Matt Cuda Nature Photography

My Gear

Although gear has almost nothing to do with your creative vision, it is a great deal of what makes your image what it is. I am not one who says "gear doesn't matter" because, let's be honest, it does. Being a photographer is a synergy (hate that word), between creativity and technology. We can't make a great photo without both the camera and our creative brains. When both our creativity and gear are in perfect tune, then we are setup for a great shot! Below is a list of gear I use.

If you would like to buy any of this gear for yourself, please use the affiliate links provided (click on the image) as this helps to defer the costs of the web site. Thanks so much!

Camera Bodies
Canon EOS 7D Mark II The 7D Mark II is latest piece of equipment I have added to my collection. It has so many new feature compared to my 7D, and has a particularly amazing auto-focus system. It is said to be roughly equal to that of the Canon 1DX and so far, I would have to agree.
Canon EOS 1D Mark III The venerable 1D Mark III is a beautifully engineered piece of equipment, and I still use it as a backup and birds in flight. The greatest limitation with this body is it only being 10mp. This makes it hard to crop, but other than that, the image quality is awesome. The Amazon image is no longer available, but you can still click on the link to get used options.
Canon EF 50mm 1.8 II Without a doubt a true plastic fantastic, and you will not find better glass at this price point. I use it primarily for macro (with extension tubes), human portraits and table top work. I do not use it at all for any wildlife work.
Canon EF 24mm 2.8 Since I have been shooting fewer waterfall and general lanscape photography, I purchased an older EF 24mm lens. This is the EF 24mm which is part of the "Ugly Duckling" collection from the late 1980's and is known to be very sharp.
Canon EF 100mm 2.8 IS USM Macro Canon's 100mm macros are known for their sharpness. I use this 100 when I need to get in close for 1:1 macro shots.
Tamron 70-300mm f4-5.6 SP VC A great general purpose medium telephoto zoom. One of Tamron's best! I use this when my Sigma 150-600 is just too much glass. If you are on an extrememly tight budget, this is a great lens to get you started.
Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.7 Contemporary This lens is an astounding lens both in value and quality. It is much lighter than it's older and slightly more competent brother the Sigma 150-600mm Sport, but being light makes it great for handheld shots. Sharpness is quite good, even at 600mm, with stunning quality in the 300-400mm range. Autofocus is good, and OS is quite good as well. As an added bonus you can order a docking station to provide updates and customize the lens. This is my go to lens for almost everything in wildlife. Love it!
My review of the Sigma (Part I), (Part 2)
Canon EF 300 f4 L When I am in a situation which demands a faster shutter speed, I reach for my Canon EF 300 F4. This lens is great for using in areas where birds are more tame and the light is low. It also makes a great standoff "macro" lens. Although not a 1:1 macro, it is very close focusing for a 300mm!
Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L For shooting bird setups or shooting captive birds, you can't beat this lens in both quality and usability. I do not own this lens, but rather borrow it as I need it from a friend. The sharpness is amazing, focusing is fast enough, and the IS is quite good. In a pinch you can use this lens with TCs, but I don't really recommend it. Get the Sigma and don't look back if a long lens is needed.
Kenko Pro 300 DGX Tele Plus 1.4x Teleconverter This is a "decent" teleconverter when I absolutely have to have something to get me more reach. As with most teleconverters there is some image degradation, but it beats missing the shot. The price is certainly right on this model. Make sure you get the "Pro" version as it is sharper.
Opteka Extension Tube Set These extension tubes will connect with your Canon EF mount body and EF lens to allow for closer focusing. i use these for macro shots with my 70-300 and 50mm.
Bogen/Manfrotto 3221 The 3221 is still my workhorse tripod after all these years! I have been using this tripod regularly since 1995 and it is still going strong. This version is no longer made, but Manfrotto does make great tripods, at a reasonable price. You may find it used on eBay and probably a killer deal at that. The image pictured is a newer variant, but should work great for you.
