Want to know what’s in my camera bag? In this post I talk about the DSLR and mirrorless cameras I use, plus lenses, tripods, and other photography equipment I carry to the Disney Parks and on other travel we do. This post has become an annual “tradition” this time of year in response to reader questions, and so you know what to include (or not include) on your gear wish lists.
Looking at posts about what’s inside the camera bags of other photographers is something I really enjoy, even if it’s ultimately destructive behavior. First, because it reminds me how photography isn’t necessarily unhip–that’s just me. Other photographers have bags that are practically curated, with cool stuff like leather-bound journals of field notes and those hipster instant cameras. By contrast, my bag is very utilitarian. (Although on a mysterious note, I did recently find a pair of socks in one of the pockets and I still have no clue how they get there.)
Second, and worse yet, because looking at other ‘what’s inside my camera bag’ lists gives me gear lust, which leads me to purchase things I really don’t need. That’s part of the reason why I post a new version of this list every year. It also serves as a good reminder: don’t be like me. I love to purchase new (photography) toys, but that’s hardly necessary. You can capture great photos on an iPhone or entry-level DSLR, and while newer cameras and faster lenses can enhance convenience, gear is only a small part of the equation in taking excellent photos.
For 2019, my camera bag is actually a tale of two camera bags. The utilitarian one with which you’re familiar if you’ve read past versions of this post, and a very hip one filled with trendy stuff as I go through the photographer’s version of a midlife crisis.
If you want to see more high resolution sample photos that I’ve taken, the best option my photography portfolio. Those shots also have the EXIF data for viewing, so you can get an idea of what settings, etc., I used. With that said, let’s take a look inside my camera bag…
On the DSLR front, this has been an uneventful year for me. Last year, I upgraded to the Nikon D850, along with a slew of new lenses that’ll work best for that DSLR. Following all of those changes, I actually (so far) have held true to my commitment not to purchase any new DSLR equipment this year.
Naturally, I had to find a way around that promise, so I jumped back into mirrorless. In actuality, this wasn’t to circumvent any self-imposed “embargo” on buying DSLR gear. As noted in last year’s camera bag post, and a few other posts, my DSLR camera bag was weighing on me–quite literally.
As we had been traveling a lot over the past year-plus, I found myself leaving the 25-pound DSLR camera bag behind entirely some days we’ve gone out. Carrying that multiple days in a row was beginning to take a toll on my back, and doctors claim that I’m not getting any younger, so there’s also that. I needed to find a solution that wasn’t simply an iPhone.
Lightweight (Mirrorless) Travel Bag
Sony a7 III– Enter the Sony a7 III. In many important regards, including dynamic range, high ISO performance, and color depth, the Sony a7 III holds its own with my Nikon D850. The fact that I think it’s close to evenly matched with the Nikon D850, the gold standard of DSLRs, should say a lot. This is especially true when the Sony a7 III costs ~$1,300 less.
One of the difficulties with determining whether mirrorless is right for you is that it’s such a polarizing topic with entrenched positions, sometimes irrationally so. DSLR devotees want to find any reason to knock it, and team mirrorless tends to have blind spots for the technology’s shortcomings. As an “antidote” to this divisiveness, I’ve staked out a middle ground, and share the pros and cons in “Going Mirrorless Again: My Sony a7 III Experience” on TravelCaffeine.com. Suffice to say, I’ve been relatively happy with the decision to go mirrorless this go-round, but the camera isn’t without flaws.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack – If you are at the intersection of “cool” and “photographer,” there’s a 79.4% chance you use this camera bag. As someone who only, nominally, qualifies for the latter term, I have to admit that I don’t quite get the hype.
The Peak Design Everyday Backpack is undeniably stylish, thoughtfully designed, and has a number of sly features, but as a functional camera bag, it leaves a bit to be desired. With that said, I really like it as a normal (you might say every day) backpack when I need to carry my laptop, coat, other assorted items, and my Sony a7 III. It’s perfect for urban travel, and that’s how I primarily use it.
Voigtlander 10mm– As a member of the ultra-wide angle cult, this lens is a big reason why I wanted to go mirrorless in the first place. For the most part, this lens has not disappointed. It’s small, sharp, and well-built. Given that it’s 4mm wider than my DSLR wide angle, it’s also something unique to my mirrorless set-up that sometimes compels me to use mirrorless over the DSLR.
Sony 24-240mm– When assembling a light mirrorless camera bag, “compromise” is the name of the game. This is by far the largest lens I own, and to be honest, it’s not that great. It’s a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ type of lens.
However, it covers the entire focal range I need, and is a necessary lens in my current camera bag. That might change if I opt to buy the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8.
