Traveling with Fuji Cameras

DSCF2292
I recently returned from a trip to Paris, where I shot for 9 days.  This has been an amazing year of travel photography for me, with trips to Seattle, San Francisco, Hawaii, and Paris.   As I unpack my gear, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on several years of experience  traveling with the Fuji X series cameras.

I’d like to start by saying that I love photography, love looking at photographs, and fully believe in the statement “you don’t take a photo, you make one”.  When I shoot I go to great lengths to capture the best image I can, and having the right gear is an important part of that.

Having said that, far too often I see people that look like this when I travel:

1296600114overloaded

That is just insane to me.  It is a vacation,  not work.  Actually, even if it was work it is still insane.

David Hobby recently created a series called The Traveling Photographer, which is available on Lynda.com.  I have referenced this series before, which has been highly influential on me this year.  Two of the mission critical things he says in that series are:

  1. “If you aren’t being paid to take travel photos, the vacation comes first”.  I can’t, for the life of me, understand why people would walk the streets of Disneyland with multiple camera bodies, huge lenses, a backpack full of gear….. on a family vacation to boot.  What is the point?
  2. “Every possession is a burden”.  This is entirely true.  The more you bring, the more you need to worry about.  The more you bring, the larger a target for theft you are.  The more you bring, the more you need to pack around all day long.

These thoughts have helped shape my approach to travel photography.  When I travel my goal is to take as little gear as possible, but to not compromise the photographs I want to take.  To accomplish this I research my trips a lot before I get on a plane.  I use Flickr, 500px, Google Maps Street View, Trip Advisor, timeanddate.com, etc to figure out many of the shots I want to take, where I want to be when I take them, when I need to be there, what focal lengths I need to bring, etc.  We research our hotels, we research our airfare… why not our images?

Go back and look at the first image in this post.  Unless I need more that is my go to travel kit.  That is all I took to San Francisco.  That is all I took to Seattle.  I didn’t take another carry on.  I didn’t have any checked luggage.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.

That bag is the Think Tank Photo Airport Essentials backpack, which will fit under the seat of all airlines.  In it I have:

  • The Fuji X100t
  • The 2 conversion lenses for the X100t (providing 28, 35, and 50mm fields of view)
  • An SD card wallet
  • 3 extra batteries
  • A remote release
  • The Fuji EF-X20 flash
  • A B&W ND filter
  • 2 camera chargers, my computer charger, and my phone charger
  • A travel tripod
  • My 13″ Macbook Pro
  • 3 changes of clothes
  • The usual toiletries

The Fuji X100t provides amazing image quality.  Absolutely no compromise there.  Add in a variety of focal lengths, equipment for long exposures, a small flash and a tripod and virtually all of my photographic needs are met.

With this kit I walk onto the plane, I walk off the plane.  No worrying about a ton of gear.  No waiting for a suitcase.  It is travel bliss.

Sometimes when I am out shooting I will stuff the accessories into my pockets, and sometimes I will bring a small Think Tank Photo Mirrorless Mover 20 shoulder bag to put them in:

DSCF2833-2

That bag fits inside the Airport Essentials backpack, meaning I still only travel with the one bag on the plane.

From that light kit I get images like these:

FalseCreekPano-1

FromMandarinOriental-4

DSCF4328-14

DSCF3781-27

BayBridgePano-13

One tiny little camera.  One fixed lens.  One travel tripod.

No bad back.  No worrying about where all my gear is.  No huge target for theft.  And, most importantly… no compromise in image quality.

Now, there are times when my research shows me that I need a wider or longer lens for the shots I am after, and some decisions will need to be made.

Many photo enthusiasts have a pile of gear that looks something like this:

DSCF2280

Confession:  I took out the accessories, and may have arranged it a little for the photo.  🙂

When this is the case I will pick and chose what I need for the trip.   I’m definitely not going to bring my whole kit “just in case”.

For both Hawaii and Paris a wide lens was going to be important, so I brought the Fuji X-T1 (since replaced with the Fuji X-Pro2) and the Fujinon 10-24mm lens with me.  A long lens was also going to be mission critical for a few of the shots, so I brought the Fujinon 55-200mm lens with me too.

