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Choosing a Camera for a Long Trip

by Philip Greenspun, 1997

Motorcycle convention in North Dakota


  1. Top
  2. What Kind of a Trip?
  3. What Kind of a Point and Shoot Camera?
  4. What Kind of Serious Camera?
  5. What Lenses for a 35mm SLR System?
  6. A Tripod
  7. What Film
  8. Airport X-Rays
  9. Digital
  10. Trust but verify...
  11. More
  12. Reader's Comments

Why a separate article on choosing a travel camera? Any photographic situation you might encounter when traveling would be better covered in a specialized article about specialized equipment. Getting a good picture of bears in Alaska presents mostly the same challenges as getting a good picture of bears in the local zoo. Getting a perspective-correct image of a church in Paris is the same problem as getting a perspective-correct image of the local Kwik-E-Mart.

What then separates travel photography from home-based photography? You can probably get your 300/2.8 lens down to the zoo. You can probably get your view camera down to the Kwik-E-Mart. But you certainly can't get the right camera for every potential situation into one backpack and carry it around the world.

Picking equipment for a trip is therefore a process of deciding what kinds of images are most important to you and making a conscious decision that you'll leave the rest for another trip.

What Kind of a Trip?

Acura NSX-T at sunset. Kings Canyon National Park, California

Is a primary purpose of your trip photographic? Or are you going to be gone only a few days with just a few hours in between business meetings? If you're not going to have time to concentrate on photography, then you'll probably get the best results by simply carrying a pocketable point-and-shoot camera.

If you're going to spend an hour or more per day trying to achieve some artistic objectives or seriously documenting your journey, only then is it worth considering taking a camera that won't fit into your shirt pocket.

What Kind of a Point and Shoot Camera?

Market Street, San Francisco

Suppose that you're really just on a business trip. Read my buying guide to point-and-shoot cameras and pick one. The one additional caveat I have to offer is that P&S cameras aren't very reliable. This isn't such a big problem if you're at home and can just pick up another camera. If I had to rely on a shirt-pocket camera, I'd pick something as simple and expensive as possible. So the fixed-lens Yashica T4 Super or Ricoh GR1 would be reasonable choices.

What Kind of Serious Camera?

Parco dei Mostri (park of monsters), below the town of Bomarzo, Italy (1.5 hours north of Rome). This was the park of the 16th century Villa Orsini and is filled with grotesque sculptures.

First, bring a P&S camera. There will be portions of your trip when you'll be too tired to carry the real camera but ought to be prepared in case an exceptional situation arises.

Second, resist the temptation to bring more than one serious camera system. Sometimes I go away for a few days and take a Canon EOS single-lens-reflex system (plus some 35mm film), a Fuji 617 panoramic camera (plus some 120 film), and a view camera (plus some 4x5 film). This is insanity and, on a short trip, I almost always end up taking 99% of my pictures with the 35mm SLR.

Does that mean a 35mm SLR is right for you? Probably. It works for professional photojournalists. But if what you truly hope to come back with are a few exceptional landscapes then a folding view camera or a medium-format rangefinder camera might be a better choice.

What Lenses for a 35mm SLR System?

Venice Beach, California.

If you pick a 35mm SLR, you've got yourself a reliable and comfortable-to-use body. However, you now have to figure out which lenses to buy/bring. Canon makes 50 lenses for its EOS bodies; Nikon makes nearly 100 lenses for its F-mount bodies. You probably can't carry more than 3 or 4.

A tempting decision is to get a single wide-range zoom lens such as Canon's 24-85 or Nikon's 24-120. I'm not a big fan of cheap slow zoom lenses for home-based photography and I'm not convinced that they work so great for travel photography either. What you are trying to capture in that exotic foreign land is the exotic foreign light. If the maximum aperture on your lens is f/4 then you'll be forced to use electronic flash far too often. The light from an electronic flash is the same in Paris and Peoria.

Is your goal to get great portraits? Take an 85/1.8. It is compact and admits more than four times as much light as a mid-price zoom lens. Is your goal to cover some of the cracks in your wall with scenery? Take a 24/2.8. The sharpness in 16x20 enlargements will be acceptable. Want photos taken inside museums where the lighting is subdued? Take a 50/1.4 (works in 1/8th the light of a mid-price zoom lens).

Is your goal to get photos of buildings without converging vertical lines? Take a perspective correction lens (explaining their use is beyond the scope of this article).

Is your goal to get some great photos of the Katmai bears? Take a 300/2.8 lens. Can't afford the $4500 or weight/size given that you're only going to be in Katmai for two days out of a one-year round-the-world trip? Enjoy the bears and buy a postcard. You must make some photographic compromises and expect to walk away from at least 5% of the great photo opportunities.

Oh yes, which brand and model of body? I don't think it makes much difference. I've written about the Canon v. Nikon choice and also try to keep current with a few models in my camera buying tutorial. Just don't get a Nikon N90 and 28-200 zoom lens.

A Tripod

a tripod

What Film?

I wrote a longish piece about film. One item that I'll add for a long trip: stick to one or two emulsions. If you know that you'll want to do a big slide show at the end, then take only slide film. If you think you'll be doing only a Web site then consider color negative film, ISO 400 for everyday use and ISO 800 for low-light. If you're on an artistic black & white inner journey, then limit yourself to Ilford Delta 100 and Delta 400 (for example).

Airport X-Rays

The X-ray machines for carry-on luggage are safe. The X-ray machines for check-through luggage are not safe. Keep all of your film in your carry-on luggage and ask for hand inspection where possible but don't freak out in airports like Heathrow where this is not an option.

What about Digital?

Digital photo titled ayers-rock-and-kangaroo-sign

What about a digital camera? You could replace either the point and shoot or the "one serious camera" with a digital camera. Then you wouldn't have to worry about film and X-rays. Also, whenever you can find Internet connectivity, you can share your images with friends.

The main problem with a digital camera circa 2001 is that it will most likely force you into carrying a laptop computer, laptop computer battery, laptop computer battery charger, laptop computer carry case, etc. Instead of shopping for AA batteries in the pulperia and stuffing exposed rolls of film in your pocket for processing and examination back home in Des Moines, you're constantly looking for places to recharge your traveling technology circus and spending evenings editing photos instead of enjoying the nightlife.

If your trip requires you to carry a laptop anyway, a digital camera may make sense. A pocketable like the Canon S100 or Sony DSC-P1 makes a lot of sense. As a travel camera, the bulky "full-size" point and shoot digitals like the Nikon 990 and Canon G1 don't make sense. They are sort of like the gargantuan 38-140 zoom point and shoot film cameras. Too large to put in your pocket and carry at all times; too limited, slow, and cumbersome for creative photography. Most of the single-lens reflex (SLR) digital cameras don't make sense for travel either. Cameras like the Nikon D1 and Canon D30 require you to pack lenses designed for 35mm film cameras. Given the small size of the image sensor in these digital cameras, that is sort of like carrying around a set of Hasselblad lenses for use with a Nikon. It works but why would you want to incur the extra weight, bulk, and expense of lenses designed to cover a much larger negative? Either get an Olympus E-10 with its built-in purpose-built zoom lens or wait until camera companies manufacture complete compact digital SLR systems, with their own lenses.

Trust but verify...

Whatever camera you buy, make sure that you test it before you leave! Expose a roll of color slide film using all the various different exposure, autofocus, and flash modes. Take it to a professional photo lab for 3-hour development. Ask them to look at the slides and tell you whether or not you and your new camera are working together properly.


Readers' Comments

Add a comment

Agnius Griskevicius , April 27, 1998; 06:05 P.M.

