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Travelling Light

December 22, 2012

Over my 35 years as a professional photographer, unless I was on a specific assignment, I have almost no pictures from most of the places I’ve been. And, of the few that remain, none with me in them. Why? Simply because travel photography represented hard work. The 4X5 Sinar was out of the question, but should I take the Hasseblad kit or the Nikon kit? The Hasselblad kit meant at least 2 bodies and a minimum of three lenses, filters and a tripod, all in the protected sealed metal case, lest the airlines ruin it. The Nikon kit, while more manageable, was lighter, but still bulky. My solution? Take nothing and enjoy the trip. I eventually bought a Leica M6 and 7 lenses. While less bulky, changing lenses was an issue, especially in hostile conditions, many of which were generated by fellow travelers with no interest in photography.

The onset of the digital age, meant the introduction of miniature cameras with inbuilt zoom lenses. The addition of a charger, spare memory card and battery, and you had a kit that offered the freedom I wished for when I was younger and fitter. Little cameras that you could shoot RAW, or put onto Intelligent Auto and hand to a companion to use, so at least you appear in a few shots. Hence my love of the Panasonic LX series. Currently, there are similar offerings from all major manufacturers. The mirror-less compacts almost signal a more compact return to the early days of the Leica, with a bit less bulk, but still cause the dilemma of “which lens and which accessories” will I need to take? N. B. Remember that any digital camera. however advanced and expensive, without a battery and card is useless.

So the question “What should I take?”, still remains for the traveler that wants to use their professional equipment, but doesn’t want too much weight or bulk.

My first choice, would be a good DX body and a reasonable quality zoom in the range 16-85mm, a charger, spare battery and card. Add a 35mm or 50mm ƒ1.8 fast prime and you’re ready for almost anything.

You wouldn’t dare shoot anything without full frame?

Then a semi professional, light, full frame body and a 24-70mm, 24-85mm, or 24-120mm standard zoom, plus the obligatory, battery, charger and card. All housed in a convenient travel bag. Throw in a fast 50mm for insurance and you’re set.

You must take your full frame, professional body due either to separation anxiety, nuclear attack,  or just in case the shot of a lifetime presents itself? The choices really narrow here. I’d opt for the one lens solution. The best choice is a 24-70mm or 24-85mm zoom, with the fast 50mm, again, “just in case.”

To save weight, (zooms are big, confronting and heavy), but not added complexity, a 3 prime kit consisting of a 24 or 28mm f1.8, a 35 or 50mm ƒ1.8 and an 85mm F1.8 and you’re pretty well ready for most things you’re ever likely to want to photograph when traveling, excluding bird migrations, or motor sports. Remember, if you’re caught with the wrong lens, the full frame allows cropping any shot to emulate longer focal lengths.

My choice? The semi-pro pocket camera? It’s quick, easy and discrete and if you get tired, give it to a friend, ensure you’re included in a few shots and relive your trip when you get home.

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