WHAT’S IN OUR CAMERA BAG?
- KRISTEL CHAPLIN
I often get the question, what is the best camera for travel? How do you take the best travel photos? What camera do you use when traveling? What lens is best for travel? Are there any other accessories I will need? The questions are plenty.
So here it is, all consolidated for you.
Everything from the cameras we use, to the lenses, filters and accessories. The editing equipment like laptops and ‘post processing’ or ‘colour editing’ programs that take your photos to the next level.
If you’re starting out in photography you may feel overwhelmed by the overall expense of our travel kits. Don’t stress, this kit has taken me years to build and alter, everyone starts somewhere. Try remember buying a Nikon camera doesn’t automatically make you a photographer…it makes you a Nikon owner. Its all about how you learn and practice your skills, some of my favourite photos are on a $300 Fuji. It may be tempting, but don’t feel like you need to go and spend $10k on new gear immediately. But if that’s what you want to do…that’s awesome, I’m jealous!
I will definitely point out alternatives and what I think is an absolute must and what is not a necessity for you to spend your hard earned cash on just yet.
FIRST UP, WHAT CAMERA FOR TRAVEL?
This answer relies on many things, but first of all a quick back story on why I have ended up with my current setup.
I was a proud Canon owner for a good part of a decade. I still love them and their lenses. The reason I mention this is because each Canon I owned was indestructible and should have broken on me plenty of times.
It is part of the reason I loved them so much, certainly during typical ‘backpacking transit’ and bouncing around in a bag the back of whatever dodgy transport I found myself in. It would happily withstand rain, snow and extreme heat. My Canon 5D was an absolute workhorse and I will definitely miss it.
However, mirrorless cameras are simply dominating and delivering in the world of travel at the moment. They’re tiny, powerful, weigh little and are packed with everything for photography AND FILM. Top range full frame DSLRS used to cost/still cost a fortune and the weight really wears you out. So I made the switch to the Sony A7 series really for those reasons alone… weight, size and features.
So far so good but I am still to put it to the indestructible test like my Canon’s.
SO WHAT CAMERA DO I USE?
I switched to Sony about a year ago. Frankly it was time for an upgrade, my Canon gave me great service but I needed new technology, mainly in forms of filming and 4K video.
I now use the Sony A7 III.
the reasons why
4K Film and 120fps which means up to 5x slow motion recording
The ability to shoot slow motion footage is vital when it comes to having that cinematic look, I love it and it was a big factor in why I chose this camera. BIG factor.
693 Auto focus points covering 93% of the sensor
The Auto Focus is wild! The focus points almost cover to the very border of the sensor. Even better, it’s the same technology they use in the Sony A9, the most expensive of Sony’s mirrorless range. So you’re essentially getting the same AF points for a fraction of the price.
The A7III has a stabilizer inbuilt into the body so if you don’t have a lens with an internal stabilizer. this helps immensely. If you have lenses with stabilizing capabilities then its damn stable! Your footage will look extra smooth handheld and your photos will be that little bit more crisper at slow shutter speeds.
10 frames shot per second
So much of our photography is orientated around fast burst shots. 10 photos a second is incredibly useful and pretty impressive, this is a huge step up from older models like the A7ii and A7rii which was only 5fps.
Trust me, its handy
long life battery
The batteries in the older models were definitely an issue among Sony users. The new battery in the A7III increases the life almost double and i can usually get by just using one battery in a day.
The body weighs 650 grams, perfect for travel! Full Frame capabilities and 4K film in the size of a compact camera.
it is a perfect well rounded package for travel photography
This camera simply ticks all the boxes for me and will keep me happy for many years to come. The only exception and trade off with buying the more expensive A7RIII is for those who require lots of resolution and need the 42megapixels you find on the A9 or A7RIII. The A7III has 24.2 megapixels which is I think is plenty.