The longer the trip, the more gear you will need. The longer the trip the less gear you take. Believe me, unless you have sherpas (or assistants) carrying all your stuff, you will be quite discouraged after hiking couple days with a fully packed ProTrecker. My advice is to take only what you will need, not what you THINK you will need. Deciding what you will really need is a quite difficult task, and the only sure way of finding your essential gear is to drag it on the road couple times, then you quickly find out what you really use. Lately, I narrowed down my travel gear to 2 EOS 1n bodies, 28-70 and 70-200 lenses, polarizer, 81A warming filter, gitzo 126 tripod and arca b1 ballhead. I am still searching for a "perfect" bag to house it all, so far I either use a tamrack hip pack or just load it all onto a photovest (except the tripod). Usually I have great temptations to bring more lenses, extention tubes, teleconverters, more filters, etc. with me, but so far every time the extra gear gets very little use and just adds extra weight. Don't forget the film and extra batteries -- they get used up faster than you think. Again, when on the road, less is more, as when you are less tired you see more great pictures.

Toomas Tamm , April 28, 1998; 06:42 A.M.

If you cannot carry a real tripod, take a small "tabletop" version. This adds very little bulk and weight to your bag, but lets you get well over 50% of the twilight or night shots you would definitely miss otherwise. Be creative in finding a support for that small tripod. I have pressed mine against walls and trees, triggering the camera with a self-timer if necessary.

If travelling by air, do not pack that small tripod to the bottom of your carry-on luggage: almost every X-ray machine inspector wants to see that suspicious piece of metal showing up on their screen :-)

Piaw Na , April 29, 1998; 01:46 A.M.

There are situations where that 24-85 or 24-120 zoom will end up being the only lens you carry. That's when you're on an "active vacation" such as a long bicycle tour or backpacking trip. Under such circumstances I find that any more gear and I'm likely to bog down and not enjoy myself as much. A camera with built-in flash is useful as it's one less thing to carry.

On a fast cycling trip (i.e., staying at hotels or hostels) I'd ditch the tripod. On a backpacking trip or cycle camping trip you can probably carry a light tripod (the Gitzo 1228 is a godsend). Given that you won't have many heavy lenses on such a vacation, you can get away with ditching the Arca-Swiss ballhead and replacing it with the lightest ballhead you can find. The light Slik ballheads with an Arca-Swiss attachment would probably work.

I've found that a set of ND grad. filters with the appropriate holders do more for my landscape work than a medium format rangefinder would. (For the obvious reasons, ND grad. filters aren't much good on range finders) These are light and aren't bulky and hence are worth the effort. It's also worth the effort to stick a UV filter permanently on the lens on such vacations since you probably won't have the inclination to keep your camera squeaky clean.

I should probably sit down and write an article about active vacations and photography one of these days.

B. Weiner , April 29, 1998; 11:38 P.M.

Probably the most important piece of advice is don't buy a camera just before leaving on a important or unusual trip. Leave yourself enough lead time to get accustomed to using the camera before embarking, especially if it is of a type new to you. Also you want to make sure it works right.

Ian Binnie , May 05, 1998; 09:54 P.M.

The essay states that X-ray scanners for hand luggage are "film safe". This is likely true in most places, but there is some discussion in the archives re: new machines that are not film safe. And I have been through a lot of airports (excluding Heathrow) without ever having been refused a hand inspection for film in clear Fuji containers in a clear plastic bag. Good Luck.

Pete Su , May 06, 1998; 04:48 P.M.

I think the best advice here is not to bring too much. Here is what I would do. Buy a medium sized Domke bag. These are all pretty small. For most travel purposes, don't bring more than a tripod and what you can fit in this bag. The only exception is if you need a big telephoto for animals, or if you are on a magazine assignment.

Stanley McManus , May 07, 1998; 04:30 P.M.

Don't forget the monopod! A graphite monopod weighs only one pound. It makes a nice walking stick. Attach a point-n-shoot or SLR with slow zoom lens to the monopod and you can suddenly shoot those low light, slow shutter speed pictures.

Paulo Bizarro , May 18, 1998; 10:49 A.M.

When I want to travel light, I leave the fast 2.8 zooms at home and carry the primes instead. Int the EOS range, for me this means the EOS 630 (rugged, reliable, easy to use, and bought used) with a 24 2.8 (also bought used), 50 1.4, and 100 Macro. If I expect not to be taking too many portraits, I leave the 100 Macro at home too, and bring the EF 25 Extension Tube instead, it gives up to 1.22X with the 24 2.8 and 0.64X with the 50 1.4.

Plus the tripod, of course.

Jim Chow , May 20, 1998; 03:45 A.M.

When I go to shoot, I usually bring a Lowe Pro Phototrekker AW packed with a Rollei 6008 integral, 40/3.5 super wide angle, 90/4 macro, 180/2.8 telephoto, and 1.4x teleconverter with a spare 120 magazine, hoods, two 95mm UV filters, a 95m polarizer, 2 or 3 spare batteries, blower/cleaning tissues/fluid, and gitzo 1228 carbon tripod with 20 or so boxes of 120 film. Recently, I've acquired a Fuji 617, which also fits in the pack along with a handheld meter as long as the 180 lens isn't mounted. The 6x6 equipment weighs about 15 lbs plus another 6 lbs for the panorama equipment plus another 6 lbs for the bag itself (Lowe Pro bags weigh a lot). The nice thing about the pack is that you can leave the lenses mounted to the body. The drawback is that you have to remove the pack to take a shot, so it gets dirty. Don't forget the water bottle and snacks.

I've taken the 6x6 system on 9 trips in the past 13 months, five of which were overseas two-week long trips for photography. All but one trip was car-less (walking+public transportation only). Sure, it's heavy, but when you get the chromes back, all the pain is forgotten! If I travel with a group of non-photographers, it's much more convenient to bring the body with maybe just a wide angle and normal focal length lens or even a TLR along with the panorama if you expect to take more than a couple of rolls. I leave the 300mm lens and gitzo 410 at home during longer trips; the 180+teleconverter serves as a good substitute.

Before you leave for your trip, determine exactly where you want to go, and the potential for photos at the place. If there's no spectacular wide angle compositions, there's no point on dragging along a 6x17 panorama camera. Nor is it worth it to bring a 4 lb. 300mm lens just for a couple of shots. I find that a wide angle, normal, and short/medium telephoto are good enough for 95% of the compositions. I don't bother bringing a flash.

Allen Chan , May 27, 1998; 02:15 P.M.

I tried a new camera strategy on a recent vacation to Jamaica. I brought along two P&S cameras, a Yashica T4 Super with a relatively fast fixed 35mm lens with 400 speed film, and Vivitar 500PZ with a relatively slow zoom 35mm-70mm lens with 100 speed. The fast T4 Super with 400 speed film was used for low light indoor shots. The slow 500PZ with the 100 speed film was used for bright outdoors shots. The combination of a low light and a bright light camera gave great pictures across a wide range of light conditions. The two P&S cameras easily fitted into small travel pouch.

John Shuster , June 09, 1998; 07:54 P.M.

My wife Sally and I did two weeks in England and Ireland. She took her Stylus Zoom. I took my Stylus Epic and my Nikon FG with 36-72 zoom and a 28mm Series E lens. Lots of ASA 100/200/400 color negative film. We got lots of good pictures, but next time, I'm going to only take point and shoots. Ease of use and the ability to get into a rhythm that allowed me to focus on the subject are great with point and shoots. No problems with carry-on x-rays ruining the pictures - even after Heathrow. We were careful not put or film in the check-on baggage.

The Olympus Zoom and Stylus worked fine, so well, in fact, that I'm going to invest in the Pentax 928 as a serious alternative to my Nikon equipment. I'm glad I chose not to take my bowling ball F2 to Europe. Next time, it's 100 percent point and shoot - my Epic and a new Pentax with the 28 - 90mm zoom lens. My Bogen monopod will serve as a good hiking stick too!

