When we started planning to write this post we laid out all our travel photography gear and realised we have a LOT of stuff, more than what could possibly be considered normal for the average traveller.
With Chris as a photographer who has an obsession with all things technological, it is no surprise that our camera bag has somewhat exploded over the past two years and now elements can now be found spread over our three other bags as well.
So, for fear of making you think you need to spend your entire travel savings just to buy some decent camera gear for an upcoming trip, we have whittled this list down to what we consider the ‘essentials’ for someone who is at least a little interested in travel photography and wants a decent set of compact equipment to capture all the important moments on the road.
* This post includes affiliate links and any purchases made through these links will earn us a small commission at no extra cost to you. *
When travelling a few years ago, people with laptops were a rare sight in hostel world. We remember meeting a fellow traveller in a dorm with a giant brick-like laptop who set up a movie for everyone to watch together and thinking, ‘what a great idea’.
These days, almost everyone travels with a laptop or at the very least a tablet of some kind.
For a digitally nomadic life, this is definitely an essential and comes in handy for photo editing, travel planning and the occasional binge-watching session of Game of Thrones.
Having spent a few years rocking the sleek 12″ Macbook, we decided it just didn’t have the power needed for the growing level of video work we were taking on.
The larger high-resolution screen and extra memory make this a far more suitable option, plus it can deal with the hotter climates much better than the previous model.
After years of buying, yelling at, nail-biting and pulling hair out over PC after PC and generally wishing all technology would just go bury itself in a hole because it could never bloody just do what it was supposed to do, Freya finally upgraded to a Mac and has never looked back.
The Air doesn’t have the high-resolution screen of the Pro but it’s not something we miss, especially when you compare the price.
While we like to think of this as the perfect travel laptop in terms of quality, size and price, Apple obviously has other ideas and this model has since been discontinued. The 13″ Air has similar specs although is slightly larger, or the 13″ Pro with the retina screen is also a good choice.
Our main criteria for choosing a camera body was size, without having to compromise on quality. There are so many fully manual cameras on the market, but when they come scarily close to being larger than your head, they are neither practical for travel (particularly when hiking is involved) nor any use in trying to capture street life in a somewhat covert manner.
These Olympus cameras are mirrorless and have a micro 4/3 sensor which allows them to be much smaller than their full frame counterparts. It also means the lenses are a fraction of the weight and size of their equivalents which for us was a big bonus.
All lenses are also interchangeable which means our full set of lenses can be used on both camera bodies. The only negative we have found is that you sometimes don’t get the creamy background blur (bokeh) you would with a full frame camera.
This is the flagship camera from the Olympus mirrorless range and is the perfect compromise between size/weight and professional image quality. It’s weather sealed too so it won’t matter if you happen to get caught out in the rain or perhaps a blizzard.
There is also the option to upgrade to any PRO lens for a hefty discount when bought as a bundle.
This beautiful mirrorless model is compact, takes great images and has an aesthetic throwback to old-school film cameras which we love.
For more serious photographers who aren’t ready to upgrade their body, it also fits the full range of PRO lenses.
One thing that makes these mirrorless cameras perfect for travel photography is that their small size means the lenses are really compact as well, so if you want to stock up and cover a wide range of focal lengths, you really can fit more in your camera bag.
If you’re not familiar with the micro-four-thirds system, it’s also important to note that the focal lengths are the half the equivalent of a full frame camera, i.e. a 17mm lens on micro-four-thirds is the same as a 35mm lense for a full frame.
For us, this is one of the best all-around lenses and at any given time, it’s almost always on one of our cameras. It’s wide enough to photograph beautiful landscapes but with a good enough zoom to capture detail in the streetscapes.
If you’re only going to buy one lens for travelling, then this should be it!
The large focal range means we can capture both the intricate details and the wide panoramas and if we’re going on a demanding hike and don’t want to be lugging around a bunch of heavy gear, we know this one will do the trick. The only minor set back is that the lowest aperture at f4 means getting a creamy background is not always so easy, but this is something we’ve learnt to adjust to.
The excellent stabilisation also makes this a great lens for filming.
While its size means it isn’t ideal for those stealthy shots, this zoom lens is an excellent choice for capturing the finer details in a landscape or compressing a sweeping street scene.
Compact, unobtrusive and affordable, this is one of our favourite lenses for picking out close up details in a busy street scene or for photographing food.
Though we’re sticking with this one for the moment, Olympus recently released the new 17mm f1.2 PRO lens which is slightly larger, exceptionally sharp and won the Lens of the Year at the 2018 Camera Grand Prix. If you’re looking for a prime lens upgrade, this is definitely the one to go for!
There’s nothing worse than arriving at the most spectacular viewpoint after days of hiking and having your camera flash up the dreaded red words ‘Memory Card Full’. To avoid this at all costs we carry x6 64 GB memory cards to use between the two cameras.
These ones are UHS-II with faster writing speed which means your camera will be ready to take the next shot faster – perfect for action and wildlife photography when you don’t want to miss the in-between moments waiting for your camera to finish writing to the memory card.
Having previously had a hard drive fail with 16 months of photos on it and having to spend several hundred dollars and over a year of hard drive surgery to recover the files, we now do everything we can to make sure that never, ever happens again.
All our images are backed up regularly onto two external hard drives which we carry with us and guard with our lives, as well as being transferred to a large external hard drive which stays back in Australia and can be accessed remotely for a little extra peace of mind.
For all those times you get caught out in the rain and your lens is covered in water drops, you accidentally touch the front of your lens after applying greasy sunscreen or your keyboard becomes matted with dust after months living in the same ratty case.
This useful kit comes with a microfibre lens cloth and alcohol wipes, a mini cleaning brush and air blaster, plus a little pouch to carry it all in. We only added this after a year on the road and now consider it a clear essential for maintaining our travel photography gear.
Don’t you hate it when you’re in the middle of nowhere in desperate need of a map or torch, which conveniently are both on your smartphone, and then, your phone dies. So perhaps it isn’t always as dramatic as that. Sometimes you just want to keep playing that battery-sucking game on a long bus ride.
Either way, being able to charge your devices wherever you are is a great help. This portable charger is a lifesaver if you’re ever going off grid, and is able to charge a smartphone numerous times as well as one full charge of a laptop and then some.
If that list already made your eyes goggle and your bank account cringe in fear, perhaps you should stop scrolling right here. Those are what we consider the ‘essentials’ for any traveller who is even a little serious about photography or plans to work on the road.
The rest of these items and basically the reason our camera gear weighs about the same as the rest of our stuff combined, enable Chris to work on the road as an outdoor and adventure photographer and capture the right shot in any environment. This includes an extra body, even more lenses and a tripod.
If you are fixated on capturing the perfect wildlife shot with a super telephoto lens, trying your hand at astrophotography and long exposures or capturing even wider landscape shots, this equipment might be more suited to you.