Rokinon 35mm f/2.8– This lens is small, light, and great for food photos and other instances where shallow depth of field is necessary. However, at f/2.8, it’s not exactly fast, which has led me to wish I had purchased the Sony 50mm f/1.8 instead.
Gear Sherpa (DSLR) Bag
Nikon D850 – For me, this remains the gold standard of cameras. As a landscape photographer who dabbles in other fields, it is flawless in every important regard from autofocus to resolution to dynamic range.
As noted above, the Sony a7 III comes close to the Nikon D850 in a lot of important regards, but this is still superior, and my workhouse camera I use for every “important” scenario. That’s in part because of my better Nikon lens lineup, but also because I feel this is the slightly better camera. For many photographers, especially those primarily sharing pics on Instagram, the D850 is going to be serious overkill, though.
LowePro ProTactic 450 AW – I’ve mocked LowePro’s “Turtle in a Half Shell” as the dorkiest camera bag on the market (quite the feat if you’ve seen just how dorky camera bags can look), but it’s so functional that I recently purchased my second one of these after wearing out my first.
Looks aside, the LowePro ProTactic is the ultimate utilitarian camera bag. There’s zero wasted space, a great interior layout, and it’s a breeze at Disney bag check. It also fits all of my gear–and a laptop–as my personal item when flying.
Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art– I switched from my “dream lens” (the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8) to this late last year, and I’m still really happy with the decision. The Sigma 14mm f/1.8 is every bit as sharp as the Nikon, and offers a fairly significant advantage in low light scenarios thanks to its f/1.8 aperture.
The creative possibilities are also greater, and honestly, I don’t miss the zoom range of the Nikon at all. Prime lenses like this are not for everyone, but this is an upgrade that has worked out well for me.
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 – The first Sigma Art lens is still the best. The bokeh is beautiful & buttery, the lens is insanely sharp, and the photos have a distinct “look” to them that pops straight out of camera. It’s also the perfect focal length for walk-around shooting if you’re going to be using a prime.
I find myself reaching for the Sigma 35mm Art lens almost as much as my ultra-wide. I can’t say enough positive things about this lens, and it’s one of the few lenses that I think belongs in every full frame photographer’s camera bag irrespective of their style and what they shoot. Here’s my full review of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens.
Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art– For the last few years, I’ve commented about how this lens is adequate, but that I want to go back to the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC because it’s sharp, has decent bokeh, and the VC makes it great in low light.
Assuming I don’t have make any other big camera purchases, impulse buys, or have to make costly repairs, that’s a switch I’ll be making in 2019.
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII – On the days I don’t leave this behind in the hotel room due to its weight, I use it a lot. It’s great for detail-oriented photography at Disney, parades, and its creative versatility is surprisingly strong.
That last line might not be a common way to describe a 70-200, but I think it’s totally apt. (My “Using Telephoto Lenses at Disney” covers that.) I really love this lens, and definitely should make a point of using it–and carrying its tripod mount–more often.
Nikon 85mm f/1.8– Previously, I used this lens almost exclusively for night parades and events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
This year, I’ve been using it for more creative scenarios, especially on days when I don’t carry the Nikon 70-200mm (it’s usually an either/or situation with these two lenses).
Rokinon 12mm Fisheye– Last year, I “upgraded” to the Nikon 8-15mm Fisheye and had a bit of buyer’s remorse. However, I never sold this one. This year, I decided to revert back to the cheaper, smaller Rokinon fisheye, which is more than sufficient for my now pretty limited use of fisheye.
Unless you’re using the fisheye a ton (it used to be my signature style), I’d recommend spending as little money as possible on a fisheye lens, or not buying one at all.
Luxi L III Tripod – This is the perfect Disney tripod, and I use it with both the Sony a7 III and Nikon D850. I’ve searched high and low for something better, and I keep coming back to the Luxi L. I’m convinced that there is no better mix of weight, height, stability, set-up/take-down quickness, and price.
I reviewed the Luxi L here a few years ago, and still agree with that. Every tripod is a compromise in some regard, and I think the Luxi L is the best compromise for Disney photography.
Those are the main items in my camera bag, plus (of course) various smaller accessories. I share the top ones I use in my Top 10 Photography Accessories for Disney post, and those are still the same ones I use most regularly.
If you do want to purchase new photography equipment, we recommend the following trusted & authorized retailers. Buying from these retailers helps support this blog, and doesn’t cost you a thing: Amazon B&H Photo Adorama
If you want more in-depth reviews of a broader selection of equipment, the best place to start is Tom’s Ultimate Disney Parks Photography Guide, which covers a variety of topics from links to tutorials, tips, and tricks to recommendations for point & shoots, DSLRs, lenses, and more!
What do you think of the gear in my camera bag? What’s in your camera bag? If you use any of these lenses, what do you think of them? Any questions? Hearing feedback from other photographers is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!