Looking for the perfect travel photography gear and camera bag? Me too. I’m a gear guy. I love it all. However, my current obsessions are camera gear and the bags that hold it, without the added weight and bulk that comes with serious photography. Below, you’ll find what I’m using in my travel photography kit, from my favorite camera and lenses to my favorite tripod and camera bag.
Favorite Travel Camera:
Fuji X System
The Fuji X-E1: I bought a Fuji X-E1 in a moment of spontaneity, which is unusual for me, and fell in love with the simplicity of the camera. (Side note: I loved the photos taken by my 24 megapixel Sony Nex-7, especially coupled with the Vario-Tessar 16-70 f/4, but the menus drove me insane. I missed more than one shot fiddling to change a setting via a maddening menu system.) So, back to the Fuji X-E1 – yes, it only has 16 megapixels, but they are beautifully simple megapixels. The camera operates exactly like it should and never impedes the creative process. Every control is easy, intuitive, and available. It also produces excellent images, which is the whole point.
That being said, there are a few features that the X-E1 lacks. First and foremost, I really like a tilting LCD screen. I used to think they were kind of gimmicky but once I started shooting using a tripod, it turned into a must-have feature. I also wish that the X-E1 had a mode dial because something simple like putting the camera in timer mode or continuous shooting mode requires accessing menus. Last, and most infuriating, the exposure compensation dial constantly gets bumped resulting in blurry shots because the dial is just way too easy to turn.
Despite these quirks, I still use the X-E1, but I was looking around for an upgrade when they released…
The Fuji X-T10: This camera is more of a little brother to the X-T1 but it still checks all of my boxes. The Fuji X-T10 has a great little tilting LCD, a fantastic mode dial, and the exposure compensation never gets bumped. Yay! It’s still the same 16 megapixel sensor as the X-E1, but the autofocus and just about everything else in the camera system has been improved. It even has facial recognition focusing which can be great in certain situations like family photos. I also find the camera a lot easier to use in low lighting situations because of focus and viewfinder improvements. As if those features weren’t enough, they have added WiFi for allowing control of the camera from your smartphone. Let me just say that it was well worth the upgrade especially considering the price point for this camera.
One added bonus: mine came with a Neewer Arca-Swiss L-Bracket as part of the kit and I will never go without an L-bracket again. If you use a tripod then do yourself a favor and buy an L-bracket. It just makes life so much easier, especially for landscape photography.
Favorite Travel Lenses:
Rokinon and Fujinon
After years of dragging around a multitude of different lenses on my travels, I always seemed to gravitate back to the same three lenses: (1) a wide angle for landscape and architecture shots, (2) an “all-in-one” zoom for 99% of my shots, and (3) a fast prime for super depth of field and low light. I find that these three lenses are all I need for my style of shooting.
Currently I’m using the following three lenses on both my Fuji X-E1 and Fuji X-T10 cameras:
1) Rokinon 12mm F2.0 NCS CS – The first thing you need to know about this lens is that it’s manual focus only. It’s not really a problem with the Fuji X system because you can use focus peaking to nail the focus. If you can’t live without autofocus, then move on to the Fuji 14mm. I find this lens to be an excellent lens that is super sharp and costs half that of the Fuji 14mm. It is also excellent for astro-photography.
2) Fujinon XF 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR – I’m a fan of the “all-in-one” zoom lens for travel photography. I’ve always loved the 18-200 on my Nikon system, so the first thing I did when I purchased my Fuji camera was to buy the Fuji 18-135 f/3.5-5.6 lens. It does sort of ruin the compactness of the Fuji XE-1, but the lens gets it done for most shots. It’s also weather sealed which is a big plus if you get caught in the rain. That said, I’m still not sure that I’m sold on this lens because of the size. I really wish Fuji had a 16-70 f/4 which I think is perfect for traveling, but the next best thing is probably the 18-55 kit lens.
