Choosing the more convenient travel photography gear is a complex task that more and more amateur travelers carry out. And we do not just talk about getting ready for a photo tour. More and more backpackers and travelers decide to invest their savings in acquiring a photography equipment in order to capture unforgettable moments while they travel the face of the Earth.
The travel photography equipment to acquire will depend on the type of photographs we want to make and the message we want to show with it. Our choice should be different if we want to photograph cities and architecture, landscapes and nature, or portraits of local people or animals.
The cost, as well as the ease of handling, weight and volume are other very important factors when choosing the photography equipment that we will use in our travels.
The possibilities in the photography world are very broad. In this article we want to help you save time and especially money, preventing you from buying material that you do not really need and recommending the essential travel photography equipment to capture each one of your adventures around the world.
INDISPENSABLE IN YOUR TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY Equipment
So that you can move easily through this guide to choose the best travel photography equipment, we have created this navigation panel:
- Camera: We compare different types of camera bodies to know what technology to choose.
- Lenses: We explain the different parameters that you should know when buying a camera lens.
- Tripod: All the factors that you must take into account to find the perfect travel tripod.
- Accessories: Filters, backpack, remote shutter, lighting, batteries, memories, L-plate, leveling base, grip and cleaning accessories. Everything you need to complete your travel photography equipment.
the best CAMERA for travel
The cameras of the latest generation smart phones, compact cameras or sports cameras type GoPro, can be used to take pictures during our trips. However, to achieve the highest quality in our shots, there is still no competition for cameras with interchangeable lenses. Therefore, in this post we will focus on this type of cameras.
DSLR VS MIRRORLESS CAMERAS
Inside the cameras with interchangeable lenses we find two types; the DSLR cameras and the innovative Mirrorless cameras.
The DSLR cameras have been used for decades. The technology is fully developed and tested. Today we find a very wide range with fairly affordable prices for beginners and a large second-hand market. Its main counter is the weight and size, which makes many people end up leaving them in the closet, especially when talking about photography equipment for travel.
The main manufacturers of DSLR cameras are the well-known Nikon and Canon, although there are other manufacturers to consider as Pentax, Leica or Samsung.
The Mirrorless cameras are quite novel. The technology is still developing, although the quality of the image of the last generations have nothing to envy to that achieved with a DSLR. The cost of these cameras is higher and at the moment the second-hand market is quite scarce. The main advantage is the lightness of the body of the camera so they have gained popularity in recent years as travel cameras.
Regarding mirroless cameras, the main brands that are betting on this system in recent years are Sony, Olympus and Fujifilm.
CROP VS FULL FRAME
Another important factor to take into account is the type of sensor, since depending on its size the resolution, luminosity and focusing speed varies.
crop frame (APS-C)
The crop frame is what most amateur and semi-professional cameras usually include, although there are exceptions. For a generic use this sensor will not suppose any limitation.
The complete sensor helps to capture the entire image without cropping, capturing more light and therefore greater clarity. It is usually included in the vast majority of professional cameras.
Both for trips where you want to photograph night scenes or with low light (aurora borealis in the Arctic …) or where you need a high focusing speed (whale watching …) it is highly recommended having a full frame photography equipment.
OUR SELECTION OF CAMERAS FOR TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY
These six camera models are the ones we usually recommend depending on the photography knowledge of the user. We propose two initiation models, two advanced models and two professional models.
Keep in mind that using a professional camera is not going to mean you make better photos even if you have a better sensor, more megapixels and it’s sharper. The use of these cameras is much more complex and to take advantage of this type of photography equipment for traveling requires time and perseverance.
In addition, the more advanced the camera, the more expensive it will be, not only the body, but the whole of the photography equipment, since the accessories tend to be more expensive, and compatible lenses change.
LENSES FOR OUR travel PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR
Once we have the engine and body now we need the “eyes” that will make our camera see in one way or another.
The focal length is the distance in mm that exists between the lens and the sensor of our camera. This will determine the field of vision and the proportions of the elements we photograph. If we intend to photograph elements that are far enough away from our camera we will need longer focal lengths, while for capturing nearby elements we can use smaller focal lengths.
