Photographers Travel Setup: Part 2

So in my previous blog ( http://ankhphotography.net/blog/2018/7/4/travel-setup ) I mentioned that I would share my camera setup for our upcoming trip to India, so here it is.

So again this is a similar kit to that which came to to South East Asia with me last year, and is very Fujifilm based.  The premise for selecting the gear is portability ( i.e. light weight and small ), versatility ( I have a lot of lenses to chose from but can't carry them all ) and quality.

Something to carry things in

So for a while now my main camera bag for everyday use has been a Think Tank Retrospective 10.  I actually have 2 of these bags ( both in black ), and I also have a Retrospective 5 bag ( which is the smaller brother to the 10 ) in Pinestone Grey which I use more as a 'manbag' but I also use it to carry a camera body with a single lens if I am travelling light.

It has been said many times by people with more years in photography than me that there is no such thing as the perfect camera bag, but about 4 years ago I bought a second hand Retrospective 10 bag based on some good reviews I had seen, and found that it was exactly what I was looking for in a camera bag.  So much so that I bought a second one not long after as a backup for when ( or if ) my main one fell apart; it still sits in storage waiting it's chance to serve.

The things I like about this bag include it's simple look, it is not too deep which makes getting to cameras and lenses nice and easy, the top flap is velcro only with no fiddly domes / buttons to be undone ( in fact the top flap is heavy enough not to need the velcro to keep it shut in most situations ), and it is a bit of a tardis; I seem to be able to get a lot more into the bag than it would appear possible from the outside.  It also feels lighter than it is which I think is due to it being quite a soft and flexible bag, which seems to sit nicely against the hip and wraps around slightly.  It is very comfortable to carry even when fully loaded.

See the end of this blog for a link to find out more about these bags, but you will see how I load it up soon.

Camera

So I use my Fujifilm X-E3 for my day to day photography ( my X-T2 is a 'work camera' ) as I like to travel light and the X-E3 fits nicely into a pocket or small bag.  This is the camera that I will be taking to India with me.  It is small, powerful, looks unassuming and produces nice images straight out of the camera for using in daily blogs when I don't want to spend time editing photos.  I don't have anymore to say about the camera other than it suits me, and one of the main reasons for buying into the Fujifilm X mount system was for a lightweight compact travel system, so that is what it will do.

I will also be taking an X-E2 camera body as a backup in case anything goes wrong with the X-E3, and this will live in my main backpack, well wrapped up without a battery in it ( airlines seem to be wary of batteries in checked in luggage these days).  Liz will also be taking her X-E2 camera with 3 lenses.

Lenses

Now this is where the choices get more difficult / interesting.  I own a selection of lenses for the Fujifilm system including:

  • 9mm f2.8 Laowa 
  • 18-55mm f2.8-f4 Fujfilm 
  • 18mm f2 Fujifilm
  • 27mm f2.8 Fujifilm
  • 35mm f1.4 Fujfifilm
  • 50-140mm f2.8 Fujifilm
  • 50-230mm f4.5-6.7 Fujifilm

For travel, as I said at the start of this blog I am only taking things that are portable and versatile, so lets start eliminating lenses, and I will give the reasons why they won't be coming with me:

  • 50-140mm f2.8: great lens, but weighs nearly the same as the lenses that I will be taking.  And it is pretty big too.
  • 18mm f2: this is a nice little lens, but it doesn't offer anything really different to the 18-55mm zoom lens, except it is f2 at 18mm as opposed to f2.8, but that is not a big deal.

So that leaves the following lenses, and again I will give my thinking behind taking them with me:

