By Peter Stewart | April 14th 2016
Looking to get into travel photography? Then you’re definitely going to need some gear.
Buying camera equipment can be a daunting task, what with the sheer number of brands out there. Of course, you’ll probably want to stick to the heavyweights, so either a Nikon or a Canon.
Now, you’ve probably heard of the great Nikon vs. Canon debate. Photographers on either side will be quick to tell you why their chosen brand is better than the other, with varying degrees of conviction because never has there been a more polarized argument—except perhaps the debate between film and digital—in the world of photography.
Eve Arnold once said, “[it] is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.” A true photographer knows that creating beautiful photos depends solely on skill—not the camera (or the brand of camera) that he or she is using. Nonetheless, for beginners who are just getting into photography, it can be helpful to have a professional camera on hand.
If you are more partial to Nikon, here is a list of the best Nikon equipment for travel photography (without breaking the bank):
The most important component in any travel photographer’s bag is of course the camera. As a beginner, it can be difficult to find the best DSLR camera that suits your needs.
For beginners who want a pro-level, full-frame DSLR camera that offers essential features for travel photography, the Nikon D750 is the perfect choice.
Packing light is a must for any travel photographer, so having a camera that isn’t too heavy or cumbersome is important. At present, the Nikon D750 is considered the lightest in the brand’s traditional pro series. It has a monocoque body structure that makes it slim, lightweight, compact, and durable, with a deep grip design (making it more comfortable and easy to hold) and an adjustable tilting LCD screen that gives you more freedom to shoot from a wide variety of angles for better compositions.
In addition to portability, the D750 is built to withstand all kinds of weather. Visiting various locations all over the world means shooting in many different environments, which is why you will need your camera to have some degree of built-in protection from the elements. The D750 is weatherproof (to the same extent as the higher-end D810) and has image sensor cleaning functions to help you deal with any dust that may come into contact with your sensor while changing lenses.
It also has a fast autofocus (even in low-light situations) to help you capture important scenes in the blink of an eye, superior ISO performance (thanks to a newly developed image sensor and an EXPEED 4 processor), amazing color rendition, and stunning image quality at 24.3 megapixels.
Wide-Angle Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED
Every travel photographer needs a good wide-angle lens. The Nikon 24mm f/1.4G is a pricy option, but you get what you pay for. It is an ultra-fast lens with a fixed focal length of 24mm at the maximum aperture of f/1.4. It also offers fast and accurate autofocus, extraordinary low-light shooting capabilities, and superior image quality with corner-to-corner sharpness and a beautifully soft background blur.
Telephoto Zoom Lens: AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED
Telephoto zoom lenses are great for shooting landscapes, wildlife, portraits, and even sports/action photos. Lightweight and rugged, the Nikon 70-300mm is a great, somewhat inexpensive (compared to others) telephoto lens that travel photographers can use for a wide variety of purposes. It also features Nikon’s second-generation Vibration Reduction (VR II) to help reduce camera shake, allowing for better handheld and low-light shooting.
Prime Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED
When you’re traveling, there will be times when you’ll find that just don’t need anything fancy. A versatile single-focal length or prime lens, therefore, is the ideal travel companion for your Nikon D750. The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED is compact, lightweight, and produces sharp, high-resolution images with beautiful, natural-looking bokeh.
This lens is great for street photography, which you will likely be doing a lot of in your travels. During those days when you just want to carry one lens with you, this might be the best one to take.
Fisheye Lens: AF Fisheye-Nikkor 16mm f/2.8D (optional)
You don’t necessarily need a fisheye lens, but as a beginner, you may find that this lens adds a lot of whimsy and character to otherwise boring shots. If that is something that interests you, check out the lightweight and versatile Nikon Fisheye 16mm f/2.8.
Fisheye lenses are great for capturing more visual information in a single frame, but the images they produce can be prone to extreme distortion. This Nikon lens, like all fisheye lenses, still has that distortion, but it is a more attractive distortion than others. It is basically an ultra-wide angle lens. Since it is a full-frame lens, the image fills the entire frame without exposing those black corners you get with regular circular fisheye lenses.
It produces very sharp images, performs well in low-light situations, and comes with a variety of filters for color correction, black and white photography, and UV reduction.
Other Essential Travel Gear:
You’re going to need a travel-friendly camera bag that can comfortably fit your camera, two to three lenses, and a few other accessories. Keep in mind that you will need to carry this bag all throughout your travels, so it should be lightweight, durable, and preferably not too fancy-looking to avoid catching the eye of thieves.
The tripod is absolutely essential in travel photography, especially when shooting landscapes, night scenes, or anything that requires slow shutter speeds. But since you are traveling, remember to choose a tripod that is lightweight, compact, and durable.
Go with tripods made of materials such as carbon fiber or titanium, as they are generally stronger and more lightweight than other materials. They are also less prone to warping in extreme temperatures and will not cause injury to the skin (which can happen in really cold temperatures).
Consider a monopod as well, as they are also extremely useful for travel photography and may be better than a tripod in certain situations.
Having a battery grip will add to the overall weight of your gear. However, it also has the important benefit of giving you extra battery juice, which would be invaluable during long journeys when stopping to charge your camera’s battery is simply impossible. It also makes it easier to grip your DSLR for vertical shooting.
There’s no shortage of blue skies and water when you’re doing travel photography, so having a polarizing filter on hand is a good idea as it will help reduce haze and glare, minimize reflections, and make colors appear more vibrant.