Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

What’s in my Camera Bag, 2022?

photo by Harper Gray (my oldest son)

It has been a while since I have shared a true, “what’s in my camera bag?”-style peek into the gear that I use on a regular basis. I am going to take the opportunity to really deep dive into what I pack in my primary kit, my everyday carry, and for travel or street photography. I will also summarize my thoughts on Fuji, after three years of using this system as my primary choice.

My F-Stop Gear Loka is definitely not babied.


My primary kit is the bag I pack for everything, from site specific freelance or personal work to some day hikes. It is designed to be both versatile and ready for anything, and as such, comes in a couple of configurations depending upon what my needs will be. The bag that I use for this is typically the 37-liter F-Stop Gear Loka with a Large LT ICU (both products are discontinued, though there is an ultralight variant for the Loka in the current lineup and the Ajna is technically its direct replacement in the Mountain Series). However, I will sometimes swap this out for my 25-liter F-Stop Gear Guru UL with a Small Pro ICU (this review of my former non-UL version of the Guru gives a good idea) if I need a more compact footprint.

My Loka at work

Core configuration

No matter the shoot, the core equipment that I bring in every variation of my primary kit includes two camera bodies (the Fuji X-E3 and Fuji X-T20, or I swap out one of those for the weather resistant X-T1 if there is inclement weather or harsh conditions). Adding to this is my do anything lens assortment–the Rokinon 12mm f/2, Fuji 16mm f/2.8 WR, Fuji 23mm f/2 WR, Fuji 35mm f/2 WR, Fuji 50mm f/2 WR and Fuji 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 OIS). I will occasionally swap out the 55-200mm for the Viltrox 85mm 1.8 if portraits are a focus or I need a very thin depth of field. Rounding out the cameras and lenses are an F-Stop Gear Digi Buddy pouch that I keep full of freshly charged camera batteries (I own six–had eight, but two third party ones expanded and had to be thrown away), an F-Stop Gear Memory Card Roll (I own ten SD cards ranging from 4GB to 64GB–I’ve never been a machine-gun style photographer, so these last me a long time), some lens wipes, and a shutter release cable that straps to the back of the Digi Buddy.

Fuji primes: (l. to r.) 16mm f/2.8 WR, 23mm f/2 WR, 35mm f/2 WR, 50mm f/2 WR

With this surprisingly lightweight and compact kit (much lighter, smaller and faster than any comparable full frame w/pro zoom kit), I am prepared for nearly anything. I am covered from between 18mm to 300mm (35mm equivalent), with lenses that are fast enough for any of my needs, rugged enough for my repeated abuse, and capable enough to deliver high quality commercial or fine art work. My two main cameras have 24 megapixel sensors, while my spare/bad weather cam has a 16 megapixel one. Considering that I used a 12 megapixel camera up until 2016, the resolution on these Fuji sensors are more than enough, and have never been less than what my clients have needed.

As megapixel counts keep increasing, the question of whether or not I will need something more in my next camera is a relevant one. I’ve used the Fuji GFX 100s, so I feel familiar with what gains can be expected from more resolution (as well as from a larger sensor–though one cannot call this simply a benefit as there are trade-offs). For the time being, my work is very seldom printed larger than 8 x 12 inches–the size of my art prints that I sell and display, and larger than typically needed for most editorial or other freelance work. A 24 megapixel sensor easily exceeds this requirement, while offering the ability for some cropping if needed. Also, I have had images printed larger than this, with this resolution, including a wall-sized blow-up at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City (but that’s a different beast altogether). For me, the answer to this question boils down to need. If the printed output for my artwork begins to exceed 12 x 18 inches (larger than I current print), I will likely move up in resolution. Until then, I am happy shooting with this setup.

