Professional Photographer’s Gear List
by Stanley Wu Photography
I am often asked what equipment I use as a professional photographer. This question sometimes comes from clients and other times from fellow photographers. I’ve listed my photography gear below, along with my considerations on essential characteristics that I look for in my professional tools.
I think a lot about my kit, but to summarize: I only use top-of-the-line equipment and handpick specialized gear that supports my particular style of photography to help you create the best images possible.
If you’re interested in learning the details, continue below!
In general, when it comes to camera brands, any leading manufacturers, such as Sony, Canon, and Nikon, can provide a complete set of cameras and lenses at the professional level.
Because I do photography for a living, I have stringent requirements for my gear. While photography isn’t only about the equipment – to the contrary, many other factors, such as lighting, composition, and emotion, are even more important – I believe that using the best cameras and lenses can enable me to focus purely on the craft without worrying that my gear can’t keep up with my creative process.
Much of my work is in the form of portrait and wedding photography, so my requirements are mostly geared towards those ends. I do have other types of photographic services that I offer, and I'll be listing related gear to those here too.
I’ve listed my most important considerations when it comes to camera gear. Of course, it’s difficult for every camera or lens to check off every box. But to me, it’s more about understanding the strengths and limitations of my tools and using the correct combination for any given situation to produce the best results.
My top considerations for professional photography cameras:
- Full manual control over settings and raw image capability
- Full-frame sensor size
- High megapixel count
- Excellent autofocus and eye-tracking
- Dual memory card slots
- Reliable & robust build quality and weather sealing
- Large buffer memory for burst
- Silent shutter
Fully manual operation and raw image capability
It’s essential for me to be able to adjust my camera settings to the exact brightness, color balance, and depth of field that I wish. Manual settings are a must if I’m intentionally creating a very bright image or a darker, more dramatic look. I am also saving all files in a raw format, which outputs the recorded sensor data into a file, offering maximum post-processing flexibility.
Full-frame sensor size
A digital sensor is the main component of a camera that records images projected from lenses. A full-frame digital sensor measures 36mm x 24mm in size, around the equivalent of a 35mm film slide. There are other sensor sizes available in different cameras on the market, including Micro 4/3 (17.3mm x 13mm), APS-C (24mm x 16mm), and Medium Format (44mm x 33mm and larger). I’ve tried every digital camera sensor size and concluded that full-frame is the perfect sensor size for the work I do. Larger sensors can capture more detail and color in images, work better in low light, and create a shallower depth of field. Smaller sensors allow cameras to be more portable and more easily create a deep depth of field. However, the smaller Micro 4/3 and APS-C sensors cannot provide the level of detail I need to make large prints for clients. I’ve also tried the larger medium format. Still, with the current state of technology, medium format cameras are much slower than their full-frame counterparts and slow enough that they can’t keep up with my active portrait and wedding photography style.
High megapixel count
To create larger, more detailed prints, I prefer cameras with at least 30 megapixels (MP) or higher. More megapixels are also helpful for event photography, as I’ll be able to crop for further reach without sacrificing detail.
Excellent autofocus and eye-tracking
When I started photography with DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) cameras and their older autofocusing technology, I spent a significant portion of my time checking to see if the image I captured was in focus. Now with MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera) technology, cameras are far more computerized, providing advanced subject-recognition algorithms that let your autofocus system track subjects and their eyes, which are often the focal point of portrait images. I stopped using DSLRs in 2018 and have entirely switched to mirrorless cameras. I only use MILC cameras with the highest levels of autofocus performance to ensure that I’ll be able to pour all of my creativity into the actual image rather than worrying if subjects are in focus.
Dual memory card slots
Having two memory card slots in one camera is essential because I’ll be able to record images on two cards simultaneously. Memory card failure and losing memory cards happen more often than people think, so professionals should rely on cameras with dual card slots to safeguard client images.
