France, Chantilly

The travel photographer's bag

Photography is a vast field. Each style needs a particular equipment. Studio photography need hi resolution cameras, Sport and Nature Life needs a fast shutter speed and a good AF, landscape needs a good dynamic range... It's difficult for a beginner to make the good choices.

In this article, I'll talk about travel photography equipment.  Weight is the biggest concern for the traveller. There are some hardcore travel photographers who travel with 2 camera bodies and 5 or 6 lenses, but the average travel photographer will just have 1 camera and 2 or 3 lenses plus their tripod.

I've always worked with Canon, and I recommand to stick to Canon or Nikon. Once you start buying equipment, it's extremely costly to switch to another brand. Canon and Nikon have proven for decades to be the best manufacturers. There's recently been a lot of buzz about Sony and some photographers made the switch because their sensor is better, but wait a year or two and Canon and Nikon will take the lead again. You'll keep your thousand dollars lenses and your camera that is in the end not that bad.

The Camera

The camera is the most expensive item, but not the most important. Marketing divas make you believe that you need the last expensive billion pixel camera but that's not true. I recommend you a full frame, and there are two that should retain your interest :

- Canon 6D

- Canon 5D mark II (the Canon 5D mark III is much more expensive for a slight evolution, not a revolution)

They are both excellent and won't disappoint you.

The Lenses

This is what really matters. The choice will highly depends of the kind of travel photographer you are. Do you prefer street photography, landscapes, portraits ?

My recommandations are the following. Keep in mind that you don't need to take all your lenses each time. You can also leave some of them in the hotel room's safe.

- wide angle :

Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS USM : it's much more sharper than the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM , and unlike the Canon 11-24mm f/4L USM, you can use screw in filters.

I also had the Canon 17-40mm f/4L USM and it's a very good lens, affordable.

- Standard :

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM : This lens is the one screwed on your camera most of the time. If you don't care about the 2.8, you can buy instead the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM with a wider focal range.

- Tele :

You don't always need a tele, I don't carry mine very often, but it depends of where you go. If you plan a safari, you want to take a tele, or in some countries you don't want to be to close from people.

The choice is very easy, the recent Canon 100-400mm f/4.5 5.6L II IS USM is a killer lens that replace all the Canon 70-200. And you can use it with extenders!

For street photo or portraits, you might want a Canon 35mm f/1.4L USM, a Canon 50mm 1.8 STM, a Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM or a Canon 135mm f/2 L USM.

The Tripods

I use two tripods. The first one is very sturdy. It's a Vanguard ALTA PRO 264AB with an SBH 100 ball head. It never disappointed me. It's stable, and offers a wide capacity of settings. You can put your camera very low, nearly on the ground. And thanks to it's extending central column, you can raise the camera far above your head, more than 2 meters, you may need to shoot above some fences or ledges.

The second tripod I use is a Gorillapod. When I don't want or can't take the Vanguard, I take this one. It's a very funny tool, you can wrap it anywhere and it help you do pictures you wouldn't be able to do without it. It's also helpfull when tripods are forbidden.

The Bag

There are many manufacturers and finding the right bag is not as simple as it seems. The camera needs to be easily accessible. I use several bags.

- Lowepro Passport Sling, a shoulder bag that I use most of the time. You can fill in a camera, 2 lenses and accessories.

- Vanguard Adaptor 45, a compact backpack that can load a lot of stuff (camera, 5 lenses + accessories)

- Lowepro Rover AW II, it stays at home to store stuff.

The various accessories

- Filters : forget the holder systems (like LEE or Cokin) used ages ago with graduated filters (GND). Nowadays, graduated filters are in Lightroom. You just need 2 or 3 good quality screw-on (circular) ND filter. I use Breakthrough Photography X4 ND10 and ND3, which is more or less the best in the world. 

- a fiber tissu to clean the lens (especially important if rainy)

-a lenspen to remove dust with the brush

- the neck strap  : I encourage you to change your camera strap, because third parties like OP/TECH USA are much more comfortables (stretch system), and walking with a big CANON brand in the neck is a little bit ridiculous, or may attract attention in some places where you prefer to be discrete.

- The Tripod Strap : I use optech tripod strap. Like for the camera, this strap is really comfortable.

- The hand strap : extremely usefull, allows to be reactive, and to release your shoulder when you're tired. I use it all of the time.

- a Canon RC6 infra red remote : very cheap, smaller than a cable remote, it's always attached to my camera strap.

- a plastic bag to protect from the rain (and a rain cover if the bag is not waterproof)

There are infinite "must buy lenses" articles on the web. Here is the must avoid list :

All the Canon 70-200mm (yes, including the 2.8 ll IS except if you shoot interior sports) because the new 100-400 L II IS is simply better, covering a bigger range, and f/5.6 at 400mm gives better blur than f/2.8 at 200mm. And it works with extenders!

The Canon 50mm f/1.4 because the recent Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM is as good and really cheaper ( and unlike the previous 50 1.8, it has 7 blades and provide a rounded blur) and because other brands are better at f/1.4

The Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 ll because it's too old now and can't compete with the recent Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS in terms of image quality.

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