What’s in my camera bag?

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Undoubtedly the question that I get asked the most is what camera equipment I carry with me when I go on an assignment. My first bit of advice is to only carry what you need. After all, who wants to walk around all day with an extra 10kg (20 lb.) on their back? But at the same time you don’t want to be caught short so, as always, planning carefully and creating a shot list before you travel can be invaluable.

Photographer at Aysgarth Falls in Yorkshire Dales

You should try and get together a basic set of equipment which will cover you for most situations. You can then add more specialized equipment depending on the nature of the shoot.

Here is what is in my camera bag:

Camera

My camera of choice is a Canon 5D MK II. It is a exceptional camera that won’t let you down, and stands up very well at high ISO settings. I usually carry an extra body with me, which I leave in my hotel room in the event that anything happens to my main camera. The last thing you need when you have limited time at a place, is to have to run around to try and find another camera so a spare could be essential.

Lenses

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II USM zoom lens

The Canon 24-70 f/2.8 is my work horse and is what I use the majority of the time. The focal range means it is perfect for landscapes and is also a wonderful lens to take portraits with, as it means you have to get close to your subject. It is also fast enough to use in low light conditions, so it’s ideal for places such as markets.

 Canon  EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens

This is a wonderful telephoto lens which comes with a hefty price tag but is definitely worth the cost. Great for portraits and close-ups, the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 is also fantastic for landscapes in which you want to isolate a small section of the scene.

Abu Dhabi cityscape at night

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM – focal length: 100mm

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens

Someone once asked me if I could carry only one lens what would it be? My head would say my 24-70mm Canon lens but my heart would go for the 50mm f/1.2. The great thing about prime lenses like this is that, as a photographer, you have to move and get up close to what you are photographing. This becomes especially powerful when photographing people as it helps build a connection with your subject. It is also fast enough so that you can photograph in low light conditions without having to bump up your ISO too high.

Whats In My Camera Bag-Cappadocia-People

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM – exposure: ISO 640, 1/250 sec at f/2.0

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

For anyone interested in travel photography, one of the most important parts of a destination is the local food. Although not essential, macro lenses are great for photographing food as they allow you to get really close and pick up the beautiful details of what is on the dish. The Canon 100mm f2.8 IS is my macro lens of choice.

Whats In My Camera Bag-Food-Macro

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM – focal length: 100mm

 Flash

One of the common misconceptions about flashes is that they should only be used in low light settings. However, they are extremely useful when you need some fill flash (for example: if you are taking a portrait of someone in intense light which is causing harsh shadows on their face, a flash can help minimize the shadows). For this reason I always carry my Canon Speedlite 580EX II flash with me.

Tripod

A tripod is essential if you are planning any shots which require long shutter speeds. But a tripod is also what’s going to support all your expensive camera equipment, so choose it wisely. The Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 is a sturdy carbon fiber tripod which is lightweight to carry. I also use a Manfrotto 327RC2 light duty grip ball head to connect my camera to the tripod.

Filters

All of my lenses are fitted with a Hoya Pro 1 Digital UV filter. This helps protect the lens glass, especially in very harsh conditions such as the desert. I also carry a range of Cokin Neutral Desity filters and Graduated Neutral Density filters which are extremely useful for landscape photography.

Other bits

Memory cards, hard drives and laptop – I take enough memory cards with me so that I can cover each day I’m away on a separate card. I also take a few additional ones in case I need more than one in a day. However, at the end of each day I still back up my card on two separate 250GB hard drives so that all my photos from that day are saved in 3 different places.

Lens and camera cleaning kit, spare batteries and chargers – You should get into a habit of giving your camera and lenses a wipe at the end of each day and charge your batteries so everything is ready for the next day.

This is the basic set of equipment that I carry with me wherever I travel, and I add to it as I see fit. For example, architectural photographers might want to take a tilt and shift lens, or wildlife photographers a 400mm lens.  But remember try to only take what you are going to need.

Further reading on “What’s in your bag?”

What’s in your camera bag? Tell us in the comments below what is in your essential kit.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Kav Dadfar is a professional travel and landscape photographer based in London. He spent his formative years working as an art director in the world of advertising but loved nothing more than photography and traveling. His images are represented by stock agencies such as 4Corners Images, Robert Harding World Imagery, Getty, Axiom Photographic, and Alamy and they have been used by clients such as Condé Nast, National Geographic, Wanderlust travel magazine, Lonely Planet, American Express, and many others.

  • TechnoNut

    Did you forget to include the polarizing filter, more essential IMHO than the NDs, if something has to be left at home.

  • I have never used filters. I have been adding bits and pieces. I wonder when I will succumb and buy a filter. http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi

    TechnoNut: Yes I do take Polarizing filters with me as well.

    Mridula: Filters are a great addition to your arsenal as a photographer and can be invaluable, however the most important thing is still your composition.

    Kav

  • JvW

    I may forget my camera, but I take my wired remote shutter release everywhere.

  • Sandy

    That gear is way too high a percentage of my personal income for me to be carrying around!

