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What travel photography gear do we use?

We get asked what camera we use more than anything else on Instagram. So we decided to create a list of all the travel photography gear we use and the pros and cons of each item. We will continue to update this post whenever we make changes to our gear.

It’s important to remember that this list is just the travel photography gear we have chosen to use as it suits our needs.

Disclosure: Some links found in this post are affiliate links. Purchasing via these links comes at no extra cost to you but makes a small contribution towards funding our work.


Camera

Fujifilm X-T1

Pros Cons
Small and lightweight There are better cameras for low light
Beautiful image quality Relatively low megapixel
Great value for the price Camera has been around for a few years

We switched to Fujifilm at the end of 2016 because we were looking for something lighter for our travels. As backpackers, we carry all our gear, which includes our travel photography gear and general things like clothes and toiletries, on our shoulders so any savings in weight is most welcome. To put things into perspective, the Fuji X-T1 is roughly half the weight of the highly popular Canon 5D series. As an extra bonus, the lenses for the X-T1 are also smaller and lighter thanks to its APS-C sized sensor. Despite its small size, the photos it produces are sharp and clean with beautiful colour. The 16MP sensor is relatively low by today’s standard but it’s plenty for the work we do. Our photos have been printed in books and magazines and come out fine.

There are drawbacks to using an APS-C camera though, most notably the ability to create bokeh and its low-light performance. In our travel photographs, we tend to prefer capturing pictures with most things in focus so bokeh wasn’t a priority. We also carry a tripod at all times which helps with low light situations.

The X-T1 has been around for a few years now but that doesn’t make it any less amazing than the day it came out. In fact, the camera has gotten better over time due to the software updates Fujifilm has released over the years.

For now, we don’t have any plans to upgrade…but the Fujifilm X-T2 with its better autofocus system and slightly higher megapixel is tempting.

Buy Fujifilm X-T1 on Amazon

 

DJI Mavic Pro

 

Pros Cons
Easy to control Limited dynamic range
Small and lightweight Batteries drain when idle
Great image quality Updates take forever

The newest addition to our arsenal and opens up a new world of possibilities in photography and videography. At the time of purchase, besides the new DJI Spark, this was the only realistic option for us due to its size. Since then, the DJI Mavic Air was released and unless you shoot predominately in portrait orientation (which the Mavic Air can’t do), this is the drone we would now recommend as it’s lighter, cheaper and takes better video.

As drone noobs, we were surprised at how easy the Mavic was to operate. The images from the Mavic have been impressive but it does struggle in situations with high dynamic range.

A problem we noticed is that the batteries will drain even when idle. We understand that all batteries have some level of idle battery drain but it is very noticeable with the Mavic. Remember to charge the Mavic the day prior to flight even if you haven’t used it. This is definitely a first world problem but the software updates take ages to download and install – this can feel like a lifetime when you’re on site waiting to shoot.

We recommend buying the Fly More package as the extra batteries and multi-battery chargers are a must if you intend to use them for longer than 30 minutes a time.
Buy DJI Mavic Pro Fly More Package on Amazon


Lenses

We’ve included examples of the photos we’ve taken with each lens. Starting from left to right…

 

Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR

Pros Cons
Sharp images and nice bokeh Fixed focal length
Small, lightweight and weather resistant
Low price

In full-frame terms, this lens is equivalent to a 50mm lens. This was the first lens we got for the Fuji and is the first focal length we recommend anyone get when starting out. It’s sharp, creates nice bokeh, lightweight and is weather resistant; but best of all is its price. This is a great starter lens for most types of photography!

Buy Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR lens on Amazon

 

Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS Lens

Pros Cons
Sharp images even in the corners Not the best lens for astrophotography
Low distortion when wide Not officially weather resistant
Has image stabilization Lens makes the camera front heavy

Eric’s favourite in the lens lineup. We love to shoot wide shots which show the scale of an environment, this is the perfect lens for the job. It has optical image stabilization in the lens which helps eliminate most camera shake. Unlike most wide angle lenses, it doesn’t suffer from distortion around the edges of the frame – even at its widest.

A constant aperture of f/4 is plenty for most of the photography work we do. It is only when we shoot astrophotography that we feel a lower aperture would help. Do note, this lens is not officially weather resistant but we’ve taken it out in heavy rain and near waterfalls and the lens has been fine (touch wood).

