What’s in Our Bags: Cameras

Cameras help us capture, share, and remember the places we see, the people we meet, and the experiences we have. For some, the camera on their phone is enough to accomplish these goals, but for many including us, they aren’t enough. Like everything else, selecting the right cameras to take on your long-term travels is a compromise between size, cost, and overall functionality. This is one area where we basically threw out the cost issue entirely. We want the best cameras for our purpose and aren’t willing to settle for anything less.

Size Does Matter

[ptcFlickr id=”8355700978″ position=”right” caption=”Nikon D90″ size=”Original”]

As mentioned here, we are taking insanely small luggage for a trip of this scale. Size is perhaps the biggest tradeoff when selecting a camera for a round the world adventure. SLRs such as our Nikon D90 are capable of taking amazing pictures in all types of lighting conditions. Unfortunately, the size and weight of these cameras and their lenses mean they aren’t practical for this trip (well, not if Sam expects me to have clothes to wear as well). Also, it is often said that the best camera is the one you have with you. We will be traveling in some places where carrying a large camera may not be safe and at the very least will make us a target for touts and scammers.

[ptcFlickr id=”8355700940″ position=”left” caption=”Canon S95″ size=”small 320″]

On the other end of the spectrum are compact “point-and-shoot” style cameras. These are extremely light, can fit in my pants pockets, and would take up no room in our bag. Some of these cameras are actually quite capable. We considered taking a Canon S95 with us on our trip as it has decent low light capabilities, a full manual mode, and it can shoot raw files. This is probably the ideal type of camera if you want good travel snapshots.

After recently completing a quick introductory course on photography we determined that we wanted more than good travel snapshots – we want to create art. For that, point-and-shoot style cameras, even the very high end kind like the S95, aren’t enough. Their inability to control depth of field, the tiny image sensor, lack of interchangeable lenses, and lack of lens filters mean these aren’t the best option if you want to take your photography to the next level.

[ptcFlickr id=”8355701062″ position=”right” caption=”Sony NEX 6″ size=”small 320″]

Up until a couple years ago these were your only two options, a huge camera for artistic ability or a point-and-shoot camera for mobility. Enter the new mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILCs). MILCs are the future of travel cameras. They provide the ability to use different lenses and filters, and they have the same senor as SLRs allowing better artistic control all in a package that’s half the size, or less, than an equivalent SLR. There’s no getting around the fact that they aren’t as compact as a point-and-shoot camera, but for us this was the perfect compromise. After much research we settled on the Sony NEX-6.

Lenses

The 16-50mm zoom lens that comes with the Sony NEX-6 is good but it doesn’t quite meet all of our needs. At it’s wide 16mm end it will be great for landscapes, but it doesn’t offer much of a zoom and it’s performance in low light is very poor unless you are using a tripod and taking pictures of still subjects. To solve the zoom issue we are taking the Sony SEL18200LE 18-200mm lens, and to solve the low light issue we’re taking the Sony SEL35F18 35mm F1.8 lens. These lenses are designed for the NEX cameras so they’re relatively compact compared to equivalent SLR lenses.

Tripods

Tripods are large, bulky and totally impractical for long term travel…we had to have one. Tripods allow you to get many shots that are simply impossible without. Taking photos indoors in low light situations, taking long exposures to make water look amazing, doing any sort of night photography, and many other fun photography tricks just don’t work without a tripod.

So if you are going to make the sacrifice to carry a tripod around the world you really need the lightest most compact tripod you can find. We did quite a bit of research and found two possibilities. The Tamrac ZipShot tripod is made out of lightweight tent-pole style collapsable legs. It takes up very little room, weighs virtually nothing, and can be opened in a flash. However, it’s limited in that it can only be used at one height. With this one you can’t get lower to take shots of close objects.

[ptcFlickr id=”8354848705″ position=”left” caption=”Siuri T-025″ size=”small 320″]

We decided to go with the lightest, most compact, fully adjustable tripod we could find. The Siuri T-025 carbon fiber tripod is only 11 inches long when folded, yet it can expand to almost 5 feet tall and weighs only 1.3 pounds.
Hopefully we’ll use it often so it’s worth the hassle of taking it along.

We can’t wait to test out our flashy new camera gear and share images from around the world!

2 Replies to “What’s in Our Bags: Cameras”

  1. Are the lenses to the camera as large as your regular lenses. And take up as much room.? Would you please take a picture of them. I’m thinking of purchasing a new Nikon to replace my d70. Maybe il. Go Sony. Thanks. Linda

    1. Hey, sorry for the slow reply. After traveling with this camera though we do have a lot to say about it. The lenses are significantly smaller than lenses for full sized SLRs and photos in general are quite nice. The downsides are that it takes a couple seconds to turn on, you lose that instant-on that the D70 and D90 has and focusing takes quite a bit longer meaning you might miss the shot. The battery also drains fairly quickly relative to the Nikons. Also the available lenses are quite few and if you want a really nice lens like the 18-200mm F2.4 that you can get for a Nikon, you’re just out of luck. The 18-200 that we have is a very slow F3.5-6.3.

      Overall we really love these cameras for travel though. However, if size was not an issue I’d be upgrading my old D90 to a D600. It’s an amazing camera in the same size body as the D70 and D90. It is a full frame camera so not all of the D70 lenses will work on it, but full frame cameras are far superior and it’s as close to future-proof as it comes.

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