Optional additions

Sometimes, the core kit needs some add-ons to get the work done. Those extra items that will most often come along include:

1.   My lighting kit packs into two F-Stop Gear Small Shallow ICUs and includes two Yongnuo YN560IV speedlights, a Yongnuo YN560-TX Flash Controller, one Godox V860IIF speedlight w/rechargeable Li-Ion battery, a multitude of attachable lighting modifiers, and backup AA and AAA batteries. I’ve used this small setup to light up some very large, dark places.

Me in a subterranean level of the former Lemp Brewery (note: that is definitely NOT the entrance to the cave).


Former theater that opened in 1928 and was nicknamed the “million dollar theatre”. Lit using my Yongnuo speedlights. 

3.  My lighting stand kit packs into a Pelican softshell rifle case and includes two now discontinued Westcott stands, a Manfrotto monopod, two speedlight mounts, various tools/tape/velcro/flash gels/color or white cards, and two Westcott shoot-through umbrellas. I also own a set of Neewer PRO RGB530 CRI 97+ led video lights, which I use for some limited video recording, as well as, for step and repeats (light output for these is bare bones what you’d need for this sort of thing, and I often combine them with fill flash).

4.  My tripod is a discontinued SLIK (now replaced by the Pro 700 DX) that has been my go-to since 2008–an incredibly worth-it investment! My tripod head is a Sinnofoto bullhead model that I will eventually replace with one by SLIK. This sturdy tripod and ballhead packs down compactly and fits into a carry case from an old portable easel, which straps easily to the side of my pack.

My very portable “first aid/emergency” kit.

5.  My portable first aid/emergency kit is made from another F-Stop Memory Card Roll and includes bandages, antiseptic wipes, ointment, gauze, safety pins, an emergency whistle, and some very light survival gear–fishing line/hooks, stormproof matches, can opener, razor, fire starter, small cable saw, and a signal mirror. I also keep a “real” first aid kit in my car, and will pack along a “real” survival kit as needed.

6.  Notepads (I prefer the ones by Word Notebooks) and pens/pencils. BTW, you can pick up a Word set for yourself from my friend Isaac at Voyager Bag Works!

An assortment of Word Notebooks–the perfect, pocket-sized list maker/note taker.

7.  A rain poncho (disposable or dedicated) or small travel umbrella (I use this super lightweight one by Sea to Summit and it has kept me dry on several occasions, both on shoots and on the trail) .

8.  A small, Manfrotto travel tripod (model discontinued). I have two which can help with placing lights.

9.  A headlamp by Princeton Tec with replacement AAA batteries, and/or rechargeable BioLite TravelLite 135s (own two). I will sometimes add a BioLite BaseLantern (now discontinued) that doubles as accent or even primary lighting for my photography (see images below).


10.  Work gloves (I prefer the Ansell/HyFlex nitriles) which come in very handy in mucky locations or spots with rusty or jagged metal. I also use these gloves around camp for gathering fire wood.

11.  Photo gloves. For cold whether shoots. I prefer the Vallerret Ipsoot when it’s really cold or use the FRDM Free Fit Midweight for cool weather.

Vallerret Ipsoot Photography Gloves are extremely comfortable and warm. They even come with a tripod key.

12.  I keep an additional F-Stop Gear Digi Buddy attached to the Molle webbing of my Loka, which comes in handy for quick access snacks or a face mask, etc. I also attached a Tool Roll by SWRVE, which includes the side plate to the L-Bracket for my X-E3 (if I leave it on, it is uncomfortable on my cheek with the rangefinder EVF), a bubble level, and various other tools for tightening/adjusting tripod/photo equipment.

13.  2019 Apple MacBook Pro 13″. My Loka, with the LT ICU, has a slot for my computer.

A photo of me on a shoot with the Loka.


My EDC essentials.


For my EDC, I have essentially two bags that I rotate between- a 37-liter Topo Designs Mountain Pack backpack with an F-Stop Gear Small Shallow ICU, or the 15-liter F-Stop Gear Ando 13 messenger bag (discontinued, though occasionally still available through F-Stop).