Although the lens is light when compared to other wide-angle zoom lenses, it still weighs a bit and makes things slightly front heavy when attached to the Fuji X-T1.

Buy Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS Lens on Amazon

 

Fujifilm XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR Lens

Pros Cons
Versatile zoom range Strong lens flare
Image stabilization Variable aperture
Weather resistant Not the sharpest lens

Sarah’s favourite lens. This lens is the jack of trades and if we could only use one lens it would be this one. Although it’s the largest lens we have, it’s incredibly compact for a lens with an equivalent focal length of 27-206mm. This lens also has optical image stabilization – a must when shooting at such long focal lengths. To complete its versatility, the lens also has weather resistance.

This lens suffers from strong lens flare when shooting straight into the sun. Using the lens hood goes a long way in mitigating this problem though. The lens has a variable aperture, which means the maximum aperture changes depending on how zoomed in or out you are. Not a huge deal but something to consider. It’s also the least sharp out of our lens lineup but the images are still impressive.

Buy Fujifilm XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 WR OIS Lens on Amazon


Tripod/Stabilizer

Again, from left to right…

Joby GorillaPod

Pros Cons
Small and lightweight Struggles with heavy camera setups
Can be used in many situations Short height
Cheap Joints can become weak as it ages

Made popular by Casey Neistat, the GorillaPod is the most travel-friendly tripod you’ll find. It can cling to railings or hang off trees to give unique perspectives. We’ve found that many places ban the use of normal tripods but will allow us to use the GorillaPod. This versatile tripod is also much cheaper than traditional ones.

The tripod does struggle with heavier camera setups. Sometimes we have to hold it down when used in conjunction with the long lens. We’ve heard complaints about the joints getting weak as the tripod ages. We’ve yet to see this happen after two years of owning it but it’s something to keep in mind. If there is nothing to cling or hang the tripod off, the GorillaPod is usually too short for most uses but is better than placing it directly on the floor.

Buy Joby GorillaPod on Amazon

 

Manfrotto MK293C4

Pros Cons
Reliable and sturdy Not the lightest
Simple to use Not the smallest
Great height Joints can become weak as it ages

A reliable and sturdy tripod. Although relatively light, it’s not the lightest carbon-fibre tripod available but it will definitely get the job done. Ours has been completely battered from climbing mountains, crawling through caves and thrown around whilst we travel but has only suffered minor aesthetic wear and tear. The ball head it comes with is also simple to use. The only complaint is that the locks can quite easily catch your fingers if you’re not careful.

The tripod does fit within most airline carry-on regulations but we had to check it in once while flying out of Shanghai. For those looking for a more travel-friendly tripod, we recommend the Manfrotto Befree Carbon.

Buy Manfrotto MK293C4 on Amazon

 

DJI Osmo Mobile

Pros Cons
Easy to use Annoying to pack
Time-lapse and tracking modes Expensive for a mobile gimbal
Awesome battery life Can’t connect a microphone

We currently shoot all our videos using our phones. To up the production, we bought the DJI gimbal to stabilize the otherwise shaky footage. It’s incredibly easy to operate and end up with professionally smooth video. The app which operates with the gimbal also provides many time-lapse modes with a click of a few buttons. One feature we love is the intelligent tracking. You just click on the object/person you want the gimbal to track and the app does all the work for you (so you can concentrate on not running into a wall). We bought an extra battery but, so far, we’ve never needed it even from a whole day of shooting.

One major complaint we have with the gimbal is the difficulty in packing it down. It doesn’t sit flat and can easily be damaged if not careful. The DJI Osmo is much more expensive than other mobile gimbals out there but the build quality, easy operation and multitude of functions easily make it worth the extra money. One other problem is that you can’t charge your phone or connect a microphone whilst using the gimbal but we’ve yet to see any gimbal overcome this problem.

Buy DJI Osmo Mobile on Amazon


Filters

We chose screw on filters as they don’t require huge adapters to use and are generally much quicker to screw on and off. Tip – buy filters for the lens with the largest diameter (you can find this on the front of your lens marked by ⌀) and use adapter rings to fit all your other lenses.