Throw in my ever present Fuji X100t and the total kit, packed into the Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 shoulder bag, looked like this:

DSCF3137

In that bag you will find:

  • The Fuji X100t
  • The Fuji X-T1 (since replaced with the Fuji X-Pro2)
  • The Fujinon 10-24mm lens
  • The Fujinon 55-200mm lens
  • An SD card wallet
  • 6 extra batteries (3 per camera)
  • 4 chargers (2 per camera)
  • Assorted filters, a remote trigger, etc

To me this is traveling heavy, but when you consider it is all packed into the small Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 shoulder bag (yes, I have 3 camera bags… it’s a problem) you realize the true beauty of these Fuji cameras:  They provide outstanding image quality, yet are small, compact, and easy to care all day long.

The results?  Here are a few:

DSCF5311

DSCF5459

DSCF5650

To sum up:

Like many, I travelled often with DSLR equipment before I switched to the Fuji X mirrorless system.  I remember the sore shoulders, the awkwardness of long zooms, and the many ways I annoyed my family with my gear.

Investing in the Fuji X mirrorless system has allowed me to create images that make me happy, with gear that is light and non-intrusive.   For a frequent traveller this is a welcome and wonderful thing.  For a father and husband it means I can have no-compromise gear with me at all times, but gear that does not get in the way of enjoying time with my family.

If you are still lugging around a backpack full of DSLR gear on your vacations I highly recommend you look into the small mirrorless systems.  They are more cost effective, much lighter and easier to carry, and offer amazing image quality.  You won’t regret it.

In my next post I’ll be sharing some images from Paris, truly one of the most  beautiful cities in the world….

Cheers,

Ian

29 thoughts on “Traveling with Fuji Cameras

  1. Squirrel says:

    Hi, I’m Squirrel from France.
    I fully agree with all you wrote. I would just to add what I’ve done.
    After having bought and sold lens to find a good compromise for me, i.e. Body Fuji XE2, 27 and 60mm Fujinon lenses and Rikenon 12mm, I bought a Fujifilm X30.
    A such small camera with its small sensor seems not suitable for serious photographers.
    It depends mostly of what you do with your photos. For my own I take pics of what I like, for my own use and 99.99% are made to be seen on a computer screen.
    So the IQ out of X30 is greatly sufficent and one of the best on the market.
    The only problem is the wide DOF the zoom of the X30 gives. Is that irreparable for all your photos ???
    And when I want some blur back focus, I try to put the subject close to the far limit of the DOF given by a close focus (for example focusing on my hand or my knees).
    As you know with your XT1, tilting screen of the X30 gives opportunities to catch photos with various angles of view.

    So if I compare the weight you carry to my X30, said with humour, you are far behind :).

    Sorry for the mistakes in my writting.
    Squirrel.

  2. Ian says:

    Great comment. The X30 is a very capable little camera, no doubt about it.

    I loved my time in France by the way…. can’t wait to go back!

  3. Martin says:

    Nice article indeed, i understand what you are saying, but its so hard to get there!

    I’m a prime lens guy, i usually lugged around a Canon 5D mk3 with a small arsenal of L lenses, suffering under the weight, but tried to convince myself that the image quality was worth it…

    Then the X100T happened.. I fell in love with it, went on a trip to NYC and Amsterdam, only carrying the X100T with both conversion lenses, and i was happy, it was simple, afterall I’m a prime lens guy, the images i brought home were great..

    But striving for that look and feel i want in my work, i soon started craving more shallow DOF for those portraits, more wide angle for those land and cityscapes, and with a love for lowlight photography, that low f-number was luring me..

    I still love the X100T, so it got a new friend with the X-T1, and the 56 f/1.2… then the 16 f/1.4… and now here i am, with two Fuji cameras plus my canon kit, starting to get caught in a terrible fit of GAS in the fuji system as well, considering the 10-24, 55-200, the 90 etc etc.. suddenly the weight is comparable with my 5D and the 24-70 f/2.8, and the thought strikes me, why should i bring a crop 16mpx camera when my 5d weighs the same and do bring better IQ.

    The travel kit composed of the x100t, the x-t1 and 56+16 is actually quite nice, 24mm, 35mm and 85mm equivalent focal lengths, the weight is not bad, and it all fits in a small ona bowery bag. but i’m still suffering from Fuji GAS…

    Please talk me out of this nonsense, i loved the simplicity traveling only with the x100.
    the x-t1+56+16 adds to the experience, but even though i “want” more, i know i probably don’t “need” more, the the multiple options at the same time as i want to pack small and light will probably leave some of the non-essential lenses collecting dust at home.

