One of the most frequently asked questions travel photographers including myself receive is “what camera do you use?” So I decided to not only answer that question but also give you a peek inside a travel blogger’s camera bag at all of the photography gear I bring when traveling! This gear has changed quite drastically over the past couple of years as I have shifted my focus and improved my gear.
Over the past two years, I have obtained more and more photography gear, and while my packing skills for my clothes are finely tuned, I often struggle to decide what gear to bring along and what gear to leave at home. I have pre-ordered a brand new camera backpack that was developed by the legend Peter McKinnon, but until that new back gets here, I am still loving my Peak Design 30L everyday backpack.
The larger 30L Everyday Backpack has everything you could want when searching for the best camera backpack for travel. It’s large enough to comfortably fit all of your gear, and it looks really good. I pretty much don’t leave home without this camera backpack. I’m able to fit my Canon 5D Mark IV with a lens, my Mavic 2 Pro, a 70-200mm lens, a 15″ Macbook Pro, and still have plenty of space. My tripod easily attaches to the side and there are quick-access side pockets if you need to quickly access your camera or a different lens when out shooting. This is definitely the best camera backpack I have tried. Buy the Peak Design 30L Everyday Backpack now!
I get so excited to talk about photography gear! I’m always interested to see what other creators that inspire me use to shoot their wanderlust-inducing travel photos. In the past couple of years, we have seen all of the major camera manufacturers shift their focus away from the traditional bulky DSLR cameras towards the smaller, lighter mirrorless cameras. I’ve have experimented with both, and for the time being I still prefer DSLR over mirrorless. Now the easiest way to start a fight among photographers is to tell them which brand you use, that is unless they use the same one. For me it’s Canon, but Sony makes some amazing mirrorless cameras.
I want to preface this by saying the gear I use isn’t what it takes for you to create amazing photos! There are plenty of cameras out there that cost less than $1000 that you can take incredible photos with, and the quality of our phones’ camera is better than 90% of the professional cameras from 10 years ago! If you are struggling to decide what camera to buy I created a guide to choosing the right camera for you!
The camera I use for my travel photos and all photos that you see posted on my Instagram is the Canon 5D Mark IV. The 5D is a prosumer level camera meaning it has everything that both professional photographers and higher-level consumers could want in a DSLR camera.
Until the recent release of the DJI Mavic Air, the DJI Mavic Pro was by far the most convenient high-end drone you could get, but this year DJI took it a step further with the brand new DJI Mavic 2 Pro and DJI Mavic Mini. I was very excited to get my hands on the Mavic 2 Pro because it greatly improved on some of the areas that the original Mavic Pro lacked, such as low light and sharpness. The Mavic 2 and a couple of extra batteries are always in my travel blogger’s camera backpack! Check out this full guide on drones and aerial photography!
I almost always bring a GoPro with me because they are small, waterproof, and can come in handy. This year DJI also got into the action camera business with their Osmo Action Camera. It has nearly the same design as the traditional GoPros, but also has a front-facing screen so you know what your framing is like if your vlogging or filming yourself! I haven’t upgraded my GoPro since the Hero 6, but the new Hero 8 and GoPro Max have brought some much-needed improvements on stabilization and innovation to the action camera market!
Nearly everyone has one and its camera is likely pretty damn good. I have the new iPhone 11 Pro Max and I have been extremely impressed with its camera. When we were in Rome, I actually left my main camera in the hotel and used my phone most of the time. The cameras on our phones keep getting better, so honestly, if you can’t afford a camera or you don’t want to worry about carrying a big camera bag around during your travels, your smartphone is completely capable of taking incredible photos
I carry anywhere from 2-4 lenses with me when traveling depending on the terrain, and the type of shots I plan on getting. The lenses I carry is probably what changes most often, but lately, these lenses have been my goto lenses for travel photography.
