What’s in my camera bag: the new Watches & Wonders 2024 edition

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Yes, it has begun…almost. Watches & Wonders will begin next week. And to cover the event and the all the watches being presented, here is the camera gear and kit we have brought to Geneva.

What’s in my camera bag: the new Watches & Wonders 2024 edition

We covered a What’s in my camera bag back for Baselworld 2019 with a load of Leica gear. Then, I brought with me my Profoto Compact 600 studio strobe. Here is a behind the scenes article. But I have become a little heavier in some ways and lighter in others since. And for this year, here is the setup I have brought with me to Watches & Wonders. BTW, our writer Stanley Leung is accompanying me this trip, and he will have his own gear, including a new camera in for review – the Sony ZV 1 II.

Cabin trolley case

We begin at the beginning…the trolley case, where the camera gear will live for the trip. This is a carry on cabin trolley case made of aluminium magnesium. This is a Chinese made 4 wheel model, and constructed in the style of the Rimowa Pilot’s trolley. The basic design is similar, and just as sturdy and rolls just as smoothly. But the manufacturers have made some notable improvements. The wheels are removable with a click of the button and easily replaced. The corners are squared off instead of being round in the Rimowa. This affords more interior room. I note that I do own an original Rimowa Tropikana Camera case, but it is not regulation airline cabin size, and is quite heavy.

The top opens to reveal a compartment for storage. More stuff can be carried here, like a iPad and various chargers, but I have chosen put those with my laptop bag, which goes on top of this case. The only item in this compartment is a pouch (blue) carrying my collapsible light tent. Two pockets under the lid also carries some accessories like a pen and a small notebook. And a loupe.

Next, the padded lid is open to reveal the padded interior with 8 compartments as follows: Compartment 1 carries 2 x Canon EX580 Speedlights. Compartment 2 is the the main lens – the Hasselblad HC 4/120 Macro. Compartment 3 carries a dust blower and below it, not visible in this photograph, is the Hasselblad 80mm lens attached to the H13 extension tube. This combination is useful for wrist shots. In compartment 4 is where the camera resides. This is the Fujifilm GFX 50S II. Compartment 5 carries the Kangringpoche ball head (not visible) and the Fujifilm H Adapter G which allows Hasselblad H lenses to be used with the GFX system. And in Compartment 6 is the small box carrying the Novoflex table top tripod. Compartment 7 carries a pouch with various spare batteries. And in Compartment 8 are two pouches. One carries the lighting trigger system and in the other carries various watch holders, stands and other soft accessories to pose the watch.

The camera and lenses

As outlined in my article on the new standard I have adopted for my photography, the main camera is the Fujifilm GFX 50S II. This is the principal camera.

The two lenses are the Hasselblad HC 4/120 Macro, which is the main lens, and the HC 2.8/80. The HC 80 is used with a H13 extension tube for wrist shots. And on its own is useful as a low light portrait lens. And as the widest open aperture is f/2.8, it is useful in low light situations as well.

The lenses are adapted from the Hasselblad H system, and require the Fujifilm H Adapter G to use with the GFX 50S II. With this adapter, I can use the in lens shutter, and the system is capable of flash sync up to 1/800th of a second. The native GFX flash sync using the in body focal plane shutter is 1/125s.

The Adapter has its own tripod foot, and shown below is mounted on the Kangringpoche ball head which in turn is mounted on the Novoflex table top tripod.

The Lighting system

Lighting comprise of two sets of Canon EX 580 Speedlights. Each of these Speedlights use 4 x AA batteries. I use rechargeable Panasonic Enerloop ones. And the charger I use is the La Crosse smart AA/AAA charger, which is carried separately. I also carry several non-rechargeable AA and AAA batteries as spares. Attached to the right Speedlight is the Godox receiver, which uses two AAA batteries. And the other is an optical slave, which does not require power to operate. The flash trigger, also made by Godox is shown and is normally attached to the hot shoe of the camera. Also shown is a small UV torch, for those lume shots. Not shown, is the collapsible cube tent which is used to diffuse the flash. This is carried folded up in the blue pouch. A variety of cloth masks for backdrop fit into the pouch. I also carry a couple of black felt sheets which are used as flags.

In comparison to the Canon Speedlight + Profoto monobloc studio strobe I used to carry around, the main difference is the quality of light and the weight. The Profoto anchored system has better light quality, consistency and also much more powerful. It has enough power to shoot at ISO 100 for a well lighted image. But with this twin Canon system, I have to shoot at ISO800 or ISO1000. This is not a problem with the GFX 50S II, which is equipped with a CMOS sensor and has much better high ISO performance than than the CCD equipped Hasselblad H3D-39 or the Panasonic Lumix GH-2. So I basically trade some light quality and power for a much lighter system. I also have another Godox receiver which can be used, but the optical slave works fine, and I keep that as a spare.

Concluding thoughts

This system has already seen action several times. Including multiple press trips as well as coverage of Watches & Wonders 2023. And well proven.

Many of the components are quite used. The Canon flashes are more than 10 years old, and the Hasselblad lenses nearly 20 years old. The ballhead is also probably 12 years old, but I only bought the mini tripod only 5 years ago. The system works very well, and I am very satisfied with the quality of the images produced. I currently own all the gear on this page.

Also, it might be of interest that for LVMH Watch Week 2023, I used a far more complicated (and expensive!) loaner system based on the Alpa Focus Stacking system.


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