 

B+W Polarizer

Ever wondered how in some photos you can see all the way to the bottom of the sea or pool? The secret is a polarizer. This unique filter cuts glare from reflective surfaces such as water and also saturates colours naturally. Although pricier than other brands, we chose B+W as they have very, very little image degradation. There’s no point buying an expensive lens just to chuck a cheap filter on top. We recommend going for the filters with Multi-Resistant Coating as cleaning one without it is almost impossible or takes far too long when out in the field.

Buy B+W Circular Polarizer Filter with Multi-Resistant Coating on Amazon

 

B+W 6 Stop ND

This filter has been instrumental in shooting photos without crowds of tourists appearing in our photos. It allows us to shoot longer exposures during bright conditions, consequently blurring other people out. The filter has a slight magenta colour cast but this is easily fixable in post. Go for the 6 stop if you’re not sure which model to choose. For most situations, it’s neither too dark nor too light. Again we chose B+W for its quality and the Multi-Resistant Coating for cleaning reasons.

Buy B+W +6 Stop Neutral Density Filter with Multi-Resistant Coating on Amazon

 

Earth Runners: our favourite travel sandals

Since sandals became our favourite footwear for travel, we’ve been on a long (and expensive) journey to find the best pair to fit our needs – we’re happy to say we’ve finally found our favourite travel sandals with Earth Runners.

Before jumping into the review we want to let you guys know that we reached out to Earth Runners who sent us the sandals to test out. We weren’t paid to write this review and all thoughts in this post are our own.

We think these sandals could benefit a lot of people out there who are looking for their next travel sandals. Right, onto the review…

Disclosure: Some links found in this post are affiliate links. Purchasing via these links comes at no extra cost to you but makes a small contribution towards funding our work.


Design

The aesthetics of Earth Runners was what initially caught our attention. Unlike other travel/hiking/outdoor sandals, Earth Runners have gone for a very minimalistic design which looks good when paired with practically any outfit.

Earth Runners currently stock three different variations of their sandals: Elemental, Circadian and Alpha. Both Circadian and Alpha uses a tan coloured hemp material on the inner sole and differ only in the thickness and grip of the outer sole. Sarah went for the Circadian whilst I went for Alpha (reasons for our choices come later). We’ll only talk about these two variations from here on out.

You’ve heard us talk about it before but weight is a major factor for us when choosing any gear. The thinner Circadian are actually the heavier out of the two, at around 168g (varies depending on size). This is roughly half of what our old Teva sandals weighed. Both sandals also have a very slim profile which makes them incredibly easy to pack.

The sandals have a single nylon strap which wraps around the sole to create support between the toes, around the top of your feet and just above the heels. The strap can be easily adjusted to fit the shape of your feet and fastened using a clip. There are a variety of colours to choose from. Sarah’s gone for the black nylon with brown trim whilst mine is the black nylon with black trim.

That’s it for design. As previously mentioned, these are very minimalistic sandals but there are great benefits to this which we’ll talk about next.


Functional

Circadian

Sarah opted for the Circadian due to the better grip and higher flexibility. This would have been my choice if not for my lack of experience wearing footwear with such thin soles. Also, I often carry around a large backpack with all our camera gear (weighs 15kg when fully loaded). The extra cushioning provided by the Alpha made more sense.

The Circadian and Alpha both have completely flat soles with no support to the feet. Earth Runners were designed to be as close to walking barefoot as possible. As a flat-footed person who was dependent on using insoles to make walking long distances comfortable, it surprises me to say that I now prefer these sandals to a more traditional supportive shoe. By removing the support, it forces my foot to naturally bend, grip and arch my feet as I walk – like they were naturally built to do so. I have to admit, the first few days of wearing the sandals caused my feet to ache but this has all but gone away. For a more in-depth look at the benefits of walking barefoot, check out Harvard Scientist Daniel E. Lieberman’s study.

We tend to do a lot of hiking and both the Alpha and Circadian do great on uneven surfaces. We’ve found that the Circadian grips better on wet surfaces but the Alpha still performs admirably. The only condition we wouldn’t recommend these sandals is when the weather turns cold – for obvious reasons. We’ve climbed rocks, waded through rivers and trudged through mud in these sandals, and minus the slight staining from the mud, they’ve held up very well.

