I like to think of myself as a decent photographer. I don’t know everything and am fairly sure that I never will, but every day I take photos and hope to get a little better. Continuing to learn new techniques and getting a better feel for light and how to compose shots is one of my primary goals as a nomad. Gear, talent, and timing, that is what is needed to make good photos. Today there is no shortage of good photography gear available to help capture that amazing shot. Below is what I use and what I recommend. This is my nomad camera gear list.
Nomad Camera Gear Quick Links
- Canon Mirrorless Body
- Canon Lenses
- Camera Bag
- Accessories & Filters
- Action Camera: GoPro
- Drone: Mavic Pro
- Software: Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop
Canon Mirrorless Body: EOS RP
I have been a Canon guy for eighteen years. I love the control surface layout of their pro/prosumer cameras. (Pro + Consumer = Prosumer.) I started with the Canon 10D and have had several bodies over the years. Recently, I upgraded to the EOS RP and have loved it. I primarily upgraded because I wanted a larger sensor size (full-frame) and a lighter mirrorless body for backpacking. The Canon RP has been perfect for me but would not necessarily be the right choice for everyone. My biggest complaints are the battery life and not having a settings display on top of the camera. I have to look inside the eyepiece or on the flip-out display to refamiliarize myself with my current settings. This is important to me because I usually shoot in manual mode. The trade-off would have been spending more money and going to the R or R5.
EOS R6 & R5
Canon’s flagship prosumer mirrorless cameras are the EOS R5 & R6 and they are top-notch devices. I personally passed on the R6 and choose the cheaper RP only because of the megapixels. Both have larger full-frame sensors and lighter bodies than traditional DSRs. These are both great options for those looking to get into higher-end photography. The IBIS (In-body image stabilization) combined with lenses that also have stabilization and out-of-this-world face and eye-tracking autofocus. This cutting-edge technology makes taking a crisp image almost too easy. The hardest choice is deciding if the extra megapixels (45 vs. 20) is worth the additional $1,400.
I prefer to shoot with prime lenses. For those unfamiliar, prime lenses have a set focal length. There isn’t a zoom function in the lens. Prime lenses are sharper than zoom lenses because they have fewer pieces of glass in them that the light needs to pass through. Some people will sacrifice clarity for versatility and I understand that but for me, I typically prefer clarity although I do now have two zoom lenses in my bag.
Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R
The EOS R series cameras have a unique mount that is designed for the new RF lenses. There is a good reason for this as the smaller camera body allows for a shorter focal length off the back of the lens. However, if you have an assortment of EF lenses you will need an adapter ring mount in order to use those older lenses with the EOS R bodies. There are several adapter mounts available. The link I have provided is the one that will allow the camera to best utilize the full potential of all of the EF lenses but there are others that add even more functionality like a control ring or drop-in filters.
Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens
The Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L is a kit lens that doubles the cost of the EOS RP but it is worth every penny. Most kit lenses are not worth owning. Before purchasing this lens I had never actually purchased a camera with a kit lens because they are notoriously awful. While this lens isn’t as sharp as a prime lens it is remarkably good given the length of its zoom. I have had several shorter zoom lenses and none of them have come close to performing as well as this lens. It is quick and accurate when focusing. It is sharp almost all the way to the edge even at its widest point. This is the perfect all-around lens and has become the only lens that I typically carry on long trails or backpacking.
Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lens
The Canon EF 300mm f/4L is a rock-solid lens and my go-to for wildlife photography. It is a heavy piece of glass, but when compared to lenses with similar or longer focal lengths it is fairly lightweight. It is sometimes a bit short for wildlife photography. Adding Canon’s 2x extender is a great way to get more distance for a fraction of the price of an equivalent 600mm lens with f/5 (You lose 2 stops with the extender).
The new Canon RF 600 F/11 is very enticing if you are just getting into photography. It fits the EOS R cameras without needing an adapter and is very affordable. It is also very lightweight and compact for a 600mm lens. Still, the fixed f/11 does make it hard to photograph in darker light without sacrificing quality by ramping up the ISO. It also isn’t light enough that I would want to carry it on a backpacking journey. I prefer my old 300mm setup but it is something to consider.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens
The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L is hands-down my favorite lens. It is the sharpest lens I have ever owned. The focal length is perfect for macro photography which I love. This is the primary function of this lens now that I have my Canon RF 24-105mm lens. It also has a very nice weight to it.
Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4.0 Lens
3rd party lenses can be hit or miss but many are very nice and much more affordable than their branded counterparts. I have owned two Tamron lenses and have liked both of them. This Tamron lens has been a workhorse for over a decade. I have used it in driving snow, windy desserts, and even underwater (in a housing) and it has held up very well. I have basically retired it with the purchase of my Canon RF 24-105mm, but I still use this Tamron exclusively for astrophotography.
That being said if I were in the market today for a lens dedicated to astrophotography, I would purchase the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8. This is a very inexpensive superwide prime lens that is perfect for astrophotography. Rokinon is a 3rd party lens manufacturer. They make this lens for several different camera bodies, but the link is to the one that is specifically designed to be mounted on the Camera R series bodies. It is a manual focus lens, but when shooting at night you will be in manual focus.
Nomad Camera Gear & Bag
Think Tank Digital Holster
Think Tank makes quality bags. I like this one as it is very portable and flexible. I can use the strap to carry the bag with a single lens. The holster expands so it can accomadate my large 300mm lens mounted on the camera body. I can use the clips below to easily connect this bag to the front side of my backcountry backpack. I can even use the velcro belt strap on the bag to attach it to my bike when riding.
The Think Tank Digital Holster allows for this lens case to be easily strapped to the side. This lens case is capable of housing any of my lenses other than the 300mm allowing me to carry an additional lens when hiking.
Camera Bag Backpack Clips
I use these for carrying my Think Tank Digital Holster when backpacking or on a long day hike. This allows me to carry my camera bag without adding cumbersome camera straps when I’m already carrying a backpack or a water pack with straps.
If you are looking for the lightest and most versatile tripod out there go with the carbon fiber unit from Peak Design. This tripod is perfectly engineered for carrying it on long-distance hikes and backpacks. If you don’t have $600 and need a more affordable option this Flexzion tripod is a good choice.
Another great lightweight option when heading into the backcountry is this Jobi Gorillapod. Unlike traditional tripods, this mount can stabilize a camera in unusual situations allowing for some unique photographic angles. It is extremely lightweight, but make sure you buy one that is rated for the weight you intend to put on it.
Nomad Camera Gear Accessories & Filters
Canon RP Battery
I mentioned at the start of this post that the small LP-E17 battery was one of the few shortcomings of the Canon RP camera and that I had a workaround. While the Canon RP has a wall charger the camera itself can be charged via USB-C so long as it is rated for power delivery (PD). For this reason, I carry this Charmast 10000mah PD battery backup. It charges the camera quickly and smartly. The only downside is that the camera has to be turned off to charge. This is a great solution for recharging at night while away from regular power, but you still need to carry a second Canon battery for long shooting days. I have found two batteries will get me through a pretty heavy day of shooting and the Charmcast can recharge an LP-E17 about 9-times.
All Digital Cameras need there digital film so don’t forget to add a memory card to your camera purchase. I’ve always used SanDisk cards in all of my gear and have never had any issues. This 64GB card is the one I am currently using. I shoot exclusively in large RAW formats and find that this size card is good for about four days worth of intense shooting. I also travel with an older 32GB card that I usually only have to use on really long backpacking journeys.
Cameras, just like anything else, need to be cleaned. A good cleaning cloth and glass cleaner go a long way to keeping images crisp. A camera with interchangeable lenses also needs its sensor cleaned to keep dust particles from creating dark spots on the image. For this, I use an air blower bulb.
Shutter Release Remote Control
Shutter release remotes are a must-have when wanting to do long exposure photography. There are many types of remotes. Most are camera-specific so make sure you choose one that works with your camera model. The wired model I use is no longer manufactured, but wireless models like the Pixel model I have a link for here are now very affordable. Many cameras can also be controlled from your smartphone using Bluetooth but the range isn’t as good as an RF remote.
I have a UV filter on all of my lenses. They are great to use for protecting that expensive lens glass. The one you will need will depend on the diameter of the lens you choose.
Polarizers are a great way to pull out the blue hues in the sky or soften the glare off of water. Again the size needed will depend on the lens diameter.
Neutral density filters are great for being able to slow shutter speeds way down in bright light. This allows light to trickle in overtime which is the way to give the illusion of motion in an image. This can be used on clouds, waterfalls, or the ocean. An ND filter is a great fun tool in the nomad camera gear bag. I especially like this Freewell 6 to 9 F-stop filter. They make smaller stop ND filters but I find that if you compose a shot that you need to stop down the light it is typically useful to stop it down a lot. I like that this one is variable and have found the range very useable.