Huyen Seow , August 24, 1998; 05:08 A.M.

I don't know how some people carry all that stuff and still, somehow, manage to have a good time on their trip AND return home without a few fractured vertebrae. My travel (and general) photography kit used to be a pro SLR, accessory flash, and 2 fast zooms. After the in-trip swearing and post-trip chiropractor visits, I switched to Leica M6, 35/1.4 ASPH, and 90/2.8 and haven't looked back since. Sure, there will be some shots I won't be able to take with this setup (and come to think about it, some shots I will be able to that I couldn't with an SLR, because of the lens speed, noise, or obtrusiveness factor). But I've learned that I have to be able to walk away from some photo opportunities. At least, now I'm never too exhausted or in too much pain to recognize and react to such opportunities, so I guess it all evens out. The Contax G2 + 35/2 and 90/2.8 is a comparable system that will cost much less. And yes, my back pain is gone, thank you very much!

Huyen Seow , August 25, 1998; 08:46 A.M.

Oh yeah, I also have a Gitzo tabletop tripod in my bag. Works very well!

Hugh Macaulay , November 26, 1998; 03:21 P.M.

Because there are so many ways of travel and types of trip it is tough to bring the right thing for all occasions. Pretty obvious. However, the best overall tool I have used is the old Rollei 35s. It is tough, has a gorgeous lens, and, best of all, is very small and quiet. This is especially valuable if you like taking pictures in museums, art galleries, or churches. Although a Yashica T4 has taken my old Rollei's place as P&S of choice, I wouldn't dream of taking that noisy little cheese box with me if Italian art galleries and churches were on my agenda. Of course, I don't get many memorable landcape shots with the Rollei--but I generally keep my eyes on people and their immediate surroundings when I travel, anyway. If I want mountains, I'll go to Banff with my big honkin' Nikon system.

Steve Smith , December 08, 1998; 03:10 P.M.

I do a lot of business travel, & I usually carry a point & shoot with me when I travel. Most of the time I'm pretty satisfied with the results, as I often have little time to devote to photography.

However, having become more serious about photography in the past year I've been dragging the SLR & 3 or 4 prime lenses along with me more & more often. However, the short days of winter have got me re-evaluating my equipment needs on the road. As I'm usually stuck indoors from 8-5, it's a mad dash to get some place scenic for sunsets, & once the sun goes down nighttime cityscapes are about the only option. The result is that I've decided a real tripod is a must - I can make do with a single focal length, but without the tripod there just aren't many options (a tabletop tripod is good in a pinch, but becomes really frustrating when it's your only means of support).

My advice: if you know most of your shooting will take place in low light &/or at long exposures, & if your carry-on space is at a premium (as it usually is for us laptop-lugging losers), than limit yourself to a body & one or two lenses & drag along a real tripod.

Abe Lindo , December 25, 1998; 02:18 P.M.

I travel a lot with my current job, as many of you, I too, like to bring back my experiences frozen on film. I believe that owning a Contax G2 (basic system) you will go a long way - point and shoot as well as advanced features coupled with fine glasses makes this camera my all around toy. Now since I am so into photography, I also use the Nikon system and I love it because the lense mount used in their system works with old and new cameras - the menu as far as lenses is extensive but heavy on shoulders. Safe travels and happy holidays to all of you.

Michael Edelman , February 23, 1999; 12:28 P.M.

Like many, I find cameras generally just get in the way of enjoying a trip. Unless the object of the trip is photography I try to restrain myself to one small camera. For most travel, that's a point-and-shoot Leica, and for camping/kayak travel it's an older Nikonos III. For a three-week trip to England I splurged and brought a Nikon F2 and two lenses, a 28 and a 105. That covered everything from wide-angle interiors and landscapes to portraits and things just out of reach. Everything fit in my small Domke bag with room for film, maps, my London rail pass and the picnic lunch I enjoyed one Sunday in Battersea park.

Paulo Bizarro , April 06, 1999; 07:14 A.M.

I have found the perfect travel camera, under the form of the new Leica Minilux Zoom. Together with a table tripod, it is the perfect combination for travelling light without compromising picture quality. The camera accepts a Leica CF flash for added versatility, and features a wonderful titanium body (as opposed to finish) and a terrific 35-70 3.5-6.5 Vario Elmar lens.

Look no further.

Timothy Breihan , April 12, 1999; 09:03 A.M.

I recently returned from a weekend trip to Chicago (visiting the University of Illinois), and believe that I have hit upon the perfect travel kit for anyone who wants great pictures, but embarking on a primarily photographic vacation. I packed a manual SLR (in my case, a Minolta XD-5), and three lenses; 50mm f/1.7, 28mm f/2.8, and 135mm f/3.5. All of this fit into a small Domke F5 belt bag, bought expressly for the trip, along with my smallest flash, a Minolta 132X, and several rolls of Ilford Delta Pro 100. This entire outfit was stashed in my briefcase, which I carried throughout the trip, and provided more photgraphic capabilities than I really needed; the 135 and flash came out only briefly (I probably could have left these at home). The 50 was great for interior shots (the central gallery of the Art Institute, FLW's Unity Temple in Oak Park), and 28 came out for dramatic architectural and streetscape photographs. In short, I had a very portable shooting kit, even with the items that I didn't extensively use.

R A , May 01, 1999; 06:33 A.M.

I'll be going to Australia's Gold Coast for a week-long course next month and am seriously thinking of packing my EOS 5, 28-135, 100-300, and maybe the 50, for my hols after the training. But I'll be stuck indoors for the week and the prospect of leaving all the gear in the hotel room for a week is quite scary.

Having said that, I just found another good reason to pick up a Ricoh GR-1 I've been yearning for.....at least I can take it with me while on course.....

Thanks to this site, Ricoh just made another sale.......

jason r. , May 19, 1999; 11:29 A.M.

I bring an old yashica, two primes, and a beat up holga, because i think i'm artsy. I mainly illustrate, but capturing images with anything is fun. I also bring a gameboy camera to take distorted pixelvision like images in nearly no light situations like a bar. if you can't bring a tripod use a beer mug or ledge or smallish animal that lies very still. Whatever, be creative and wear deoderant. thanks

Paul Rubin , May 31, 1999; 02:20 A.M.

I used to take a Nikon FM and lens-du-jour everywhere. Then for my first few international trips (everything in one backpack), I agonized each time about whether to bring an SLR and several lenses, and always decided in favor of a zoom point and shoot. There were always a few shots each trip that the P&S just couldn't handle (usually because of not enough wideangle coverage). Finally I gave up on the SLR stuff and became a P&S junkie, and just accepted that there's shots I won't get. Most recently I've gotten a digital camera (Canon A5). These things are very promising, but still not suitable as a primary travel cameras, mainly because they're too slow and burn too many batteries. But I've gotten intrigued with the idea of using the digicam's panoramic stitching software on images from scanned 35mm negatives. That partly fixes the problem of not enough wideangle coverage.

Current P&S cameras owned: Minolta FZE (28-70 zoom); Ricoh GR1 (28/2.8 fixed); Canon Elph Jr. (APS, 24/2.8 fixed). I think on my next trip I want to take two P&S cameras, for different film speeds and to have a backup if one fails. I'd want both to use the same film format so that would mean 35mm, not APS. I think I might sell the GR1 and get a Yashica T4 or Olympus Stylus Epic. These aren't as nice as the GR1 but they're cheaper (stuff gets stolen when you travel), they're weatherproof (GR1 isn't), and they both use the same battery type (DL123A) as the Minolta FZE (the GR1 uses the CR2 battery more commonly found in APS cameras), making it easier to carry spares. So the FZE and a T4 should be a good combination.

chris yo , July 02, 1999; 05:07 P.M.

