At Shutter Tours, we are avid photographers, and we wanted to share some of our thoughts on our favorite gear for 2017.

This is all photography equipment that we have tested or used in the past.

Best Travel Photography Gear

Fuji X-E2

Last year we decided to jump on the mirrorless bandwagon by picking up a Fuji X-E1 and of course the X-E2 came out right after we did. Essentially the same camera with a few minor improvements, the Fujifilm X-E2 is an excellent choice for travel photographers. We love to bring this on our tours because it is lightweight and takes some of the best photos we have seen. If you look at a scene with your naked eye and then take a shot with this camera, the colors are exact. This is the first camera we have ever used where this is the case. Fuji is, of course, the film expert company, so it only makes sense that they have reached perfection on color rendition.

The Fuji X-E2 comes with an electronic viewfinder that takes some getting used to, but as soon as you press the shutter the image you shot appears in the viewfinder, and you can see whether it was exposed properly or not. It has a huge 3" LCD screen on the back and built-in flash that works great in all fill flash situations. We love that you adjust your aperture the old school way, turn the ring on the lens. You also have exposure compensation dial on the top as well as your shutter speed setting.

The lens is sold separately and we purchased the 35mm f/1.4 lens. It is tack sharp all the way across with a great ability to shoot in low light situation. The X-E2 has fixed some of the speed problems that we experienced with the X-E1, though our recent firmware upgrades to ver. 2.10 on the body and ver. 3.10 on the lens made a nice improvement.

A few of the highlights of this camera are:

  • 16.7 megapixels
  • Beautiful color rendition
  • ISO sensitivity to 25600 (It's amazing at 25600)
  • Spot on metering
  • Ten Film Simulation Modes Including Astia and Provia
  • And it shoots video also

Overall this is a great travel camera, and if you are looking for something that is compact, but will give you professional results, then we highly suggest you research this camera. A few accessories that we ended up getting was a leather case from KAZA and a Fotodiox Lens Mount Adapter so we can use all our Nikon lenses on this camera.

One side note, this camera is beautifully designed and looks very similar to a Leica. On multiple occasions we have had people ask if it is a Leica as it looks similar to the M Series, but about $6k less.

Buy Now at 698.00 (Body Only)

Nikon D750

Many of our images on this website were taken with a Nikon D300 and we are close to upgrading our gear to the Nikon D750. A number of things make this a standout. Featuring a 24.3MP CMOS sensor, along with the EXPEED 4 image processor, this camera is capable of producing high-resolution imagery with smooth color gradations, low noise, and sensitivity to an expandable ISO 51200, at a continuous shooting rate of up to 6.5 fps. The D750 boasts a comprehensive video and still photography specification which includes a tilting rear LCD screen and an improved version of the 51-point AF system found in the D810 and D4s that now focuses down to EV -3. This means that every single AF point in the D750 focuses in lower light than any other Nikon DSLR. The rear LCD gives the option for greater brightness making the screen much more usable in direct sunlight and ideal for travelers. It also tilts to allow one to shoot at different angles and get a unique perspective as opposed to always shooting from eye level.

The sensor comes in at 24 megapixels, and the camera performs extremely well in low light conditions. The D750 delivers crisp image detail up through ISO 3200 and has a maximum ISO of 51200. We also like having two memory card slots as it is possible to set the secondary card as overflow storage or backup. You can also save JPEGs to one card and Raw files to the other.

Of course what is a camera these days without video? The D750 can shoot 1080p movies at 50p and 60p. Also, includes both a headphone port for audio monitoring and a 3.5mm stereo mic input. There are 20 adjustment levels available for audio recording along with an Auto option (which is enabled by default). Auto ISO works for movies as it does for stills, letting you define a maximum sensitivity and automatically compensating for varying light while you film with a fixed shutter and aperture. This allows you to go from different areas such as sunlight to shadows with the ISO automatically adjusting.

Next to having a good camera, you want to make sure you spend your money on a quality lens. Kit lenses may be a good value, but there is a large difference in the quality of a higher end lens. One good travel lens we would suggest to pair with the D7150 is the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II at $499.00. For a better value but probably not our main choice, the Sigma 18-250 f/3.6-6.3 lens at $349.00. Keep in mind these are all around travel lenses and are suggested for those that don't want a bag of lenses to lug around.

The last option we always pickup when getting a new camera is a multi power battery pack that will use rechargeable AA batteries. This is essential, especially when traveling abroad or if you leave your charger in a hotel room.

A thorough review of the Nikon D750 camera can be seen on cameralabs.com

Below is a short video on the D750 capabilities.

Making of - Nikon D750 "Unchained" - directed & photographed by Ray Demski from Upfront Photo and Film on Vimeo.

Buy Now at $1599.00 (Body Only)

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ300K

The Lumix is an excellent choice for those of you who don't want to lug around a large SLR style camera. With its swivel viewfinder and ability to shoot f/2.8 throughout its 25-600mm Leica lens zoom range, this is the ideal travel camera.

