Travel Photography Gear Guide 2019 | What Gear Do I Use?
3 years ago I wrote an article about the gear I use for my Travel Photography; a lot has changed since then and so it’s now time to write a new, more complete version about it. Welcome to the Travel Photography Gear Guide 2019 version!
I’ve been a strong believer of mirrorless cameras since the beginning, as I could just see advantages in using them: lighter, more portable, less mechanical parts, and more advanced from a technological standpoint.
I’ve started with the Panasonic GM1, then moved to the Olympus OM-D E-M1, and I have now settled with whom I think is, at the moment, the best camera manufacturer: Sony.
Main Camera: Sony a7RII
You can get the Sony a7RII on [Amazon | B&H].
This full-frame mirrorless is my main camera since April 2017, and I am very happy with it.
What I love the most is its file quality, which still surprises me to this day. The resolution of this camera (42,4 megapixel) and its dynamic range are what makes it the perfect tool for what I do.
It’s a workhorse and it can actually be found at the links above at a great price as a few months ago the new version (a7RIII) has been launched.
- PROS: amazing sensor.
- CONS: it’s a bit slow if you need to zoom in to check out the shots, but that’s not a problem for what I do. It doesn’t have a touchscreen, very useful for quick AF adjustments.
IF YOU NEED MORE: I can certainly recommend the Sony a7RIII [Amazon | B&H]; I’ve tried it and it’s really awesome as it addresses the few “problems” of its predecessor: it’s a faster camera, with better AF performances, greater battery life, a dual SD slot, and it has a touchscreen.
IF YOU NEED LESS: if you don’t need all these megapixel, I highly suggest you get the Sony a7III [Amazon | B&H] which is an incredibly versatile camera, basically The Camera for all those who don’t need super high-resolution pictures. While if you want to enter the “Mirrorless Full-Frame world” and save some bucks, you can go with the Sony a7II [Amazon | B&H].
Secondary Camera: Sony a6300
You can get the Sony a6300 on [Amazon | B&H].
This is the camera I mostly use for videos (I mount it on a gimbal, more of this later), or as a secondary camera for when I need to have two different shots/views/perspectives taken at the same time. It has an APS-C sensor, which can come in handy for tighter shots. In fact, as you might know, when mounting a lens on an APS-C sensor camera, you have to multiply the focal length per the crop factor (x1.6 in this case) to get the effective focal length.
Even if I use it as a secondary camera, it could perfectly serve as first camera, especially for those starting out with photography!
- PROS: Good image quality, plus you can mount a7 lenses without any adapter (useful as a 2nd body). Smaller and cheaper than the full-frame lineup.
- CONS: It doesn’t handle well high ISO and it doesn’t have a touchscreen.
IF YOU NEED MORE: If you want to invest in an APS-C system and have the budget, definitely go with the Sony a6500 [Amazon | B&H]. It’s a much-improved version of the a6300, especially for AF speed/accuracy, and image quality.
Vlog Camera: Sony RX100IV
You can get the Sony RX100IV on [Amazon | B&H].
This is a small point-and-shoot camera, with great capabilities. I mainly use it for vlogging as it has a flip-up screen (pretty essential if you’re filming yourself). It’s very small while still producing great results, so it can be a reliable tool for when you need to travel very light.
- PROS: extremely portable, good image quality, and bright lens (f/1.8-f/2.8). It has an electronic viewfinder.
- CONS: no touchscreen (I can’t understand this choice). It doesn’t handle well high ISO, but it’s normal as it has a 1″ sensor, and the battery doesn’t last long especially if you shoot videos. The built-in mic is just ok, and unfortunately, there’s no mic input.
IF YOU NEED MORE: out in the market, there are already two new version of this camera. The Sony RX100V [Amazon | B&H] has a better AF than the Mark IV, while the Sony RX100VI [Amazon | B&H] comes with a new, very versatile 24-200mm equivalent F2.8-4.5 lens. A big step from the 24-70mm of the previous versions, even if a bit darker.
Both have a better image quality than the Mark IV, as well as better AF.
Cameras are certainly important, but lenses are probably what makes the biggest difference. In fact, mounting cheap lenses on a great camera won’t produce good results.
I have a good amount of lenses as I want to have the right choice for each scenario. Let’s see which ones I have!