Alpha

The final point I want to touch on is Earthing or Grounding. I’ve forgotten where and when I first heard of this concept but in recent years it’s been gaining hype. Without going into too much scientific details, the theory is that putting our body in direct contact with the earth can transmit negatively-charged electrons to your body to neutralize the buildup of positive ones. Theorists believe this has huge medical benefits as most people tend to go their entire day, week or even months without once touching the earth with their body. For more information on Earthing read Gaétan Chevalier et al article.

How do Earth Runners provide Earthing then? If you flip them over you’ll find a grounded copper plug – copper being an extremely conductive metal. This connects to the lacing which is also conductive, thus transmitting the electrons to your body. But have we seen a benefit from being Earthed? We’ll let you know in a year’s time…


Summary

As you can see there’s so much we love about these simple sandals. They look great, they’re extremely light and easy to pack and have good enough grip to use out on a hike. All this and we’ve yet to mention Earth Runner’s warranty which covers the sandals and straps until the sole material is below 1mm.

There’s not a lot we don’t like about the sandals. I did have to spend a small amount of time adjusting to the minimalist footwear and the hemp inner sole can stain over time (although we think it fits nicely with the seasoned traveller look).

You can buy the Circadian for US$79 and Alpha for US$84. These are not the cheapest sandals on the market but are well worth the price and far outperforms other sandals we’ve used for travel.

Pros Cons
Beautiful and simplistic design Not the cheapest
Light and easy to pack May take some time getting used to
Great grip Can stain

 

If you would like to purchase a pair of Earth Runners use the links below

Buy Earth Runner Circadian Sandals

Buy Earth Runner Alpha Sandals

Q&A time! We answer your questions

Q&A

Thank you to everyone who sent in questions! We’ve been wanting to do a Q&A for a while as a way to give back to the travel and photography community which we have learnt so much from. For anyone who wants to read a little about our background, head over to our about us.

As always, feel free to send us a DM on Instagram or email us if there’s anything else you would like to ask.


Travel Questions

Why did we decide to go travelling?

Travelling has always been something that we both wanted to do but never had the time for. We came to a crossroad in our lives where we knew if we didn’t make the leap we might never get round to doing it.

 

How long have we been travelling for?

It all started back in December 2015.

 

How do we feel about leading a life of travel?

For us, dropping a stable lifestyle back in the UK and leading a life of travel certainly pushed us out of our comfort zone. But by breaking away from the norm, it allowed us to reevaluate what is important in our lives, which in return has created more opportunities than we could have ever planned. It has been our biggest step forward so far, and we are incredibly excited for all the possibilities which lie ahead.

 

How do you afford to travel to so many places, are you guys rich?

It’s all about making travel our main priority. Yes, travel does involve money, but it is as expensive or affordable as you make it. We like to stay in hostels and explore by foot or public transport with a map and compass in hand. And as we travel more, we have learnt to travel lighter whilst appreciating the simplicities in life. We also work whilst on the road to further stretch our travels financially, which we touch on in the next question.

 

How do we fund our travels?

Since embarking on our travels, both of us have switched career paths and chosen jobs which would allow a lot of freedom – Sarah as an English Teacher whilst Eric as an Editor. Together we take up photography projects when and where they arise, as well as working alongside tourism boards and brands which resonates with ours. This helps generate further income to feed our travels and opens up new opportunities as our network expands. Working remotely is perfect for our spontaneous lifestyle.

 

Why did we move to Hong Kong?

We both came from Hong Kong Chinese families who emigrated to the UK. Although this provided better opportunities for our families, it also meant we became somewhat disconnected to our roots – relocating to Hong Kong has definitely fixed this. Hong Kong is also the central hub of Asia and there are direct flights to most destinations which make it an ideal base to travel from.

 

What is our favourite destination/place so far?

Sarah: Japan has to be one of my all-time favourite destinations! My obsession for this country grew from a young age when I was first introduced to anime and sushi.  Their culture completely captivated me and still does to this day.

Eric: My favourite country is also Japan, but more specifically Kyoto. We’ve been lucky enough to visit some incredible places but Kyoto was just extra special. It’s photogenic, the food is superb, it has a great mix of nature and city life, and the people are really friendly.

 

Where haven’t you guys been but would like to visit?

Sarah: Cappadocia in Turkey. It’d be a dream to see the hot air balloons during sunrise.

