We’re just two days away from the next SOOC Livebroadcast! Fujifilm X-Photographer Nathalie Boucry and I will finish our discussion on Travel Photography, share your pictures (better upload your pictures quick if you haven’t yet), and answer any questions that you might have. It will be a great time, and I hope to see you there!
This was the final day of my trip to California’s Central Coast. Only the morning was spent at the ocean—my wife and I took the kids tide pooling, which was a lot of fun. Afterwards we hit the road back home, waving goodbye the Pacific coast.
I love the ocean, and find myself often drawn to it. The central coast of California is probably my favorite stretch of shoreline—such a magical place! I enjoyed time with my family, and the lasting memories we made together. The two days spent with Ken Rockwell and Dave Wyman were great—I captured a bunch of photographs and learned some things. Hopefully I can join in on one of their other tours in the future. This was a good week, and it was sad that it seemed to end so soon. I guess that means I’ll have to return, perhaps for a bit longer next time.
The photographs below are in order of when they were captured. The picture at the top of this article, Yellow Kayaks, White Trucks, fits in-between Seaside Home and Blue & Yellow. The second photo, Rocky Water, fits in-between Yellow Kayaks in the Big Blue and Jon & Crab Claw. I hope that you enjoy these pictures, and have appreciated the photographs throughout this series!
That’s it! You’ve reached the end of the Central Coast of California tour. I had so much fun, and I hope you did, too!
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Day 5, Part 2 — June 9, 2023 — San Simeon & Morro Bay
There were twelve photographers on the Central Coast tour: Dave Wyman, Ken Rockwell, myself, and nine others. Seven of those nine had previously been on at least one other of these tours (some had been on several), which I think speaks strongly of the value the excursions. It was mostly an older crowd; there was a young college student, I was second youngest (at 43), and I’m pretty sure everyone else was in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s—most above the age of 60. One was shooting Canon. Three had Sony. I, of course, was using Fujifilm. The other seven had Nikon. Ken seems to especially like Nikon, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that so many on this tour had that brand. I believe there were more DSLRs than mirrorless. I saw a lot of long telephoto lenses.
For this part of Day 5, after the abandoned cars, we wound our way back to the Pacific Coast Highway, then up to Elephant Seal Vista Point north of San Simeon. I had already photographed this location on Day 2, so I used the opportunity to try some underutilized lenses in my bag, and take a more laid-back approach. Following that, we went to the San Simeon Pier below Hearst Castle. The last stop of the day was Morro Bay to photograph the famous monolith.
The group was going to assemble one more time the next morning, but I wasn’t going to join them, so this was the end of Ken and Dave’s tour for me. I captured a lot of images—more than I’ve shown in this article series—and it was a highly rewarding experience. I would definitely recommend it, for anyone considering joining one of these tours in the future. It was very insightful, and I had a good time. I said goodbye and called it a night.
The photographs below are in order of when they were captured. The picture at the top of this article, Flowers on the Coastal Bluffs, was the first image captured during this part of the day. The second photo, Boats in the Bay, fits in-between Lifeguard Tower 1 and Cocktail Cruise. I hope that you enjoy the pictures!
Day 5, Part 1 — June 9, 2023 — Morro Bay, Cayucos, Harmony & Cambria
I’ve been asked by several of you, “What’s Ken Rockwell like?”
He’s been quite popular for a very long time, as Ken Rockwell’s website is one of the longest running in all of photography. He’s a controversial character, and people seem to either love or hate him. On this day, because we were assigned to the same car, I had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with him, and we talked about a lot of things. To a limited extent, I got to know the real Ken Rockwell.
Ken was born and raised in New York City. Like a stereotypical New Yorker, he has an opinion that he’s not afraid to share. He tells it like it is; don’t expect anything to be sugarcoated. He’s honest. He’s very knowledgeable—when he’s interested in something, he dives deeply into it and becomes an expert. He asks a lot of questions, and you can tell he’s a logical person. Ken’s also very funny, with a dry humor that often utilizes sarcasm.
Those who hate Ken Rockwell (yes, hate is a strong word, but it’s often used in this context) seem to either be put off by his strong opinions, dislike something controversial he said, don’t believe he’s a good photographer, or are jealous of his success. To the first, I’ll say this: Ken is upfront about where he stands. Sometimes two people can look at the same thing and come to opposite conclusions; it’s always ok to agree to disagree. To the second, I’ll say this: without nonverbal cues, deciphering when someone on a website is stating opinion vs. making a sarcastic joke can be difficult, so if something sounds offensive, perhaps it wasn’t said in seriousness, and the benefit of the doubt should be given. I would caution against running with assumptions. If you want to know for sure, just ask! Ken is a nice guy who I’m sure would answer your questions. To the third, I’ll say this: every artist has strengths and weaknesses. I actually had a conversation with Dave Wyman about this. Ken’s photographic strengths are capturing striking colors, making the ordinary appear interesting, and in-studio product pictures. To the fourth, I’ll say this: haters are going to hate, I suppose. Just because someone else is successful and you are not doesn’t mean that you’ll never be, or that they don’t deserve to be.
