Our Top Camera Gear for Travel Videos & Photography
***If you’re looking for our more up-to-date camera gear check out the new post and video about our travel camera gear: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/camera-gear-review-2017
There are no two ways about it, camera technology changes too rapidly for us to keep perfectly up-to-date information with personal musings and videos about each camera and accessory. So in an effort to keep things simple and updated I’ll make sure to link to my newest and most used camera gear right here:
My Video & Photography Gear. Updated 12/2016
Sony a7ii: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/sony-a7ii
Sony 24-70mm f4 Zeiss OSS: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/sony-24-70
Sony 70-200 f4 G OSS: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/sony-70-200
Sony Gun/Zoom Mic: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/sony-gun-zoom-microphone-black (make sure to get the Dead Cat too)
Sony Action Cam AS300: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/sony-as300
DJI Phantom 3: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/dji-phantom-3-advanced-quadcopter-drone-with-1080p-hd-video-camera
Manfrotto BeFree Live Video Tripod: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/manfrotto-befree-tripod-kit
Gorilla Pod Focus with Ballhead X: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/gorillapod-focus-x
Sony Action Monopod (Selfie Stick): https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/sony-selfie-stick
Here’s the original article if you want to dive into some personal experience and info.
Before we left our home in Dallas, TX I was a professional photographer so I already owned a ton of camera gear to bring along to capture our travels & adventures. As our travel, video and photography styles have morphed over the past 5+ years I’ve been forced to take a good look at my existing camera gear and focus in on the best cameras & accessories that help me create the highest quality videos and photographs with the smallest footprint.
I remember a huge shift in the early years of digital photography where my colleagues were selling all their Nikon gear and switching to Canon (after the release of the full-frame “prosumer” 5d). I invested in Canon from the get go so I silently gave myself a pat on the back while I watched all those poor people selling their Nikon gear for a fraction of its worth. Now I feel another shift is happening with amateurs, travel bloggers and professional photographers alike. We all demand professional capabilities in a compact body with a firmware that can easily be updated with new features by downloading updates and apps (much like a smartphone). This is why I’m slowly, and painfully, making the switch to Sony (I gave Canon one last chance in 2014 with the mirrorless EOS m, but they failed me and I ultimately decided to move on).
Enough waxing on from me, the cameras and accessories I’ve featured in the video, and listed below, are in order of what I feel are the best cameras for our style of run and gun shooting for both video and photography.
I really hope the video above shed a little light on our travel friendly camera gear! I thought it was really interesting to see the video and hear the audio difference as I switched between the 5d & a6000, it’s the first time I’ve done a back-to-back comparison. If you feel like sharing, tell me honestly which one you think was better in the comments below. As I promised in the video you’ll find more details I didn’t cover, my must have extras and a few more opinions on why I chose certain cameras and how I like to use them.
*Technology constantly changes and we can’t film a video each time we add a new piece to our camera gear. I’ve made a few updates recently so here’s the quick list if you want to do a little research of your own. The links below are to Amazon, if you purchase within 24hrs of clicking we get a small commission and for that we are grateful. Once we’re settled into the boat I plan to shoot a new video with updates.
