An Honest and Essential Travel Photography Gear Guide

Picture taken on the descent of Scafell Pike, shot on Fujifilm X-T2
Shot on Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujifilm XF23mm F2 R WR lens

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. Photography gear has been a favourite topic among photographers since the beginning of time. “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 or best kit). I want a kit that fits a 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.

Fujifilm X Mount cameras: X-T10 and X-T with 35mm, 23mm and 60mm lenses. Shot on a black background in the studio, to celebrate 10 years of Fujifilm X Mount.
My Fujifilm X Mount cameras with a series of lenses

How did I use 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 the 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, which led to 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.

The Fujifilm X-T1 was out then, but it was expensive and beyond what I was willing to pay. Fast forward a few months to the Royal Navy’s annual photographic competition, the Peregrine Trophy, and I won 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.

Fujifilm X Mount cameras X-T10 andwith 35mm, 23mm and 60mm lenses. Shot on a black background in the studio, to celebrate 10 years of Fujifilm X Mount.
Thanks to @dektraylorphotography for the pic!

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 that’s when my travel photography gear collecting started to grow. I immediately fell in love with Fujifilm. It put the fun back into photography for me because the camera was so pleasant to use.

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 many things to take into account that 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 standard 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, is one of the best cameras I have ever used. It was outstanding. However, it has downsides, such as the price and size (lenses included), which means it doesn’t meet my travel needs, similar 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 excellent camera but has the same size, weight and price issues I don’t like. Weight is my biggest issue; it ruins my shooting experience. I’ve carried two full-frame DSLR cameras around for days, 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 such a thing as the ‘best travel photography gear’ 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. Still, 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 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 with the most impressive statistics but let me tell you that capability and ability are two different things. A camera with more megapixels and a higher ISO range 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.’ 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 with the most impressive statistics but let me tell you that capability and ability are two different things. A camera with more megapixels and a higher ISO range 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 essential 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 numerous times by people asking what film I’m shooting because they have been fooled into thinking my Fujifilm X-T2 is a retro film camera. Fujifilm has got their styling 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. 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 like this camera style. The viewfinder is to the top left of the camera, so it tucks nicely down the side of your nose, avoiding 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

People usually bring up this topic when discussing which camera system to buy if they are starting. The big hitters – Nikon, Canon, and Sony, probably outweigh Fujifilm in terms of how many lenses they offer if you look at their entire range (I don’t know because it’s not essential to me). The range of lenses seems to be a selling point for many, but it is beyond me 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 of cameras are all mirrorless and have APS-C (cropped) sensors, which, when combined, reduce the size and certainly weight significantly 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 a 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 that a big kit costs money when you can get great results on less expensive equipment, which 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 one-stop difference in DoF 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 Essential Travel Photography Gear List

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

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 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. The Fujifilm XF35mm is my absolute favourite lens. The 35mm is the one that is attached to my camera a lot of the time. Despite the fixed focal length, it’s surprisingly versatile. And it’s 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 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, so I 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 buy the F1.4.

Fujifilm XF60mm F2.4 R Macro Lens

The Fujifilm XF60mm is my most rarely used lens. Not because it’s poor, it’s far from it. It’s another excellent lens from Fujifilm, but the focal length is a little long for the usual stuff I shoot. But it is a macro lens, so it offers some versatility. I once had some beehives, so getting detailed shots of the little honeybees as they wandered in and out of the hive was helpful. 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 Highland Cow on Dartmoor National Park
A Dartmoor Highland cow shot on Fujifilm XF60mm F2.4 R
Travel Photography Gear Guide; The Commando Memorial near Spean Bridge, Fort William, Scotland, with mountains i the background.
The Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge, shot on Fujifilm XF60mm F2.4 R

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

Looking back through my archive, this lens is a clear winner regarding use. Although it’s not my favourite lens, it has a firm position as one of the best lenses for travel photography, and that’s because it’s a pretty versatile lens and small and light enough. After all, it has a variable aperture. The aperture is not my favourite, but it’s suitable because it’s compact and produces good results. It also has stabilisation 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.

