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April 28, 2012


I think there are as many different answers to 'how much gear' as there are photographers. But I would expect that the most successful setups are by photographers who have narrowed down how and what they like to shoot.

That said, my favorite (SLR) set is a camera with three lenses: a 28mm, 60mm micro, and an 85mm. If space/weight is a consideration, I would drop the longest lenses first (the 85, then the 60). If weight is a premium, then I would pick a rangefinder with a wide-ish lens (28-45mm).

I've done some travelling (vacations) with a bag of gear, and some with just a body and lens. In retrospect, the most rewarding to me photographically, have been the one camera one lens setup.

I just came back from a 10+ day trip to Europe; photography was of secondary importance. I took a several generations old, smaller Pentax DSLR (DS) and one lens (35mm FA 2.0). I did this because I didn't want to be burdened with a heavy/bulky camera and either a substantial zoom lens or multiple prime lenses. The DS has a 6MP sensor and delivered perfectly adequate results. I selected the one lens in an attempt to get my head back into shooting the way I did with a 35mm film camera and standard 50mm lens; took a little adjustment, but was OK.

Years back I gave up photography for some years after lugging a bag full of film gear around Great Britain. Between the bulk and weight of the bag and the constant need to be aware of it, it became too much. If I had a mirrorless camera, it would have gone along this time; as it was, the relatively small DS worked just fine. If I were traveling on a trip where photography was the main purpose, I would take different equipment. In this case, absorbing the ambiance of the places I was visiting was of primary importance, as was being able to comfortably walk around.

First, there no such a thing as the best camera for any work, including travel. Secondly the choice of camera will depend on the end use of the pictures. If they are going to be printed, naturally one would have to use a better quality camera, say, an SLR and a couple of lenses. On the other hand if the pictures are going to end up in the hand disk and as slide shows, any camera would do. My choice for travels has been a premium digicam with a 1/7 sensor and 28-140 lens. It has given me good service and good quality images. I have traveled fairly widely in India and there has never been an occasion to regret the choice of camera. The prints from the camera have been good enough to compare to those from an SLR. I do not use a camera bag, my pant pocket has been good enough. Having said that I must admit that I am not a photography professional and so the need for quality is limited. I have no pressing desire to change over to an SLR, so far!! ranjitgrover@yahoo.com India.

It's pricey, but I can do just about everything I need with a NEX-7, ZA E 24/1.8 and 50/1.8 OSS along with a set of 49mm closeup filters, a 49mm polarizer, a ND filter and a small tripod.

And as pricey as it is, that full kit costs less than a 5DmIII body, even if buying a high-end CF tripod, a couple extra batteries and a couple large & fast SD cards.

My personal favourite set is the 28, 50, 85 set. But for light carry its hard to beat the RF-style 35+75 set which I get with my NEX-7.

Just recently returned from a trip to Peru and the opportunity to test out my choices on many of the issues you mention above. I decided early on that I didn't want to lug my Nikon D300 and it's assorted lenses on a trip that promised a lot of hiking and climbing in challenging conditions. My choice was the Sony NEX 5n which has the same size sensor with an even higher megapixel count as the D300. I ended up taking five lenses, three E-mounts and a macro and a fast 50mm lens with adapters. I had more lenses than I ended up using, but the kit was still very manageable and the camera did a superb job. A friend on the same trip had a Nikon D7000 that he was happy with as well. Airline weight and baggage limits and the even stricter limits imposed by some foreign domestic realities make small and light not only attractive but in some cases almost a necessity.

I think you're right that it all points toward mirrorless. Last September I had a week's photo-holiday exploring Arran, and took all my gear with me for a combination of shooting both by the roadside and on hikes away from the car.

Shots taken with LF gear: 0
Shots taken with MF gear: 0
Shots taken with dSLR: 2
Shots taken with m4/3rds: hundreds.

Like you my primary/daily choice of lens is a prime or two, but for travel and landscape the kit zoom is actually sharper below about f/8.

Lumix GH2 here, although if I had more money and didn't consider S*ny a 4-letter word, I'd lust for the NEX-7.

Mind you, things like the Nikon D3200 (24MPel?) sound competitive.

It's got to be my Rolleiflex 2.8f, the highest quality and most versatile picture-making machine I've come across. A bag of Tri-X for general shooting and some Pan F for "bokeh pics" and I'm all set.

I can highly recommend the new Olympus OMD micro 4/3 camera. Team it with a selection of Panasonic and Olympus primes and you are lacking nothing for your travel photography. Fast and accurate autofocus, good image quality, weather sealed body and an ever increasing range of quality lenses make this my choice. The new 5 axis image stabilisation is revolutionary and works with any lens you put on the body. Handheld video looks as if it was shot using a steadycam, very impressive!
I have traveled throughout the Asia/Pacific region in the past 3 years using a variety of these micro 4/3 cameras and have been very happy with the results., the new Olympus has raised the bar, the future of micro 4/3 looks very promising.