I decided that I didn’t need to spend the extra $$ for the extra resolution sensor. If you’re an enthusiast, blogger or just upload to instagram, the extra resolution will rarely be seen to its full potential. Exceptions would be if you are a studio, landscape or portrait photographer and you sell your prints at a large scale. I opted to spend the extra money on a beautiful lens instead.
AN AFFORDABLE ALTERNATIVE?
Hands down the sony alpha a7
You wont find a better full frame mirrorless camera for under $1000, period.
The Sony Alpha A7, the original and paramount first camera to Sony’s dominating mirrorless range. The A7 has an ISO range is 100-25600 which is very handy for low light. It consistently receives numerous accolades for quality and features. It’s very light, has access to over 100 compatible lenses. Shoots HD video. Despite being a few years old it has features like panorama shooting, wireless to transfer photos easily, timelapse apps and more. This camera is absolute bang for buck and Tracey picked hers up with a kit lens 28-70mm, for $1100 AUD ($780 USD!)
Drawbacks are the original battery lacking in performance with half the life of the newer model and no in body image stabilization.
Affordable, powerful, full frame, interchangeable lenses for under $1000, this is the camera for you.
FAVOURITE LENSES FOR TRAVEL
Everyone has their preferences when it comes to their lens kit. This is largely dictated by how and what you like to photograph. Having a few perfect lenses that covers the range of focal lengths is important when traveling, you need to be smart about having a variety of lenses for different situations.
A good place to start is with a mid range zoom lens. Something like a 24-70mm will give you a really useful range, this being wide angle when it is zoomed out (24mm) and when you are fully zoomed in (70mm) it will give you a nice portrait lens.
If you have to only have one lens, a zoom lens is perfect as the unpredictability of things to photograph when you are traveling varies often.
For the way I shoot, a zoom lens is essential for travel. Prime lenses are preferable for quality, but sometimes taking your collection of lenses with you is tiring as well as constantly changing them as you’re on the move. That’s what this lens is for.
The Sony 24-70mm is a beast, its only downside...price and size.
However, I love it’s solid build quality. Its bokeh (smoothness of the out-of-focus areas of the image) is as you would find with a prime lens. Its quiet, damn sharp and weather sealed. It covers most popular focal lengths 24-70mm, combined with its wide 2.8 aperture makes it a perfect lens for travel and certainly what I take if I’m only able to pack light.
It costs a hefty $2200 USD, which can be a rough outlay. However, if you can hold off and save a little more, this is a beautiful lens you will use often when traveling.
Too much $$?
A nice alternative to the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 is the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
Almost half the price and offers similar sharpness and auto focus speeds. However when I was looking into this I found the bokeh can be a little rigid at times and vignetting (darkness around the edges) to be quite evident, but you can work around this for its price. It also loses a little bit of the wide angle as it is a 28mm but you gain a little extra on the other end being 75mm, personally I prefer the extra width of the 24mm.
Naturally a native Sony lens will work the best with the A7III so it was a price I was happy to pay.
This lens fills an important gap in my kit. I needed a good quality, telephoto lens that’s light to carry for long periods of time and doesn’t break the bank. This lens had my name on it.
Why is it useful to me?
Portrait Photography and if you are taking pictures of people when walking around. Portrait focal lengths typically are 85- 135mm, the best range for capturing nice perspectives of people up close. It doesn’t distort the face, make the nose bigger etc, it proportions the face well.
Landscape Photography. A telephoto lens is important especially when there is a subject off in the distance, like a mountain peak that needs to be emphasised. A telephoto lens also helps you focus on details better by bringing your background in closer to your subject.
Wildlife Photography. Animals are hard to capture, it takes so much patience. This allows you to be far enough away from your subject to get a close shot without spooking it.
This lens has OSS, its own inbuilt stabilizer. Along with the A7III body stabilization I have an exceptional steady handheld camera. This means I can make my shutter a little slower in low light without noticeable shakey-ness in my photos. This is also so important for filming at focal lengths of 200mm.