If you could only carry one lens but wanted the maximum versatility, this would be it. The Canon 24-70 f2.8 can be used as a wide-angle to capture landscapes or telephoto for portraits or details. Plus, with the wide aperture of f2.8, you get the beautiful bokeh effect and shallow depth of field!
Probably my favorite lens, and the one that you’ll find on my camera more than 50% of the time is the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art Lens. It’s wide enough to shoot big landscapes, but also sharp and fast enough to get razor-sharp portraits and great low light performance. I know a lot of travel Instagrammers that have this lens in the gear bag because it is all-around fantastic and about half the price of what you’d pay for Canon L-series glass.
I also recently got a used Canon 24mm f1.4 and I LOVE it! For our trip to Italy, I actually brought the 24mm instead of the Sigma 35mm, and I was very happy with how the photos turned out! It is a bit wider, so it’s perfect for landscapes, but you can also capture great lifestyle images with this lens for travel bloggers.
All of the animal shots from our safari in South Africa were shot on the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II, I rented that lens multiple times and nearly bought it, but after reading some review I ended up going with the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8. The price was right and the image quality is still impeccable. I really love shooting with this lens, but it is probably the heaviest thing in my camera backpack!
The same time I bought the 70-200mm I also got the Tamron 15-30mm f2.8. A great range for capturing big landscapes, astrophotography and not terrible for vlogging since it is optically stabilized. This one has a couple of downsides though, It is quite heavy and there is no filter ring, so you either have to buy a huge ND system to put on the front or use a different lens for long exposures during the day. I don’t really use this lens much any more since I got the 24mm, so I’ll probably sell it in the near future.
I honestly would be lost without having most of these items in my camera backpack. Some shots wouldn’t be possible without these extra accessories that every travel photographer should have in their camera backpack.
I recently bought a set of PolarPro ND Filters for my 24-70mm and a variable ND filter for my 24mm lens, I also use an adapter to have them fit on my Sigma 35mm lens. The ND filters let you shoot at a lower f-stop making your subject pop from the shallow background more. These are a must if you are doing any portrait work in harsh conditions. Also useful if you want to get the motion effect on waterfalls or other moving objects.
Whether you’re trying to get photos of yourself or capture a long exposure of the milky way or waterfall, the only way these types of shots are possible is with a tripod. I have tried quite a few different lightweight “travel tripods”, but oftentimes they end up being unstable. In fact, I had a camera set up on a tripod and the tripod fell over into a lake ruining both the camera and the lens that was on it. An expensive mistake to make, now I only use my Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber Tripod. It’s extremely light and has a small footprint when folded making it perfect for travel bloggers.
It is inevitable, you will get some dirt or a really bad fingerprint on the front of your lens. I don’t know what I did before I started carrying these with me, but these alcohol moistened lens wipes are lifesavers. I bought a box of 200 on Amazon and use them daily either for cleaning my lens or my glasses, they’re a must.
The company called Aputure makes really great portable lights for photographers. Some small enough to fit in your pocket, and perfect for lighting food photography or a small flat lay and others that you may need to pack in your carry-on that can change brightness and temperature!
I also recently got the Profoto C1 Plus, which can operate as either an off-camera flash or a continuous light source. You can also attach it to a small gorilla pod making it easy to attach to a pole or get it up higher than your arm can reach. The C1 has brought several new options to creatively light photos while traveling. Plus you can use it with a camera or a smartphone, so the possibilities are endless!
So this one doesn’t always fit in my camera bag, but I really had a lot of fun with it in Bali and during a recent shoot at home, so I think I’ll be finding space for it more and more often. The housing I use is the Aquatech Elite Housing made specifically for the Canon 5D Mark IV.
I hope this what’s in a travel photographer’s camera backpack gear list was helpful for you to see the gear I use when traveling. Keep an eye out for another post around the best camera for travelers. This weekend we are up in Vermont for a long weekend of skiing with some of our best friends! I’m bringing my photography gear, so expect some mountain shots on Instagram in the near future! Make sure you’re following us on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest so you never miss out on any travel inspiration!