I've found a stylus epic AND a Pentax 28-90 zoom compact make a good combo. I load both with 400 negative film, although occasionally I use 200 film. The Epic's great for low light, and the zoom on the 928 is good enough for most occasions.

When I am going out just to shoot ( say during the weekends ), I dump my SLR camera system into my car trunk ( tripod, monopod, EOS 5, 540EZ flash, 28-135, 100-300, 20-35 and 16mm fisheye ). Upon driving to my destination, I take the EOS with the 28-135, plus one extra lens in a waist bag/fanny pack. This is usually the wide angle, but sometimes the 100-300. I rarely use my flash, preferring ambient light. Since I've got the IS lens ( a God-send I must add), I rarely use the monopod too.

So, my lightweight system would be either the 2 compacts or the EOS + 28-135 + ultra wide angle.

Timothy Breihan , September 04, 1999; 07:11 P.M.

To make another comment, my newest favorite travel kit is a Nikon FE2 with a 28/2.8. Light, compact, and very versatile.

Paulo Bizarro , September 06, 1999; 08:59 A.M.

Since my previous post to this page, I have gone the simpler equipment route. This means I have finally decide, about 6 months ago, to trade in my numerous wide and standard prime lenses for the 28-70L zoom lens. My job currently involves frequent travelling abroad. Suffice to say that in the last 3 months I have spent 2 months in Mexico. Now, my 1N and 28-70 are a perfect combination, but it is not very suitable for sight seeing, not to mention very safe. Therefore, I bought the new 300 and 28-135 IS zoom. With E200 slide film, it took beautiful pictures of Diego Rivera's paintings, for example. For me, this is an excellent and light combination for making high quality photographs without a fuss. BTW, the 300 with its battery pack is a nice camera.

Bharat Rao , September 21, 1999; 06:48 P.M.

For those of you who are considering buying a Yashica T4 for a trip, I used it extensively for over 2 months this summer, and am very pleased with the results. It is a great camera to take with you when you are hiking.

Some sample shots from a T4 (and standard Fuji Superia 200 speed film) can be found at http://www.ite.poly.edu/people/brao/pics/alpineflora/flora.htm

DAvid W. Griffin , September 30, 1999; 03:19 P.M.

I'm one of those people with a bad back who tends to carry too much stuff. I have managed to pare down over the years to a selection I can stand to carry but which tends to handle most of my photography. That selection is: Lowepro MiniTrekker photo day-pack, Contax RTSIII, 25mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4, 135mm f/2.8, Contax 2x extender, Canon 500d 72mm diopter & step up, 55mm polarizer, warming filter, cable release, and Gitzo 1228 tripod.

It's still a bit of weight (especially the body which I sometimes substitute for an RTS I), but I find if I carry less, I end up not getting the shots I want. If I'm taking a lot of macro shots, I'll substitute the 60 f/2.8 macro for the 50 f/1.4.

Edward S , November 08, 1999; 12:25 A.M.

Leica M6 TTL .85 (high magnification) with a 35mm/F2 ASPH and a 75mm/1.4 or 90mm/F2 ASPH or 2.8, plus a Contax TVSII is a great combo for travel. Most of the pictures that you take will fall into the 35mm to 90 mm perspective. Leica M is light, sturdy, optically excellent (many believe unparralled in 35mm), gets the job done without a ton of weight, or carrying around a heavy camera bag that weighs as much as a portable computer with peripherals.

The Contax TVSII represents a very, very good zoom pocket camera with Zeiss Optics. An alternative to this would be the Leica Minulux zoom which is also excellent. Smaller is better than larger. Easy to carry means that you take it with you and use it.

I travel quite extensively and only take my SLR when I know that I will need a long telephoto, photograph fast action or a macro situaiton. If money is not an issue, then I would suggest you seriously explore these options. Leica M may open up a new perspective to you. One that put in total control without auto-everything. You just may take better pictures, because it forces you to think. Contax and Leica lenses produce suberb results. Based on "hands on experience" I strongly recommend these cameras as viable options for travel. Regardless of what you choose-have fun and shoot from the shadow side of the picture.


Paul W. Crouse , March 02, 2000; 11:24 A.M.

I think that traveling light is important. So is being discrete. While traveling in China, my traveling companion scolded me for carrying my Nikon FM2 around my neck. We were walking through an impoverised area. "That camera is worth more than their whole house!" he said. He had a point. A tempting target and rather imposing. He showed me how he carried his camera over his shoulder INSIDE of his coat. Nicely hidden and easily accessed. Since that trip, I've bought a Contax T2 with a semi-hard eveready case (with the logo taped over). It has a great lens, is built like a tank and is well protected by the case (I used to think that eveready cases were just for Grandpa--but Gramps wasn't stupid). Of course, there are times when I wished that I had other lenses--but I think that shooting with only one lens forces you to be more selective. It also makes for a much lighter bag. Happy trails!

Mark Strachan , March 21, 2000; 05:51 A.M.

Airport X-Rays! I might add a comment on airport x-rays. As a working professional photographer, I had occasion to work in the USA, Paris, London and Tokyo recently. All available light b&w with my Leica M6 and 3 lenses. Heathrow is a shockingly rude place for hand inspection of films (mostly TMZ 3200 ISO), although after kicking up a stink, they DID hand inspect! Twice. At the Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, leaving, the X-ray people were presented my 2 carry on bags and I put my 24 or so rolls of film which were in a clear self seal bag into the little dish they usually use for hand inspection. The stupid woman put it through the X-Ray!!!! They insisted that the x-ray would not harm the film - yeah right! Upon processing the film by hand today, I can report more than a dozen fogged frames, mostlyt on the TMZ, but also on Ilford Delta 400 (shot at 400). What can we do to ensure our livelihood is not jeopardised? Are there any people I can contact to get 'clearance' and g'teed hand inspection next time??

Mark Strachan Mark Strachan Artist Photographer www.msap.com.au

Tim Gibson , April 23, 2000; 01:53 P.M.

You folks blow my mind! Not all of us can spend $thousands on the latest hi-tech wonder-cameras to bounce around in the back of our ancient VW camper-bus in the Baja.

A big camera issue when travelling is theft. My setup is a good solution for fairly nice optics at a very low dollar total; Konica FP-1 SLR ($50, program only; other Konica manual bodies=similar price), 28mm f/3.5 ($25), 50mm f/1.7 ($20) and 135mm f/3.2 ($35) plus a tabletop tripod ($15) Total replacement cost: $145 including nice leather lens cases. A truly low-cost camera and lenses really opens the door to putting your camera in danger to get great pix. Also you sleep better at night.

Tim Gibson funcrew@yahoo.com

Doug Mason , June 13, 2000; 01:47 A.M.

Another camera to consider is the Leica Minilux with the fixed 40mm/f2.4. you can find them on eBay in new condition for $400-$500. I recently left all the SLR stuff as well as my Leica M6 and took the Minilux all over the middle east using mostly 400 speed print film.

The results were fantastic, indoors and outdoors, some of the best shots I think I've ever taken using any piece of equipment because it was always easily available.

The finder is very small and max shutter is 1/400, other than that I can't fault it. Plus, it looks like a "cheap" camera, a real plus when you are in areas where that big "Nikon" strap could get you mugged.

If you like the idea of a P&S if you can find one that gives reasonable results, try to borrow/rent a Minilux and give it a test. I'm pretty picky but I was quite impressed.

Kevin Krin , June 22, 2000; 02:26 A.M.

Thanks for all the advice. This has been tremendously helpful.

Ellard Gann , June 24, 2000; 06:42 P.M.