3) Fujinon XF 35mm F1.4 R – It’s small, light, super sharp, and very fast with a f1.4 maximum aperture. I keep this in my pocket for those no-flash indoor shots or shots that demand a very shallow depth of field. It has a metal rectangular Leica-esque lens hood that looks really cool, but the dang rubber lens cap falls off constantly.
4) There’s a new lens in my house (below right). Meet the Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens. I love the Fujinon 35mm (below left), but I always feel like I have to take two steps backward before every shot. The 27mm field of view on this lens makes it a perfect walk-around lens. The lens is also small enough that you can keep the X-E1 with the 27mm lens on inside your jacket pocket without added bulk. However, I should point out that the lens cannot be manually focused, and it doesn’t have an aperture ring like most of the other Fuji lenses. The aperture is controlled via the function dial on the back of the camera. Not a huge deal but once you get used to the aperture ring it’s weird to suddenly not have it.
Favorite Travel Tripod:
I love this little tripod. At a little over 12 inches, folded, the MeFoto Backpacker Travel Tripod fits in my luggage, in my backpack, or in the mesh side pocket of my backpack. It’s sturdy, yet light and compact. It comes in a rainbow of colors; I have the blue one. It works great for mirrorless cameras and smaller. It’s an excellent all-around travel tripod.
- Pros: High quality aluminum build. Lightweight at 2.6lbs. Easily fits in a suitcase or backpack. Center column hook to add a stability weight. Arca-Swiss compatible mount.
- Cons: Not very tall at 51″. Can be a bit shaky fully extended. Best for compact or mirrorless cameras.
- Other: It comes with a carry bag that I don’t use. The 1/4-20 screw on the plate needs a tool or coin to tighten it. I replaced it with this D-ring Screw Adapter.
Favorite Travel Camera Bag:
Lowepro Hatchback 22L
I’m always searching for the mythical perfect camera bag, and I’m constantly “upgrading” to a newer, more perfect model. My current favorite is the Lowepro bag below.
The Lowepro LP36434-PWW Photo Hatchback 22L AW is my go-to travel bag for trips. It holds my iPad, Kindle, MeFoto Tripod, camera with lenses, a light jacket, water bottle, and various chargers and cables while still leaving a little more room for other stuff. I can put it under the airline seat and still have room for my feet. To see a detailed description of all the items laid out below, go to my post What’s in My Carry On Bag? For a review of this backpack, check out My Perfect Travel Photography Bag.
*As of 2016 Lowepro has released a refreshed version of this backpack called the Lowepro Hatchback BP 250 AW II. Click here to see the new version.
Favorite Travel Photography Accessories:
You can’t take everything with you when you’re traveling light, but there are a few items that you should never be without. Here are mine:
1- Small Duct Tape Roll – When you need it, you need it. I buy small rolls and keep them in my backpack instead of wrapping a large one around my tripod leg like a lot of people do.
2- Stanley 4-in-1 Screwdriver – Now that you can’t carry on a Leatherman Multi-tool, I carry a small screw driver kit instead.
3- Giottos Rocket-Air – I use the large Giottos at home, but I prefer the small size for traveling. Unfortunately, the company discontinued that one. Here’s a link to the medium, which is still handy for cleaning lenses and such while on the road.
4- Spudz Lens Cloth – I’m addicted to these things and probably have a dozen of them. I attach them to my backpack, camera strap, and anywhere else I can think of. They also work great on glasses and sunglasses.
5- Sugru Self-setting Rubber – I admit that this one is a bit odd, but the stuff is amazing. It’s a moldable rubber epoxy that can be used to fix or modify all kinds of things like buttons and knobs. It’s also great for fixing fraying cables. Try some and you’ll be sold.
Here are some quick links to my favorites:
Please leave me a comment below about your favorite travel gear, or if you’d like to know more about mine.
Ethics statement: The gear on this page is gear that I actually own, use and recommend except when otherwise noted.