I often get asked what camera gear I use to take pictures. Obviously, a camera is no good without a photographer, but the opposite is also true!
I’ve been shooting with Canon SLR’s since I was around 12 years old, with the venerable film AE-1. It’s still in the attic actually. Maybe one day when I have a burst of nostalgia for shooting film, I’ll dust it off and bring it down. In the meantime, this is what I'm currently packing.
You might find that this is a bit overkill for you, in which case you'll find my guide to the best travel camera useful. Enjoy!
My Travel Camera Equipment
After a long while shooting with a crop sensor Canon digital SLR (the 400D, an amazing bit of kit for it’s time), I figured it was time for an upgrade, and I went down the full frame sensor route with the Canon 6D.
This camera is a stunning bit of kit, with spectacular ISO performance, built in GPS and wi-fi, and outstanding image quality. It is missing a few features of its bigger brother, the 5D mk3, but really, for the price difference, you’re unlikely to notice. I carry two, to save on lens changes.
I wrote a full review of this camera from a travellers perspective here.
I haven’t switched to a mirrorless setup yet, but I do love this mirrorless Panasonic Lumix GX8. It has incredible image quality in a relatively compact form, as well as a host of features, from an innovative 4K Photo mode, through to WiFi, sensor-based image stabilisation, a touchscreen LCD and a host of manual controls.
It’s perfect for when I don’t want to stand out too much in the crowd, and the silent shooting function is amazing for street photography. For examples of photos I’ve taken with this camera, check out these posts.
I love taking landscape shots, and also photos where I can really play with perspective, and get everything in shot, and this lens delivers that in spades. Also good for interior shots, shots of buildings, and for taking pictures of people that make them look totally insane.
Canon also does a 16-35 f/2.8, which is heavier, more expensive, and faster, but as I generally shoot from a tripod for this kind of photography, I’ve not found a need for it yet. They have also just released (June 2014) an f/4 version of the 16-35, which packs image stabilisation, and might be the one to go for instead, it’s reportedly incredibly sharp.
If you’re on a crop Canon body, then I can highly recommend the Canon EF-S 10-22mm. This was my absolute favourite lens for two years, and to be honest, I found it every bit as good if not better than the 17-40 I currently have. It just doesn’t fit on a full frame body.
Shooting with a prime lens is a great way to make you think more carefully about your photography, and also comes with the benefit that these are often a lot faster (read, the aperture goes bigger and lets more light in), meaning you can shoot when there is less light.
This lens is perfect for portrait work and night shooting, that 1.8 aperture both letting plenty of light in and giving fantastic depth of field. Almost too much depth of field at 1.8 to be honest – it’s worth stopping down a bit to 2.2 so everything you need is in focus!
If you’re on a crop body, then you need to buy the Canon 50mm 1.8. It’s the cheapest and lightest lens that Canon makes (under $100), and there is no better value Canon lens. For portrait work on a crop sensor it is outstanding, and that gorgeous aperture makes low light photography possible – even if it can struggle a bit to focus if it’s particularly dark. It’s also not very robust – so don’t drop it!
This is the latest addition to my gear line-up, and boy, is this a bit of kit! Widely regarded as the best telephoto zoom lens that Canon makes, it is incredibly fast all the way through the focal length and sharp as a tack. Four stops of Image Stabilisation make my tripod almost unnecessary, and it’s my go-to lens for anything that needs that bit of extra reach. It shines for portraits, event work, wildlife and sports – pretty much everything really.
It does weigh an incredible amount, and the price is fairly eye popping too, but fear not, Canon has a host of other lenses in this focal range to meet every need and budget, including the original version as well an f/4 and an f/4 without image stabilisation.
With a focal equivalent of 24-70, and an aperture of f/2.8, this lens is an absolute beauty, and the perfect lens for just wandering around, offering a real sweet spot of focal lengths, from slightly wide through to slightly zoomed in. Combined with my wide angle and telephoto lenses on my Canon gear, I have the perfect collection of lenses for 95% of the situations I find myself shooting. I only have the one lens for this camera, and I am so glad it’s this one!
I love my SLR, but it’s not particularly fond of more extreme photography or video. For that, I pack a GoPro. I love the compact size, incredible quality it produces, and the fact that it goes everywhere.
Other bonuses are that it charges via USB, can be controlled via wifi from a smartphone, and this particular edition comes with the waterproof housing and remote. Recommended if you’re doing anything at all that requires a bit of rough and tumble, or environments you wouldn’t want to risk your SLR. We use the Hero 3+, but would recommend the Hero 4 Silver as it has a number of improvements over the previous version, including a built-in touchscreen.
StrapThe strap that comes with your camera is generally ok, but it is a bit limited in terms of carrying options. I prefer a sling style strap, and have tried a variety of options. My first choice was a brand called Carry Speed, but unfortunately they have gone out of business.
Currently I use the excellent Peak Design straps, which are tough, flexible, backed by a lifetime warranty, and let you choose how you want to carry your camera. My Peak Design equipment currently consists of a Peak Design Slide Camera Sling/Neck and shoulder strap, a CapturePRO camera clip and a hand clutch strap.
If that all sounds a bit much, or your budget is a little tighter, I have also had great first-hand experiences with the Focus F-1 sling strap, which also has solid reviews on Amazon, and is my fall back sling-strap in a pinch.
Bag – Vanguard Alta Sky49
I often get asked what camera bag I use to cart all this gear around. I’ve tried a lot of options, from standard backpacks with a camera bag insert through to shoulder bags.
