Travel Filmmaking & Photography: Our Ultimate Camera Equipment Guide

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

A list of what we use to make cinematic travel films on road as 'Jits into the Sunset'.



What's included:


What camera equipment and editing software we use for our travel films, is by far our most frequently asked question. In this blog, we talk you through it all:

  1. Main Camera, Lenses and Filters

  2. Action Camera, Mounts and Mods

  3. Drone and Accessories

  4. Camera Backpack and Tripod

  5. Post Production tools (Editing Software , Voice Over Mic and Music Libraries)

  6. Useful Extras

To ensure we are as helpful as possible, we've included pros and cons, budget alternatives, as well as items on our wish-list. We really do hope you find this valuable. If you do, feel free to share and tell us in the comments, so we know to keep blogging!


Also, kindly note that where possible, we have included our affiliate links. It means that that if you buy a product or brand based on our recommendation, then we stand to make a small bit of money, at no extra cost to you. Since our travel films are mostly self-funded, this is a great and FREE way to support us, if you enjoy and value our work. So, thank you. OK let's get into it...


It's been a journey:


Since my first road trip in 2013, I’ve been trying to refine, upgrade and perfect my camera kit bag. Back in 2013, writing a kit list for travel meant making a lot of sacrifices in quality to save space in your bag. My first travel set up was a GoPro 3. That was it. Nothing else. Since then, I’m pleased to say, camera technology has come a long way, and you can fit the tools you need to make a cinematic masterpiece into one backpack!


What to consider for travel filmmaking and photography:


I’ve always liked a simple set up. Even in my professional work I prefer to keep things simple, so I can just pick up the camera, run and gun, without too much set up. It makes you more flexible and you’re less likely to miss the moment. Also, if it's ready to just pick up and start shooting, you’re more likely to want to actually pick it up and press record. It's worth noting that I spend days/weeks researching products, reading reviews and considering purchases for months, before taking the plunge. Good quality camera kit is a long term (professional and personal) investment for me.I'd rather save for longer to buy better quality, than skimp out and be disappointed or feel the need to upgrade each year.



1. CAMERAS, LENSES & FILTERS



OUR MAIN CAMERA - SONY A7III


While there is still no such thing as a perfect camera, it’s getting closer. We mainly use a Sony A7iii which can shoot great stills and video. It can shoot 4K and excellent slow motion in HD. It’s a very good all round camera. Sony have gotten a lot of stick for the menu set up in their cameras, but once you’ve spent some time using it, I think it’s fine. Plus you have the option to make a user menu with shortcuts to your most used menu items.


PROS

  • Excellent for both video and photo

  • In camera image stabilisation

  • Full frame slow motion

  • Small camera with professional level image

CONS

  • Expensive

  • Not very robust or weather resistant

LOWER BUDGET ALTERNATIVE:

The image quality isn’t as good and features aren’t as advanced, but if you're after bang for your buck, then the Sony A6000 is a great choice.


WISHLIST CAMERA:

The Sony A7siii has recently been announced and looks like a monster! The bit rate, slow motion features and colour science look like a big step up. Perhaps not as strong for photography though.


TANIA'S CAMERA:

Tania takes her pictures with a Fujifilm XT3. The Fuji colours are always beautifully vivid and this camera can shoot good video too. However, when shooting for our travel films, Tania is far more confident picking up my Sony A7iii. This also makes it easier for me in the edit when matching the colour grade.



LENSES

  • Sony 24-70mm f2.8 (our main lens)

  • Canon 16-35mm f4

  • Canon 70-200mm f2.8 (Typically would not bring this travelling BUT since we had the space in Jits, we are very glad we did. It has allowed us to get some great close up shots of far away subjects (like the vultures flying over us on a pre-historic hike in Spain!)


FILTERS


A good CPL filter should never be overlooked. It takes the edge off bright conditions and is necessary for reducing glare, reflections, and undesirable dynamic contrasts. We choose Urth's filters for all our lenses. Urth (previously named Gobe) is a eco-friendly and sustainable company, who plant 5 trees from each purchase. We are also big fans of their plant-based lens cleaner which has lasted us ages. You might also be interested in the lens cleaning kit. Needless to say, taking care of your lenses should never ben overlooked.