All-Around Lens: Sony FE 24-105 mm F4 G OSS
You can get the Sony 24-105mm f/4 on [Amazon | B&H].
The focal range between 24mm and 105mm is the most commonly used in photography, and that’s why lenses of this kind are considered all-around lenses. You can literally use just this very lens for a whole day when traveling, as it’s extremely versatile. I first had the 24-70mm but I got the 24-105mm as soon as it was available, as having that extra reach can be fundamental in some scenarios.
- PROS: versatile, great image quality, and controls on the lens.
- CONS: it’s obviously heavier than the 24-70mm F4 and it’s made out of plastic.
IF YOU NEED MORE: in case you need an even higher quality all-around lens, then the choice is the Sony FE 24-70 mm F2.8 GM [Amazon | B&H]. Incredibly sharp and with a beautiful bokeh, which will make it useful for some portraiture as well.
IF YOU NEED LESS: if you want a cheaper (and more versatile) all-around lens, I recommend the Sony 24-240mm F3,5-6,3 [Amazon | B&H]. While if you don’t need the extra reach and want a smaller/lighter option (very good for gimbal work), then I would go with the Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS [Amazon | B&H]; I’ve used it for over a year and it produced good results.
Wide Angle Lens: Sony FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS
You can get the Sony 16-35mm f/4 on [Amazon | B&H].
This is my favorite wide-angle lens. It’s not extreme, but it’s very versatile as it adapts to the vast majority of scenarios where you need to go wide. I use it extensively for landscapes and cityscapes, and I have no problem for it being an f/4 lens as for those scenarios you usually have to stop down your lens between f/9-f/16.
- PROS: reduced dimensions & weight, sharpness.
- CONS: lack of AF switch; it can be too dark for some usages.
IF YOU NEED MORE: Sony has launched a G Master version of this lens, the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM [Amazon | B&H], which is a better choice especially if you often need that extra stop of light.
While if you need something ultra-wide, then you should definitely get the Sony FE 12-24mm F4 G [Amazon | B&H] (you can find my review of it here).
Telephoto Lens: Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS
You can get the Sony 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 on [Amazon | B&H].
I normally shoot with wider lenses, but when I (rarely) need the extra reach, this is my lens of choice. It’s not the best telephoto lens you can get, but it’s the most versatile and light for Sony cameras at the moment.
- PROS: versatile focal range, most compact telephoto for Sony.
- CONS: expensive for what it offers.
IF YOU NEED MORE: if you want a more professional lens, your choice should be the Sony 70-200 f/4 [Amazon | B&H], even if you will lose the extra reach. While if you need a really fast telephoto lens, both in terms of AF speed and aperture, then the choice should be the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM [Amazon | B&H].
If you want an even more versatile tool, I highly recommend the Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 [Amazon | B&H].
Portrait Lens: Sony FE 85mm F1.8
You can get the Sony 85mm f/1.8 on [Amazon | B&H].
If you don’t have a bright prime lens to pair with your full-frame camera, you’re missing out on some bokehlicious shots!
I normally shoot travel & architecture, but there can be cases where I need to capture some portraits or lifestyle shots, in which is fundamental having a good separation between the subject and the background. This 85mm is my choice for it, and it has an exceptional value for money; you can find my review of it here.
- PROS: awesome value for money, beautiful bokeh, sharp, and light.
- CONS: I can’t really find any.
IF YOU NEED MORE: if you want the best for portraits, then the choice must be the Sony FE 85 mm F1.4 GM [Amazon | B&H]. I’ve had the chance to try it and it’s absolutely stunning, but it’s heavier and much more expensive than the F1.8 one.
Portrait/Lifestyle Lens: Sony E 35 mm F1,8 OSS
You can get the Sony 35mm f/1.8 on [Amazon | B&H].
This is a tiny lens made for Sony APS-C cameras, and I mainly got it for filming videos with the a6300. Still, it can be mounted on any a7 or a9 cameras and it’ll serve as a 50mm (but remember, it won’t be using the whole sensor size).
- PROS: super-tiny, sharp, nice bokeh, silent AF.
- CONS: it has some chromatic aberration at f/1.8, but it can easily be fixed in post-production.