I have a Hexar that I take everywhere. It's a real gem. Between the Hexar and an N60 with a Tamron 28 - 200 lens I get a good number of the photos I want on a trip, indoors or out, night and day. If I'm going to be out in the bonnies for a while I take an FTbN with an f2.8 24, an f2.8 35, and maybe a Tamron 70 - 200. I don't have to worry about batteries with the FTbN. For car travel I might have a trunk load of stuff to use including a Rollei TLR and a Nikon S RF. Photography is a fun thing for me so I keep an open mind.

Ellard Gann

Michael Mee , November 13, 2000; 01:15 A.M.

A great article! I wish I'd read it before an 8 month trip a couple of years ago - because periodically I would get tired of carrying my SLR and a simple point and shoot would have been great to have as backup.

That said, the SLR-lens combo I chose worked well for me wandering around Europe. I had the Canon Rebel G body because it was compact and light and lashed out on the then-new Canon 28-135 IS zoom lens because it gave me a little more flexibility. I didn't have a full tripod, just a table top (it took a while to find one that could handle the heavy lens) which was a reasonable trade-off because we were travelling very light. It was a great combination that I loved! Btw, the Rebel 2000 fixes the only complaint I had with the Rebel G - it has aperture preview.

On a subsequent (even lighter, walking-only) trip, I took "only" a GR-1 and still can't decide if that was the right call. I missed quite a few shots without the zoom, but because the GR-1 was velcroed to my backpack shoulder strap and only took seconds to get out I also got quite a few that I wouldn't have if the SLR was in my backpack. Tough call.

Gregory Elkinbard , December 14, 2000; 08:11 P.M.

I usually bring my Nikon N70 and a couple of lenses with me when traveling. Typically when I go to Europe I drag around a 50 1.4 two zooms 24-120 and 75-300 and SB28. The flash and 75-300 largely stay in the hotel room. Those places where you would want to use flash, chirches and museiums you cannot. I use the tele zoom for a very small portion of shoots so I bring it only when I go on a boat or a bus trip, where I cannot move in closer. I've been caring all the gear in the over the sholder tamrac bag, but recently, I bought tamrac convertible, I carry it as a backpack, it fits my entire system plus a couple of cokin filters, 5 rolls of film and spare batteries. A backpack is a lot more convenient. For a point and shoot I use a Cannon Elph 370 loaded with fuji 400. I can live within limitations of the APS format for those times I really need a small camera. For those times when I need a really cheap SLR I carry my 25 year old Zenit and a couple of Zeiss Jena primes 35 and 200 and a 58 helios that came with the camera, it still takes decent pics after all of those years. Manual diaphram is a bit of a bother and the uncoupled meter is not very accurate, fortunately print film has a lot of lattitude now a days. I am updating the N70 with N80 to get a couple more gizmos, and the elph to elph II to get a faster lens. N80 with a 50mm is a small enough and light enough that I normally carry it at night instead of the elph, exept when going to a night club or a similar place. Greg

Andrew Grant , June 01, 2001; 05:50 P.M.

I have to disgree with Phil's E10 recommendation. It is a very large camera. A D30 or S1 with a couple of prime lenses would be smaller. The D30/S1 works for available light photography, the E-10 doesn't. The E-10 is the digicam equivalent of one of those slow cheap zooms. If you take an E-10 you will need an external flash. Most importantly, the D30 and S1's images are much better. They work with a microdrive also, so you may not need the laptop. The D30 may work better for available light than a film camera, you can change ISO on the fly right up to 1600. ISO 400 on the D30 is cleaner than film. The S1 starts at ISO 320 which may be a problem.

A small sensor has one big avantage over a full 35mm frame, many lenses have problems with edge sharpness or light fall off. These may not be apparent with the D30's small frame. Wide angle can be a pain though.

Finally, you can share the lenses with a EOS or Nikon film body. The E-10's lens would just be added weight.

Hubert Figuiere , June 20, 2001; 05:48 A.M.

Concerning manual inspection of films in airports, I must say that in 1996, when I went from Paris to London with the Eurostar (train under the Channel), I had a problem on the return trip. The security officer wanted me to put the loaded camera in the X-Ray machine and rejected manual inspection inquiries. There was no such inspection in Paris, but there was one in London. The bottom line: be careful if you plan to take the Eurostar.

Phil George , August 15, 2001; 01:10 P.M.

For a light, fast, high quality travel system, try a Contax G2 with 28mm and 90mm lens, and a Leica Minilux zoom 35-70. You then have two bodies, (use 100ASA in the G2 and 200ASA in the Minilux) covering the most used focal lengths 28-90. You could ditch the Minilux and carry the G2 with 28/45/90/flash (the basic G2 package) but I think the extra body plus ability to carry just the Minilux zoom is an advantage. Plus you would miss the beautiful leica glow in your pictures. If you like medium format, carry a Fuji GA645zi (equivalent to 34-55 in 35mm) instead of the Minilux and ask for 5x7 machine proofs of your photographs.

Darrell Jennings , February 23, 2002; 03:14 P.M.

I have traveled with cameras all over the world, and manual inspection of a camera bag is NOT available in any airport outside the U.S.

While airport X-ray machines are not supposed to affect low speed film, this depends on the adjustment of the machine, how long the film is scanned, and how many X-ray machines you have to go through. If you are traveling from the U.S. through Heathrow to the UK you will get X-rayed at least in Heathrow (with 9-11 you will probably be forced into an X-ray here as well). In Heathrow, you have to get X-rayed to go through immigration to enter the country, even if you are not getting on another plane! So if you are traveling through two or three cities, you may get X-rayed 4 to 12 times on a single trip! Unprotected film may get a color shift or fogging from this.

The only reasonable option I have seen is to get several of the fabric covered lead lined bags with an SPF of at least 20. If you double or triple wrap these bags they will give you protection from the usual X-ray machines for carry on luggage. You will typically be hand searched when you use these because they appear like a black hole to the security people. Note THERE IS NO PROTECTION COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE THAT WILL PROTECT FILM FROM THE X-RAY USED ON CHECKED BAGGAGE. DO NOT EVER PUT FILM IN CHECKED BAGGAGE.

Peter Leyssens , March 01, 2002; 10:19 A.M.

From all the comments above, it's clear that everybody's travel gear will look differently. I, for one, cannot stand zooms : I've tried them a couple of times, and they distract me. I also don't like to travel with a photo bag.

I've tried just bringing my Minolta TC-1 (fixed 28mm P&S) and I find such a wide angle only rather limiting. I wish I'd known of the fixed 40mm Minulux when I got it, but too late to change it now. I also tried my Olympus SLR with 2 lenses. Usually, I stick on one lens and my mind works in terms of that one lens. I'll continue working only with that one lens. When I remind myself of the second lens, I'll find something that looks great for that focal length and switch lenses, after which I usually only work with that one. Right now, I'm working with only my 90mm lens, which has turned out to be a far better choice than I expected. Probably, the constraints force me to be more disciplined in chosing the subject and composition.

For a long trip, I might consider taking both the P&S as well as the OM+90mm, though I'd probably end up taking only the latter.

Dan Andrews , March 02, 2002; 12:52 P.M.

Nearly six months after September 11, one concern that all of us face due to heightened security is inspection of our gear. All of the above comments about X-Ray machines will still apply, but I've experienced some new problems worth planning-to-prevent:

1. I try to predict the number of x-ray machines I'll have to run film through when I travel. Last trip, I had a roll go through eight different machines (it was E100VS slide film) and did fine. However, forget about it if you're shooting 800 ASA or above. The effects of X-Rays on film are cumulative. One possible solution: plan to process some of the film partway through your trip, if that's feasible.

2. Repair tools: I had a guard at Cairo Airport tell me that I could not carry on my precision screwdrivers and mini-pliers. After raising a fuss, he relented and gave them back, but that approach might be less successful in places where the police are highly trained and follow instructions more consistently.