- Sony 10-18mm f4 lens – I needed a wide lens desperately for the tight spaces in the sailboat and it’s worked out well so far: http://amzn.to/29EdkZg
- Yi Action Camera – This little camera is CHEAP! It works as well as our other action-type cameras, has a waterproof case, a wireless remote, an app for smart phones and I don’t have to worry about losing it to the water gods. We have the kit with remote and selfie stick: http://amzn.to/29vtTTJ We also got the floaty handle that gives us more stable underwater footage and keeps the camera from sinking: http://amzn.to/29Egtsn
- Feiyu G4 Gimbal – With all the bouncing and rocking of the boat we finally bit the bullet and ordered a gimbal for our new Yi Action Cam. Feiyu is pretty much the industry standard and it’s worked well and keeps our footage extremely fluid. There’s a model for most action cameras: http://amzn.to/29vtEYV
- Joby Gorilla Pod & Head – Mine finally died so I decided to upgrade to the Focus with Ball Head X. I didn’t like the plastic connection of our old Joby ball head…but I do miss the bubble level. Tripod: http://amzn.to/29qPR8q Ball Head: http://amzn.to/29XHSkP
- Flexi-Clamp Monopod – With all the angles needed to capture the sails going up, Nikki at the helm, the scary incoming dock walls, etc. I decided carrying a camera in one hand non-stop wasn’t going to be an option, so I bought one of these flexible monopods with clamp. I bought the knock-off brand but it was a mistake, spend the extra few bucks and get the GoPro version, it is much more solid: http://amzn.to/29qPU41
- Wind Muff for RX100 – Wind will always an audio destrying issue on the boat. I tracked down a company that makes universal stick on muffs for most of the popular pocket cameras. The differece between sound with it on and off is unbeliveable, seriously worth every penny (sadly they don’t sell on Amazon): http://micromuff.com/
My Top Go To Camera
I picked up this camera with this tiny little lens in a kit, it was my proverbial ‘get my feet wet’ stepping into a new camera brand. I love the compactness of this camera and lens combo and I feel like it’s an affordable alternative to the typical dSLR, plus its mirrorless which gives this little camera several advantages over its dSLR competitors. The optical image stabilizer works well, the power zoom is smooth for creating that “Ken Burns Zoom Effect” and I can walk into any situation and not feel like I’m going to offend people with a giant camera. The AutoFocus is crazy fast, the burst mode captures action way better than my Canon and the multi-shoe is a cool technology feature for adding accessories. Other neat features I use often are the NFC communication with my cell phone, WiFi, vertical & horizontal panoramic modes and the PlayMemories app that allows me to release the shutter (no more cable release necessary), change settings and see my screen when I’m not standing directly behind the camera. With the new firmware update I can now capture video in the XAVC-S mode which is higher resolution and better for detail in the shadows and highlights. I can go on and on with the little details of why I like the a6000 but the biggest advantage to me is its compact size and lighter weight. I may eventually upgrade and add the Sony a7R II body to my kit, it’s a step up in quality and features from the a6000 but it is a little larger so I’ll likely use it for more professional applications to replace the 5d.
See it in action: www.gonewiththewynns.com/alaska-canada-adventures
My Sony a6000 Accessories
I got my feet wet with the little kit lens. As I used the a6000 and realized it was a valid replacement for my Canon 5dmkiii I quickly set my sights on upgrading the lens. Coming from Canon I know the “L” series lenses are the best and I knew Sony would make a pro series lens too. I found this “G” series lens with better glass, an f4 aperture all the way through the zoom, a stronger OSS (Optical Steady Shot) and 2x further zoom than my kit lens. This is a perfect replacement for my standard Canon “go-to” lens the 24-105mm f4 IS, however this G lens is half the price, it’s more compact and weighs less! Eventually I’ll purchase a 70-200 f4 G OSS lens for my long lens and a 10-18mm f4 for my wide lens.
See it in action: www.gonewiththewynns.com/best-rv-travel-gifts
Add it to your kit: www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/sony-18-105mm-f4-g
Typically I’m not a fan of UV filters, or putting an extra layer of glass over a quality lens, most higher-end lenses come with a lens hood and that does a fine job of protecting the glass. I do often use a polarizer to knock down highlights & reflections or to enhance a blue sky, but I only use it when necessary. There are plenty of cheaper polarizers out there, but not all are created equal, so I make a habit of buying the highest quality filters possible and this B&W polarizer is just that.
See it in action: www.gonewiththewynns.com/best-rv-travel-gifts
Add it to your kit: http://amzn.to/1Io20WV
The audio levels are automatic with this camera which I was bummed about at first because I thought I needed control! After using this shotgun mic in all different types of situations I’m now extremely happy it automatically adjusts based on the ambient noise. The absolute best feature of this shotgun mic is there’s no power button! When you hit record it turns on. It’s powered by the Multi-Interface Shoe so there’s no worry of a battery going dead in the middle of filming and I don’t have to re-record video because I forgot to turn the mic on! I recently found a compatible wind muff called the Gutman Windscreen which helps reduce the audio distortion when filming on windy days, it’s a must have for any shotgun mic in my opinion.