IF YOU NEED MORE: if you want to have a real 35mm for your Sony a7/a9, then you should get either the Sony Sonnar T FE 35 mm F2.8 ZA [Amazon | B&H] or the brighter (and more expensive) Sony Distagon T FE 35mm F1.4 ZA [Amazon | B&H].
IF YOU NEED LESS: a cheaper option for a 35mm full-frame lens is the Samyang FE 35mm f/2.8 AF [Amazon | B&H], or the Samyang FE 35mm f/1.4 AF [Amazon | B&H] if you need more bokeh at a cheaper price than the Distagon.
Ultra-Wide Angle Lens: Laowa 12mm F2.8 Zero-D
You can get the Laowa 12mm f/2.8 on [Amazon | B&H].
This is an ultra-wide and very bright lens, which can be useful for shooting nightscapes or where you want to create dramatic views, thanks to the impressive field of view. It’s fully manual and it’s entirely built in aluminum.
There is a version with the Sony FE bayonet [Amazon | B&H], but I got the Canon version for a particular reason. In fact, Laowa also sells the Magic Shift Converter [Amazon | B&H], which basically is an adapter made for Sony FE cameras that makes it possible to mount their 12m and transform it into a 17mm shift lens, meaning that it allows you to move the lens parallel to the image plane, something essential for when shooting architectural images.
If you get the Canon version (needed for making the magic above happen), you can still use it as a regular 12mm F2.8 lens on your Sony with just a cheap adapter [Amazon | B&H], because there’s no need for fancy adapters with a fully manual lens.
- PROS: sharp and with a great build quality. Dramatic views & versatility with the Magic Shift Adapter.
- CONS: fully manual, but it’s not a great problem as at this extreme focal length you should always shoot thinking about the hyperfocal distance.
IF YOU NEED MORE: If you want more versatility and don’t need the shift function, then your choice should be the Sony FE 12-24mm F4 G [Amazon | B&H]. On the other hand, if you want a regular tilt-shift lens, your only choice is to get the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L [Amazon | B&H] with a converter.
IF YOU NEED LESS: if you are looking for a fixed ultra-wide angle lens with no particular functions, you can get the Voigtlander Ultra Wide-Heliar 12mm f/5.6 [Amazon | B&H] or the cheaper Rokinon/Samyang FE 14mm f/2.8 [Amazon | B&H].
Tilt-Shift Lens: Samyang T-S 24mm F3.5 ED AS UMC
You can get the Samyang/Rokinon 24mm F3.5 Tilt-Shift on [Amazon | B&H].
A 24mm tilt-shift lens is another essential tool for architectural photography, and Samyang is, at the moment, the only manufacturer which is producing one for the FE system. Besides architecture, it can definitely come in handy for landscapes as well.
- PROS: good price, only native tilt-shift for Sony FE.
- CONS: it doesn’t handle well flare, could be sharper.
IF YOU NEED LESS: at the moment there are no other solutions.
Tripods are essential tools for travel photography, as they allow you to shoot at low ISO and at a small aperture, letting you capture every possible detail. Additionally, they make long exposures possible, which is something that I love doing.
Let’s now see which ones I have.
P.S. I have been using the brand Sirui for a few years, and I became their Ambassador in October 2018!
Main Tripod: Sirui N-2204SK
You can get the Sirui N-2204SK on [Amazon | B&H].
This is the tripod I use for the vast majority of my shots, as it has an optimal height range for my needs, from 6.7″ to 64″ (17cm to 163cm).
The legs are made out of a 10-layer carbon fiber, while the base is in magnesium alloy.
- PROS: optimal height range, sturdy, build quality, portable when folded, 6-years warranty.
- CONS: I can’t really find any.
IF YOU NEED LESS: for those with a tighter budget, I have a couple of choices: the Sirui A-1005 [Amazon | B&H] it’s a bit smaller than the one I have, and it’s made out of aluminum. Otherwise, you can get the Sirui A-1205 [Amazon | B&H], which is the carbon fiber version of the A-1005.
Secondary Tripod: Sirui T-025SK
You can get the Sirui T-025SK on [Amazon | B&H].
It’s an extremely compact & lightweight tripod (1 kg including the head!) built out of carbon fiber & magnesium alloy, which makes it an awesome choice for when you need to travel light. I simply always have it in my bag!