I enjoyed interacting with Ken on this trip, and learned several things from him about the photography industry. The conversations were very insightful, and Ken was kind to share his knowledge and experiences with me. Anyone who thinks he is a bad person has not met him in-person.
With all of that out of the way, let’s get to the first part of Day 5 of the Central Coast of California tour!
We met up once again at a hotel in San Luis Obispo. Because it was forecasted to be overcast, we began a little later than the day before. We loaded up into a few cars, and caravanned up the Pacific Coast Highway. The first stop was at a beach on the north end of Morro Bay, followed by Cayucos, which is a cool little coastal community. Then we visited Harmony, a tiny tourist town that would be easy to overlook, but is actually quite interesting, photogenic, and tasty (if, like me, you enjoy ice cream). Afterwards, we turned down an unassuming road near Cambria and drove way back into the hills, where we found some abandoned antique cars.
What’s crazy about the cars is that after winding down this barely used backroad for miles, we parked and walked up a side road (if you can even call it a road), then up a barely visible steep trail to the top of a hill. Once your eyes crest the top, you see the cars; otherwise, they’re hidden. I asked Dave, “How did you even find this place?” He answered, “As I was exploring the road, I saw a glint of light. It was just for a moment. So I came up here to find out what it was.” The cars are on private property, but Dave befriended the owner, a legit fifth generation rancher who’s great-great-grandfather settled the land before California was even a state.
The photographs below are in order of when they were captured. The picture at the top of this article, Abandoned Classics, fits in-between Classic Oak and Dodge, Didn’t Dodge. The second image, Ice Flower & Chain Link, fits in-between Ken & Dave and Classic Rear Fender. The third image, Old Window Blinds, was the first photograph of the day.
Day 4, Part 2 — June 8, 2023 — Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo, Montaña de Oro & Pismo Beach
Buckle up! Part 2 of Day 4 was very busy, and I captured a whole bunch of pictures. I don’t like to include any more than 50 photographs in an article because it can cause the page to load slowly (even 50 can be problematic), but I exceeded that pretty significantly here. If the images are not loading quickly, I apologize up front. On the positive side, if you like viewing photos, there are a ton to enjoy!
After Prefumo Canyon, Dave Wyman led the tour to Avila Beach where we walked down the historic Harford Pier, built in 1919. There used to be a townsite at the pier called Port Hatford, which was founded in 1871, but the pier is pretty much all that remains today. Although it’s still a working pier, it is open to the public, and you can even drive down it.
The midday sun was high, which isn’t the best time for photography, but I kept my eye out for picture opportunities anyway. Something I have learned is that there are photographic opportunities anytime of the day or night if you look hard enough, and it is up to the photographer to find them. Some times of the day, such as golden hour, tend to offer more obvious options, but even during midday sunlight there are chances to use your camera.
After the pier we hiked a short distance down the Bob Jones City-to-the-Sea Trail, then we headed back to San Luis Obispo to visit the historic Octagon Barn. This unusual structure is one of those places you’d not likely stop at unless your tour guide drove you there, which is exactly what Dave did. The site is surprisingly well kept and photogenic.
The next stop was Montaña de Oro State Park near Los Osos, which is just an incredible place! This landscape is quite diverse, with steep cliffs, miles of shoreline (both sandy and rocky), sand dunes, coastal plains, trees, streams, canyons, and hills—a photographer’s playground! The sun was beginning to move a little lower in the sky (especially towards the end of the visit), but it was still harsh light that wasn’t ideal for photography; however, some of my favorite pictures from the trip were captured at Montaña de Oro State Park.
We did a fair amount of walking and hiking on this day, and by the time we got back to the cars I was pretty exhausted. It probably didn’t help that I had a short night of rest. I think most people on the tour felt similarly, and Dave made the decision to go back to the hotel and take an intermission. I called it a day and returned to my accommodations, and spent the remainder of the evening with my wife and kids. We did walk to the Pismo Beach Pier, but I purposefully left my cameras behind and only used my iPhone. I believe everyone else walked around San Luis Obispo that evening.
The photographs below are in order of when they were captured. The picture at the top of this article, Pacific Poppies, fits in-between Seaside Poppies and Native Plants & Bird. Sometimes it takes a few tries to capture the strongest picture. The second image, No Cigarettes, fits in-between Boat in the Cove and Pro Boat. The third image, Window View, fits in-between Spooner Cove and Window Rock. Otherwise, the order is correct. I hope that you enjoy these pictures!
