When we committed to our journey around the world, we also committed to doing our best to capture the experience. That meant taking a lot of pictures – some of which you can check out on our photography page. So when it came time to choose our camera gear for around the world travel, we put a lot of thought into it and wrestled with the right balance of having too much or too little. Here’s what camera gear we packed away for our year of traveling the globe and why we chose it since our photos are our main souvenirs.Several factors went into selecting our camera gear: we’re running a website, we’re both photography enthusiasts, we’ll make room for bigger gear if it means better pictures, and we already had invested in our photography gear. Not everyone is in the same boat. Perhaps you’re traveling the globe for a few weeks rather than a whole year. You might only be intending to post photos to Facebook rather than make large prints to hang at home. Since everyone has different needs and desires for capturing their around the world travel, we’ll try and share a few ideas on alternate gear. Also, feel free to add your thoughts on camera gear in the comments below and hopefully it will help others find the right gear for exploring this amazing planet we call home.
We’ll start with the essentials – cameras! After much thought, we elected to carry two main cameras – a Canon 5D Mark III & Sony DSC-RX100IV. The general thought being that we have one professional-quality DSLR camera and a smaller, pocketable camera for taking photos more discretely. We also carried a GoPro Hero Black Edition to capture adventures in wet environments until it was stolen in the Phi Phi Islands. Lastly, nearly all of our social media imagery is shot with an iPhone 6S which actually boasts a pretty nice camera itself.
Why these cameras? Let’s start with the main ones. We already owned the Canon 5D Mark III and a small collection of Canon lenses, so this was an easy decision for us. That aside, the 5D takes great professional-quality pictures and video. Once you invest in professional quality, you also get features like weather sealing, which means our camera can take some beatings and still work like a champ. The downside to the 5D or any large DSLR is that they’re big and heavy for around the world travel, not to mention a pricey investment. If you’re making a new investment and don’t have the need or budget for professional quality, we’d suggest shying away from the bulk of a DSLR. Otherwise, both Canon and Nikon make some excellent DSLRs for a range of prices. Some of our favorites are the Canon T6i, 6D, and 7D and the Nikon D7100 and D810.If you desire high quality but without the bulk of a DSLR, you may want to consider some of the amazing mirrorless cameras coming out. Cameras like these take high-resolution images, have a high frame rate (the number of shots you can take per second), take good video, have amazing sensor quality, and usually boast weather sealing. Not to mention they can work with a wide range of interchangeable lenses (one of the great selling points of a DSLR). We debated long and hard about getting a Fuji XT-1 or Sony A7 II for this trip, but in the end fiscal responsibility won out and we kept with what we already had. We bet DSLR’s will slowly fade into the sunset with the advances in mirrorless cameras, but likely not for several more years. So why two cameras? Firstly, we’re both photographers and couldn’t really imagine one of us not having a camera. Secondly, we wanted a small back-up camera. Photos are really important to us and we didn’t want to be in a situation where one camera would be out-of-commission and we didn’t have another one to go to. We also wanted a camera that didn’t really stick out the way a DSLR says “steal me for better resale value.” If we’re in a crowded market or shooting in a place that we may not want to advertise the camera gear, that’s when our smaller camera comes out.
What led us to the Sony DSC-RX100IV was its ability to take good pictures in small, compact form. It boasts 20.1 MP resolution which is on-par with the Canon 5D Mark III, albeit on a smaller sensor, and it has full manual control. It also has a really nice electronic viewfinder – that is if you don’t want to simply use the back LCD screen. We also liked how it had the equivalent focal length of 24-70mm which is a good general range for capturing most sights we’ll encounter. It also has a fun selfie feature that allows you to flip the LCD screen around to compose the perfect selfie. We’ve admittedly had a bit of fun with that! While you can fit it into a pocket, it is a bit of a tight squeeze and better suited for larger pants or jacket pockets.We’d consider the Sony DSC-RX100IV a higher-end point-and-shoot camera that is a great all-in-one option if you don’t want to lug a big DSLR or invest in a fancy mirrorless system. When we were shopping around for the Sony, we also eyed the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100K, Fuji X-T10, and Canon G16, which are also all great cameras. What sold us on the Sony was that it also shot good video at 4K resolution. But there are also some great options for those looking for something a bit less expensive. The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS & Nikon COOLPIX S9900 are great compact cameras with an amazing amount of versatility. If you’re willing to forgo having manual control to really get the images you want, the waterproof Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5 also seems like an ideal around the world travel camera for the casual photographer. Yes, there are even cheaper cameras available, but once you start looking at those, you may want to consider just sticking with a smart phone. That brings us to the GoPro Hero. As with the Canon 5D Mark III, we already owned the GoPro, so we plopped it in a waterproof housing and brought it along. You really can’t go wrong with a GoPro for some great video and decent pictures in a compact package, but it’s classic wide angle shots aren’t the best for every situation. In fact, we’d personally advise against bringing a GoPro as your only camera for around the world travel. There will be plenty of times you’ll want to zoom in on some details or get a nice portrait without having your face look distorted and for us, that makes the GoPro a “nice to have” camera. It particularly shines for casual underwater photography – just invest in the red filter if you’re diving so the photos don’t have the classic monotone blue look! And we’d be remiss to not acknowledge the iPhone6S. Naturally we don’t have the phone solely for its picture-taking capabilities; it really is our logistical tool for planning and navigating on-the-go, but the pictures are actually quite decent. So much so that nearly all of our social media is done only with the phone. Now even though the 6S has a 12 MP camera doesn’t mean its comparable to a similar resolution DSLR, mirrorless, or compact camera. This is where sensor size, focal length, and much more needs to be considered. However, if your plan is to predominately share images of your travel through social media and maybe the occasional small print, you really can’t compete with the compactness and versatility of the iPhone6S. Its only downfall is its sensitivity to immersion in water (but there are cases for that) and it does struggle with really dynamic lighting (capturing bright and dark in one shot). We can’t speak to some of the other cell phone cameras out there, but many of the latest smart phones seem to have impressive optics built-in.