It’s of course much smaller than my main tripod, as well as less sturdy, but its portability make it a great travel buddy. You can find my full review of its previous version here.
- PROS: super-portable, lightweight, build quality, 6-years warranty.
- CONS: the central column is not collapsible, but can be easily removed.
IF YOU NEED MORE: this is in, in my opinion, the best portable tripod.
IF YOU NEED LESS: you can save some money by getting the aluminum version, which actually happens to be my first travel tripod, the Sirui T-005X [Amazon | B&H] or its updated version with a magnesium base, the Sirui T-005SK [B&H].
Vlogging Mini-Tripod: Joby GorillaPod Hybrid
You can get the Joby GorillaPod Hybrid on [Amazon | B&H].
For quick vlogging situations where I need to film myself with the Sony RX100IV, this is my go-to tripod. It can come in handy because it’s small and you can position it almost everywhere.
- PROS: very small, versatile.
- CONS: not very sturdy, doesn’t handle big weights.
Clamp Support: Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp + Manfrotto 244 Magic Arm
You can get the Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp on [Amazon | B&H], and the Manfrotto 244 Magic Arm on [Amazon | B&H].
There are some cases where you need to put your camera in pretty crazy places. For those times, the Super Clamp is what you really need. It’s incredibly sturdy and can come in handy especially in a studio, or when shooting from railings. The Magic Arm makes it possible to move the camera around, otherwise it’d be fixed on the clamp giving you very limited compositions.
- PROS: versatility, build quality, resistance.
- CONS: very heavy.
Heads are sometimes forgotten, but they have a key role as they keep your camera attached to the tripod! There are different kinds of heads, depending on their usage; here are the ones I use.
Ball Head: Sirui K-20X
You can get the Sirui K-20X on [Amazon | B&H].
It’s a medium-size ball head, and I use it on my main tripod. It’s very sturdy (it can hold up to 25 kg!) and it offers a good degree of control thanks to its progressive friction.
- PROS: build quality, safe-lock mechanism, spirit level.
- CONS: not ideal for super-precision work.
IF YOU NEED MORE: if you need to mount really (really) heavy gear on your tripod, then I would recommend you get either the Sirui K-30X [Amazon | B&H] which has a maximum payload of 30 kg, or the Sirui K-40X [Amazon | B&H] which can hold up to 35 kg.
3-Way Head: Manfrotto 410
You can get the Manfrotto 410 on [Amazon | B&H].
This is the head I mostly use for architectural photography, where precision is fundamental. A 3-way head allows you to make very fine adjustments to your composition.
- PROS: fine adjustments, build quality.
- CONS: very heavy.
IF YOU NEED LESS: Sirui has recently launched a 4-way head, which is smaller and much lighter than the Manfrotto 410. It’s the Sirui FD-01 [B&H].
I am a photographer, but I’ve recently started filming videos for my YouTube channel; I wanted to get nice & smooth results, so I definitely needed to get a gimbal.
One-Hand Gimbal: Zyhun Crane Plus
- PROS: build quality, included hard case.
- CONS: no mechanism for controlling focus.
IF YOU NEED MORE: if you need to use heavier gear, or if you want to have control on the focus of your camera, my recommendations are the Zyhun Crane 2 [Amazon | B&H] or the DJI Ronin S [DJI Shop | Amazon | B&H].
IF YOU NEED A SMALLER ONE: Zyhun has recently announced the WEEBILL LAB [B&H], which is a smaller gimbal than the Crane. It has a new handle system, and interesting functionalities.
I’ve been shooting Aerial Photography since 2015, and I absolutely love this genre as it enables you to get incredible views that you could simply dream of a few years ago.
My brand of choice has always been DJI, market leader and a constant innovator.
Drone: DJI Mavic 2 Pro
You can get the DJI Mavic 2 Pro on [DJI Shop | Amazon | B&H].
With this drone, DJI has finally brought a 1″ sensor to the Mavic lineup, which is great news, especially for photographers. Besides the new sensor, a lot has changed from the first model as now there is a complete obstacle avoidance system, variable aperture, 10-bit Dlog-M color profile, and more.
- PROS: 1″ sensor, variable aperture, smart capabilities.
- CONS: none.