2. ACTION CAMERA AND ACCESORIES


VLOGGING & ACTION CAM - GOPRO HERO 9


I’ve always loved GoPros. You can fit them in your pocket, they’re virtually indestructible and they capture good images. We recently upgraded from the GoPro 8 to the GoPro 9.


We use a GoPro as our vlogging camera for a few reasons; it’s small so isn’t intrusive making it easier to speak to it naturally, it has a very wide field of view so it really shows your surroundings and everything is on auto so you don’t need to worry about focus or exposure. You can also get very interesting angles with them and shoot underwater. This is why we always recommend GoPros to anyone who is looking to start vlogging.


That said, GoPros still have their drawbacks; they can’t handle high contrast or low light very well and sometimes ours has frozen for no reason. The main disadvantage has been the microphone - it only takes a small amount of wind to ruin the sound. This is the main reason we upgraded to the GoPro 9, so we could fix the external microphone mod and improve our audio quality. So far, so good!


It's worth nothing that the battery life on the GoPro 9 is considerably longer and so we're happy with just one battery. However, for older models, we've always had a few batteries. Whilst 3rd party batteries are cheaper we've found that they drain way to quickly, so worth investing in the official GoPro batteries.

PROS

  • Really small and easy to carry everywhere

  • Tough and fully waterproof

  • Brilliant stabilisation

  • Good slow motion

  • Easy to use (we set it so we can turn on & start recording with one click - so we never miss a moment)

  • The new front screen is handy to quickly check exposure and white balance

  • Longer lasting battery (than previous models)


CONS

  • Bad in poor lighting conditions

  • Seperate mic mod needed to improve audio

  • Fixed lens so not very versatile

  • Not waterproof when the Media Mod is attached

LOWER BUDGET ALTERNATIVES: Earlier GoPro models


Try second hand GoPro 6/7/8. I haven’t got any experience with alternative GoPro style cameras, but I know that GoPro’s have always been good. The more recent the model the more advanced the features but that doesn’t mean you can’t get great results with the previous models. Now that the GoPro 9 is out, you could get a good deal on a second hand GoPro 8. The GoPro 7 is still very good (we shot our Ireland vlog footage on this).


ON THE WISHLIST: Sony RX2.


I haven’t got my hands on one of these yet but it’s basically Sony's answer to the GoPro. About twice the price, but maybe you get what you pay for?! Check it out for yourself here.


MOUNTS & MODS




3. DRONE & ACCESORIES



DRONE - DJI MAVIC PRO 2


We fly the DJI Mavic Pro 2. I love this drone. In terms of image quality to size ratio, at time of writing, it’s the best out there. For travel filming I would never recommend a big drone because you will never take it out with you and they’re big, loud and intrusive if other people are in the vicinity. The DJI Mavic Pro 2 is great for stills and solid 4K video. It also has slow motion options but to be honest I’ve hardly used the slow motion features because you lose some quality.

PROS

  • Fold-up arms for convenient storage

  • Good image quality

  • Easy to use flight modes

  • Good flight range

  • Good flight time (31 mins)

CONS

  • For what you would expect from a drone I can’t really think of any.


LOWER BUDGET ALTERNATIVES: DJI MINI / DJI MINI2

The DJI Mini and DJI Mini 2 are absolutely tiny drones. Great for travel and for beginners. It's also worth noting that since this drone is under 250g, it makes it easier/legal to fly it almost everywhere without a license.


WISHLIST: There isn’t a drone out there that I would prefer... just waiting to see what the DJI Mavic Pro 3 is going to be like!



OUR DRONE ACCESSORIES

  • Controller: For those looking to up their droning game, I've found the DJI Mavic Pro 2 Controller a great investment. Here are the main advantages vs. using a phone screen:

- Stronger connection to drone (can fly further)

- Brighter screen, so its easier to see what you're doing, even in bright conditions.

- Quite good battery life

- Compact, all in one solution (no need to worry about having phone on hand and charged)

  • Extra Batteries: We carry 3 drone batteries to ensure we never miss the moment. They are expensive BUT I've never regretted this investment

  • Protection: Tania often makes fun of me for having boxes for all my kit. However, I really do believe that if you look after your kit, it looks after you. This is why I have boxes to pack and protect my drone as well as protect my batteries.

  • If it's sunny and bright I never shoot drone footage without these filters.



