Travel camera - 2015 revision

UPDATE: 2016 revision is being written with day and night lens theory.

I believe travel cameras to be different from work cameras. Work cameras are what I consider to be fullframe or well built magnesium alloy camera used for making money. It doesn't take a genius to recognize the huge footprint of a fullframe dslr with "pro lenses". As such, the travel camera is the one used for travelling.

Let's first recap the realities of travel photography.

  • most of the day is spent on DAYLIGHT: high isos sensors or high aperture lenses aren't necessary all you need is iso between 100-800(barely) and your eyes.
  • Most of the photographs being taken would almost be “snapshots"
  • you will be walking with it a lot: camera needs to follow you and not prevent you from walking all day with it.
  • you carry other things than just the camera: life accessories, food and water also share space and weight with the photo gear.

That being said, let's recap what a good main travelling camera should be:

  • seamless: Lightweight, fits with my mouvement. It's reliable. See it, get it.
  • invisible: gives me this barely there presence so that I can use my brain functions to compose and shoot.
  • instant: fast access, fast shooting, fast results, fast to share too. It's the one detail you don't want to fiddle with.
  • giving you some good raw files: not necessary but I like to have the ability to enhance shots after.

Once you have the main, it's nice to have the support camera. The support should be the one you bring out to complement the main (it could very well be the big fullframe camera). For starters, it could be bigger in size, more specialized towards photograph, the complete opposite of the main. It's the one that gets the shots that the main might miss. It offers

  • wider dynamic range: sometimes, the main might be compromising on sensor size to be small. The bigger one should compensate.
  • optical flexibility: it has zoom, optical effects (thin dof, tiltshift, etc) or the lens interchangeability that the main lacks.
  • lowlight shooting: best part of travelling could happen at night. The support can catch that if the main can't.

I truly believe you need two. There are camera solutions out there that serve as main and support in one, but then there still will be compromises. It depends if you are willing to cope with them. If anything, the main should take priority before thinking support. Sometimes they can overlap and exchange place depending on the focus of outing. Ex: A Nikon’s high dynamic range sensor could overcome an Olympus’ if the user encounters situations of high-contrast throughout the day, but the Olympus might overcome the Nikon if the user goes on a scavenger hunt or shopping run (an RX100/smartphonecamera might even be better suited for that).

EM10 prime lens kit with D750 zoom lens

EM10 prime lens kit with D750 zoom lens


Cameras today have gotten so specialized that it’s best to purchase in completion to expand the photography enveloppe. Work cameras for work, travel cameras for travel, etc… Build your collection wisely, sell if you really really don’t need. There are no one Solution today.  

Further reading

Travel camera notes

Yannick KhongComment