An Essential Travel Photography Gear Guide

What’s in My Camera Bag? The Fujifilm X Series

Welcome to my travel photography gear guide for my Fujifilm X Series kit, what’s in my camera bag and why I use it. A favourite topic among photographers since the beginning of time has been photography gear. “What camera do you use?” or “what’s the best camera?” are frequent questions I get asked. I don’t consider myself a kit pest (someone who wants the latest kit or best kit). I want kit that fits the purpose and meets the needs of what I ask of it. That’s why my travel photography gear is Fujifilm. Read on to learn more about my journey with Fuji and how it suits me for travel photography.

Travel Photography Gear Guide
My Fujifilm X-T2 with 23mm, 35mm, 60mm primes and 18-55mm Fujifilm lenses

How did I end up using the Fujifilm X Series as my travel photography gear?

I travelled to Paris for New Year’s Eve and took a Nikon camera kit. Fully laden, my bag weighed about 10 kilos, including camera body, lenses and accessories. That’s almost a sixth of my body weight! Camera weight was the first issue, the second was the footwear I had. I took some Converse All Star shoes. Combine the weight of the camera kit, naff shoes and the amount I walked together, and it led to some painful feet and an unpleasant experience! Anyway, I thought there must be a better solution to the kit I was using, so once I returned, I started looking.

At the time, the Fujifilm X-T1 was out but it was quite expensive and beyond what I was willing to pay. Fast forward a few months and to the Royal Navy’s annual photographic competition, the Peregrine Trophy, and I managed to win one of the categories (unbelievable, I know!). The prize was a £500 voucher for Calumet (now Wex Photographic), which I sat on for a bit.

One day I was on their website looking at what I could spend the voucher on and saw an advertisement for the Fujifilm X-T10. I dug a little deeper and found it was within my price range and sounded like the perfect solution to my problem. I got in touch with Calumet and reserved the camera. It arrived on release day…and the rest, as they say, is history!

When you buy a camera all you usually have to go on are the specs from the manufacturer. I have been fortunate enough to use cameras from Nikon, Canon, Sony and Fujifilm, extensively, in my professional career, from the freezing temperatures of the Arctic circle to the humid jungles of Belize, sizzling deserts of California and everywhere in between. In two years alone, I travelled over 130,000 miles around the globe with the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Prime Minister.

And I can tell you that not all cameras are the same, despite their specifications being better or worse than the other manufacturers. There are lots of things to take into account which you might not see until it is in your hands, such as the ISO ability, menu systems, ergonomics or build quality. I used a Fujifilm X-T2 alongside a Canon 1Dx Mk2 while I worked at Downing Street.

Spec for spec, there were differences, but the Fujifilm X-T2 beat it in terms of output every time. The colour rendition, the focus, the sharpness…the list goes on! And beyond that, the Fujifilm uses a common memory card, not a specialist memory card such as the CFast or even Compact Flash, which would plug straight into the MacBook Pro I was using, which led to a simpler, quicker workflow.

I also used a Sony a9 for a few months, which, I have to say, it is one of the best cameras I have ever used. It really was outstanding. However, it has downsides, such as the price and size (lenses included) which means it doesn’t meet my needs for travel, similarly to the Canon R5, which I got my hands on for a weekend.

To see the imagery from it have a look at this post. It’s an outstanding camera, I must say, but has the same size, weight and price issues I don’t like. Weight is my biggest issue; it really ruins the shooting experience for me. I’ve carried two full-frame DSLR cameras around for days on end and it’s simply not a pleasant experience. That’s where the Fujifilm X Series comes into its own. Is the Fujifilm X Series the best travel photography gear you can buy?

No… I don’t think there is a ‘best’ travel camera because we all have different needs. But the Fujifilm X Series meets mine. Since 2011, when I became a military photographer, I’ve shot on Nikon D2, D3, D4, D700, D800, Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, 5Ds, 5D Mark IV, R5 and Sony a9, but the Fujifilm X Series is about as close as I have found to be the most pleasant to use and carry, while still being tough enough and able to produce quality results.

