If you have checked out a few virtual tours on Exploration Junkie or went through the Panorama Tutorial, you must be wondering what’s exactly in my camera bag? What equipment do I use for my photography, and how do I carry it around while travelling?
In the beginning, I had the tendency of carrying all my heavy stuff around, only to use half of it. trip after trip, I am getting better at taking only the equipment I will need. My shoulders thank me!
Before talking camera stuff, let’s start with the bag. I see a lot of professional or amateur photographers using these specialised backpacks that are designed to carry photography equipment. As far as I am concerned, I prefer using a messenger shoulder bag, similar to this one.
I actually have two of them, a smaller one that can hold one camera with a couple lenses, and a bigger one that I take when I want to carry both of my cameras. Why do I prefer to use these? First of all, carrying a backpack when the weather is hot makes my back sweat like crazy, and it’s even worse when this backpack is full of heavy equipment. That’s why I usually opt for a smaller bag with a strap whenever I can.
Secondly – and that’s even more important – I don’t want my photo bag to look like a photo bag. At times when you are travelling, depending on the destination, you can find yourself in areas that are not always the safest. If I don’t feel that it is safe enough, I can choose to not take my camera out. And I will just look like a random guy/tourist with a random bag with random stuff inside. This way, I can avoid attracting attention when I don’t want to!
Cameras & Lenses
I own two DSLR cameras, each with its adaptable lenses. One has a cropped sensor and the other one is a full frame camera; as a result I can’t mix the lenses! Therefore, instead of talking about the cameras and then the lenses, I will organise them in “sets”, like I use them.
Camera Set #1
My first camera is a Canon EOS 550D. A more recent version of this camera would be the Canon EOS Rebel T6. It has a cropped sensor, and comes with a Canon EF-S 18-55 IS kit lens. Certainly not the best lens in the world, but enough for a good number of situations. When I started doing panoramas, I only had this camera and this lens. Even open at 18 mm, I had to painfully accumulate A LOT of pictures to cover the whole sphere around me.
Since my photography is not exclusive to panoramas, I later bought a Canon EF-S 55-250 IS zoom lens. It has an efficient stabilisation and I always have a lot of pleasure to use it with wildlife or distant elements of a landscape.
As I was shooting more and more panoramas and was getting increasingly frustrated at the number of pics I had to shoot with my 18 mm lens, I finally decided to buy a fisheye lens. Autofocus fisheye lenses are really expensive. Luckily, the Korean brand Samyang makes really great lenses that have manual focus and are very affordable. I opted for the Samyang 8 mm f/3.5 UMC CS II Fisheye lens. It is adapted to APS-C (cropped) sensors like the one of the 550D.
Manual focus is of course not as easy to use as autofocus, but it’s just a matter of getting used to it. I believe it is worth it, as you save hundreds of dollars! Samyang lenses can also be found under the Rokinon brand name, they are the same thing.
Camera Set #2
My second camera is a full frame Canon EOS 6D. It’s a slightly bigger and heavier camera, but I really love it. I particularly enjoy its behaviour in low light, with a great management of the image noise at higher ISO. For night pictures, you guessed it, I will definitely use this camera.
I bought this camera as a set with the fantastic Canon EF 24 – 105 mm f/4.0 L IS USM zoom lens. On top of a great image quality, its zoom range is ideal for a large variety of situations.
Another thing I enjoy about this camera is that, being a full frame, the field of view covered by the pictures is obviously wider than with a cropped sensor. I was craving for a nice, really wide angle lens.
Price wise, the problem is the same as with the fisheye lenses. Once again Samyang saved the situation. I bought the Samyang 14 mm f/2.8 Aspherical IF ED UMC wide angle lens. There are two things I love about this lens (apart from good image quality):
In spite of offering a very wide angle, it does a great job at correcting the distortions, and delivers a straight, nundistorted image. Secondly, the f/2.8 aperture is very interesting for low light/night photography. Coupled with the great capabilities of the Canon 6D in low light, they make a great combo.
Small Point-and-Shoot Camera
I also have a small Nikon Coolpix camera that I use when I just want to have a small camera in my pocket, or when I want to be more discreet for safety reasons.
Chargers & Extra Batteries
In case I need to spend some time away from the modern world and electricity, it helps to have a spare battery for each camera [550D | 6D]. I also don’t forget to take the chargers with me, if I will be away for a few days in order to charge my batteries in the evening.
I found this very small, light and inexpensive item in a camera shop in Singapore. Since then, I wonder how I could lived without it all this time! A remote control is really useful to keep your images sharp when the light is low and as a result, the shutter speed low. With a tripod, I am now able to shoot the pictures without touching the camera, avoiding the vibrations that could make the picture blurred.
I have various SD Cards but the one I use the most is a 32GB Class 10 SD Card. The “Class 10” is very important if you shoot a lot of images – it records the pictures FAST. I have a couple Class 4 cards and when I need to shoot a lot of images quickly, they really struggle to follow my rhythm. So from now on, I will buy Class 10 cards only – Nowadays, that’s what is sold anyway.
Portable Hard Drive
This one is really useful when travelling! I copy all my pictures on my Western Digital My Passport Ultra 1TB external hard drive. Small, light, simple and reliable, I am totally satisfied with it so far.
I was using until now a tripod with a screw system to deploy the leg segments. I would not recommend to buy such a tripod. The screw system proved to be quite annoying and time consuming to use, and not very durable either. I will be getting a simple but sturdy tripod with leg segments locked with clips instead.
The Panorama Head
In order to shoot panoramas with a tripod, it needs to have a panoramic head. I have a Nodal Ninja 3 MKII Starter Package, a strong and simple pano head that perfectly does the job. Very satisfied with it!
That’s it! That’s the equipment I use for my photography needs when I am travelling. If you don’t know what equipment to get for yourself, this list can used for inspiration. I only recommend stuff I really use and like, don’t hesitate to comment or send me a message if you want more info!