Photography Gear

 
As travellers and keen photographers, we always need to make sure our kit bag is prepped and snap-ready. We are often asked which camera(s) we use to take our pictures so we decided to share all the info about our gear. This is not a conclusive list and is a constantly evolving representation of our photography interests and skills. We’ve (ahem, Bevan) always got our eyes on the next thing to add to our bag of tricks!
Bevan taking photos of Bled Island at Lake Bled, Slovenia

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: WHAT'S IN OUR KIT BAG

CAMERAS

Our first Digital SLR camera was a Canon and since then, we’ve always been a part of the Canon family.

Canon EOS 77D

The newest addition to our camera family and we couldn’t be happier. We decided to upgrade for two main reasons:
(1) to capture higher quality images, and
(2) to have a camera with a high-performing video functionality. With so much video content produced these days, we hope to dabble in this area in the future.

The improvement in the quality of our images has been instantly recognisable and we hope this will be evident in our Galleries. We’re still learning the ropes when it comes to videography but hopefully we’ll have some videos to show soon!

Advantages
  • Remote Access - One feature we love about the 77D is the ability to take photos remotely. The camera has built in wifi which we can connect to our iPhones. This is super useful when we want to take a picture together. We set up the camera on the tripod or a flat surface, have the smartphone in our pocket or out of sight and click the trigger when we’re ready. #travelcouple
HINT: The 77D has an affiliated app which we have downloaded onto our iPhones. Besides being able to snap photos remotely, the app allows us to download videos from the camera straight to our phone. This means we can quickly go from camera to Instagram.
  • Battery Life - An extended battery life means that the rechargeable battery lasts for approximately 600 shots. For us, we can usually go a whole day without needing to change to the spare battery (we do carry backup batteries just in case).
  • Autofocus - The 77D has a wider autofocus area with 45 autofocus points in comparison to the 600D which features 9 focal points. Increased autofocus points over a larger area gives you more creative control and results in sharper image.
Disadvantages
  • Speed - The 77D is a tad slow to process multiple images when shooting in bursts.

Canon EOS 600D

Our foray into photography and DSLR cameras began with the 600D. This is a great entry-level camera although sadly it is no longer made. We would encourage beginner photographers to purchase the 600D second-hand or check out the newer model, the Canon EOS 700D. There is enough functionality within the camera’s modes to allow the user to take ownership of the images they are snapping. Users can learn the basic ins and outs of a DSLR camera without feeling too overwhelmed.

Advantages
  • Menu Navigation - The 600D features a simple menu structure and several shortcut buttons. Many of the camera’s functions are accessible using the buttons on the camera’s body (e.g. white balance, drive mode and picture style) without having to go into the detailed menu.
  • Angle Screen - The 600D includes an angle screen which proves to be particularly useful when you want to see what you’re shooting above your head or below your ankles.
  • Screen Size - The 3 inch LCD screen is a handy size for when you want a quick review of the photo you just took. Not too small so you can scrutinize your work!
Disadvantages
  • Battery Life - We’ve noticed that the battery life of the 600D drains quickly, particularly when shooting via live view. You receive little warning when the battery is about to run out, often going from two bars to empty within a handful of shots.
  • ISO Range - The ISO range is relatively limited at ISO 100 to 6400 (it can be increased to 12800), meaning you’ll need to use a tripod if shooting after dusk or when shooting in low-light environments (e.g. inside or in caves).

OUR LENSES

For the Canon EOS 77D

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

This lens is a great all-purpose lens for everyday shooting. When shooting with the Canon 600D and 55-250mm lens, it became apparent that we were only using the added range of the 250mm lens on rare occasions (see below). Switching to the 77D, we purposefully chose the 18-135mm lens instead of the 18-55mm lens to have the flexibility of a zoom lens.

Switching to the 77D and the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens offers terrific range when we need to use the zoom without compromising on picture quality.