Hear it in action with the windscreen: Watch the Video above because it was extremely windy during filming.
Add it to your kit: www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/sony-gun-zoom-microphone-black
Since there is no audio in on the a6000 I can’t use my Sony radio wireless lavaliers, it’s ok because the Multi-Interface Shoe powers this little Bluetooth mic. It’s way more affordable than my old lavaliere setup and it seems to work well. I purchased a Giant Squid lav mic that can plug into the transmitter for better audio on windy days or when only one person needs to be mic’d up.
Hear it in action: www.gonewiththewynns.com/best-rv-travel-gifts
Add it to your kit: www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/sony-wireless-microphone-black
Understanding all the ratings and rules about SD cards is equivalent to cracking a cypher, it’s not something I’d wish on anyone! If you want to shoot video in the XAVC-S mode with a Sony camera you must have a 64GB (or larger) Class 10 UHS-1 (preferably a U-3) 95+MB/s SDXC card. I chose this exact card: Lexar Pro 1000x 128GB SDXC UHS-II/U3 Card 150MB/s * I would NOT buy an off-brand card, trust me I’ve made the mistake, I always stick with Lexar or SanDisk.
My Second Go To Camera
It’s the most expensive point and shoot camera I’ve ever owned, but read the reviews and articles and you’ll see it’s got a cult following! They say the best camera is the camera you have on you, which I believe 100%, but why not always have an awesome little camera in your pocket? One of my pet peeves is seeing people with iPads and cell phones capturing family photos, snapping the iconic Yosemite Falls or trying to get up close to snap a photo of a wild bear! I guess it’s not necessarily a pet peeve I just feel sorry for the future them, what happens when technology changes or they decide to print an image to hang on the wall? Cell phone photos look great on cell phones, but import them into photo editing software and the image falls apart! The Sony RX100 captures sharp images, crystal clear XAVC-S HD video, it has a pop-up flash, a viewfinder, a crazy-awesome processor and image sensor. For those that must have all their images on their cell phone to show friends, or upload to social media, the NFC technology allows me to tap my phone to the camera and it will process the High Resolution RAW images in the camera and send it in a smaller format to my cell phone. Be the envy of all your friends on Instagram with sharp, vivid and expertly captured images instead of lackluster cell phone photos…I’m just sayin’. As is typical with digital cameras the technology upgrades rapidly and they’ve got an even newer version of this camera: the RX 100 IV
See it in action: www.gonewiththewynns.com/new-years-eve-in-new-orleans
Get the newest version: http://amzn.to/1NdAY5E
Good to have in the Camera Kit
Action cameras are great tools for action! We’re gonna go paddleboarding in a glacial lake through icebergs, or we’re going hang-gliding over the coast of California, you get my drift. They’re lightweight, they are nearly indestructible they can be mounted just about anywhere and they’re tiny. This should NOT be your main camera! There are limitations to these guys so if you’re looking for a solid “lifeproof camera” (dust proof, water proof, drop-proof) then go for a rugged point and shoot like the Olympus Tough TG-4 or the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS6, trust me you’ll be much happier with one of these. If you are looking for that unique action camera perspective here’s what’s in our bag:
I like the built in stabilizer, the sharp Zeiss lens, the NFC connectivity, and most importantly the fact its splash-proof without the submersible case. The audio works extremely well when it’s not in the case and the vivid setting needs little to no tweaking in Photoshop or Premiere. If I only need one action camera I typically reach for my Sony because I prefer the shape and functionality of it. There are lots of Sony specific accessories but I already have a lot of the GoPro mounts so I purchased a GoPro Hero Mount to ¼ inch adapter and it works great.
