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The Best Camera, Lens, and Gear for Travel Photography

by Justin Katz
featured, Outdoor & Landscape, photo & video

The Best Gear for Travel Photography

You booked your flight, and you’re stoked. You’re finally taking that trip that you have been dreaming of for a really long time.

Like most people who travel, you want to be able to capture memories from your trip. But you want to go beyond that, you want to really tell a visual story with your photographs. You want to immortalize your trip, and make everyone back home, well, jealous of the places you have been. What you need is the best camera, lens, and gear for travel photography to help you capture your experiences in the best way possible.

The best camera, lens, and gear for travel photography

But that’s the hard part. There is so much conflicting information on the Internet; Where do you even start? The worst time to realize that you brought the wrong travel photography gear is when you are fumbling with it while you are on your trip.

The Best Camera, Lens, and Gear for Travel Photography

CreativeLive has an awesome course coming up with professional travel photographer, Laura Grier, on Becoming a Travel Photographer. We are very excited about this course, and to get you ready to take the leap from travel enthusiast to travel photographer, I put together my top picks for travel photography gear. These items can help make your experiences on the road a breeze.


If becoming a travel photographer sounds remotely interesting to you (and how could it not — you’re getting paid to do what you love), you should sign up to watch this free course, Becoming a Travel Photographer. It’s live on July 28th, 2016. It’s FREE to watch, so no excuses, get on it.

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The best camera for travel photography (is one that you will bring everywhere)

I personally shoot on a full-frame Nikon DSLR. It’s incredible, but it’s also big, bulky, and heavy. I have a specific DSLR backpack that I bring everywhere just to be able to carry it, as well as all the lenses and extra gear that I use. It’s a pain.

When traveling, they key is accessibility and usability. If your camera is big and bulky, chances are you will be using it less often, which defeats the whole purpose.

On the opposite end of that spectrum, are the fixed lens point and shoot camera systems. These can fit right in your pocket, but you are really sacrificing so much in the way of camera and lens quality, that I would argue it’s not worth it.

There are a of course lot of different cameras and lenses that will work well for travel photography, but my personal recommendation for the best camera for travel photography is:

The Sony a6000 / a6300 ($548-998)

The best camera for travel photography

This lightweight mirrorless camera by Sony is arguably the perfect blend of portability and quality, while remaining highly functional for all the types of shots that you are trying to capture in your travels.

Being able to stick this in your pocket and bring it everywhere, but also have the full control of any DSLR camera, is really invaluable.

On first glance, it may seem like a step-down for many photographers, but this camera is in the bag of many professional landscape photographers, including Matt Kloskowski, and Chris Burkard. They trust it to capture their portfolio-worthy shots, because it gets the job done and it does it well.

The a6000 version is fantastic, but Sony also recently released an upgrade: the a6300. Either one will do you just fine, but whichever one you get, I highly recommend watching the Fast Start course (a6000 / a6300) that walks you through how to get the most out of this camera.

Best Lens for Travel Photography

The best lens for travel photography (is one that stays on your camera and captures everything you want)

I am guilty of breaking my own recommendation here, as I bring multiple lenses almost everywhere I go. Having said that, I completely see the value in a high-quality lens that offers you the ability to shoot wide, and zoom into a scene.

Therefore, my ideal lens for travel photography:

Zeiss 16-70mm F/4 ($998)

Best Lens for Travel Photography - ZeissWhile a lot of people love the “kit lens” that comes with the Sony a6000/a6300 (16-50mm F/3.5-5.6), personally, I am a huge fan of the Zeiss 16-70mm F/4.

The optical quality is superb, and the ability to walk around with one lens and never feel like you are missing the shot makes it the perfect lens for travel photography.

While it covers the wide, and mid focal lengths, you’ll sacrifice telephoto range by carrying one lens. If telephoto is important to you and the way that you like to shoot, there is also a Sony 18-200mm F/3.5-5.6 lens that covers the entire range of what you could imagine shooting. The only problem with that lens however, is that now you are carrying a large, bulky lens, so you will have to weigh the pros and cons with that in mind.

The best gear for travel photography

The best gear for travel photography (is the stuff that makes shooting easier)

Now that you have an idea of what the best camera and lens are for travel photography, it’s time to start thinking about how you are carrying all that gear.

There are a large number of factors that any traveler needs to consider when selecting their gear:

Accessibility – Having everything that you need readily accessible when you need it.

Comfort – You will likely be traveling extended periods of time, and I can tell you from personal experience that sore shoulders make you think twice about carrying the gear the next day.

Security – In many places that you will want to travel, pickpocketing is a real issue. A lot of people either carry their camera in their hand with no strap, or use the manufacturer strap, which screams “steal me!” from a distance.

With all that in mind, here are my recommendations for the best gear for travel photography:

The PeakDesign Everyday Messenger Bag (smaller size – $219)

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I love this bag. The Everyday Messenger Bag was designed by and for photographers. It’s perfect for travel photography, because it carries everything, doesn’t look like a camera bag, and is comfortable.

 

 

 

 

 

This Travel Strap ($49)

This one is pretty simple, but having a solid camera strap that doesn’t stand out in a crowd, but is comfortable and secure, is key.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Capture Clip ($59)

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The Capture Clip by PeakDesign is a pretty cool invention. It’s not for everyone, but I personally have really enjoyed having a way to securely mount my camera to a bag or belt, with a quick and easy release.

 

 

 

 

 

A Lightweight tripod ($299)

C1ix2VrMxwRz_OzTuhSo5AThis doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone, but I personally don’t go many places without a tripod. I’m a huge fan of low-light, long-exposure photography, and I love finding new places to try this in new and interesting ways during my travels.

However this also means one more piece of equipment to carry, and many of the tripods out there can be really heavy, or really expensive, or both. There are, however, a lot of great carbon fiber models out there that split the difference between being ultra-lightweight, and sturdy. I use the Promaster XC525C, and I love it.

 

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Additional necessary gear for travel photography

Memory

Always, always bring extra memory.

You should never be deleting photos in-camera while on location. Nothing screams amateur like someone trying to make room for their next shot by deleting the shots from yesterday. Every time I see someone doing this, I cringe.

If it’s a longer trip, you might even want to consider a portable storage system, meant for exporting your SD cards safely and securely.

Extra batteries

One of the few downsides of bringing a mirrorless camera for travel photography, is the fact that those systems burn through batteries a lot faster. This means that you need to bring even more batteries, and possibly even a portable charger. The last thing you want to do is run out of battery power when the perfect sunset is presenting itself.


If becoming a travel photographer sounds remotely interesting to you (and how could it not – you’re getting paid to do what you love), you should sign up to watch this free course, Becoming a Travel Photographer. It’s live on July 28th, 2016. It’s FREE to watch, so no excuses, get on it.

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Let us know what you think about these recommendations in the comments below. Do you have other travel photography gear that you prefer?

Where do you want to take all this travel photography gear? Share this post on Facebook and mention where you want to go, and tag a friend that you want to travel with!

 

 

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Justin Katz

Content Marketer at CreativeLive, and outdoor and landscape photographer. I work with great people to create awesome photography content and education.