Airplane travel and camera gear

Having just returned from a short trip to Spain, travelling on a commercial airline is becoming harder and harder for photographers on a budget. So this post is not only my view but also something that may change what gear I currently use or choose in the future.

My current travel camera is my trusty Olympus E-M1, I carry this with a flashgun, two primes the 60mm macro and either the 17mm or the 25mm and two zooms, the 12-40mm and the 75-300mm. I fit all this and my 13″ Mac Book Pro and Kindle (essential for air travel, as I get bored flying) into an old Lowepro Mini Trekker AW. My tripod, filters, charger and power supplies go into checked in luggage. The carry on luggage usually weighs in about 10lbs, so currently is ok for all the UK budget airlines.  

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My well worn Lowepro Mini Trekker AW

A few years ago, however the carry on limit was much higher, with some airlines I recall that as long as you could lift it above your head it was ok. Back in the days when I used 35mm film cameras, I would pack all of my camera gear in a Billingham 335 bag that empty weighed just under 4 lbs on its own. This has me thinking now of what happens if the carry on limit is reduced even further, what would my options be, so here are a few thoughts.

  • Use the E-M1 with just primes
    • This was my original setup before purchasing the zoom lenses, I would use the 12mm, 17mm and the 45mm. The main issue I had with this is I got fed up swapping lenses when I required a different field of view, as you cannot always use your legs.
  • Purchase a Sony RX10.
    • that would give me a focal length of 24-200mm or 600mm depending on the various versions available. I already have a Sony RX100 MkII so I have a fair idea of the image quality from the smaller sensor. Downside not sure of macro capabilities of the lens, also nothing wider than 24mm.
  • Purchase an Olympus 12-100mm lens.
    • It would lighten the load adding the macro lens and just travel with a two lens setup. I would, however, lose out on the telephoto reach of the 75-300mm.
  • Purchase an Olympus 14-150mm lens.
    • Again it would lighten the load adding the macro lens and just travel with a two lens setup. I would, however, lose out on both the wide angle and the telephoto, and would also end up with a slower lens.
  •  Purchase a fixed focal length compact camera (Fujifilm X100 – 70 or Ricoh GR).
    • I have travelled before with just a 35mm focal length camera, however, it is a bit limiting in what you can capture, great for street, landscape etc, not great for nature.
  • Travel just with the RX100 MkII.
    • That is feasible, I have travelled with it in the past along with the Olympus, and used it for wandering around in the day and evening when I don’t want to carry a great deal of equipment.
  • Travel just with my smartphone.
    • That is also an option, and something I would do for a short break, but I would be limiting my photography just as I would with the fixed lens camera.

My personal preference on the above would be to either choose the RX10 MkIII or the Olympus 12-100mm. The Sony would give me a good wide angle and the reach at the telephoto end, all in a package that weighs under 2.5 lbs, and the Olympus lens option would keep the E-M1 that I am very familiar with.

Anyway to conclude this post lets hope that the budget airlines don’t reduce the carry on baggage weight, and I will not need to make this decision. It would be nice to hear from you and what equipment you fly with, and whether you have had to change anything to meet the weight limits of carry on luggage.

Equipment Featured

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