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Sheen on Equipment | Troy Nature Photo Club Member | Q/A regarding Equipment | Credit - Her Blog




Bio Sketch


Sheen Watkins lives in Birmingham, Michigan with her husband and their two dogs.  As a family, they spend many hours each week immersed in nature.   A long term birder and nature enthusiast, she had wished for many years for a camera to capture the beauty of the birds she experienced behind binoculars.

Her wish came true.  Initially, she focused primarily on birds, then other wildlife using telephoto lenses. It wasn't long until the photography bug took hold and she expanded into macros and landscapes. 



Answers and insites by Sheen Watkins to questions regarding the equipment she prefers for photography. In her own words...

A couple of years ago this month I provided a list of my camera gear in response to many emails and inquiries.  Today, it is still one of the top questions I still receive.

As my photography continues to evolve and expand, so does the gear in the bag.

Camera gear is an important decision and not one we take lightly.

Before I dive into my revised list (products with links take you to Amazon) - a few considerations:

  1. I am still a believer that the best camera and lens for the task is the one in your hand.  You are the one that creates and composes the images. 
  2. Time in the field will make you a better photographer - not the equipment. Sure, there is equipment that is better equipped for various situations.  You probably won't get the desired  'fill the frame" image of a bird when it is 25 feet away with a 50mm.  
  3. Buy the best you can afford.  As a continuation to #2 - the glass won't make you a better photographer.  I've bought and sold lenses (they hold their value well) when I could afford to upgrade my equipment to faster and sharper lenses.  
Savannah Sparrow by Sheen Watkins

Camera & Lens Brands
I continue to use Nikon cameras and lenses.   Their glass is terrific and I find the cameras to be solid. I would add that Canon, Sony and other brands are high quality and get the job done.  I have also added third party lenses as well as sold lenses that I no longer use.

The camera brand is important, but it's the lens selection based on your photography goals that should heavily influence your decision

Camera Bodies
For birds and wildlife, Nikon's 500D is my camera body of choice as of today.  The cropped sensor format, image quality and speed  is ideal for photographing birds and wildlife.   For landscapes, macro, portraits and street photography, I still use my well-worn, time in the field tested Nikon's 810. The bigger sensor renders beautiful details, colors and tones.

For information on cropped versus full framed sensors, check out my Light Stalking article: Cropped vs. Full Frame Sensor

Winter Beach by by Sheen Watkins

Nikon Lenses - zooms - general purpose and great for travel:
14-24mm 2.8 extra wide angle
24-70mm 2.8 mid range zoom
70-200mm 2.8 telephoto
When do I use zoom lenses? Travel photography, when I'm photographing multiple subject types, when I don't know what I'm going to shoot and want flexibility along with landscapes and wildlife.

Nikon Macro (Nikon refers to them as Micro) - macro lens for flowers, bees, close-up, 1:1.
105mm 2.8

Nikon Telephoto- 500mm FL ED f/4 - telephoto for birds, wildlife
Protective cover for lens (as seen in the photo above) by Lenscoat.
Teleconverters:  Nikon 1.4 III

Nikon Lenses - primes - lightweight, fast and sharp
28mm 1.8
50mm 1.8
85mm 1.8

When do I use primes?  Walk around photography, out on the town with friends, photographing my pets, nature walks where I have limited time, when I want to act like I have a point & shoot.

My favorite little prime?   There's a reason it's a nifty fifty.  A great price performer and just about every time I take this little guy out I have a creative blast.

I don't pull my primes out as much as I should.  The primary reason is that I travel to a lot of my shoots and need to minimize packing and maximize versatility.  When I'm local, I love to bring out my primes.  Light, fast and fun. 

Peach Delight with the Lensbaby Velvet 56mm by Sheen Watkins

Art Lens: Lensbaby Velvet 56mm - a departure from my sharp, all about the details photography.  Lensbaby's tagline is see in a new way.  For those wanting smooth, creamy blur and that unique edge, this company has a series of art lenses to choose from.

Schneider Optics B+W:  Circular Polarizer, Neutral Density Filters
Lee Filter System: 150 Extra Wide Filter System for the Nikon 14-24mm and the filter adapter ring for the 24-70.  Circular Polarizer, Medium Grad Filter and a 6 stop neutral density

Tripod: Manfrotto mt190cxpro4 Carbon Fiber Tripod
Tripod Head:  Really Right Stuff BH-40-LR (available through Really Right Stuff) and and their PG-02-Pano-Gimbal-Head.
Remote Shutter Release: Promaster

Camera bags:


Tamrac Anvil.  This is a big beast that holds a lot of gear and laptop.  When fully loaded, you'll get a workout as the weight adds up.  I use this bag when traveling on large planes or on a road trip. This is  partnered with one of the following for travel as this bag is too large for me to hike with.
Lowepro   They do a great job with lean.  I typically pack my 810, 14-24mm, 24-70, 70-200 and the needed filters in this streamlined bag.
Tenba's Vector Daypack.  This weighs two pounds, holds a 15" laptop and it's completely customizable inside.  Great for day trips and hiking.  I have two so that when I travel on small planes one goes under the seat and the Lowepro goes in the overhead.
Think Tank - for hikes, travel, a muti-short lens bag or camera with a 70-200 attached.  This holster is a pretty cool hipster.

Camera gear is an investment in you.  Take the time to read articles, customer reviews on the retailer's site (the good and the bad) and look at images produced by other photographers using gear you're considering.

Happy Shooting!