Once you have found the answer to what kind of photos do I want to bring back from such a trip, choosing the right cameras might become a rather long and painful process… We spent hours and hours looking for the right camera, and more often than not got completely contradictory information from various sources… Not to mention that qualified advice and counsel are the exception rather than the norm, even in specialized shops.
We are now providing a short description of the equipment we both use – We started with Travel Photography about 12 years ago on our first trip to Africa / Southern Senegal. Back then we were the proud owners of a compact 2 Megapixel (!) digital camera and spent no less than 150 € for a 128 MB Compact Flash Card. Every evening we both stared at the small display to erase photos in order to make room for more photos. Nowadays this seems unthinkable…
Twelve years and six generations of digital camera later, we now do not leave home without 10 kg of electronics in our carry-ons hoping that the staff at the check-in counter is lenient…
Cameras we now use:
- Canon EOS 6D (Full-Frame) with two different lenses & one flash:
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM
Canon Speedlite 430EX II
- Canon EOS 70D (APS-C) with two different lenses:
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
- GoPro Black Edition
With several accessories to fix it
B+W Circular Polarizer MRC Filter – 67 & 77 mm
Hoya Variable Density Filter (1.5 to 9 Stops) – 77 mm
- Apps on our iPhone
Why those cameras?
- Why two cameras?
We both love photography, so instead of arguing who is using the camera (yes, it happened!), we decided that we would both should have one. Besides, this allows us approaching a similar motif and differently and producing complementary pictures. Moreover, in many areas of the world, travelers with fancy cameras become the center of attention and people flock around you when you take photos. We learned that we get great pictures if one us is chatting with the people, while the other focuses on taking nice pictures. Also in many countries, like China, India, Iran, Oman, people loved to have their picture taken with us. While one is posing, the other has a great opportunity to make amazing shots! Last but not least, we do not travel all the time together. So both of us has an equal chance of taking great pictures.
- Canon EOS 6D (Gilles)
After years using APS-C („Advanced Photo System Classic“) DSLR cameras (for those who use Nikon, the equivalent is the DX-Format), we chose a 36 mm full-frame DSLR camera. Why? Because of the far higher light sensitivity of the sensor!
For a while we fancied buying a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, but its price and our needs were not in line. True, the 5D Mark III allows you to make more adjustments, but this is surely more relevant for studio photography, not for travel photography. Another reason why Gilles decided on an EOS 6D: its body and that of Heidi’s camera, a 70D, is very similar, which helps when we use each others. Finally, two more perks of the EOS 6D: its integrated GPS and the WiFi, which enables to use a Smartphone as remote control.
- Canon 70D (Heidi)
We still wanted to have an APS-C camera for the crop factor. What does that mean? The smaller sensor “cuts” the picture and actually multiplies the focal length of your Tele-lens by 1.6, so for instance our 100-400 mm works as an astonishing 160-640 mm. Moreoever, Heidi wanted to have a camera with an integrated flash, which is often quite useful. No full frame camera on the market has an integrated flash…
- GoPro – We bought our GoPro for three reasons:
- To be used as an underwater camera – instead of carrying a bulky underwater housing for one of our (expensive) cameras – our GoPro does the job, and a very good one.
- To produce filmstrips – a great way to catch the atmosphere of a place is to take one picture every second / 2 seconds / 5 seconds, and to make a film strip out of it… The GoPro is in that sense very easy to use.
- Action Cam – yes, once in a while we do something silly like white water rafting. A GoPro is of great help to catch such experiences. Unfortunately, we did not have one, when our raft turned over five times passing through serious rapids on the Nile in Uganda
- Polarization Filter – These should always be in your camera bag in case you are using a DSLR. Do not underestimate their importance in Travel Photography. Polarization filters help when you struggle with far too much light and lack of contrast (that means all the time between about two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset) – Also, these filters help to correct reflections on water or iron.
- Variable Density Filters – They reduce the light that gets into your camera even during normal day light, making long exposures possible – bring your tripod! This is really helpful when photographing water or “emptying” a crowded area of people.
Now that (some) modern cameras have a WiFi function, you can manage them remotely, for instance when taking pictures with a tripod. Both Canon & GoPro have such Apps, and they are very handy.
This is almost as religious as it can get! Yes, really… Of course you can go to Leica or Hasselblad – Most probably wonderful cameras (we have never used one of those), but we do not have 15.000+ € just for the body! Most “ambitioned amateurs” and professional photographers use Canon or Nikon. There are very, very few exceptions! Why? Other brands surely have cameras with great features, but are not coming anywhere near the quality and the stability offered by those two brands. And trust our experience: being in the middle of the Amazonian Rain Forest and seeing your camera giving up is a very, very frustrating moment! We used a Nikon D80 with an AF-S DX Nikkon 18-200mm lens during our Round The World Trip. That was a good camera, there is no doubt about it.
But in our opinion, Canon has three advantages:
- With one glance, you see your complete camera settings. Successful travel photography often depends how fast you adjust your camera. If you are not familiar with your camera when a leopard is speeding off in front of your car – who do you blame?
- We think that colors with Canon are warmer, with Nikon more “metallic”. True, you can correct this in LightRoom, but why bother when you can get them immediately as you wish them to be.
- Canon went the way of stopping the MegaPixel madness. This only reduces the sharpness of the pictures with low light. 20 Mega Pixels is by far enough!
Securing your cameras (and electronics)
Depending on what you have, this might be by far the most expensive and especially the most “desirable” part of your belongings while on the road. So you will want to secure your electronics, no matter if Camera, Computer, Tablet, Smartphone…
- Water, Dust, Shocks
No matter how cautious you are and how much you try to avoid water (heavy rain), dust (when riding dusty roads) and shocks (very bumpy rides) – This will be an issue. Therefore, you should plan to protect your electronics against those – We personally use:
– Computer: Thule hardcover protection
– Camera: AmazonBasic DSLR Protection Bag
– Lenses & Filters: Canon Lenses bags
– External Hard-drives: WickedChili HDDCase
Having all your electronics on your lap in a backpack protects it against shocks during rough bus rides.
- Loss, Theft, …
Rule number one, electronics should be in a small backpack that you have ALWAYS with you while traveling. Don’t be paranoid, in all theses years we ONCE were the target of a scam and lost nothing of any value…
Considering the value of our camera equipment, we decided to take out a special insurance for photographers. It costs 2,55% of what we paid for the brand new equipment (cameras, computers, lenses, filters…). True, this is a lot. But no matter what happens, we would be reimbursed the total replacement costs (new devices).
How about all those cables
Yes, you need one charger for your computer, one for your camera, one for your Smartphone, cables to this and that, so you end up with a bunch of them. We have all that stuff stored in a small bag from EagleCreek.