Generally, the Mountain Pack is my cold weather EDC because it is easier to wear over my parka, and the Ando is my warm weather variant. I do have quite a bit of extra space in the Mountain Pack, handy for things like packing a book or some extra layers. I am able to carry everything in the photo above in either bag, along with a lunch.

This includes: 2019 Apple MacBook Pro 13″ computer, Fuji X-E3, Fuji X-T20, Rokinon 12mm, Fuji 16mm, Fuji 23mm, Fuji 35mm, Fuji 50mm, Fuji 55-200mm, F-Stop Gear Memory Card Roll, F-Stop Gear Digi Buddy (w/Fuji spare batteries and shutter release cable), face mask, lens cloth, Word Notebook w/leather cover, chewing gum, aspirin/medication case, Tumi slim wallet for business cards, BioLite TravelLite 135, Travelon Organizer for three BioLite 5200 mAh battery banks, Travelon organizer for spare notebooks/pens/pencils. 

My Domke F2 (obviously, I don’t mind getting my bags dirty).


My travel/street kit is an essential conduit for how I conduct the work that bridges between my personal projects and recreational shooting. This kit has to be mobile, fairly lightweight, and adaptable to changing conditions. It also needs to stand up to a bit of abuse, as it goes everywhere.

With the family and my Domke F2 in Santa Fe.


Travel kit in action in White Sands National Park.

I have three primary configurations for a travel/street kit, a big, a medium, and a small one.

The small one consists of the discontinued F-Stop Gear Harney Pouch, which fits either two cameras and two lenses or one camera and three lenses (my usual pick there for traveling really light is the X-E3 and the Fuji 16mm, 35mm, and 55-200mm). There is also room for my iPhone, a Word notebook/pen, a lens cloth, some business cards, a memory card roll, and two spare batteries. This small shoulder bag fits easily into whatever I am using to pack my clothes and other essentials in–like the Topo Designs Travel Bag, and with the molle webbing on the reverse, attaches easily to my larger travel kit if I need it to.   

My “medium” travel kit riding shotgun with the fam.

The medium sized kit consists of my Domke F2 (pictured above) and is my most versatile bag for travel or street work. The F2 was created about 40 years ago by Jim Domke, a photojournalist, and through most of the 1980’s was the default bag for most on-the-go photographers (it is still the official bag of the White House News Photographers Association). It declined somewhat in popularity in the 2000s, as DSLR cameras and lenses were a bit too big, but it is the absolute perfect size for a modern Fuji kit! My typical assortment is two camera bodies and four to six lenses. The rest of what I take varies upon what I am shooting, but may include one to two flashes, memory card roll, spare battery kit, my “first aid/emergency” kit, spare lights (BioLites and/or headlamp), umbrella, personal release forms, journals and writing utensils, business card wallet, etc. Even fully packed down, I have used this bag to shoot some event work with no issues (I’ve even hiked up a mountain with it full, though that’s a stretch and I probably wouldn’t do that again).  Nonetheless, the layout of this bag is super simple, and that makes it exceptional for working out of–it is easily the best “run and gun” bag I’ve ever owned (and that’s saying a lot because I’ve owned many!).

My “large” travel kit, the F-Stop Satori EXP 62-liter pack.

I must confess that I don’t use my large travel bag, the discontinued F-Stop Gear Satori EXP, as much of the others, and that’s because I use it for very specific scenarios: backpacking or multi-day travel with one bag, or shoots that require a lot of gear. That said, in terms of external dimensions, the Satori is not dramatically larger than my Loka, so probably when/if that bag ever gives out, I’ll just sub in this one as my primary.

My Loka and I checking out an underground spring access.