4. THE ULTIMATE BACKPACK & TRIPOD




BACKPACK BY PEAKDESIGN - 30L


Backpacks are often overlooked but for me, they are a wise investment to protect my kit on the go. I’ve

had a lot of backpacks over the years but my PeakDesign Everyday Backpack 30l is certanly one of my favourites. It’s a very nice design with a lot of space and a decent amount of compartments. It can fit my laptop, camera, drone and accessories, no problem. It has side pockets and a strap for carrying a small tripod (it’s specifically designed to work with PeakDesigns own tripod). It also comes with a waterproof cover, incase you get caught in some unpredictable weather. For us, this came in particularly useful in Scotland and Switzerland!!


PROS

  • High quality, designed to last.

  • Very Spacious. I can easily fit my 15" laptop, camera, drone, batteries and accessories.

  • The padded compartments are easy access with zips on either side of the bag.

  • PeakDesign offset their carbon emissions

  • PeakDesign use recycled textiles


CON (WITH TIP)

  • This bag does not come with an in-built waist strap which can become a little uncomfortable after long hikes BUT we have just ordered their newly released waist strap and are excited to try it!


LOWER BUDGET ALTERNATIVE

Honestly, I have never looked into cheap bags because I have always wanted to make sure I get a good bag to protect my kit. I would however recommend looking at LOWEPRO, they are a good brand who have a large range of bags so their budget options could be a good choice. As long as you keep your drone/camera well padded, you could get away with repurposing an existing bag - and buy a waterproof cover just in case!



TRIPOD


I've owned this inexpensive travel tripod for 5 years now. It's a very basic tripod and it's served me well.


On my wish list in the PeakDesign Travel Tripod for it's excellent design. It's also sturdier than the one I currently own. It's a big investment so I won't be upgrading until I absolutely need to.


5. POST PRODUCTION



EDITING SOFTWARE


I have used Adobe for years and now (I edit with Premiere Pro) with the subscription service, we get regular updates with constant new features and bug fixes. It’s a really powerful software and can do everything you need and more, especially when you partner it with fellow Adobe softwares such as After Effects.


PROS

  • Intuitive

  • Expandable through other Adobe software and various 3rd party plugs

CONS

  • Monthly expense


BUDGET ALTERNATIVE: DaVinci Resolve Lite.

DaVinci Resolve Lite is FREE! The full version of DaVinci Resolve started life as a colour grading software being used extensively in post production houses across Hollywood. It’s now progressed to become a very capable video editor, while still keeping its colour grading capabilities. If I were to start again I would probably skip Adobe and go straight to DaVinci Resolve Lite. A software as powerful and professional as DaVinci Resolve Lite being free, is not common.

FILM CONVERT PRO

A plugin that is compatible with almost all editing software, Film Convert is an emulation software that mimics the look of film stocks which you set according to your camera. You can tweak parameters such as film grain, contrast and colour intensity. But be mindful that this isn’t a one stop shop for colour grading. You still need to do work on matching your footage and contrast etc.

PROS

  • Easy to use

  • Adds nice cinematic colours

  • Fast colour grading

CONS

  • Limited selection of film stocks

LOWER BUDGET ALTERNATIVE:

Free film stock LUTS (LUTS are basically just filters) are available from various online sources (just Google ‘Free stock LUTS'). These can be hit and miss but if you dig around you will definitely find some lovely filters!


ON THE WISHLIST:

Film Convert Nitrate. This is the upgrade form Film Convert Pro. As far as I can tell, it just has some more features to tweak your look. I haven’t made the upgrade yet as I’m happy using Film Convert Pro and making my own colour tweaks in Premier Pro.

MUSIC & SFX:

Affordable and quality royalty free music and sound effect libraries are often hard to come by. We use an even split of tracks from Epidemic Sounds and Artlist.io.



VOICE OVER MIC

We recently upgraded to this voiceover mic plus pop filter. The No.1 choice amongst podcasters too!



6. USEFUL EXTRAS



We really do hope you find this valuable. If you do, please share with friends, and feel free to post your feedback/questions in the comments section we will be answering to them all. It might help others, plus it hearing from you helps us get found on Google search. THANK YOU!!!



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 © 2020 Jits Into The Sunset   -  JitsIntoTheSunset@gmail.com

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