Last updated on November 7th, 2021 at 02:18 pm
Slow travel doesn’t go well with packing light but we’re doing our best to achieve both and the minimalist travel photography gear we carry during our travels is proof enough that we’re headed in the right direction.
Travelling with photography gear isn’t always the easiest of tasks. However, things get a lot simpler if you only carry the necessary camera accessories for travel rather than get carried away and pack many things that you won’t even use in the end.
So, if you’re wondering how to travel with photography equipment, this minimalist travel photography gear guide is packed with travel photography tips and it’s here to answer all your questions.
Although Maria is our website’s main writer, photography-related pages and posts are researched, drafted and revised by Katerina.
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Why Embrace Minimalist Travel
Before going into detail about what should make it to your minimalist travel photography gear list, it’s a great idea to understand why we should all embrace the minimalist travel mindset in the first place.
Minimalist Travel Is Comfortable
This is rather self-explanatory but minimalist travel is a synonym to comfort. Minimalist packing for travel means that you don’t get to carry heavy luggage up and down stairs. Or in and out of buses and trains.
In the case of travel photography gear, this becomes even more important. Unlike the rest of your luggage, you get to carry your travel photography essentials around all day rather than just on your way from the airport/train station/port to your hotel.
Therefore, it’s important not to end up with heavy and difficult to carry photography gear. Making the conscious decision to carry nothing but the essential gear for travel photography you need, helps you avoid problems like shoulder and back pain.
Minimalist Travel is Safe
The truth is that travel photography gear is usually expensive. Therefore, it’s best not to carry around too many expensive items while you travel. Most importantly, it’s wise to take with you as many travel photography accessories as your camera bag can hold, without the need to carry an extra pouch or tote bag or similar. By having everything in one place, it’s easier to keep an eye on your precious travel photography kit at all times.
Minimalist Travel Is Sustainable
One of the main reasons why adopting a minimalist mindset is vital is because it promotes sustainability. Buying and consuming less is the epitome of maintaining a sustainable lifestyle. These principles apply to travel, too. Especially when it comes to travel photography gear.
If photography isn’t your full-time occupation or if you’re a digital nomad, it makes no sense to buy, say, four or five different lenses that do similar things for the purposes of travel photography alone.
Minimalist Travel Is Affordable
Why spend more on checked baggage when you can use this money to enjoy a unique experience or visit a fascinating place during your travels? Packing light means spending less money on checked baggage. This is yet another reason to stick to the absolutely essential photography gear while travelling.
Travel Photography Gear Vs Phone Camera
Since we’ve been going on and on about the importance of minimalist travel, there’s a good chance that a specific question has already taken form in your heads. Why pack any travel photography gear at all when you can use your phone instead?
It’s true. Nowadays, cellphone cameras have endless possibilities. Especially if you invest in one of the best (and most expensive) phones on the market. However, if you have a genuine passion for travel photography or if you aspire to become a professional photographer, shooting photos with nothing but your phone isn’t even an option. There are some things that you simply can’t do with a phone camera.
As with everything in life, quality is king in travel photography, too. Shooting in RAW format with your DSLR or mirrorless camera ensures that you capture a remarkable amount of image data and details. This opens up a world of endless possibilities when the time comes for you to edit your images, without having to jeopardise the dynamic range that comes from your camera sensor.
Moreover, using the manual settings of a DSLR or mirrorless camera enables you to play with your shutter speed and take photos of different styles. For example, photos with light trails or even astrophotography.
Last but not least, with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, you can use the lenses that better suit your photography style. For instance, a telephoto lens is ideal if you’re into wildlife photography, whereas a wide-angle lens helps you fit more of the scene you want to shoot in a single frame.
Minimalist Travel Photography Gear List
Mirrorless or DSLR?
If you’re in a quest to find the best cameras for travel photography, chances are you’re already faced with the impossible dilemma: mirrorless or DSLR? This dilemma is indeed impossible in terms of photography in general. However, things are a lot easier when it comes to travel photography.
