As you make your next travel plans, give some thought to the photography equipment you will take along.


Backpacks that can be shifted to the front of the your body, like this Transit model from Lowepro, provide additional safety when you need to carry a lot of equipment in urban environments. (Source: Daymen Canada Acquisition ULC.)

Packing a camera bag for a holiday trip is a very personal matter; we all have individual preferences and experience different constraints, depending on the type of holiday we take. People staying in one place will want different equipment from those who will be on the move throughout their vacation. Those holidaying by the sea will require gear that can withstand salt spray and sand, while those going inland may have to provide dust protection for their equipment.

Managing Weight

Most airlines impose tight restrictions on carry-on baggage. The typical maximum weight is seven kilograms for domestic and international services, reducing to four kilograms when smaller aircraft are used. If you exceed the weight limits, you’ll have to pay extra or reassign some of your bags to checked-in luggage.

One quick way to reduce the weight of your carry-on bag is to remove the camera and carry it slung around your neck or shoulder. Most airlines will permit passengers to carry one camera in this way and, if you fit your heaviest lens on the camera, you can save a couple of kilograms all-up.

If you need to reduce weight further, you could take a calculated risk by packing battery chargers and cables in your checked-in bag, as they’re less vulnerable to impact damage. Tripods can also be packed into checked-in bags with little risk of damage ““ although regular models take up a fair amount of space. Joby’s Gorillapods can be a good alternative.


Joby’s Gorillapods are lightweight and versatile alternatives to regular tripods. (Source: Joby.)

We have also packed back-up drives and spare lenses in checked-in bags. If you try this, make sure they are well protected by thick padding and positioned in the centre of the case.

Essential Items

Some basic essentials MUST be included, regardless of who you are, where you’re going and what you plan to do. They include:

  1. A power source for the camera. This means a battery charger and one or more spare batteries, depending on how many shots you generally take each day and whether you have access to mains power to top up batteries each night. If you’re travelling overseas, make sure you have an adapter for the local power source. (Most travel shops and many camera stores can advise on the right type or you can find out with the clickable map at, which illustrates the plugs used in different countries.)

The clickable map at Countryplug provides a comprehensive guide to electrical plugs and mains voltage around the world.

  1. Image storage devices. Make sure you have at least two memory cards so that one is available to take over when the other becomes full. When buying cards, look for the capacities that provide the best value.

Eight gigabytes (8GB) is the smallest capacity you should consider for travelling. One 8GB card can hold approximately 1200 JPEG images from a 16-megapixel camera or between 140 and 300 raw files, depending on whether they are compressed. If you’re recording movies, the typical capacity of an 8GB card is around 30 minutes of Full HD (1080p at 30 fps) or about 50 minutes of HD (720p at 30 fps).

There’s been considerable discussion on the merits of carrying several 8GB cards versus a couple of cards with higher capacities. The disadvantage of multiple cards is that one or more cards may be lost. However, when you’re relying on storing all your images and movies on one high-capacity card, if it malfunctions you will lose more of your images.

Price-wise, the current ‘sweet’ spot is 8GB and you may be able to save by purchasing two or more cards at the same time. Prices increase with card speed and capacity. Don’t feel you need the fastest cards if you shoot mainly stills. High-speed cards are only required if you shoot a lot of video or record lots of multi-shot bursts.

3. Storage back-up. Unless you take enough memory cards to cover the entire trip, you will require some way to back up your images and movies so you can free up your memory cards for further recordings. A laptop computer provides the greatest capacity and versatility.

Small laptops are now available with 11- to 15-inch screen sizes and affordable price tags. Allow between one and 1.5 kilograms for the lightest 11-inch units and around two kilograms for a 15-inch unit. Alternatively, you may opt for a lighter tablet PC, which will weigh between 300 and 900 grams but has limited storage capacity for images.

A portable hard disk drive (HDD) with 500GB capacity can be had for less than $100 and should be more than adequate for backing up a couple of weeks’ shots. These drives are slim enough to slip into your laptop bag and robust enough for use while travelling.

Portable storage may not be an issue if you subscribe to a Cloud-based storage service like DropBox, Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft’s SkyDrive or dedicated image hosting sites like Flickr and Photobucket. All these sites can handle JPEGs and some can accept raw files, although uploading them will be slower and your album folder will fill more quickly.

