by Lurch_in_ABQ.

Date: 11/16/22 15:59
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: broken_link

The Pelican cases are really nice. I like your setup for the monopod across the top.

When out I usually go as light as possible given my desire for hiking, climbing, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, or stealthiness while shooting, unless I'm bringing lighting equipment, backdrop, etc. I usually try to scout a shoot (in-person or using digital tools like PhotoPills, Google Earth, etc.) to figure out which focal lengths I'll need or want, and then they go into a Gura Gear or various other backpacks, Peak Design Messenger, Think Tank Holster, or large waterproof Ortlieb Digi Shot. (Sadly Ortlieb is now only focused on bike gear and is no longer making camera gear.) The Gura Gear lets me pack the Sony camera with a variety of lenses, plus a micro-4/3 camera or two and lenses for video. God forbid I get a drone in the mix.

Date: 11/17/22 16:23
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: cozephyr

iPhone 14 working great for all occasions.

Date: 11/17/22 22:02
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: K3HX

I've been mostly a roster shooter since the late 60's. A student of Don Dover and
Early on, a professional photographer advised me regarding gear: "You will never
regret buying the best you can afford."  50+ years on, I've found this to be true.

For 35mm film work, a pair of Nikon N-80s with an assortment of high-end Nikon lenses
120 square film is done with a pair of Hasselblad 501C cameras with 90mm Zeiss lenses.
4x5 is covered by a Toyo-View "field" camera and a few dozen holders.
(I couldn't swing the cost of a Sinar or Linhof.)

Digital is with a Nikon 810.

Flash is provided by a venerable Lumedyne 800 W/S photon cannon.

Tripods/monopod are all Bogen/Manfrotto.  I have made all manner of brackets, remote triggering
devices and accessories from aluminum in my small machine shop.

A  "colour chip chart" is frequently used to insure correct reproduction.

I've found "The Photographer's Ephemeris"  helpful in planning shots.  Thanks to good guy
Craig Walker for introducing me to the program.

Be Well,

Tim Colbert  K3HX


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/17/22 22:27 by K3HX.

Date: 11/22/22 17:25
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: furious_toad

Nikon F100 for Fujichrome
Nikon N90S for Tmax

Both cameras have Nikon 28-120 lenses. Nikon 50mm Prime is also available along with a Tamron 70-200 zoom

If I need a digital image I use a Samsing S22+ phone

Date: 11/25/22 18:21
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: bodkin6071

I presently use a Canon EOS Rebel T6 with a Tamron 18-270mm lens, also have the stock 18-55mm and 75-300mm lenses that came with it, although not in use. The Tamron basically rendered them surplus...

A few days ago I procured a Canon EOS 60D off Ebay, which I intend to use full time. Will use the Tamron lens with it and call it good.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/25/22 18:23 by bodkin6071.

Date: 12/08/22 05:40
Re: Survey of Railfan Photography and Video Equipment
Author: bandob

Thank you for starting this thread. I haven't done any photography for a few years for a variety of reasons, but have been enjoying my past photos, and using Lightroom with some of them. I hope to get back to more active photography in 2023, and the discussions here will be helpful. I know I need better equipment.


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