As mentioned above, size and weight matter a lot when travelling. A smaller camera is more comfortable, it helps you blend in and it doesn’t scream I’m expensive, come snatch me! as loud as a bulkier camera would do. Mirrorless cameras are lighter and more compact than DSLR cameras. For that reason alone, mirrorless is the clear winner here.
Best Mirrorless Cameras For Travel Photography
Now that we’ve put the mother of all dilemmas behind us, there’s yet another dilemma to consider while deciding on the best mirrorless cameras for travel photography.
Cameras come with either a crop or a full-frame sensor. A crop sensor (APS-C sensor) is more compact than a full-frame sensor. Crop-sensor cameras are also way cheaper and lighter than full-frame cameras and that’s why they’re ideal for beginners. My first camera was a DSLR Nikon D3400 which was the predecessor of the Nikon D3500. But if I was starting today, I would go for a mirrorless camera instead.
Two of the best mirrorless cameras for beginners are the Sony α6000 and the Fujifilm X-T30. As far as mirrorless systems are concerned, Sony and Fujifilm are the top brands. Furthermore, they have a broad range of lenses to choose from. For more advanced photographers, the Sony α7 III with 35-mm Full-Frame Image Sensor is probably the best mirrorless camera for travel photography your money can buy.
Before you buy a camera for travel photography, keep in mind that it’s better to buy the camera body alone, without the kit lens that’s usually included in the box. With the money you’ll save (OK and probably a bit more off of your pockets), you can buy a lens with far better quality than the kit lens and one that suits your photography preferences and needs best.
However, if there’s no difference in the price between the camera body and the camera body with the kit lens, perhaps you should choose the latter. Especially if you’re just starting with travel photography and you don’t want to invest in a pricier lens yet.
TIP: Don’t forget that you can always rent a camera before buying it. This way, you can check if it’s the right camera for you.
Backup Travel Video Camera
If you’re into video production, some cameras are the definition of minimalist gear as they can literally fit in your pocket. The best overall handheld camera is probably the DJI Osmo Pocket 2. However, if you plan to shoot action scenes, the GoPro Hero 10 should be your weapon of choice.
2. Camera Lenses
Travel photography is a blend of many photography styles and that’s why it’s so fascinating and popular. Whether it’s the breathtaking landscape that you stumble upon during a hike or the dramatic skyline of a modern city that catches your eye, one thing’s for sure. While travelling, there are endless different moments that you’ll want to capture to eternity.
For each of these moments or situations, you may need a different kind of lens – such as a telephoto lens, a wide-angle lens or a normal lens – to render the best results. However, if you want to stay true to your minimalist travel mindset, you should go for an all-in-one lens. Especially if you’re just starting as a travel photographer and you’re still trying to find your bearings in a photography field that’s insanely diverse.
Once you know what you’re more passionate about (e.g. shooting wildlife or portraits, etc), you can then consider adding a second lens to your minimalist travel photography gear list. Maybe even a third one in the long run. However, by the time you start thinking of adding a fourth camera lens to your collection, the concept of minimalist travel will have gone out of the window.
Prime Vs Zoom Lens For Travel
Although prime lenses are usually more lightweight than zoom lenses – and as such more appealing as travel companions – they have fixed focal lengths and angles of view. This means that you will need to carry more than one prime lenses to shoot everything from the broadest to the narrowest views.
On the other hand, with a zoom lens, you can adjust the angle of view quickly without changing the lens. Therefore, a good zoom lens is the all-in-one lens you should be aiming for, as it is perfect for a wide range of different shots.
Best Lenses For Travel Photography
As mentioned above, if the camera body you buy comes with a kit lens that doesn’t break the bank, this may be the ideal way to start your journey into the magical world of travel photography. That said, skipping the kit lens and investing in a quality versatile lens right from the start instead may be the best value-for-money decision you’ve ever made.
For a crop-sensor camera, either this Fujinon XF16-80mm F4 R OIS WR or this Fujinon XF18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens can be your best companion in travel photography. Choosing either of these lenses means that you will probably never need to buy a second lens.