There is the bigger and epic Sony 70 -200mm f/2.8 I could have gone for. It’s over double the price, also heavier and bigger. I need light weight for travel and the f/4 is definitely doable.
If you want a light telephoto lens that is great quality and affordable I would highly recommend this beauty. It also has a fast Auto Focus system that kicks butt with it's image quality for a reasonable price. You wont be disappointed.
I really needed a wide angle lens for awhile. Its perfect for those tight spaces and capturing full landscapes. I was going buy Sony again but I had heard such great things about Samyang’s (Rokinon) auto focus range and I honestly couldn’t go past the price. The Sony equivalent for a wide angle I was considering was the ZEISS Batis 18mm f/2.8. It’s about 3x the price and I cant say I knew this would give me 3x the quality. It is a beautiful prime lens, the 14mm is real wide and f/2.8 so I finally gave in and got one.
Only problem is the lens hood is attached to the lens, so filters aren’t a possibility as far as I know. This may be an issue for some.
It is not an issue for me, I absolutely love this lens.
WHAT’S A KIT WITHOUT AERIALS?
As I am moving more and more into filming, aerial footage takes your film to the next level. It looks amazing and gives a whole new aspect to a place. That being, it is becoming harder and harder to take responsible drone footage at certain sights in the world and anyone who does is simply ignoring those rules. However it still leaves the more untraveled destinations your playground for beautiful aerial footage.
I love this thing. DJI made it so easy to travel with a drone with the Mavic Pro. It films 4K and has an array of different features like active track, auto fly and more. Having a few batteries is definitely needed as it chews through them pretty quickly (about half an hour). It is an awesome addition to your kit if aerials are something you admire, i think we all do. I have the older model you can upgrade now to the Mavic Pro 2
If you’re worried about flying drones, I can safely say they’re so easy to fly and I have never had issues. Take it somewhere in the open on your first few flights and you will get the hang of it in no time.
Please be aware of your surroundings however, like I said, many places are off bounds to drones these days and can be fined if you disobey these rules. Always check with apps like Can I Fly There? and Airmap
An ND (Neutral Density) Filter is a must for your kit. Simply put, its sunglasses for your camera.
An ND filter enables you to have very slow shutter speeds in the middle of the day which would otherwise be overexposed and it’s perfect for photos like waterfalls with blurred silky water, to smooth oceans, limit the harshness of white snow etc.
The other advantage of a ND filter is for filming. Typically when filming, you need to shoot at a shutter speed of around 1/50 for a slow cinematic blurriness to your footage. Any higher and it can look too crisp, odd to the eye.
If you film mid day, these slow shutter speeds let too much light into the camera creating over exposed footage. Having an ND filter means you can film with a wide aperture f1.2 - f2.8 creating a beautiful shallow depth of field behind your subject, in the middle of the day at the correct slow shutter speed.
You can buy separate interchangeable ND filters with singular -Fstops (darkness) or a Variable ND Filter which is one filter that covers many fstops that darkens/lightens as you rotate the ring. I try to minimize the amount of gear I have, so I have the Variable ND by Tiffen. Tiffen are renown as one of the best quality filter companies. In my eyes if you buy an expensive lens, there’s no point putting cheap filters on it, you are just impairing its optics by doing so.
Reflections and glare are terrible. Polarizing filters remove reflectivity from a photo, deepen blues and add contrast to skies. Really reduces reflections from water while increasing the contrast and saturation. Perfect if you like beach photos or getting that crazy clear blue water.
Mine is basically always on my camera unless the ND Filter is on, its wise to always protect your lens glass too. Once again, buy good quality. Hoya are good quality and I have always had great results from their gear.
Be mindful in buying the correct diameter for your lens. If you are unsure of what diameter your lens is check your lens companies website for the specifications.
