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Rock your travel photography: Camera gear guide

Rock your travel photography: Camera gear guide

My family used a 3 megapixel digital camera on our first international trip to Europe in 2006.

While that camera did the job, the quality of digital cameras has improved a phenomenal amount since then. I’ve been steadily collecting camera equipment (the only tech gear I splurge on regularly) and have tried and tested many different types of cameras.

I honestly think that there isn’t one camera that is best for travel. Every camera has its pros and cons, and each is made to be used in different situations.

Lately, I’ve been interested in upgrading my equipment so that I can improve the quality of our travel videos and update some of my travel photography camera gear.

I’ve done loads of research on which camera equipment is the best for travel, and have decided to share all my current knowledge of photography gear so that you might get an idea of which equipment is best for your needs! Here’s what we’ll go over:

  • DSLRs + lenses
  • Mirrorless cameras
  • Smartphones
  • Point-and-shoot cameras
  • Action cams
  • Accessories

General W.K. Wilson Jr. Bridge, Alabama

General W.K. Wilson Jr. Bridge, Alabama – Taken with my DSLR

DSLRs

I’ve been an advocate of DSLRs ever since I bought one in 2012. These cameras can be both heavy and bulky, but they are going to give you the best quality photos.

I have a Canon 600D (T3i) which is now a discontinued model, but if you’re looking for a beginner DSLR then the Canon Rebel T5 or Canon Rebel T6 are both good choices.

For something a bit fancier, the Canon 80D is what a lot of pro bloggers and YouTubers use as their primary camera. This camera has a great quality sensor, and the autofocus is apparently much better than previous DSLR models.

Although I’ve always used a Canon, Nikon DSLRs are pretty great, too. I’ve played with a few, and honestly there’s barely a difference in image quality between Canon and Nikon. Some popular models of Nikon DSLRs are the D3200, D3300D5200 or D5300.

Lenses: A kit lens (a lens that comes with the camera body when you buy it) will usually be fine for beginners. I used my kit lens for at least a year or two before upgrading to a 15-85mm zoom lens, which I now use as a general travel lens as it can take photos wide angle or zoomed in. I also have a 50mm lens that I use mostly for portraits.

Mirrorless camera

My passport – Taken with my Canon M5 mirrorless

MIRRORLESS CAMERAs

Mirrorless cameras are fairly recent addition to the camera market, but they are definitely becoming a popular choice for travel photography. When I wrote this post I was veeeeery tempted to get the brand new Canon M5, and last weekend I actually went out and purchased it so that we can take it to Australia next month!

Mirrorless cameras are smaller, lighter, and sometimes cheaper than DSLRs, and the image quality is pretty damn close. They also keep the option for interchangeable lenses, which is a huge bonus in my opinion. As they are fairly new, many mirrorless cameras will also include the latest tech features such as touch screens and 4K video.

I’ve only had a few opportunities to play with my new mirrorless, but so far I’m loving it – the touch screen focus is absolutely awesome, and Robert says that this camera is way more intuitive to use than my old DSLR. I even did a video test of the camera in low light, and it performed superbly.

Aside from the Canon M5, there are a few other mirrorless cameras that are pretty great for both photography and video:

Statue of Liberty, NYC

Statue of Liberty, NYC – Taken with my Nexus 5X

Smartphones

Modern smartphones have come a long way as far as photo and video quality goes. I’ve posted some smartphone photography tips, which details why I think smartphones are actually pretty great for travel photography.

The best ones on the market right now are the iPhone 7 and the Google Pixel. These two options are pretty pricey, so I currently use the Nexus 5X which takes amazing photos for a smartphone!

POINT AND SHOOT CAMERAS

I may be biased, but I really don’t want to recommend point-and-shoot cameras because I honestly think that every other option is better. If you really must, then apparently the Canon S120 is supposed to be pretty good for photos and video.

Miami, Florida

Miami, Florida – Taken with my GoPro Hero5 Black

ACTION CAMS

Action cams are all the rage right now. I’d been wanting to buy one for literally ever (ok maybe like, a year) so in last year’s Black Friday sales, Rob and I finally went out and bought the new GoPro Hero5 Black.

These tiny cameras are light and easy to carry around, and are best used for capturing videos of yourself doing adventure activities such as skateboarding, skiing, surfing, or ziplining. The photo quality isn’t as great as other cameras due to the lack of photo controls, but I managed to take a few decent pics on our southern US road trip.

In the few months since we bought the GoPro, we’ve had a lot of fun making videos and posting them on our YouTube channel (which you should definitely subscribe to!). The quality of the video is great, and the image stabilisation is better than I expected. The only thing that could be improved (and this is a problem with most video cameras) is the audio quality.

