What’s In A Professional Motorsport Photographers Camera Bag

by Jan 1, 2024

Ever wondered what’s in a professional motorsport photographer’s camera kit? Of course you have. Half the fun of photography, especially for aspiring photographers like yourself, is discovering what gear other photographers use.

So what camera gear did I use during the 2023 motorsport season? Let’s take a look.

Camera Bags

Camera Bags

A huge part of being a travelling motorsport photographer is securely and safely transporting your gear around, especially when flying between events.

In an ideal world, I would take all my camera gear as carry-on luggage so I can all but assure that I won’t have any issues. Unfortunately, airlines (especially in Australia) are paranoid about the weight of carry-on luggage, meaning that I have no choice but to check it in (well, at least most of it).

In order to give my gear the best chance of arriving at each destination in working order, I use a Pelican Case for my checked-in gear – A Pelican Air 1615, to be exact.

Pelican Air 1615 Pricing – US (Adorama), Australia (Camera House)

I’ve tried a bunch of different bags over the years, but the Pelican Case has given me the most reassurance that all my equipment will arrive safely and securely.

That said, the 1615 is the largest version of the Pelican Air cases that can be checked in without going through the process of oversized luggage (although mine does occasionally end up at oversized anyway). If I were to purchase another one, I would go for a slightly shorter version.

However, not all my camera gear travels as checked luggage. I always make sure I have at least one camera and lens with me in my carry-on luggage, as well as my laptop and other tech essentials.

My carry-on luggage is typically some sort of backpack, but I do tend to destroy them. Given how much I travel and how much time I spend on the road, my daily backpack, which doubles, and my carry-on, has a hard life. I’m yet to find one that properly stands up to that workload (both from camera specific and more general backpack brands). I typically need to buy a new backpack at least once a year.

This was the case again in 2023, and I ended the year using a Rip Curl F-Light Posse 35L Midnight Travel Bag combined with a Peak Design Camera Cube Medium (V1) to keep my camera gear and other accessories secure. I personally like the concept of having a backpack that doesn’t look like a camera bag for several reasons. However, this particular setup does have some limitations as well.

Rip Curl F-Light Posse 35L Midnight Travel Bag – Pricing.

Peak Design Camera Cube Medium (V1) Pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras),

And, if that’s not enough, I actually travel with one more bag. However, this one is only used when I’m trackside otherwise it lives inside my Pelican Case. To carry around a lens, flash, spare batteries, memory cards and a bottle of water (or two) while I’m out capturing the action, I use a Lowepro Passport Sling III. Without a doubt, it’s the most convenient small but expandable sling-style bag that I have ever used.

Again, over the years, I tend to wear them out. But I always try to replace it with the most recent version of the same bag. That said, my current one is starting to get to the point where it is due to be replaced, and I haven’t been able to source a new one yet. It seems to be that the model is no longer available. So, if anyone has any recommendations for a solid alternative, let me know.

Lowepro Passport Sling III – No Longer Available.

Camera Bodies

Camera Bodies

Now, onto the more technical equipment. For camera bodies this season (and for the last few seasons), I used two Canon R3s and a Canon R5.

Typically when I’m trackside, I’ll only carry two cameras, the R3s. However, I always have the R5 in my kit to cover me just in case something goes wrong with one (or both) of the R3s.

It also comes in handy when I need to do video work. I try to avoid doing photos and video at the same time, but it does allow me to run a separate setup and jeopardise what I’m doing photographically, or I want to use a third camera on a tripod for long exposures during night races.

Canon R3 Body Pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

Canon R5 Body Pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

Canon BG-R10 Battery Grip (for the R5) Pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

Camera Lenses

Camera Lenses

For lenses, a couple of years ago, I made the switch to Canon’s range of R-mount lenses (when I switched to mirrorless bodies). For portability and versatility during 2023, I stuck with four lenses: the RF 14-35mm f/4L IS USM, RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, RF 70-200mm f2.8 L IS USM and RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM.

Personally, I’ve found this line-up of lenses covers almost everything I need and any race track I visit. That said, I also tested out the Canon RF 100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM during the year, which I was extremely impressed with, especially when coupled with the RF Extender 2x. However, with the persistent rumours of more large zoom lenses coming, I held off making any big lens purchases this year.

Canon RF 14-35mm f/4L IS USM Pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

Canon RF 70-200mm f2.8 L IS USM Pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM Pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

I also keep a Mount Adapter EF-EOS R in my kit. I don’t recall using it at any point in 2023, but I like to keep it there just in case I have an issue with a lens, and the only viable alternative is to borrow or rent an EF mount one.

If you are just starting out in your motorsport photography journey and looking at what lenses you need to purchase, check out this post.

Flashes

This is one area where I need to upgrade in 2024. But as of the end of the 2023 season, I still used a couple of Canon Speedlites that I’ve been using for many years a 600EX-RT and a 430EXII.

That said, I really only use these flash units to provide fill light for podiums and end-of-race celebrations. For more pressing lighting setups like driver portraits, livery launches and team photos (all of which I try to get out of the way at the first round of the year), I have a more robust studio lighting setup. However, I’m not going to detail that because it doesn’t travel with me (unless very specifically requested by a customer).

Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT – No Longer Available.

Canon Speedlite 430EXII – No Longer Available.

Once I’ve had a chance to thoroughly test out Canon’s latest range of Speedlites (and potentially a couple of other options), I’m sure I’ll write a review of those flash units.

Microphones

Microphones

I know I said to try to avoid doing video work, and to be fair, at most events, there are restrictions around what sort of video work I can do (usually none). But it is required sometimes so I do keep a simple microphone setup in my kit at all times.

