Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Travel Photography Kit

As a photographer I have found that I have used a number of different cameras over the years.  As my cameras and technology changed so has my travel photography kit.  By this I mean what I take when I am traveling for work or with my wife on a non-photography trip.  If we are heading to the Grand Canyon I have a backpack with my gear.  But for those other trips I want to take a camera then too.  Even if I will only get out one or two times to see a sunset I want to have a camera.  

Would you believe that even as late as 2008 I would take my 4x5 when I travel.  Yes, a backpack with my Arca-Swiss Discovery-a metal rail camera no less.  Oh, and I carried it on a plane (checked the clothes).  That backpack was right up at the airline limit for size.  My personal item was then a computer bag with my laptop and as many boxes of Velvia Quickloads as I could stuff in it (sometimes 4).  


After finally getting a DSLR I made that my travel camera for a while.  My kit was much smaller than before.  Then it became my little Panasonic LX3.  Even smaller, although the trade off in size was a small sensor (although I found it to produce images better than anything I ever got on 35mm film).

I got a full frame camera in 2012.  That left me with three choices:  Canon 5D2, Canon 50D, or Panasonic LX3.  What I found was there was no size advantage to taking the 50D over the 5D2.  The LX3 was pretty small but I had become a bit more spoiled by the full frame camera.  However, technology was moving fast and I began to look a a mirrorless camera as an option.  I checked out a few Micro 4/3 models, the Canon GX1 and the Sony NEX6.  

I got the NEX 6 and it has been my travel camera of choice over the last two years.  It is a small camera, practically almost as small as the little LX3 but an APS-C sized sensor that was way better than the 50D.  The camera was so good that neither the LX3 nor the 50D saw much use and gathered a lot of dust and I sold them.
 

The NEX 6 has been my go to travel camera.  Great sensor, small size, and a neat Powerzoom lens (24-75eq) that makes it a very tiny package.  I added a Samyang 8mm f/2.8 fisheye and have a super little kit.  

To complement the small size of the camera I picked up a Sirui 025X carbon fiber tripod.  This collapses to less than a foot long.  Will go to about 36" when set up.  It came with a center column that would take it up to about 48" but I took it off as it made the tripod more sturdy without it.  I often use a small Osprey Daylight pack which takes up no room in my luggage and gives me the ability to put a rain jacket, water bottle, camera and tripod in it.

Put it all together ans I have a very capable travel kit.  For work travel I can put the entire kit into my computer bag without noticing it.  I can now bring all my luggage on board-no more checking-less time waiting at airports.

When the chances for a sunset happen I have a great camera and a tripod.  The results I get are great!

Are there times I wish I had my DSLR?  Some.  But most situations are easily covered by my kit. The kit lens range covers most situations.  The fisheye is amazingly sharp, gives a great look, and is awesome for Milky Way images.

It might be a trade off, but all things are.  What I find is it is a great small kit.  Easy to take.  Great results.  Also compliments the full frame 5D2 nicely and makes a great backup.  All in all a perfect kit.

Riding my bike-it is the right size to bring.  Walking the dog-easy to carry.  Work travel-tiny addition.  Hiking all day-wear it around my neck and do not even notice it. When I am out with the 5D2 kit it is easy to add the NEX6 kit and the Sirui tripod for a two camera combo with almost no increase in weight carried.

Did I mention it is a great camera setup for the Milky Way?  It is!  A fisheye view of the Milky Way is amazing.  You do not realize how huge the Milky Way is in the sky until you look at it with a fisheye.  A 24mm or even a 14 only capture a fraction of it.  The fisheye really truly captures it.

So in sum NEX 6 has become my very capable travel kit of choice.

Of course technology is not standing still and I must say I find myself wondering when I might consider jumping to one of the full frame Sony A7 models.  I have rented the A7S and found it to be a fantastic camera for night.  I could easily see my entire kit evolving to an A7R and A7S combo with just two or three small lenses.  That would actually almost become a full circle as my 35mm camera kit used to be equally small Olympus OM4Ti, OM4 and a lens kit of 21, 28, 50, and 100mm primes.  I think Sony and Samyang just need to get a few small lenses out there and I might become very tempted.

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