Suggested Travelling Kits

In this section, we’ll provide suggestions for travelling kits comprising camera bodies and lenses that will suit vacationing photographers. Use these suggestions as a guide when planning what to pack.

‘Full frame’ DSLR: Allow at least 2.33 kilograms or up to 2.95 kilograms for one camera body plus two lenses. This amounts to 800-850 grams for the lightest bodies with battery and memory card installed plus 24-70mm f/2.8 lens (900-950 grams) and 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lens (630 to 1050 grams) or, for Nikon owners: 24-85mm f/2.8-4.5 lens (545 grams) and 80-400mm f/4-5.6 (1570 grams).

Adding a second body takes you over 3.5 kilograms, which is half your weight allowance. If you fit a ‘general purpose’ lens on the second body, a 28-200mm lens will add 355 to 500 grams, while a 28-300mm lens adds 800 to 1670 grams, depending on its maximum aperture.

‘APS-C’ DSLR: The lightest camera in this category weighs just over 400 grams (battery and card included), while the heaviest models are around one kilogram. Dedicated ‘DX’ or ‘EF-S’ lenses for these cameras are usually smaller and lighter than lenses for ‘full frame’ DSLRs, so you can fit more in your bag. The typical twin-lens kit consisting of 18-55mm and 55-250mm zooms covers most shooting situations and adds a total weight of around 600 grams. Alternatively, you may prefer an all-in-one zoom that covers 18-200mm or 18-250mm and weighs around 500 grams. (But check out the special feature on these lenses on pages 58-61.)


Twin-lens kits, like this one from Panasonic, cater for most situations travellers will encounter. (Source: Panasonic.)

Compact System Cameras (CSCs) give you the imaging performance of a relatively large sensor camera with the convenience of a small and lightweight camera body and, usually, smaller lenses. Canon, Fujifilm, Leica, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Samsung and Sony all make systems with typical camera bodies weighing less than 500 grams. We’ve taken a couple of these systems on recent trips and can make the following recommendations.

Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) systems from Olympus and Panasonic provide a very portable kit option that spans from very wide angle (Panasonic’s 8mm fisheye lens) to the equivalent of 600mm in 35mm format (the Olympus 75-300mm and Panasonic 100-300mm lenses) with a wide range of choices in between. You can use Olympus lenses on Panasonic bodies, and vice versa.

Olympus includes body-integrated stabilisation so Olympus lenses aren’t stabilised and are consequently smaller and lighter. Panasonic’s only camera with in-body stabilisation is the recently-released GX7. When you need stabilisation for longer lenses on other Panasonic bodies, only Panasonic lenses will suffice.

There are plenty of choices among the CSCs with ‘APS-C’ sized sensors, although they all have some limitations. Canon’s EOS M can use all of Canon’s EF and EF-S lenses with an adaptor. But it lacks a viewfinder, making it difficult to use in bright conditions. However, it can be a useful lightweight backup for a Canon DSLR user.

Fujfilm’s X-Series is growing and now comprises four cameras and 10 lenses, with a few more in the pipeline.

Sony’s new ILC-A-series cameras bring ‘full-frame’ sensors to very compact camera bodies that aren’t much larger than the NEX bodies but have the benefit of integrated EVFs and rangefinder styling. The provide a good way to minimise weight if you really want to travel with a ‘full-frame’ camera.


Cameras with viewfinders make it easier to compose shots in bright conditions, such as those you would find on the beach or in the snow. (Source: Sony.)

Unfortunately, the longest lens is a 50-230mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom, which may not be quite long enough for some subjects. In addition, two camera models lack viewfinders.

Sony’s NEX cameras are a mixed bag, most of them designed primarily for snapshooters. Only two models have viewfinders. The new ILCE-3000 has an EVF in a very compact DSLR-like body that takes the same E-mount lenses as the NEX models. Unfortunately, Sony’s lens range is restricted, with the longest focal length at 200mm. Samsung is in a similar situation, with most of their better, more recent cameras lacking viewfinders and a limited range of lenses, the longest focal length being 200mm.

