Here’s what’s inside my camera bag for travel photography at Walt Disney World, Disneyland and beyond–the Nikon mirrorless camera and lenses I use, tripod, and other gadgets. As we head into 2024, I’ve once again made changes to the photo gear I carry in the parks and on other trips.
I’ll start with a fair warning, which is that the 2024 edition of what’s inside my camera bag is substantially similar to last year’s edition. That post included added commentary about my meaning and purpose as a photographer, and what I continue to get out of the ritual of photography. I’ll spare you the low-tier mid-life crisis stuff this time.
Well, for the most part. Last year around this time, I was excited, feeling a renewed sense of purpose in photography. We had just returned from a month in Japan where I was, for the first time in a while, serious about taking photos. It was a reinvigorating and refreshing–I was falling back in love with my favorite hobby. I resolved myself to take more time to improve my photography and learn fresh techniques in the new year.
One month later…
Sarah and I found out we’d be having a baby. Of course, we were over the moon about this news. It’s something we’ve wanted for so, so long and thought would never happen. I probably don’t need to rehash all of that.
Less excited, at least to the extent that inanimate objects can have emotions, was my camera bag and hard drive of raw files, including those from that month in Japan, which had mostly yet to be touched. I probably don’t need to spell this out, either.
It’s been a busy year and my hobby photography has once again taken a backseat to just about everything else. Maybe I’ll try again in like 18 years, I guess? Although I’m pretty sure it’ll be all AI and neural links then. Maybe Robot Tom will have a built-in camera!
Regardless, the photography flame was reignited and I did make some strides in taking photography more serious this year when I had the chance, which was almost exclusively at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The biggest change wasn’t so much a change as it was going from a period of transition to one of confidence.
I mentioned last year that I made the move to mirrorless again, for what felt like the dozenth time. It didn’t previously “take” – presumably because I kept trying Sony mirrorless cameras. (No disrespect to Sony; they’re great cameras–just not for me.) This time, I did plenty of field testing beforehand and moved from Nikon DSLRs to Nikon mirrorless. A much easier and smoother transition.
At this point last year, I was carrying both the Nikon z 7II and Nikon D850 and using both. One year later, I find myself barely touching the D850. I took it with me as a backup camera to shoot parades at Halloween, which was the first and last time I had used the camera in months. It felt so foreign, archaic, and cumbersome.
It’s not, of course. That speaks more to me being a creature (dinosaur, naturally) of habit. Last year, I was still more comfortable with the DSLR, which amplified the “faults” of the mirrorless camera. Now, the tables have turned.
Not carrying the DSLR is one way my camera bag has slimmed down. As I’ve become more confident with mirrorless, I’ve also developed greater command over my lenses with it, including what I do and don’t like using. In turn, I’ve narrowed down what I regularly carry, with more lenses typically staying at home (and becoming earmarked for eBay as a result, once the holiday season slows down).
Honestly, my camera bag is a bit boring and common as a result. I used to pride myself in having a number of novel or under-the-radar lenses. As I grow older and (maybe?) wiser, I find myself prioritizing function over uniqueness.
With another long and rambling preface out of the way, let’s dig into what’s actually inside my camera bag for this year and 2024…
Nikon Z 7II – In many important regards, including dynamic range, high ISO performance, and color depth, this is the best camera I’ve ever used. It also has in-body stabilization, exceptional autofocus, and a range of features that are unique to the mirrorless system. Even after using it for over a year, I continue to discover new capabilities.
As a longtime Nikon shooter, I love (and have grown accustomed to) the layout and interface. It’s very similar to my beloved Nikon D850 in this regard, and while a matter of personal preference, the camera is a great ‘fit’ in my hands and my muscle memory from the Nikon DSLRs mostly transfers over.
I still don’t love everything about it–for example, I have issues with the intelligent focusing systems that never occurred with the D850, but I recognize that’s largely a “me problem” given the widespread praise for its autofocus. When viewed objectively, the Nikon Z 7II is far and away the best camera I’ve ever used. I like it more with each passing day, and suspect that’ll become truer as I unlock its full potential and continue getting more comfortable shooting with it.
Nikon 14-30mm f/4– While Sony has an exceptional 12-24mm and Nikon’s 14-24mm is still the gold standard, I wanted a smaller ultra-wide angle lens. After doing a ton of research and field-testing all three, this was my pick. I’m still incredibly satisfied.
I’ve owned over a dozen different ultra wide angle lenses over the years, and the Nikon 14-30mm is the most well-rounded of the bunch. In addition to its size, this lens is seriously sharp and the ‘long’ end of the zoom range is good enough for regular field of view photos.
It’s definitely not the best overall ultra wide angle on the market, and the f/4 aperture makes it a poor option for dark rides (but not necessarily low light, thanks to the in-body image stabilization). It’s still far and away my most-used lens, and one that delivers for me in a wide variety of settings. If I were a more creative photographer or still willing to lug around 25 pounds of lenses, I’d pick something different. Maybe I will again someday. As it stands, I’m very satisfied with the Nikon 14-30mm and have zero regrets over one year later.