IF YOU NEED MORE: in case you need to film 4K at 60fps, then you should get the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 [DJI Shop | Amazon | B&H], or if you really want to go to the next level in terms of aerial photography/cinematography, then the choice would certainly be the DJI Inspire 2 [DJI Shop | Amazon | B&H].
IF YOU NEED LESS: if you don’t need the 1″ sensor, and you actually want more versatility, then you should get the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom [DJI Shop | Amazon | B&H], as it comes with a built-in zoom lens. If you want to go cheaper and get an even smaller drone, then the DJI Mavic Air [DJI Shop | Amazon | B&H], is the right choice for you. For even tighter budgets, where of course you can’t expect stellar quality, the choice would be the DJI Spark [DJI Shop | Amazon | B&H].
BAGS & BACKPACKS
How to protect and carry all this gear when traveling?
Here are my choices!
Photography Trolley: Think Tank Airport International V3.0
You can get the Think Tank Airport International V3.0 on [Think Tank Shop | Amazon | B&H].
I’ve been using this trolley for over 2 years, and I absolutely love it. It removes all the weight from the shoulders and allows you to just roll it around. It’s obviously not suited for the outdoors, but as I mostly travel to big cities it’s the best choice. You can find my review of it here.
- PROS: build quality, several configurations possible, durability, carry-on size.
- CONS: the bag itself is pretty heavy, which can cause problems at airports.
IF YOU NEED MORE: if you don’t need to travel but have the need to move around quite some gear, my recommendation is the Think Tank Logistics Manager 30 [Think Tank Shop | Amazon | B&H] or the Logistics Manager 40 [Think Tank Shop | Amazon | B&H].
IF YOU NEED LESS: if you’re looking for a bit cheaper, smaller, and lighter trolley (which can be a key point for certain airlines), then Think Tank Airport Advantage [Think Tank Shop | Amazon | B&H] is the right choice for you.
Big Photography Backpack: MindShift Gear BackLight 36L
You can get the MindShift Gear BackLight 36L on [Think Tank Shop | Amazon | B&H].
“MindShift Gear” basically is the outdoor products division of “Think Tank”, so they share the same design characteristics, build quality, etc.
This backpack is a 36L backpack where you can fit quite some gear, as well as personal space (11L of daypack capacity), making it the perfect companion for hikes, adventures, etc.
- PROS: great build quality, tons of dividers/pockets, fits laptop & tablet.
- CONS: not carry-on size.
IF YOU NEED MORE: it’s already a high-end, pretty big backpack, so I don’t have anything more to recommend.
IF YOU NEED LESS: in case you don’t need to carry too much gear, and don’t need tons of daypack space, MindShift Gear made two smaller sizes of the same backpack! They are the BackLight 26L [Think Tank Shop | Amazon | B&H] and the BackLight 18L [Think Tank Shop | Amazon | B&H].
Small Photography Backpack: Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L AW
You can get the Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L AW on [Amazon | B&H].
This is a small photography backpack, mostly suited for walking around a city and take some shots. It doesn’t have a lot of space, but it’s perfectly fine if you shoot with a mirrorless with one or two lenses max.
- PROS: small, usable as a regular backpack as the gear compartment can be removed.
- CONS: doesn’t fit much gear, thin belt strap.
IF YOU NEED MORE: if you need to carry a lot of gear and are willing to have just a bit of personal space, I recommend the Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW [Amazon | B&H]. While if you want a more modern, cool looking backpack, there is the Lowepro FreeLine BP 350 AW [Amazon | B&H].
IF YOU NEED LESS: if you don’t need to carry much gear and prefer a shoulder bag solution, then I recommend the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2.0 [Think Tank Shop | Amazon | B&H].
There are some things that when put inside a backpack tend to be lost, such as cables, adapters, batteries, etc. That’s why I like using smaller pouches to keep them all in the same place.
Medium-Size Pouch: Think Tank Cable Management 30 V2.0
You can get the Think Tank Cable Management 30 V2.0 on [Think Tank Shop | Amazon | B&H].
This is a dividable zippered pouch which I use to carry all my cables and chargers, but it can also fit 2 pro-size flashes.
Small Pouch: Think Tank Cable Management 10 V2.0
You can get the Think Tank Cable Management 10 V2.0 on [Think Tank Shop | Amazon | B&H].