The Nikon 1 system has the smallest sensor in this category (save for the Pentax Q, which uses a digicam-sized sensor), which puts it at a disadvantage. But if you don’t want to make big prints and are prepared to keep ISO settings below ISO 1600, Nikon 1 cameras have the advantage of fast and accurate autofocusing. There are, so far, only 11 dedicated lenses but the FT-1 adapter allows regular Nikkor lenses to be fitted to the small camera bodies.


The new Nikon 1 AW1 provides the convenience of a compact and lightweight interchangeable-lens camera with a full waterproof body.

Like the Canon EOS M, a Nikon 1 camera can provide a small and light backup solution for a regular DSLR. And, if your holiday will include some snorkelling time, Nikon has just released a waterproof camera and lenses in this series, the Nikon 1 AW1, which could also be considered.

Camera Bags

When you’re travelling you’ll need a camera bag or backpack to carry this equipment. Depending on your equipment choice, it is likely to weigh between about 500 grams for a CSC and 2.5 kilograms for a professional kit with two camera bodies and a couple of lenses plus a laptop. Lowepro provides a useful ‘bag finder’ that helps you to select an appropriate bag for your equipment at


Lowepro’s Bagfinder makes it easy to locate a bag that will suit your shooting kit.


A CSC kit comprising one or two camera bodies plus a couple of lenses and accessories will easily fit into a stylish shoulder bag like this Passoprt Sling model from Lowepro. (Source: Daymen Canada Acquisition ULC.)


If your holiday will take you on the water, your camera should be protected by a fully waterproof bag like this DryZone model from Lowe-pro. (Source: Daymen Canada Acquisition ULC.)

The camera bag is included in your carry-on weight allowance so take this into account when making your choice. Consider, also, the environments you will be visiting and the hazards they might present. Some are obvious, like the risk of your equipment getting wet.

Other risks are less obvious but equally disastrous. Be wary about taking a backpack to crowded cities where theft is common. We know of two instances in Paris; one where a laptop was stolen from a backpack on a crowded escalator and the other where the straps of the backpack were cut and the entire pack was stolen. In both cases, two thieves were involved; one distracting the victim while the other made the ‘snatch’.

Bags that can be worn on the front of the body are safer in such situations because they position your bag right under your nose, where it’s more difficult for thieves to access. Save backpacks for the great outdoors, where you’ll be able to see people coming.



A top-loading bag plus chest harness is a great solution for adventurous vacations. (Source: Daymen Canada Acquisition ULC.)

Tethering straps and chest harnesses allow you to attach a camera securely to your body to make it less vulnerable to theft. If you only carry a camera plus one lens, they provide the lightest carrying option but they can also be handy when you’re carrying a backpack because they enable you to have your camera at the ready when you want it. Straps and harnesses are easily paired with top-loading bags to provide quick access to equipment in physically challenging environments.

Buying New Equipment for a Trip

Travellers leaving Australia can take advantage of the Government’s Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS), which allows them to claim a refund for the GST paid on goods purchased within 60 days of their departure. To claim the refund you must have spent $300 (GST inclusive) or more in the one store. Your invoices must be retained for presentation at the TRS facility at the point of departure and your goods must be worn or carried in your hand baggage. Details can be found at

Travellers re-entering Australia from overseas can bring in up to $900 worth of goods (including electronic equipment) without having to pay tax. (The allowance is reduced to $450 for travellers under 18 years and aircrew.)

The prospect of going on holidays should not be a reason for buying new equipment. If you’re a serious photographer and there’s gear you need to increase your enjoyment of photography, that’s a different matter. But using the holiday to justify buying gear is not a wise approach.

And buying new gear at the airport is equally foolish; as is opening the user manual for the first time on the way to your holiday destination.

Wise photographers take advantage of the 60-day period to get acquainted with any new gear they buy. Power-up the battery of a new camera; try out a new lens ““ or a spare battery, memory card, portable HDD or any other new item purchased in the time you have before leaving. If anything goes wrong with the gear during that period you’ll have time to return it to the store and make a warranty claim. You can also discover whether the equipment does what you thought it would or if it would be better to exchange it for a different item.


This is an excerpt from Photo Review Issue 58.

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