“Knock-Around” Rig

As great as iPhone cameras have become, there is still no real comparison (in my opinion) to images captured using a “real” camera. When I say “real” camera, I mean a camera with a sensor larger than a few microns coupled with a lens having a variable aperture and quality glass. In the early aughts, when camera phone images were much crappier quality than today, I had an original Canon 5D, with the old super-janky plastic version of the 50mm f/1.8mm (okay, not quality glass, but quality-er than camera phone glass). I picked up the body locally from a Craigslist seller for around $100. The lens was about the same price (here is a mirror selfie that I took with it 1000 years ago). I owned some newer professional grade bodies and expensive glass which I reserved for paying gigs. My motivation behind the old 5D was to have a relatively inexpensive camera that I could bring everywhere, even when I knew it would get knocked around and potentially broken. I called it my knock-around camera. The images that I was able to capture with that thing were almost as buttery as this setup, but cost a fraction of the price. As a result, I would bring that thing everywhere with me. I was caught in heavy rain on multiple occasions while carrying this rig, with no camera case to speak of (I never kept it in a case, it was always ready to shoot). One of those times a nice girl saw me trying to shelter it under my shirt as I ran to the subway, and offered me a plastic bag to wrap it in. Another time it became so water logged that when I pulled off the lens water actually came dribbling out of it. It survived all of these adventures! After many years of good use, I gave it to my sister for a photography course she was taking, and it promptly gave up the ghost.

In the past several months, I have had more than a few instances of wishing that I had a real camera on my person at the moment to capture something cool that I was witnessing, but had to resort to an iPhone shot instead. Cue knock-around camera 2.0! Upon conducting many minutes of research and due diligence (googling “used canon 5D for sale” on my phone), I stumbled across a beautiful 5D Mk II (see image above) on a website called mpb.com for a price that seemed too good to be true. The name of the website also had me second guessing. I mean, c’mon. Mpb.com? Yeah right. After a few more minutes of due diligence (went to an actual computer and read 15-20 reviews from mpb.com customers, most of them glowing), I pulled the trigger. My next stop was the B&H website to purchase a nifty 50 and UV filter (see image below). Note: the 50mm is roughly still the same price as it was in 2008 (about $100), and the latest iteration is actually constructed a lot better than the older versions I had experienced. The UV filter is mostly just to protect the front lens element while being knocked around.

Voila! For less than $400, I have a full frame pro-level body with a 50mm prime that I can bring everywhere!

Here is it freshly mounted up-

Here is the first test snap-

A note about MPB.com–And, this is not sponcon by any stretch: I had a great experience with these guys. The camera showed up in better condition than I expected, based on the website description. It came with a decent memory card installed (not sure if this was on purpose). I also had some brief dealings with MPB’s customer service. They were responsive and cordial. The packaging in which it arrived was superb. I will definitely be using these guys for all of my used gear going forward.

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