  • 9mm Laowa: great wide lens, small and lightweight.  I reviewed this lens here: http://ankhphotography.net/blog/2018/6/27/big-view-in-small-packages-laowa-9mm-little-dreamer-lens
  • 18-55mm f2.8-f4 Fujifilm: another great walk around lens, covers a good range from wide-ish at 18mm to 55mm ( equivalent to the field of view of a 27 - 77mm in full frame terms ) which is long enough to isolate subjects or take portrait shots.  And like all Fujfilm lenses it is sharp.  Again it is quiet compact and lightweight, but solidly built, for a zoom with this range.  The lens also has image stabilisation which is a bonus.
  • 27mm f2.8 Fujifilm:  this pancake style lens is great for when I want to carry the camera in my pocket and not carry a camera bag, or if I want to take an extra lens but don't want to take the whole camera bag.  It is a good quality lens, focuses fast enough and is a good focal length, at 41mm full frame equivalent, for most uses.  The biggest thing in it's favour is the size, or lack thereof.
  • 35mm f1.4 Fujifilm:  This is my favourite of all the primes I own, and is a bit of an indulgence for this trip.  There is a smaller f2 version a 35mm lens from Fujifilm, but I don't have that one in my collection.  This lens produces great images, has a fast f1.4 aperture, isn't too heavy and bulky ( it is abut 2/3 the length of the 18-55mm but the same barrel diameter ).  It is possible to argue that the 18-55mm covers the 35mm focal length ( at an aperture of f3.2 ) , but this lens is coming purely for the image quality.
  • 50-230mm f4.5-6.7 XC Fujfilm:  again I have done a brief review of this lens here: http://ankhphotography.net/blog/2017/11/16/fujifilm-xc-50-230m-f45-67-ois-lens-brief-review.  To put it simply this is a compact, sharp, lightweight telephoto zoom ( equivalent to 75-345mm in full frame terms ), with image stabilisation built in.  It is about 1/3 longer than the 18-55mm and the same barrel size.  It isn't perfect; it is made mainly of plastic ( which is good for the weight ) and is slow: both in focus speed and the aperture value.  But it punches above it's weight in terms of usability and image quality ( here are some shot that I have taken with this lens https://www.flickr.com/search/?user_id=73838904%40N04&view_all=1&text=50-230 ).

So that group of 5 lens will give me complete focal length coverage from 18 - 230mm ( 27-345mm in full frame terms ) with 2 lenses, a small wide 9mm lens, a 'takes up no room' 27mm and a great quality / versatile 35mm.  In total the 5 lenses weight 1240g ( 2.7 pounds ), and 1760g ( 3.8 pounds ) including the camera body.  As a comparison my Nikon D800 body alone weighed 1kg, and the 50-140 f2 Fujifilm lens weighs about the same.  I could reduce the weight by only taking the 9mm, 18-55mm and 50-230mm, which with the camera body only weighs 1350g, but I think the extra 2 lenses will be worth the small amount of extra weight and size.

So that covers the bag, camera and glass.  Now for all the other things that need to come with me

Support Equipment

I will just list the things that will be in my bag when I am away ( which is pretty much the same as what I carry with me on a day to day basis, with a few changes ):

  • memory cards: I use Sandisk cards, with a mixture of 32GB and 64GB. I will have 768GB in total of cards ( 8x 64Gb and 8x 32GB ).  I carry these in a small case that I found somewhere, and I also carry my spare camera batteries in here as well.
  • batteries: I have 7 batteries for the Fujifilm X-E3, of which I will probably take 4.  I normally get about 400-500 shots out of 1 battery so 4 should be enough for most situations.  I can also charge the battery in camera via a USB battery pack ( see below ) if I need to, normally from the battery pack while on the go.
  • cleaning clothes: 2 micro fibre clothes for cleaning lenses etc.
  • Nisi filter kit: I carry the Nisi V5 Landscape edition 100mm filter kit, with a 6 stop and a 10 stop ND filter, with me everywhere. This kit includes a circular polariser in the filter holder. I have ditched the official case that this kit comes in for a converted 'clam shell' style CD case.  I also have adapter rings in that case to cover mounting the filters onto all the lenses except the 27mm, which I don't use filters on normally.
  • Manfrotto mini tripod: very handy for setting up the camera on the ground or a ledge.
  • Metal torch: essential for those sunrises and sunsets which normally involve walking in the dark.
  • Insect repellant: again this is essential.
  • bean bag: I bought a small bean bag many years ago and again it is incredibly handy for resting the camera on, and could probably double as a wheat pack if needed.  I do have to remember to have it easy to get to when the airport security want to see it, as it shows up as organic matter on the scanners.
  • power pack: I just picked up a cheap Laser 10000MAH power bank which has 2 USB sockets, and it works well.
  • iPhone charging cable
  • camera usb cable: for charging the battery in camera if needed or transferring files to the MacBook if I just need to grab a couple of images off the camera.
  • Peak Design cuff: I use Peak Design straps for my cameras and the Cuff (wrist strap ) lives in the camera bag at all times.  I also carry a Slidelite ( shoulder strap ) as well for if I just want to take the camera without the bag, but this will live in my backpack normally. 
  • Remote shutter release: I don't use this often, but when you need it...

