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This is Not a Tree

Christmas Gift Guide

Wait For Jude 1Wait For Jude, playing at the Fox and Hounds, Stony Stratford, in 2018. The Pentax is very good in low light.

I’ve been taking photos for a long time, so I know exactly what I want from cameras and other equipment. I try to make my life as easy as possible so I use stuff that works and try to carry the minimum I need.

There’s two reasons. First, lugging round a great heavy bag is just a recipe for misery, and that’s no mood to take photos in. Second, with the minimum of gear there are also less choices to be made. This concentrates the mind and makes for better pictures.

Here’s some of the kit I like to use, when working on this blog. Not all of it is advanced photographic gear, and there’s some inexpensive items too.

Full disclosure and all that, so I must tell you that using the links here to go to Amazon means that anything you buy in that session will earn me a commission and helps support this blog, but costs you nothing.

The Pentax

I’ve been using Pentax cameras since 2009, and most of my photos are taken on a Pentax K3 with a 16-50mm f/2.8 zoom. The K3 is well designed and intrudes on the picture taking process as little as possible, so I can concentrate on the image rather than on working the camera.

This camera and lens is good for low light work. I’ve had the zoom lens for over a decade, but as soon as I got the K3 I took it to a dimly lit pub, where it worked very well. The autofocus works well in very poor light; focusing in far darker conditions than the Sony can handle.

The 16-50mm lens is usefully wider at the short end than many of this type, and one reason why I chose Pentax. I had got to like that wider angle view when I used film cameras and wanted to carry on with it; I’m glad I did. Most of my photos are taken on this lens.

A couple of spare camera batteries (they are quite cheap) are always useful, and for the Pentax K3 I also use a SanDisk 16 GB SDHC memory card. This will hold about 300 photos, in the RAW format. That’s more than enough, especially if you an old film photographer like me, and used to getting 36 exposures to a roll.

I prefer saving my photos in the RAW format because I often take photos in difficult lighting and under poor conditions; there’s more leeway. But it’s simpler to save as JPEGs and you’ll get a lot more images on the card, about 830.

The Pentax at the link is a used one, but you’d get a lot of camera for your money. It’s also a K3ii, which means it’s slightly different and improved from my plain K3. The lens comes separately.


Spring blossomsIt's easy to carry the light and compact A6000 if I'm doing other things, so I'm always ready for unexpected photos like this one. Both cameras use the same fine 24 megapixel sensor.

The Sony

The Sony A6000 with the 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens is a bargain. It’s a camera with a nice 24 Mp sensor and very good autofocus, and it even comes with a decent lens; you get a lot for your £550 or so.

This camera is small and light and easily carried, so I take it around with me when I’m not going out just to take photos. It does most things the Pentax does, plus the tilting monitor means I can use it at waist level for candids.

The lens has the same zoom range as the one on the Pentax which is easier on the brain, though it is a much slower lens so I’ll use the Pentax in dimly lit pubs and the like.

The menu is a bit confusing but now I’ve got it all set up to suit me, I seldom have to go back into the menu. You can plug a USB lead in to the camera to charge up the battery, then it’s always ready. It’s also a good idea to have a couple of spare batteries for the A6000.

The Sony uses the same sensor as the Pentax, so the files are about the same size. I’d recommend the same 16 Gigabyte SD card; SanDisk is a good make, and it’s under £7.


Here’s a selection of Buckinghamshire calendars. I don’t use them for the blog, but they are of Bucks, so that’s okay. None of them have any of my photos, at least as far as I know…


I use the Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 “1¼ inches to the mile” maps when working on the blog. Maps 152, “Aylesbury and Leighton Buzzard” and 165 “Northampton and Milton Keynes” in the 1:50,000 scale cover virtually all of the North Bucks area.

I also like the Cassini Historical Maps. They are taken from old 1 inch to the mile maps, enlarged slightly and rearranged to match the modern OS maps so you can compare old and new. I have the Popular Edition from 1919 to 1920, and there are maps from other years too. Fascinating.



(Above) pink maps are Ordnance Survey, blue are Cassini Historical.

If you want to find maps in these series on Amazon for other areas, you have to enter the publisher’s name, and the map title not the number. For example, Ordnance Survey Aylesbury and Leighton Buzzard, or Cassini historical map Aylesbury and Leighton Buzzard. For the Cassini maps, it helps to select Historical Atlases and Maps inside the Atlases and Maps department.

I also use notebooks, water bottles, and wooly hats in the winter, but you can get them anywhere, so that’s it for now. Next week’s Thursday post will be of Christmas photos from all over the area.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave a comment below.
If you liked this post and want to find out more about the North Bucks area, please


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