Fujifilm gear pack for New York City

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Hello again!

In my last blog post I shared a photo essay of New York City from my recent trip.   In future posts we are going to look at many more photos of New York, but right now it is time to talk gear.  And,  by talk, I mean totally nerd out.

This post is part two of a five part series featuring photography from New York City:

For many photographers the question of “what gear do I bring on a trip?” is the hardest one to answer.  For me, it all starts with pre-trip research.  Photography is a huge part of my travels, and I want to come back with a photo essay that lets me show the beauty of the places I visit, adds substance to my travel workshops and presentations, and provides content for several books that I am writing right now.

I will often start by sketching out a list of locations (and/or things) that I know I want to photograph.  For New York, that list included:

  • The New York City skyline from The Top of the Rock
  • Grand Central Terminal
  • Chinatown
  • Freedom Tower and The National September 11th Memorial and Museum
  • The Brooklyn Bridge
  • The Manhattan skyline from DUMBO
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Central Park
  • The Bronx Zoo
  • The Empire State Building
  • Times Square
  • Radio City Music Hall
  • Rockefeller Center
  • The New York subway system
  • Street photography

This list, compiled from things learned on previous visits, general awareness of New York, and internet research, gives me a starting point for figuring out what gear to bring.  Once I have a rough list I think about breaking it down into categories of lenses.  I will often speak with other photographers and research focal lengths to do this.   Eventually I will have a list of locations or shots that require wide angle (if any), mid range, and telephoto (if any).

I then ask myself if I can get away with just a Fuji X100t for the trip, which is always my go to.   In this case, however, my shot list broke down as follows:

  • Wide Angle:  Skyline from The Top of the Rock, inside Grand Central Terminal, inside the 9/11 Museum, and shooting up on many of the buildings.
  • Mid Range:  Almost everywhere.
  • Telephoto:  Detail shots from Top of the Rock, The Bronx Zoo, and The Statue of Liberty.

Three lenses it was, which is actually a heavy gear pack for me when I am traveling by plane.  Time to start choosing:

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For wide angle I had the choice of the Fujinon 16mm f/1.4 lens, or the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 zoom lens.

One is fairly wide and very fast, while the other is extremely wide and, while only having a minimum aperture of f/4, is optically stabilized (and Fujifilm’s OIS is very good).

Grand Central Terminal was the determining factor here:  I knew I needed an extreme wide angle to shoot the terminal so it came down to the 10-24mm.  While I would be shooting in low light at f/4 or higher, the OIS meant that I could handhold at slow shutter speeds to compensate.

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My midrange choice was easy… the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens.  I chose this lens for the following reasons:

  1. It is one of my all time favourite street photography lenses, and I was going to be doing a LOT of street photography.
  2. It is small, and easily portable.
  3. It fit nicely between the long end of my Fujinon 10-24mm lens, and the wide end of whichever telephoto lens I brought (50mm or 55mm).
  4. It is weather resistant.  This is important as New York is famous for its flash thunderstorms in the summer.  Sure enough, I did get caught in one of these while I was mid span on the Brooklyn Bridge on foot!

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I’ll put this right on the table:  I hate bringing telephoto lenses on vacation.  If the trip isn’t a safari or doesn’t involve specific needs like aerial photography or certain landscapes it is always my least used lens.  Telephotos also tend to be the heavier lenses in your bag.

With this in mind my decision was easy, though not the way I would prefer to go.  I brought the Fujinon 55-200mm f/3.5 – f/4.8 zoom lens.  This is a great lens at its price point, but the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens is simply incredible.  Sadly, it is also my largest and heaviest lens so it was instantly out of the running given that I would be walking 10-12 hours per day.

This lens would only be used to pick out detail shots from Top of the Rock, at The Bronx Zoo, and to get a shot of The Statue of Liberty.  The rest of the time it would live in the hotel room.