I’m not a morning person. When my alarm sounded and it was still very dark outside, I didn’t want to jump out of the warm bed that I was comfortably resting in. I knew this was going to be a fun, memorable, and photographically productive day, so I wiped the sleep from my eyes and began to get ready. I was finally going to meet Ken Rockwell and Dave Wyman, and all the others who also signed up for the Central Coast of California tour, and I did not want to be late.
Everyone knows who Ken Rockwell is. His longstanding website has been one of the most popular in photography for decades. Dave Wyman is perhaps less well-known, but he has been teaching photography, leading tours, and publishing books for a long, long time—an incredible talent who deserves to be a household name in photography circles. I was very excited for the opportunity to meet them both in-person.
The tour began at a hotel in San Luis Obispo, where we all met up and decided who would be driving and who would be riding in which car. There were twelve of us total, including Ken and Dave, which means there were 10 attendees, including myself. Interestingly, I found out that seven were repeat customers, and had participated in at least one of Ken and Dave’s tours before.
After everyone had their gear loaded up, and as the sun was rising, we carpooled and caravanned to Prefumo Canyon, which is a mountainous area in-between San Luis Obispo and Avila Beach. It’s not a place anyone would likely stumble upon, unless they were purposefully exploring back roads that few ever take. But Dave knows these hidden gems very well thanks to the research he did for his first two books: Backroads of Northern California and Backroads of Southern California. While Dave does take his tours to the iconic locations that everyone photographs, he also goes to places almost nobody else does because virtually no one else knows where they are. Prefumo Canyon is one such spot.
Dave Wyman is the tour organizer and leader, while Ken Rockwell is brought along as a subject matter expert. They are both available during the trip for any questions or advice that anyone might have. There’s no classroom portion of the tour—it’s all “en plein air”—so any and all education is done in-the-field. One can learn as much or as little as one wants to, and it is up to the attendees to ask any questions that they might have. Both Dave and Ken make themselves available throughout the tour; however, the information and advice that they provide is limited until questions are asked. If anyone is considering joining one of their tours in the future, my advice is to think about what you want to learn, and have a list of questions written down in advance. Also, don’t be afraid to approach Dave and Ken, as they’re both eager to help.
We spent much of the morning in Prefumo Canyon, photographing in a few different locations before moving on to Avila Beach. Thankfully the sun was shining—this would be the only non-dreary day of the entire trip! I did so much photography at this spot that I decided to separate Day 4 into two parts.
The photographs below are in order of when they were captured. The picture at the top of this article, Bench with a View, fits in-between Retro Yellow and Dave with Rolleiflex. The second image, Light in the Woods, fits in-between Light in the Dark Forest and Ken & Distant Moon. Otherwise, the order is correct. I hope that you enjoy these pictures!
En plein air is a French expression that means outside or outdoors. Specific to art, it was made popular by Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes in 1800, who encouraged artists to immerse themselves into the landscapes that they were creating by painting the scene while at the scene, and not in a studio (the most common practice at the time). The en plein air philosophy was embraced by impressionist painters, such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and others.
Dave Wyman calls the Central Coast of California tour “En Plein Air” because there’s no classroom or lecture portion—everything happens while out in the landscape actively capturing photographs. It’s about learning to see and interpret the scene around you by being immersed in it. Additionally, this part of California has some similarities to some French and Italian regions, so applying the en plein air expression seems appropriate.
While this was Day 3 for me, for everyone else on the tour it was Day 1. This was their travel day. Once settled into their hotel, they spent the evening photographing San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach; however, I did not join them yet. The prior day was busy, and I knew the next several days would be, too, so I kept this one low-key with my family. We did make it to the ocean a few different times at various locations around Pismo Beach and Avila Beach, but I purposefully did less with my cameras and tried to just be in the moment more often.
Regarding the order, the top picture, House on the Seaside Cliffs, was the very first photo of the day, while Shell fits in-between Hanging Ice Plant and Camera Fight with Jon. Although I used my cameras less on this day, and despite the drab overcast weather, I still was able to capture a few good shots. I hope that you enjoy these pictures!
Day 2 — June 6, 2023 — Morro Bay, San Simeon & Cambria
This was our first full day at the ocean. My wife and I decided to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to explore Morro Bay, followed by the elephant seals north of San Simeon, and finally Moonstone Beach in Cambria on the way back down. This area is just incredible, and is one of my favorite sections of coastline in California!
Did you know that there are wild zebras near San Simeon? There are! Actually, they were once part of William Hearst’s private zoo, but they escaped (were released?), and now live wild in the coastal hills below Hearst Castle. Sometimes you can spot them from the highway. We were fortunate to find a few; while they weren’t very close, I was able to photograph a couple of them with my 90mm lens. I would have loved to visit the castle on this trip, but it just didn’t work out this time.