Eric: Mongolia is definitely somewhere I hope to visit soon. Exploring the vast lands and infamous Gobi Desert would be an unforgettable adventure.

 

Is it difficult living out of a backpack when travelling?

Not at all, we actually find it harder to lug around a suitcase as it means we’re less flexible when it comes to moving around. Regardless of how long a trip is, most of our travels only requires a few sets of clothes and our camera gear. Eric carries a 50-litre backpack whilst Sarah has a 37-litre.

 

Which language do you know/do you want to learn?

Sarah: I am native in both English and Cantonese. I also know a little bit of Mandarin – enough to get us by during our travels in China and Taiwan. More recently, I began learning Japanese – something which I’m super excited about and hope to become fluent in.

Eric: I’m definitely lagging behind in the language department when compared to Sarah. I can only speak English and Cantonese fluently but  I’m hoping to start learning Japanese soon.

 


Photography Questions

What camera gear do we use?

Have a look at our Photography Gear page, we’ll keep it updated as we go along.

 

When did we start taking photos?

We got our first DSLR in the summer of 2015 and that’s when we really started getting into photography. If you scroll all the way to the beginning of our Instagram feed you’ll find the very first trip we did with the camera.

 

How did we learn photography?

Most of what we learnt was self-taught. There was a lot of going out and getting things “wrong” before we started liking our own photos. YouTube was also a great resource for us and we learnt a lot of the basic through Tony & Chelsea Northrup.

 

Who takes the photos for Chopsticks on the Loose?

We both do – typically the photos with one person in will be taken by the other. For times we both want to be in the shot, we set up a tripod and leave it shooting continuously as we move into position. For landscape shots, we usually take turns with the camera to accommodate our different perspectives.

Ishigaki

Ishigaki

After our last trip to Japan, we told ourselves we would save the rest of the country for when we live there one day – but when the opportunity to visit Ishigaki came up we just couldn’t resist.

Ishigaki is an island located in the most southern and western part of the Okinawa prefecture. Unlike the mainlands of Japan, the island experiences a subtropical climate with relatively warm weather all year round. The climate coupled with the beautiful sandy beaches makes Ishigaki a perfect destination for those seeking an island getaway. This is especially true for those wanting to avoid the crowds of tourists found in Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

During our visit, we were invited to stay at Club Med Kabira situated on the northern side of the island. Club Med resorts are generally geared towards families but we loved the wealth of water activities and the private beach. We caught some beautiful sunrises over the sea and only had to share it with a few crabs bathing along the beach.

As tempting as it was to stay within the confines of the resort, we ventured out to the rest of the island and met some incredibly friendly local farmers. Pineapple farming is a big part of Ishigaki and they grow some of the sweetest and juiciest pineapples we’ve ever tasted. Other great local foods to try include their fresh papaya salad and Ishigaki beef.

Ishigaki beach sunrise
Sunrise at the beach in Ishigaki
Club Med Ishigaki
Club Med Ishigaki

Snorkelling in Ishigaki

Ishigaki snorkelling

Clown fish in Ishigaki
Snorkelling with the fishes

Ishigaki beach

Milky way Ishigaki
Milky Way on a clear night sky

Iriomote

Iriomote is a separate island reachable via an hour boat journey from Ishigaki. It’s the largest island of the group with 90% of it made up of dense jungles and mangrove forests. The island is also home to the critically endangered Iriomote Cat which has an estimated population of 100.

With so much natural beauty, Iriomote Island lends itself to outdoor activities. We joined one of Iriomote Osanpo Kibun’s tours. The company’s owner and guide, Naoya Ojima, is a fluent English speaker and has great knowledge of the nature which surrounds the area.

Our morning began with a short hike into the jungle before caving through a million-year-old limestone cave. Wading through a waist-high stream whilst ducking under pinnacles made for an unforgettable experience. Other activities included kayaking through Nakara River and hiking up to the base of Nakara Waterfall. We finished the day with a quick visit to Star Sand Beach, aptly named for the star-shaped corals sprinkled throughout the sand.

We had an awesome time living the island life. It’s safe to say we’ll be back again someday.

Star Sand Beach
A quick swim by Star Sand Beach
Caving in Iriomote
Caving in Iriomote
Iriomote waterfall
Nakara Waterfall
Stars in Ishigaki
One last night of stargazing