Plenty of enjoyment/minimum pain: Panasonic G3, 20/1.7 + Oly 12/2. Done.

It's not that I think the particular camera body is the best ever (too small for good ergonomics). But the idea of m4/3 plus a couple of primes has indeed proved itself on a recent trip where photography (urban/street+people) was critical. I am looking forward to the Oly OMD for the IS and (probably?) better ergonomics (and better JPEGS). I wonder if the OMD makes the same annoying clicking sound of the shutter as the G3 (and the GF1 before that). Hope not.

Probably not news to the m4/3 crowd, but I routinely make 17x20" prints from the G3, processed from RAW in Lightroom (whose v.4 is even better) and see no reason to carry heavier.

That said, I am not indifferent to the superb low light images I get from my D700 and the 35/2 (pictured at the top). The trouble is... if I am to carry that combo, I also like to carry the 85/1.4 and that breaks the deal (of light, inconspicuous, quiet). No free lunch. Who knew!

I typically travel to Vũng Tàu with a Nikon D70, a Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f2 lens (52mm equivalent) with a hood and an SB400 flash. And of course a battery charger and a few CF cards. If I'm lazy... a Konica Auto S2, a bunch of Fuji 400 color cassettes and an Osram mini flash. However an Olympus Infinity Stylus Epic (Mju II) is always with me as a backup and for after-hours use.

My normal travel kit is an E-PM1 with the external viewfinder, the 20 mm f/1.7, the 45 mm f/1.8, the kit zoom, and the 9-18 mm zoom. The whole shebang fits into an itty-bitty Tamrac shoulder bag and weights so little that I barely notice it. If I'm willing to carry a bit more, I'll add an E-PL3 and the 40-150 mm zoom and use a slightly larger shoulder bag. The larger kit (2 bodies, 5 lenses) weighs less (and costs much less) than a full-frame SLR with an f/2.8 normal zoom.

Now that Sigma has made two very good primes for the NEX system which are lightweight and sharp, the NEX-7 has a very lightweight 19, 24, 30 and 50 that I can pick and choose from, depending on the scenario. Gear acquisition syndrome has finally been cured for me...at least for a while.

My grab-and-go travel kit: EP1 with the 12-60 4/3 lens via adapter, GF2 with the 14 pancake. If I have room and the inclination, a 50 f1.4 OM via adapter, or an ancient 85 f2 Nikkor via adapter.

If it's by car, then I add the E30 with 70-300 and a 600 f8 mirror, along with the Gigapan Pro robotic panorama head, attached to a Manfrotto 028b. It can be carried all day, but you will feel it in the morning...

For the better part of a decade, I've traveled and photographed with the smallish Olympus E-520 and its kit lens. (Couldn't afford the 12-60 back then)

Starting this year, my carry-everywhere kit is a Pentax K5 with 3 primes (21, 28, 50) and a long zoom (70-210). The small size of the primes means this is still a manageable kit that I can (and do) carry everywhere.


I used an Olympus E-520 and kit lens during a trip to London a few years ago and was quite happy with it. More recently I used a Pentax K5 with the 21, 35 macro, and 55mm during a trip to Ecuador. The K5 saw a lot more use than the EOS 7D I also had with me, but even the K5 could be a bit heavy and bulky at times. That said, for those who want a true DSLR that's small, rugged, and has a useful selection of equally small, rugged lenses, the Pentax K5 is hard to beat.

I am sure that small is going to be the future but I have tried a few of the 'wunderkind' cameras of the last couple of years and all have their limitations. I admit I have not yet tried the NEX series. My problem is that my photographic interests are very broad - I do macro, birds and a bit of street. For the former two I use the Canon system and as an early adopter of the 5D mk III I am a happy bunny. For street I am still using an M3 and an M9. I use Leica for the lenses rather than the bodies and a future micro 4/3 or whatever that will allow me to get the best out of my nocti and summilux lenses will kill off my use of Leica bodies PDQ. I certainly would not be in the market for an M10. I am going to Antarctica at Christmas and can't see me taking anything other than a Canon pack. Birds in flight from the boat, landscapes, penguins and hopefully cetaceans..... if there is a lightweight small kit that would cover such a range I'd love to hear from others with practical experience. (For the avoidance of doubt you could strike out Canon and write Nikon - I just happen to have chosen Canon many year ago and have too much invested in lenses to consider changing).

Correction: oops, reread my comment, did some mental math and realized the time I spent with the E-520 was 4 years, not 5+. It felt like a long time, I enjoyed it very much. (I will admit to grumbling with the dynamic range, though.)

