Inside My Camera Bag for 2020
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. 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.
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 2020, 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. (On the plus side, my camera bags haven’t really changed much in the last year!)
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. I’ve actually have held true to my commitment not to purchase any new DSLR equipment–I haven’t bought a single new lens in nearly two years!
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.
There are some big downsides of this lens–which I delve into in thorough detail in my VoigtlÃ¤nder 10mm f/5.6 Hyper Wide Angle Lens Review (I’d highly recommend reading that if you’re considering this lens). Overall, I’m a fan.
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 at some point later in 2020.
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:
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!
Hi Tom, I’d love to know how your gear has changed, if it has changed, over the past 2 years. In particular, do you carry less/is it smaller? Mirrorless? I’m in my second month of dealing with a Disney photo trip induced backache — yes, I did overpack. How do you avoid back problems? Usually, I can get away with two bodies, two to three lenses, and a small tripod, but not this year. (A fast prime body for dark rides and a zoom body for every place else.) Inquiring minds want to know!
Would love a 2022 update as well!
Will actually have a 2022 update at some point in the next 2-3 months. In the process of testing and assembling my new mirrorless bag, so stay tuned! 🙂
I think we need a 2021/22 update of whats in the camera bag. Are you upgrading to the a7iv? Biggest question is why the 24-240? The 24-105 f4 is better quality, a little less range, or I’m guessing this is pre Tamron’s 28-200 which is definitly sharper than the 24-240. I’m trying to get my hands on a 35-150 f2-2.8. But I hear its a little bulky. Anyway, would love to know whats in the bag today.
I’m about to move to Nikon’s mirrorless system, but not until early 2022. Will update then!
Loved your Post, Thanks for sharing valuable information.
Awesome Post & very helpful, Thanks for sharing
I’m knee-deep in planning a 2 week honeymoon to Japan in October this year and my Sony A6000 will be coming along for the ride. I’ve come to love the prime Sony lenses and use them more than a zoom lens. I switch between 16mm, 35mm and 50mm all f 1.8. But I did pick up the relatively new 18-135 mm Sony zoom lens and it’s a great do everything lens. It got better reviews than the 18-200 mm one and it’s smaller and lighter. I still have a 55-210 mm if I want more zoom. Are there any particular camera gear or accessories that are a must have for Japan?
I am also a big fan of the Sony A7 series (have the A7iii myself too). I am surprised that you didn’t go for the A7Riii since to match the higher MP of the Nikon 850. Plus the viewfinder is a higher resolution than the A7iii. For lenses I would go with the Sony 55mm F1.8 vs. the 50mm F1.8; it is one of the sharpest lenses for full frame on the planet (in the top 10 on DXO Mark for all lenses). Plus it focuses faster than the 50 F1.8 especially in dark situations; it is my go to lens on dark rides.
If you don’t need the longer reach; the Tamron 28-75 is top notch; sharp corner to corner even at F2.8. For $800 it is a steal.
For light weight I also love the combination of the 35F2.8 (I have the Sony Zeiss version). The size is great, but I am hoping Sony will make a 35F1.8. It is rumored for 2019.
Keep shooting, Jeff.
Thanks. I’m trying to avoid spending money on my blossoming camera gear addiction.
And I ended up buying the Sony 50mm f1.8. I love it. It’s awesome for my food photography, and has done a couple of good baby pics, too. Totally worth the money for this amateur.
Will there be a follow up piece where you talk about that really cool camera strap on the Sony? Also, it appears to be holiday themed, so do you switch out your camera straps for different seasons?
Thank you for sharing!
Still loving our a7rIII, a7rII and a6000 setups with Peak Design bags. We switched out the 24-240 to a backup lens and use the 24-70GM and I lug the 70-200GM around. I rented the 12-24 G lens for our last trip in August when we saw you guys and LOVED it but I’m looking at the Laowa 12mm Zero-D lens for a wide option. Glad to see you back (at least a bit) in the Sony world.
As am I. Lol.
I love the embedded profiles and being able to apply the film simulations in LR. Recently I’ve been experimenting with blending the different simulations by creating two different files with the chosen sims applied and then export them to Photoshop where I copy one onto the other and use the opacity slider for the layer to get the look I want.
Enjoy that T3 and those lenses!
D’oh this was meant to be in reply to the thread at the bottom.
One area I’d recommend for anyone is to look at used gear. I was able to get an RX100 IV for $250 off eBay because the owner didn’t know what they had. It works perfectly. I’ve also bought other equipment at 50% or less of new because someone tried out a new system and didn’t like it.
One day, after the kids graduate from college, we will have the funds to purchase all of those amazing lenses, too. Only 16 more years to go. Will have to slum it until then.
Tom…still using the rx100 as well? I think it takes the best video of any camera I have ever owned and the range on the photo side is great esp when you just want something to pocket.
Glad you came back to Sony as I also got a7iii and all the focus problems, battery limitations and such are now fixed and just work. It’s a great camera and I don’t see me upgrading for a long while.
I’ve gone the complete opposite direction! I downsized from D750/D850 > Fujifilm X-T3. It’s a fantastic camera, with dynamic range that competes with the D750. The Fujinon 16mm 1.4 is one of the best lenses I’ve ever used! I’ve not missed full frame in the slightest. I’ve also said bye bye to the Protactic…. that bag was great, but the straps were always so uncomfortable. There’s a new version, which I’ve looked at in person – the dividers seem lesser in quality. I’ve settled on the Wandrd Prvke 31. I was between that and the Peak Design… I agree wholeheartedly it’s not a great camera bag. The Wandrd has been fantastic, a perfect blend of everything. Plus, it opens in the back with is a huge deal for me.
Another vote for Fuji here. I lucked out and scored an amazing price on an X-T20 which allowed me to upgrade from my beloved first ILC, an X-E1. (That is now a wonderful backup and I still in some ways prefer for portraiture) I use the Rokinon 12mm as my UWA, but would love to get my hands on a 16 1.4. I also added the Fuji 35 1.4 to my kit this year and WOW is that a gem of a lens. It’s not the fastest focusing lens in the line, but it has an absolutely magical quality to the images. It’s barely left my T20 since I paired the two up.
So my planned bag for Disneyland this spring is the Fuji 18-55, 35 1.4 and Rokinon 12/2. That leaves me lacking anything longer than 55mm so I am considering bringing my adapted Nikon 75-150 3.5, (my only telephoto lens) but I’m worried about the size and weight and hauling it around.
I went all in about 2 weeks after owning the X-T3. 8mm Samyang/Rokinon Fisheye, Fujinon 10-24mm F4, Fujinon 16mm F1.4, 50MM F2, and 55-200mm F3.5-4.8mm. I would love Fuji to do their own 9MM similar to Laowa. This kit is really compact and light.
What I’m finding I’m loving the most, besides all of the great stuff I’ve already mentioned, is that lens profiles are embedded into the RAW files… not having to do lens correction in Lightroom seems like something trivial… but it’s quite nice. I also just found the Fuji color profiles/film simulations can be accessed in Lightroom as well.
There will be people who look down on the size of the sensor and less DOF – this really isn’t an issue for those who are taking architectural Disney Park’s photography. The camera software is highly intuitive and the features it has makes me feel as if I’ve been using Windows Vista while using Nikon cameras. If you haven’t already figured out, I am a huge fan of what Fuji is doing! Alright back to breakfast…. 🙂
Another Fuji shooter here. So much fun. The 18-135 goes everywhere with me.