Reliable & robust build quality and weather sealing
Equipment is often tossed around when needing to switch lenses or cameras, so having a durable build is essential. Entry-level gear often skimps when it comes to professional build quality. When I pick my cameras and lenses, I ensure that they are built to rugged specifications and sealed against dust and moisture. You also can’t control the weather - if it does end up raining, I’m confident I can shoot in the rain because my gear is also weather sealed.
Large buffer memory for bursts
When taking pictures of action sequences or important moments, such as running, dancing, or first looks and first kisses at weddings, I burst my shots to capture the decisive moment. Because cameras nowadays can easily shoot 20 images per second, it’s also essential for my camera not to run out of buffer space or be bogged down by slow memory cards. If that happens, photographers will find their cameras locked up until the buffer clears. I always ensure my cameras have large buffer memory and use fast, high-capacity, and reliable memory cards from professional brands such as Angelbird, Prograde, Sandisk, and Sony.
One of the most useful recent innovations in camera technology is the ability to have an entirely silent shutter. Now that many cameras no longer have a mirror, they no longer need to produce any sound to take a picture. This is useful in many scenarios, such as during an event, conference, speech, or wedding ceremony. However, for some sensors with slower readout speed, taking pictures using a silent electronic shutter may result in high degrees of rolling shutter, producing a jello-like effect in images with movement. Flickering artificial lights also heavily affect slower sensors, creating a striped, banding effect. Therefore, not all mirrorless cameras should use electronic shutters in every situation. However, my primary cameras circumvent this by having stacked sensors with a high-speed sensor readout rate, eliminating the abovementioned issues, and enabling full-time electronic shutter usage.
My Professional Digital cameras:
Nikon Z9 – Nikon’s flagship camera with a 45-megapixel stacked sensor with full-time silent electronic shutter, 20 frames per second burst rate, durable build, built-in GPS, 8K video capability
Sony A1 – Sony’s flagship camera with a 50-megapixel stacked sensor with silent electronic shutter, 30 frames per second burst rate, compact build, 8K video capability
Sony A7IV – A highly capable all-rounder with a 33-megapixel sensor and 4K video capability
Sony A7SIII – A highly specialized video-centric MILC that can shoot in 4K and extreme low light scenarios
Leica Q2 – A unique, compact 47-megapixel camera with a built-in 28mm f/1.7 lens and a near-silent leaf shutter
Previous Pro Digital cameras I've since upgraded from:
Nikon D600, D750, Z5; Sony A7III, A7RIII, A7RIV; Fujifilm X-Pro 2, X-Pro 3, GFX 50R
Our photographic world is now and has been primarily digital. However, the popularity of film has made a resurgence in recent years. Many film companies, such as Fujifilm, Kodak, and Ilford, have increased their production of film to match increased demand. Although most of the work that I do is in the digital format, I am personally a big fan of shooting on film and the nostalgic look that film photography can provide. I am well versed in the tradition of film photography and can manually shoot, develop, and print my own film images.
Compared to digital, I believe that film photography is purely about feeling. When I create a digital image, I'm only generating a string of numbers in the moment, and the image is only manifested in reality when printed. But with film, I create a physical picture the moment I hit the shutter. When the film develops, the images come to life in a uniquely magical way.
My Film Cameras:
Leica M3 – Legendary rangefinder camera from the 1950s onward, takes lenses from the illustrious M-mount
Nikon F100 – Late model film SLR with high-end professional features and the ability to use modern Nikon lenses
Canon EOS 1N – Late model film SLR with high-end professional features and the ability to use modern Canon lenses
Canon AE-1 – Popular manual-focus film camera from the 1970s onward, given to me by my dad after I started my photography business
Film stock that I use:
Kodak Portra 160, 400 – Legendary soft skin tones and color
Kodak Pro Image 100 – Vibrant tones and detailed color with softer grain
Kodak Ektar 100 – Vibrant and detailed film stock typically for landscapes and scenery
Kodak Tri-X 400 – Punchy black and white film stock
Kodak Gold 200 – A popular classic with vibrant, warm colors and visible grain
Fujifilm Fujicolor C200 – A popular classic with cooler tones and colorful detail
Fujifilm Pro 400H – Excellent color reproduction and high levels detail
Although some of these film stocks are no longer being produced, it's great to see that we now have continuing new supply for some and totally new film stocks available for film photography enthusiasts.