I've been happy with my Canon Xsi and a Tamron 18-270mm zoom. The vibration-control lens does a good job from decent wide-angle to longish tele (equivalent to about 29mm - 410mm.)

Looking at images at 100% in PS CS5, they are certainly a little soft, but prints at 12x18 and even larger are really excellent.

Having one lens and body to cover a wide range of picture opportunities without too much weight suits my needs.

to Andrew H:
"a future micro 4/3 or whatever that will allow me to get the best out of my nocti and summilux lenses will kill off my use of Leica bodies PDQ"

is the future not here...? I have very successfully used my nocti (and other ~lux lenses) with the Panasonic G3, and as soon as Olympus bodies catch up to that sensor (OMD) I'll switch over for the IS.
I can certainly focus more accurately (at medium/close distances) at f/1 with the cheap G3 than with a rangefinder, however tweaked it may be to match this one lens.

For the future, as I see it, I truly wish for a full frame, mirrorless body with IS and the right sensor design that can do justice to the entire field of view of all that precious German glass.

The trouble with those lenses, it must be said in the context of this discussion, is that they are h e a v y! They may be small and "pocketable" (not the nocti!) but very dense, at least the more recent, non-collapsible, ones.

As with all things photographic, the concise answer, which covers absolutely all situations, is, "It depends." If I want to go extra light, I carry one of my Ukrainian rangefinders. (Kiev 4AM, FED 2, Zorki 6). If I don't mind a little more weight, I carry my Nikon F100, with a 50mm lens. BTW, I always carry the camera slung around my neck. Works for me. I know I look like a tourist, but at my age (70) I don't care any more. However, I realize that other people have equally valid solutions to their photographic puzzles. YMMV. As I said, the concise answer is always, "It depends."

With best regards.


Yikes - I can't imagine carrying around the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 zoom for travel. I would think the f/4 zooms would be a better choice for most people with a 5D that travel just for the photography. For the rest of us, a smaller camera is preferrable.

I travel for work (engineer) and have been slowly building up a micro four thirds kit that is high quality but light, since I rarely get much time to shoot - and I don't get much joy out of shooting with a compact. Currently I carry the Panasonic GH2 with two primes - 20mm f/1.7 and Olympus 45mm f/1.8. When I head out I usually pick one lens or the other. Lately I've been playing with the 25mm f/1.4 Panasonic and it may replace the 20mm for me.

Here is a recent example when I was in Japan: http://mftadventures.blogspot.com/2012/04/my-favorite-shot-from-japan.html


"I have very successfully used my nocti (and other ~lux lenses) with the Panasonic G3, and as soon as Olympus bodies catch up to that sensor (OMD) I'll switch over for the IS."

That's exactly the point I'm making - there is always something more to wait for!

"For the future, as I see it, I truly wish for a full frame, mirrorless body with IS and the right sensor design that can do justice to the entire field of view of all that precious German glass."

And that I will buy :-)

Brad's point about F2.8 versus F4 is a good one and one I am contemplating. However I guess I will only ever get to Antarctica once and maybe I am prepared to carry the extra weight for the trip of a lifetime. Its my big retirement holiday and we will never be able to afford it again.

I'm considering transitioning to a PEN system at some point this year for the express purpose of traveling lighter and having more options for t6he weight.

As a stopgap I might pick up a Lumix LX5 the next time amazon puts one on sale.

Earlier this year I did a safari in Tanzania and, with photography a primary goal for several of us, took along lots of heavy Nikon gear (although not as much as others on the trip). Last year, on a trip to Bhutan, I took the D300, the D200 as backup, and a couple of zooms. I also tucked in the Canon G10 for snapshots. On this trip I was the only keen photographer in our group of four. On both of these trips travel was mostly or entirely by car so lugging a heavy weight wasn't an issue.
At the present time I am cycling in Germany and all the Nikon equipment is at home. Do I miss it? Well, yes, at times I do. However, the ability to whip the G10 out of my handlebar bag and fire off a decent shot without much thought compensates for the higher capabilities of my DSLR equipment. I'm not sure what I would replace the G10 with today, but, for a trip like this, it would be somoething small and lightweight.

Wow, you guys and your disposable income! I'm jealous. My travel kit is the same as my street kit and the kit I use for work: 40D, 28/f2.8, 50/f1.8 (Mk1, not the newer plastic version), shoulder strap, and a tiny Lowepro backpack. The 40D body is heavier than the rebel it replaced, but the whole kit is pretty much bombproof and I don't worry about it banging against parking meters or rocks...heck, it doubles as a defensive weapon.

Of course, if I wanted to travel REALLY light, maybe I should just grab my Holga...

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