Are you here for a good time or to make photos? Good photos don’t come for free, you have to work at them. If you want to have a nice time with your family forget the photos. Does a surgeon take their partner and kids into the operating theatre? (This is a rhetorical question - the answer is no.) Sorry, but taking photos means being focussed (ha ha) and that will make you unpopular with your travelling partner. Deal with it, or give up on getting good photos, or have an understanding partner who respects your creativity (love you, darling).
Light is free. Nothing matters as much as the quality of light. If you think you can sleep in - forget it. Dawn is where it’s at. Nothing looks as stupid as a guy toting a Hasselblad round Venice at 10 in the morning. (You missed the good light by four hrs, buddy - and you’re still gonna burn money shooting film? Go home you LOSER. We fake pros stopped shooting three hours ago) Sunsets also have good light but everyone is awake and out at sunset, so it only works for remote locations. PS: Obvious point, but you must never use a flash for any travel photo. Ever. (If you’re asking yourself “Why not?” it may be beyond my power to help you.) The ONLY time you are allowed flash is for a grungy fashion shoot, and then it must be direct on-camera.
You need a big sensor, but not a really big one. If you’re going to make it look like you’re toting the bucks, you need APSC, but you don’t need Full Frame or Medium Format. (Sorry ‘bout that 4/3 - but I had to draw the line somewhere and your bodies and lenses are just about the the same size as mirrorless APSC)
A zoom is the obvious choice for travel right? It’s so versatile. Sorry. Wrong answer. A zoom is the best way to lose your edge. Kit zooms are ipso facto all slow shit - or they would not be kit zooms. If you DO have a zoom, to be worthy it needs to be a 24-70 f2.8 on a full frame body which means $3K plus the cost of the FF body plus the cost of the truck to carry it. Take my point? If you’re toting an APSC DSLR with a kit zoom you might as well take a point and shoot compact. (Nothing wrong with a P&S compact BTW - but see below)
What do pros have that you don’t have? Big heavy full frame bodies, tripods and expensive fast glass. What is the cheapest sharp lens in any range? The 50mm f1.8. If you shoot a 50mm on APSC it gives you 75mm equiv. And it’s sharp, so you can shoot it wide open to blur the background. In fact you should ALWAYS shoot it wide open, because, as a cheap lens, the bokeh balls won’t look sexy if you can see the aperture blades in them. (Sony 50mm f1.8 OIS - $400. Compare this with full frame Sony FE 85mm f 1.8 at $900) And on the wide end? Something around 19mm f2.8 (28mm equiv) Useful for landscape
Damn my iPhone takes great photos - so does everyone else’s. Your iPhone 6 shot of a mountain at noon will look pretty much like your Hasselblad X1D shot of a mountain at noon. So how can you make shots that your iPhone can’t? Here’s what your iPhone cannot do: Low light, selective focus, and blur. So to differentiate what you are shooting from the masses, use lots of selective focus (your 50mm at 1.8 on close subjects) Shoot in low light (like in the best light, dawn and dusk). Use blur (set your shutter to 1/15 for moving subjects for a start and see what happens)
Sony 50mm f1.8 IOS
I like this lens. I shoot it wide open all the time unless it’s stopped down to get blur. (Or except in this shot were I used f 4.5 for a bit more DOF for the sprinkler) I leave the filter off, and shoot it into the sun whenever I can. I put the hood on to protect the front element and because it makes it better to hold when you’re shooting two-handed. $400.
All photos copyright David Hume