The weather was cool and overcast. It was fairly poor light for photography. A couple of times the sun did briefly try to peek through, but it mostly remained drab all day. Still, this area is stunning, so there were many photographic opportunities—in fact, the potential for great photography always exists no matter the time and location, and it is up to the photographer to find it.
The photographs below are in order of when they were captured. The picture at the top of this article, Splash, fits in-between Wave Crash on Rock and Picture-in-Picture. The second image, Playing with Waves, fits in-between Beach Play and Self Portrait. Despite the drab weather, I was able to get a few good shots (interspersed between some so-so images)—with four more days still to go (including with Ken and Dave), there would be many, many more photographic opportunities to come.
I recently returned from photographing California’s amazing central coast with Ken Rockwell and Dave Wyman. It was such an incredible adventure! I’m getting a little ahead of myself, though, so let me give you a little backstory first.
After more than a decade of shooting film, I purchased my first digital camera in 2009. I was one of those “holdouts” who stubbornly refused to go digital, and who would proudly proclaim why analog was preferable. Eventually I gave in; however, the transition wasn’t easy. In many ways it was like learning photography all over again. So in 2010 I began searching the internet for help and advice, and unsurprisingly I stumbled upon Ken Rockwell, who’s website has been one of the most popular photography pages for decades.
Ken is well-known and controversial. People seem to either love or loathe him. I found his website to be helpful; while I didn’t agree with everything he said, I did read a lot of useful information, and Ken’s advice was occasionally critical. In fact, it was an off-hand remark by Ken that convinced me to start blogging in the first place.
Nearly three years ago I published a Film Simulation Recipe called The Rockwell, which was inspired by Ken. I stated that it’s “a Recipe that Ken might use on his X100V if he ever read this article.” Well, to my surprise, a year later Ken did use The Rockwell Recipe and talked a little about it in his Fujifilm X-S10 review! It turned out that Leigh and Raymond Photography (formally known as The SnapChick) tipped Ken off to the Recipe, and then Ken actually emailed me, and we had a brief back-and-forth conversation.
The tour began on the June 7th in the late-afternoon, but I arrived two days early on June 5th. My wife, Amanda, and our four kids came along, too, although they did not take part in the tour (maybe next time). It was a long drive to the Pacific Coast from my home near Phoenix, Arizona; a stop in Bakersfield allowed us to stretch our legs. Once we settled into our accommodations at Pismo Beach, we took a stroll to the ocean. It was overcast, and as daylight began to fade into blue-hour, the weather turned into rain and thunder.
The photographs below are in order of when they were captured. The picture at the top of this article, No Lifeguard on Duty, fits in-between By-the-Wind Sailor and Josh on a Stump. The second image, Rusty Rail, fits in-between Yellow Ice Flower and Clean Up Your Dog. Otherwise, the order is correct. Although these are mostly snapshots, I hope that you still enjoy them—my photography got a little more serious as the week progressed.
I finally figured it out! I now have a compact travel kit that I’m very happy with. This is something I’ve been working on for over two years, and I think I’ve got it—or at least I’m really close. Perhaps it will get a tweak or two, but I’m quite satisfied with it as-is. I used this kit while on a week-long roadtrip to California’s central coast, and it worked out really, really well.
In 2020 I traveled to Montana, and I brought the entirety of my camera and lens collection with me. I wasn’t sure what I might need, so I wanted to be prepared for anything. I think I had five camera bodies and about a dozen lenses (I don’t remember the exact number). After returning, I realized that lugging around everything was absurd, as I only used three cameras—but mostly just one—and the majority of the lenses stayed in the camera bag the entire trip, completely ignored. I didn’t need to bring so much, but since I did, all that unused gear just got in the way.
Previously, I had taken a couple of trips with just one camera and lens, and that was overall a better experience, but there were also times that I wished I had more options. I would have liked to have had more versatility, but didn’t. Oftentimes less is more, but sometimes less is just less.
What I needed was balance. A small kit that was Goldilocks: not too big and heavy with excessive gear that would go unused, and not too simple with limited versatility. Robust, yet small and lightweight. I set out to create a travel kit that didn’t contain too much or too little camera gear. It took some time to work it all out, but I finally did!
Let’s take a look at this ultimate travel compact camera kit piece by piece.
This post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase using my links I’ll be compensated a small amount for it.
I’m listing the camera bag first because it’s key to this kit. The one I chose is the National Geographic NG2344 Earth Explorer Shoulder Bag. The dimensions are roughly only 8″ x 7″ x 6″, yet I can fit everything that I need into it. It’s no big deal to carry around—I went on several short hikes with it last week, in fact, and it wasn’t terribly uncomfortable by the time I returned. The bag doesn’t get in the way or take up much space; interestingly, it fits perfectly into the middle console compartment of my car, allowing easy access to my gear while staying completely concealed.
