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MASTER THE MILKY WAY PHOTOGRAPHY
62 VIDEO LESSONS | 23+ HOURS OF CONTENT
One of the most common questions we receive is: Which camera/lens did you use for taking that picture?
I’m sure you’ve heard many times the expression “It’s not the camera; it’s the photographer”. I absolutely agree with that statement; the gear is useless without our vision and creativity. To me, camera gear is just a tool that allows me to capture my vision.
That said, knowing the tools you need is also important, so we created this article so you can see all the gear that we use to create our images. In terms of camera gear, we always try to follow a minimalistic approach, using just the essential tools that we need. For example, we prefer using a top-quality zoom lens instead of 3 primes to cover a specific focal length range. Another example are graduated filters; we can get very good results in post-processing, so we don’t need them. Apart from saving money, saving space and weight is fundamental when you’re traveling.
As you’ll see now, most of the gear listed below is advanced camera gear. If you’re starting in photography or this is just a hobby, don’t worry, you don’t need the latest models. Like everyone, I started with the most basic camera kit and I managed to capture beautiful images that I still love. It’s true that as you advance and find new challenges, you’ll probably need more specific gear, like a camera and fast lens to photograph the Milky Way, or a superb telephoto to shoot wildlife.
This is the complete camera gear that Ascen and I use today:
Landscape photography is the main genre that I shoot, and the Sony A7RIV is one of the best cameras to shoot landscapes. It has a Full-Frame sensor with a superb dynamic range, something fundamental to cover most light situations. It also has a very high megapixel count; this is technically more demanding but allows you to crop your image while maintaining good quality.
Night photography is the other genre that I love, especially Milky Way photography and Northern Lights photography. This might not seem the best camera for shooting in low-light considering the high number of megapixels (more mpx usually means more digital noise), but the image processor of the 7RIV is optimized to offer the best quality shooting in low-light and at high-ISOs, keeping the noise-levels well under control.
I would also highlight its robustness; this camera has one of the best weather-sealings in the market to stand tough conditions like rain, sand, dust, etc., something crucial when you’re shooting landscapes in different environments.
A similar (and still fantastic) alternative to this camera would be the previous version of this model, the Sony a7RIII.
The Sony A7 II is Ascen’s camera. It’s also a Mirrorless camera with a 24.3 MP Full Frame sensor.
This camera is great for a wide range of genres and it’s one of the best to take the leap from an entry-level/intermediate camera to a more advanced model. Today, I’d recommend the new version of this model, the Sony A7III.
These are the lenses that we use on both cameras:
One of the best lenses created by Sony. It’s versatile, light, robust, and very fast, ideal for most landscapes and for night photography.
I have this lens attached to my camera by default. After shooting many years with a wider lens (14-24 mm), I noticed that I was taking most of my images in the 20-24mm range and sometimes I was missing some extra reach, so I prefer this model over other popular Ultra Wide-Angle lenses like the Sony 12-24 f/2.8 or the sigma 14-24 f/2.8.
This Rokinon (Samyang in Europe) lens is the one I always recommend to anyone who wants to start doing night photography. This lens is not perfect, it has some distortion, vignetting, and chromatic aberrations. However, the quality of the glass is great, it’s light, and it’s very cheap, so the general quality-price is just terrific! Ascen uses this lens for night photography and for shooting time-lapses.
This is one of our favorite lenses. It’s the most all-round lens, and the one we use when we have to pick just one lens like in super long hikes or when doing street photography and similar genres where you may need a versatile focal length. If you like travel photography, this lens must be in your camera bag!
This is our lightest and smallest lens, and a great option for shooting portraits, landscape details, and astrophotography. Even though this focal length looks very limited, you can always create panoramas with an impressive amount of detail. This lens is also fairly cheap considering the quality and how fast it is.
This short telephoto is a great lens for astrophotography. It’s a prime and very fast lens, ideal for capturing images of the space. It’s also a completely manual lens, so even though you can use it for other genres, it’s specifically aimed at taking those type of night shots.
This is a versatile telephoto lens offering superb quality. This is also my go-to focal length when I’m looking for a general telephoto lens.
I use it mainly to photograph distant landscapes and natural details. I also use it for wildlife photography (sometimes paired with the Sony FE 1.4 X Teleconverter), and the focus is super accurate and fast on the Sony A7RIV, even in low-light. This lens is also great for deep sky Astrophotography and for focusing on far objects like the Andromeda Galaxy and other Nebulae. As you can see, this focal length is very versatile and allows you to shoot a wide range of subjects.