In 2018, I found myself in the unique position of starting over with my camera gear. Earlier that year, I sold my primary gear to subsidize a retail business that I had, though by the end of the year, I learned that I won a grant to use for buying new equipment (extremely lucky there). The grant was for $3000 and there were no stipulations on the type of equipment I was to purchase, so I literally could have gone in any direction and I contemplated many of them. Ultimately, I felt that Fujifilm fit my particular needs best in price vs. performance, product line equivalency, and the availability of affordable lens options (ranging from wide to near telephoto). I had been a Nikon shooter previously, and felt that their mirrorless (at the time, only the Z6 and Z7) and DSLR options were beyond my price point, and were becoming increasingly so. They also were tending to push toward full frame, which I felt that I did not necessarily need. I looked at Sony, and their older bodies were an option, though the lenses were very expensive. I also looked at Canon’s M series, a serious contender in price and performance to the Fujis at the time.

Three years later, the playing fields have all changed, so do I regret my decision? In short, no.

I still believe that Fuji offers the best price vs. performance balance of any camera manufacturer. There are a variety of excellent native lenses available for under $500 (many of the ones that I own fit in this category), and third party options continue to expand. Further, Fujifilm’s X-series cameras cover a wide spectrum of budgets ranging from about $600 to about $2000 for new bodies. Canon, Sony and Nikon do all offer camera bodies at the midpoint of that range, but they tend to have so many of the manufacturers features from their top end cameras removed to be viable contenders against the Fuji offerings. For instance, let’s compare two modern APS-C cameras, the Nikon Z fc and Fuji’s X-T30ii both released in 2021 and still considered “latest generation”. The Fuji has a higher resolution sensor, higher maximum frames per second, a built-in flash (yes, I have used this), more focus points, higher resolution 4K, better battery life, a headphone port, and arguably better UI (switching to auto or partial auto on the Nikon is confusing if using the manual dials)–all despite the Fuji retailing for $899 vs. the Nikon’s $950.

In product line equivalency, the Fujis still have an advantage, though they are beginning to distinguish more so between entry point than when I bought in. What I mean by this is that Canon, Sony and Nikon all take the approach of introducing a “flagship” camera as their fully featured, most expensive offering with attributes that trickle down with less and less frequency as you get to the bottom segment, their APS-C line. The example that had me considering Fuji initially, from Nikon, was how they negate IQ and performance on down the line, a track they’ve followed ever since the D3/D300/D700 days (last time that they had product line equivalency). The $5500 Nikon Z9 has 45 megapixels, 8K, dual card slots, 120 fps, etc., while the $950 Nikon Z fc already mentioned has a measly 21 megapixels, stunted 4K, single card slot, and only 11 fps. Canon and Sony do similar things, and the implication is that they want you to move up to more expensive equipment. One of the things that I really enjoyed about Fuji, at least initially, was that each generation of cameras shared processors and IQ/resolution. This meant that you were encouraged to buy in at the UI you needed or preferred; want smaller and lighter, then you can jump in at the X-Ex level and save some cash over the X-Pro x (same for X-Txx vs. X-Tx). With the upcoming X-H, this approach seems to be changing as two different sensors will be offered, with one certainly destined to represent as the brand’s “flagship” model. For me personally, this is a mistake, and a bit unfortunate, but if we have a range from $600 to $2000 between entry and flagship, that’s still a lot better than $950 to $5500 on the Nikon side.

The final metric for my 2018 decision to switch to Fuji was the availability of wonderful and affordable lenses across all of the focal ranges that I needed. This is still true, and Nikon, Sony and Canon all provide their APS-C lens lines with far less support and versatility than their full frame ones. As someone who shelled out top dollar for Nikon’s limited “pro-DX lenses”, this was a major annoyance for me when I was on that side of the fence.

So, in short, would I make this decision again in 2022? Yep, I sure would, and I am very satisfied with what my 2018 Fujis have offered so far.             


2 Responses

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  1. ishQ said, on May 8, 2022 at 8:00 am

    Great post! & excellent photo Harper took of you.

  2. Jason Gray said, on May 8, 2022 at 8:08 am

    Thanks! I well let him know.

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