When we travel, it is normal to have different lenses that cover a wide range. For this we can use variable focal lenses (zoom) or fixed focal lenses.
The fixed focal length lenses are characterized by a certain number of milimeters mm and can not be varied, so if we want to change the perspective we will have to approach or move away from the element to be photographed. With this type of lenses the highest possible quality is achieved at a certain distance. They are much lighter than the zoom / variable focal lenses.
The variable focal length lenses allow us to regulate the focal within a certain range. These objectives have great versatility, since we can change the focal length with a simple zoom wheel without having to change the lens. Although the price is more expensive than the fixed focal lengths, thanks to these lenses we can save a lot of money compare to buying different lenses for each focal length of the range. However, these lenses are usually heavier and often do not offer the quality of fixed focal lengths.
Within the lenses of variable focal points we find the so-called all-in-one zoom lenses since they cover a very wide focal range. These lenses can be used to make from wide landscapes to portraits or photos of distant details. Although these lenses are very versatile they do not have the same quality as lenses for more specific focal length and their weight is quite high.
Focal from 360 degrees to 8-10 mm; They are the broadest focal points. With them we can capture practically the whole scene. Ideal for creating original scenes and taking different photographs or time-lapse.
WIDE ANGLE lenses
Wide-angle lenses have a focal length from 10 mm to 24 mm. With these focal length we will cover a large part of the scene. Focal targets for landscapes and creative shots with impressive close-ups and background landscapes. Ideal also for architecture although we will have to be careful with the geometric deformations that it produces.
Medium focal lenses
These focal lengths range from 24mm to 70mm. In this range we will find the classic focal points more similar to our eye, such as a focal length around 35 mm perfect for making street photography or longer focal lengths around 50 mm with which we can obtain more detail such as portraits.
LONG telephoto lenses
Lenses with long focal lengths, also known as telephoto lenses, have a focal length of more than 70 mm. We will find long focal lengths, mainly used to photograph details, wildlife and sports, although some long focal lengths could also be used for portraits.
Another factor to take into account when buying a new lens will be its luminosity, measured by the symbol “f“. Average quality lenses will start at f between 4-5.6 while more luminous focal points will reach 2.8 or even 1.8 or 1.4.
The brighter the lens, the higher the price of the lens, but we will obtain greater clarity as well as the ability to photograph in low light conditions (night, twilight, auroras …).
In long focal zoom type, lens with image stabilization can be of great help, especially if we do not use a tripod. In this way we will achieve clarity even when we photograph elements that are far away.
OUR SELECTION OF lenseS FOR TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY
The lenses change between brands and models, so we can not recommend lenses in a generic way. However, we did not want to end this section without giving you some examples of the different lenses we can take while choosing a good travel photography equipment.
For this we are going to propose different lenses for the Nikon D750. These are basically the 3 lenses that we usually carry on our trips.
For many types of travel photography, especially landscape photography and night photography we need stability. Therefore, it will be essential to have a tripod equipped with a matching ball head.
Choosing a tripod is not an easy task. Finding a balance between weight, size, stability and price is an arduous task worth pursuing in order to have the best possible travel photography equipment.
They are ultralight tripods and of a very small size ideal for trips where we do not have great photographic requirements or long trips where weight is a determining variable to be taken into account. The height that we can reach with these tripods is practically nil and we will depend on external elements available in the place of the shot, to gain the elevation of our camera.
TRIPODS FOR ORDINARY REFLEX CAMERAS
Tripods designed for day-to-day photography. They must be robust and stable but at the same time not extremely heavy or uncomfortable to handle, variables undoubtedly difficult to reconcile. We can find quite competitive prices and can be very useful for studio photographs even for road trips where size or weight is not a determining factor.
Tripods lighter and more compact than the ordinary ones. There are many types and materials, including hybrids between travel tripods and normal tripods. To be considered as a travel tripod, it must be able to enter folded into a hand bag (less than 50 cm long) and weigh less than 2 kg.
