Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Photo Toolset for RVing

Recently, a few readers have asked me about my camera gear, so with summer vacation season just around the corner, I thought I’d share this info with everyone.

My blog photos are mostly just casual “point & shoot” shots with minimal to no editing (but I’ll do a post later on how I edit my photos as I know that’s been another common request from readers!). 

I sometimes will use the camera in my iPhone 4S to take blog shots, but I much prefer the quality of my small “pocketable” Canon point-n-shoot. 

For the last few years, that had been the Canon s90, a truly amazing little gem of a camera with a larger sensor than most other pocket cameras, which translated to a higher-quality, sharper, virtually noise-free images.

A couple months ago, I upgraded to the latest version of this camera, the Canon s100, to get a lens with a slightly better range (24-120mm equivalent) and HD video capture.  It’s been a pretty nice upgrade for the most part, although I’m still trying to get used to a few of the changes.

But as good as the s90/s100 are, they’re no match for the much larger sensor sizes and quality lenses of a digital SLR system. For my “more serious” photographs (i.e. the ones I consider my best images), I use Canon D-SLRs.  I used to use Nikon in my film SLR days and switched to Canon when digital SLRs first came out because the Canons tended to fit my small hands a bit better.  But if I were buying into a DSLR system today, either Canon or Nikon would be a fine choice.  It mainly comes down to the lenses you’re most interested in, and how comfortable you are with the camera’s ergonomics—quality differences between the two are pretty minimal in most cases.

Up until last year, my primary DSLR system was a full-frame Canon 5D with a variety of Canon lenses from 15 to 400 mm.  I ran a portrait photography side business a few years ago and full-frame was essential to use lenses at their intended focal length to obtain proper compression and depth of field.

But as much as I love full-frame, the older I get, the more often I’d prefer to carry a lighter weight “traveling” DSLR rather than my 25 lb camera bag!  So, last year, I added a Canon Rebel T3i to the mix.

When I bought it, I thought I’d mainly just use it as a backup to my 5D or when I was going to be walking around all day at someplace where I could not bring a tripod (such as a botanic garden or zoo).  In the last year, I’ve dutifully brought both my big 5D camera bag and the little Rebel bag on every RV trip, and guess what?  I’ve not touched the 5D since!

One of the key reasons for using the Rebel T3i so much is the lightweight “do it all” lens I bought for it, the Tamron 18-270mm PZD.

This single lens gives the equivalent of a 28-432mm range and combined with T3i, the camera and lens together weigh just 2.25 lbs—perfect for any RVer!

A surprising benefit of the T3i has been it’s rotating LCD screen with Live View.  It allows me to not only shoot HD video more naturally, but also get high and low-angle shots without having to crawl around in the mud or climb a tree!


So what else is in my lightweight traveling kit?

  • a Canon EF-S 10-22mm (shown above) for ultra-wide angle shots. With an equivalent range of 16-35mm, it’s ideal for exaggerated foregrounds.
  • a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod with a Really Right Stuff ball head. This setup was a complete splurge a few years ago when CF tripods were just coming on the scene.  Today, there are numerous lower-priced options available.  The key point is that if you want to shoot quality landscapes, you need to use a sturdy tripod to get maximum image sharpness.
  • a Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer and various graduated neutral density filters (I handhold my rectangular ND filters after learning the advantages of this method from Art Wolfe).  For years I balked at buying expensive filters, but in the end, I probably spent more money on all the cheaper imitations.  Yes, modern image editing software can provide many effects that eliminate the need for a camera filter, but for landscapes, a good polarizer and a couple graduated ND filters are still essential tools.
  • spare batteries & memory cards, a microfiber cleaning cloth, and a remote shutter release. 

So after all this gear talk, do you need to run out and buy a lot of expensive gear to take good photos?  Absolutely not!  Just having a camera with you (any camera) will allow you to capture those fleeting split seconds and memories better than having no camera at all.  It’s a common cliché, I know, but so completely true!


  1. Lynne,

    Thank you so much for this post. I'm an amateur and don't know a lot about lenses and filters; these details are especially helpful.

    I have been considering a T3i, so it's good to hear comments about it from someone who uses it regularly.

    1. You're welcome! I kept getting an "undeliverable" alert when I tried responding to your email a few weeks ago, so if you never got that reply, hope this post has helped! Love the T3i :-) If you look at Nikon, I think their comparable model is the D5100.

  2. Thank you again, Lynne. So helpful.

  3. Hubby has the Canon 90s and loves it; I use the Canon G12 for hikes and a lot of my blog photos. With retirement on the horizon, I hope to get back into using my DSLR gear more ... I have a 7D that I really enjoy using, and my 18-55 and 70-200 lenses are my favs. Now that I've tested the Cotton Carrier and proven its comfort to myself, perhaps I'll take the DSLR on more hikes -- As much as I like my G-12, I miss not having my filters when we're out photographing landscape.

    1. Hey Erin-- you might take a look at this company's solutions for the G12:

      I bought one of their filter holders for my old Canon SX1 superzoom P&S and was able to finally use a circ polarizer with it. Very nice quality stuff except I made the mistake of ordering a Hoya polarizer (total junk compared to a B+W or Singh-Ray in my opinion).

      Of course, it's no match for the lovely 7D! Really enjoy your blogs and the pretty photos!

  4. Thanks for sharing all the information.

  5. Lynne,

    With your experience with photography, maybe you might consider some small "tutorials" on filters for the benefit of your followers. In the past, I've had some "kits" with filters, but I never used them because the only one I understood was the polarizing filter.

    As I write, my birthday present is heading its way to Oklahoma City. It is the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens that I've lusted after for some time. I think it will go well with my Nikon D300.

    And, you are absolutely right in that both Canon and Nikon are good cameras, whether they be DSLR's or P&S (point and shoot) ones. Your are also right in that the camera isn't so much important as the composure of the photos.

    I ALWAYS enjoy looking at your photos.

    1. Wow Terry, that's a very exciting birthday present to get! As much as I like the little Tamron do-it-all zoom, whenever I want to take more serious photos (ones that will be sharper and have more color "snap"), I always turn to one of my Canon L zooms.

      I'll add some further thoughts on filters in my next post. Thanks for the suggestion!


Share Your Views!

Lynne's Camera Bag

Best RVing Stuff Under $50

Join Us On Facebook