This is the smaller version of the previous pouch, and I personally use it to store my intervalometer and cable release.
Battery Pouch: Think Tank DSLR Battery Holder 4
You can get the Think Tank DSLR Battery Holder 4 on [Think Tank Shop | Amazon | B&H].
This is a convenient little pouch where to store batteries in, which is much better than having them rolling all around your bag.
SD Pouch: Think Tank SD Pixel Pocket Rocket
You can get the Think Tank SD Pixel Pocket Rocket on [Think Tank Shop | Amazon | B&H].
Just as for the batteries, you definitely want to keep your SD cards in a safe place.
In case you want something more rugged, I highly suggest you the Pelican 0915 Memory Card Case [Amazon | B&H].
Filters are an essential tool for my photography; let’s see which ones I use!
Filter Holder: NiSi V5 Pro 100mm Kit
You can get the NiSi V5 Pro 100mm Kit on [Amazon | B&H].
This kit includes a 100mm holder, a circular polarizer, a carrying case, and 3 adaptor rings which allow you to mount the holder on most of the lenses.
- PROS: great build quality, included carrying case.
- CONS: none, except being expensive.
IF YOU NEED MORE: they are already top quality filters, so I’ve nothing more to recommend.
IF YOU NEED LESS: a 100mm kit might not be for everyone, as these filters can get quite expensive and are a bit bulky to carry around. If you’re starting out with filters and have a limited budget, I recommend you get a couple of the Haida Slim PRO II [Amazon | B&H], which have a good value for money. Avoid cheap filters as they will give you pretty unusable results.
ND Filters: NiSi ND1000, ND64, and ND8
I have three different ND filters based on the amount of light I need to remove from the scene. These are very high-quality filters, very precise and accurate.
- NiSi ND1000 100mm [Amazon | B&H]: it removes 10 stops of light, and I mostly use it during the day.
- NiSi ND64 100mm [Amazon | B&H]: it removes 6 stops of light, making it a good choice around sunset time.
- NiSi ND8 100mm [Amazon | B&H]: it removes 3 stops of light, useful when the light in the scene is already dimmed.
Circular Polarizer: Hoya HD
You can get the Hoya HD Polarizer on [Amazon | B&H].
When I’m walking around a city during the day, I keep this polarizer mounted on the lens I’m using (usually the 24-105mm) as it’s much smaller than the NiSi solution I’ve shown you above.
STORAGE & BACKUP
We live in a digital world, which makes it absolutely crucial to wisely choose where to store our beautiful pictures. Here’s what I use.
Camera SD Cards: SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC
You can get the SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC on [Amazon | B&H].
I’ve been using SanDisk SD cards since the beginning and I’ve always found them reliable. These are very fast cards, perfect also for shooting at 4K. I use a 256 Gb card for my main camera and 128 Gb cards for my 2nd and 3rd camera.
- PROS: fast, reliable, good price.
- CONS: not resistant to the elements.
IF YOU NEED MORE: If you want the best in terms of speed and toughness, then your choice would be the Sony Tough [Amazon | B&H]. It’s been announced in late 2018 and is the world’s toughest & fastest SD card with its 300 MB/s write and 299 MB/s read speed. Plus it’s waterproof, dustproof, shock resistant, and much more.
Drone Micro-SD Card: SanDisk Extreme Pro Micro SD XC
On-The-Go Storage: LaCie Rugged 4TB
You can get the LaCie Rugged 4TB on [Amazon | B&H].
I have two units of this external hard drive, and I use them to backup my work while I’m traveling (these were my backup & working units for my 104-day trip around Asia in 2018). They’re pretty fast, thanks to the USB 3.0, so they can be also used as active units for work. Besides the nice design, a big plus is that they’re water/drop/shock resistant.
- PROS: design, toughness.
- CONS: slower than an SSD, a bit expensive.
IF YOU NEED MORE: if you want more speed and avoid any kind of mechanical damage, then you should go with a portable SSD; my recommendation is the Samsung T5 [Amazon | B&H]. If you want a rugged product, then go with the Lacie Rugged 1TB SSD [Amazon | B&H] or the SanDisk 1TB Extreme [Amazon | B&H].