Action Camera: GoPro Hero8
Action cameras are a great option for people looking to shoot high-quality video. They are small and lightweight with an absurd amount of options for mounting. The GoPro Hero line is waterproof making them great for underwater video and photography. The wide-angle lens also adds another tool to my photography bag. The touchscreen technology makes switching between camera settings, ratios, and frame rates extremely easy. I have the GoPro Hero6 Black which I love but with the hyper-smooth technology of the GoPro Hero8 Black available, I recommend getting the Hero8.
Like all cameras, the GoPro needs a memory card however GoPro requires a specific speed of memory card and some would even say brand. GoPro’s major flaw is that it doesn’t work optimally unless you purchase the recommended memory cards. The one I have listed here, the SanDisk Extreme 32 GB, is the one GoPro recommends for the Hero7.
GoPro Accessory Kit
There is literally a GoPro mount for everything you can think of. They have them for vehicles, bikes, surfboards, helmets, wrist straps, body straps, head straps… the list goes on and on. I have a cheap accessory kit that was hit and miss so I won’t list it here. What I will say is that a good selfie stick is needed. Not for selfies per se but rather getting the GoPro closer to the action. I also find that a good selfy stick just makes for a good camera mount in general. I also use my swiveling wrist mount a lot so I would recommend finding a good one of those.
Often the best camera is the one you have on you at the moment when you need it. I always carry my iPhone so therefore it is often the best camera I have. If you have Lightroom you can also download the app and shoot RAW images directly on your iPhone.
I also tend to use my iPhone for any video that needs quality audio as the GoPro’s audio isn’t great… it is built for underwater video so I give them a pass on audio quality. To get better audio on my iPhone I have this Rode VideoMicro microphone which I can also use on my Canon RP as well.
Phone Mic/Headphone Adapter
In order to use a mic with an iPhone or on a laptop with only one 3.5mm (headphone) jack, you will need a splitter and a device that has mic input capability. All Mac products have this capability although the new iPhones need a lightning to 3.5mm adapter as well.The technology behind this is that a headphone jack utilizes 2 electrical conductors. A microphone uses 2 conductors as well. In order for a single port to be able to do both, they have added a 3 conductor. The adapter assigns the microphones positive poll to that 3rd conductor. Without the adapter, the phone thinks the mic is an output rather than an input.
Zhiyn Smooth 4 Gimbal Stabilizer
Since I use my iPhone for most of my video shots I wanted a gimbal. Gimbals make a huge difference in video quality although with GoPro releasing hyper-smooth technology I don’t know how long gimbals will be needed. I have been using the Zhiyn Smooth for several years now and love it.
Nomad Camera Gear Drone: DJI Mavic Pro
Modern photography includes land, sea, and air. I have the original DJI Mavic Pro and I love it. This foldable drone changed the game in UAV (Unmanned Arial Vehicle) photography. I can easily put this drone in a bag and carry it anywhere… that it is allowed. The downside of drone photography is that they are increasingly banned from many places. UAV technology has come a long way in a short period of time. The Mavic Pro is capable of practically flying itself. They are a great tool for modern photography. I wasn’t sure how DJI would improve upon the original Mavic Pro but with the Mavic 2 Pro, it looks like they have. It has a better camera, longer battery life, and more sensors for better obstacle avoidance.
There are many cases available for the Mavic Pro, but I didn’t want another backpack or luggage piece to haul around. These small waterproof cases protect the drone/controller and can easily be slipped into my backpack.
These Seagate hard drives are what I use to back up my photography while on the road. There is a saying that I live by when it comes to all things digital “it doesn’t exist until it exists in two places.” Backing up your photography is essential. I actually backup all my RAW photos and I also backup all my edited photos but that might be overkill for most people.
Software: Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop
The art of processing photos has been a part of photography since the invention of the camera. The modern digital age is no different. Only the tools have changed. Processing is needed to produce the best photos possible. Adobe makes the best photo processing software on the market. Lightroom is not only an incredibly powerful photo processor but the file system is very well thought through. Add in the editing power of Photoshop and the Create Cloud Photography Plan is second to none. Please be aware that this is a subscription plan and only good for one year.