The price may seem quite high, especially for a beginner. That said, buying a new quality lens is an investment. You can always sell your used camera lens as second-hand photography gear at a very good price.
For full-frame cameras, the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 is probably the best lens for travel photography. It’s lightweight and very affordable compared to other zoom lenses in its category. Moreover, it has the perfect focal length range for travel photography.
TIP: Before investing in any lens, do your research and rent the ones you seem to like the most. This way, you can check which one works best for you before you buy it.
3. Lens Filters
A UV filter for your camera lens is the one thing you want to buy the exact same moment you buy your camera lens itself. This is because a UV filter protects your camera lens from scratches, dirt and dust.
If you’re looking to up your travel photography game, there are a couple of other lens filters you might want to look into. For instance, polarising filters increase contrasts while ND filters are necessary for long-exposure landscape photography.
The Essentials Filter Kit Plus+ by URTH is the best minimalist outdoor kit your money can buy. It includes four lens filters: one UV filter, one polarising filter and two ND filters. They come in an insightful kit with top and bottom lens caps that ensure compact storage and protection while your filters are in your bag.
TIP: Lens filters come in different sizes. Take a look at your lens cap to check your lens size before ordering your camera lens filters.
4. Travel Tripods
A portable tripod is a must for travel photography. It’s an indispensable tool if you want to shoot in low-light conditions or if you’re looking to create unique effects such as light trails. When choosing the best tripod for travel photography, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First of all, the tripod should be lightweight but also sturdy and strong enough to support the weight of your camera and lens. Therefore, before you buy your next travel tripod, make sure you check not only the tripod’s weight but also its maximum load capacity. Moreover, the tripod should be foldable but also easy to set up. Remember that a tripod with clip locks instead of twist locks on its legs is generally easier and faster to set up.
One of the most reliable but also affordable travel tripods that ticks all the boxes is the aluminium-made Manfrotto Befree Advanced Alpha Travel Tripod.
However, if you’d prefer an even more lightweight and compact option, you should go for a carbon fibre tripod. For instance, this Peak Design Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod boasts the diametre of a water bottle when folded. In this case, though, be prepared to pay (a lot) more than an aluminium tripod would cost you.
Since you never know when the opportunity presents itself for you to capture the long-exposure shot of your dreams, it would be wise to carry a pocket-size tripod on you at all times, too. The Manfrotto Pixi Mini Tripod can literally fit in your pocket or your evening purse.
TIP: Before you buy a travel tripod, check the characteristics to make sure that it’s suitable for your camera and that it can support the total weight of your camera and lens.
5. Camera Batteries & Chargers
Perhaps I’m not the right person to advise you on this one. I’m obsessed with having spare batteries for my camera. Even if I know for a fact that its battery life is excellent. For instance, the battery life of a Sony α7 III guarantees that you’ll never run out of battery in the middle of a photo shoot. Has this stopped me from buying a spare battery? Nope. Let’s just say that having spare batteries is my minimalist travel packing vice and leave it at that.
That said, don’t be me. What you should do is check your camera’s characteristics. That can help you determine whether you need to buy a second (or third) battery for your camera. If it’s not necessary, don’t waste your precious money and space. But if there’s even the slightest possibility that your camera battery could die on you sooner than you’d expect, by all means, always carry spare batteries with you.
As far as chargers are concerned, perhaps you should choose a camera that doesn’t need an extra charger for the sake of sticking to your minimalist travel photography gear concept. The Sony α7 III is one such example. It comes with a Micro USB cable with an A/C adapter that you can plug in the wall socket. Charging takes longer than it would with a dedicated charger. However, you can always charge your camera while recharging your own batteries: overnight.
6. SD Cards
SD cards are probably the most minimalist items inside your travel photography kit. Therefore, it’s OK to have as many of them as your peace of mind requires. Before buying an SD card, you should check its read/write speeds. However, there’s a lot more to take into account. Memory cards come loaded with many impressive characteristics, such as waterproof or shock-proof technology.