IF YOU NEED LESS: a cheaper choice for on-the-go storage is the Western Digital My Passport [Amazon | B&H].
Backup Without Computer: Western Digital My Passport Wireless Pro 3TB
You can get the My Passport Wireless Pro 3TB on [Amazon | B&H].
There are cases in which you don’t have a laptop with you (hiking, adventures in the wild, etc), but you still need to backup that super-important shot. Western Digital got your back with this device, which automatically backup your SD card as soon as you insert it.
- PROS: no need of a laptop to backup!
- CONS: needs to be set-up the 1st time, and it’s a regular hard drive, so it must be handled with care.
IF YOU NEED MORE: Western Digital has recently released an SSD version of this product, the My Passport Wireless SSD [Amazon | B&H] which I highly recommend especially if you’re not going to treat it with extreme care (SSD don’t suffer shocks as hard drives do).
IF YOU NEED LESS: There’s not really any other option for automatic backup, so the only choice would be using a laptop & an external hard drive (see above my recommendations).
Home NAS: Western Digital My Cloud EX2 Ultra
You can get the My Cloud EX2 Ultra on [Amazon | B&H].
This is my home NAS (Network-attached storage), which allows me to have a ton of Terabytes of storage at home, to which I can easily access from anywhere in the world via web. It’s a secure way to backup your file has there inside there are 2 hard drives, where one is the exact copy of the other.
Some might prefer cloud backups (I do have Dropbox Professional), but I like to have both to increase redundancy in my backup process, plus a home NAS is cheaper in the long term as there are no recurring payments.
- PROS: lots of space, HDD can be changed if you run out of space, accessible from everywhere.
- CONS: it needs to be always on (no worries, it has an automatic standby mode).
You should regularly clean your gear, especially when you shoot in dusty or salty environments. I always carry with me a few tools which can be life-saving while on location.
Air Blower Cleaner: Giottos Super Rocket
You can get the Giottos Super Rocket on [Amazon | B&H].
This air blower helps to remove dust or any kind of particles from your lenses, filters, and sensor. It’s the tool I use when trying to clean something, as it doesn’t imply any physical contact with the gear.
Lens Cleaning Pen: Vortex Optics Lens Cleaning Pen
You can get the Vortex Optics Lens Cleaning Pen on [Amazon | B&H].
When the air blower isn’t enough to remove the dust, then I use this cleaning pen; it’s very convenient as especially the brush part is soft and gentle, which avoids unwanted scratch. DO NOT USE on the sensor.
Lens Wipes: Zeiss Pre-Moistened Lens Wipes
You can get the Zeiss Pre-Moistened Lens Wipes on [Amazon | B&H].
Zeiss is the leading brand in terms of glass quality, and I was so glad when I discovered that they also sell pre-moistened wipes, specifically made for lenses and filters. I always have a bunch in my trolley and backpack, to easily clean my glasses with the perfect tool.
There are a few accessories which can be very useful, if not fundamental. Let’s see which ones I use!
Camera Strap: Peak Design SlideLITE
You can get the Peak Design SlideLITE on [Amazon | B&H].
This must be one of the best camera accessories ever created, as it makes it possible to easily remove the camera strap from the camera, which is extremely useful when shooting from a tripod, as you will not have the camera strap dangling all around and creating unwanted vibrations. At the same time, it makes it possible to use the same (awesome) strap with all of your cameras.
- PROS: quickly remove the camera strap, use the same strap on multiple cameras, great build quality.
- CONS: the unlock mechanism is made out of aluminum, so it might scratch your gear when you put it in your bag.
IF YOU NEED MORE: the version I have is specifically made for mirrorless cameras; if you plan on using it with heavier gear, then you should get the Peak Design Slide [Amazon | B&H], which is the bigger version.
Battery Grip: Sony VG-C2EM
You can get the Sony VGC2EM (for A7II series) on [Amazon | B&H], or the Sony VG-C3EM [Amazon | B&H] for the A7III series
One of the pluses of mirrorless cameras is having a smaller body than DSLRs; still, a battery grip can be very useful, especially for those with big hands and/or that often shoot in portrait mode.
I personally use it as I like to have a great grip on my camera and to increase the average battery life of the Sony a7RII (something which has been greatly improved on the a7RIII).