The Megagear Leather Case for Sony A7III offers protection and thickness to the camera body. Great for people with big hands as it acts as a perfect place to rest your pinky. I chose this case as it has a tripod screw in the bottom and a flap for access to the battery meaning I don’t ever have to take the case off. Won’t break the bank and will keep your camera in good condition.
One thing i noticed when filming was the banging of the metal strap holders on the side of the camera body. It was so loud and frustrating at times when watching footage back. This strap comes with little red rubber strap connectors which make no sound when hitting the body. The connectors are like a puck and groove system that are as easy as using a seat belt and very strong. This is real handy if you want to take your strap off your camera often. Strap length is real easy to adjust and is sturdy similar to a seat belt. This strap may not be the prettiest out there, but it is quality.
post processing and editing
Perfect size for travel, amazing resolution for editing.
I want the best possible resolution, colours and display when i am editing my photos and nothing beats Apple. I am used to high quality Apple monitors as a part of working in graphic design and CGI so it kind of bugs me when I’m away from one. It is very fast for photo editing and does well for simple video editing.
The best advice I can give is to go talk to the people at Apple and get them to recommend the best system for you.I upgraded most of mine to the top spec and especially the bigger hard drive because burn through the storage almost immediately. It’s very annoying to have to clear storage all the time.
The 13inch is the perfect size, it fits in my back pack and…they look nice.
For colour grading/correction and giving your photos a certain tone or look, this is the number one program we use for editing our photos. You can use Lightroom on your iphone/android to all of the desktop capabilities with the same subscription also. It is perfect for colour correcting photos, applying presets you have made yourself or bought from professional photographers. It is a great organizational program to view all of your photos in one place and create collections.
This is an absolute must have if you want to get that beautiful photographic look you are after. Subscribe to Lightroom Here
If you are completely new to all of this i would highly recommend Udemy as a source for education. It is affordable and thorough. You can find Lightroom Courses Here. Of course there are always free tutorials on Youtube Etc.
Photoshop is not an absolute requirement if you are a new photographer or new to editing software.
It is usually the last stop in editing photos on a more professional level. There is a much steeper learning curve here as it is widely used by graphic designers, architects and publishers. But Youtube Photoshop Tutorials and amazing and online Photoshop courses on Udemy can be so helpful in picking up the basics.
Photoshop gives you the power to create and edit your photos in terms of changing the actual pixels. It has an array of editing elements that outperform Lightroom and is used predominantly for advanced retouching, compositing a images into one image, stitching together photos for panoramas and advanced healing tools for blemishes, stray hairs, removing people from photos etc. Ever wonder how photograhpers are pulling of a photo of themselves standing alone at the Taj Mahal? …Photoshop! It does everything.
If you shoot raw photos (which you should) and only want to change the colour and overall look of your photos without altering them, then I recommend that you import your photos into Lightroom first and get comfortable with how to use it.
VSCO App for Iphone or Android is definitely aimed at photo enthusiasts if you want more editing control over your photos on your phone. The app comes with a huge amount of presets to give any look to your photos with a touch of a button. The VSCO X subscription might be worth it to you if you are without a desktop.
not ready to dive into photography gear yet?
Totally fine! Not everyone wants to invest immediately and it can be a lot to take with you. If you want to capture nice photos on your travels and own an iPhone, Samsung or Pixel, This has got you covered.
Mobile phone cameras are incredibly powerful now, and although they still aren’t as powerful as modern DSLR cameras, you shouldn’t let your phone’s photo capabilities go to waste. Moment is a mobile photography company that makes lenses that are designed to give your smartphone camera a wider array of possibilities. These include macro, telephoto, and fisheye shooting.
In order to use the Moment lenses you will need to buy the case for your phone. A real nice looking case that comes in many materials and also comes in an extra battery pack option.
This is the majority of my gear and what i will use when i travel. Of course do your own research and decide what is best for you as everyone is different. Over my time with cameras this has worked out to be the best overall setup for me. I hope i have helped you in anyway and feel free to ask any comments in the section below.
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