Heavier but at the same time much cheaper. We find a wide range of aluminum quality tripods such as Benro, Manfrotto, Sirui, Vanguard, etc.
Lighter but with a much higher cost compared to aluminum. Many brands manufacture both aluminum and carbon fiber like Manfrotto or Sirui while others like Gitzo only manufacture carbon.
Many basic tripods, especially those that are given with the Starter Kit, have flimsy plastic components. A camera and a lens are too valuable objects to trust in the stability of a plastic tripod, so we do not recommend this type of tripod.
SECTIONS IN THE LEGS
The number of leg sections will also be a factor to consider. They usually have between 3 and 5 sections. The more sections the legs have, the more the tripod can be folded, but in turn, more sections means also thinner legs and less stability.
lock tripod legs system
An important point that many people overlook is the mechanism for folding / unfolding the legs. We can find flip and twist lock tripod legs systems. Flips are reputed to have more durability, although the deployment is slower. The tripods with twist lock system facilitates and speeds up the adjustment of the legs.
My experience is that once you try a twist lock tripod you do not want to use the flip system any more.
Finally, the other element almost as important as the tripod is the ball head, as it will also hold the weight and facilitate the movement of the camera. We find panheads and ballheads.
Ballheads are those that have been used classically; with various adjustments to regulate friction and restraint. Some ballheads include a level.
The panhead have several adjustable levers that help to adjust the camera with greater precision. They are heavier and more voluminous than ball heads.
TRIPOD WE RECOMMEND FOR TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY
We have tested four different tripods in the last two years, since we could not reach a balance between weight, stability and reliability of this element. Finally we find one that meets all the requirements we look for in a travel tripod.
This is the tripod and the ballhead that we usually recommend to compose a travel photography equipment. Also we leave you a type of Gorillapod that could be useful to use in certain occasions.
ACCESSORIES FOR THE TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY equipment
With the elements listed so far, we could have a consistent travel photography equipment. However, depending on our type of photography we may have to include other accessories to our equipment.
Essential for some scenes of landscape photography, especially in long exposure photography. The main filters we can find in the market are:
UV PROTECTING FILTERS
They are transparent protective glasses, since they do not add or remove any element of light. We are not very fond of them as we see it unnecessary to make an investment in a good lens and then cover it with another glass that photographically the only thing you can get is a reduction on the sharpness or some spots of dust.
NEUTRAL DENSITY FILTERS
Our favorites. They reduce the amount of light passing through the camera lens without changing the color of the scene. It is needed to make longer exposures with hard daytime lights. There are several types depending on the amount of light we want them to restrain. The main ones subtract 3, 6 or 10 light stops.
Graduated Neutral Density filters
They will help to subtract light but gradually, ideal for scenes where we have a high dynamic range with strong lights and shadows.
We only use Lucroit filters since after testing different types we found them to offer the best quality on the market. In addition, we collaborate with them and our readers can benefit from a discount of 10% by applying the CAPTURETHEATLAS coupon at the time of purchasing.
Both for short trips and for long photographic travels, the most convenient way to transport our equipment is a photographic backpack.
It will be important the model according to the purpose of our trip, especially if we plan to make hiking where we will carry our equipment for hours.
As minimum requirements, a photography backpack should consist of:
- Enough space to store all the photography equipment that we have seen so far. Space also for some clothes and food if we are going to make some trekking.
- Resistant materials that offer security in case of hits and falls.
- Impermeability or waterproof cover so we can cover it.
- Exclusive opening of the main compartment from the back in order to avoid theft.
- Fastening to the waist and chest to be able to unload the weight on the hip and protect our back.
As for models and brands, we find many options in the market. We reccomend these two models depending on the type of trip:
When in our trips we take landscape photographs or elements in which we want to achieve the greatest sharpness, it will be essential not only to have a stable tripod but also a remote shutter so we can operate our camera without having to touch it and thus avoid trepidation.
If you like portrait photography it is convenient to have an external flash. It can also be used in night photography to illuminate scenes, although it is not our case. Some flashes of a very acceptable quality at really economic prices can be those of Youngnuo, Neweer, etc. Take into account the space and the weight in order to include it in your trips.