The moral of that story is to plan your packing more carefully. Any tools or other objects which might be mistaken for a weapon should be packed. (Thankfully, no one could mistake a roll of film for a dangerous object, except in the political/journalistic sense.)

A final thought: I try to read the postings on phot.net regularly, and the advice on everything from the quality of photos to how to prepare for a trip is priceless. We must remember to use this website wisely, exchanging info and doing our best to offer assistance wherever possible through this site.

Happy travels,

Camera Girl , May 30, 2002; 01:07 A.M.

My favorite camera to take on ANY trip....

Mamiya 7II, 50, 80, and 150 lenses + cable release, polarizer, and red filter.

I have them in a modest size "fanny pack" by Lowepro, I believe it is called the "sideline shooter." This camera is the most wonderful medium format camera for travel. The shutter is in the lens, so it works fine handheld at 1/15 sec. The meter is right-on. The lenses are easy to change and store, although not exceptionally fast (4.0) However the size of the neg. is super! 6x7. I use a small Giotto ball head on a Bogen carbon fiber tripod. Very light and easy to use. I can stuff the whole rig into a student back pack and take off. (Try totin' around a Hasselblad and shooting spontaneously!) One of my favorite things to do with this camera, when the situation is right and the view up is interesting, is focus it on infinity, put the metering on auto, lay it on the ground on its back, and use a cable release. Voila! I use a handheld meter (Minolta Flashmeter V) for metering night shots, as the camera meter is way off at night.

My philosophy is to use the largest negative practical for the job. In January, I was feeling ambitious and took my 4x5 Linhof Kardan to Puerto Rico. Well... got some great shots, huge neg's and then most of the color film got mukked by the lab. Phooey! Oh the looks and comments I got from people. I think I'll stick with the Mamiya for traveling.


Daniel Ramirez , December 11, 2002; 01:46 P.M.

Hi, I would just like to stress the importance of testing your camera before use on a long(or short) trip.

My junior year of high school I recieved a scholarship from the US senate to be an exchange student to Japan. When packing for this trip I threw my 7th grade birtday present Kodak Advantix ti4600 into my carry-on and included 32 rolls of advantix film(mixed 100,200, and 400(mostly400)). When I was there I took my camera everywhere with me. I took pictures of beautiful tree covered hillsides, crystal green oceans and beautiful white sand, and many friends I made there. Before going on this trip, I was advised by my travel coordinator to not have film developed in Japan, because it was too expensive. So I took all 32 rolls of film and went home happy that I had a log of my activities.

Once home, I was so excited to get my pictures developed that I went to my local KMart the next day and dropped off all of them. Upon return to get my pictures, I was heartbroken to find that not one of my pictures had actually exposed. I started by blaming the airports for X-raying my carryon, but while taking another roll of film for a school assignment, I had to rule out that possibility because the film taken in America did not expose either. I was shocked and terribly saddened by my loss of memories, and still am to this day. I picked up that old Advantix ti4600 piece of junk the other day, and played around with it, sadly noting that the shutter doesn't open when I try and take a picture.

This event in my life is what got me seriously intrested in photography. I vowed to never miss a special opportunity again by a technical failure. I started looking at cameras at Ritz Photo in my local mall, and was sold on the idea of a "SLR" camera, one of the neat cameras with the big lenses that look so professional and sophisticated. The crafty salesman directed my attention to the Rebel 2000, a good beginners camera. I had no budget at the time, and so any camera was out of the question. After many other trips to the mall I was sold on the idea of a Nikon N80, I liked how it focused faster and how it had neat little lights and gizmos on it. Once I got a Job after senior year in high school I could afford a Camera. One day, not intending to buy a camera, I stopped in a old and very reputable camera store that I had seen, but had never been to before. Later that day, I walked out with a Cannon EOS-3, a 75-300 USM, a 50 f/1.4, and a Speedlight 420EX.

I had never taken photography before or anything, and didn't even know how to work my dad's old AE-1. So used every waking moment memorizing the manual of the EOS-3, and every other moment taking test shots with the AE-1. I have constanly dark pictures with the AE-1, but have been able to produce beautiful and top-quality prints with the EOS-3. I'm still figuring out how to use the EOS-3(I took a lot of bad shots at a recent concert because I didn't know how to push process or use the spot metering on my camera) and I have just recently become aware of the great myriad of films avaliable. I love Fujichrome 400, Kodak TMax 400CN, and Kodak NC&UC 160. Though these are Pro films and cost 8-13 dollars a roll(except TMax), I still enjoy consumer Konica film because of it's bright colors.

My mistake and my huge purchase have gotten me farther into photography that I ever would have thought. I simply love taking pictures and hope to be a professional one day. I dream of owning a Cannon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM, a 50 L f/1.0, and a 16-35 f/2.8 L USM. After I acquire these lenses, I hope to move to medium format. I take about 4 rolls a week(kodak max 800), and particulary enjoy low light photography(especially Xmas Lights). Please wish me luck!

Bruce Wilcox , December 15, 2002; 04:27 A.M.

I own, use and love a Nikon F5 and several (mostly prime) AF lenses, including the excellent 50mm f1.8 AF. For travel, however, I've had great results with my F3 and three Series E Nikon lenses: 28mm f2.8, 50mm 1.8 and 100mm f2.8. All three lenses are inexpensive, surprisingly sharp, take 52mm filters and I can carry the entire set all day in a smallish shoulder bag with room left over for other travel necessities. In particular, the 50mm f1.8 Series E is highly recommended - it's TINY for an Nikon lens (and the other lenses are quite small as well). Lens hoods are a must as none of these lenses have recessed front elements, and light falloff in the corners is severe at maximum apertures (as with all of my Nikon lenses), but all in all I'm thrilled with the performance vs. size and weight ratio these lenses offer. One other tip: I use third-party rear lens caps which are more shallow than the Nikon caps to further minimize the space the lenses occupy in the bag.

Kendall Gelner , December 31, 2002; 01:54 A.M.

I have just two points to add...

The first is on digital cameras. I'll just add a sad note wishing Minolta would get together an updated decent digital SLR that would use the Vectus line of lenses... I've already got the Minolta Vectus S1 (APS camera, not the Fuji digital S1) and a number of nice Vectus lenses (inclusing the 400mm and 17mm lenses). I've looked at the RD-3000 but it is just too dated and slightly less than the minimum resolution I'm willing to accept from a digital camera (about 3Mpix). I agree with the original article (even though the section on digital is starting to become dated) that it makes little sense to have a smaller image senser without smaller (and lighter) lenses. I really love the compact size and water resistance of my S1.

The second point is that for those still using APS film, the film cartridges themselves have almost no metallic content and you can carry a dozen or so in pockets when going through even very sensitive metal detectors. I use that trick a lot, especially with the great Fuji 800 speed APS film.

tommy moore , February 11, 2003; 03:00 P.M.

After travelling through South America for ten months, on a limited budget, here are some things I figured out about travelling with photo equipment. 1)Dust and Water are bigger concerns then theft, for that matter salt in the Salar de Uyuni and Galapagoes. 2)Theft occurs when you have done something stupid. People do things while travelling they would never do at home, so why start while you are travelling. You wouldn't put your camera bag in the overhead rack on a bus at home so why do it while travelling. 3)Avoid tripods unless your trip is short, they are heavy, awkward and imho not neccesary. Use a table top tripod or better yet a Kinesis bean bag filled with a down vest. You can set it on rocks, sand, fences etc...in a crowd use a travel companions shoulder, with a little practise they don't move, the vest will also keep you warm in the andes. 4)Solar chargers will cut down on the batteries you need, or better yet use a manual focus SLR, the locals all laughed at me because I couldn't "afford" a new camera. My Nikon Fm3a did everything I wanted it to, even when the power everything Canons and Nikons were crapping out due to weather, batteries or human error(dropping), also blacken out the name on the camera body and lenses with a permanent marker, you will attrach less attention. 5)As for bags try and get a bag with a waist strap and shoulder strap. Used together they stop the slash and grab thieves and help distribute the weight.