In 2023, I upgraded to the Rode Wireless Pro system. There were a few reasons for this, but the key one from a motorsport perspective is that race tracks are extremely loud environments. In the Rode Wireless Pro, they included the ability to capture audio with 32-bit float recording, which really helps to keep audio usable even when there is loud, unexpected noise, which is common at race tracks.

Rode Wireless Pro Pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

Filters

Filters

Polariser Filters are an essential part of any motorsport photographer’s tool kit. So I make sure I have one for each lens I’m using. Fortunately, all of my lenses in 2023 featured the same 77mm thread size, which helped. I use the HOYA HD CIR-PL, which I believe has now been superseded but an upgraded model.

I have dabbled with using other polarising filters over the years, but ultimately, I’ve always come back to HOYA’s HD versions. I find they are they perform the best and are the most durable (very important in motorsport photography).

I also keep a HOYA PRO ND1000 in my kit bag. I don’t use it at the race track, but occasionally, if I get a day off in my travels, I might use it to capture travel-style photos. So, since it’s in the kit bag, it gets a mention.

HOYA HD CIR-PL Pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras)

HOYA PRO ND1000 Pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras),

Memory Cards and Storage

Memory Cards and Storage

The most important thing you need to spend money on as a motorsport photographer is good quality, high-speed memory cards and storage. A photograph is a moment in time, and unlike capturing portraits and landscapes where you have time and can potentially recreate the photo if needed, in motorsport, that fraction of a second is gone just as quickly as it arrives.

Understanding that, I have always really heavily invested in making sure I have the best memory cards and external SSD storage that I can buy, not only to ensure I can get my photos out to my customers quickly but also so that I’m never in a possible where I can lose a photo once I’ve captured it.

In recent years, particularly in 2023, that meant using ProGrade Digital’s CFexpress 2.0 Type B Memory Card (Gold) 1700 and ProGrade Digital’s SDXC UHS-II V90 to capture my photos in camera. The ProGrade Digital CFexpress Type B and SDXC UHS-II Dual-slot Card Reader to download those images quickly to my computer. And the Samsung Portable SSD T7 drives to store and backup my photos while I’m on the road. If you want to know about how I manage my storage, check out this post.

ProGrade Digital CFexpress 2.0 Type B Memory Card (Gold) 1700 Pricing – US (Adorama)

ProGrade Digital’s SDXC UHS-II V90 Pricing – US (Adorama)

ProGrade Digital CFexpress Type B and SDXC UHS-II Dual-slot Card Reader Pricing – US (Adorama)

Samsung Portable SSD T7 Drive Pricing – US (Adorama), Australia (MWave)

Rain Covers

Rain Covers

Typically, motorsport doesn’t stop when it rains, so being prepared to be out in the weather is all part of a motorsport photographer’s job. To ensure I’m always ready to go, no matter the forecast, my ThinkTank HydroPhobia rain covers for my cameras (as well as a rain jacket to keep me dry) always live in my camera bag.

In 2023, I used an older version of the ThinkTank HydroPhobia (v2) that I modified to suit the larger eyepieces on Canon’s mirrorless R Series of cameras. However, these are well and truly due for replacement, having used them for many years. Luckily, midway through the 2023 season, ThinkTank released an updated version of their HydroPhobia line that works better with mirrorless bodies. Something I’ll aim to acquire before the 2024 season gets underway.

ThinkTank HydroPhobia v2 70-200 – No Longer Available – Upgraded Version Pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras),

Camera Harnesses

Camera Harnesses

As you can imagine, securely carrying around multiple cameras while moving around race tracks requires a better solution than the camera straps supplied when you purchase your cameras. For me, the best solution I’ve found is the BlackRapid Double Breathe Camera Harness. It allows me to carry two cameras securely while I make my way through crowds while also allowing me to keep my hands usable so I can open gates, grab food etc, all without having to put my cameras down.

I do replace the harness every few years just to make sure the wear and tear from using it as often as I do doesn’t cause any issues while I’m out trackside. But otherwise I’ve found them faultless. I also keep a single-strap version, the BlackRapid Sport Camera Strap, in my camera bag as well, just in case I only need to carry around one camera, particularly for bump-in/setup days.

BlackRapid Double Breathe Camera Harness Price – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

BlackRapid Sport Camera Strap Price – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

Tripod

Tripod

While I don’t use it all that often, I do keep a small-ish portable tripod in my kit as well, I really only use it during night races for long exposure shots and during the odd occations I need to do some video work, but it always remains in the kit for the same reason I always carry the microphones as well.

The tripod that I travel with is the original version of the Manfrotto BeFree Compact Travel Aluminum Alloy Tripod. There are better and lighter solutions available these days, but given that I already have to check in my camera bag when I travel anyway, and I don’t really use it all that often, it’s not something I’m overly concerned about upgrading in the foreseeable future.

Manfrotto BeFree Compact Travel Aluminum Alloy Tripod – No Longer Available – Upgraded Version Pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (Camera House)

Accessories

As you can imagine, there is always a bunch of extra peripheral gear that comes with photography, cables, battery chargers, spare batteries, tripod mounts, spare lens caps, etc. Obviously, that all travels with me as well, as you never know what might come in handy and when.

Stickers

This will be the biggest ProTip that I’ll ever give you – always have stickers of your logo with you. You never know when a last-minute deal comes up, or you need to help out a long-time customer who has found themselves in a tough spot for a round or two. So, I always have some stickers handy.

Check out these deal from our supporters:

Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

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