As a photography geek, I’ve owned and have used nearly all possible camera types and gadgets you can possibly imagine. I’ve used old wooden Large Format cameras to Medium Format film cameras used in the 80s. I’m one of the first to adapt to digital photography back when the most expensive digital SLR were only 3 megapixels. Now we have smartphones that can take resolve up to 30 megapixels. Times have changed and along with it, my style of photography.
If you want to see examples of my photography and results of my gear choices here’s a few: 40 Photos That Will Convince You To Explore The Eastern Sierras | 16 Photos That Proves Norway Is A Real Life Fairy Tale | 22 Pictures That Prove The Canadian Rockies Rock | 17 Pictures That Will Convince You To Visit Lake Tahoe
I don’t schlep 50 lbs of gear into to the mountains anymore. I prefer a select few optimized choices of gear that allows me to capture the best moments in time on furthest reaches of the planet. My equipment choices favor lightweight and compact features over function (functions I don’t ever need or use). I’ve also gone on a bit of minimalism spree where I’ve gotten rid of photography equipment I don’t use or don’t need; so unlike most photographers who own dozens of lenses and camera bodies, I own only 1 camera body and 3 lenses (with a dilemma of whether I should get rid of the third one). Below is a list of all the gear I use and why I think it’s the ultimate gear for the would be Adventure and Travel photographer.
Affiliate disclosure: If you buy any of the items below I will get a tiny commission from the sales. Rest assured, I don’t post anything that I don’t use. I stand behind all the products I have listed here.
Sony A7II Camera Body
Rather than inundate you with another review (there are tons out there on Google), I will just list the features that I think is important here.
First the cons.
Against a Nikon D800E (which I broke in Patagonia) the Sony A7ii isn’t quite up to par when it comes to speed and function of the Nikon. If you like to shoot action sports, the Sony isn’t your camera. If you like to take dozens of pictures at a time in succession this isn’t your camera. It’s slow and downright cumbersome at times but I’ve never missed an epic shot from this camera and those shots are of epic quality.
24.3MP Full Frame CMOS sensor
The Sony A7II is the best travel camera, period. Simply amazing image quality! That is the end game, right? It’s got fewer megapixel than other leading Full-Frame cameras but that only means that those cameras have smaller pixel pitch. I’m not going to bother with the technicalities of a pixel pitch, you can read about that here if you really want to geek out. In short, the images produced by the sensor with bigger pixel pitch will have less noise and better quality than the images produced by a sensor of the same size (but with higher megapixel count) with smaller pixel pitch. Its low noise performance means it’s also great for astrophotography.
When I broke my Nikon D800e in Patagonia, I replaced it with a Nikon D5100 for the rest of the trip. The Nikon D5100 is a cropped sensor camera, that means even smaller pixel pitch than the Full Frame D800e. I can immediately see the difference in quality. Less dynamic range. More noise. Generally not as good as Full Frame. If you really care about the quality of your images you should consider Full Frame. The prices of Full Frame cameras have gone down considerably over the years. In fact, I got my Sony A7ii used on Amazon for under $1,000!
5-axis sensor-based image stabilization
This feature alone is worth all the price of admission. What is it? It’s an in-camera stabilization that minimizes camera shake due hand holding allowing you to get sharper images without a tripod. You normally would have to pay for this feature for EACH one of your lenses. The SONY A7ii has it built right on the camera body so it’s available for ALL your lenses! It really does work. I’ve tested it on and off. I could easily pull off 1/60 and sometimes 1/30 without blur on my images.
E-mount with support for FE, E, and A-mount lenses (with adapter)
Since the SONY A7ii is mirror-less, there’s smaller flange distance. Flange what? Another geek talk? It just means the lens to sensor distance. But why does it matter? Well, it allows manufacturers to build all sorts of adapters so you can use lenses from other cameras. Yes, it’s true! You can use a Canon or Nikon or even some really old Medium Format lens on the Sony A7ii via an adapter.
- 3-inch tilting LCD with 1.23 million dots (640×480, RGBW)
If you want to take candid shots without looking like a creepy dude in the corner, this is your friend. Okay, maybe you’re a creepy dude, but you can take candid photos without arousing the crowd.
