Should I bring my DSLR?

2020, Apr 02

Ahhh... the recurring question with no straight-forward answer.

Should you should your DSLR on your next trip?

This might sound familiar: you start a trip with dreams of capturing National Geographic-level content or gallery-worthy street photography. The first "honeymoon" days of the trip you're shooting everything. Then towards the end of the trip, you just cannot be bothered and relagate it to the hotel safe or your checked luggage.

Been there, done that, and I hate myself for it. And the sad reality is: you won't be happy with whatever choice you make. But I'll still answer it for you:

Yes, and bring a minimal kit

If you were on a desserted island (maybe even literally!) and you could only bring one DSLR body and lens, what would it be?

As a seasoned photographer, you might have developed a preferred style of shooting and you know what camera body and lens will give you that. For me, it's a long prime zoom lens with a wide aperture (like the 85mm) on a camera body that can see in the dark like a Canon 5D.

Bring the DSLR body you are most comfortable with in terms of controls. Never bring a brand new DSLR body that you're still figuring out. I made this mistake when I brought a new mirrorless camera to Indonesia and I struggled to nail focus with it. Thankfully, my pictures turned out alright, but I know in the moment of shooting that I would've been more comfortable with a DSLR that I knew inside out.

canon 6d

Bring one lens that produces the images you want to collect on your travels. Personally, I like focal lengths so I can shoot from far away (because I'm a creeper), so I would bring a lens that's 85mm or longer (probably 200mm at most) and use my smartphone for any wide angle shots. Just one!

If your style or aim is to capture lots of landscapes and intimate close-up shots, consider bringing your best wide-angle lens. (You can capture a different perspective of landscapes with zoom lenses too!) Or if your style is mostly shot on 50mm, go for it! You do you.

If you don't know which focal length you like and you could forgo bokeh in your images, bring just a zoom lens. While there are some pretty flexible wide-aperture zoom lens (like the 24-70mm f/2.8), they can often be pricey and heavier. Whatever you bring, make it something you're comfortable with. Every choice you make is a trade-off.

Make a bet and stick with it. Accept that you won't get all of the shots you want, in favour of portability and simplicity.

No, and master phone photography

My first major international trip without a DSLR was Brazil. I was concerned about theft, and around this time I lost interest in DSLR photography.

The quality of your smartphone images is all in your intention and your approach.

marcus wallis

If you want great images, you'll research how to compose and master the settings on your camera app. You'll be dedicated to learning to edit beyond adding a filter. You'll pour yourself into mastering mobile photography. The quality of your images will reflect your commitment and dedication to the outcome.

It's not so much about tools, than it is about technique. Software that come with modern smartphones (within the last 2 years) have come a long way, so you can focus on your technique. The Google Pixel 3a is incredible in low-light and some of the newer versions have astrophotography options. Image quality isn't even an issue these days.

There are lenses you can add on to augment your shots, and tripods to help stablize your slow-exposure shots. Whatever accessories you bring, practice with them before your trip. Just as you shouldn't bring a new camera on your trip, you shouldn't bring new accessories you aren't comfortable using.

So, should I or should I not?

The question isn't whether or not to bring it.

The question is, what is your goal? How committed are you to using your DSLR every day of your travels?

dan gold

If you hate carrying something heavy or have reservations about whipping it out in a tourist attraction marred by thieves, then don't. Just leave it at home.

If you are confident about your equipment and technique, and feel safe, then bring it and shoot with it. Every. Single. Day. Be deliberate about taking photos on your travel and be at peace with your decision.