Advantages
  • Image Quality - We mostly shoot between 18-55mm and have noted the sharpness of our images has far exceeded our expectations. This goes for portraits and landscapes shot during the day and in low light.
  • Lightweight - The lens is compact and only weights 0.51kg meaning it fits neatly into our camera bag when we travel.
  • Optical Image Stabilizer - The built-in stabilizer means that even if your hands are shaky, the sensor in the camera will compensate for any movement, correcting image alignment and reducing blurriness. Ideal for winter when your hands are shivering! This stabilization tool is another big plus for shooting videos or when trying to take sneaky pictures.
Disadvantages
  • Distortion - When shooting towards the 18mm end of the range, we’ve found that images tend to become distorted. Sometimes, we have ended up with slightly rounded edges in our images which cannot be entirely “fixed” during the editing process. This is most notable in cityscapes where lines are “harder”. It is likely to be less noticeable when shooting landscapes.<

To compensate for the distortion, we will be looking to add a prime lens like the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens to our kit bag in 2018.

For the Canon EOS 600D

Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens

If you’re buying the Canon 600D with a lens, chances are that this will be the lens included as part of the set. In our opinion, the lens represents excellent value for beginners when purchased in combination with the camera (As the 600D is no longer made, the combo set will be with the latest 700D model instead).

Advantages
  • Versatility - This lens is suitable for shooting close to mid-range portraits and landscapes.
  • Lightweight - The 18-55mm is another lightweight lens weighing only 0.2 kg; the perfect size for a weekend trip in your carry on luggage.
  • Quality - This lens produces sharp images of a decent quality, which is likely to be sufficient for beginners.
Disadvantages
  • Durability - As with most budget friendly products, there is a compromise between lens quality and its price. In our experience, the plastic components of this lens means that is it more susceptible to damage in comparison to lenses with metal components. Despite this, for the price, we would thoroughly recommend purchasing the camera and lens combo.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS II Lens

This lens came in handy when Bevan was on safari in South Africa as this lens works best for nature and wildlife shoots. Overall, we’d suggest this lens for anyone looking to take pictures from a distance without feeling the pinch in their back pocket.

Advantages
  • Optical Image Stabilizer - For beginners, the stabilizer is your friend. Particularly if you’re using the zoom to its fullest, you’ll want the camera’s sensor to kick in to help capture a crisp image.
  • Affordable - We believe this lens doesn’t carry a hefty price tag and is readily available to those on a budget. You will find zoom lenses with higher resolution if you’re prepared to invest more dollars.
Disadvantages
  • Practicality - Given our recent trips have been city breaks, we have not relied on this lens much and tended to leave this lens at home to avoid carrying around the extra 0.4 kg. For future adventures where we find ourselves immersed in the wild or reconnecting with nature, we may pull this lens out again.

OUR ACCESSORIES

Memory Cards

To ensure that your camera performs as expected, it is essential to have a memory card capable of capturing your images effectively and efficiently. We use Sandisk across all our cameras and always carry a backup (two in fact). There is a wide range of memory cards on offer from Sandisk and other brands but we choose to use the highest quality Sandisk cards simply because they perform better and faster than its peers.

Filters

Applying filters is not restricted to Instagram or the processing and editing stage. You can also add filters to the front of your camera lens when shooting. We highly recommend including the following filters in your kit bag:

  • UV filter - The filter which is fixed to your lens 90% of the time. The UV filter protects your camera lens from dirt, dust, moisture, scratches and fingerprints. It is a lot cheaper to replace a filter than it is your lens.
  • Polarising filter - This filter shields your lens from glare or unwanted light reflecting off surfaces such as water or glass. Think of it as sunglasses for your camera. The filter also helps to enhance blue skies.
  • Neutral Density filter - A ND filter reduces the amount of light entering the lens which allows you to use a longer shutter speed or a wider aperture. This can offer increased creative flexibility (e.g. blurring movement of water in waterfalls and gushing rivers) or soften images snapped in harsh lighting.

Tripod

Our tripod is both travel and backpack friendly. It can be folded compactly and weights very little. We take it almost everywhere we go and use it frequently. Its quick release legs means it takes mere seconds to put up or pull down.

