What cameras are you bringing?
Both of us are artistic and enjoy photography, and look forward to blogging and vlogging about our RTW travel experiences. The videography component of things is brand new, but will be fun to learn. With this in mind, we made the decision to invest in quality camera equipment. However, this equipment also had to fit (along with ALL of our other possessions) within the self-imposed limitation of living out of a carry-on size backpack. After a lot of research, we selected the following camera gear.
Sony RX100 V Compact Camera
If you do any research about high quality compact, travel or vlogging cameras, the Sony RX100 series is always mentioned as a top contender. A 20 megapixel camera featuring a Zeiss lens, up to 24 fps continuous shooting, and 4K video in a super small, compact package, it checked all of the requirements for us. We purchased two Sony RX100 V’s so that each of us would have one to take our own photos. This is also beneficial if one of us wanted to take photos while the other was taking video.
Full details are available on the Sony web site at https://www.sony.com/electronics/cyber-shot-compact-cameras/dsc-rx100m5#product_details_default
The biggest negative with the RX100 V was price. This camera is not inexpensive and retails new for $999.99. The way that we saved money was to purchase “Open Box” cameras from Best Buy. Because the box was open, this knocked $200 off the price of the camera. All accessories were included, shipping was free to our home, and the camera still included the full warranty. I don’t mind saving $200 because someone else already opened the box! Another way to save money would be to purchase an earlier model of the the RX100 series, but we did not go that route.
- Pelican 1010 Case – this is a waterproof, crushproof and dustproof hardshell case. We wanted something that would hold the camera and allow us to simply drop the camera in our pack and not have to worry about it. This fit the bill!
- Sony NP-BX1 Batteries – it’s no use having great cameras if you don’t have power, so we purchased extra batteries. An added bonus mentioned below is that these same batteries also work in the Sony Action Cam we decided to bring on the trip.
- Sony BC-TRX Battery Charger – the cameras themselves can be used to charge the batteries, but we opted to also bring an external charger.
- Sandisk SD Memory Cards – we opted for SanDisk Extreme Plus and Extreme Pro SD cards. Definitely shop around for these. Prices can range all over the place and you can usually get some on sale for a decent price.
- Afunta Anti-Scratch Screen Protector – a lot of reviews about the Sony RX100 mention how easily the LCD screen scratches. Fortunately, screen protectors are quite cheap (we paid $8 for a two-pack on Amazon) and a good investment!
- Sony AGR2 Attachment Grip – the RX100 is very small and compact, and the body of the camera is quite smooth. The attachment grip is a textured rubber/plastic material that has adhesive on the back of it to attach it to the camera.
Sony HDR-AS300 Action Cam
An action camera that we can mount to the front of a car, strap to a helmet, and take out into the rain was a must. GoPro is certainly the industry leader, at least from a brand recognition standpoint, for this category of camera. However, when researching and looking at video examples we were not overly impressed with the GoPro quality. Ultimately, we went with the Sony HDR-AS300 Action Camera. Like the RX100, this camera features a Zeiss lens. It also has true optical image stabilization (versus most other action cameras that are digital only), has three view angle options, records in HD (not 4K), etc.
Full details are available on the Sony web site at https://www.sony.com/electronics/actioncam/hdr-as300-body-kit
A few additional benefits of using the Sony RX100 and Sony AS300 cameras are that both use the same battery. As a result, we can carry several backup batteries that will work in both cameras – very convenient! Also, we discovered that the image and video quality and tones were very similar between the two cameras. We suspect this is because they both use Zeiss lenses and similar (perhaps the same?) processors. This is nice because when using images and footages from both cameras, we won’t have to worry as much about color correction to make things look consistent.
- Sony AKA-MCP1 Multicoat Lens Protector – to help protect the AS300 lens from getting scratched, we thought this snap-on lens protector was a good investment. It is clear and stays on the camera while filming. It does add a little bit of bulk, and you need to remove it to use the underwater housing that comes with the AS300. However, with the amount that we will be packing/unpacking and moving around the risk of scratching the lens was pretty high.
- GoPro Mounts – Sony has mounts for the AS300, however, we learned that GoPro mounts are more readily available and are what most tour companies have available on their gear should you want to mount your camera. Because of this, we purchased a variety of GoPro style mounts to use with the AS300.
- SanDisk microSD Memory Cards – we opted for SanDisk Extreme Plus microSD cards. As with the SD cards mentioned above, shop around for these for best pricing.
Secondary Photo & Video Camera
iPhone 7 & iPhone 7 Plus
Smartphones have certainly come a long way, particularly their photo and video capabilities. I have an iPhone 7 and Rachel has an iPhone 7 Plus. Both feature a 12 MP camera and can take HD/4K video, including slow motion. While these will not be our primary cameras, they certainly provide the ability to capture terrific images and videos, and will be a bit more inconspicuous at times.