This camera is the status quo when it comes to action cams. We’ve had three different models now and we’ve liked them all. The current version is the GoPro Hero 4 Black but you can bet there will be a new one out within a year. There are so many accessories you can easily blow $1,000 or more outfitting this little guy, so you’ll wanna know exactly what you want before ordering. I find that we use the suction cup mount most often with the helmet headstrap in a distant second.
Add it to your kit: http://amzn.to/1NdDoB6
See both adventure cameras in action (side by side): www.gonewiththewynns.com/ice-climbing-alaska-tragic-mistake
The Old Reliable Camera
I’m getting ready to list my old faithful camera for sale but it’s surprisingly hard to let go. I still use my 5d with the 16-35mm f2.8 L lens for capturing stars (and night time-lapse with the Timer Remote Controller) and I use my longer 70-200mm f2.8 IS L lens for capturing wildlife. Once I get a super wide lens and a telephoto lens for my Sony it’ll likely be bye-bye for me and Canon! Sorry Canon, I was faithful since day one when I purchased my EOS Elan IIe for my college photography course, but now I feel like you’re resting on your laurels and not in tune to my current needs, especially after your late-to-the-mirrorless-game EOS m flop.
See it in action: www.gonewiththewynns.com/boondocking-video
Get the newest version: http://amzn.to/1NdFdhs
Quadcopter Drone with Camera
This is my first drone, heck, it’s my first RC anything since I was in elementary school! The feeling of excitement, fear, terror and awe all combine to make flying this camera with wings a unique experience. I practice when I can and it’s a blast to fly and play around with. For now it’s just an extremely expensive toy, however when I get better it will turn into an extremely useful tool in capturing amazing photography and video. We chose the “Advanced” model since none of our other cameras are 4k, but if you need the highest resolution you’ll want to spend the extra cash and go for the DJI Phantom 3 Pro. I’m not sure why people have such a hate for quadcopters (aka drones) but I think it’s a great tool for an affordable aerial perspective. If you fly it within your limits, away from other people and in areas where it’s legal to fly then it shouldn’t bother anyone.
Accessories: Battery life is only around 15 minutes so you’ll want at least one extra battery. You’ll also need a compatible cell phone or tablet to view what the drone is filming.
See it in action: Trona Pinnacles – Unearthly Wild Camping: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/trona-pinnacles-wild-camping
The Necessary Extras
Tripods, Selfie Stick & Gimbal:
It’s almost dead, after a solid 5 years of abuse I’m finally going to be forced to purchase another mini tripod and it’s most likely going to be this same model. The flexible legs can be wrapped around any tree, pole, trashcan, bench…you get the point. This tripod goes on every hike with us, I use it for a mini-selfie stick, a low ground perspective to show our surroundings and as a mini stabilizer. Accessory: The ball head is a must and I’m not sure why they even sell it without one.
Add it to your kit: www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/joby-gp3-gorillapod
In the beginning I used to hike with an aluminum tripod, after a year and hundreds of miles of trails I decided to invest in a quality Carbon Fiber Tripod. Gitzo is the top tripod manufacturer for professional photographers, it’s more expensive than most but they are built to last. I feel the investment is worth every penny and I think nearly 5 years of constant shaking in an RV plus hundreds of hours of use are a testament to the quality. You’ll also want a good tripod head, if you’re photograph only I’d go for the 3 Way Head with Retractable Levers but if you’re a photography-video hybrid traveler like us you’ll want a good “fluid” head like the Manfrotto 055 Photo-Movie The fluid head allows for smooth panning & tilting for videos and flip the switch and the camera can quickly go from the wide landscape to the vertical portrait style.
Add it to your kit: www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/gitzo-traveler-tripod-black
Sony doesn’t call it a selfie stick but that’s exactly what it is! We’ve put this “monopod” in salt water, sand, nearly freezing rivers, mineral hot springs and everything in-between on our Alaska Bound Travels. I’m happy to report it still works as well as the day I opened the package, which is a lot more than I can say about the other one I bought that completely fell apart after one use during the Midnight Sun Run in Fairbanks, AK. If you watch the video it’s obvious I have an affinity for the selfie stick.
