Essential Travel Photography Gear for Beginners

In Photography Equipment by Stefano Caioni Leave a Comment

Purchasing gear as a new photographer is often overwhelming. There are so many choices, it’s hard to know where to start. You want to get high-quality gear without breaking the bank.

The following essential travel photography gear recommendations will help you begin building a solid collection of gear for your adventures.

Travel Photography Gear

Small Camera and Lenses

For most travel photographers, a micro four thirds camera is ideal because it’s lightweight and produces fantastic images. Micro four thirds lenses also tend to be much lighter than full frame lenses.

My personal recommendation for a budget micro four thirds camera is the Olympus PEN E-PL9. I’ve recently bought one and took it with me during my last trip to Japan and let me tell you that for an under $1,000 price point, you’ll be hard pressed to get better image quality than the E-PL9. It’s a pleasure to shoot with.
Here’s an image I captured with it.

Captured with Olympus PEN E-PL 9

On the Panasonic side the Lumix DMC-GX85 is a really good alternative for around the same price as the EP-L 9.

If you’re in the market for a micro four thirds camera and have a bigger budget, the Oympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II is probably the best choice.

Read about some of my favorite micro four thirds lenses here

I have to remind you that there are lightweight alternatives also on bigger sensor mirrorless cameras such as the Fujfilm X-T3 (APS-C sensor)and the legendary Sony a7 III (full frame). They won’t disappoint you.

If you prefer to shoot with a DSLR, choose a smaller mid-range DSLR body, such as the Canon 80D (APS-C sensor) or the Nikon D7100 (my first DSLR APS-C sensor). To keep the weight down while traveling with DSLRs, prime lenses are ideal. You get superior image quality without adding bulk to your camera. Here’s a list of the best travel photography lenses under $500.

My personal favorite lightweight Canon prime lens is the 40mm f/2.8 (for APS-C sensor cameras). The focal length is extremely versatile, making it a great choice for travel. On the Nikon side, the NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8 (for APS-C sensors) is a great choice.

Lens Cleaning Kit

When you’re out and about taking travel photos, your lenses will get dirty. Keep a small supply of microfiber cloths and a lens cleaning pen or brush on hand.

You’ll be able to keep your lenses free of smudges and debris without adding any weight to your camera bag. MagicFiber and Sensei microfiber cloth brands are popular among photographers.

You may also want to pack a lens cleaning spray to give your lenses a more thorough cleaning when you have downtime at your hotel.

Read my complete guide on How to Clean Your Camera Lenses and Filters with a list of the best products.

Laptop With a Portable Hard Drive

Traveling with a laptop and portable hard drive is essential for keeping your images backed up. As storage has become so affordable, there’s no reason you should skimp on portable hard drive space.

Once a day, take a few minutes to transfer the last day’s worth of images onto your portable hard drive. With the original files still on your memory cards, you’ll have two copies of your images, greatly minimizing the risk that something will happen to them. I use the small and fast Seagate Portable 2TB and here you can read more about how to organize your digital images like a pro

Multiple Memory Cards

Even when you purchase high-quality memory cards and take good care of them, you never know when a memory card will fail. You can’t count on purchasing memory cards while traveling or you’ll pay through the nose at an airport, so stock up ahead of time before an upcoming trip.

It’s also a good idea to switch memory cards a couple of times during the trip. If something does happen to a memory card or your backup system, you won’t lose all of your trip images when they’re spread across multiple cards.

Compact Tripod

manfrotto tripod

As a beginner photographer, it’s best to invest in a high-rated, budget travel tripod. High-end tripods are pricey. It’s important to get experience shooting with a tripod to figure out what your needs and preferences are for that investment purchase. Manfrotto, Benro, MeFOTO, and Oben offer highly rated travel tripods under $200.

Camera Bag

manfrotto camera bag

When you’re shopping for a camera travel bag, it’s important to consider your travel needs as well as photographer needs and to ensure that the bag provides easy access to your gear.

My personal favorite camera bags for travel is the Manfrotto Street Medium Backpack. The Manfrotto medium backpack is light and offers two internal compartments that can be combined into one. It also has a rear sleeve for your laptop. It’s also very handy to bring your small tripod always with you.

Good alternatives are the LowePro Fastpack and ProTactic backpacks or the Think Tank TurnStyle sling bag which I’ve used in the past. For a $100 and under price point, the Endurax Waterproof Camera Backpack is a great option.

Final Thoughts

Before purchasing travel photography gear, do your research.

Pay attention to online ratings and reviews and watch videos to get an up-close look at the gear.

If you’re ever in doubt about which items will best fit your needs, write in the comments section below and I’ll be happy to answer your questions.

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