    Since you have travelled a lot with the X system, what do you think of my 24+35+85 trio? to you use the long end of the 55-200 a lot, and how often do you end up shooting UWA with the 10-24? I love the IQ coming out of the primes, and i have a somewhat hard time going for zooms for fuji, i think if so it would be to swap out the 16 with a 10-24.

    Sorry for the wall of text, but i need to get my head straight 😉

    Martin

    • Ian says:

      Hey Martin!

      I think, unless you need something longer than the 85 equivalent, you are bang on perfect with your current kit.

      On the wide end:

      I struggled a lot with which wide angle to buy. At the time the 16 wasn’t out, so it came down to the 14mm versus the 10-24mm. I too am a prime shooter so my heart wanted the 14. The only reason I got the 10-24 was that the lens rebates brought it down to within $80 of the 14, so it made sense to do it.

      I do shoot at the wide end occasionally, but if I had to guess I would say I shoot at 14mm most of the time. They are all amazing lenses though, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them.

      On the long end:

      The 55-200 is my least used lens, by far. This isn’t a reflection on the image quality, but rather that I rarely need a focal length longer than the 56mm provides. I’d say during travels it is used less than 10% of them time.

      A kit with the X-T1 and 16/56, combined with the X100t, is damn near perfect in my opinion unless you know you’ll need something longer. I’d say put away the credit card because you are right where you should be!

      Cheers,

      Ian

  4. bythebriny says:

    I went to Paris for ten days this spring with just a Fuji X-E1, 27mm, an extra battery, and a charger. So easy to pack and take everywhere, and I was pleased with the results.

  5. Bill Palmer says:

    Ian, this is a cut above the usual “what’s in the bag” articles because it’s clear how much thought you’ve put into your kit. I have most of the Fujinon lenses as well as X-T1 and X-Pro bodies but I wouldn’t dream of lugging the lot. On a single trip. Forward planning is key, and whilst it’s possible to be wrong-footed, there’s no doubt that a bit of research pays dividends. Like you, the 55-200, although superb, is also one of my least-used lenses and the weight makes it a deliberate choice to carry. I recently “discovered” the 50-230 which punches well above it’s weight (literally) in terms of optical quality and really delivers, particularly in good light. Today, my “mid-range” carry (contained in a Billingham Hadley Pro insert in a nondescript waxed cotton messenger bag) is usually X-Pro1, 14mm, 35mm and 56mm, with the 50-230 for any long stuff. I also pack a Ricoh GR which does double-duty as 28mm lens and “evening camera” in a small belt pouch. Spare batteries, spare cards, charger, job done.

    • Ian says:

      Thanks Bill, I appreciate the kind words!

      I pack very goal specific: Portraiture: 90, 56, 35. Street: X100t, or X-T1 with the 35mm. Etc. I just can’t fathom carrying everything I own at once! lol

  6. tedgoudie says:

    Great article and very timely! I just sold my 6D and a bunch of L glass to switch to the X-T1 – like last week! I made the decision after loving my X100T these past few months.

    Today, my new TTP Retrospective 5 was delivered, so it’s good to see that size works for your Fuji kit. I already moved out of the CityWalker 10 and into the new bag.

    Now I need to downsize my hiking backpack from a Naneu Pro K3 , and replace it with the Mindshift Panorama. The interior dimensions of the rotating belt pack seem to be about the same as the Retro 5, so I think that’ll work great (the camera won’t be in the belt pack, so I should have plenty of room for lenses/ND filters).

  7. Argyris Vavouyios says:

    Hello Iian, greetings from Athens Greece. I am a Fuji user too , I have an XE-2 , X-20 and lately an XT-1 with 18-55mm and a 23mm lenses. I have totally replaced my Nikon gear. I get perfect results and my back feels much better.

    Nice post, keep on!!