Add it to your kit: http://amzn.to/1TixsMr
CAME-TV Single 3 Axis Gimbal
Once I purchased the DJI Quadcopter I realized a Gimbal does AMAZING things to video footage! Before we left for Alaska I searched high and low for a gimbal that could support my little Sony RX100 point and shoot but I couldn’t find anything! I found plenty of gimbals for the GoPro and Sony Action Cam, and I found several 2 handed gimbals that were made for the Canon 5dmkiii, but literally nothing in between. So I went without a gimbal and every time I watch my footage from Alaska I wish I would have had one. As we were finishing up the Alaska trip I found a single handed gimbal that was made for small dSLR and mirrorless cameras, it’s specifically recommended for the Sony A7. After a little research I ordered it for a job we were hired for in Williamsburg, VA. It worked great! I recently used it for our Holiday Gift Giving Ideas video and you can see the fluid pushes and pulls it provides. It’s a wonderful tool but I can’t say it’s a necessary one for most travelers. While it does work with our a6000 and the 18-105mm f4 lens it actually balances better with the smaller kit lens (or with an a7). Don’t get me wrong I am 100% satisfied with the quality I’m just leery to recommend this as a piece of equipment you need to invest in, it may be something you want though.
See it in action: www.gonewiththewynns.com/best-rv-travel-gifts
Sony Action Cam Gimbal: http://amzn.to/1joLBea
GoPro Hero Gimbal: http://amzn.to/1TixJiz
Slider and Steady Cam
Over the years I’ve purchased both (Glidetrack Hybrid Slider and Glidecam HD-2000 Stabilizer) they are just too much of a pain in the butt for me to use, in fact I need to list them for sale before they are completely obsolete. Sure my gimbal listed above is more expensive but it does what these things do and a lot more with very little setup or maintenance involved.
Leftover from my Canon Setup we still use the RODE VidMic Pro and the Zoom H4n to record voice over when necessary. I also have a Juiced Link portable mixer that’s just gathering dust at the moment, it worked great but my small Multi-Interface audio tools from Sony are better for my current needs.
I have a big backpack that holds everything that I’ll take on longer hikes. It has cup holders, a tripod strap, a rain fly and more than enough space to cram snacks and an emergency kit as well as all my camera gear. I’ve had the Lowepro Flipside Backpack for 5 years now and I love it.
If we’re just going out and about I’ll pack a small camera bag (like this Lowepro Adventura 170 Shoulder Bag) with the necessities like extra batteries, cards, poralizer and maybe a spare lens.
Computers and Editing Programs
This is mainly a post about my camera gear but I’ll inevitably get asked about programs and computers so I’ll quickly touch on these:
MSI makes some of the best gaming laptops and this translates to a killer video and photo editing machine. Thin, amazing keyboard, 4 hard drives with RAID, a giant video card with dedicated memory, Intel Core i7 processors and 17” matte screen are all reasons I purchased this machine. We looked at Mac laptops but they can’t come close to the same performance specs. Can’t wait to see what they do when the next version is launched in 2016.
Add it to your kit: http://amzn.to/1U3bYaC
A few weeks ago Intel launched their gen 6 SkyLake processors built for Windows 10 and MSI was the first to build a high powered laptop with all the latest tech. Nikki had been using the Microsoft Surface Pro for image editing but with every Lightroom update the tablet lagged more and more, desperately needing a dedicated video card (which they offer now in the newest Microsoft Surface Book). For the same price as a new Surface Pro she opted for the MSI Ghost Pro for similar reasons I’ve listed above with my laptop. Sadly we needed a new laptop now, otherwise she would have waited for the 14” version to be released.
Add it to your kit: http://amzn.to/1Qv3O87
Add the 14” to your kit: http://amzn.to/1joOw6A
The Cooler Master Storm Laptop Cooling Pad helps keep my computer running cool but most importantly it supports my giant 17” screen and gets it off the desk for a better viewing angle. If you do a lot of work on a laptop this is a worthy investment. I also use a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard to make typing and navigating easier. I also have nice headphones for video editing, I use the Beats by Dre Noise Cancelling headphones but there are plenty of other options out there.