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Here is my whole kit.  In this photo you can see:

  • The Ona Prince Street messenger bag
  • The Fuji X-Pro2 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens on it
  • The Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens
  • The Fujinon 55-200mm f/3.5 – f/4.8 lens
  • Accessories including extra memory cards, extra batteries, a cleaning cloth, a 10 stop ND filter, and a remote shutter release
  • A charger for my camera batteries
  • An external batter pack with a cable for my phone
  • My iPad
  • An SD cable to import photos onto my iPad for backup purposes

Everything fit in the Ona bag for carry onto the plane, and once I got to the hotel room the iPad, SD cable, charger, and usually the Fujinon 55-200mm lens lived in the room.

And there you have it, my rationale for how I packed my gear for this trip.  I had all focal lengths covered, I had a weather resistant option, and everything fit into a small shoulder bag that did not weigh me down.

Traveling with mirrorless cameras is a beautiful thing.

What will I bring the next time I go to New York?  That is an easy question to answer now that I have the images from this trip:  I will only bring the X100t (or, preferably, its successor).  When I travel back to a location for a repeat visit I usually have the “trophy” shots already, so I focus on the people, the life on the streets, and the little detail shots.  For these purposes the X100t is all I need.

I hope you enjoyed this walk through of how I selected my gear for this trip.  Next up we are going to look at my favourite thing:  Street Photography;  and, believe me, New York did not disappoint!

Until then,

Ian

33 thoughts on “Fujifilm gear pack for New York City

    • Ian says:

      Traveling ultra light is always my goal, but there are definitely times where you need a little more gear to do the job. It’s all relative though, even this pack (the X-Pro2 with 3 lenses) is so light compared to my DSLR days and it was so easy to carry.

    • Ian says:

      Hey Bob!

      Thanks for commenting! I don’t automatically bring a backup camera when I travel, it all depends on where I am going.

      For a trip to Manhattan I don’t see a need for one personally. If my camera went down I can hop on a subway and be at B&H Photo in about 20 minutes, I can rent one, or I can jump online and have one shipped from a rental house in less than 24 hours. For me I am always weighing the extra space and weight in my bag against the need for a specific piece of equipment. In NYC the worst case scenario would be probably be shooting a sunset or post sunset shot after everything was closed. If my camera went down I’d simply pack up, find a pub, and enjoy some time with the people of that amazing city. Travel to me is always about more than the photos, so I’d be fine if that happened.

      Now, when I shoot weddings I completely agree with you and I bring multiple camera bodies. If I was traveling to Iceland I would bring multiple camera bodies. If I was hiking into the back country I would bring multiple bodies, but ONLY if the hike was specifically to capture a specific photograph. So, for me, it depends. 🙂

      Best wishes,

      Ian

      • rjmorgans says:

        Good points. I usually travel with my Fuji X100T but also slip the amazing Sony RX100m4 in my bag just in case. I always like a pile of extra batteries and a spare SD card….. I’ve learned the hard way!

      • Ian says:

        Absolutely! That little red case in my last photo has 7 SD cards in it, and for mirrorless I usually bring 4 batteries…. though on the X-Pro2 I’ve never gone through more than two in a day.

        Thanks for commenting!

        Cheers,

        Ian

      • Joe Reimer says:

        I always bring my X-E2 as a backup and lock it in the hotel safe or in my vehicle. Never had to use it, but the time when I don’t bring it, I’m sure I’ll regret it haha

  1. kyle says:

    Hooray for gear talk! 🙂

    I totally agree with your approach of beginning the decision-making process by defining what you want from the trip. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of convincing yourself you need every piece of gear you own (“maybe I’ll bring the telephoto just in case…and if I’m bringing the telephoto I might as well bring the teleconverter too…”). If you start with some strict-ish definitions of what shots you really want to get from the trip, it’s much easier to keep yourself from going down that slippery slope.

    Looking forward to the street photography post!

    • Ian says:

      Yes, gear talk is always fun!

      I completely agree, bringing too many things “just in case” is not efficient, and it often quickly becomes burdensome too. Take what you need to get the shots you want, and enjoy your trip as much as possible the rest of the time.

