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Sven Martin is a Jedi. He works his ass off harder than any other MTB photographer on the planet to get the most dynamic visuals of our sport, but he also mind-tricks us viewers harder than Obi Wan does that Storm Trooper looking for droids. We don't even know he's pulling the wool over our eyes when he's doing it because he just makes his work look too easy. A single gaze at any of his hundreds of memorizing photos makes our brains go, "man, I want that life, shooting photos in epic places all over the world on my bike." If you think that, the mind-trick has been completed. The reality, however, is that each and every one of Sven's jaw-dropping images take copious amounts work to create. They also take enough gear to fill a Star Destroyer; gear that must be sherpa'd to and from extreme locations. Our favorite photographing Jedi decided to give us a glimpse of that gear. After taking a look at this pile of metal, glass and plastic, our minds may have been untricked, just a little bit.

Table of Contents


Sven introduces his complete photo gear collection that makes its way with him around the world during the competitive mountain bike season. He uses both Canon 1Dx and 5dMK3 DSLR bodies and an assortment of lenses that run from 8mm to 300mm. Throw in the flashes, memory cards, hard drives, chargers, umbrellas, walkie-talkies and other necessities and he basically needs a team of sherpas to help haul his gear around.

Bag Specifics

Sven uses F-Stop bags for getting his gear up and down the mountain. Depending on the situation, he'll run a Satori, Tilopa, Loka or Guru. The Satori is used on a World Cup track day where the smaller bags like the Guru work well in an EWS scenario. He'll tweak the setup of his ICU modules depending on gear needed and shooting conditions.

Must Haves

If the world ended and Sven could only carry a small amount of photo gear, this is what he would choose. A Canon 1Dx body means full frame shooting, but also high frame rate bursts. The 70-200 F2.8L II is the staple of any modern action photographer, as is the 15mm fisheye. Complementing the bunch is the 16-35mm F2.8, for wide situations where distortion is not acceptable, and the 50mm F1.2 for product and portrait photography. The fixed focal length of the 50mm encourages Sven to think about shot composure while having an extremely open aperture for dramatic depth of field.

Money Makers

When Sven travels light and needs to make every moment count, it's all business with the Canon 5dMK3 with 15mm fisheye and Canon 1Dx with 70-200mm F2.8L lens. Ideally, the 5dMK3 comes along so lenses don't have to be swapped out, saving precious time and avoiding sensor contamination. The small size of the 5dMK3 keeps the weight of the kit down. Frame rate is compromised, but with the fisheye, Sven is never too worried about a rapid burst.


Sven won't go anywhere with out his Canon 1Dx and 70-200mm F2.8L II. It's the work horse, doing the majority of the shooting on the World Cup and EWS circuit. The proof is in the pictures, but MVPs don't always come cheap, as you'll learn in the slideshow above.

300mm 2.8 Prime

There's just something about the Canon 300mm F2.8L lens. It's a massive beast, but produces images so full of clarity, detail and intimacy with a subject, that it's worth its weight in gold.


Conversely, it's not the size, it's how you use it. Today, our phones and point and shoot cameras are capable of images worthy of magazine covers. Sven's iPhone and Olympus CM-D 4/3 camera have produced thousands of web-worthy shots, but even magazine pages and covers. Remember kids it's not all about megapixels.

Magic Arm

The Magic Arm helps Sven produce dynamic images from places a photographer just can't get. The unique perspectives captured with Sven's creative use of the device diversifies his portfolio and gives us angles we'll never forget. The thought of strapping a $10,000 camera and lens to the top of the shack at Crankworx or to Brad Benedict's DH bike may be a little nerve-wracking, but that's part of the fun, right?

Hate Using

It's not so much hate but definitely a dislike for the items on this list. The off-camera flash has a time and a place, but often the technical difficulties associated with the photo gear above isn't worth the hassle, especially when Sven's goal is documenting an event.


When external lights are required, the Elinchrome Quadra Ranger Li-ion setup is powerful, provides natural-looking light and is on the lighter-weight side of systems. Throw in Boris Beyer as a sherpa and there's no reason not to lug these bad boys around the circuit.

Rarely Used

The rarely used photo items aren't completely abandoned. In particular, Sven's Canon TS-E 90mm Tilt Shift lens will come out when the occasion calls for it, but over-using the Tilt-Shift style can alienate his craft. His 8-15mm fisheye doesn't see much use since anymore since he has both a 15mm fisheye and full frame body at his disposal. When a tight, telephoto image is required, he can make due with his 70-200mm 2.8 or his 300mm 2.8. He keeps the 1.4x extender around in case Kelly Slater or Dane Reynolds calls him out to a last-minute Fiji surf trip.

Memory Cards

If these gigs could talk...

Hard Drives

It's amazing to know that Sven basically carries his entire photographic portfolio with him on the road. Magazines and companies need random photos at random times, so being able to scrounge up that hi-res photo of Nathan Rennie at Big Bear in 2003 is worth the extra baggage fees.


We can't thank Sven enough for this detailed look at the gear that helps him turn his vision into a pixel-based reality that we all consume and enjoy, within moments of a photograph being taken. Sven will be on the front lines of the UCI World Cup DH and XC events as well as the Enduro World Series, bringing the sights and sounds to life here on Vital MTB. Since he claims he can't make the World Cup after-parties anymore, if you see him on the hill, give him a beer...or 10. -gordo 

Do you have a question for Sven about his set up? Leave them in the comments.

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