You also have the usual control over the aperture and shutter speed, custom white balance and support for the RAW image format. Focusing is very quick, and no apparent shutter lag ensures you'll get the shot.

If you love to shoot video while traveling, then you'll love the quality of 3840 x 2160 (30p, 24p) and ability to zoom while shooting video with stereo sound.

For those of you who want to maximize picture quality and still be portable and affordable, the Lumix DMC-FZ300K will meet that criteria. Check out a review on 4K.com

Buy Now at $520.00

Fujifilm FinePix XP80

Need a camera that can shoot down to 50 feet? One that's shockproof to about 5.8 feet? how about freeze proof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit? or dustproof for those trips to Burning Man?. This is one rugged travel camera that you may want to take a look at.

The XP80 shoots with an impressive 16-megapixel sensor with a burst-shooting button for capturing shots at up to 10 frames per second at full resolution. Oh, did we mention it also has wi-fi connectivity so you can send images to an Android or iOS device.

Also shoots Full HD 1080i Video at 60fps and available in four different colors including yellow, black, blue and red.

Buy Now at $160.00

Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home Camera Bag

We love the names Crumpler gives their bags and the 7 Million dollar home would probably be ideal for a $50,000 M1 Leica. But we think it's good enough for even lesser priced cameras. The bag has easily adjustable compartments to fit your own style of arranging your gear. With multiple areas for filters, memory chips and accessories this is probably the last bag you'll need. The design of the bag will help discourage pick pocketers and pilfering in crowded situations.

Occasionally our owner Terry may be seen carrying one of these on tour with him. "I love the Crumpler bag", he says. "I have probably gone through three or four backpack type camera bags, and this is the one that fits my style of shooting better than any other. I can throw in my camera and four lenses and still have enough room for other items"

There you have it, if its good enough for the boss, then it has to be good

Order Now $199.00

Black Rapid RS-Sport Strap - Slimmer Version with Built-in Underarm Defense

This is one item we cannot live without. Your camera sits to your side with the strap connected by the tripod mount on the bottom of your camera. When you are ready to take a photo, you can just grab and shoot.

For travelers who don't want to scream "Tourist" with their camera resting on their belly in front of them, this is the perfect way to go.

One other advantage, there are no neon bright yellow letters on your strap showing the world you have an expensive camera.

Only $89.99

JOBY GorillaPod Focus

How many times do you wish you had a tripod with you, but traveling with one can be a real challenge? A Gorillapod may be the best answer. They are lightweight and flexible, so they can be wrapped around trees or bike handlebars to get those unique shots. Hint: throw on a bike, slow down your shutter speed and start peddling and then press the shutter for a unique image.

Keep in mind you can buy off brand Gorillapods, but this one will handle the weight of an SLR with a zoom lens and we also added the JOBY GorillaPod Ballhead X, for more flexibility

This is a great solution for low perspective shots where you would need a steady camera. We found this to be a perfect tripod while travelling in Europe and Africa.

Order Now $99.95

APS-C Frame (CCD/CMOS) Digital Camera Sensor Cleaning Swab Type 2 Cleaning Kit

This kit is invaluable when travelling. When we go to Africa the roads are dusty and no matter how careful you are the camera will get dust on the CCD. This kit makes it super easy to clean the CCD

Note: Just make sure you follow directions while cleaning as you don't want to damage your CCD.

Price $14.99

PowerSquid 5-Outlet Multiplier

The Power Squid is one item I am so happy that I purchased. Though it weighs a bit, having 5 ports to plug into is a life saver. This travelled all over Europe and Africa and each day I was glad to have it with all the cameras that needed to be charged.

Price $14.99

Desiccant Silica Gel

These can come in real handy when traveling to a tropical place. Many times we have been in Mexico or Hawaii and had the air conditioner cranked up to ward off the heat and humidity. As soon as you walk outside from an A/C room, your camera will fog up immediately. Throw these in your camera bag to keep from happening.

These can also be "recharged". Once the beads turn pink, throw them in the oven for a few hours and they are as good as new.

One other tip is to regularly wipe down your gear in order to minimize long standing moisture on your camera that might seep into unsealed openings of your camera body.

Price $19.90 for two

Polarizing Filter

Polarizing filters come in real handy for those vacations where you may shoot a lot of water and sky scenes. Polarizers can give your landscapes deep blue skies and seas, removing glare from the water. They also help eliminate overexposure on bright days.

You won't need them for every lens, but bring one for the lens that you will use for scenes like the wide vista shots.

They are designed to screw on the front of your lens, so make sure you get the proper size for whatever lens you will be using. It should say something like 67mm or 72mm on the front of your lens

Starting around $20.00

The Photographer's Ephemeris

The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE) helps you plan outdoor photography shoots in natural light, particularly landscape and urban scenes. This can be real handy when you travel and are planning your travel day. It's a map-centric sun and moon calculator: see how the light will fall on the land, day or night, for any location on earth.

TPE is available for iPhone, Ipad, Ipod Touch and Android for a small fee and free for the Mac and Windows platforms.