Of course, once you settle on the camera, there’s all the other gear that goes with it. Lenses, tripods, extra batteries, filters, and the list goes on. What camera gear you might pack for an around the world journey really depends on how much you want to carry and your photographic experience. We’d consider our collection of camera gear to be fairly extensive – balancing the desire for good photos in a wide range of conditions with trying to minimize the amount of gear that gets shoved into our bags. Here’s a look into what all we carry with us aside from the cameras themselves.Nearly all our camera gear gets packed away into a Pacsafe V12 Sling. It’s a pretty slick bag with an RFID passport carrier, expandable zipper, and locking shoulder strap. Our only complaint so far is its lack of integral rain cover – for that we sometimes carry a 10 liter dry bag that we can quickly toss the camera gear into if we run into anything more than a light drizzle. In the bag, we’re usually carrying the Canon 5D Mark III along with three lenses: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 USM and Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM. We selected these lenses from our existing collection because of the focal ranges they cover and that all of them except for the 50mm have weather sealing. Our 16-35mm lens is prime for most of our landscape shots or when we’re inside cathedrals, temples, or other tight spaces where we want to capture a large field of view. The 24-105mm lens is great for video with its image stabilization and has some “reach” to pull in the more distant shots or catch details up-close. The image stabilization also helps in those times you don’t have a tripod handy and need to shoot at a slower shutter speed. It’s our most versatile lens and on the 5D most of the time. Originally we weren’t going to bring a fixed focal length lens but Bobbi Sheridan of Bobbi Photo, one of our all-time favorite photographers, suggested we reconsider. She convinced us to at least pack one fixed lens. Bobbi is wise. The 50mm takes some amazing pictures with really soft depth of field and is also good for very low light situations and taking portraits. Perhaps the biggest benefit of a fixed or ‘prime’ lens is their natural sharpness. It’s also fairly compact which is nice for less obtrusive street photography. Just to protect our investments, each lens usually has a B+W UV filter on it and we tend to keep the lens hood on to also protect from the occasional bump – it has saved us a few times! There are other benefits to using your lens hood like minimizing flare and increasing contrast, but protection is the primary benefit we see from it.
Also inside our Pacsafe, we’re carrying the following camera gear:
- Tenba Lens Wrap – For protecting whichever lens isn’t attached to the camera.
- Spare Canon 5D batteries – More juice means more photos!
- Extra Sandisk 32GB Memory cards – You’ll always fill up a card in the middle of getting nice pictures, guaranteed.
- B+W 77mm Circular Polarizer – Helps cut glare & deepen blue skies for the 24-105mm lens.
- B+W 82mm Circular Polarizer – Same as above, but for the 16-35mm lens.
- B+W 82mm Variable Neutral Density Filter – For daylight video or long exposure photography.
- B+W 82mm 0.6 Neutral Density Filter – Helps with some long exposure shots.
- 82mm to 77mm Step Down Filter Adapter – So we can use the neutral density filters on the 24-105mm lens if needed.
- Small Rocket Blower – For removing dust/debris from the lens or sensor.
- Microfiber Cleaning Cloth – For drying wet lenses.
- LensPen Kit – For lens cleaning on the go.
- Rain sleeve – So rain doesn’t stop us from shooting.
- Triggertrap Dongle Cable for Remote Release – Pairs with a free iPhone app to act as a fancy intervalometer.
- EasyAcc 6400mAh USB charger – Helps fight the draining iPhone battery.
- iPhone Lighting USB cable – Pretty self-explanatory :).
For those who are not photography enthusiasts, you may wonder some about the filters or the intervalometer. In an effort to avoid turning this into a photography tutorial – just ask any questions you may have in the comments or drop us a note and we’ll be happy to answer them!While not always in our bag, we also have the following camera gear with us on our around the world journey:
- Giottos VGR8255 Carbon Fiber Tripod – You just can’t do low-light shots well without one.
- Sennheiser MKE 400 Shotgun Microphone – Helps record better audio than the camera’s microphone can provide.
- Zoom H1 Microphone Recorder with clip-on lavalier microphone – For recording dialog (hopefully we’ll reveal why soon!)
- Peak Design Camera Clip – Honestly this hasn’t gotten much use, but it allows you to clip your camera on a backpack strap. Better for long backpacking trips.
- Sandisk 2TB External Hard Drives – We have one as primary and another as back-up, kept in two different bags.
- Apple Macbook Pro 13” – Loaded with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC for photo cataloging and editing.
Despite this rather extensive collection, we manage to carry most of the camera gear in the Pacsafe Sling. Our larger Osprey Farpoint 40 liter bags or the smaller Osprey Daylite bag absorbs the rest. We feel this listing of camera gear is just what we need to capture the best photos we can in many different situations without completely overloading our luggage.Now no two photographers are created alike, so if you’re planning an around the world journey or similar extensive travel, your listing of camera gear will need to depend on what you already have, your budget, and how light you want to pack. We have met one couple on the road for 14 months using only an underwater point-and-shoot, have seen many tourists using only a GoPro, and witnessed some enthusiasts with two DSLRs and larger-than-life camera bags. The good news is there are many cameras and lots of supporting gear available that will help you take extraordinary pictures at all kinds of budgets and luggage sizes. Feel free to share your favorite travel camera gear below!