In any case, to avoid any unpleasant surprises – aka losing your precious shots or footage – make sure you always buy high-quality SD cards. Ideally, keep them in a memory card holder so that they’re not misplaced in your camera bag.
7. Portable Hard Drive
When it comes to storing your images and/or video footage, SD cards are not enough. Α reliable portable hard drive should always be part of your essential travel photography gear, too. Transferring your images and footage from your SD cards to a portable hard drive doesn’t only free up valuable SD card space when you need it the most. It’s also one of the best ways to back up your travel photos.
8. Cleaning Kit
Remember that time when all your photos from your trip to Southern Italy featured a bird flying in the bright blue sky? Sorry to break it to you, but that was no bird. It was a smudge on your camera sensor. It’s important to keep your travel photography gear clean and not just for hygiene reasons. First and foremost, cleaning your camera and lens means that you’re getting rid of dirt, dust and smudges that can and will at some point affect your images.
Cleaning kits for your camera and lenses are among the best photography accessories. They come in various sizes. Some cleaning kits contain only the basics while others are super fancy. You don’t need the latter when you travel with your minimalist travel photography gear. However, there are some cleaning items that you must keep in your camera bag at all times.
First of all, a carbon-tipped pen and a microfibre cloth are necessary if you want to remove grease, fingertips and smudges from your camera lens. You also need a brush to remove dust particles from your camera. To keep your travel photography kit as minimalist as possible, go for a lens pen that has a carbon tip on one end and a brush on the other.
Cleaning your camera lens is the easy part. But what happens when there’s dust or a smudge on your camera sensor? Oftentimes, when switching between lenses and especially when you do so outdoors, one or more dust particles can get stuck on your camera sensor. You will know there’s dust on your sensor if you see the same dark spot(s) on all of your photos. The bird(s) we were talking about earlier.
However, camera sensors are super super sensitive. In other words, they’re not to be messed with. That’s when a blower comes in handy. If you detect dust on your camera sensor, don’t touch it and don’t try to wipe it clean with your microfibre cloth or anything else. Just use your blower and hope that the dust goes away.
If it doesn’t, you can try wet-cleaning your camera sensor but we wouldn’t recommend it. Our suggestion is to take your camera for a professional cleaning instead.
9. Camera Strap
A good camera strap isn’t minimalist travel specific. Every travel photographer should invest in a reliable, top-quality camera strap at some point. But, what’s wrong with the strap that came with my camera, you may wonder? Well, there are at least three boxes a good camera strap must tick. Any factory strap can only tick one of them.
Your camera strap must be strong enough to hold the combined weight of your camera and lens. That’s the only thing that the strap that comes with your camera can guarantee. Moreover, your camera strap must be as comfortable as possible. At the end of the day, you are the one who’s going to be carrying all this weight around. However, factory straps are notorious for their lack of comfort.
Last but not least, a good camera strap never screams expensive but it’s as discreet as can be. Factory straps couldn’t be less discreet. For instance, you could read that blinding SONY on the brand’s factory strap from miles away. So, is there a camera strap that’s strong, comfortable and discreet at the same time? There are quite a few but my favourite is the versatile and super comfortable Peak Design Slide camera strap.
10. Best Drone For Travel Photography
It’s impressive how quickly drones are becoming popular with travel photographers. The ability to shoot photos from angles that you wouldn’t be able to shoot otherwise is quite tempting. This is why a drone is now considered part of your must-have professional photography gear.
If you’re looking for the best drone that fits in your minimalist travel backpack, there’s no doubt that the DJI Mini 2 is the one. Weighing less than 250 grams and small enough to fit in your (large) pocket when folded, the DJI Mini 2 is the best travel companion for light packers who don’t want to break the bank while practising their aerial photography skills.
Keep in mind that the ultimate value-for-money option is to buy the DJI Mini 2 Fly More Combo. It costs a bit more than buying the DJI Mini 2 on its own. However, the box includes extra sets of propellers, additional batteries, a charging hub for three batteries and a stylish shoulder bag that can double as a minimalist evening camera bag.