We consider a tripod an absolute must for our kit bag particularly in the following three situations:

  • Low Lighting - We tend to shoot between 18-35mm focal lengths so when shutter speed drops below 1/30 of a second and there is insufficient light, we will pull out the tripod. This ensures that the camera is steady and stable (i.e. no shaky hands) and the sharpness of our images is maintained.
  • TIP: Set the timer so that when you click the shutter button to take your picture, the movement of your finger away from the camera does not disrupt the image being taken.
  • Bracketing - Following on from the above point, when lighting is uneven (e.g. shadows), we will try to employ the bracketing technique. The tripod ensures a solid base for capturing the frame several times at different exposures. We will hopefully capture one satisfactory image or rely on the post-production process.<
  • Couple Shots - when there is no one else around to take our picture, we set up the tripod and use the timer or remote shooting option. It is also particularly useful for when we are shooting video or to stabilise the image.

Cleaning Kit

A cleaning kit is an important component of a photography kit. It guarantees that no dirty fingerprints or dust marks make their way onto your lens to ruin your shot. We clean our lenses regularly to ensure they are always looking their best (no 5 o’clock shadows here guys). Your cleaning kit should include (at a minimum):

  • Air blower
  • Dust brush
  • Lens cleaning solution
  • Microfibre cloth (always useful to have a few on hand)
  • Wet wipes
  • Dustless cotton swabs

OUR OTHER EQUIPMENT

Smartphones

Both of us are iPhone advocates and use them constantly. We are guilty of taking pictures of our food pretty much before every meal (yes, we are those people in the cafes and restaurants). We both currently run around with an iPhone 6 (eager to upgrade soon!) which features an 8-megapixel camera with a ƒ/2.2 aperture. If shooting in poor light with your smartphone, make sure to spend a bit more time improving the image during post-production.

Instax Share SP-2 Photo Printer

Film is not dead! And thankfully it remains rather accessible to photographers and the general population alike. This nifty photo printer was Jasmine’s Christmas present in 2016 (lucky girl!) and it’s proven to be a fabulous travel companion. When we travel, we can print photos almost instantly, snap a creative wish-you-were here shot and tuck the mini print away for scrapbooking later.

The small white box holds a roll of 10 sheets of exposure film and is connected via the Instax Share app on a smartphone. Import photos from your smartphone gallery, edit the image as you wish (you can add frames, text and filters with the app’s built-in features) and then click print. Photos print in just 10 seconds and with 320 DPI, the results are of a high quality. The image size measures 46 x 62 mm (W x H) on a printed sheet measuring 54 x 85 mm (W x H). Images can be printed vertically or horizontally and there is also a reprint button if you’d like to print the same photo more than once (sharing is caring!). A rechargeable battery via USB port means it can also be topped up on the go.

Hardware

After all the hard work, we need a place to view, edit and then store our amazing images. For viewing and editing, we both use Macbooks: Bevan a Pro and Jasmine an Air. Macbooks have an in-built Photos application. We import our photos from our SanDisk memory card into Photos, sort through the good from the bad and save them into arranged folders. Selected photos for the blog or social media are then processed through Lightroom (see below).

With the number of photos that we take on each trip, we also need somewhere to store our pictures. Our laptops don’t have the storage capacity to store large volumes of RAW files so we enlist the help of our WD portable hard drive. This hard drive can store up to 2GB of photos on a device which is just a little bit bigger than a deck of cards. We take ours everywhere so that the memory cards can be cleared and we can back up our images. Make sure to always back up, back up, back up!

We’ve recently added a Seagate external hard drive to our bundle to store older images that can no longer fit on the portable hard drive. It has 4TB of storage (4,000 GB) which is more than enough storage for the two of us (if only all of Jas’ clothes could fit in the same space…)

Software

The finishing touches to our images are applied using Adobe Creative Cloud. We use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom to edit and enhance our photos. Over time, we have developed presets within Lightroom and these are used as a base to enhance our images. Once edited, we can then store our images in a catalogue in Lightroom; similar to a digital photo album. Photoshop allows us to resize our images and to edit images for our What To Pack section of the blog.

Got any questions or recommendations for us? Make sure to get in touch  – we’d love to hear from you!

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Bevan of The Travel Quandary snaps a photo of Bled Island from the banks of Lake Bled in Slovenia
Jasmine & Bevan of The Travel Quandary stand under the rainbow at one of Stockholm's metro stations - Sweden

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