Bogen 3030 Pan-tilt Head Another great piece of engineering. This is a strong, all metal head, which offers the budding wildlife photographer a poor man's gimbal head. As an added bonus, It can also be used in a pinch for basic pan/tilt video work, but it is not quite as smooth as heads made specifically for video. It is no longer made, but can be purchased on the used market.
Neewer TT520/560/660 Manual Flashes I don't often use flash, but when I do, I use this inexpensive and simple manual flash. I actually own three of them which are normally used when I photograph hummingbirds. It is a cheap and easy to use flash.
Lumiquest Softbox (LQ-107) This little softbox is perfect for providing soft lighting when photographing tame birds and animals. I first started using this softbox many years ago for photojournalism and weddings, but now I use it for backyard birds, and when I am working an event such as PhotoWild.
Tiffen 77mm Circular Polarizer I consider this a must for landscape photographers, but has only limited value in wildlife. This is especially true if you are photographing water and need to reduce the relections in the water. Currently, there is no way to do this in photoshop or lightroom. It also will darken a blue sky and increase color saturation in vegetation. Note that I have the 77mm filter pictured here as I recommend getting a larger diameter filter and using step rings to make it fit on smaller diameter lenses. Otherwise, you end up buying the same filter over and over agin for each of your lenses, and that is not a cost effective solution.
Tiffen 77mm aXent Filter (for long exposures) Essentially this is a 10 stop ND filter for making long exposures during the daytime. The effect can be the blurring of clouds or the smoothing of lakes and seas.
Fotasy Neck Strap This is an inexpensive version of the kind of technology used in black rapid straps. I have used this on many shoots over the last two years and find nothing wrong with it. It works as advertised and will even support my heavy Canon 1D Mark II with my Sigma 150-600 mounted. If you find your strap hurting your neck, you need a strap like this which distributes the weight and makes bringing the camera to your eye easy.
Grizzly Camera Bean Bag This is an absolute must for me when I am shooting from the car. In locations such as Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, Cades Cove Loop and Cataloochee this bean bag provides me with the ability to use my car as a blind. Resting your heavy lens on this bean bag provides support for the lens and a much more stable shot.
Mindshift Moose Peterson MP-3 Backpack Make no mistake this is an amazing piece of engineering designed by nature photogrpher Moose Peterson. This pack will even hold a 500mm f4 Canon prime, two bodies and several smaller lenses. In my case, I carry my Sigma 150-600, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 1D Mark III, Canon EF 24mm, Canon 100mm macro, Kenko 1.4 TC, Tamron 70-300, filters and accessories.
Sandisk 32 gig CF Card This card is a great size for my Canon EOS 7D and also for my Canon 1D Mark II. I generally subscribe to the idea of not putting all your eggs in one basket. I have heard others online say that they have never had a card fail, but that kind of logic, frankly, is stupid. I have never had my house burn down, but I buy insurance to protect it just in case it does. Use smaller cards and change them more frequently or use a dual card slot system like my 1D has for backing up as you shoot. It is also UDMA 7 and fully supports my 7D's video requirements.
VisibleDust EZ Sensor Cleaning Kit/Swabs These swabs come in a varitey of sensor sizes, and if you shoot an older camera they become a must to keep your sensor dust free. To the left is the link to the Canon 1D Mark II sensor cleaning swabs.
Mini Maglight Flashlight This is my favorite mini flashlight and even comes with a little holster. I find this setup ideal for any pre-dawn shooting scenarios. It is great for viewing a control on your camera or lens or taking a quick look at that noise you just heard in the woods :)
Aputure Cable Release No frills, it's cheap, but works well. It also has a lock for long exposures. I have used this same release for about 5 years now.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY OF THIS GEAR, PLEASE USE THE AFFILIATE LINKS ABOVE BY CLICKING ON THE IMAGE. This will help to defer the cost of creating the web site and blogs and will not cost you any additional money.