I take the two velcro inserts and form a “+” in the middle, subdividing the large main compartment into four small compartments: two on the top level and two basement level. I’ll get to where exactly everything fits in a moment, but you can see in the photo above that both my Fujifilm X100V and Fujifilm X-E4 with a pancake lens fits quite comfortably in the upper two compartments.
The National Geographic NG2344 Earth Explorer Shoulder Bag has just enough space for all the gear I need when I travel. Because it is small, it never gets in the way. I’ve had this bag for more than two years and it’s been great—best camera bag I’ve ever owned. And it’s not very expensive. Currently they’re selling for $50, but I paid only $40 for mine.
National Geographic NG2344 Earth Explorer Shoulder Bag — AmazonB&H
The Fujifilm X100V is the ultimate travel camera, in my opinion. It’s compact (pocketable if you have large pockets). It has amazing image quality. It’s weather-sealed to an extent. It’s fun. It’s surprisingly versatile for a camera with a fixed 23mm (35mm full-frame equivalent) lens. What more could you want?!
If I could only take one camera with me when I travel, this is the one I’d pick. In fact, last week I used the X100V for about 50% of all the pictures I captured (more on the other cameras in a moment). Occasionally it’s not wide-angle or telephoto enough, so it’s good to have options, but most of the time the X100V is all I want or need. It sits in the upper-left compartment of the camera bag.
If you are lucky to already own a Fujifilm X100V, you’re well on your way to completing your travel kit. If you don’t own one, they can be difficult to find, and often at an inflated price. My copy was a birthday gift from my wife a couple of years ago when they were newly released.
The X100 series is great, but I’ve felt for a long time now that you really need an interchangeable-lens option to go with it. Most models are larger than the X100 series, but the X-E line is a similar size. In particular, I really like the Fujifilm X-E4, which was my most-used camera in 2022.
When paired with the Fujinon 27mm pancake lens, the X-E4 fits comfortably in the upper-right compartment of the camera bag. There are some other lenses (I’ll get to them soon) that can also be attached to the camera and it will still fit in the bag, but it is a little more snug than with the 27mm, so I prefer to pair the X-E4 with the 27mm.
The Fujifilm X-E4 isn’t weather-sealed. It doesn’t have all the features that the X100V has. It’s a minimalistic design, and sometimes a little too much so, but I feel that approach works well for travel where less is often more. The X-E4 is my second favorite Fujifilm camera. I used it for about 40% of my photographs on the coastal trip.
Like the Fujifilm X100V, the Fujifilm X-E4 can be difficult to find and it might be at an inflated price. I preordered my copy on the the day it was announced, and I’m glad that I did. Unfortunately, Fujifilm recently (and inexplicably) discontinued the X-E4, which might make it even more challenging to get your hands on one. The Fujifilm X-E3 is a good alternative if you don’t mind buying used.
The Ricoh GR III was included in the kit simply because it fit—in fact, the GR models are the smallest APS-C cameras you can buy. The GR III is a one-trick-pony, but it does that one trick very well. When I needed a wide-angle option, the GR III was in my pocket eager to go.
I laid the X100V and X-E4 camera straps across the top of those two models in the camera bag, and placed the Ricoh GR III on the straps to protect from scratches. The camera is so small that the bag still zippered, no problem. Whenever I stopped somewhere to capture photographs, I simply shoved the tiny camera into my pants pocket, where it easily fit. The GR III is one that you can carry everywhere and it’s never in the way or uncomfortable.
I would have preferred my Fujifilm X70 over the GR; although it is quite small, it was just a hair too big for the bag. I probably could have forced it to work, but the Ricoh GR III did so quite comfortably, so I went with it instead. Even though I had the GR III with me more than any of the other cameras, I only used it for about 5% of my pictures; however, I was happy to have it when I needed it.
The Samsung ST76 is a tiny point-and-shoot digicam from 2012. I paid $18 for mine about six months ago. Despite being old and cheap, I actually like the ’60’s and ’70’s color film vibe from this camera when using the Retro filter, which reminds me of old prints I’ve seen in my grandparent’s photo albums. It was a last-minute decision to add it to the camera bag.
The Samsung ST76 is so tiny that it fits into the bag without any problems. I could have placed it most anywhere, but I put it into the lower-right compartment. I only used it for about 1% of my photography on this trip. If I had left it at home I wouldn’t have missed it, but I did capture a couple of images that I was happy with, so I’m glad to have included it.
That’s it for cameras, now let’s talk glass!
Fujinon 27mm f/2.8
My favorite and most-used lens is the Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 pancake. Because it is so small and lightweight, it’s especially perfect for travel photography. This is the lens that I typically keep on my Fujifilm X-E4 as my everyday-use glass, and I only replace it with something else when I need to. When I do take it off the camera, I simply place it in the bag where I took the other lens from, which will either be bottom-left or bottom-right, and then place it back on the camera when I’m done.