Wi-Fi with NFC ability and downloadable apps
Another awesome feature! You can tether your laptop and smartphone to your Sony A7ii via apps. You can control the camera and use your phone or laptop as a viewfinder.
Extremely lightweight and compact
The Nikon D800E was a brick. The Sony A7ii is lightweight and doesn’t take over your backpack.
I”m pleasantly surprised about this camera. Sure there are a few flaws but no camera is perfect. This camera, however, is perfect for Adventure Photography. It’s also one of the cheapest Full Frame cameras around, I got mine for just under 1k used. The menu system is very intuitive and I can pretty much navigate and get to the functions I want in timely fashion.
HuiHuang Replacement RM-VPR1 LCD Timer Shutter Release
For under twenty bucks, this thing does a lot! It allows you to remote trigger your shutter. Even on a tripod, you will cause some camera shake when you press the shutter, this allows you to release the shutter without your finger on the camera. It has a built-in intervalometer (the Sony A7ii doesn’t) so you can successive shots for time-lapse photography. You can also configure it to allow longer self-timer. You can buy the official Sony version but it will cost you an arm and a leg. This generic shutter release will last you a long time, in fact, it will probably outlast your camera.
Sony SEL24240 FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Zoom Lens
This is an awesome travel lens! It’s heavier than I’d like and the aperture is a little on the short side but this lens is great! The zoom range pretty much covers all that you’ll ever need in travel. The image quality is damn good for a zoom lens and it even rivals primes. It’s not great for night photography and astrophotography, but that’s why I have the Rokinon primes below. A little on the expensive side, it’s hovering at just under 1k used, but the zoom range of the lens makes it a steal. If you don’t care much about super wide angle FOV and don’t do nighttime photography this is your ultimate travel lens.
Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 IF ED MC Super Wide Angle Lens for Nikon
I have this lens for my Nikon camera and I bought a converter to be able to use it on my Sony A7ii. It’s one of my favorite lenses, ever! It’s super wide-angle FOV (Field Of View) means there are some crazy distortions but nothing you can’t fix via Lightroom or Photoshop. It also doesn’t have a filter ring, so using a filter is near impossible (they do make an adapter for filters). They’re sometimes branded as Samyang but they’re the same lens and the same quality.
I use this lens for astrophotography because it’s got great coma performance. No, not the kind of coma where you’re in a state of deep unconsciousness. Coma, like when you shoot the lens wide open that causes the stars to show off the faults or aberrations of the lens. Comatic aberration causes point sources, such as stars, to appear distorted. It’s one of the cheapest prime lenses you can get. The build quality is stellar and the image quality, short of the distortion, is also stellar. I see it floating around on Ebay for under $300, which is a steal! I wouldn’t buy lenses out on Ebay. Buy it via Amazon or hop on over to Fredmiranda.com’s forums or KEH camera instead.
Rokinon Cine CV24M-N 24mm T1.5 Cine Wide Angle Lens
I got this lens specifically for Astrophotography but I’m finding myself using it for landscape photography as well. It’s the CINE version which means it was developed primarily for video applications. The cine version of Rokinon’s 24mm lens features industry-standard gearing for the focus and aperture ring, and the aperture ring has been de-clicked for smooth iris pulls. The aperture and focus scales have also been relocated to the side of the lens, where it is easier for focus pullers to read them. It works just as well as non-cine version and you can find it cheaper used in the market. I got mine under $300.
Davis & Sanford TR654C-36 Traverse Carbon Fiber 4 Section Grounder Tripod with Head
Take it from me. I’m a tripod snob. I used to own $500 carbon fiber tripods from Gitzo and $200 Ballheads from Kirk. This tripod is very cheap but not short on performance and quality! I was so impressed with its quality and functional ability that I sold my more expensive tripods and now use this as my primary tripod! It folds down small so it can fit inside your backpack when you travel. It extends long, as far as eye level (I”m 5-11″) . It’s also got short attachable center pole if you want to get very low to the ground. I don’t think I’ve found a better tripod on the market and I’ve tried most of the best ones!
Cokin Z-Pro Series ND Graduated Filter Kit
Do you want to know the secret to those epic sunset shots you see in magazines? Most of them are taken with a Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filter. Often it is necessary to balance intensity in one part of a scene from another. This is especially true in situations where you don’t have total light control, as in high contrast landscape scenes. Exposing for the foreground will produce a washed-out, over-exposed sky while exposing for the sky will leave the foreground dark and under-exposed.