      Cheers,

      Ian

  2. Georganna Griffin says:

    Enjoyed reading your decision making approach. My latest trip was the first one that I actually thought through it right! And, it was to Vancouver/Victoria! Fun & beautiful! One question: which iPad do you use? I back up to a MacBook mini, but I think I would prefer to use an iPad. My current one is too old & not enough memory.

    • Ian says:

      I use an iPad Air, and purposely got the 128GB option so I can use it for backup purposes. When I travel I make sure I only have 20-40GB of stuff on it, which leaves a ton of space. I can fit well over 1,000 RAW files on it, which gives me a full backup in the hotel room at all times.

      Cheers,

      Ian

      • Neil Geller says:

        Would love to see a post on your backup workflow on the road, especially if you’re only bringing an IPad. Great post, thanks for sharing. You have great restraint because I could never leave the house without my X100T 😉

      • Ian says:

        Backing up while traveling is on my list to write an article about, and an iPad with the right storage capacity works well for that.

        And yes, it is always tough to leave the X100t at home. 🙂

  3. plateauspeak says:

    Thanks for sharing, Ian.
    Count me in as also being keenly interested in your road workflow with IPad. I am in the market for one and justifying 9.7″ Air vs Pro (and storage) relies on how I’d use it.
    I see you have the SD card ‘dongle’ for the IPad. Why not transfer them via the X-Pro2’s Wifi? Speed?

    Thanks again.

    • Ian says:

      Hello!

      Sorry for the short delay in responding…

      When I get back to the hotel I use the SD dongle to import all of my new RAW files. When I started using this workflow the Fuji remote app wouldn’t wifi RAW files over, and the dongle is quite fast. I don’t know if that has changed, but I am used to this workflow now.

      Cheers,

      Ian

  4. enosone says:

    Ian, do you happen to know if the iPad will read .DNG/RAW files? I’ve been considering getting the $30USD accessory but have read mixed reviews in general but also that the iPad Air 2 doesn’t support RAW (yet); this info is a bit outdated.

    • Ian says:

      Well, yes and no…

      You can import RAW files into the iPad for backup and storage purposes (and later get them off at home), but the iPad software wouldn’t actually edit the RAW (just the embedded preview jpg in it). This is apparently changing with the new IOS update that is coming.

      Cheers,

      Ian

  5. Dan Gamache says:

    I do not see a tripod on your list, but you include the 10Stop ND Filter. How and why do you plan on using this ND filter. Also what size is your filter and do you bring step down rings to fit all 3 lenses?
    Thanks for the list, just planning a trip to Italy and this is very interesting.

  6. Dan Gamache says:

    I noticed you have a 10 stop ND Filter, but no tripod, I’m curious as to what you plan on shooting with the filter. Also you have no speed lights in your kit, so I presume no portrait session planned. Interesting kit. I have a trip to Itsly coming up and like you I plan to travel light, but I will have a tripod for those evening shots. Thanks for the good info.

    • Ian says:

      Hello again Dan!

      I don’t ever bring lights with me when I travel unless it is a paid gig that requires them. I am equally comfortable shooting portraiture with natural light or adding light to the scene, and traveling light is the most important thing to me!

      Best wishes,

      Ian

  7. processrepeat says:

    I always struggle on the lens choices so I like the preplanning process you outlined. Sometimes I do take all the “just in case” lenses but only if I know I’ll be altering my kit for different days (and can leave stuff behind) or I’ll be primarily driving to places with a vehicle. I have to say though, on my last few trips I’ve been using the 10-24 a lot and even though I love the quality of the 16 and 23 it’s hard to keep it off the camera for traveling.

    • Ian says:

      I am a prime shooter through and through, but the 10-24mm is a perfect travel lens for me. I am often in cities, small churches, etc where wide angle and low light are the name of the game. I find the OIS in the 10-24mm lets me handhold with very slow shutter speeds, and I get shots with it I might not get with the two primes you mentioned (both of which I also own and love).

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