Night Photography Gear Recommendation by Alister Benn

Nikon D3x, Nikkor 14-24/F2.8

Nikon D3x, Nikkor 14-24/F2.8

Night and nature photographer, Alister Benn, has mastered the ability to capture incredible shots using even the slightest amount of light available. His talent and innovation, when paired with a variety of gear he uses, create beautiful images. Below, he shares with us his detailed gear recommendation.

Best Cameras and Brands for Night Photography

When Benn started out in photography, he started with solely Canon gear, using a Canon 10D with a 28-1351S lens. He later switched over to Nikon for the purpose of better ISO capability, a wider lens, and to find a camera that could better deal with noise in images.

He sold his Canon equipment and purchased a Nikon 700 and later a Nikon D3x for great detail and great resolution as his printed images can often be up to six feet wide. The D3x does not have as great ISO capability but as his images are usually not single exposure, he can easily work around it with more exposures and blending.

Night Photography Lenses

For night photography, Benn uses only three different lenses. He uses Nikkor 14-24/F2.8 Nikkor 24-70/2.8 and Nikkor 70-300/4.5-5.6. In general, he thinks lenses with wider apertures are better at night so f2.8 etc. He also had a Canon EF 24mm f1 a few years ago which was brilliant for night captures. With these lenses, he says it is much easier to capture the right images with less noise.

“The exposure is correct in camera is key. Trying to drag details out of an under-exposed night shot just generates lots of noise”.

“The Nikkor 14-24 is superb – I use it all the time, and love it”.

 

Filters

Benn has used Graduated Neutral Density Filters over the years, although virtually never now. He still uses ND filters a lot, most often 3 stop & 10 stop, and a Circular Polariser.

Wildlife Photography Gear

Most of Benn’s bird images were taken with a Canon 1Ds and a EF 500/F4. However, he doesn’t own them anymore as he infrequently shoots images of birds or wildlife.

Gear Recommendations for Beginners

If you are just beginning in night photography with a tight budget, Benn recommends a second hand camera with BULB mode that you should be able to find for under $500. With a budget, comes limitations, however, and the photographer can learn to work around them. Without the greatest ISO, a photographer can work around it by shooting when there is a lot of moonlight and using a shorter exposure time. “I don’t think it is healthy to get too hung up on gear. A camera is a tool, every one has limitations, even the Nikon D3x. If you feel restricted by your gear, there are often ways to work around it with blending etc.”.

However, if you do not have a budget, Benn recommends Nikon D3s and a 14-24/2.8, timer cable release, sturdy tripod and a Really Right Stuff Ballhead, though none of these should be ridiculously expensive in terms of photography gear.

Necessary Outing Accessories

When going out for long shoots at night in extreme locations, it is necessary for Benn to bring the appropriate equipment to stay warm and safe. He covers this extensively in his eBook where he makes a nice list of everything needed. Outside of the necessary camera gear, he writes how important it is to bring a good flashlight, a backup flashlight, a mobile phone, warm clothes, food, and a hot drink. In his words, “No shot is worth dying for”.

“Even in the desert it can get damned cold at night. Survival and safety are vitally important”.

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