Why you should consider the Fujifilm X Series as your travel photography gear

Ability, not capability.

As I previously mentioned, not all cameras are made the same. When you buy equipment you’ve not handled, you can’t go on anything but what people tell you (like I am now) and the specs on a webpage. And as consumers, we tend to go for the one which has the most impressive statistics but let me tell you that capability and ability are two different things. Just because a camera has more megapixels and a higher ISO range, it doesn’t mean it can outperform another camera, it’s just not that simple. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking a camera is better because the specs are better on a DP Review side by side comparison.

Styling

Not important to some, but important to others, including me. The Fujifilm X Series cameras are, in my opinion, the best-looking cameras on the market. I have been stopped on numerous occasions by people asking what film I’m shooting on because they have been fooled into thinking my Fujifilm X-T2 is a retro film camera. Fujifilm has got their styling just right across the whole X Series range, from their SLR style mirrorless cameras to their rangefinder-style mirrorless cameras, but more on that next. The SLR style mirrorless cameras, such as the Fuji X-T3, have dials on top to control shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation, which add to the retro styling of the cameras.

Camera Range

There is something in the X Series lineup to suit most people, from their entry-level X-T200 to the flagship X-T4. Not only do they have SLR style mirrorless cameras, but they also have rangefinder-style mirrorless cameras. I have a Fujifilm X-E2s, which is a rangefinder style. It’s getting a bit dated now but I really like the comfort of this style of camera. The viewfinder is fitted to the top left of the camera, so it tucks nicely down the side of your nose…which avoids your greasy nose messing up the LCD screen!

The only problem with offering so many cameras is it can be a little confusing to decide which one to get. Despite the Fujifilm flagship being the X-T4, the X-T3 is probably a better option if you are looking at their high end because it’s a little bit better value for money. And if you don’t want their flagship but can stretch your budget beyond their entry-level cameras, look at the X-T30. It shares lots of the features of the flagship cameras, without the same buttons and weather-sealed body and will produce good results for you.

Lens Range

An interesting topic which people usually bring up when they are talking about which camera system they should buy if they are just starting out. The big hitters – Nikon, Canon, Sony, probably outweigh Fujifilm in terms of how many lenses they offer, if you are looking at their entire range (I don’t actually know because it’s not important to me). This seems to be a selling point for many but is beyond me as to why. How many lenses could you possibly want?! Unless you are a specialist, you will have more than enough choice with the lenses Fujifilm offers.

And beyond that – there are options to mount other manufacturer lenses on your Fujifilm camera, should you need to. Don’t forget, Fujifilm only offer mirrorless cameras and only one mount for the Fujifilm X Series range because all of their sensors are the same physical size, so you know if you are buying an X Series lens, it will fit your X Series camera.

Size and Weight

Often smaller in size, the entire X Series range cameras are all mirrorless and have APS-C (cropped) sensors, which, when combined, reduce the size and certainly weight, significantly, when compared to a full-frame DSLR camera. And weight costs money. I once travelled to Belize, South America, where the cost of excess baggage was £10 per kilogram! It soon adds up when you’re carrying big, heavy kit. Not only that, but a pro-level full-frame kit will set you back a pretty penny.

For example, the price difference (correct November 2020) on Amazon for the Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8 L IS III USM Telephoto Lens and Fujifilm 70-200 equivalent (Fujifilm XF50-140mm F2.8 R LM Optical Image Stabiliser WR Lens) is a staggering £701! And beyond the price, you will save 485g  in weight on one lens alone. You could argue they aren’t comparable, but the point I am making is big kit costs money when you can get great results on less expensive kit…which, by the way, doesn’t have to be a Fujifilm camera!

