Beginner travel photographers are always interested in what camera equipment they should invest in. Before I delve into the essential areas that beginners should start with, there are a few things that we should discuss first.
#1. The most expensive cameras don’t automatically make your photos better. A camera is just a tool and your main focus should be on the technical aspects behind a strong image. Things such as composition, lighting, and focus.
#2. Start with the basics and go from there. The last thing any travel photographer wants is to haul a heavy kit bag around all day.
#3. Accidents and thefts do happen when you travel with a camera so make sure you take out insurance.
Obviously, this list will depend on your budget, but here’s the basic list of gear that I think are essentials in any travel photographer’s bag.
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There are so many different choices out there to suit every budget, the only way to really know which is right for you is to see what’s out there. Pro travel photographers will be using the high-end DSLR or mirrorless cameras from the likes of Sony, Nikon or Canon in the price range of £1,500 to £5,000. There are also more options than ever before for camera systems under £1,000. One of the most effective ways to make a decision before you take the plunge is to rent the camera for a day or two and take some photos to see if it feels right.
When you’ve made your mind up, shop around and don’t forget that you could also buy serviced second-hand cameras which will be in perfect working condition and will come with a warranty but also more importantly with a cheaper price tag
My camera of choice is the Nikon Z7. It comes with a fairly hefty price tag, but it is an exceptional camera that won’t let you down and stands up very well at high ISO settings. I usually carry an extra body with me in the event that anything happens to my main camera. I may have my other body fitted with my telephoto or wide-angle lens if I think I will be using it a lot that day to save me having to change lenses and thus avoiding getting dust on my sensor.
Cameras are often available as a package with a lens or just the body, meaning you will have to purchase the lens separately. Again, whichever option you decide will usually come down to your personal budget. A good starting point would be what we call a “workhorse” lens. This is the focal length that the majority of your images will be taken at that also offers a good focal range. Something like a line of a 24-70mm lens is a good place to start. A 24-70mm is a very versatile lens that allows you to capture everything from landscapes to portraits.
If your budget can stretch, you could look to add a telephoto lens to compliment your workhorse lens. The most common option would probably be a 70-200mm lens which means you will be covered for pretty much any event (other than wildlife shots). Over time you can add additional lenses such as a macro or prime lenses if you need to.
My basic list of lenses that I carry on every trip are:
- Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lens
- Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens
- Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 lens
Lots of travel photographers manage without a tripod but the majority will say that a tripod is probably their most valued accessory. Without a tripod, you will not be able to take photos that require slow shutter speeds. A tripod is so much more useful than just when photographing in low light. For examaple using a tripod often means you can spend a bit more time thinking and composing the image rather than just snapping away freely. As with any camera accessory, there are lots of tripods options to suit all needs and budgets.
It’s not uncommon to see photographers with the latest expensive camera equipment but very cheap tripods. Aside from the fact that cheap tripods may actually have an adverse effect on your photos through unwanted vibrations, do you really trust a cheap tripod to support your expensive camera? A good quality tripod will last you a long time and will be worth the initial investment in the long run.
A good camera bag is one of the most important things a beginner travel photographer needs. There is no shortage of camera bags options that vary in size and cost. Depending on the type of stuff you will be shooting your choice of bags will differ. For example, if I’m hiking or out in the wilderness, I carry my f-stop gear Tilopa 50L bag as it is a comfortable bag for long walks and has plenty of room for equipment as well as space for things like a water reservoir or to strap my tripod onto.
whilst this bag may be too big for a city where I want to photograph in busy places. In these situations, I would opt for my f-stop gear Anja or Dakota.
Once you have your camera, lens, and tripod the only other things you require are a supply of camera batteries, memory cards, and maybe a lens cleaning kit. All cameras come with a chargeable battery but it’s always a good idea to have a spare. The last thing you would want is to be shooting away when the battery dies and stops you in your tracks.
A decent quality size memory card is essential. The cost will vary depending on the brand and the transfer rate of the card. With some modern-day cameras, the image file contains so much data that will need a certain speed rating in order to download the files from the camera to the card.
The last of what I consider to be essential is some sort of lens cleaning kit. I would also recommend that you attach a UV filter to the front of your lenses as this will help ensure that the lens front element doesn’t get scratched. It’s far cheaper to replace a UV filter than to repair a scratched lens glass.
The above list covers the basics of what any beginner travel photographer will need but of course, there are other things that you can add over time that will become incredibly useful in some situations.
Polarizing filter – helps get rid of unwanted reflections whilst boosting blues and greens.
Neutral Density filters (ND) – help to limit the amount of light entering the camera, which allows for effects such as smooth-looking water to be created.
Graduated Filters – similar to ND filters, graduated filters are useful in situations where you have a disparity in the brightness between the background and foreground and want to even that out.
Hard drive – if you have limited memory card space, a hard drive is useful to transfer your photos onto and free up memory card space. But a hard drive is also useful as a backup in case something happens to your memory cards.
Buying your first camera can be a daunting prospect. The key is to do your research and only buy the absolute essentials, it’s best to grow into your kit. Over time you can always add more and more specialized equipment.
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This article on camera equipment for travel photographers and images are subject to copyright. Words and photos by Jordan Banks (That Wild Idea). Copying or reposting photos or articles elsewhere is strictly forbidden. Please contact us if you would like to use this feature on your website.