Asher . , September 17, 2003; 04:03 P.M.

Olympus XA: coupled rangefinder, sharp 35mm f2.8 lens, small, quiet, rugged built-in clamshell case, change exposure compensation by adjusting ASA setting, dedicated flash, and all small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. Cheap, too.

Olympus D-40 with several 128 MB SM cards (no laptop) is a digital alternative.

Jay Quicho , October 15, 2003; 11:50 A.M.

I met a guy while travelling in Croatia...Name was Henri...a nice guy. Pulls out this small little camera out of a plastic grocery bag stuffed in his pocket; tiny, looked like it was from the 60s or 70s. It also looked like it was picked up from a junk yard! One thing was sure...that camera had been put to good use. Turn's out that he had run it over with a motorcycle by accident (crazy story!), and it luckily still runs. He recommended that I buy myself a camera like his own Rollei 35, and ditch all the gear that I was carrying. From his experience, my camera (Nikon F3) and his camera (Rollei 35) took about the same quality photographs...he told me. Difference is that mine weighs a ton and his fits in his pocket. I thought to myself,

"He's got to be joking! That little camera!"

I did some research and found out that Henri was telling me the truth. Also turns out that Henri takes photographs for UNESCO and often displays his work at the Museum in Paris...all pictures taken with his cute and tiny camera. Quite a humbling experience. I took Henri's advice and I bought myself that Rollei 35 he suggested. Thanks for the tip Henri. This camera is great. It takes wonderful pictures.

Andres Soler , December 02, 2003; 06:39 A.M.

I use a Lowepro Orion Mini waist bag for traveling, small and convenient. I just put a steel cable through the mesh back in the bag and around my waist and hope this will prevent someone from slashing the bag's strap and running away with my gear, a theory I fortunately haven't had the chance to test. I used to carry an Olympus OM1, 50mm f1.8 & 24mm f2.8 plus film & some other gadgets, and now a Canon Elan 7 and 50mm f1.4. An essential I really can't do without is a tripod, and I found a Velbon 343E in Bangkok which comes with a pouch whose strap can be wrapped around the Orion Mini for carrying... it can be a little cumbersome, but I've had it lost by airlines and felt miserable without it!

James Moule , December 13, 2003; 02:58 P.M.

Phil says that a simple point and shoot pocket camera is not reliable. That has not been my experience. In the rain forests of Peru, my Nikon N70 stopped working. It was just too humid. So, I pulled out my little Leica Mini-Zoom and kept shooting. When we flew out of the rain forest, at 35,000 feet the N70 dried out and started working again,

A year later, when I was working to meet a deadline for a photo course at the University of New Mexico, the N70 died. Total CPU failure. I pulled out the Leica point-and-shoot and kept working.

I replaced the N70 with an N80 body so that I could use an 80-400 VR telephoto lens on an African safari. Halfway through the safari, the camera received a terrible jolt when the Land Rover hit a rut. Everything appeared to work right. However, when I retuned home and developed the film I learned that the lens aperature mechanism had been damaged. The aperature did not close rapidly enough and was still full open when the film was exposed. 15 rolls of Ektachrome 100 overexposed beyond saving. Ugh!

I had been taking a few pictures every day with the Leica point-and-shoot backup camera. I lost many "pictures of a lifetime" taken with the Nikon, but I still had a record of the Africa trip. Some of those Leica pictures were pretty good, come to think of it.

I have had that little Leica for a long time. It has never failed. Despite the Leica name, it is made in Japan but I know not by whom.

So, I would recommend two things: First, always take a little backup point-and-shoot camera. Second, take some pictures every day with it so that if your main camera suffers some hidden failure you won't come home empty handed.

Talbert McMullin , December 15, 2003; 03:58 P.M.

I spent my summer of 1985 touring central Italy and a few other places in Europe. I traveled with a dancing group of about 30. Everyone was carrying plastic point and shooters with fast film. I was carrying a manual focus Olympus 35RD and a Cannonet 28 and shot nothing but chromes. My photos blew theirs away, especially in the Vatican (where flash could not be used and I switched to just slightly faster chrome film). Today, those photos are gems. I still have the cameras and use them both. I only wish I had had my Rolleiflex Gray Baby and its razor-sharp Schneider lens back then. Maybe on the next trip!

Friend of mine says depending on where you go, don't take a camera when you can usually steal one and get away with it.

(Update 12-15-03) I think now I would suggest the possibility of taking a good digital camera on a long trip. Film can be hard to get when you get in some remote places. Just be careful of the camera you select. 3.2 megapixels with a 3x zoom is the least you should settle for. Carry extra batteries and a few rechargeables AND a solar powered recharger. You may have access to power and you may not, so spend the 25 bucks and get the charger.

Also, remember to carry extra storage media. Getting the right one overseas may be a problem. If you can find a reliable portable storage transfer device such as a battery powered hard drive, get one and speak nicely to it.

Tristan Savatier , June 20, 2004; 08:24 A.M.

My current equipment choice for long trips is a Sony DSC-F828 (8 Mega Pixel, 28-200mm equiv zoom, integrated flash) with a 4 GB Microdrive (can store about 1,100 photos at 8 Mega Pixel in high-quality JPEG format). This camera has a very good battery life (3-4 hours), and I never ran the battery out in one day, even when taking hundreds of photos. But I still carry a spare battery, just in case. I am a bit paranoid about loosing my camera (or it getting stolen with all the trip photos on the Microdrive), so I also carry in my luggage an iPaq with a dual extension sleeve and another 4GB Microdrive, which I use to backup the camera drive every night. The iPaq is much lighter and smaller than a laptop PC (more like a big Palm) and it can be used to backup the photos to either another 4GB Microdrive or a larger PCMCIA hard-drive. The cost of this 8 Mega Pixel camera is about $850, plus about $250 for a 4 GB Microdrive. Add another $1,000 for the optional equipment to do the backups. Also I always blacken out the name on the camera body with black tape, to attract less attention. I always put my camera in a plastic bag (to protect from water/rain and dust), and carry it in an old army-type shoulder-bag (harder for pickpockets to reach, compared to small backpacks). Never ever use a camera-bag unless you want everyone around to know you are carrying expensive equipment! I always screw-in a neutral (or UV) filter to protect the lens from banging it into a hard object or a rock. I also carry a polarizing filter to darken the sky and remove reflections. I remove the neck strap and replace it by a small hand/wrist strap, less visible but good security against theft.

I used to carry a SLR, wide-angle and telephoto zoom lenses, flash and lots of film of various speed, but with my new digital setup, I definitely carry less weigth and get higher-quality images than film, and no more problems with X-rays at airports (Microdrives have no problems with the X-rays used for carry-on luggages).

You can see some photos that I made using this digital travel equipment here:

Ben Frey , August 25, 2004; 02:11 P.M.

It seems to me that this article needs to be updated...We're living in the age of 8 megapixel prosumer digital SLRs and 100 dollars/gb flash cards, and I'd say we could stand to see some new guidelines for digital camera using traveling photographers...

Laszlo Horvath , October 25, 2004; 06:48 A.M.

I've been traveling around in Transylvania this summer with a medium sized Tamac bag. I had in it four Zeiss lenses three of them high speed, a body (Aria), ten filters, about 15 films on each day trip. It was heavy (6-8 kg). I had to climb very steep sloaps with my mounting bike, the climing often lasting up to 2 hours. I usually had the bag on my back about 6-8 hours daily. After about 5 hours I usually started feeling the weight. But I was able to take the images and it worth it. You get used to the weight.