Similarly, my lenses must perform at a high standard, if not even higher. After all, they have the most significant effect on images overall.
My top considerations for professional lenses:
- High degrees of sharpness
- Beautiful rendering of light
- High flare resistance
- Rapid autofocus performance
- Robust build quality & weather sealing
High degrees of sharpness
Most modern lenses are sharp and produce adequate detail. However, professional-grade lenses are even sharper, especially at wider apertures, such as at f/1.4 or f/1.2 - this is where typical lenses start to show their weaknesses. This isn’t much of a consideration for landscapes since I would usually be shooting at f/8 or f/11. However, for portraits, I often shoot at wider apertures to produce a shallower depth of field and a dreamy effect for my images. It is essential for pictures taken at wider apertures to be still sharp enough to print details at larger sizes.
Beautiful rendering of light
One characteristic of lenses I highly value is how they render light. Some lenses have more contrast and color, and others produce buttery-smooth backgrounds. Some have beautiful, ten-point sun stars too. This area is a bit more subjective, but it’s an important creative decision when deciding which lenses to add to my kit.
High flare resistance
I often shoot into the sun during sunset sessions to get beautifully backlit portraits. With lenses that have better resistance to flaring and ghosting from light sources, they’ll be able to maintain higher levels of contrast despite the sun flaring into the image. Not all flaring is bad, and it can sometimes be used creatively. Most of the time, however, I prefer lenses with higher flare resistance to create bright, sunny portraits.
Rapid autofocus performance
During the DSLR era, focusing systems were nowhere near as fast as they are now. Therefore, the lens autofocus speed requirements weren’t as high either. With the lightning-quick autofocus abilities of high-end mirrorless cameras nowadays, lenses need fast motors to match. Most of my fastest lenses use linear motor technology, which translates to having the focusing elements of a lens sit on rails, allowing instantaneous focusing when paired with the right camera. Having fast-focusing lenses helps me capture all types of action sequences, no matter if it’s a dancer, athelete, or Formula 1 race car going 200mph.
Robust build quality & weather sealing
If a camera body is weather sealed, but a lens isn’t, that would defeat the purpose of weather-sealing. Lenses should also have a durable body and a weather-sealed build.
Nikon 28mm f/1.4E – Beautiful rendering and very sharp wide open
Nikon 58mm f/1.4G – Dreamy and full of character, my favorite portrait lens
Nikon 105mm f/1.4E – Beautiful rendering with unique compression
Nikon 24-70mm f/4 S – Versatile, fast and sharp
Nikon 300mm f/4E PF – High-performance super-telephoto lens with crisp detail and gorgeous rendering
Sony 24mm f/1.4 GM – Razor sharp with great autofocus
Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM – Razor sharp with fantastic flare resistance and quick autofocus
Sony 50mm f/1.2 GM – Creamy and sharp at the same time with lightning fast autofocus
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN – Beautiful modern rendering with unique compression
Sony 135mm f/1.8 GM – Razor sharp with lightning quick autofocus
Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM II – Excellent all-rounder telephoto zoom with beautiful rendering, extreme detail, and lightning quick autofocus
Sony FE 2.0x TC Teleconverter – Extends the reach of my telephoto lenses by two times
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L Macro – Excellent for life-size and extreme close-up product photography
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM – Classic lens that's great on film
Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 VXD G2 – Excellent all-rounder standard zoom with beautiful rendering
Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 RXD – Excellent sharp and compact wide-angle zoom
Voigtlander VM 15mm f/4.5 III Heliar – Ultrawide angle lens with beautiful and unique ten-point sunstars for both film and digital
Voigtlander VM 28mm f/2 Ultron – Wide angle manual lens with high sharpness and compact build, great for film
Voigtlander VM 35mm f/1.4 MC Nokton – Classical rendering that's perfect for a vintage film look
Voigtlander VM 35mm f/1.2 III Nokton – Beautiful and creamy modern rendering for film
Voigtlander VM 50mm f/1.5 II MC Nokton – Modern contrast and sharpness with a slightly vintage look
Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 FE – Incredible sharpness with gorgeous, vivid rendering and beautiful sunstars
Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-tessar – Ultra-sharp short telephoto with beautiful sunstars
Another essential part of my kit is lighting equipment. I have a full set of flash strobes, RGB LEDs, softboxes, and video lights. Depending on the particular type of shoot, I may bring one or multiple types of lighting equipment to help achieve the look we want.
