A pro-level camera system won’t make a great photographer. It can’t create composition or find the right light. It doesn’t get you “the eye.” But in the hands of a professional, a pro-level setup has emotive powers way beyond that of your smartphone’s camera. For a camera kit, the type of photography plays a large part of what gear is used, so we asked five professional photographers with diverse professional backgrounds: food, adventure, landscape, outdoors and wedding photography, about the type of setups they use, and why. These are the systems that have helped them hone their craft. That, and years and years and years and years of practice.

Daniel Krieger

Food Photographer at The New York Times
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“The people who usually have the biggest [Instagram] audiences are heavy on the macro — on the close-up stuff. I don’t really like doing that. You do it once in awhile, but I try to care more about composition. I feel like if you’re doing too much macro photography, you’re getting too close in, then you’re losing the ability to compose. I like composing with objects, you know, outside of the food, using the table and more of the landscape.” – Daniel Krieger (Instagram: @danielkrieger)

Cameras
Nikon D4 Digital SLR (body) by Nikon $2,650+
500CM Medium Format by Hasselblad (for fun) Learn More

Lenses
50mm f/1.4 Art Lens for Nikon F by Sigma $949
AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G by Nikon $1,597
AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G by Nikon $1,697
AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G by Nikon $1,997
AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G by Nikon $1,897
AF-S Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G by Nikon $597

Bradley Castañeda

Adventure and Landscape Photographer
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“I use a very simple setup. I shoot Sony mirrorless, before I shot Canon — loved it but the weight of those cameras it bogged us down. It’s really a limiting factor, the size of the Canon full-frame. [I still shoot with] old Canon FD lenses. They’re old film lenses from the ’70s and ’80s. One, they’re cheap, and two, they’re amazing. They’re very sharp. I bag my gear around a lot, so I don’t want to spend a grand on a lens. I’d rather spend a few hundred. You [also] want a metal tripod. A lot of people invest in carbon fiber, which is nice if you’re going to hike a lot, but a heavier tripod means you’re going to be able to shoot longer exposures even in windy conditions or you’re going to be able to set that thing down in a stream and not worry about it floating away.” – Bradley Castañeda (Instagram: @bradleycastaneda)

Cameras
Alpha a7S Mirrorless Digital Camera by Sony $2,198
Alpha a7R Mirrorless Digital Camera by Sony $1,898

Adapter
Sony FE to Canon FD Adapter by Fotsay Learn More

Lenses
FD 50mm f/1.4 by Canon Learn More
70-300mm f/4.8 by Canon $649
24mm f/1.4 for Canon by Rokinon $549

Tripod
055 Aluminium 3-section Tripod by Manfrotto $370

Jonny Hoffner

Wedding Photographer, Co-Founder of Paper Antler Photography
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“Michelle [co-founder of Paper Antler] and I each have a Nikon DF, and then we have a Nikon D800 as a backup camera. We don’t have any lights, any flash or any tripods. And we really just have five prime lenses — it’s a very stripped-down setup, intentionally. The widest we have is a 35mm, and the most zoomed-in is a 135mm. For most of the photos of the couple, we’re more in the mid-range category: 50mm to 80mm. It offers us a good kind of distance away from them to interact, but to also to do a lot of different things compositionally.

I personally don’t really like photos of people or of the couple with the 35mm — that starts to get too distorted. And I’d rather pull back with the 50mm than be close with the 35mm. So the 135mm is almost exclusively for the ceremony if we’re in a big church or in the ceremony site where we have to just have to be in one spot, kind of in the back center near the aisle, to get the couple at the alter. The vast majority of the time, we have a 58mm lens that Nikon came out with in the last couple years, and it’s probably my favorite lens to use. I think you can shoot details super well. It’s wide enough that you can shoot immediate family photos, but then you can get enough information in it to have interesting landscape shots as well.” – Jonny Hoffner (Instagram: @paperantler)

Cameras
(2) Df DSLR Camera by Nikon $2,747
D800 by Nikon $1,369

Lenses
35mm f/1.4 by Nikon $1,497
45mm f/2.8 PC-E by Nikon $2,047
50mm f/1.4 by Nikon $397
58mm f/1.4 by Nikon $1,597
85mm f/1.4 by Nikon $1,597
135mm f/2 by Nikon $1,392

Bags and Accessories
Diplomat Camera Bag by Satchel & Page $395
The Bowery Camera Bag by Ona $249

Chris Burkard

Adventure Photographer


“My whole system is based around eliminating excess gear and traveling as light as possible. You’re always having to step back and ask yourself, “What are the essentials?” Then strip down. It’s a constant dance determining what’s crucial and what’s expendable. With the Sony mirrorless system, you can pretty much pack the same amount of gear in half the amount of space that you would normally need. By pairing down what I bring I’m less tied to the logistic hurdles of lugging around huge packs or constantly searching for outlets to charge, which in turn allows me to actually engage with the surrounding environment.” – Chris Burkard (Instagram: @chrisburkard)

Cameras
a7R II Camera by Sony $3,198
a6300 Camera by Sony $998
a7S II Camera by Sony $2,998

Lenses
16-35mm f/4 by Sony $1,348
FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM by Sony $2,198
70-200mm f/4 by Sony $1,498
20mm f/1.4 by Sigma $899
10-18mm (for a6300) by Sony $748

Pack and Accessories
Burkard Medium Kit Cube by Chris Burkard Studio $60
Burkard x Mountainsmith Pack by Chris Burkard Studio $230
Canon EF to Sony E converter by Sigma $249
C4c Carbon Fiber Tripod by Fotopro $245
HD3 Circular Polarizer by Hoya $98
Venture 30 Charger by Goal Zero$100
Leash by Peak Design $35
Graduated ND (handheld) by LEE Filters Learn More
Core Lens Set by Olloclip $99

Chris DeLorenzo

Surf and Outdoors Photographer

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“I use the D4s primarily for water photography, for everything else, the D810 is camera I grab. The tones and gradations on the D810 surpass any camera I have ever used, and with 36MP, you can print to your heart’s content. The lenses I use are honestly whatever is cheapest and sharpest, I don’t stay loyal to one brand or just choose the newest. I will rent the 85mm and 400mm 2.8 pretty often, those are killer lenses, but not worth it to drop the thousands when you can rent it for way less when the job calls for it.”

“I use an Aquatech Delphin Housing, for my Nikon D4S. For underwater imagery, I almost primarily am using the 14–24 Nikon. It’s fast, sharp and just incredible. My series, “Breath of Disruption” was shot entirely with the D4s and 14–24 setup. When I am shooting above water, I love the Sigma 35mm on the lens. It’s a great balance of wide and shallow without distorting too much. I also use Pelican 1510 for my camera gear, and the 1620 for my water housing. Waterproof, rugged, and badass, there is no comparison to the Pelican case. I also use the Leatherman Skeletool for building the housing.” – Chris DeLorenzo (Instagram: @chris_delorenzo)

Cameras
D4s by Nikon $5,999
D810 by Nikon $2,497

Lenses
14-24mm f/2.8 by Nikon $1,897
28-70mm f/2.8 by Nikon $2,397
50mm f/1.4D by Nikon $334

35mm f/1.4 by Sigma $899
70-200 f/2.8 by Sigma $1,149

Accessories
Delphin D4 Sport Housing for Nikon D4 Digital Camera by AquaTech $1,895
1510 Carrying Case by Pelican $150
1620 Watertight Carrying Case by Pelican $220