Updated: Feb 17, 2021
Hey there Legendary Reefers! One of the most common questions we get asked is what camera gear do we use to take our photos? Listed below is our current camera gear, along with our thoughts on if you are looking to purchase better gear to improve your photography experience.
Body: Canon 6D Mark I (Upgraded to Canon EOS R as of February 2021)
Lens: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS
Porthole: Building an Obsession Camera Tube
SD Card: SanDisk Extreme Pro SD
Photo of Canon 6D vs Canon RP from: apotelyt.com
Given the options back in 2017, I purchased the Canon 6D Mark I. It was one of Canon's more affordable full frame DSLRs and my friend was already taking phenomenal photos, proving to me its capabilities. I know Vivid Aquariums is also using the same camera last I saw Brandon (their main photographer and SPS god reefer). It's currently an older model, so it might be hard to track down. But lucky for you, the Canon EOS RP is essentially the new and mirror-less version of this camera! I've borrowed a friend's Canon EOS R, which is similar to the EOS RP, and it produced the same results of the 6D, but faster and more efficiently. The EOS RP is much lighter, smaller, and cheaper than what I originally paid for my 6D. This would be my choice of entry level body if it was available to me back in '17. You can also purchase a Canon lens adapter to use their EF lenses (like the 100mm) and save money on lenses. In fact, this adapter is a must buy since Canon does not currently have a 100mm for their RF (mirror-less) lens series. This camera will do the majority of what the 6D does for corals, while allowing itself to be great for general photography such as vacations, family trips, and photo shoots. Just be sure to pick up a different lens (50mm is a good choice), as you'll be standing across the room trying to take a photo of a person's face with your 100mm macro. If your budget allows, you may also purchase higher end cameras if you plan on taking photos outside of the aquarium where features such as auto eye focus, 4k videos, etc are important. These features are welcomed, but not needed to start taking great coral photos.
Photo of Canon 100mm 2.8 from : sirlounge.com
The Canon 100mm is a workhorse! I use it almost daily and it's great. Than of Tidal Gardens also highly recommends this lens as well, and his photos are phenomenal. Unfortunately it costs as much as the camera body, but this is the norm when it comes to camera gear. Camera lenses hold their value very well and good glass will last a long time. I purchased this lens back in '17 and it's still the same price. It's a pretty long lens too, so your coral subjects will need to be about 12" away from where you're looking at. The L series of this lens has image stabilization, which helps tremendously if you're considering taken photos free hand (which is how I take 99% of all the content on the site).
Photo of Building an Obsession Porthole from: reefhacks.com
The Building an Obsession porthole is a pleasure to use. Ben, the owner of Building an Obsession, enjoys photography himself so he understands what photographers want. It's lightweight and attaches to the bottom of your camera's mounting. Other portholes use plastic screws to basically pincer themselves onto your lens, which can damage your equipment overtime. You also have to make sure that you've attached all 3 screws evenly, or your porthole will be angled compared to the lens. It ranged from $50-$80 depending on which model you purchase. This porthole is one of the most popular choices among vendors and hobbyist, so it's often sold out. Jump on it when you can!
Here's an in depth review from one of the best blog sites, Reefhack: https://reefhacks.com/camera-tube-pro-review/
Photo of SanDisk Extreme Pro from Amazon.com
SD Cards aren't as important as the other equipment listed here, but they play a role in your editing/ uploading process. When purchasing an SD Card, make sure you buy at least 2! Guaranteed you'll misplace a card one day, so back ups are a must. AVOID using microSD cards that go into an SD Adapter. These are awfully slow, and I advise to not purchase one. You should start with a basic SD card if you'd like to save money, don't intend to take many videos, and won't be editing 100+ photos per session. Purchase a faster/ better SD Card if your budget allows you to, plan on making video content, or will be taking lots of photos. Picking up a better and faster SD Card will allow you to read/ write the photos you take much faster, thus helping your work flow process. This isn't something noticeable until you start with a more basic SD Card and have to edit through many photos. So this isn't a big issue other than avoiding microSD cards, just a personal suggestion.
Here's some examples of photos (along with all other current content for Legendary Corals) I've taken to show what the current gear I've listed can do. Due note that the photos don't come out like this straight out of the camera. You will need to use a photo editing software like Adobe's Lightroom to help out with White Balance, cropping, etc. Everyone has their own style of editing, so you will need to tinker around until you find a photo style that tickles your soul the right way.
Hopefully this helps your decision in purchasing camera gear for better coral photography and an insight on what goes on behind the scenes of the business. Taking photos of corals is a hobby in its own, and gives you an appreciation for them you otherwise wouldn't have known before. If you have any questions, drop a comment down below or reach out via email from the contact box and I'll do my best to reply!