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

The Fujifilm XF50-140mm is Fujifilm’s professional long lens which I used extensively while on assignment to Downing Street. Fast, reliable, rugged and one which produces quality results every time. Since becoming a professional photographer, this has been my favourite professional lens. It can capture a perspective that can’t be achieved on shorter lenses and is surprisingly versatile. If you didn’t know, the Fuji XF50-140mm is equivalent to 70-200mm on a full-frame camera. Compared to the Canon 70-200mm, the Fujifilm XF50-140mm comes in at almost 500g lighter (that’s a third lighter!)

The XF50-140mm F2.8 goes against my minimalist travel photography gear approach because of the weight; however, it’s such a great lens that it’s a must-have. It provides the reach that my other lenses can’t achieve. Despite the added size and weight, I consider it essential gear for travel photography, and that’s why it’s part of my kit.

DJI Air 2S Drone

I haven’t long since bought the DJI Air 2S drone, but it has rapidly become part of my essential travel photography gear. I opted for this model over the DJI Mavic Air 2. The reason? The price of the DJI Air 2S temporarily dropped to comparable prices of the Mavic Air 2. It carried a different camera and a couple of extra features, so I considered this a little future-proofing! But so far, so good! Since buying it, I’ve used it a few times and found it complimented the rest of the photography I’m producing.

If you buy a drone, comply with the drone code when flying and fulfil the legal requirements before you take it to the skies! You will need to register this particular done, so head to the Civil Aviation Authority website and read the latest requirements. Click HERE to take you there. If you don’t already own a drone, I have no doubt it would complement your photography and rapidly become part of your very own essential travel photography gear.

Travel photography gear guide: a top-down shot taken on DJI Air 2S of a yacht sat off the coast of Ibiza in the Mediterranean sea.

Other Travel Photography Gear

The list above completes my essential travel photography gear and the list below consists of other bits and pieces you might want to consider adding to your 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 stuff 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.

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.

Nitecore Stick-it Wrapper

The Nitecore Stick-it Wrapper was the perfect addition to my camera bag. Previously, I’d used lens wraps to wrap my camera in because I don’t use a camera bag. Then, I discovered the Nitecore Stick-it Wrapper. It’s the perfect solution to protect my camera in my day sack. It’s like a micro-fibre cloth, but better. You place an item in it, wrap it up, and the wrap sticks to itself to stop it from opening. Plus, it’s scratch-resistant, dust and moisture-proof and environmentally friendly.

Green Shutter Buttons

I don’t usually pimp stuff out, but I added a splash of colour to my little Fujifilm X-T2 after a colleague bought some for her Fujifilm X-T3. They are cool little buttons that 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 and all sorts of things.

Tripod

I occasionally use a tripod, but I usually avoid them because they are big and bulky. I’ve always stuck to Manfrotto. Not for any reason other than they were the ones we used during training and have always been robust and friendly. I have the Manfrotto 055CXPRO4 carbon fibre 4-section, which is no longer available because it’s old. I 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 reason, they have always been the ones I’ve used when starting and have never failed me. 

Memory Card Reader

I use a MacBook Pro 13.3″, which doesn’t have a 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 that 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 regular bags. Ridiculous points, you might think, but hear me out. I carry minimalist travel photography gear, so I don’t carry enough kit to require space for a thousand lenses, nor do I treat my kit with enough disrespect that I need half-inch padding. I don’t bring a pointless list of accessories 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 that came with various items of equipment I’ve bought. I stick them in my backpack, whether 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 clothes, can you? I usually have two with me, a small one and a larger one. I can’t recommend any because I’ve only collected them over the years from various free sources. Ha! But they should be part of your travel photography gear to clean your glass!

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 this post. 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 say to you that I think the Fujifilm X Series is a cracking travel camera series. Small, light, versatile, and a camera system that produces excellent results. It can also be a cost-effective alternative to the big hitters and their flagship cameras. If you have questions or comments, please get in touch with me 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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