For example, studio headshot sessions require flash strobes or continuous LED lights, softboxes, reflectors, and backdrops. If I’m shooting an event, I’ll need to carry on-camera flashes and potentially set up backlights with a few light stands.
I use the Godox (aka Flashpoint) wireless lighting system for most of my lighting equipment. This system allows remote control of their many types of flash units via an on-camera radio transmitter. This system is one of the most reliable brands professionals use and can produce beautiful lighting for my shoots.
I also mainly use Manfrotto for their lighting support equipment. They are the industry-leading brand for light stands and other accessories.
My lighting equipment:
Godox AD200 (2)
Godox V1 (2)
Godox V860 (3)
Manfrotto Alu-master Light Stand
Manfrotto Nano Stand Plus
Westcott 48" Parabolic Softbox
Angler 36" Parabolic Softbox
Glow 33" Octabox
It used to be the case that we would need specialized video cameras apart from our photography cameras, but the mirrorless age has blessed us with hybrid camera bodies that can do it all. Of course, there are still Hollywood-level cinema cameras from ARRI, RED, Blackmagic, and others. Still, current technology has allowed us to have compact cinema cameras in the palm of our hands.
All my photo camera bodies are fully capable of also creating high-end video content in 4K (Sony A7IV & A7S3) and 8K (Sony A1 & Nikon Z9).
Filmmaking setups are a bit more complex than photographic ones. To create high-end content, many more accessories are required, such as filters, support systems, stabilizers, Steadicams, gimbals, tripods, v-mount batteries, boom microphones, lavalier mics, recorders, continuous lights, softboxes, and LEDs. I have a complete video production kit available for filming events, special projects, and weddings.
My filmmaking equipment:
Atomos Ninja V+ Monitor & Recorder
DJI Ronin SC 3-axis Gimbal Stabilizer
DJI FPV 4K Drone
DJI Mavic 3 Pro 4K Drone
DJI Osmo Action 4K Action Camera
Godox M1 RGB LED
Godox SL150II LED
Godox VL200 LED
GoPro Hero 10 Black 5.3K Action Camera
Rode Videomic NTG
Rode Wireless GO
Rode Lavalier Mic
Peak Design Travel Tripod
PolarPro PM Variable ND 2-5 Stop Mist Edition Filter
PolarPro PM Variable ND 6-9 Stop Mist Edition Filter
PolarPro QuartzLine BlueMorphic Filter
PolarPro QuartzLine Mist Filter
Sirui Video Tripod
SmallRig Shoulder Rig
Tascam DR-40 XLR Multi-track Recorder
YongNuo YN360 RGB LED
Zoom H1 Compact Recorder
Product Photography Equipment
I have a full set of product photography equipment capable of creating compelling and sellable commercial product images for both boutique brands and mass-market e-commerce. I am also well-equipped to create digital reproductions of art pieces, whether it's a 2D painting or three-dimensional sculpture.
My Product photography equipment:
High-Resolution Digital Photography & Cinema Cameras
Macro Lenses for highly detailed close-up reproductions of your product
White Marble Surface
Black Acrylic Reflective Surface
Black, White, Gray Backdrops
RGB LED Lights
I've invested quite a bit of time and resources into my equipment to make sure . But all in all, cameras and lenses are ultimately just tools in the art of photography. Other factors, such as lighting, composition, and emotion are far more important when it comes to creating a winning image. What great pro-level gear can help with, however, is helping make that creative process much quicker and easier.
Any questions? Feel free to reach out!