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What’s In My Bag: Colby Brown’s Kit For Wildlife Photography

Wildlife photographer and Sony Artisan Colby Brown finds himself on wildlife assignments all around the world. The unpredictable nature of wildlife means he has to be ready at any moment to capture the shot, and having the right gear to work silently and efficiently at a moment’s notice is imperative. In this video, Brown shares the Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras, lenses and more he packs in his bag when photographing wildlife all over the globe, and you can read the breakdown of it all below.


Sony α9: “This is a 24-megapixel camera that is capable of shooting 20 frames-per-second in true silent mode. So it won’t make any sound when you’re out there photographing different types of animals, which you really don’t get in any other camera out there on the market. I remember the first time I took this camera to East Africa when I was out there photographing some wildlife safaris, and I was working with a new game driver. We went out and were seeing these beautiful animals – cheetahs and lions. And the game driver kept looking back at me and looking at me like I was crazy and was checking on me here and there. The reality was that I was shooting the entire time but he didn’t think I was taking a single photograph because it was truly silent.”

Sony α7R IV: “This is a 62-megapixel camera that is pretty amazing when it comes to both dynamic range as well as your autofocus capabilities. Now the α9 still has a little bit faster auto-focus tracking capabilities, but because this is such a high-resolution sensor, I can actually crop into my images quite significantly – being able to use the same lenses, but giving me the illusion of getting closer to my subjects. So when I use APS-C crop mode with this camera, I get a 26-megapixel image which is pretty much unheard of when you compare it to any other wildlife camera out there.”

Sony RX0 II: “You might ask yourself, why am I talking about this camera for a wildlife gear situation? But the reality is that you can’t control how close animals get to you. I’ve been all over the world photographing silverback gorillas, or even birds, all sorts of things, where they actually land right next to you. And if you have this long telephoto lens, you can’t actually photograph that image because your lens can’t focus close enough. So oftentimes I like to have the small RXO II in my pocket for those situations where I can’t control what’s happening, but I still want to come away with a beautiful image, high-image quality and a RAW files that I can do something with when I get home.”


Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G: “This new lens is pretty amazing both in image quality as well as general portability. Part of that is because all the zoom focusing happens internally inside the lens itself. Unlike most telephoto lenses that will extend out way past the end of the lens when you start zooming in, this actually doesn’t have any of that. So as you can see here it’s completely confined within the lens itself. In addition what’s really nice about this lens, is the zoom ring is actually quite small in the distance you actually have to move it in order to go from 200-600mm. So if you’re photographing an animal that’s quite close and then all of a sudden you see something that’s far away, all you have to do is slightly turn this a little bit over an inch and a half, maybe two inches, and all of a sudden you’re at 600mm. That’s going to save you time, and when you’re out there photographing wildlife, every second counts.”

Sony 400mm f/2.8 G Master: “This lens is a work of art if you ask me to be quite honest, and it’s actually a technological feat when it comes to how this lens was actually designed. If you think of most super telephoto fast prime lenses, all of the guts of the lens, all the mechanics that make it work in a heavy glass, is usually distributed throughout the lens. What happens is that as you're holding the lens out there, it begins to drop forward because a lot of the weight is forward heavy. So this lens was one of the first designed specifically for mirrorless cameras where all the weight is in the back part of the lens itself. This gives you the potential to handhold these super telephoto prime lenses because the lens itself is a couple pounds lighter than all the competition out there. This lens is super sharp and being able to shoot at 400mm at f/2.8 is truly an amazing experience. When you're photographing lions at 2.8 or leopards, that background bokeh is just so buttery smooth. It's truly an amazing wildlife lens to use if you have the ability to pick one up.”

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master: “Now the reason I use this lens is similar to why I also have an RX0 II, but it's for those opportunities where the wildlife gets much closer than I'm initially anticipating. Most the time I'm out there photographing beyond the 200mm range, usually anywhere between 200-1000mm, but every once in a while you have those opportunities where a male silverback gorilla comes in, a bird, a squirrel, something lands way too close for you to be able to photograph. In those situations when I have the ability, I will throw one of these lenses on one of my extra bodies and just have it in case those opportunities present themselves so I can still come away with a 62-megapixel image with my Sony α7R IV, but I’m working in a situation where it’s much closer than I can photograph.”


Sony 1.4X and 2X Teleconverters: “Now what these do, is they allow you to optically increase the range of what you're able to photograph. So these teleconverters can work with certain Sony lenses out there and the 1.4X gives you one-stop less of light, so if you're shooting at f/2.8, you're now minimum aperture is now f/4 or the 2X is a doubling, so you take essentially two aperture drops anytime you want to use it. But giving you the ability to double your mm range is quite phenomenal. When I'm photographing with let's say the 400mm f/2.8 or the 200-600mm we just talked about – throwing one of these bad boys on gives me the ability to drastically increase that mm range I can cover while still being able to maintain beautiful image quality in the process.”

Sony SF-G TOUGH Series UHS-II Memory Cards: “I have 12 of them in a Pelican case and this is essentially what I use out there in the field. And the reason for that is not only because it has incredible performance, they have fast transfer rates and read and write speeds, but also because they can take a beating. I don't have to worry about these cards working in the environments that I typically find myself out there, such as being in Antarctica or above the Arctic Circle, up in the north, and the Sahara and the humidity in Hawaii. These cards could take the beating, I don't have to worry about them.”

Gimbal Head: “This is a gimbal that sits on top of your tripod or your monopod giving you the ability to stay stabilized while you move throughout a scene where you have a wildlife subject that is moving erratically such as birds in flight. Essentially what happens is it sits on top of your tripod or your monopod and you have a couple different points of control. Here on the bottom, you're controlling, kind of moving around and swiveling around your tripod or at the very top, you also have the ability to control the tension to move up and down. When you mix that with attaching this specific gimbal to the lens collar for the different lenses that you're using you can essentially move throughout your scene and stay stabilized the entire time which is pretty phenomenal for those situations where again subjects are moving radically.”

Garmin Inreach Mini: “This is a satellite-connected device that connects the satellites up there working around our planet on the Radian network that allows me to send emergency information, SOS, calling for help if something happens, but also just to send messages out to loved ones such as my wife when I'm working in remote climates. Now it's important to understand that you need to do your research and know the places you're going at to make sure you know what you're getting yourself into, but for those situations where things kind of go sideways, things don't go as plan as you envision it, it's always great to have one of these inside your pocket.”

Kinesis Safarisack: “Now this is essentially a very important product when you're going on a safari drive or going and working on projects and places like Africa where you're working in these Safari type vehicles. Now what it is there's this empty bag that's made of resistant nylon as well as, you know, has rubber on one side so it doesn't slip and what you do is once you get to a location, you fill it with sand or dirt or rice or beans, whatever you can get your hands on, and if you fill it full enough, you can use it to essentially stabilize your camera as you're shooting out a window. So this is really great like I mentioned for different safari type vehicles you can even use it in places like Brazil where you're photographing jaguar from boats, but anywhere you want to use the vehicle as an additional stabilizing opportunity. Something like this is mandatory to have out there. It only cost a couple bucks and I highly recommend that you take it with you.”


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