Decisions. Decisions. Unable to decide what photography gear to pack? Looking at specifications like weather sealing, maximum focal range, fast apertures for low light, battery life, weight and thinking “I’m making too many compromises?”
As photographers we always agonise over just what gear we should buy next and then once we’ve got it we’re always wondering what to pack for a specific assignment or trip. For the amateur travelling photographer that decision on what to pack is made even tougher when you are trying to travel fast and light.
Just how do you prioritise all of those requirements to make sure you always have the right gear with you when travelling and what gear do you really need for travel photography?
Let me start by saying what follows are just my thoughts and my choices based on my own experiences. I see all too often forum posts titled “what camera/lens should I get for travel photography?” or “Which lens should I take travelling?”. These are never easy questions to answer. In fact, they’re usually followed up with a slew of questions – “What are you going to shoot? Where are you heading? What time of year?”. Because of course, with the answers to all of those questions, it makes it much easier for others to make recommendations.
But wait… what if you the answer to all of those questions is “I have no idea!”?
I’m about to head out the door with a backpack on and a one way ticket to some far flung destination and I’m not sure at all what I’m going to shoot, where I’m going next or what season it will be when I get to whatever destination. What do I do?
This is exactly the dilemma I have had planning what to take with us when we left the comfort of our 9-to-5 jobs and embarked on an 18+ month round the world adventure – we just don’t know what’s around the corner.
In preparation for this huge trip I decided to take several different sets of gear on smaller trips and see what I preferred.
I’ve always been a Nikon shooter, and so for travelling I usually picked up my full frame Nikon D750 and a few lenses – a wide angle zoom 18-35mm, a fast 35mm or 50mm prime and a light telephoto. For the size and weight this a pretty capable set up. Scratch that – regardless of size and weight it’s just about as good as it gets, this is a stunning little machine that I’m exceptionally fond of. I love it and its made some great images on our travels and performed flawlessly for thousands of shots in just about every condition possible.
I also purchased a little Fuji XE2 some time ago when looking for something smaller that I could slip into my bag wherever I went and quickly fell in love with that – also an amazingly capable little tool with great image quality and lenses for a tiny fraction of the weight of the Nikon kit. Later I gave into a bout of “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” and added a Fuji Xpro2 – slightly larger and heavier but still considerably less than the DSLR.
Then there’s even smaller again – like my wife’s Sony RX100 III. Senseless menu system aside, The quality and features crammed into something that weighs less than 300 grams is nothing short of amazing.
So what to do? They’re all great, they all have their pro’s and con’s.
During my test trips two observations stood right out and these are my two primary factors that influence my travel gear selection from now on:
And ultimately, that’s it. Decision made. I could continue to agonise over it but even when I consider other secondary factors such as weather sealing, the above should be heavily weighted in your decision process, at least in my opinion.
One that note, weather sealing – I consider this a nice to have, I’ve never had any trouble with anything not weather sealed. Although, having said that, I have seen some abominable weather even in otherwise usually tropical sunny climates, even if you’re not shooting, jumping on and off boats, riding motorbike taxis down dusty street or just moving between 100% humidity and air-con rooms this can be a bonus and a definite confidence booster.
Let’s face it, I’m not going to waste time with mirrorless vs DSLR arguments, or advanced compact vs CSC, or Canon vs Nikon, there are great products from all the main manufacturers – sorry it’s a cop out – take what you love most!
For me the choice was clear – it’s the smaller size but great quality and snappy, responsive Fuji Xpro2.
Body/system chosen – what about lenses?
Again less is more, although I’m taking four lenses with me, this is really overkill and I could get away with just two or even one if push came to shove. But, given the weight savings of this smaller system that’s big on quality, I’ve gone for lens options rather than absolute weight:
This is still quite a lot of stuff. However, I feel I’ve got everything covered for every eventuality in a remarkably light kit – but there’s always room to go lighter and I won’t be surprised if I ship a lens or two home partway through the trip!
This is just me of course, everyone will have their idea or opinion on what’s best, but I do feel the most important things you should consider for travel are by far: weight and confidence in the tool in your hand.
Take less, enjoy more! 🙂