I have the original battery grip by Sony, which can be quite expensive but definitely is the best in terms of build quality.
- PROS: increases grip, one additional battery, and handling.
- CONS: can be expensive.
IF YOU NEED MORE: if you need even more battery life, such as with timelapses, then you should get the Sony NPAMQZ1K Multi Battery Adapter Kit [Amazon | B&H], which allows you to use 4 batteries at the same time!
Intervalometer: Shoot RM-VPR1
You can get the Shoot RM-VPR1 on [Amazon].
Being a long exposure kind of photographer, an intervalometer is absolutely essential as it allows you to set a specific shutter speed without any kind of limit (usually you can’t set a timer above 30″), plus it’s super convenient also for time-lapse photography. Sony’s original remote has limited functionalities and a pretty crazy price (70€), that’s why I got the 3rd party one and I’m really happy with it. I’m using it since over a year with no problems at all.
COMPUTERS & SOFTWARE
Back in the days, you needed a darkroom to develop your films. Things are much easier now, but you still need to develop your RAW photographs digitally. Here are the tools I use.
Laptop: Dell XPS 15 9560
You can get the Dell XPS 15 9560 on [Amazon | B&H].
Besides a powerful desktop computer (which I built myself), I also need a powerful laptop to be able to efficiently work on my pictures and videos from anywhere in the world.
Dell has always been one of the best choices for professionals, and in the recent years, it has developed the XPS series, specifically made for content creators: the XPS 13 (13.3″) and the XPS 15 (15.6″).
- PROS: very powerful, infinity-edge display, light, customizable components.
- CONS: none, besides the price.
IF YOU NEED MORE: Dell has recently released an updated version with the newest CPUs from Intel, the XPS 15 9570 [Amazon | B&H].
IF YOU NEED LESS: laptops can get quite expensive. If you don’t need killer performances, but still want to be able to work on your laptop, then I recommend the Dell Precision 7520 [Amazon | B&H] or the Apple MacBook [Amazon | B&H] (but remember that the non-pro MacBook has a little 12″ screen).
Editing Software: Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan
You can get the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan (1 year) on [Amazon | B&H].
As I previously mentioned, editing is an essential part of the creative workflow. With the plan above, you get Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic CC, Photoshop CC, and 20GB of cloud storage.
- PROS: complete suite for photographers.
- CONS: recurring subscription.
IF YOU NEED LESS: if you don’t want to have a subscription-based software, you can get Capture One Pro [Amazon | B&H] as a one-time payment software, which is a complete product for editing your images.
32″ Monitor: Asus PB328Q
You can get the Asus PB328Q on [Amazon | B&H].
When traveling I really don’t have a choice, but when working from home I want to edit on a big screen. The one I have is a 32″ 2560×1440 LED panel, with really good performances.
- PROS: minimal bezels, beautiful display, 100% sRGB color space.
- CONS: doesn’t display the full Adobe RGB 1998 color gamut, some might prefer a 4K monitor.
IF YOU NEED MORE: if you want to display also the full Adobe RGB spectrum, then I recommend the Dell UP3216Q [Amazon | B&H], or if you want to move to a professional level, the Eizo CG277 [Amazon | B&H].
Monitor Calibration: Datacolor Spyder5ELITE
You can get the Datacolor Spyder5ELITE on [Amazon | B&H].
Getting a good monitor is just half of the story; in fact, if you want to see on your screen a real representation (in terms of color, brightness, etc) of the reality, something essential for printing and fine editing, then you must calibrate it.
There are a few version of the Spyder5, but the ELITE is the one I recommend as it’ll give you three different calibrations to use based on the brightness conditions of your room so that you can have a perfectly calibrated monitor in every situation.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading! I hope you’ve found something useful.
So, I’m sure you might ask yourself: “Do I need all this gear to be a photographer?”
No, you don’t.
What I’ve shared here is just what I personally think is the right gear for what I do, which I hope can be a useful reference for others that like shooting travel pictures.
After all, what you really need to be a photographer is just a camera, a lens, and lots of hours spent learning this craft. With time, you will slowly understand what else you might need and why.
Lastly, I would like to close this super-long article with something I always say to my students:
You can have the best gear in the world, but it’s worth nothing without your talent, creativity, and experience.