We all have different ideas about what a “perfect” travel camera kit includes. Some photographers need wheels on their camera bags, while others choose a pocket camera and nothing else. The important thing is to decide what YOU need. A travel photography setup is generally a balance of image quality, portability, and flexibility.
Maybe I’m a weirdo, but I really don’t like changing lenses if I don’t have to. When I’m in a “travel photography” situation, I’m usually reacting to what unfolds in front of me. The light, the subject, the background, and the moments change constantly. Chances are, if need to change a lens to capture a moment, the moment is gone by the time I’m finished. I prefer to use more flexible equipment so I don’t have to change a lens.
I have been a fan of the LUMIX/Leica lenses since I bought the 25mm f1.4 and 45mm f2.8 macro lenses years ago. There is definitely a look that Leica glass brings to the table. The lenses are tack sharp, but the out-of-focus areas have a look I can only describe as creamy. The Leica 15mm f1.7 was a no-brainer for me, and I found the 42.5mm f1.2 to be much more versatile than I would have thought.
I was excited to learn that LUMIX was developing Leica zoom lenses, and I haven’t been disappointed. At this point, the Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 and Leica 12-60mm f2.8-4 lenses are permanent fixtures in my camera bag.
The Leica 12-60mm f2.8-4 is my most used lens these days. The 24-120mm effective focal length makes it useful for everything from landscapes to portraits to close wildlife. It’s f2.8-4 aperture allows the lens to gather plenty of light in order to keep shutter speeds high and ISO settings low. The optical image stabilizer works in concert with the in-body stabilizer on my GH5 and other LUMIX bodies so I can travel without a tripod much of the time. The minimum focus distance of the12-60mm even allows me to shoot macro subjects. That means one less lens to carry.
The Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 super telephoto lens is my go-to lens for wildlife. The 200-800mm full-frame equivalent focal length lets me reach distant subjects with ease. I love the fact that it is a zoom lens. 800mm is great, but if the action starts to heat up closer to me I can zoom out and keep shooting. The image stabilizer works extremely well, and the relatively small lens balances beautifully on the GH5 with the battery grip attached.
The GH5 with the battery grip on it is my daily driver camera body at this point. The image quality is fantastic and the ergonomics are superb. You can read more about my GH5 experience HERE. I like the GH5 with the battery grip because of how it handles. I have two reactions to the camera depending on who picks it up: DSLR shooters always say, “wow! It’s so LIGHT!”, while folks with small m4/3 cameras say, “wow! It’s so heavy”. I suppose it’s all relative. I don’t mind a bigger camera because it fits in my hand very well. As long as I can use the small, high quality LUMIX/Leica lenses my camera bag stays nice and light and easy to travel with.
What is your ideal travel photography kit these days?