My travel gears and the stories behind them

I’m not a guy who believes the more money you spend on your equipment, the better results you can get. I only buy what is necessary and make the most of it. In this post, I will show you my travel gears just as the title says.

But first:

My precious!

From left to right:

  • Zhiyun Crane-m 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer
  • Sony 24mm f/1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar Lens
  • Sony 50mm f/1.8 OSS Lens
  • GoPro 3-Way Grip, Arm, Tripod
  • iPhone 7
  • GoPro Hero 6 Black
  • Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX90V
  • Sony Alpha a6500 Mirrorless w/ Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D Lens
  • Manfrotto Befree Live Fluid Video Head w/ Befree Aluminum Tripod Kit

I didn’t purchase all of these at one time. It takes me almost three years to have them.

At first, I only have a point and shoot camera: Sony DSC-HX90V, which serves me for 2 years. The reason why I chose this camera as my first camera is mostly because of its compact size, the 30X zoom ability, and I didn’t know much about photography.

I took this camera with me for such a long time because I’m pretty satisfied with what it can do, especially the 30 times optical zoom in such small package making the heavy DSLR with a ridiculously long lens look like a joke to me.

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Marina City Goldberg, taken across the river

Here are some of the photos taken from this camera showcasing how it handles the night light and sunset when I visited Chicago and Yosemite. These photos were edited on my iPad.

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As you can see, I think it did a really great job considering a digital camera this size.

I listed my iPhone as a travel gear because it is. It’s always nearby and ready to shoot before you turn on any of your other expensive cameras. Here is an example when I was riding the cable car near the Union Square in San Francisco, the raindrop and the lighting were perfect at that moment, so I grabbed my iPhone (5S at that time) and took this photo.

A Rainy Day in SF

As I believe I have made the most of my little camera, I began to realize its limitations. it really sucks in the night! There is so much noise on those night photos and even if I used a tripod I still can’t shot the Milky Way at night. That’s when I started to think about purchasing a new camera.

Then one perfect night in California, I drove to Joshua Tree National Park with my friends and used an app called Sky Guide to find a spot to capture a bit of the Milky Way. The camera we used is a Sony Alpha 7, a full-frame mirrorless camera.

A Stary Night at Joshua Tree National Park. Credit: Alvin

At that moment, I knew a mirrorless is my next. A DSLR is still too heavy and unnecessary for me, a Sony mirrorless is in that sweet spot, small and mighty. By the way, the reason why I like Sony is its quality and the ability to control the camera with your phone, which is very important when you are traveling alone. After a lot of researching and consulting, finally, I chose the Sony Alpha 6500. Here’s why: Not only do I need it to take photos, but also to shoot travel video with this camera. Features like 4K ability, optical stabilizations, compact size(yes, I still hate holding a big brick on my hand) are what I’m looking for.

The shopping list got longer after I locked down my goal camera. I need lenses and other gears! 24mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.8 from Sony seem to fit my bill and my needs. Then, a tripod with a fluid head and a gimbal stabilizer should fix the shaky amateur-quality-video problem. Then, DJI released their latest drone: Mavic Pro. Holy shit! I need that for my next trip, too.

My DJI Mavic Pro

So, one afternoon, I took all these gears to a state park in Indiana (I was getting my bachelor’s degree from Purdue) and shot a short video.


Music: Into Ether (Original Mix) by Jeremy Lim. No copyright infringement intended.

As my first video, it’s not that bad, right? Then comes the Alaska trip to test my skills. Here’s the link to that post: Adventure in Denali, Alaska You can see a lot of drone footages in that travel video I made, but these footages are actually in 720P. Why? Becuase my drone hits the mountain in Alaska and there is no way to get it back:( All I left is the compressed video in my phone. My 4K raw footages along with my drone are still somewhere in Alaska right now.

Well, that basically covers all my travel gears. Actually, there is a lot more stuff that I didn’t tell you: several SD cards, backup SSD, all kinds of batteries, cables, and chargers etc. All I want to say is that it’s always better to make the most of what you have already got than to purchase new gadgets that you don’t know how to use.

Happy shooting!

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