  8. Diane says:

    Thank You for a wonderful article. From observations when travelling, I have often thought some people think “He who has the longest lens wins” I actually had a man try to rest his lens on my shoulder while I was watching a street perfomer

  9. DQ moser says:

    found you on the fuji forums, nice work. i’m a “pro” and have been for 25 years. mostly canon gear, and still use it for a lot of my heavy duty work, but i do own two xt-1s and the x100t, 14, 23, 35, 36, 55-200. i use my fujis for assignments when i have to walk a lot, and when i have no photo assistant. but two bodies and 3 lenses can add up and it’s not SO lightweight when you bring that much gear. however on a trip to france recently (from the US) i took only the x100t and made some beautiful pictures because i had the camera all of the time. (a vacation, not a job. if it was i job i would have brought two bodies.)
    i also on the MeFoto Roadtrip carbon fiber tripod, a beauty.

    • Ian says:

      I made the leap to all Fuji, and have been very happy for the most part. I definitely recognize the need for some people to stay with their DSLRs though.

      If you have time read my blog posts from San Francisco… all the pics were taken with just the X100s (which I have since upgraded to the T). You are totally right, it is an amazing travel companion!

  10. David Peake says:

    Great post Ian.
    The X100 t coupled with the XT1 and a couple of primes for travel is an incredible kit.
    The fuji stuff is so good I opened my camera bag and traded my 7 d and seven lenses including 3 L lenses and some beautiful legacy glass for the XT1 , the 14 and the 56.
    You can still get good money for good dslr gear but prices are gradually dropping as people catch on.
    Now I am selling first and buying what I want in fuji gear. Just got the 35. Zack is right about this lens OMG it’s amazing what you can do with just this one lens.
    My first few shots with it, portrait of my wife, when I showed her, instant approval!
    What did you do to make me look so good?
    I purchased the x100 for $100 a while back and took it out on a boating trip.
    It got dropped in the water ( long story short) so insurance got me a new x100t .
    Hoping the GAS will ease when I get the 90 because there’s still the 16, 27, 10-24, 16-55, 50-140. All great but I can’t possibly need them all can I?
    Please tell me I don’t.

    • Ian says:

      Yup, there is much to love. I use the 10-24mm as my wide angle of choice, it is fabulous. I hate to make your wallet feel lighter, but the review copy of the 90mm I have right now is insanely good. 🙂

  11. Jay says:

    Hi Ian,

    I’ve been poring over your blog since getting an X-Pro2 and a 35 f/2. Thanks for your zeal and for your sharing. What kind of strap is that that you have on your x100t? This one in the box just won’t do lol.

  12. Rick Kopitzke says:

    I hate these types of quotes: “If you aren’t being paid to take travel photos, the vacation comes first”. It is fine for pro photogs I guess but most of us have other less glamorous careers and our piddly 2 week vacations (in the us of a) is the most time we ever get to do serious photography. The rest of our year is a struggle to get time to take photos between all the other demands on our lives and then we get lambasted with comments like these when do get to eliminate work for a brief time each year.

    • Ian says:

      Hey Rick!

      I think all dedicated photographers have the potential to ruin a vacation, whether they are paid, amateur, or a mix of the two. The point of David’s comment was that all too often people miss out on opportunities and experiences because they are too focused on getting that great shot. It happened to me recently, here is the blog post I wrote about it:

      https://ianmacdonaldphotography.com/2016/03/28/the-night-photography-almost-ruined-my-vacation-a-cautionary-tale/

      David’s quote isn’t saying don’t make high quality images during your vacation. What he is saying is that there is an easy way to strike a balance between photographing a place, and experiencing that place. If you watch his Lynda.com series on travel you will see that he works hard to show how to make pro quality images while traveling, but still reminds us to put the camera down, to stop and smell the roses, and to enjoy the moment with our families.

      Here is the best analogy I can give: Three years ago I completely stopped taking photographs at my daughter’s birthday parties and during Christmas morning. I realized that up until that point I had watched all of those events through a viewfinder. Sure, I had photos to remember the day, but I didn’t experience the moment the way I could have if the camera wasn’t always between me and my daughter. I have learned during my travels to get up early and shoot the morning light, to only shoot sparingly during the day so I can enjoy the experience of traveling with my family, and to time it so I can go do my photography thing for the beautiful evening light. It is a nice balance that let’s me make photos I am proud of, but not become obsessed with photography during a trip.

      Thanks for commenting, it is always great to hear differing perspectives.

      Best wishes,

      Ian

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s