11. Best Travel Laptop For Photographers
If you’re looking for a laptop that stays true to your minimalist travel vision but also nails it in terms of photo editing, there are some characteristics that you should pay attention to before buying. First of all, whether you swear by Apple MacBooks or you are a Windows fan, you must choose a laptop that’s as slim, compact and lightweight as possible. In this spirit, any 15-inch ultrabook is a good match for your minimalist travel photography gear.
To have a seamless photo-editing experience, make sure you choose an ultrabook with plenty of RAM and a fast processor. Otherwise, say hello to your new
best worst friend: lagging. Moreover, your laptop should feature a 4K screen and a large storage drive. Have a look at some of the best laptops for travel photography here.
12. Camera Bags
Minimalist Travel Backpack
The best camera backpack is the one that fits all your travel photography gear but still doesn’t feel – or look – too bulky. In my opinion, the Thule Aspect DSLR Backpack is one of the best minimalist travel backpacks for photography gear. It’s also among the most affordable ones in its category. It comes with removable padded storage that protects your camera, lenses and other photography equipment. There’s also a 15-inch laptop compartment and a side tripod holder.
Even if your camera backpack is water-resistant, it’s always a good idea to buy an extra backpack rain cover. You can never be too careful with your precious travel photography gear, right?
Small Camera Bag
More often than not, there’s this special event we need to attend during our travels. Or maybe we’re suddenly in the mood to dress up and go out for drinks. This doesn’t mean that we should leave our cameras behind. After all, everybody knows that the best camera is the one you have with you. Yet it feels quite awkward to step inside a bar or a fancy restaurant, all dressed up and good-looking, with a backpack on.
That’s when a smaller travel photography bag comes in handy. Ideally, this small camera bag should be compact enough to fit in your minimalist travel backpack. This way, you won’t have to carry an extra personal item when flying with photography gear, for example.
I’m absolutely in love with the shoulder bag that came with the DJI Mini 2 Fly More Combo I bought. When I travel by plane, I put all my personal stuff in the DJI camera bag. Then, I put the DJI bag in the upper compartment of my Thule Aspect DSLR Backpack. This way I don’t have to pay for extra baggage.
If you don’t plan to buy the DJI Mini 2 Fly More Combo though, there are some other excellent choices for small camera bags that can double as in-bag organisers, too. The Peak Design Field Pouch V2 stands out among them.
What’s Not In My Camera Bag But I Never Travel Without
Travel Insurance For Camera Gear
No matter how careful we are during our travels, things can always go south. This is why we never leave for a trip – either abroad or in Greece – without travel insurance that covers both ourselves and our gadgets. In case of loss, damage or theft of our cameras, it’s bad enough that we will have lost all those precious memories. Why suffer a financial loss, too? Therefore, make sure you buy photography gear insurance in advance to enjoy a stress-free trip.
Online Backup Service
A few lines above, we mentioned how much it sucks to lose all those precious memories from your travels. Ιf your camera gets stolen or lost before you have the chance to transfer the files to a portable hard drive, then, yes, these memories are gone for good.
But it just so happens that sometimes portable hard drives malfunction. Even worse, they may get stolen or lost, too. It’s such a shame to lose your precious images even if you’ve done everything in your power to back up your files. Or have you?
Even if you’ve transferred all your files to one or more portable hard drives, you are not guaranteed that they are stored for life. But there’s a way to have lifelong storage. That’s no other than paying for an online backup service like Backblaze. For a reasonable annual fee, you can rest assured that your invaluable photos will be with you forever.
Packing light is one of the best ways to achieve a comfortable, safe and sustainable travel experience. This is especially true with travel photography. Carrying nothing but your essential camera gear helps you enjoy your trips in a more carefree and comfortable manner.
If you ever have doubts about whether to add an item to your travel photography kit or not, you can always refer back to this minimalist travel photography gear guide and our list of minimalist travel tips to double-check if this item is necessary to pack or not. And don’t forget. The only things that you should always take with you on your travels are an open mind and an insatiable thirst for new destinations!
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