It’s not all gravy, as they say. The Fujifilm X Series operate with cropped sensors, which are smaller than full-frame sensors. There are numerous points to note about the differences, but the biggest problem, in my opinion, is the difference in depth of field (DoF). It’s suggested there is a 1 stop difference in DoF when compared to a full-frame camera. For example, shooting on a cropped sensor camera at F2 will achieve similar results to F2.8 on a full-frame camera, which means your DoF will be deeper. Not a massive issue, but one to note, nonetheless.

My Fuji Essential Travel Photography Gear List

If you’re looking for some travel photography gear for beginners, this list should give you a few options. I’m a minimalist travel photography gear kind of guy and below is pretty much all I take. It’s small and light enough to take with me most places I go.

Fujifilm X-T2 Body

It’s no longer available through Amazon, but the X-T3 is. I’ve used the X-T3 on a few occasions. I even shot the wedding picture below on it. The reason I haven’t upgraded? It’s not a cost-effective move right now when the X-T2 still has life left in it. It’s a workhorse and seemingly indestructible…so, until it breaks or the X-T3 reduces so much in price, I’ll stick with my trusty X-T2.

Fujifilm XF35mm F1.4 R Lens

The Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4… read no further and buy one. This is my absolute favourite lens…of all time. The Fujifilm XF35mm F1.4 lens is the one that is attached to my camera most of the time. Despite the fixed focal length, it’s surprisingly versatile. And it’s absolutely pin-sharp too. The only problem with it is it sometimes suffers a bit of chromatic aberration on whites, but don’t let that put you off, it’s a minor point you won’t even notice. If you can’t stretch your budget to the F1.4, there is an alternative in an F2.

Fujifilm XF23mm F2 R WR Lens

My second favourite lens. Another pin-sharp lens. There isn’t anything really negative to say about this at all, it’s simply a bit too wide for my usual stuff, but it’s always in my bag. I much prefer using prime lenses because of the wider apertures and size. I’m all about wide-open apertures, hence why I tend to use this and the 35mm over the variable focal length lens. I ended up with the F2 because it came with my camera. I bought it from a friend after I lost an X-T2 (ouch!). If you can stretch to the F1.4.

Fujifilm XF60mm F2.4 R Macro Lens

This is my most rarely used lens. Not because it’s poor, it’s far from it. It’s another great lens from Fujifilm but the focal length is a little long for the usual stuff I shoot. But it is a macro lens, so offers some versatility on that front. I once had some beehives, so it was pretty useful for getting some detailed shots of the little honeybees as they wandered in and out of the hive. If you’re interested in a Fujifilm macro lens, this is the one for you.

The Fujifilm XF60mm is climbing my list of favourite lenses though. It presents a challenge and makes me consider what other shots I can get on such a focal length to enable me to use it more. It produces solid results every time and that’s why it’s in my bag for travel photography.

Travel Photography Gear Guide
A Dartmoor Highland cow, shot on Fujifilm XF60mm F2.4 R
Travel Photography Gear Guide
The Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge, shot on Fujifilm XF60mm F2.4 R

Fujifilm XF18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens

This is the only zoom lens I use on my Fujifilm. It’s a pretty versatile lens and it’s small and light enough because it has a variable aperture. The aperture is not my favourite, but it’s suitable because it’s so compact and produces good results. It’s also the only lens I have that has stabilisation in, which proves handy at times, especially if I’m shooting video (which I avoid at all costs! Ha-ha!)

Neither Fujifilm X-T2 nor X-T3 has IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilisation), so it can be handy in the lens. If you’re after something a bit more serious, I’d recommend the Fujifilm XF16-55mm F2.8 WR lens. It’s a pro-level lens and superb. I used it extensively while working for the Prime Minister and wasn’t once disappointed. It’s solid the entire way through.

Other Travel Photography Gear

If you buy a camera, or already have one, you’ll probably need some other bits to go with it. Below is the list of things I have with me sometimes or things I’ve used or bought along the way.