Backup Hard Drives
I’ve always ended up purchasing the Western Digital and Seagate brands, not sure why, but as I look back they’re all one of these two brands. I used to go for the desktop backup hard drives but recently I’ve decided space inside the RV comes at the biggest premium and all my 2015 hard drive purchases have been the smaller size external hard drives. The best benefits of the smaller Hard drives is they don’t need an extra power supply, they take up less space in the RV and I can purchase a shockproof case to keep it in.
Add it to your kit: http://amzn.to/1RbNvN6
ASUS PA248Q LED IPS 24.1″ Monitor
It’s a giant screen made for professional graphic artists and photographers. IPS is the best screen type for extreme angle viewing and proper color rendering. Having two monitors allows Nikki to edit and process images more quickly thanks to the larger viewing area and two screen integration in Lightroom.
Add it to your kit: http://amzn.to/1hXxw7u
Coming from a photography background I was already familiar with Photoshop and the tools and layout in Premiere Pro have a similar feel. If you’re new to video editing Premiere Pro can be overwhelming to learn so you may want to start with iMovie or Windows Movie Maker or something similar. I believe Sony even gives a free video editing software with their cameras. Video editing is not a passion of mine because I’m not a fan of sitting at the computer, but it is challenging and I do my best to learn new tricks here and there so I don’t get in an editing “rut”. Premiere works well for me and at the time I purchased it Final Cut X was a total disaster so there were plenty of people making the switch from the Apple programs and therefor loads of new video tutorials being put out by Adobe. If I can provide one tip about video editing software: download the free trial version and watch as many tutorials as possible before diving into the full program or the CC subscription.
Add Premiere Pro CC to your kit: http://amzn.to/1JRiCfr
Add the full Adobe CC suite to your kit: http://amzn.to/1RbNZmm
Nikki uses Lighroom for image organizing, editing, color corrections and minor artwork (burning, dodging, clone tool, HDR Merge, watermarks, etc). In most cases she can do 100% of her work in Lightroom with only the occasional need for Adobe Photoshop. With the Adobe Creative Cloud you can get both programs for a few bucks per month, but make sure you download the free trial first.
Add the CC Photography Plan to you kit: http://amzn.to/1NgV9UN
It’s a series of plugins made for video editing that allow us enhanced control with color corrections, vignettes, sharpening and other tools to create more vivid videos. I purchased this a few years ago when it was offered at 50% off for the holidays, it’s been a great investment and a tool that we use on every one of our videos.
Add Magic Bullet to you kit: http://amzn.to/1RbOhJO
If you want to read more about my original gear list, and how I felt about my Canon gear when we first hit the road I shared that here: www.gonewiththewynns.com/hd-video-secrets
When I began making notes for this article and video I told myself I’d keep it simple and basic…well, so much for that! I hope I didn’t talk you in circles, or confuse you to the point of apathy, that was not my intention at all. For all the prosumers, travelers, amateurs and anyone that wants to take quality photos and videos but not lug around multiple devices (or a giant one) here’s my two sentence sum-up:
Buy a compact mirrorless camera! Start with the basic model and upgrade lenses and attachments as you need them. I like the functionality of my Sony a6000 and with the accessories I feel like it’s the perfect camera for all my video and photography needs.
I hope all my ramblings and experiences have helped find the perfect camera for you. In the comments below please tell me your thoughts, share your favorite camera setup and let me know if you have any questions, if I can’t answer them maybe someone else can.
Disclaimer: Nobody paid for this article to be written and these are not paid endorsements. All recommendations are based on our experiences and are shared solely as our opinions. Many of the links above are to Amazon, or our Awesome Travel Store, use these links for research, pricing and reviews…and if you click from our site and purchase within 24hrs we get a small commission and we thank you for it, from the bottom of our hearts. 🙂