The 27mm f/2.8 is slightly wide-angle, but, with a 40mm full-frame-equivalent focal-length, it’s pretty close to a “standard” lens. While the maximum aperture is not impressive, I only occasionally find it to be a hinderance. I like the way this lens renders images, and that’s what matters most.
My second favorite Fujinon lens is the 90mm f/2. It just renders pictures so beautifully! It also gives me a solid telephoto option for when I need a longer reach.
Because it has a 135mm full-frame-equivalent focal-length, it can be challenging to use sometimes; however, the bigger challenge is fitting it into the travel camera bag, since it is a larger lens. The trick is to take the lens hood off and place it backwards over the lens body, which allows it to fit into the bag. I kept it in the lower-left compartment underneath the X100V. I used the Fujinon 90mm f/2 lens frequently on this trip. Did I mention that I love this lens?
The Fujinon 18mm f/2 is Fujifilm’s “other” pancake lens, although it is larger than the 27mm. It’s not my favorite option (although I do like it), and the Ricoh GR III made it less necessary, but including it in this kit seemed like an obvious choice since it is small.
I didn’t use the 18mm f/2 nearly as much as I did the 27mm and 90mm, but I did use it on several occasions. I placed it in the bottom-right compartment underneath the X-E4 with another lens and the tiny Samsung camera.
The Meike 35mm f/1.7 is a cheap all-manual lens with some good character similar to some vintage lenses. This one is especially small (similar in size to the Fujinon 18mm f/2), which makes it ideal for travel photography. The 52.5mm full-frame-equivalent focal-length is slightly telephoto, but still pretty much a “standard” lens, which means that I have two lenses (this and the 27mm) to serve that purpose. The advantages to this one are a slightly longer reach and a significantly larger maximum aperture, which does occasionally come in handy.
The Meike 35mm fits in the same bottom-right compartment with the Fujinon 18mm f/2. The Fujinon 18-55mm f/2.8-4 does fit in lieu of the 18mm and 35mm, and could be an alternative, but I personally prefer primes over zooms.
I included the Pergear 10mm f/8 Fisheye because it fits so easily into the bag, it would be a shame not to bring it. I don’t use it often, but every once in a blue moon it comes in handy. Plus, it’s sometimes just a fun lens. I barely used it on this trip, but I did use it. I kept the lens in the front zipper compartment of the bag.
The Xuan Focus Free 30mm f/10 Body Cap lens is actually a Kodak Funsaver disposable camera lens that’s been attached to a Fujifilm body cap. It produces soft dream-like pictures that you might either love or hate. For a retro lofi rendering, this is the lens to use! I brought it, keeping it in the front zipper pocket next to the Pergear 10mm, but I barely used it.
Just because they fit, I included in the bag my vintage Pentax-110 50mm f/2.8 and 24mm f/2.8 lenses, which are actually the smallest interchangeable lenses ever mass produced. They were made for Pentax Auto 110 cameras in the late-1970’s through the mid-1980’s, but, with an adapter, will surprisingly work on Fujifilm X cameras. They’re oozing with great character, but are challenging to use because the aperture is fixed at f/2.8.
While the 24mm is redundant, the 50mm lens does provide an option that’s in-between the 35mm and 90mm lenses, and so it does have a practical purpose, even if just barely. These lenses are fun and I love to use them, and that’s why I included them in the kit. They also fit into the front zipper compartment.
The one camera that I didn’t mention is my iPhone. I never put it in the camera bag, but I always had it with me. I used my RitchieCam iPhone camera app. Approximately 4% of my pictures on this trip were captured with my iPhone (just a few less than the Ricoh GR III). Although it was not a part of my camera bag, it was a part of my travel photography, so it’s worth mentioning.
Into such a small package I was able to include so much!
A few of the lenses were perhaps excessive, but they’re so small and lightweight that it didn’t make any real difference. I think excluding the Ricoh GR III and the lenses in the front zipper pocket would simplify the kit and it would still be equally as functional, but it would probably be a little less fun (and fun is important). I could have also replaced two of the smaller lenses—perhaps the two Fujinon pancakes—with the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 zoom, but I’ve always preferred primes over zooms. Ideally I’d replace the Meike 35mm with a 50mm, but I haven’t found one small enough that I like—if I find one, I might just do that. Otherwise, I’m very happy with this compact camera kit for travel photography, and I don’t think that it could be improved upon by a whole lot; however, I’m sure I’ll continue to refine it and make it even better—even if just a little—as I take more roadtrips.
To simplify the kit, if you want an even smaller setup, you could travel with just a Fujifilm X100V, Ricoh GR III (or Fujifilm X70), and your cellphone. The X100V would hang around your neck, and the other two would fit in your pockets. No camera bag needed! Keep your few accessories—spare batteries, cords, etc.—in the glove box of your car. That would cover most of your needs, and for the rest, you could simply use the limitation to take a creative approach to the scene.
