The obvious choice here would be my Nikon D80, which I’ve had for 7 months now. Don’t get me wrong, I love this camera; it has given me photography back. I’ve probably taken more photos this year, than I have taken in total previously. OK, there have been a high percentage that have been discarded, but that’s the appeal of digital.
Actually, my two most useful pieces of equipment are older than that. I’m talking about my monopod and my camera case. Before I went digital, I was using a 60-300 lens with doubler most of the time. It was a heavy piece of glass and the monopod allowed me the stability without the hassle of a tripod. It is only a cheap Velbon monopod, but it suits me fine. The collapsed length is about 22″ (56cm) including head and it extends to about 66″ (167cm), this is perfect for me as I’m 6′ 1″, much shorter and I’d be bending over to use it. The head has a quick release fitting, so the plate lives on the camera and can be attached in seconds.
When I got my Nikon, I only had the kit lens and this was short enough (18-70mm) and light enough not to use the monopod. When I got a second hand 70-300mm lens, it was also a lot lighter than the old glass that I’d been lugging around and so I carried on without the additional support. However, I wasn’t really happy with the sharpness of the images I was getting and several times tried out my old manual lens for comparison. After a bit of reading, I came across the obvious and tried the lens stopped down a bit, this improved things immensely. However it was only when I continued the thought process that I realised I was shooting the equivalent of 450mm hand held at fairly slow speed, and I realised I needed some support. Since then my monopod has become my faithful travelling companion again and I’m a lot happier with the sharpness of image.
My camera case is about 5 years old. It is a Lowepro Toploader 75AW. I wear it on a chest harness, so it sits in place in front of me. It took a bit of getting used to at the beginning, but it is just normal now. The advantage of this for me is that I have both hands free at all times and I can clamber about without worrying about holding a case. This has been really useful since we got the bikes as I can ride the bike with it on and have the camera ready to hand immediately. It has a water resistant cover in the front pocket, but I haven’t needed this yet. It is part of the Lowepro SlipLock system, which means you can attach other Lowepro cases and pouches to the sides as needed. I currently have a small case on one side where I put my glasses and one on the other side for my mobile phone. I also have the smaller Toploader 65AW, which is ideal if I’m just using a short lens, and I can just undo the velcro and move the cases over in seconds. It clips on the same harness and I’m ready to go.