Although this is the heaviest lens in my camera bag, it’s an essential lens that I always try to take with me. Shooting landscapes with a telephoto lens offers endless possibilities and I strongly suggest giving it a try!
This long telephoto lens is aimed specifically at shooting wildlife. The extra reach of this focal length allows us to shoot very distant subjects with great quality. It’s a heavy and bulky lens, so we just take it for specific trips where we know that we’re gonna be shooting wildlife.
We use this teleconverter when we need some extra reach. There are many cons of using teleconverters, like having a narrower aperture, reducing the focus speed, or sacrificing some image quality, so we just use it when it’s completely necessary.
As regards tripods, we use ultralight carbon fiber tripods that are light, compact, and sturdy. I’ve used several tripods throughout the years and these offer great quality-price:
You can see the full review I did of this tripod here.
This Sirui version is no longer available since it was replaced by the newer version Sirui T1204SK.
Both tripods fulfill the basic specs that we need in a tripod:
- Light and compact: We travel and hike a lot, so they have to fit inside the hand luggage and be easily attached to the camera bag. The Sunwayfoto only weighs 2.5 lbs/1.15 kg and it measures 1.45 ft /44.5cm when folded, whereas the Sirui weighs 2.6 lbs/1.6 kg and measures 1.8 ft /55.5cm folded.
- They have 3 leg sections: Offering more stability.
- Twist lock systems: Instead of flip locks, which makes it easier to fold/unfold the legs and to clean the tripod.
- Both use a replaceable center column: I use the center column when I need more height or stability since I can add weight to the counterweight hook, or I can remove the central column to set the tripod at ground level when I want to get closer to the foreground.
This is the ball head that we pair with the Sunwayfoto T1C40T tripod. The same as the tripod, it’s very compact and light, with a net weight of 0.6 lbs/270gr and a max. load capacity of 33 lbs/15kg.
This is paired with the Sirui tripod. It’s a very popular ball head for good reason. It weighs 0.76 lbs/344 gr and the max. load capacity is 44 lbs/20 kg.
As soon as I tried an L-plate years ago, it became a must-accessory on my equipment. It’s always attached to my camera and it’s essential for shooting vertical images and panoramas.
This piece is placed between the tripod and the ball head and allows me to easily level the camera set-up without having to move the tripod legs. It’s a nice piece of gear to have for taking panoramas and doing Astrophotography.
This is the filter that we use the most for doing long exposure photography. I use Lucroit for the great quality of the materials; their glass is resistant, it doesn’t subtract any quality to the lens, and something very important and not frequent in other filters, they don’t produce any color cast!
We use this filter mainly for daytime long exposures.
The main reason why I use the polarizer is to eliminate reflections when photographing forests, lakes, waterfalls, and any landscape where there are unwanted reflections.
This night filter created by Lucroit helps to reduce light pollution, allowing you to capture clearer photos with more detail in the sky.
As I said before, I don’t use any gradient filter or special effects filters since I can replicate the effects through different techniques in Photoshop.
In this article that I wrote about Lens filters in photography, you can find more information about the different types of lens filters and the use of filters in landscape photography. If you have any of those ultra-wide angle lenses that require special filters, you can also check our article on filters for special lenses.
I’ve used different camera bags and this has been my favorite model so far.
It has the perfect design to protect the gear, but especially to protect your back when carrying the equipment for several hours.
As for the internal padded partition, I use the ICU medium slope, which allows me to have extra space to take clothes and food.
This is Ascen’s camera bag, and it has similar functionalities to the Tilopa model. It offers less capacity but is more compact and lightweight.
This is a must-have piece of gear to create stunning Astrophotos. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re into shooting the night sky and want to take your photography to the next level, this is an essential tool.
This model is affordable, portable, and not super-heavy and expensive like other top-notch professional equatorial mounts. Using this tracker, you can shoot both Astrolandscapes and Deep-sky Astrophotography. This was a game-changer in my Milky Way photography and it helps me capture an incredible amount of detail with no digital noise.
Other must-have gear
This is fundamental for night photography. I’ve used many terrible headlamps in the past until I found this model, which is light and very efficient. It can also be charged via USB using a power bank.
This is a very cheap flashlight. I use it to illuminate elements when doing night photography and when I want to include myself in the scene.
We always take three official Sony batteries for each camera. I’ve used different clone batteries over the years, and even though they’re cheaper, their life span is much shorter, dying quickly after a few months.