But if you would like to have at least some gear options when you travel, the “ultimate” kit that I used last week, which I described above, worked very well for me. Perhaps something similar will work for you, too.
I packed my bags and disappeared for a week. It might have seemed as though I dropped off the face of the planet, but I assure you I was on Earth the entire time. I returned home late last night. I’m sure it will take some time to catch up on everything, such as comments, emails, etc., but I promise that I will. Thanks for being patient!
Where did I go? I took a roadtrip to the central California coast, which is one of my absolute favorite places. I had a great time and captured tons of pictures—expect a lot of articles about the journey in the coming weeks! I had planned to do a little work while out of town, but each day was so busy that it just didn’t happen.
The pictures in this article are a little teaser of what I did and what you can expect to see more of soon. I have some great content ideas that I plan to publish in the coming days and weeks. You won’t want to miss any of it, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy these photographs that I captured last week while at the California coast!
It’s summer, and if you can afford to put gas in your car’s tank, you might go on an excursion someplace. If you do, you probably want to take a camera with you—one that’s particularly good for travel—to capture the experience.
What makes a camera good for travel? In my opinion, it has to be small and lightweight, so that there are no issues taking it with you wherever you go—it doesn’t get in the way—yet it has to be able to deliver good image quality, so that when you get back home you can hang a picture you’re proud of on your wall to remember your great adventure.
If you’re not sure which cameras are good for travel, I have five suggestions below. These are just my opinions—if you ask five photographers which cameras they recommend for travel, you might get five very different answers. My perspective is that I prefer simplicity—less is often more—and I don’t like to edit my photographs anymore (instead, I use Film Simulation Recipes), so it has to deliver solid results straight-out-of-camera. If that resonates with you, perhaps take this advice seriously, and if it doesn’t, take all of this with a grain of salt.
This post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase using my links I’ll be compensated a small amount for it.
1. Fujifilm X100V
The Fujifilm X100V (full review) is my top recommendation for travel photography. It’s my all-time favorite camera, but it’s especially great for travel, as if that’s its intended purpose. The X100V has a fixed 23mm (roughly 35mm full-frame-equivalent) focal-length lens, which is a very useful focal-length. You cannot change the lens (it’s permanently attached), which is a limitation that you have to be willing to embrace. While the X100V is pocketable, it’s only barely so, and more than likely you’ll carry it in a camera bag or around your neck and not in a pocket. If you don’t mind those things, this is the camera for travel photography, and you’ll definitely want to consider buying a Fujifilm X100V.
Unfortunately, the X100V is nearly impossible to find, and you’re very lucky if you can get your hands on one. As alternatives, consider a used X100F, or even an X100T, which are easier to get ahold of and less expensive. If a used camera doesn’t interest you, perhaps consider the Ricoh GRIIIX, which is probably the X100V’s closest competitor.
2. Fujifilm X-E4
The Fujifilm X-E4 (full review) is very similar in size and design to the X100V, yet it’s an interchangeable-lens camera, which makes it more versatile. It’s a minimalistic model, and pairs especially well with the Fujinon 27mm pancake lens. If the X100V’s fixed-lens won’t work for you, the X-E4 might be the right alternative. This camera doesn’t have quite as many buttons, switches, and knobs as other Fujifilm cameras, which you might prefer or you might not appreciate, so keep that in mind. This is currently my most-used camera, travel or otherwise.
Like the X100V, the Fujifilm X-E4 can be very difficult to find. As alternatives, consider a used X-E3, or even an X-E2, which are easier to get ahold of and are less expensive. If a used camera doesn’t interest you, perhaps consider the slightly larger X-T30 II.
3. Ricoh GRIII
What’s great about the Ricoh GRIII is that it’s very small and pocketable, yet it delivers excellent image quality similar to bigger cameras. Oh, and like Fujifilm, I have JPEG recipes for it, too! If the X100V and X-E4 are too big, this is a must-try option—even if you own those Fujifilm models, you might consider adding this one, too, to take with you on your adventures. The GRIII has a fixed 18.3mm (28mm full-frame-equivalent) lens, which is a good wide-angle focal-length, but it also means you need to be close to the subject, which can be a challenge.
If the Ricoh GRIII is too expensive, as alternatives you might consider a used Ricoh GRII, Ricoh GR, Fujifilm X70, or Fujifilm XF10.
4. Instax Neo Classic Mini 90
If you are looking for something different, the Fujifilm Instax Neo Classic Mini 90 is one to consider. Really, any Instax camera will do, as they’re a lot of fun, and you get rewarded with an immediate print. I only suggest this particular model because I own it and have experience with it. Of all the cameras recommended in this article, this is the largest, which means it is the least travel-friendly, but instant film photography brings so much joy, and is especially great if you have kids, so it might be worthwhile anyway.
