Travel Camera Gear

You’re going travelling? Across countries, maybe continents, and you want to record your travels. In the best way possible . . Sure you can take pictures on your phone, and that might be great for day to day pictures, but are they really that good? Don’t you want real high quality images, good enough to publish?

You’ll need a decent camera for that, but it needn’t cost the earth. Here’s a few tips for what to get:

  1. You don’t need the newest model of anything.
  2. You don’t need a bulky SLR.
  3. You can get superb results from a premium compact or mirrorless.
  4. Make sure to get at least a 1″ sensor size and a fast lens – f1.7 or f2.0 (lower number = faster lens)
  5. Look at the Ricoh GR II, Sony’s RX100 series, Panasonic’s LX15, Canon’s G7X.
  6. Check out Camera Price Buster.
  7. Use CamelCamelCamel to track cheap prices on Amazon.
  8. Look at used camera sites too, like MPB

After you’ve picked your camera:

  1. Get a couple of spare batteries and a light travel tripod
  2. Get used to the ‘A’ mode for Aperture priority.
  3. Use the bigger aperture settings f1.7 – f2.8 (for that creamy out of focus background)
  4. Get an on the go adaptor, and use your phone to backup your SD cards.
Panasonic GM1 & Leica 15mm f1.7 is small and powerful

My personal choice for the past few years has been the Panasonic GM1. It’s super small frame means it fits easily in a jacket pocket or tankbag. The marketing people will say it’s the smallest interchangable lens camera in the world and call it trouser pocketable, which it kinda is.. kinda – but once a fast lens is attached to it the “trouser pocketable” goes out the window.

It is genuinely small though. It’s size and affordable price might trick you into thinking it’s a compact or entry level camera, but don’t be fooled. Inside this dinky frame is the same electronic widardry and powerhouse of a sensor as is inside its bigger brother, the GX7. Twinned with the Panasonic/Leica 15mm f1.7, or the Lumix G 42.5 f1.7, the GM1 is a fabulous little camera.

GM1 + 15mm f1.7 at Seton Lake, Canada
GM1 + 42.5mm f1.7 at Offroad Orange in Spain
GM1 + 20mm f1.7 II at Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, Japan
GM1 + 15mm f1.7 at the Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan
GM1 + 25mm f1.4 in Krakow, Poland
GM1 + 15mm f1.7 at Moraine Lake, Canada
GM1 + 42.5mm f1.7 in Connemara, Ireland
GM1 + 42.5mm f1.7 in the Burren
GM1 + 42.5mm f1.7 in the Burren
Sony RX100 M4 at Mount Errigal, Donegal

This last picture was taken with a Sony RX100-M4. The Sony has a few advantages over the Lumix G cameras, and a few disadvantages too.

Advantages of RX100 M4 over Lumix GM1:

  1. The RX100 is genuinely trouser-pocketable. Like actual front pocket of your jeans pocketable. It’s tiny.
  2. It has a 24-70 zoom lens on a 1″ sensor. Maybe a bit short, but it’s still more flexible as a day-to-day walk around camera.
  3. The screen flips up which is great for framing selfies and high/low angles, and it has a pop up electronic viewfinder too.
  4. Price. At around €500 its a bit more expensive than the GM1 w/Kit lens bundle, but the RX is a hell of a lot cheaper as a package, once you consider the price of additional lenses.

Advantages of GM1 over RX100

  1. Image quality. Maybe not the case with the 12-35 kit lens, but the GM1’s picture quality with the prime lenses is just on another level. Sure it has less Megapixels, but a larger 4/3 sensor.
  2. Continuous Auto-Focus burst shooting with live view. Just hold the button down and keep aiming. Results are fabulous.
  3. Being able to shoot at 1/16,000th of a second, wide open at f1.7 on a sunny day without the need for an ND filter. Similarly leave it wide open and shoot at 1/160th in the dark woods. The Sony can’t compete.

Do you need all these options?

No. I’ve found myself almost exclusively using the GM1 + 15mm, to the extent that I’ll go away travelling and only bring the 15mm as my do everything lens. Sure it’s got no zoom, so you might have to actually use your feet to frame your shot.. but so what. It works. And the pictures speak for themselves. The 42.5 is probably my favourite lens for action & portrait photos, as it captures scenes so effortlessly, even if it is a bit narrow as a walk around camera. The RX100 is supposed to be a replacement for the GM1 as a travel camera, but after a year of use I find myself still reaching for the GM1 as my main camera.

As I keep experimenting with the RX100 more pictures will be added in due course. You never know, I might find that sweet spot and start getting good action shots with it.. but till then the GM1 will remain the king.

Sorry to GX7 fanboys. It’s a great camera but it’s size makes it just too big to carry as an adventure / travel camera. Wasn’t interested in the GX8 due to it’s larger size, or the GX85 due to the lack of a dedicated AFC switch and the fixed EVF, but that new GX9 though ;o)

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