What’s in the Bag

Headshot Nikki

The Camera Bag

with Edin Whitehead

Waterproof, well-padded hard case (that floats) is the best option for keeping my gear safe.


To be honest, most of the time, my camera gear lives in a hard case. My day job as a seabird biologist involves a lot of jumping on and off of islands in small inflatables, and a waterproof, well-padded hard case (that floats) is the best option for keeping my gear safe!

When I’m out for a proper photography mission, I use a LowePro Whistler 35L. It’s the perfect size for me and has robust waist straps which take the load off my shoulders for long days in the field. I can fit just about every item of camera gear I regularly use inside, but I mostly pack it light with just what I need for the day.

My other workhorse bag is an old (and sadly discontinued) LowePro DryRover, with a waterproof lower compartment for gear, and a spacious upper compartment for other bits and pieces. It’s getting a bit old and salt-corroded now! It’s perfect when conditions are a bit dicey (on a small boat or inflatable), but I need to access pre-assembled gear to shoot with quickly.


As of this year, I’m transitioning to being a dual-system shooter with the mirrorless Nikon Z9 and the DSLR Nikon D500. I’ve shot with the D500 for six years, and I’m not getting rid of it! It’s an amazing body for wildlife, birds in particular, and I’ve never felt limited by its capabilities or image quality.

The Z9 is a great tool for a wildlife photographer, but I don’t need 20 frames a second or full-frame 48MP images in many circumstances. I regularly use my D500 body for biology fieldwork, as it’s a much lighter, more compact, and I have enough spare batteries to last me through at least a week without charging. If I’m shooting high-stakes bird photography (for work or fun!), it’ll be with the Z9.

I love the versatility of shooting with a full-frame body that can easily swap to a cropped sensor mode for extra ‘reach’. The autofocus technology with eye detection is amazing. I’m also exploring the ability to take high-quality videos while looking through the viewfinder, which is impossible with a DSLR. Moving to an electronic viewfinder has been an adjustment, but I can swap between the two pretty seamlessly now.

I must stress that you don’t need the latest gear to take great images. It’s nice to have but not necessary. For most of my photographic life, I’ve shot with second-hand, hand-me-down equipment, and it’s never held me back. I’ve been waiting a while for mirrorless technology to catch up with the solid reliability of DSLRs for wildlife photography, and the Z9 is finally that step change. It’ll be interesting to see how the technology develops over the next few years.

Read the full article by Edin Whitehead in Issue 61 of NZPhotographer magazine.

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