Fujifilm XF16-55mm F2.8 WR Lens

As previously mentioned, it’s the pro level standard variable focal length lens, which I used extensively. Look no further if you’re after a pro-level versatile lens.

Fujifilm XF50-140mm F2.8 R LM Optical Image Stabiliser WR Lens

Another awesome, pro-level lens. This is Fujifilm’s professional long lens which I used extensively while on assignment to Downing Street. Fast, reliable, tough and one which produces quality results every time.

Godox Flashes

These were used to shoot the photographs for the Tropicfeel Canyon Review. I’ve used them a couple of times, including at a wedding. They are super easy to set up and use, especially when compared to the Canon equivalents… you shouldn’t have to Google how to set these things up!

Green Shutter Buttons

I don’t normally pimp stuff out but decided to add a splash of colour to my little Fujifilm X-T2 after a colleague of mine bought some for her Fujifilm X-T3. They are cool little buttons that simply screw into your shutter release button.

GorillaPod

Undoubtedly, my favourite little accessory! I love how this thing is small and light enough to stick in your bag to go travelling with. It can’t replace a tripod in some situations, but it is super handy in lots of places and can, in some cases, go where a tripod can’t. I’ve had this thing wrapped around railings, handles, wing mirrors…

Tripod

I do occasionally use a tripod, but usually avoid them because they are big and bulky. I’ve always stuck to Manfrotto. Not for any other reason than they were the ones we used during training and have always been robust and friendly to use. The one I have is the Manfrotto 055CXPRO4 carbon fibre 4-section, which is no longer available because it’s old. I really like the weight and trigger head. Of course, you could get a heavier tripod but unless you’re out in gale-force winds, something like that should be suitable!

Memory Cards

I use SanDisk Extreme PRO cards. Again, for no other reason than they have always been the ones I’ve used when starting out and have never failed me. 

Memory Card Reader

I use a MacBook Pro 13.3″, which doesn’t have its own memory card reader. I ended up buying a multi-purpose one. It’s small, light, cheap, and has SD, micro SD and USB connectivity, so I can connect more than just the camera to it, should I need to.

Camera Bag

It may surprise you, but I don’t use a camera bag, so I can’t recommend one. I don’t use one for two reasons 1) they come with too much padding and 2) they don’t look as good as normal bags. Ridiculous points, you might think, but hear me out. I carry minimalist travel photography gear, so don’t carry enough kit to require space for a thousand lenses, nor do I treat my kit with enough disrespect that I require half-inch padding, and I don’t carry a pointless list of accessories with me that I know I won’t use, such as filters and flashes. I take what I need and that’s it.

I’ve been doing the job long enough to be critical of my equipment. I don’t worry too much about needing what I don’t have on me. I used to have an attitude of “better to be looking at it than looking for it”. But when you apply that to your camera kit, it just weighs you down. My camera and lenses are placed in wraps which came with various items of kit I’ve bought. I stick them in my backpack, whether that’s my day backpack or carry on backpack. I use the AmazonBasics Slim Carry On Travel Backpack if we’re heading away for a few days. It’s ace if you’re a good packer.

Cloths

You can’t head out without some cleaning cloths, can you? I usually have two with me, a small one and a larger one. I can’t recommend any because I’ve only ever collected them over the years from various free sources. Ha!

A note from Stacey…

Joel once bought me a Fujifilm X-E2s. I often feel like I should be a photographer because Joel’s camera is all but attached to him…but I’ve barely used it and it’s become an ornament, minus a battery and lens because Joel stole them!

A final note from me…

I hope you didn’t lose the scope of what this post was about. It wasn’t about telling you the Fujifilm X Series is the best system money can buy because I don’t think it is. It was to tell you that I think the Fujifilm X Series is a cracking travel camera series. Small, light, versatile, and a camera system that produces great results. It can also be a cost-effective alternative to the big hitters and their flagship cameras. If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch through Instagram or email me at hello@thebumpercrew.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my travel photography gear, your travel photography gear, or what you’re considering buying!

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