  • Marco

    Cokin filters? I have been trying to get myself only filters that I read that are pretty decent. Hence, I can’t afford to buy that many (I’d rather spend my money on decent lenses) and only have a few hi-tech ones (http://mpimpao.com). Is Cokin good enough? I was under the impression that they were kind of…well, you know what I mean. Have I been wrong all this time?

  • Kav, just an FYI if you hit “reply” under TechnoNut’s comment he will get notice of it. Thanks!

  • see Kav’s comment above for you

  • see Kav’s comment above for you!

  • Yes what he has in his bag is high end for a pro. But think in terms of a scale down version of what he carries. An entry level SLR, a 50 f/1.8, a good zoom (maybe one step up from the kit lens). Then look at it from “how can I use this information”

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi, I’ve been using Cokin pro series filters for a few years and never had an issue with them. I’ve read the non pro versions aren’t as good but on a trip a few years back I ended up having to use the non pro versions and they did the job. And some of those images are with various image libraries who are very tough with their quality checks. Maybe get a couple and test them out.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Yes a camera release can be really useful. If you forget yours just set your camera to timer mode so that you can still take pictures at slow shutter speeds without jolting the camera.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi all

    Great comments. The important thing to remember is that as you progress you will build up and your own bits of equipment which you’ll find useful.

    For example I always carry a compass with me. It has helped me numerous times in working out where the light will move to later in the day not to mention finding my way around after getting lost.

    Kav

  • MartyD

    In lieu of a 50mm prime, I carry a 12-24mm f/4. I use a Nikon D800 as my main and have a D7000 as a backup body. The remainder of my gear is close to identical in specifications. Most of my lenses are Tamron with the exception of the wide angle I mentioned which is a Tokina and all are full frame lenses. I also carry wired as well as wireless shutter remotes and macro extension tubes or close up filters and a 2X teleconverter. For special work, I use a tilt/shift/bellows in architectural mode and a 200-500mm f/5-6.3 (the best I can afford at present) in wildlife mode.

  • Belinda Jane

    I’ve been travelling with a 50mm prime and a 24-105mm for a while now. But I’m actually thinking about getting myself a Canon 135mm f/2.0L and just carry that and the 50mm on my next trip. Would be interested to know if anyone has any thoughts or feedback on that?

  • Kav Dadfar

    It’s a brave thing to do, but you will find that it is great practice just to use prime lenses as you can’t just rely on zooming in or out. The downside is that you are missing some of the focal ranges which could be frustrating. I would suggest taking your 24-105mm lens but maybe leaving it in your hotel room if you want to just take your prime lenses out. That way at least you can always fall back on it if you are out and about and find that you would need it.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Good kit. You are pretty much set.

  • Soak

    During my recent train trips around Scotland, I brought along a 40 , 50.2L , 16-35L , 24-70.4L IS , 70-200.4L IS plus a 1.4X III with 5D3/700D. Glad to have occasions to use all of them. I must say, lens(without hood) flat against train window with flip-mon is great :-p

  • Kav Dadfar

    Wow, that’s a lot to carry but well done for getting use out of them. Good point about camera against the train window. A rubber lens hood can also be really useful as unlike the normal plastic ones it doesn’t slip around.

  • Soak

    I bagged everything with a ProRunner 300….with room to spare for a TS-80N3, a 270EX II and a 430EX II plus 5 out-of-cam-batteries/2batt charges 🙂 I’d not let this backpack out of my sight 😀 Now I need to find myself a rubber lens hood <- an excellent suggestion! ty

  • pouro

    I will do. Now to decide what color. 😉
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  • wow this camera is wonderful. it is really fast!

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    I also noticed you decided to keep the most expensive of the primes…lol. Nice choice
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  • teresa

    Amateur person here. Need help on what I should carry to the Grand Canyon. This is what I have. Canon T3i, and rebel Xs EF-S 18-200mm, 50mm 1.8, kit 18-55mm plus a 70-300mm. Plus all 9 batteries, cards and filters, makes my backpack very heavy. What can I leave behind?

  • Kevin Kinnett

    Greatly Appreciate your time and you knowledge for posting this article. I have a Nikon d 750 and I use the same lenses as well.

  • Kav Dadfar

    No problem Kevin, glad it was useful.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Teresa, I generally try not advise people what to ever leave behind as everyone is different and has their own preferred lenses, styles, shot list etc and me telling someone to leave something behind might cost them a shot! So with that in mind I’ll give you an example of what I would take with me on a trip like this. Obviously the first question you need to answer for yourself is what are you hoping to photograph? Landscapes? Wildlife? Close-ups? Action shots? If your answer is yes to all then unfortunately will be very heavy. If I’m on a shoot like this my brief will determine some of my choices, for example I rarely photograph wildlife and so wouldn’t take lenses for this, but I would at a minimum take my camera body (I always carry 2 but when I was starting out had just one), a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm lens, a macro lens (for those close-ups), a flash, a tripod, the relevant filters and like you plenty of spare batteries and memory cards. I may add other necessities such as prime lens etc if I feel I may need it. I hope this helps! Regards. Kav

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