Decades ago in the era of film I remember traveling in Europe with two camera bodies, three lenses, a flash and sundry accessories. I was younger then but the weight of all that gear took a heavy toll. Today there are many choices for travelling light with a minimum of photo gear and still get better than acceptable results.
A professional DSLR is definitely not essential for professional photography. Unless someone else is footing the bill, a lighter consumer model is more than adequate if a DSLR is your preference. But you can easily shave more weight off your kit with a mirrorless, a bridge camera or even a point-and-shoot. Some people use a smartphone as their primary travel camera. But serious travel photography should involve a camera with manual controls and interchangeable lenses or at least a respectable zoom range on a built-in lens.
For a light weight camera with interchangeable lenses, mirrorless is an excellent choice. These cameras are considerably smaller than a DSLR yet deliver equivalent performance and lens choice. The wide range of mirrorless cameras available is beyond the scope of this blog, but reviews of the many mirrorless choices can be found on this link.
Bridge cameras fall between a point-and-shoot and a DSLR or mirrorless. They have many of the same controls but without interchangeable lenses. These include ultrazooms with an extended optical range of 60x or more such as the Nikon Coolpix p600. The telephoto end of the zoom is impressive but performance sometimes falls short at the wide angle end. Also the maximum aperture is much smaller than that of interchangeable fixed focal length lenses. Low light performance is not as good. But a bridge camera will deliver excellent results at a considerable savings in weight.
Point-and-shoots are the smallest, lightest cameras available. They definitely take the travel light prize. But a point-and-shoot is no DSLR—limited controls, auto focus only, much smaller sensor, noticeable shutter lag, limited zoom range and so on. Click here for a DSLR vs point-and-shoot comparison.
But despite its limitations, a point-and-shoot will provide acceptable results and there are ways to stretch the performance even further. Most of these cameras have a panorama mode that can help overcome lens limitations and file size. By shooting two or more vertical shots at stitching them together in panorama you can produce a wide angle horizontal composition with much greater coverage than a single shot. It is also a larger file with more megapixels like this three-shot panorama.
Whatever camera you use, there is a wide choice of models that will cut down the weight factor considerably. In the next blog we will consider accessories and camera support equipment.