In terms of the items in the photo above they are ( clockwise from top left ): Peak Design Cuff strap, insect repellant, green Laser Power Bank, Fujifilm remote shutter release, 50-230mm lens with 27mm lens below it, 18-55mm lens with X-E3 below it, Laowa 9mm lens, 35mm lens, Energiser Torch, Manfrotto Mini Tripod, Sirui T005 tripod, Nisi Filters in CD case, batteries / cards in zip up soft case, cleaning cloth, USB cable for camera, iPhone charge cable

The Retrospective 10 bag has a large front pouch, which is still covered by the main bag flap, and is big enough to carry a full size DLSR body in it, and depending on what we are doing I use this for 2 different storage options.

  • when travelling between places ( on buses, trains, planes etc ) I put the MacBook Air in this pouch along with my HDD ( see my previous blog on the storage / backing up solution I use for travelling ), and the MacBook charger. The Sirui tripod that I am taking on the trip goes into my checked in baggage.  This is mainly to ensure that I have the MacBook and HDD with me for editing / blogging while travelling but also for the obvious security reasons as well.
  • when we are staying somewhere then I leave the MacBook Air and HDD in the hotel room and carry the tripod in the front pouch.  It is surprisingly compact and well balanced even with the tripod on the outside of the bag.  If I don't think I will need the tripod then I will leave it behind to gain space and save weight.

So added to the list of equipment are:

  • Sirui T-005KXtravel tripod ( this model is no longer being made, but the equivalent model is the T-005S )
  • 11" MacBook Air and Seagate 1TB HDD, and MacBook charger,

So all up the camera bag, camera, lenses, support equipment weighs approx 4.5kgs ( 10 pounds ) with the addition of the tripod or MacBook configuration adding another 1.2kgs to the bag, so a total weight normally of 5.7kgs. This fits will under the normal 7-10kg weight limit for carry on luggage on planes, and is small enough to fit under the seat in front of me. 

Nearly 6kgs of weight may not seem light but the camera bag is very comfortable and only on long walks does the weight start to become an annoyance.

There is no way that I could fit all of the equivalent full frame DSLR gear ( as I used to travel with ) in a bag that would be 'legal' to carry on to a plane; in fact I remember on a trip a couple of years ago having a backpack that weighed 14kg with me and trying to walk and stand as if it weighed nothing to avoid being asked to weigh it.

And the biggest beauty of having a small bag and small camera is that no-one even looks twice at you or thinks you are carrying a professional quality camera setup when you are on the streets.

Links for gear

Below are some links where you can buy some of the things I carry around.  I don't get anything out of these links other than making it easier for you to find the items.

  • Sirui Tripod: https://photogear.co.nz/sirui-t-005-tripod-with-c-10s-ball-head.html
  • Peak Design straps: https://photogear.co.nz/catalogsearch/result/?cat=0&q=peak+design
  • Nisi Filters: https://nisifilters.com.au/category/nisi-100mm-square-filter-system/
  • ThinkTanks Retrospective 10: https://www.photowarehouse.co.nz/shop/shop-by-product/camera-bags-2/shoulder-bags/thinktank-retrospective-10-black/
  • Fujifilm Camera and Lenses: https://www.photowarehouse.co.nz/shop/shop-by-brand/fujifilm/
  • https://www.photowarehouse.co.nz/shop/shop-by-product/tripods-and-supports/mini-tripod-tabletop/manfrotto-mtpixi-b-table-top-tripod/

 

So that is a quick overview of the gear that I will be taking to India in a few weeks; if you have any questions please leave a comment below.