Cokin graduated gray ND filters are part clear, part neutral density. They allow the transition to be blended into the scene, often imperceptibly. An ND4-to-clear, with a two stop differential, will generally compensate the average bright sky-to-foreground situation and is also the most popular density of the series. Don’t get Circular GNDs! They’re always graduated from the center and they lack the compositional flexibility of a Square GND.
Heliopan 707761 77mm High-Transmission Polarizer
This a very expensive polarizer, it’s just under $300. But I have these on my lenses 90% of the time. Why so expensive? They’re very high quality and why put a cheap $50 filter on a one thousand dollar lens? There’s no image degradation caused by this filter. You can’t replicate the effect of a polarizer in photoshop or any editing program. You can only get the effect before you take the picture. Polarizers cut glare, make the skies bluer, and add a little saturation to your images. It’s a must-have filter for any outdoor or nature photographer. There are two types. Linear and circular. Circular is the one you want to get, linear polarizers don’t work well with modern DSLR’s meters.
Toploader Pro 70 AW II Camera Case From Lowepro
I’ve owned two of these bags already. Perfect for travel. I usually keep my camera and an extra lens inside my backpack and take it out during photographic excursions.
- Fits a Pro DSLR with 24-70mm f/2.8 or 14-25mm f/2.8 lens attached and small accessories
- Four wearing options allow for tremendous freedom of movement: over the shoulder, holster style, as a chest harness, or at the waist using your own belt or webbing
- Bag includes 2 straps to configure in multiple ways: a padded shoulder strap and secondary strap – both with secure snap hooks
- Work out of the bag – and keep gear protected from the elements – with the 360-degree All Weather AW Cover
- Close the bag without zipping it by using the glove-friendly, quick-release buckle
Professional Camera Cleaning Kit for DSLR Cameras
Sensors and camera lenses eventually get dirty. Don’t ever use your shirts to clean them. For under ten bucks you can have the proper tools for cleaning your photography gear.
SanDisk 64GB Class 4 SDXC Flash Memory Card
Super cheap at under $20 for 64gb of storage! They’re not the fastest card but hey, they serve their purpose.
Toshiba Canvio Connect II 2TB Portable Hard Drive
I shoot RAW, so I need a lot of storage space for my photos. I have extra storage in my laptop and backup my photos on this Hard Drive as well. It’s got plenty of space and is very fast and reliable. I also back up my RAW files to Amazon Cloud – Did you know that is free for PRIME MEMBERS? You heard that right, FREE unlimited cloud storage for Prime Members, Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial.
Lenovo Z70 17.3-Inch Laptop
This is a huge laptop and a little on the heavy side. But it’s portable enough and I need the extra screen real estate for viewing and editing my photos. It’s rated one of the best laptops for photography due to its high-performance monitor and it’s about 1/3rd of the price of it’s the closest competitor.
X-Rite ColorMunki Smile
I always get weird looks when I put this thing on my monitor. Aside from it being a head turner, it has a very specific purpose. I sell Fine Art prints, so I need my colors calibrated and matched with what I’m seeing on my screen vs what’s being printed by the printer. This thing has made color calibration easy for the color perfectionist in me! There is no guesswork. There’s no stress. No frustration. No wasted time. There’s a quick and easy, wizard-driven interface for perfect color without the need for color science knowledge. Unique features like Ambient Light Smart Control and our Automatic Display Control makes calibrating so easy while delivering color accuracy and consistency. I calibrate my monitor every month.
GoPro HERO4 Silver
I used to be a GoPro hater. I used to laugh at all the dudes who I thought looked ridiculous with these things strapped to their helmets. Add a selfie stick to the fold and you have a bunch of Canon fodder for jokes. I went against the fold, opting to purchase the now defunct Oregon Scientific and Contour cameras. Boy, who’s the Canon fodder now? There’s a reason why GoPro has lasted this long. They have the accessory market cornered. You’re never short on how creatively you can get different viewpoints because of the accessories.
GoPro 3-Way Grip, Arm, Tripod
This is the ultimate selfie stick for a GoPro. There are so many ways your use this thing. Sturdy and compact too! Doubles up as a back scratcher if one isn’t around.