In night photography we need our hands free to be able to handle our photography equipment with comfort. For this, more comfortable than any flashlight or mobile lighting, we find the headlights. There are many types offering different features and quality depending on the budget we have.
If we want to carry a flashlight that weighs little and has quality lighting, it is better to carry this type of flashlight.
Having several batteries in our photography equipment is essential for traveling, especially on trips where we may not have as much access to electricity or trips where low temperatures reduce the life of our batteries. If we also want to make long night exposures or time-lapse it will be important to have more spare batteries.
We always carry a minimum of 3 on our trips, although depending on the type of trip we may carry more, such as on the trip to capture Northern Lights in Lofoten, where long exposures at night and subzero temperatures quickly discharged batteries.
If you are going to take a road trip we also recommend you to take a USB charger you can connect to the car lighter or to a power bank battery in case of making a hiking route of several days.
As with batteries, depending on the duration of our trip as well as the possibility of saving our photos, we will need more or less memory.
We recommend to take several cards of less space than one or two cards with a lot of memory in order to avoid problems if we lose or that card is damaged.
As for brands there are many and regarding the types, the main ones will be:
- SD Cards: Common cards that we can use in all reflex and compact cameras.
- Compact Flash Cards: Cards that we can use mainly in most advanced and professional cameras. They have a higher writing and reading speed as well as being more resistant.
To take panoramic photographs without changing the photograph from the perspective of our objective, the ideal is to use an L plate that holds our camera to the tripod.
To perform panoramas, in addition to the L-plate it will be useful to have a leveling base to avoid having to stabilize the camera with the legs of the tripod.
This accessory will help us both to handle the camera more easily vertically and to add more battery to our body. It is used mainly in portrait photography and in long exposure photos that consume a lot of battery such as star trails.
In travel due to its weight and size we do not recommed taking it unless we have to do long sessions of portrait or time-lapse.
Not only before the trip, but during the same we need our gear ready and in perfect conditions of cleanliness, to obtain some clean and clear photos as to conserve our equipment in the best conditions.
We will not need to carry our backpack with cleaning accessories, although it is advisable to carry at least:
- Microfiber cleaning cloth: To clean both lenses and filters. If we are going to take photographs of waterfalls or maritime it will be convenient to have several prepared.
- Air pear and cleaning brush: In order to avoid scratching our lens before using the microfiber cloth the first thing we will do is to blow on the surface with an air pear and then pass a brush removing the most superficial dirt.
- Cleansing wipes: Our favorite cleaning element, leaves any lens or filter quickly clean.
Many of these products can be purchased together in packs and at affordable prices.
SAVE money WITH YOUR TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY equipment
These would be all the necessary elements to form a good travel photography equipment. However, do not get obsessed with having the photo gear of your dreams from the beginning. Do not be frustrated if you can not make all the investment that comes with professional photography equipment at the same time.
We, apart from acquiring a large part of our photography equipment as second-hand , continue using photography equipment rental services, saving a lot of money.
There are two cases in which I recommend renting elements of your photographic equipment.
The first, always before buying an expensive new item, such as the body of the camera or a lens. By renting photography equipment you make sure that you buy what you really need and you can test it before disbursing a large sum of money. This way we avoid buying photography equipment that will end up full of dust in the corner.
The other case where I always recommend renting is when we are going to take a trip where special features are required. For example, buying a powerful telephoto lens to do a Safari once in a lifetime and never using it again is a useless expense. You can afford to rent the best of the telephoto lenses available in the market and still save a significant sum of money. This option is also very interesting when hiring a photo tour.
In case you’re wondering, renting cameras is much cheaper than you think. The last rents of photographic equipment that we have made have been with the company Fragmáticos that operates in Spain and Portugal. Here we tell you the whole experience.
AND FOR YOU, WHAT CAN NOT BE MISSING IN THE PHOTOGRAPHY gear THAT YOU BRING TO YOUR TRAVEL?
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