This tool will help you with moonrises as well as sunrise and sunsets. Travel anywhere in the world and know exactly where your optimal locations are for the perfect image.

Buy on iTunes $8.99

Think About...

Making Your Camera Look Ugly - If you are traveling to a place where you are worried about your equipment, you might just purchase a roll of "Duck Tape" and create an ugly duckling. Most thieves won't touch a camera they can't sell for a reasonable sum. If you have duck tape and have covered the logo (i.e. Nikon, Canon) and made your camera look like it's held together with bailing wire, chances are thieves won't give you a second look.

Hiring locals - Locals, like your Shutter Tours Guides, know the best places to go and the culture of a particular city. You could spend hours driving around to try and find the perfect spot but chances are the locals can direct you for a small fee.

Keeping Your Maps - It will help with captioning later and also take photos of signs so you know where you were shooting.


More Travel Photography Questions and Tips

I'm shy, how do I take photos of people when traveling?
The best way we have found is to ask permission either with a simple gesture to your camera and a smile or asking outright. Be sure you know the culture. Many have religious ideas about photography or forbid women to be photographed. Do some research on local customs as you want to make sure you don't do something rude or offensive. Being courteous and asking is often the best policy.
My photos are boring..help!
Many travel photographers are in a hurry and do not take the time to get to explore an area. You will take the same boring photos as everyone else if you are looking for the quick shot. If time allows, slow down and explore an area to get more of a "feel" for the location. Spend less time running from one country to the next and reduce your miles traveled.
How do I get that silky smooth look when shooting waterfalls?
When you slow down your shutter speed, this will allow you to create that effect. The only problem, on a bright sunny day you can't reduce your shutter speed, or your image will be way overexposed. You can utilize Neutral Density filters in bright light to cut the amount of light the camera sees. Put your camera on a tripod, Reduce your ISO to the lowest number, increase your Aperture to the highest number (F/22) and then slow your shutter speed to around 1/10 of a second. This is a good starting point. Play with shutter speeds to get the desired effect.
How do you know where to go if you haven't been to an area?
People on our tours always make comments about how they never realized how big Seattle is or there were so many great places to see outside of downtown. Our tours allow them to get their bearings and see things that inspire them. Take a tour and keep notes in your notebook. Ask the driver for cross street information so you know how to get back and what the locals might call the area. The only way to discover the rhythm of life in a place, and figure out what to shoot, is to get out and experience it.
Get Lost
Get out of your comfort zone and explore areas that may be of interest. In Seattle, instead of walking down the main streets, check out the alleys like Post Alley. Behind the J&M Cafe in Pioneer Square, there are some wonderful textures and places to take some interesting shots in the alley. Find a local cafe' or coffee shop as opposed to the large chains and strike up a conversation with a local. Maybe they can give you some ideas of where to shoot. The rhythm of a city is not found where the tourists are.
What about "Street" Photography?
Seattle is a perfect place to people watch, and Street Photography is one of our favorite things to shoot. The Pike Place Market is perfect for this. From the Buskers (Performers) in the market, people walking through the arcade to people walking their dogs in Belltown. Street photography doesn't have to be in people's faces to get good shots. Use a long lens to reach out. Maybe sit outside at the Starbucks at First and Pike and take photos of people crossing the street (We've done this) or the local musicians who play on the corners. And don't worry, it's all within your legal right to take pictures of people in a public place. If they ask you to stop, then do so and also carry model releases with you in case you get that one of a kind shot.
Remember that you'll probably never be back
When we go to the Fremont Troll on our tour, we encourage people to allow us to take their photo in front of it. We remind them that this is probably the only opportunity they will ever get to do so. Don't miss an opportunity to miss that shot, chances are you will never be back, and then you'll wish you took the time to get it. We always say we don't want to wish our photos away, meaning we wish we would have taken the shot.
Family and Friend Photos
Make sure you get more than landscapes shots, add people to get a sense of scale and perspective. Just make sure they are not a small speck in the photo but not so close you lose the background. Have them climb on Rachael the Pig in the market, maybe a portrait of them drinking coffee.
Never be satisfied
Get that first initial shot, but then look for more opportunities to take a different angle, stoop down, hold your camera over your head, always look for ways to improve the shot.Tell yourself that nothing is more important than getting the best image before you rush onto the the next location.

What other photo accessories should you take?

  • Bring along two or three extra batteries
  • A small lens cleaning kit to keep your lenses in top shape.
  • A small reflector if you'd like to do some portraits of locals
  • Your camera's charger, and a voltage converter if needed.
  • Some large ziploc bags (these can work great to protect your camera).
  • A pencil and a small notebook to keep notes of locations and to jog your memory when you get home.
  • Consider changing your camera strap to a plain black one (anyone seen screaming yellow NIKON letters?)
  • Simple Model Release in the native language of those you might take photos of. You never know when you'll get a great image that might sell.

We know this is a small list of items that can help you with your travel photography, but we hope we gave you some ideas to get you excited about your next trip.

If you have questions about our tours, feel free to contact us at 425-516-8838

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