Holiday packing – what camera kit to pack

Photography

The struggle is real. My struggle of figuring out which camera kit to take on holiday. Before every single holiday. And I’ve learnt that don’t need a lot of kit to feel the struggle.

Camera kit

From left to right – Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, Nikon 35mm f/1.8, Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, Nikon D7200 with Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 attached. Joby GorillaPod at the back. Camera on phone (LG G4) not included.

This is the entirety of my camera kit. It’s not a lot. Camera body, a few lenses and an “it’ll do” tripod. But, before heading to Vietnam I struggled to figure out what I wanted to take with me.

What I couldn’t figure out was

  1. Weight – I didn’t want to be carrying around dead weight with me as I knew we’d be on foot most days.
  2. I had very little idea of what I’d be taking photos of. Sure I knew roughly that there might be some landscapes, scenery, monuments, city stuff, but nothing specific.
  3. Fear. Fear of leaving one piece of kit behind that might have been perfect for one occasion.

I did what any intelligent person brought up in the Internet age would do. Found some knowledgeable people and asked them my question. Well I asked the question on a photography subreddit. People answered – yay! And people didn’t laugh off my question – double yay!

One problem with asking the masses – you’ll get a bunch of different answers, which you will have to sift through. The great was that all the answers did opened up some great questions for me, that I hadn’t thought of logically before.

  1. Do I need a zoom lens?
  2. When was the last time I used my 18-55mm kit lens?
  3. Have I ever used the Gorilla Pod on holiday before?

A few people even told me to take everything with me, just in case. I can swap out what kit I walk around with daily. Which is more or less what I did.

After taking in the answers from the subreddit I decided on…

  1. Nikon 35mm f/1.8 prime lens
  2. Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 ultra-wide angle lens
  3. Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 telephoto lens
  4. Gorilla Pod

My 35mm is my go-to lens. I wasn’t leaving home without that one. It’s great in low-light, fast, and the photos I get from it are so crisp with wonderful colours.

The Tokina 11-16mm was also a no-brainer. I’ve been having loads of fun with this lens lately and love capturing wide vistas, whether it’s the city or countryside. I knew this one would come in handy. Though it’s a heavy one, comes in at just over 600g, and when attached to my D7200, that’s just over 1kg. But, I knew the weight would be worth it.

Then there’s the 55-300mm. It’s not a lens I use often, but I do love a good zoom. And again, like the 35mm, I’m always really happy with the quality of photos I get with this lens. Neither the 35mm nor the Tokina are very zoom-y, so I would definitely need something with a bit of zoom to it.

So how much of the kit that I took with me did I actually use? Happy to say, all of it! … Except the Gorilla Pod. That thing is turning into one of those things you buy and use once and keep trying to use, but to no avail. You know those things, right?

What were my most used lenses? The Tokina and 35mm. No surprises there. The Tokina is great for taking photos of the narrow streets, vast landscapes and huge temples and pagodas. While the 35mm once again was my go-to lens for when I simply didn’t want to take much kit out, but I wanted to take photos using my camera rather than my phone. And it’s the lens I’m most comfortable using.

And that’s the thing

When you’re on holiday you don’t want to be messing around with lenses, trying to get that perfect shot and failing because you’re using a lens/kit you hardly ever use. Take kit with you that you’re used to using. That you understand without having to re-learn using it. Thinking about it, I probably could have done the entire holiday with just the 35mm and my phone’s camera. But I can’t resist the wide angle Tokina… I really can’t.

(PS. This post contains affiliate links. Any purchases made from the links will net me a few coins. Thanks!)

10 thoughts on “Holiday packing – what camera kit to pack

  1. Well this has given me a few things to think about. Been in a bit of a photography rut lately and I’m looking to get reacquainted with my trusty camera and scope out new lenses I could potentially play around with.
    Hope you are well Jaina 🙂

    1. Glad it’s been useful, Mo. Was umming and ahhing about writing and eventually posting it, because it’s not as if I’m some big shot pro! Hoped my brain dump would be useful for some people 🙂

      New lenses! A topic that gets me excited then fills me with dread when I see prices, lol.

  2. I totally feel your pain — I go through a similar process before every trip. Although I confess that I don’t even own a real zoom lens and I can’t remember the last time I used my tripod. I also love shooting wide, so I bring my Canon EF 24-105mm and Canon EF 16-35mm. That’s usually it! Like your lenses, they’re super-heavy and I really couldn’t carry much else even if I wanted to. I also bring along a Fujifilm Instax camera for when I take a portrait of someone and want to give them a shot of their own.

    I’ve heard that the 35mm prime lens is great — I need to get something like that. I have a 50mm 1.8 but I don’t love it and almost never use it.

    1. It’s that dilemma between packing all the things and living with the expected dead weight or being smart about it. So tricky!

      Adore the 35mm. I was dubious about prime lenses initially – aren’t all lenses meant to zoom, was my initial thought. But it’s great. Forces me to get a bit more creative some times, and it’s light.

  3. Glad you made the right choice! I only have my 50 mm so it’s a no-brainer for me LOL. I just wonder if I should bring/use my external flash. That said, I do want a wide angle zoom. Probably down to the 11 mm range but up past the 35 mm.

    1. How much use do you get out of an external flash? Been wondering if I need one or missing out by not having one.

      If you like shooting landscapes and getting full scenes in, invest in a wide angle. It’s one that I have a lot of fun using. It can get frustrating, as you have to get quite close to subjects sometimes. So it can give you some interesting distortions. But for big landscapes and cityscapes, I can’t knock my Tokina.

      1. I got mine as a hand-me-down from Alan’s shooting days in college. It can’t even adjust the light level, it’s that ancient! I use mine for indoor shots and the quality is actually quite good though definitely bright. So, I would invest in one because I shoot a lot indoors but I wouldn’t go crazy with one because I don’t use it very often. I want one that at least I can adjust the light level and a swivel head would be great so I could use it in both portrait and landscape orientation.

        1. Thanks for the insight. I think if I had one, I’d shoot more indoors stuff. Indoor stuff is something I struggle with most – could do with a decent lighting source 95% of the time.

  4. I struggle with this all the time! I’ve been renting the 35 mm f/1.4 canon prime lens and LOVE it, but unfortunately can’t afford to buy it at this time. If I owned it, that would be my go to lens the majority of the time. Since most of my photos involve taking people’s portraits, I tend to take the 35 mm with me and my 50mm f/1.4 canon lens. I will sometimes swap out the 50mm for my 85mm since it really is great for portraits (not so much for the yoga portraits I do though). I’ve also been trying to take my film camera along, so what I’ll do is take my DSLR canon with the 50mm and my canon ae-1 film camera. It really forces me to try to be as creative and patient as possible. I do have a wide angle lens too for my DSLR, but don’t use it as much. This is the reason I bought a small camera bag – to force myself to limit my gear when I go out and shoot (thank goodness I do not shoot weddings and nor would I!).

    1. Ooo, I’ve been looking at a few 85mm prime lenses for portrait photography. Not sure I do enough portraits to really warrant it, but kit envy is real! Small camera bag is a great way to force you to rethink the kit you carry around. I’m going to steal that!

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