Give the astrophotographers their due. They deserve creds for all the great shots we’ve seen of the 2017 total eclipse. They’re pros and advanced amateurs who work hard and produce great results.
During the eclipse, I was doing more important work – for me, anyway. I was being a dad, a husband, a son in law, a brother in law, and an uncle. I was traveling with family, to visit family on the opposite coast. I couldn’t carry my big-iron, full-frame camera and lenses with me, all I could handle was my minimal travel setup.
My requirements for a travel camera system are demanding. I need something that is compact, yet can still produce great results. Recently, the camera world is all abuzz with excellent mirrorless systems produced by companies like the Fuji X-Series, OLYMPUS OM-Ds and the Sony a-series. Having shot all three of these systems, I can agree that they are indeed excellent and have produced some great products.
If I was starting from scratch and was buying a new system, lenses and all, all three would get equal consideration, along with Nikon and Canon, but I already have a number of compact Nikon DX lenses and a D5500 body. When it comes to the compromise of weight and size against capability, I feel that the excellent Nikon D5500 body is a great place to start.
I also own Full Frame and larger APS-C cameras. But the D5500 body is incredibly light – actually lighter than most mirrorless cameras. And it works great with compact and light DX lenses. The image quality of this camera is not quite up the D500 or the D8xx series but trust me when I say it is still quite good, as long as you aren’t doing paid work – and even then, I’d trust it as a backup body.
Travel setups should start at absolute bare bones and then increase in size as your need for image quality and diversity of shooting styles and opportunities increase. For this trip, the most important shots that I was going to get were candids of my family as they interacted over meals and visits in one another’s homes.
Steve’s Bare Bones Travel Gear:
The Minimalist Kit – When You Simply Cannot Carry a Camera:
Sometimes you simply cannot bring a camera, but you can always carry a phone. Phone cameras have gotten quite good. I like to practice with mine and push the envelope as often as possible. Camera phones are also great for candid and street photography as people have become so used to them, they rarely realize that they are being photographed.
- Smartphone. – I like Samsung and Apple phones equally here. Tech buzz says that HTC produces a decent phone camera, but I’ve be burnt by them before with the HTC ONE.
The Never Leave the House Without a Camera Kit:
Size matters most here, and small and light is the key requirement. Image quality (IQ) should be better than a smartphone but not necessarily full frame or medium format.
- The Sony RX100iii. This camera gets excellent results from a tiny 1″ sensor. Sony leads the way here and this camera has just the right mix of tiny size, fast lens, land low light capability. Add to this a electronic view finder, 24mm-70mm focal length, and a built in flash and you have a lot of power in a camera that’s smaller than a pack of cigarettes. I rarely leave my house without this camera. I also like the Fuji X100 series to meet this need.
- Smartphone – You always have one, and it’s always your backup.
The Bare Bones Traveler Kit:
When I want to be able to take great shots in a variety of focal lengths, but the airlines or my back are conspiring to keep me from carrying a pro quality system, this is my kit:
- Nikon D5500 body – Nice and light, great IQ, good low light.
- Nikon 18-200mm VRii DX Zoom lens – covers most shooting situations.
- Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX lens – low light, street photography and group shots.
This system covers almost any shooting situation I might encounter on vacation, but I do have the option to add a wide zoom if I am going to be shooting indoors. My personal favorite is the Tokina 11-16mm ATX Pro II lens.
For this trip out west, I would need the Sony RX100iii camera most of the time. The only time I was sure I would miss having a longer lens was for the total eclipse that occurred on Aug. 21, so I made sure to add my Bare Bones Traveler kit to my carry on. I was happy I did when I got this shot.
My one disappointment was that the auto ISO feature from the Nikon D5500 shot this at 12,000 ISO. The original image is a bit grainy, but certainly better than I could with my phone. And as I was more into experiencing the eclipse than concentrating on shooting it, I am very happy with my results.
Post production was done with Smart Photo Editor by Anthropics – great source of hundreds of effects that I highly recommend.