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What’s in your bag, Stephen Thorne?

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III

By far my most-used camera. At 21.1mp, it has incredible tonal range, fabulous detail in the highlights and shadows and, of course, beautiful resolution. I recently had the shutter replaced; they told me the old one had 307,500 actuations in four years.


Emily i in natural light with the 1Ds MkIII and 85/1.2 at 1/100, f/2 and 200 ISO.

Canon EOS 1Dx

My newest camera. I opted for the speed and durability of the 1Dx over the high-res of the 5D MkIII. For me and the variety of work I do, it was a no-brainer. Canon has introduced a new sensor with bigger pixels, so the 18.1mp of this camera is disproportionately good compared to the older models. Still, I prefer the 1Ds for studio and portrait work.


Raliat M in my first session with the 1Dx and the 85/1.2 at 1/60, f/2 and 200 ISO.


An Andalusian mare, again with the 1Dx using the 300/2.8 at 1/2500, f/2.8 and 1600 ISO.

Canon EOS 1D Mark IV

I have started shooting weddings, so I decided to keep the older 1D with the APS format (1.3x in the Canons) as a third camera. Another workhorse.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

What an exquisite lens. I dropped my original last year and it was a write-off. I use this lens every modeling session. It’s got a beautiful bokeh and is ideal for portraits. The resolution, tonal range and speed are unmatched.


Lili Tee, using the 1Ds MkIII with the 85/1.2 at 1/125, f/1.2 and 100 ISO.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II

This and my 16-35 were my photojournalism standards. You didn’t need anything else but two cameras and these two lenses. The Canon 70-200 is widely considered the industry standard, especially this II series. Resolution and color saturation are fabulous and the focal lengths are ideal in most circumstances. I noticed the difference in quality from its predecessor the first time I used it.


Buzkashi at 200mm with the Canon 10D and the 70-200/2.8 at 1/1000, f/4 and 400 ISO.


Tom Hanson, my dear departed colleague, pinching a shattered UV filter off the end of my original 70-200mm in a machine shop in Kabul.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM II

My other Old Reliable as far as lenses for journalism are concerned. It was particularly good with the 1.3x Canon sensors. Excellent in tight quarters and the perfect complement to the 70-200.


Harvesting opium poppies near Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Shot with a Canon 1D and the 16-35/2.8 at 16mm, 1/125, f/8 and 400 ISO.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

Canon’s original was a 28-70. Neither was very popular with journalists using the 1.3 sensors as the 24 was too long for media scrums and the 70 was too short for much else. Now a better match with the 1:1 sensors. I’m using it now more than ever. It’s my wedding and events lens, usually paired up with a flash for group pictures at receptions, cocktail parties, etc.


The 24-70/2.8 with the 1Dx and 550 EX at 1/125, f/5.6 and 100 ISO.

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM

I don’t have much occasion to use the 300, but when I do, I’m glad I have it. Always with a monopod. The image stabilization is a wonderful thing, allowing about 2.5 stops slower shooting handheld. I rely on it primarily when I shoot wildlife, horses and sports events. I’ve used it mostly in the Canadian West shooting cowboys at rodeos and roundups.


The Bragg Creek, Alberta, Indian rodeo with the 300/2.8 at 1/1600, f/3.5 and 200 ISO.

Canon Extender EF 2.0x II

Rarely used. It’s terrible at open apertures. Soft at the edges and very difficult to auto-focus with the 300. I’ve heard the 1.4x converter is a far better option.

Canon SPEEDLITE 580EX II and Canon SPEEDLITE 550EX

The money-makers. I hate using flash but am doing so more and more lately. Still experimenting with different methods to soften the light and give the pictures a more natural look.

Fuji X-10

A lovely little retro-camera. I carry it with me on vacation and just tooling around.


Bonavista, Newfoundland, with the X-10 at 1/1000, f/5.6 and 200 ISO.

Stephen Thorne

Stephen Thorne

Stephen Thorne is an award-winning photographer, reporter and editor. Stephen spent 30+ years reporting for various media outlets, covering breaking news and military conflicts throughout the world. His work has been featured in numerous notable magazines and newspapers, including Time, Weekly World News, and the International Journal. Stephen's website is www.thornefoto.com.

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