Nikon Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR– Compromise is the name of the game with a lightweight mirrorless camera bag. This superzoom is the stereotypical ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ lens…or is it?!
When doing my initial bag assembly, I tested this head to head against the Nikon 24-120mm f/4. Aside from the aperture, I found the Nikon 24-200mm edged out that lens in every regard. I was shocked. Prior to this, I was using the Sony 24-240mm, and this lens absolutely blows that out of the water.
Suffice to say, the Nikon Z 24-200mm outperforms its superzoom stereotypes in just about every regard. It’s shockingly sharp, distortion is minimal, and autofocus is relatively snappy. Obviously, compromise still comes with the territory–it’s not as good as any of the individual lenses it would replace and there’s no bokeh to speak of. But as a superzoom for landscapes shot at f/8 or above? It’s unparalleled. Shockingly.
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. I cannot articulate what makes this lens special, but it has a certain je ne sais quoi that I’ve never found in any other prime lens.
It’s also the perfect focal length for walk-around shooting if you’re going to be using a prime, and is insanely good for dark ride photography, with snappy autofocus and that wide open f/1.4 aperture. I can’t say enough positive things about this lens–I just wish they made a version for Nikon mirrorless, because mine has seen better days after a decade-plus of heavy use.
Despite trying many similar lenses during the last 10 years, none have ever come close to the unique quality of the Sigma 35mm. At this point, I’ve given up. No prime lens is ever going to top this one for me.
Nikon 50mm f/1.8– The most recent addition to my camera bag for 2024, I picked up the nifty fifty for the first time in about a decade–and that was the cheapo ~$100 model. This purchase occurred after much deliberation about whether I should buy the 50mm or 85mm. (The longer lens would’ve been more distinct from my Sigma 35mm, but my hope was that this would replace both from time to time.)
I’m still not sure I made the right decision, but I do find myself carrying the Sigma 35 less and the Nikon 85 never as a result. So I guess that’s a decent answer. While it doesn’t have the “secret sauce” of the Sigma 35mm, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 is otherwise amazing, easily justifying its added cost over the old nifty fifty. It focuses quickly, sharpness is off the charts, and bokeh looks fantastic. Baby photos were my original motivation for buying this, but more and more, I find myself packing this lens, the 14-30mm, and 24-200mm–and that’s it.
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII– I love everything about this lens besides its weight and size, which is like saying I love Hummers minus their mileage. That’s pretty much its defining feature! I only carry this lens about 25% of the time or less, and the only reason it’s not 100% is the size and weight.
This is great for detail-oriented photography at Disney, parades, and its versatility is surprisingly strong. On the days it comes out with me, I really go crazy using it, pushing the creative uses for what might seem like a limited lens. Given how much I still use this, I anticipate upgrading to the mirrorless version if I can find a sale on it in 2024.
Rokinon 12mm Fisheye– Fisheye used to be my signature style. I’ve owned more fisheyes than any other lens type and for good reason–I used them more than just about any other lenses. In retrospect, that was way too much. I now look back at my photos that gratuitously and unnecessarily use the fisheye and wonder, what was I thinking?
This cheap and small manual focus Rokinon fisheye is more than sufficient for my now pretty limited use of fisheye. I really enjoy its sunburst, but honestly, wish they were even more over-the-top. If you’re going to use a fisheye, might as well go all-out! Regardless, I’d recommend spending as little money as possible on a fisheye lens, or not buying one at all.
Nikon Mount Adapter FTZ II– For years, I resisted mount adapters, telling myself (and others) that I’d fully commit to a system and buy/sell lenses accordingly. That was before selling, buying, selling, and rebuying DSLR gear. It was also before knowing that Sigma would never (seemingly?) make its Art lineup for the Nikon Z mount. The balance is odd with both the Sigma 35mm and Nikon 70-200mm, but that’s not really the fault of the adapter. Regardless, I find myself using this less and less, and would love to rid myself of it entirely in 2024.
Gear I Own But No Longer Use:
Nikon D850 — I still love this camera, and even after going mirrorless, would probably buy its successor if Nikon ever releases another DSLR in this line.
Nikon Z 40mm f/2– It’s small and light, but the quality and sharpness just aren’t good enough to pick this over the 35mm or 50mm.
Nikon 85mm f/1.8 – I love the idea of an 85mm lens, but this old ‘budget’ DSLR lens just has too many shortcomings.
LowePro Flipside 300 AW III – The move to mirrorless also allowed me to trade down camera bags. Previously, I was using the LowePro’s Turtle in a Half Shell, which is easily the dorkiest camera bag on the market, as it looks like a snapper went to a surplus store.
This bag is excellent. Way better than looking like a tactical terrapin. It’s not stylish, but it looks a bit more normal and has space for everything I carry–including a laptop–and can serve as my personal item when flying. Now that I’m carrying less gear (that photo is from last year, there’s never that many lenses in it these days), I have room for other items…like diapers!
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. (Many of these are pretty old and haven’t been updated in a while, but the underlying ideas and principles still apply.)
What do you think of the photography gear in my camera bag? Have you taken the mirrorless plunge? Sony, Nikon, or something else? What’s in your camera bag? If you use any of these cameras or 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!