I also did a little research on other action cams, but I honestly didn’t find anything that stood out. GoPro has really made a name for themselves as the superior brand as they’re supplying a good product for a decent price. The Hero5 Black and Hero5 Session really are the best action cams on the market.

Accessories: GoPro offers a huge range of accessories that will come in super useful depending on what kind of videos you’re taking. A tripod, suction cup mount, surf mountchest harness, or floating handle would probably be the most useful.

Canon M5 mirrorless camera + GorillaPod

My new Canon M5 mirrorless camera + GorillaPod

Accessories

Tripod: If you often shoot photos or videos in low light situations (indoors or at night), then you might need a tripod. I have the Joby GorillaPod which easily fits in my backpack and the bendy legs can be adjusted to suit almost any situation. There are also smaller versions of the GorillaPod for smartphones or point and shoots.

External Flash: The flash on most cameras is okay, but it often shoots out an extremely bright light that results in harsh shadows. If you’re planning on doing some low light photography with people in it, then an external flash with a light diffuser will make your photos come out great. I have a Canon Speedlite Flash that fits both my DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

External microphone: As I’m getting more into vlogging, I’m looking into an external mic to improve the audio quality on our videos. I’m looking at the Canon DM E1 microphone or maybe the Rode VideoMic Go for my new mirrorless camera.

Phew, that’s quite a lengthy list of travel photography camera gear for you to go through! What camera gear do you use, or what are you hoping to get? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!


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Ashlea Wheeler

This post was written by Ashlea, a colourfully clothed and excitable vegetarian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

10 Responses to “Rock your travel photography: Camera gear guide”

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh, that’s great Charmaine! My mirrorless seems pretty damn amazing so far, and it’s so much easier to use than the DSLR. Let me know if you end up buying one 🙂

      Reply
  1. Frances

    This was so helpful, thankyou! The world of cameras is difficult to navigate as a newbie. I just got myself the Olympus Pen EPL8 for my 3 months of travelling because I loved the built in wifi, its compact and you can still change the lenses 🙂 xx

    Frances Kayleigh | Beauty Fashion Lifestyle

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I’m so glad you found the post useful, Frances! Buying a new camera can be a very intimidating process, especially if you’re not familiar with the technology. The Olympus that you bought looks like a great choice! Is it easy to use? How are the photos coming out?

      Reply
  2. Hayley Simpson

    I have the Nikon D3200 (awesome beginner DSLR) and recently bought the Sony Alpha A5000 mirrorless as it’s a bit more portable, and like you mentioned, still has the interchangeable lens option. The next camera I need to add to my list is a GoPro. One day… 😉

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I have some family members who have that Nikon! I’ve used it a couple times, it’s very good. Sounds like you have a similar setup to me now with the DSLR and mirrorless, and hopefully GoPro 😛

      Reply
  3. Jessica C

    Hey Ashlea! Awesome round-up and I fully agree on much of what you said. We’re a Nikon family 😉 I have a mirrorless Nikon 1 J3 (though I’d recommend the J5 now). I adore it, but as you mentioned vlogging, there’s no ports on it to add a mic or even a hot shoe so I may have to find something else. But the video is surprisingly amazing on it!

    Sean uses the big DSLR camera. It’s a Nikon D5100 and he’s ready to upgrade too! I need to learn manual, but honestly my camera does great on auto 🙂

    I have to comment that you left off the Galaxy S7 which (testers say) has a better camera than the iPhone 7 and is why I bought the phone. It’s amazing! Can’t argue with the Pixel though. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about it.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Ooh I haven’t heard of anyone using a Nikon mirrorless yet! It’s great that it works well for you, even without an external mic. Nikon is an excellent brand of camera, I only stick with Canon out of habit 😛

      Learning manual is really great for photography as it gets you familiar with the theory behind it (which of course will eventually result in better photos), but there’s nothing wrong with using auto – I actually use auto most of the time when I’m travelling, because it’s so much quicker to take photos and I don’t want to miss anything because I’m fiddling around with settings!

      Thanks for your smartphone suggestion. I know nothing about the Galaxy S7, so it’s good to know that it also has a great camera 🙂

      Reply
  4. Olivia

    Awesome list!
    Gear has always been a sticky point for me. I want to bring enough to be versatile but not so much as to be overwhelmed.
    I usually bring along my Canon 60D with my 24-70mm lens and my phone. But my action cam is tucked in my bag “just in case”!

    Great work!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Olivia! I know exactly what you mean – I would love to take along 3 different lenses every time I travel, but it’s just not practical. One versatile lens + an action cam would be a great combination 🙂

      Reply

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