We ask the pros what camera equipment you should buy, to fit all budgets; now updated with 2012 equipment and prices
Originally posted 28th October 2010 but updated to include 2012 products
There are a few problems when choosing camera gear. There’s an incredible arsenal of equipment out there, it’s expensive – and the more gear you burden yourself with, the more time you’ll spend messing with it, and the less time you will have to concentrate on taking good pictures. G.M.B Akash, an award-winning photojournalist from Bangladesh, once told me that if your handwriting is good, you can write well with any cheap pen. “That, I believe, works with cameras as well,” he said. But to help you out just a little bit, WideWorld has asked the pros what kit they recommend – the best cameras and accessories for adventure and exploration.
Kit 1 – price around £760
Let’s start off with the Panasonic GF1, accompanied by a 20mm f1.7 Lumix pancake lens, Op/Tech D-series Soft Pouch Case and a Manfrotto190CX tripod.
It’s a light, sturdy, capable, exceptionally well-conceived photography kit that demands to be taken on adventures, enabling you to travel like everyone else without too much bulk. Craig Mod, a traveling writer, designer and publisher, took this kit on a field test to Annapurna base camp in Nepal.
“I covered the camera in sweat. I hit it against rocks (unintentionally). The air was often dusty and this dust, by the end of the trip, had worked its way into every nook of the GF1. And yet it performed flawlessly.”
Kit 2 – price around £1,600
The Pentax K-x with a Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 and a Pentax 55-300mm f/4.0 macro lens allows you to shoot landscape, portraits and – with the long lens – wildlife. The kit is remarkably well featured for the low price. The camera feels solid and well made, and it’s slightly more compact than most, making the competitors look like miserable penny-pinchers. All this gear fits nicely into a Think Tank Streetwalker camera back bag that will probably last you a lifetime and carry anything you throw in it.
Kit 3 – from £1,500 and up depending on the model
Karl Grobl, a travelling photojournalist, remembers the time when Canon came out with its first revolutionary model AE-1 and made SLR photography available to beginners and amateurs at a reasonable price. Rebel Xti is not that different. The Canon Rebel (in Europe the EOS 350D and up) is the world’s most popular digital single-lens reflex camera. And for a good reason: it’s compact, lightweight, rugged, inexpensive, responsive, and compatible with dozens of the world’s best lenses.
It’s possible to fill bags and bags with Canon lenses but for travelling and adventure photography, Grobl suggests only two – the Tamron 17-50mm/f2.8 and Tamrom 70-200mm/f2.8. Both are well-built, fast lenses that can cover anything and everything, indoors and outdoors, in nature and in concrete cities.
“The Digital Rebel is a great camera for the money. Anyone making the switch to digital and looking for a consumer level camera should consider one of these little gems,”
And you can put the kit into a Tamrac System 3 camera bag.
Kit 4 – around £1,900
The Hasselblad 501CM is a camera for photographers looking for simpler and more direct tools for the task without layers of electronic gadgets between them and the image. It’s an instrument that grows as you do as a photographer. The camera itself is rock-solid. The format could not be more simple, sturdy, elegant or reliable, and the images are spectacular. This unit requires no batteries and works in extreme conditions, making it the only 6×6 SLR light enough to use while travelling. Hasselblad comes with variety of fixed lenses (the widest of these is 30mm, and the longest 350mm). The lenses cost a lot but for travelling, Hasselblad 150mm/f4 is a great performer when it comes to portraits and Carl Zeiss 50mm f/4 is a wide-angle lens for landscape. The only other snag that comes with Hasselblad is that it doesn’t work well handheld – a tripod is a must.
Kit 5 – around £2,100
The Olympus E-5, which should make a great travel camera for any budding photographer. Combine that with an Olympus ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 M.Zuiko lens (18-36mm equivalent) and you’ll get an interesting, not-so-traditional photo kit. It’s lightweight, fits into a large pocket and is really wide. This lens might seem overly small but it’s impressive optically and the wide angle works great in nature as well as in the city.
For night shots it’s smart to carry a tripod. Slik Sprint Pro II is reasonably priced and all this fits into Crumpler Shoulder Photo Bag. Overall a great travel kit.
Kit 6 – price around £6,800
Travel photographer Tewfic El Sawy makes frequent trips around the globe with his photo gear. He has been published in Outdoor Photography, Digital Photographer, GlobalPost and shot for many travel companies in both the UK and US. He specialises in documenting endangered cultures and traditional ways of life in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Tewfic carries a Canon 5D Mark II with a battery grip as his primary camera with 70-299 f2.8, 24-70 f2.8, 17-40 f4.0 and 24 f 1.4 lenses. All this goes into a Domke F3-X bag when travelling.
“In the field, I use a Lowepro Toploader 75 AW attached to my waist for one of my cameras, while the second camera hangs from my shoulders. I also have two no-name canvas pouches which hang from my belt in which I carry an extra lens, an audio recorder and cellphone”
This kit is perfect for the travelling photographer who wants to really capture the essence of a country, from landscape to portrait, from nature to photojournalism.
Kit 7 – price around £9,300
Martin Edström is a renowned and award-winning documentary and travel photographer and journalist. In 2009 he won the ‘People of the World’ category in the international Travel Photographer of the Year awards.
Edström uses Nikon D700 cameras with fixed lenses 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 105mm and 300mm, Nikon SB-900 flash, Velbon Sherpa Pro 840 tripod, HPRC Indestructible hard cases for storing/travel and Newswear belt for work.
“I like this kit because it is scalable. I can have a single camera with two lenses in my backpack while going to work, or bring the cases with absolutely everything
“I also like my Newswear belt – I can hardly work without it. It’s great to have everything accessible at your waist, it enables you to be on the move, and even run, while shooting.”
Now that you’ve got a comprehensive camera kit we suggest you stop buying stuff. But if by some miracle you still have money left, you might want to spend it on these extra gadgets…
Lens cleaning kit
The best way to keep lenses and filters clean is not to get them get dirty in the first place. That aside, most cleaning kits contain a micro-fibre lens cloth, pre-moistened lens tissues, a bottle of lens cleaner spray, cotton-tipped applicators, a retractable lens brush and a portable field case.
Extra memory cards
Professional photographers prefer many small-sized memory cards (1 or 2 GB) to one big one. There’s a practical reason for this: if your camera kit is stolen or you lose your luggage, you will only lose some of your images not all of them. Price: £4 for 2GB to £50 for 64GB (as of May 2012).
The first and most useful filter you can buy is a ‘UV haze’ to protect the camera in a dusty or wet environment or when you’re lending your camera to a careless person. Price: £10 – £30.
Battery grip is a great tool which allows the camera to hold multiple batteries to extend the battery life of the camera. As the name suggests, it also adds a grip. But the battery grip is the first thing the pros leave at home if the job requires carrying kit for several hours or even days. Price: depends on the brand, from £50 – £150.