We often get asked what equipment we use to take capture all the photos and videos of our travels, so ask and you shall receive! It’s so flattering to hear, but we actually use pretty low-tech gear. On top of that, I like to pack light, so our gear may be minimal compared to professional photographers. I consider four cameras to be my travel photography essentials: my iPhone, an Olympus mirrorless, a GoPro and a point and shoot (and I still only have one carry on!).
The Mirrorless Camera
Olympus EP-1 – When we made the decision to take the plunge and graduate from our phones and a crappy point and shoot 7 years ago, I was nervous. There are some tricks and some (ongoing) adjustments, but I really couldn’t be happier. The model we use is several years old, but it’s a lightweight and compact camera that packs a punch, making a great travel camera. Perfect for travel! A camera body (the lens is purchased separately) can be used for several years or longer. And the lenses are interchangeable, so if you buy a new body, the lens can still be used if compatible. When we bought this camera body, we knew we were going to splurge on the lens.
DSLRs, while great, are often bulky. A micro 4/3 camera, like the EP-1 still takes high quality images, but are much more compact. I usually just wear the camera over my shoulder as I would a purse. I can easily do whatever I want (ride a motorbike, for example), and grab my camera at a moment’s notice. It’s also not as flashy as the big DSLR’s and there’s less chance someone will know you’re carrying around a fancy camera. You could get the latest version: Olympus Ep-5, or get the body we have (used) for significantly less: Olympus EP-1. If I was buying a new mirrorless camera today, I’d also be checking out the Sony A6000.
Admittedly, the lens is where you can start really shelling out the cash. And for good reason. Even top travel photographers admit it’s all about the lens. We have a Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 Pancake Lens, which is small, fast and amazing. I typically don’t miss the zoom capability anymore, I just zoom in when I edit the photos. However, a high quality (and affordable) zoom lens is definitely on my want list. You just can’t capture things like wildlife from far away without one.
I often carry around a compact flash for the mirrorless camera as well. It is slightly bulky, but it really helps to take food shots in darkly lit areas or brighten up faces in a sunny situation.
GoPro Hero 3+ – we use our GoPro to take videos, as an underwater camera, especially while diving. It’s really not as good as I’d hoped at taking photos, especially in low light, but it is fantastic at videos. I highly recommend you purchase the LCD touch bacpac, otherwise you can’t see anything that you’re shooting. If you will be diving with it, definitely get some color filters, they make a huge difference! Looking for the latest model? Get the Hero4 here, which has a built in LCD screen (finally).
The Point and Shoot
Sony RX100 – If you’re really just looking for a great point and shoot, this cannot be beat. I think I might be a little obsessed with it, and on shorter trips or hiking, I now only take this guy. You can shoot in raw mode and it takes stellar photos without having to have much photography knowledge. AND, if you want to take it underwater, you can buy a dive housing for it too, making it a really great underwater camera!
Other Photography Necessities:
Memory Cards – We bring 2-3 high speed 16GB cards with us for the Olympus, and 2 32GB micro cards for the GoPro. Videos take up a lot of space. We also change the memory card at least halfway through the trip, regardless of how much space is left, in case the camera gets lost or stolen.
Smugmug – I originally started using SmugMug as a way to backup my photos online. I quickly realized it’s pretty awesome for doing some minor editing as well. It comes built in with PicMonkey, and photos are easy to embed, share or download, even from your phone. AND there are no storage limits. Downside is that it’s not free, but you can get 20% off by using this link.
Macbook Pro – I really don’t know what I’d do without this thing, especially for photo editing. It’s fast, lightweight and never crashes (yes, I just knocked on wood).
Adobe Lightroom – this was a life changer for me, allowing me to quickly (and lightly) edit hundreds of photos at once. I sync it with my smugmug account for quick and easy uploads.
Eagle Creek Protech padded Cube — We use this to store all of our photography gear accessories. The cube is sturdier than regular cubes and has a small amount of padding. We still pack this in the middle of one of our bags, as it is not really all that protective.
So you know all my secrets to the photos and videos you see on this site. Soon I’ll be adding a zoom lens, but other than that I’m quite happy with our small, lightweight, non-fancy equipment.
Want to know what else is in my bag? Take a peek inside!
What are your travel photography essentials? Anything we should add to arsenal?
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