I've used quite a lot of camera gear over the last 30 years. Here's what I use now, and some reasons why I do.
Canon 5d Mk II – My 5D is my go to camera for anything that needs to be as perfect as possible. I use this for portraits, landscapes and some real estate photography. My three favorite lenses for this beast are the Canon 17-40mm F4/L wide angle zoom, the Tamron SP 24-70mm Di VC USD, and the Tamron 28-300 Di VC USM zoom. The 17-40 is a great wide angle lens, with the fantastic Canon “L” lens series quality. It's a great entry point into the expensive “L” line of Canon lenses. I'm pretty sure it's the least expensive of them all. It's not a fast lens, at F4, but it does a great job with a little planning. I've just purchased the Tamron SP 24-70mm 2.8/f Di VC, and boy, is it great! It's the sharpest lens I've ever owned, and the auto focus is silent and very fast. It's the only lens in this size with image stabilization (Tamron calls is Vibration Compensation) built in. When you combine the VC with the 2.8/f fixed aperture (it maintains 2.8/f throughout the entire focal range of 24-70mm), this proves to be a very competent lens. The Tamron 28-300 Di is a wonderful all around lens. It's great for just about everything. The range is wonderful – with 300mm you can really reach out and touch someone.
(Wishlist: Canon 5D Mk III body, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom, Canon 70-200mm 2.8f/L Mark II telephoto zoom lens)
Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 Tripod – Your tripod is one of the most important pieces of gear in your kit. Too many people think of their tripod as an afterthought, and that will haunt you forever. The Manfrotto is made of carbon fiber with magnesium fittings, resulting in an extremely rigid, lightweight tripod that is capable of supporting some very heavy camera bodies and lenses. The light weight can be a blessing and a curse. When you have to carry the thing around for hours on end, you'll love the carbon fiber composite material. However, when you have to shoot photos in windy conditions, you'll need to anchor the tripod with something heavy, like your camera bag. The Manfrotto has a hook built into a very strong point for just this purpose. It also has a built in bubble level on the head mounting plate, making it easy to be sure the tripod is set up correctly in all conditions.
Manfrotto 498RC2 Ball Head – The Ball Head mounts onto the tripod with heavy screws. It's there to stay! This head is easy to operate, and features a quick release plate that mounts on the bottom of your camera body. This makes it very quick and easy to change bodies without fumbling around. The quick release has a dual mounting release that accidents. When you release the main latch, you need to pull a smaller lever over that allows the main latch to move. This prevents you from snagging the latch on something as you are hiking, and seeing your gorgeous camera go spinning into a ravine. Highly recommended!
Canon 480EX II Flash – the Canon 5D Mk II doesn't have a built in flash unit, which is appropriate for a professional camera body. The 480EX II is a full E-TTL flash that works directly with Canon bodies and lenses (and some other brands as well), to make sure the flash power output is correct according to your settings. I also use a remote flash cable that lets me hold the flash wherever I need it for the most appropriate lighting for the situation. On-camera flash looks harsh – it's too direct, and you have no flexibility with the positioning of your light source. When taking pictures of people, on camera flash hits them square in the face, and the resulting look is not appealing. I'll post some articles about off camera flash with some example photos. You'll wonder why you didn't start using off camera flash years ago!
(Wish List: Canon 600EX-RT)
Battery Grip – I like the Canon BG-E6. It does cost more than 3rd party grips like the Opteka brand, but it feels so sturdy, and has the same weather resistant build quality as the Canon 5D Mk II body. It holds two of the big BG-E6 battery packs, and I've never run out of power. Still, I always carry two fully charged spares, just in case! The grip comes with a cage/carrier for AA sized off the shelf batteries, in case you run out of juice out in the field.
General Use Gear
I really like my little Canon T1i DSLR. It produces photos with enough resolution to do just about anything I need, including creating large prints, and has enough “pro” features, like shooting in RAW format, that it works as a backup camera in case my primary body fails for some reason. The T1i uses Canon EF-S lenses, which means I can't use the lenses for this camera on the 5D Mk II (the Tamron lens mentioned above does work on both EF and EF-S mounts – very slick). I have the standard kit lens, the Canon 18-55mm zoom, and the Canon 55-250 telephoto, though I almost exclusively use the Tamron with this camera. Since this camera uses an APS-C “crop sensor”, the range of the Tamron is magnified by a factor of 1.6, resulting in a range of 45 – 480mm. This can be great when I want to shoot at a distance, but it does limit the camera for wide angle and closer in shots.
I also use a battery grip with this camera. In this case, I saved a few bucks by using the Opteka model. Opteka's grips are well-built, and have the additional controls for vertical shooting, just like Canon's.
I carry a little Sony DSC-WX1 Compact Digital with me everywhere I go. This is an older model, and still sells for around $275, if you can find one. It's one of the best compacts I've ever owned, and I think I've gone through about 6 so far. It's very sturdy, which makes it great for taking to bars, concerts, camping trips, and so on. It's NOT waterproof – I found that out the hard way. It did recover, after a few hours of careful blow-drying! It really does a great job of taking pictures and video in low light.
It is starting to wear out, so I'm trying to decide what to get next. I'm looking at the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 and the Canon EOS-M Mirrorless. Moving to a Canon mirrorless seems like a great idea. With the addition of a lens mount from Canon, I can use all my current and future Canon lenses on this little camera, EF and EF-S alike. It can also use Canon's Speedlite flash units, so that's cool. However, mounting the Speedlite on a little EOS-M would be very unwieldy, so off-camera would be the only way to go. If I'm going to mess with that, I'd rather just take a normal DSLR anway.
I won't bore you any further, with talk about camera bags and cleaning kits. I think I will talk about filters, but that's for another day.