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Home / Tips and Tricks / CNET’s Ultimate Guide to Travel Photography Kits: Cameras, Tripods, and More

CNET’s Ultimate Guide to Travel Photography Kits: Cameras, Tripods, and More


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that travel has been out of the question for most of us for a while now. But that̵

7;s steadily starting to change, and you may be excitedly planning some trips to reconnect with the world. Whether that’s a jet trip to an exotic island, a hike through snow-capped mountains or just a long weekend away in the countryside, your vacation offers some great photography opportunities. And with great cameras built into phones like the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the Galaxy S21 UltraAlong with a plethora of great mirrorless cameras from Canon, Sony, and Fujifilm, getting great photos doesn’t mean carrying a huge gear bag on your travels.

Here, I’ll take you through the essential gear to take with you on your trip, as well as some extras to consider if you want to go home with creative artwork, rather than just vacation snaps.

Choose the right camera

Choosing the right camera is basically a balancing act between the overall image quality and the physical size of the camera. For example, your phone is small and will fit right in your pocket, but while top phones have multiple lenses and can take great photos, the enthusiasts among you will probably want to upgrade to a good camera system that can swap lenses. If you decide to only go with your phone, be sure to check it out CNET’s Phone Photography 101 Page for a wide range of shooting advice.


Katie Collins/CNET

Traveling photographers today have more choice than ever, with mirrorless cameras offering much smaller body sizes than the traditional DSLRs of previous years. Micro four-thirds cameras like the Fujifilm X-S10 are easy to wear around your neck and can be operated quickly, so you never miss a shot. I like shooting on full-frame cameras, which have larger image sensors that provide better dynamic range — ideal for pulling out highlights in those sunset shots, or for amplifying the shadows of those nighttime shots looking down old Italian avenues.

My favorite option is the Canon EOS RP, a full-frame camera with an incredibly compact body that’s ideal for keeping in your backpack. Paired with a 24-105mm f4 lens, it can shoot wide-angle shots of expansive landscapes and also zoom in to focus on smaller details. If you have a wide zoom lens, you can probably do your entire trip with just one lens and not have to bother with extra gear.

If you want to travel exceptionally light, Canon’s recent 50mm f/1.8 lens (often called the Nifty Fifty) is incredibly small and light and combined with the EOS RP makes for an excellent street and travel setup, with a fast aperture that makes for beautiful bokeh. If possible, look at the camera you are considering at a camera store and see how it feels in your hand or when you hang it around your neck. If you do a lot of walking, or long walks through the city, every bit of weight matters.


Canon’s EOS RP offers full-frame quality but in a very compact size, especially when combined with the small 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The best travel tripod

A tripod isn’t essential for all travel photography, but if the light fades and you need to slow the shutter speed down to a few seconds to get a good exposure, you’ll need one to secure your camera. You’ll definitely need a tripod if you want to capture those nighttime shots overlooking a beautiful bay, capture the stars above those snow-capped mountains, or shoot those artful long exposures of waterfalls.


By using a sturdy tripod, I was able to slow down the shutter speed all the way to capture the movement of the water and clouds over the Forth Bridge.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Again, size matters and you should look for a compact travel tripod that can easily fit in your backpack – or attach to the outside of it. Modern materials like carbon fiber keep the weight down, but they’re also more expensive, so you’ll have to decide how much you’re willing to pay.

As the name suggests, the Peak Design Travel Tripod is a great tripod for travel, thanks to its very small size when folded and light weight. I’ve been on walks all day with this strapped to my back and barely noticed it’s there – something I can’t say about most tripods. Be sure to check out my full rundown of the best tripods to buy in 2021. Or, if weight is really an issue, you can even try using your own DIY tripod.


Katie Collins/CNET

A real adventure backpack

A special photo bag should be high on your list — after all, you don’t want your fancy new gear to be knocked over and broken, right? A good bag has compartments to safely store your camera, but you can also quickly access it. It’s also important to find one that also has enough space to hold other items you’ll need along the way.

If you’re going to be out and about with it all day, I recommend a backpack with two shoulder straps instead of a messenger bag with one strap. It distributes that weight over both shoulders and keeps you comfortable for longer. Look for things like side zippers so you can quickly grab your camera when inspiration strikes; many extra pockets for batteries and snacks; weatherproof materials; and mounting points to help carry your tripod.

I did a lot of hard work for you in finishing my top photography backpacks for 2021. There are opportunities for all kinds of photography, from short city trips to multi-day hikes with a lot of stuff. Read it through and make sure what you bring is appropriate for where you are going.


If you always have your camera with you, you are always ready to shoot when you see a good opportunity.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The important extras

The list above is really the essentials that you should take with you. How much more you take with you depends on how seriously you take your photography. Always consider having several spare batteries and a charger, as even the best cameras usually only give you a day’s worth of photos. There is nothing worse than going to a beautiful afternoon destination only to find that you have exhausted your strength in the morning. If you keep a spare in your bag, you can swap it out and keep shooting into the evening.

If your goal is to capture beautiful landscape views, filters called neutral density graduated filters are worth considering. These darken only the top half of a photo — to control overly clear skies — so you can capture an evenly lit scene. Shop around for square filter sets that allow you to use adapter rings for different lens sizes.


By using a neutral density filter, I was able to blur the movement of the water until it became a smooth and silky surface.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

If you want to experiment with long exposures, solid neutral density filters will help. These dim the light across the entire scene, allowing you to use slower shutter speeds without resulting in a photo that is completely blurred. The Big Stopper from Lee Filters is a fantastic filter, so dark you can take pictures of a few seconds or even longer in broad daylight. For capturing cloud trails passing through the sky, it’s worth a look, though it’s not cheap.

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