I use a Sony tough 64 GB card with a write and read speed of 300 MB/S. These cards are very expensive but necessary if you’re shooting long bursts or filming video in 4k resolution. All our other cards are Lexar and Sandisk of 64 GB.
Under snowy conditions and freezing temperatures I always use these gloves from The Heat Company. These gloves allow me to use the camera comfortably while maintaining the temperature of my hands.
You can see more details about these gloves in this specific review that I wrote.
I’m not very fond of drones, but Ascen flies this Phantom 4 Pro to take aerial images and to film our promotional videos.
We bought this drone a few weeks before they launched the latest Mavic Air and we still don’t know if we regret it.
The Phantom’s camera offers a superb quality: a 20MP sensor and great stability even in windy conditions. However, it is so big that needs a special bag (we use the Manfrotto Aviator D1) where it hardly fits anything else.
If we have to choose again, we would sacrifice some quality for the portability of the Mavic Air.
Equipment for editing and storing
Powerful and top-notch laptop to process my images both in Lightroom and Photoshop.
I use it to paint details in Adobe Photoshop. It certainly helps to make a difference in that step of the processing.
This solid hard drive is a dedicated SSD for Photoshop, improving the speed and keeping the Ram memory free while processing.
I use several 4 TB hard drives to save my Raw files, final images, and videos, and to create backups of all the images.
Where We buy our gear
We buy all our camera gear on Amazon, B&H, and Adorama. Amazon usually offers the best price, but I always recommend checking other stores like B&H or Adorama since they usually offer the product at the same price and including free gifts like tripods, SD cards, camera bags, etc.
In the past, I’ve also bought some pieces of gear in the second-hand market, like my old Nikon camera gear or our current Rokinon 14 mm f/2.8.
Buying second-hand equipment is a good option to save money and invest in other items. The important thing to consider is to buy products in optimal conditions. It’s often difficult to know if it has been well-maintained beyond the external look and the shutter count (if it’s a camera). For this reason, in my case, I’ve always bought all the second-hand gear through the company MPB.com, which operates in the US and the European Union and provides a 6-month warranty in all their products.
If you are looking for any camera, lens, or accessory and want to save a good amount of money while having guarantees, I recommend taking a look at their gear catalog.
Regarding those lenses and accessories that I use on certain trips, we usually rent them. This way, if we’re going to take a safari tour to photograph animals, we don’t have to spend $4000 on a lens that we would probably use 4 times a year.
In our case, we rent those lenses that we don’t use often. A good example is the Sigma 14mm 1.8 to photograph Northern Lights.
Besides, we also like renting camera gear before deciding on an important purchase. It doesn’t matter how many reviews you see online: you don’t know how comfortable you feel with a camera or a lens until you test it. From my point of view, it is worthwhile to always give it a try before and “secure” your purchase.
In our case, we always rent through Lensrentals, a company operating in the United States that offers a huge catalog of camera gear, protection plans, etc. You can check our full Lensrentals Review + Promo Code article here.
Regardless of your location, If you’re interested in this, you can check our Camera Rental article where we include the best rental companies around the world. You can also get a 15% discount in LensRentals when booking through our link and using our code:
As you start having more gear and this is more expensive, you’ll probably (and should) start thinking about purchasing some insurance that can cover you in case any accident happens.
This varies by country and location. In our case, we have a specific inland marine policy from State Farm that covers our electronics (Camera, lenses, laptops, etc) in case there’s an accident, theft, or something similar both in the US and abroad. This is the best insurance we found, and you just need to purchase your home/renters insurance with State Farm and add this extra policy to your coverage. We are currently paying $240/yearly to have this extra policy.
And that’s all! This is the gear we use to create our images. Please note that we are using this gear professionally and it’s sometimes aimed at very specific needs since we need the highest-quality images. As I said in the intro, most photographers don’t need high-end camera gear or the latest models, just the basic gear to create the images that you want.
My advice is to invest not only in camera gear but also in those experiences that will also make you a better photographer, like attending photography tours, reading books, or taking specific photography classes that can help you capture better shots with your current gear.
If you want to see more information about photography equipment according to your skills and goals, I recommend you to see our article on Photography equipment for traveling.
Also, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below!
Notice of affiliation links: if you buy any item through some of the links that you can find in this post, we may take a small commission without affecting the final price that you’ll pay. Buying through these links helps us to continue with this project.