Best wishes

Duane Horne , January 25, 2005; 03:28 P.M.

I will tell you what seems to be evolving for me.

I have what I call my main black bag. It consists of what I will use 85% of the time; it is a shoulder bag which contains 1 camera body, 1 28-300 viarable aperture Tamron Zoom (this is a great zoom lens for the price), a Canon 100 2.8 Macro, a promaster 19-35 variable aperture zoom lens (another good one), a Canon 50mm 1.8, a Russian 16mm 2.5 manual fish eye, hoya 3 set close up filters, 2x converter, 1.4x converter, 12 mm extension tube, flash unit, pc cord, macro light flash, hand held light meter, black changing bag, remote cord, filters (2 red filters, 2 warming filters, 2 polarizers, 1 #87 red filter, a set of gelatins, 8 cokin rectangular filters including ND and graduated ND's) several step up or step down rings, a small level and an eye cup, and lens cleaning materials.

As much as is in this bad it fits very comfortably on my shoulder and it goes with me everywhere.


I have other bags which I may take depending on what I am doing. I made the mistake of taking my main black bag with the other bags and damn near killed myself.

My Medium Grey Bag contains by big 400mm lens a Elan II body and accessories. It goes with me whn I am shooting wildlife.

My Large Grey Bag contains another Elan IIe body, a macro slide, extra extension tube sets, tripod heads, 2 lanrge lenses, etc. It goes with me whenver I am driving.

My Large Black Case contains my astrophotography gear, a 1200mm mirror lens, lens, filters, eyepieces, etc.

So, it is always my main black bag plus, maybe 1 other, if I fly. If I drive, I take everything.

3/9/07 Since my original entry a few years ago I have added two more bags: a Leica bag containing a Leicaflex SL2 and accessories and a medium format bag consisting of a Mamaya C220 TLR (6x6), an 80 and a 65mm lens, and an Omega Rapid (6x7) with a 90mm lens.

I am getting too old and fat to be carrying all this stuff around. My next investment will be in a porter :)

mark hemingway , May 08, 2006; 12:51 P.M.

I'd agree with a lot of what's been said but my own personal preference when travelling is a Leica C3 point and shoot. Reasons being I am usually travelling by motorcycle so it needs to small and light. It has a 28-105 lens, automatic and manual settings, it also comes with a hard case for packing and a soft belt case. Whatever you take with you it's no use at all if you don't have it with you so something that has a great lens and is portable works for me.

Glen G , August 06, 2006; 09:30 P.M.

My how times and opinions have and will change with just a few years. When this was originally posted (1998) I would have agreed with a lot of what was said. Today, August seventh, 2006 with the advent of digital photography, small zooms with vibration reduction and ED glass I for one will no longer carry six prime lenses, two bodies a flash and a Sea King case on my trips. For the kind of travel, editorial, fashion photography I do I love my Nikon D50 and 18-200 VR lens. It is sharp, contrasty, light weight and fast enough for anything outside of night shots. I get paid for what I do and love the fact that I can get the shots I need with just one lens and body. People ask me why I chose the D50 over the D70 or D200 yada yada yada and I say because of the size primarily and that since I know what I'm doing and the kind of shots I take there is no reason for me to spend the extra cash. A lot of people who do not shoot seriously like to talk about specs and what their cameras can do. I recently saw a questions from a father who was thinking of buying a D50 for his daughter who was a high school photographer who shot year book and school paper article photographs. She would primarily be shooting candids, portraits of students, staff and the occasional sport shots. Well someone whom I assume was of the aforementioned "Geek" spec shooters said he should buy his daughter the D200 for the 1/8000 of a second shutter speed that the D50 did not have. I thought to myself, oh my god! There is no reason or need to spend three times as much money when I'll bet shoting high school sports, or any most sport will require any thing more than 1/2000 or 1/4000 of a second that the D50 has. How does this gentleman think sports were shot when the top shutter speed was 1/500? I guess my whole point is realize that technique, style and experience is way more valuable than specs! Shoot a lot, experiment, have fun and don't listen to people who spout capibilities and don't have a volume of great photos to back up thier claims.

David W. Griffin , November 02, 2006; 05:33 P.M.

I'm exploring the Minolta 5D digital now, but my past 2 trips carried the following: trip 1) Contax RTS III, Aria, 28-70 Aria kit lens, 50, 21, 135, 200. trip 2) Leica M2 x 2, Leica CL, Voigtlander 25, Leica 50/2, 35/2, 90/4.

I couldn't possibly carry all of it all the time. Typically if I was operating from the car (as I was with the Contaxes) I carried it all in the trunk (along with a carbon fiber tripod) and if I needed to go somewhere I took the Aria and the Kit lens (very light).

I typically either took both the M2s or an M2 and the CL and I used color in one and black and white in the other.

Both of these worked out well. The Contaxes because I was typically operating from the car. The Leicas because even with 2 M2s and a few lenses it's not really that much weight.

Now I'd be tempted to use the Maxxum 5D, the kit lens and maybe a macro lens (and maybe the 100-300). Maybe I'd take the CL along as a backup and some film. I might also have to take a laptop with a card reader because I would want to make sure I had at least 2 copies of all my pictures every night. Still that's not TOO much. I could probably fit all this in a carry-on bag (and check the tripod). I'm not that fit but the 5D and the kit is very light, even when carrying the tripod.

Its funny, I typically carry more lenses than I use because it's often the case that 35 to about 90 does for 98% of the pictures I want to take.

J Blakely , December 10, 2006; 04:42 A.M.

It is a great change in just 8 years. Now when I travel I have two distinct packs, or sometimes both.

The deluxe pack is my Canon AL-1 body, 50mm f/1.8 prime lens, Tokina 70-210 f/4 telephoto, Hoya Skylight 1B filter, Marumi close-up filter set (+1, +2, +4), Speedblitz flash, and cable release, plus film and spare AAA batteries (thank God Canon went for AAAs, eliminates one of the main complaints about the AE-1).

The basic pack is a Fuji Finepix A345 P&S with extra batteries and another xD card. I also occasionally carry a Canon Sureshot Owl.

I can mix and match, like stripping the deluxe down to the body and 50mm lens, or add the Fuji digital. However, I haven't travelled overseas since I became interested in photography, and I doubt I'd want to baby all that equipment for a long tour.

Tom Rose , April 28, 2007; 10:39 A.M.

Leica M6 + 35mm f/2 + yellow filter + a few rolls of Ilford Pan 100 and Pan 400

you can add a 75mm, 90mm or 135mm lens if you can cope with the added complication of deciding which focal lens to use!

Asher . , July 11, 2007; 08:25 P.M.

I second Tom's comment above. Worked (and continues to work) well for many well known Nat Geo photogs, who, by the way, would take exception to Phil's claim that the "best" digital cameras (or at least his concept of the "best") is better than 35mm film quality. Cases in point: Alex Webb, William Albert Allard, and Sam Abell, just to name a few whose photo books (i.e. prints) blow away anything I've seen on PNet in the past 8 years.

What I continue to fail to understand is this need to drag a laptop + international adaptors, cables, batteries etc etc on trips. Why not just acquire several memory cards? Much lighter, easier, re-usable, and cheaper than losing a laptop. duh. What am I missing here?

Russel Harris , July 20, 2007; 02:22 A.M.

I am very happy using my Oly 35RC and a Holga 120SF.

Both are very disarming cameras, and people are happy to start chatting to you about them - from Cape Town to Beijing and back.

My N8008 and EM I only use closer to home or when I have a car at my disposal.

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