Just say “no” to shaky video! If a video makes you nauseous, you’re not going to watch it. For those not familiar, a gimbal uses small motors on multiple axis points to stabilize your camera. We opted for the Zhiyun Crane-M. In addition to solid reviews, it is designed to work with compact cameras (like the Sony RX100), action camera (like the Sony AS300), and smartphones (like the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus). Basically, this gimbal will work with all of the cameras we will have.
In addition to being far more conspicuous, the main challenge with traveling with a gimbal is size. Gimbals are sensitive devices and the Zhiyun Crane-M comes in a 13.5”x9”x4” carrying case…pretty much the size of a pair of shoes. This will take up a sizable amount of space on one of our packs, but we believe it is worth it for the improved video quality.
- Zhiyun Crane-M Control Cable for Sony – this gimbal is compatible with certain Sony cameras (including the RX100 V), whereby this cable connects the gimbal to the camera and allows you to control certain camera functions (zoom, take photos, activate recording) with the gimbal controls. Very convenient!
Zoom H1 Handy Recorder
As we have watched travel videos and vlogs, a consistent differentiator between “good” and “better” videos is the quality of the audio. A videographer and producer friend of mine that I used to work with said that this investment was one of the best things we could have done. Ironically, it was relatively low cost at $89. The Zoom H1 is a small, handheld X/Y stereo mic, that will run for 10 hours on a single AA battery.
Full details are available on the Zoom web site at https://www.zoom-na.com/products/field-video-recording/field-recording/zoom-h1-handy-recorder
- Power DeWise Lavalier Omnidirectional Microphone – the Zoom H1 works well as a handheld microphone, but if we are in loud environments or are conducting interviews a lavalier (aka lav) mic is beneficial. These mics clip on to your shirt and plug into the Zoom H1 where the audio from the individual talking is captured. There are a variety of options at various price points, but we opted for two of the Power DeWise brand on Amazon for around $20 each. They include a little carrying case and cable extension cord, which was nice.
- Belkin Speaker and Headphone 3.5 mm AUX Audio Cable Splitter – you will note that we purchased two of the lavalier microphones. This cable splitter will allow us to connect both lav mics to the Zoom H1 in case two people were talking and each had a lav mic. One bonus is that the splitter also works with headphones in case we are watching a movie together on a bus, train, or plane. This was inexpensive; under $5 on Amazon.
- Rycote Portable Recorder Suspension – the Zoom H1 is a great recorder, but if you “handle” the device a lot while recording (moving your hand on it) you will get a lot of interference and noise in your recording. The Rycote device isolates the Zoom H1 from vibrations, shocks and handling noise. You can put it on a selfie stick, attach it to some cameras (not the RX100 V), or even attach it to the bottom of the gimbal.
- Movo WS1 Furry Outdoor Microphone Windscreen Muff – this basically looks like a wig for a bald troll. However, it is designed to fit over the microphones of the Zoom H1 and minimize wind noise.
Tripods & Selfie Sticks
This was actually quite challenging. While there are a TON of different options out there, finding the “perfect” portable size tripod and selfie stick was pretty elusive. As a result, we are bringing three with us.
- Manfrotto Compact Xtreme 2-in-1 Monopod & Pole – we have had good luck with Manfrotto products in the past. This is very lightweight but feels sturdy, extends from approximately 18” up to 54”, and has an adjustable ballhead. There is a 1/4” thread on both ends, which allows you to use it as a monopod, as well as an extension pole/selfie stick.
- Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod – this is a sturdy feeling little tripod that can be used on a table, on the ground for low shots, etc. With the legs collapsed it is also a nice handle/grip that we will likely use with the Zoom H1 recorder.
- Joby GorillaPod Action Video Tripod – with flexible, wrappable legs, these guys are designed to be great on uneven surfaces, to attach to fences and tree branches, and to be used as a short selfie stick. We’re curious how this and the PIXI do compared to one another.
- SmallRig Barrel Nut Connection Nut – this is a 1/4-20 (standard camera mount threading) barrel nut that will allow us to connect the Manfrotto Compact Xtreme monopod/pole to the PIXI or GorillaPod tripods listed above. This will be convenient when recording VLOGs and we need the camera height to be elevated. I should point out that this is not the most stable, especially with the weight of the camera, but it’s nice to have the option.
Dotz Cord ID Pro Cord and Cable Identification System – with all of the gear listed above comes a ton of cables! To help keep things straight, we purchased the Dotz system, which is a convenient way to label all of your cables and keep straight what goes with what.
Despite all of the camera equipment, something important to us will be to have Lens-Free Days! Click here to learn more about that!