Travel Photography Gear
The following is a list of the gear that I use for my travel photography along with a short description, why I use it, and which albums on this site it was used to make.
Fuji X100 – Click here for my review with image samples.
Sony a850 – SOLD
The Sony a850 is a 24.6mp full frame, professional-grade dSLR. Unfortunately it is now discontinued and I have decided to leave Sony cameras in exchange for Nikon. However, the a850 is a fantastic camera. It is weather sealed with rugged build quality and great image quality. The high resolution made it invaluable when I used it in Peru, Paris and the Lake District.
Sony a580 – SOLD
The Sony a580 is a 16.2mp APS-C sensor dSLR. It was my main camera for a while and then served as my backup camera which also does video. It shares the same sensor as the Nikon d7000, so it has fantastic image quality and high ISO performance. It has super fast focus in live view which I used a lot in Dubai 1 and Dubai 2
Nikon D800 – NEW!
The new Nikon flagship camera is a whopping 36.3mp full frame. Amazing high ISO performance and dynamic range, great build quality and autofocus is crazy compared to my Sony cameras. Read my full review of the Nikon D800 here.
Sony Carl Zeiss 16-35 f2.8
The Sony 16-35/2.8 covers ultra-wide to “normal” wide with a constant f2.8 aperture. My favourite lens on full frame. It is very sharp and has amazing contrast and flare resistance due to the Zeiss T* coatings. I used the Sony Zeiss 16-35 most of the time in Peru for the amazing wide landscapes. I also used it as a (heavy) walkaround lens in the Lake District
Sony 35 f1.4G
35mm is my favourite focal length on full frame cameras. The view is what I call “normal wide” which makes it wide enough for landscape and interiors, but long enough for portraits too. The fast aperture helps you to isolate subjects and shoot in low light. The Sony 35 1.4G is an older design lens, and it isn’t perfect. It is a little bit soft wide open and is quite prone to spherical aberration and vignetting, but it has great bokeh and a nice “feel” to it. I used the Sony 35 1.4G in Paris for street photography and night time shooting without a tripod.
Minolta 50 f1.7
The Minolta 50mm 1.7 is a normal focal length when used on full frame. It’s quite versatile, but it’s an older lens with lower contrast which is prone to flare and ghosting. I use it infrequently.
Sigma 85 f1.4 EX DG HSM
85mm is a short telephoto on full frame cameras and is my second favourite lens. The Sigma 85mm 1.4 has great image quality and isolates subjects very well at 1.4. I used the Sigma 85 1.4 in Peru for portrait shots of Peruvian dancers in extreme low light, and in Dubai for architectural closeups inside the Burj al Arab.
Sigma 10-20 f4.0-5.6
The Sigma 10-20 is an ultra wide angle lens for APS-C cameras. It has quite a lot of distortion, but the fantastically wide view was useful in Dubai to shoot the Burj Kahlifa and the view from the top. The aperture is a bit of a drawback, but luckily Sony alpha cameras can stabilise any lens, so it was possible to hand-hold down to 1/4s at 10mm, making a lot of low light shots possible.
Filters, flashes and film:
Hoya 77mm and 55mm circular polarisers
I used polarisers wherever possible to get nice blue skies and get rid of annoying reflections from water or glass. Even if the weather is dull, a polariser can cut through haze and reduce reflections from almost anything. Grass, leaves and even brick buildings can all reflect glaring white reflections into your camera, reducing the contrast and colours of your images. A polariser can help to bring it back and give you richer colours, even in dull weather. Peru, Scotland and Paris are good examples of when I used polarisers for nicer colours.
Sony HVL58-am flash
I occasionally used a hotshoe flash as fill light, although not very often. The majority of photographs on this site are without flash.
Many older pictures were taken with a Canon AE-1 with manual focus 50/1.7, 28/2.8 and 80-200/4 lenses. The film was usually Fuji, often Velvia. Some trips shot on film are Australia, Morocco and China. I still shoot film occasionally, usually with a Yashica Electro 45 GSN rangefinder. My favourite film right now is Ektar 100 for its sharpness, low grain and awesome colours.
Blackrapid RS-7 Camera Strap
I carry my camera on a Blackrapid RS-7 strap. It is based on an attachment which screws into the tripod mount of your camera (or lens if it’s a big 70-200 or telephoto prime). This is then clipped onto a sling-based strap with a fast-release which can be locked. The camera then hangs down by your hips and is quickly accessible to bring up to your eye when needed. I never use the original camera neck strap for anything any more. In my opinion, carrying 2kg of camera gear around your neck is just asking for problems. The sling design is much more comfortable, more healthy and is actually faster to access and easier to shoot with. The Blackrapid design also hides the camera a bit better when it is down by your hip and ends up being much more discreet than having a camera bouncing up and down on your stomach in front of you! It also means that you are also more mobile – able to use both hands freely to jump onto a motorcycle, climb up rocks or run for a bus without the camera bouncing around everywhere in front of you.
What photo equipment do I take on any particular holiday?
My usual travel setup is quite simple. I normally take one camera and 1-2 lenses with polarisers. My main concern is simply having to carry a ton of gear which is heavy and expensive. And it hotter countries or high altitude, carrying a backpack full of gear is incredibly tiring and ruins your holiday. I normally try to cover both a wide angle and a longer point of view. For example with a 16-35 or 35 prime to cover wide, and an 85 prime to cover the longer end. If I travel with only one lens, it will be the wider lens, and more recently I am using the Fuji X100 with fixed 24mm (35mm equivalent) lens. The single lens approach forces me not to be lazy, and to think about my compositions a bit more, rather than standing in one spot and zooming in and out.
Obviously I plan a bit depending on the types of shot I want. Obviously I wouldn’t take a 16-35 to go bird-spotting, or a 70-200 to shoot inside a tent. But for general shooting of most circumstances, a wide and long lens combo with polarisers can’t go wrong in my opinion.
If you have any suggestions about your favourite travel gear, leave a comment below!