The Alta Sky 49 has an incredibly well thought out design, and it lets me carry all of the above gear, with lenses attached, plus a tripod, and I’ve worn it for hours at a time with no discomfort. It’s been up hills, in the mud and rain, and survived everything I’ve thrown at is around the world. It’s a fantastic bit of kit, and very much recommended if you have a fair bit of kit and want to fit a few other handy items with you as well.
If you don’t need quite this much storage space, Vanguard have a variety of other bags at different price points, so do check them out.
All that expensive glass on the front of your lens needs protection, and I always recommend that you pop a UV filter onto the front of your lens to protect it from scratches or damages. Clear UV filters come in all shapes in sizes, but they aren't created equal. I'd advise against putting a cheap filter on your expensive glass - currently I use the B+W 77mm XS-Pro MRC UV filter which is easy to clean and has little to no impact on image quality. Other B+W filters are available for other sizes of filter thread.
I also use a polarising filter a lot for my landscape photography – it brings out the skies and makes clouds really pop! They can also be used to reduce reflections, and make portraits less “shiny”. Very much worth the investment. I use a B+W 77mm polarising filter.
Finally, to achieve those lovely fluffy waterfalls, mythical cloud shots and to just give you a lot more control over the light coming into your camera, you will probably want to consider some neutral density filters, which let you reduce the light coming into your lens. These come from all sorts of brands, with Tiffen, Singh Ray and Lee being known as creators of quality filters. Budget is a factor as with anything, and I personally use Haida ND filters - a lesser known brand who have received some solid reviews. I picked up a kit which came with a 3 stop, 6 stop and 10 stop filter, which can be stacked to give me up to 19 stops (!) of light reduction.
If you want to know more about filters and why / when to use them, check out this post on filters I wrote.
A tripod is an essential piece of photography equipment, although your back muscles may disagree. Holding your camera still isn’t a trivial task, and for landscape photography at higher apertures, you absolutely need one.
It also comes in handy for night-time photography, including capturing images of the stars, time-lapse photography, and has the added benefit of making you really think about the composition of your shot.
I'm a Vanguard Ambassador, which means Vanguard sorts me out for my gear. After a lot of research, I settled on the award-winning Alta Pro 254 CT as being the lightest (and most solid, thanks to the carbon fibre construction) option in their range for the weight obsessed pro photographer.
I pair that up with a Vanguard BBH-200 head, which is Arca compatible, meaning I can get my gear on and off the tripod super quickly.
If you are keen on a tripod, but the Alta Pro 254 CT is a bit pricey, then I can highly recommend the Vanguard VEO line. I’ve travelled with and tested both the carbon fibre and aluminium models, and they are excellent for travelling with, as they are light and easy to assemble. Plus they have an integrated ball head, so there’s no extra expense.
Vanguard do a whole range of products, from tripods, to heads, through to bags and optics – you are sure to find something you’ll like. A tripod is an essential piece of photography gear, so don’t skimp on the cost as you’ll come to regret it later!
Even better, with my discount code you can get 20% off everything in the Vanguard US store. Just enter the coupon code FindingTheUniverse (all one word, case sensitive) at checkout to get the discount!
Wireless remote – Pixel TW-282/N3
When shooting longer exposures where even the press of the shutter can cause a wobble, for taking pictures of myself, or for time-lapse, a wireless remote is the way to go. This lets us control the camera wirelessly from up to 100ft away, and is perfect for all sorts of shooting situations.
Shooting in RAW takes up a lot of memory space (but you need to be doing it!), so I use 64GB memory cards. I’ve always found SanDisk to be a reliable brand, and are currently using the SanDisk class 10 45MB/s extreme cards. There are faster cards available, but as the camera can’t write to them any faster, there’s no point wasting money on them.
The GoPro uses microSD cards, and I use class 10 64gb cards in that as well – Amazon US link here..
Miscellaneous Travel Photography Equipment
Running out of battery power at a critical moment in shooting is not cool, so I always carry at least one spare battery for each camera. For the Canon 6D, that’s a Canon LP-E6. For the Lumix, that’s a DMW BLC12e.
Shooting in RAW takes up a lot of hard drive space, more than my ultrabook has when on longer assignments. Plus, having my photos in only one place is a serious risk in case of technical failure or theft.
For this reason I travel with three ruggedised external hard drives. Having tried a variety (including some from ADATA which turned out not to be quite so rugged), I've found the USB 3.0 Transcend 2TB to be both reliable and very fast.
Ok, this might seem a bit odd, but when you’re out shooting all day in places where the weather isn’t always so reliable, or you want to take your gear on boat trips in the Galapagos, or up waterfalls in Thailand – keeping it dry is important! For this reason I travel with relatively inexpensive dry bags that keep my gear totally dry in all conditions.
Photo Editing Software
All the above only counts for half of my photography workflow. Post-processing is a critical part of digital photography, and for that I recommend Adobe Lightroom.
This can be purchased either standalone, or you can subscribe to the Creative Cloud for the bargain price of $9.99 a month, which gets you both Lightroom and it’s bigger brother PhotoShop.
Photography Learning Resources
And finally, having all this camera equipment is no good at all if you don't know how to use it. That's why I decided to write my own travel photography course - to share everything I've learnt, and provide one-on-one feedback, tuition, guidance and support to help you take your photography to the next level. I've had amazing feedback from all the students on the course to day, and would love to help you achieve your photography dreams. Find our more about that, right here.