I’ve been doing travel photography for 6 years now, and being a frequent traveler has shifted the way I approach the equipment I invest in. One of the questions I get asked the most is “what camera should I buy?” and the answer to that greatly depends on what you plan to shoot and what you want to prioritize.
For me, my priority when it comes to gear is having a setup that is as light and packable as possible. And that’s why 5 years ago I sold all of my Canon year and made the switch to Sony, which has been one of the best business decisions I’ve made. Here is the list of my Sony cameras and lenses and why I chose each:
Sony A7R iii
This is my main camera body that I use for all of my professional work. It has a 42.4 megapixel sensor which basically means I can deliver very large file sizes for commercial clients who need to blow up the images for advertising use. Having a high megapixel count is also great for being able to crop down your images and still have enough resolution to print large sizes. This camera is also great for video and can shoot in 60 FPS, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds for full-time creators.
However, having a lot of megapixels can be a burden because it means massive file sizes which take up a ton of space. I sometimes shoot in cropped mode (reduce the image to 24MP) when I know I’m not gonna need to blow up the images or sent to commercial clients.
The Sony A7R iii is currently listed for $2,798 on BH Photo, which is quite a lot for those of you guys who don’t need such large image sizes. If that’s the case for you, I recommend the Sony A7 iii which is a very similar body with 24 megapixels and is going for $1998 on BH Photo.
Sony Distagon 35mm 1.4 ZA
Whenever someone asks me what is the one lens I couldn’t live without, and that’s always a 35mm 1.4. I love this lens because the focal length is closed to what your eye would see and works really well for a lot of styles of photography. It is a prime lenses meaning you can’t zoom in and out, but with the 1.4 aperture this lens is perfect for both portraits and landscapes. And the “ZA” on this lens means that it has Zeiss coating on the glass, and Zeiss is well known for their glass quality which makes for really crisp images.
If you want to shoot different styles of photography and love a shallow depth of field, this lens is for you! But if you aren’t planning on doing much portrait photography, keep reading 🙂
The Sony Distagon 35mm 1.4 ZA is currently listed at $1,598 on BH Photo, but Sony is about to release their 35mm 1.4 G-Master version of this lens which is $200 less, so I would probably go with that once it’s released!
Sony 16-35mm 2.8 GM
This is a lens that I definitely don’t use everyday but really comes in handy when I need a wider lens for things like interior photography, landscapes, astrophotography, etc. This is another great travel lens because of its versatility, and the 2.8 aperture can still work for travel portraits if you don’t care to have a very shallow depth of field.
In most instances, 35mm is wide enough for me when is why I don’t use this lens as often, but if you want to capture more of a scene or plan to photograph interiors for hotels, this is a must!
Sony 55mm 1.8 ZA
This lens is similar to the Canon “nifty fifty” which rings in at a whopping $100 and is most-often recommended to new photographers due to its great quality at such a low price. This 55mm isn’t quite that affordable but is the most affordable on this list and delivers some amazing quality for its price. But the best part about this lens is it’s size! It’s a super small lens that is very easy to throw in a bag and one that I never leave behind for that reason.
This focal length is perfect for portrait photography, since you don’t have to be as close to your subject as you do with a 35mm but not so far that you feel far away from them. For my client work, I often shoot entire portrait sessions on this lens and its great to not have to bring my entire gear bag for every shoot (can you tell yet I’m a minimalist!?)
The Sony 55mm 1.8 ZA is listed at $898 on BH Photo but for beginner photographers, I would also recommend the Sony 50mm 1.8 at only $200 which will still get your foot in the door with professional photography.
Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8
Soooo this may be my favorite lens on the list due to its INSANE image quality and sharpness! This lens is a game-changer or weddings, events, and even portrait photography with its super creamy bokeh. This lens is also pretty small for the quality it delivers which is also a plus, and it’s more affordable than the first two lenses on this list.
Though more ideal for portraits, this lens can also be great for landscapes when you want to shoot a very compressed image which allows you to make objects in the distance appear a lot closer (i.e. mountains in the background).
I will never get rid of this lens and hope that Zeiss coms out with more Sony E mount lens options for us — Zeiss, I’m looking at you!
The Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8 is listed at $1,199 on BH Photo.
Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM
This big boy is the lens you think of when you think of uncle Bob who loves to photograph wildlife in his spare time (aka my dream life). I purchased this lens for our honeymoon safari in Kenya and was pretty anxious about the price tag, but I’m SO glad I had it on our trip!
This lens is a must for anyone who wants to seriously pursue wildlife photography or action sports photography since it allows you to capture images of objects at a distance that make you feel like you were right next to it. But other than those two fields, you don’t need to worry about this lens. But if you do decide to invest in a telephoto lens, I recommend also purchasing a tripod or monopod since this lens is very heavy and not super comfortable to use handheld for too long!
You can get the Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM at BH for $2,398.
Aside from my camera body and lenses, there are a few other pieces of gear that I highly recommend for aspiring travel photographers that allow you to get some really unique photos. Here’s what else you’ll find in my bag:
DJI Mavic Pro
I’ve been a DJI drone user since the Phantom 3 Pro days and man has this technology come along way since then! In 2016, I took my giant DJI P4P around Europe which was VERY cumbersome and expensive to fly with, and I ended up crashing it into a cliff in Malta (but that’s a story for another day).
So when DJI announced they were coming out for the Mavic Pro, I was first to join the waiting list and it’s been one of my favorite pieces of equipment I’ve ever owned. It’s small enough to throw in a backpack but powerful enough to shoot in 4K and will allow you to capture photos and videos on your travels beyond your imagination.
DJI has come out with even more affordable and tiny drones over the past couple of years and for what you can create, I definitely think that every travel creator should have one in their gear bag.
GoPro Hero 4
GoPros are another item that I’ve had in my bag since I started traveling abroad in 2015. They’re perfect for underwater photos, adventure photography, or extreme sports. They’re best for capturing your point of view so you can record yourself on your adventures in HD. I’ve used my GoPro cliff jumping in Italy, swimming with sea turtles in Hawaii, and adventuring around Iceland. If you are an adventurous traveler, you’ll want to add one to your bag!
My GoPro model is discontinued (I’m majorly due for an upgrade – cough, @GoPro!) but you can get the GoPro Hero 8 Black at BH for $299.
AquaTech Underwater Housing
For those of you who want to focus on underwater or surf photography, you will eventually want upgrade from a GoPro and invest in an underwater housing to pair with your camera body. I purchased this housing a couple of years ago and sadly haven’t gotten much use out of it yet, but I hope to travel to more tropical destinations in the future and put it to work!
It’s definitely not an affordable piece of gear and I don’t recommend one unless you are very interested in underwater photography because they are expensive, pretty large, and not the easiest to use for beginners. But if you live in an area where you spend a lot of time in the water, I would definitely consider getting this housing!
To learn more about this subject, check out my friend Erin Outdoor’s post on underwater photography!
You can check out AquaTech’s line of housings at https://aquatech.net/.
Kamrette Camera Backpack
Every photographer needs a good gear bag, and finding a great one is a lot harder than you’d think! I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect gear bag for years and last year, I finally found it! I saw a friend using the Kamrette Lyra bag and instantly fell in love with it and had to order one for myself.
The Kamrette bag has enough storage for one or two bodies and a few lenses, has tons of zippered pockets for storing batteries and memory cards, and even has a luggage sleeve which was a must for me since I’m always on the go and try not carry heavy gear on my back.
This bag is definitely not for adventure trips, so when I know I’m going to be backpacking, I bring my LowePro camera backpack (now discontinued) which has space for a body and a couple lenses as well as clothing or other items.
Manfrotto Element Travel Tripod
Last but not least is another travel photography essential — a good travel tripod. I’ve been a happy customer of Manfrotto for years, and they’re well known in the photography industry for their quality. In the past I’ve had the Manfrotto BeFree Travel Tripod which is one of the smaller/lighter options that I highly recommend! These tripods are fairly lightweight but durable enough that they won’t topple over in the wind (yep, I’ve had this happen with cheap tripods).
I hope you found this article helpful and feel less overwhelmed when it comes to choosing the right gear for you! Make sure to check out my other resources and pin this to Pinterest to save it for later 🙂 Let me know what you end up getting in the comments!