If lugging around an Instax camera is just too much, as an alternative consider an Instax Mini Link Printer instead, which might actually be better than using an actual Instax camera.
5. iPhone (or any cellphone)
Of course, the best camera is the one that’s available to you in the moment when you need it, and sometimes that’s your cellphone. I have an iPhone 11, which does the trick well enough. I also have my very own iPhone camera app, called RitchieCam—if you have an iPhone, download it from the Apple App Store today! If you don’t have an iPhone, I’m sure whichever make and model you do own is plenty good enough (although you can only use RitchieCam on an iPhone). I don’t recommend using only your cellphone for photography when you travel (although I’m sure many people do), but it’s a decent tool to supplement your other cameras while traveling, especially during those times when it’s what you have available to you in the moment you need a camera.
What alternative can I suggest to your cellphone? There’s a line in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, where this photographer, Sean O’Connell, is in the Himalayas in Afghanistan waiting with his camera for a snow leopard to appear. When the cat finally shows itself, Sean O’Connell doesn’t do anything with his camera, so Walter Mitty asks, “When are you going to take it?” The photographer replies, “Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”
I recently set out to create an “ultimate” Fujifilm travel kit.
Over the last couple of years, as I’ve collected more and more gear, traveling with my cameras and lenses has become cumbersome, which has lead to frustrations and reduced productivity. More isn’t always better; in fact, less is often more—this is especially true when traveling. I realized that my gear wasn’t nearly as ready for adventure as I was, and I needed to make some series changes to my kit before embarking on my next road trip.
What makes a travel kit bad? If it’s big and heavy and gets in the way, it’s not good. My travel kit consisted of a backpack camera bag filled with multiple bodies and as many lenses as I could stuff inside. I went to Montana last fall, and in my bag there was an X-T1, X-T30, X100V, and X-M1, plus a handful of lenses, including the Fujinon 100-400mm and Fujinon 90mm, which aren’t small or lightweight. I hardly used any of them, except for the X100V, which I could easily carry with me, and so I did. Because I had it with me, I used it often. The rest of the gear just got in the way—literally, the backpack took up too much space in the car, and it become a point of frustration. I would have been better off just bringing one or two cameras and maybe a few small lenses—gear that might have actually been used.
I was afraid that if I didn’t have a certain camera or lens, I would regret not bringing it, if at some point I thought I might need it. You never know what you’ll need, so it’s better to be prepared, right? What I discovered over the last few trips is that the majority of what I was carrying with me I didn’t use. Or, for some of it, if I did use it, it’s only because I forced myself to use it when it wasn’t really necessary. Having too much gear actually made me want to photograph less, and made me less creative when I did. My best photography most often happened when I had limited gear—perhaps one camera and one lens—and left the rest behind.
What makes a travel kit good? It should be compact and lightweight, yet versatile. One camera and one lens is often enough, but not always. The X100V is a great travel camera, but sometimes I need something more wide-angle or more telephoto—it’s not always versatile enough, even though it is often my camera of choice. I think two bodies and a limited assortment of lenses in a small bag is good. Small enough to not get in the way. Lightweight. Something that you don’t mind having with you, so you do. A good travel kit strikes a comfortable balance between practicality and petiteness.
I put together what I hoped would be a great kit for travel photography. I was able to put it to the test on a road trip to Arizona—was it actually going to work for me?—and I discovered many good points and a few things that still need to be worked out. Let’s take a close look at this “ultimate” Fujifilm travel kit that I assembled for myself, piece-by-piece.
This post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase using my links I’ll be compensated a small amount for it.
It might seem strange to begin with the bag, but in my mind it’s just that important. The camera bag needed to be very small, but it also had to be able to hold everything. Finding one that I felt was just the right size and design turned out to be a challenge, but after much research I stumbled across the National Geographic NG2344 Earth Explorer Shoulder Bag, and for only $40! The dimensions of this bag are roughly 8″ x 7″ x 6″, yet I can fit two cameras and six lenses inside. I was thrilled to learn that the bag fit into the middle storage console of my car, so it is completely out of the way on road trips, yet is easily and quickly accessible.
I subdivided the main compartment into four, using the soft dividers to create “hidden” storage under the cameras, which I use for lenses. The bottom-right holds two Fujinon lenses, and the bottom-left holds three third-party lenses. Two cameras fit on top, just as long as the interchangeable-lens camera has a pancake lens attached. The small front compartment holds charging cords, extra batteries, SD-cards, etc., while the two tiny top pockets (which are probably more for looks than anything) hold lens-wipes. While everything is packed in, I don’t feel like it’s overstuffed—there actually is a little room for more, should I need it.
One thing that I don’t like about this bag is that the shoulder strap is permanently attached. I might modify it at some point to make the strap removable, as I think that would improve it. Otherwise, the bag seems pretty darn good for the travel photographer.