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Sony DSLR sensor/travel photography

Hi folks, this is my first post here. I was a part-time photographer in a past life but that was years ago. I have a trip to Italy coming up for 2 weeks. I have a Sony A7Rii and I don't want to be bogged down with too much gear (I'm also taking polaroids which will be a hassle but also so fun.)
I have 2 questions.
1.) Ideally, I'd like to take a single lens. I'm more of a portrait photographer, but I'd like it to be flexible enough to get Italy in the frame. I got a prime lens, it was a 55mm for like $200 and it's too tight a frame, I think I'm going to swap for a 35mm prime lens. Any better reccomendations?

2.) My sony is a mirrorless camera and If I change lenses dirt gets into the sensor, on the lens and all the photos are dirty, does anyone have a strategy for that?

Thanks!
-Rachael

Posted by
2924 posts

I take lots of shots , often eight to ten thousand on an extended trip . Obviously , only a lower number are worthwhile , but I like flexibility . I don't want to carry extra lenses , or change them in the field . I use a Canon mirrorless camera ( new this past autumn ) with an 18 - 150 lens which is perfect for everything I shoot , Take a look at a configuration like that for your Sony .

Posted by
5017 posts

I shoot crazy amounts of frames, too. I take multiple cameras on my trips, but my main ("big") camera is a Lumix GH5 mirrroless camera, similar to your Sony (mine's a bit bigger but same kind of rig). Shooting with a single prime will limit you - for travel, I'm very happy with a modest but high-quality zoom. (I also bring along a long zoom on some trips for wildlife or other special situations; it's big, heavy and expensive and I grouse about schlepping it, but I always come home with some special shots that would not have been possible without it).

I change lenses when I need to. I just try to avoid doing that in a windy and dusty place. Helps if you have a big, loose coat, or (better) a car or other still-air place you can retreat to. Of course I prefer changing lenses in a controlled, indoor environment, but the world often does not provide one of those when you need it. Stay out of the wind, stay away from blown dirt and debris, duck into a car or bathroom for a moment when you swap glass. Practice the juggling act (lens 1, lens 2, lens caps, body cap, various lens pouches, etc.). It doesn't have to be perfect, just keep the goobers off the sensor (and make sure all the glass is clean, too). Check the sensor well before your trip (shoot a blank frame, crank it up in Photoshop, look for blobs). If you see cruft, take your camera to have the sensor cleaned so it's nice and clean before you start packing.

Have fun.

Posted by
266 posts

I would have a hard time doing a trip to Italy with just one prime, but I think I could manage with two primes: a 24mm and a 35mm. In Rome especially you will probably want something wider than 35mm. The 24-70mm range is ideal for Italy.

Also, what generation smartphone do you have? The newer models are remarkably capable and may be able to substitute for a prime or two.

Don't worry too much about changing lenses. Just stay out of the wind when you do it.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
14 posts

I travel with one SLR, a 18-300 zoom. Lens fits in a sock, camera wrapped also. On camera flash. Only issue is you can’t make a phone call with it, like a cell phone/ camera!!

Posted by
114 posts

I sacrifice clothes and even shoes (!) so I can bring my camera and the "right" lenses, but I'm also a little obsessed. I even bring my tripod, but I recently bought a cheap one so I can put it in my checked luggage.

I have a Nikon Z6 mirrorless plus an infrared camera that takes some interesting shots. On this trip to Italy, I will probably take my kit lens (24-70 f/4) plus a zoom (18-400). I will feel naked with only 2 lenses, but I'm traveling solo so I won't have a schlepper for this trip.

As far as dust, I try to be careful. I have one of those bulbs that blow air that I use sometimes too.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
4 posts

Wow you guys are so awesome! Thank you so much for these responses. Follow up question:

Do you run out of space shooting? How big are your memory cards/what do you bring? Do you upload and clear out the ones you have?
Thanks!

Posted by
266 posts

Do you run out of space shooting? How big are your memory cards/what
do you bring? Do you upload and clear out the ones you have?

I always bring way more memory cards than I need, and so I never run out of space. I do check my camera before each outing to make sure that there's some room on the card. Sometimes I have to switch to a second card.

I usually add a couple of whatever size has the best price point just before a big trip. These days 64GB (maybe 128GB) UHS-I is the sweet spot. As long as you are not doing a lot of video, you will probably be fine with a 64GB card and you don't need really need UHS-II for stills. An A7rii raw file is roughly 40MB (less if you are shooting jpeg), and so a 64GB card would give you about 1500 images. (did I do my math right?) I usually plan for 200+ images a day based on my own previous experience, but that number will vary wildly depending on your shooting style.

SanDisk Extreme Pro is reputed to be the best. Don't skimp on a cheap card. A 64 GB card is about $20.

I travel with a laptop (yeah, extra weight, I know) and offload my images to a portable hard drive every night. I also assign keywords and do some initial culling/rating in Lightroom nightly. I don't erase anything from the memory cards until I get back home to the US.

Posted by
14 posts

I bring an iPad mini, download photos daily, 100-200 a day or more. Bring extra cards but don’t need them. There are other “storage” devices out there but the pad works great.

Posted by
5017 posts

Do you run out of space shooting? How big are your memory cards/what do you bring? Do you upload and clear out the ones you have?

I shoot a shipload of photos on a typical trip - sometimes up to 10,000 to 20,000. That's typically the result of...

  1. I shoot RAW+JPG, so I get two of everything.
  2. I sometimes shoot in Burst Mode. That's super helpful for shooting wildlife (birds in flight, all but impossible to capture otherwise) or action sports...but it generates a stunningly large number of photos. Most of those burst-mode photos are throwaways, but it's time-consuming to sift through them, and I want a fairly powerful desktop computer with large displays to do that - so I would never waste my time while on a trip culling all those. Even without burst mode, I still take lots of photos. And they're big files, too.

I bring a fistfull of memory cards, in sizes ranging from 32 GB (old ones) to 125 GB (expensive, fast ones).

Every night (well, most nights...) I backup the memory cards to a portable photo storage device with a 1 TB SSD internal drive (it's about the size of an iPhone but 2-3 times as thick). The photo storage device is just a backup - I don't delete the cards until after I get home and have copied everything to a large hard drive. It's a minor chore, but I have given up trying to upload so much data to any web/cloud-based service - it's just too massive, and the upload speeds are often abysmally slow (and sometimes I'm in places where there's no connectivity - I'd certainly never bother trying to upload tons of photos via cellular service). Once I get home, one of the first things I do is to copy all the photos from all the memory cards, put them on a hard drive and then backup that hard drive so I have multiple copies...only then do I format the memory cards and wipe clean the photo storage device.

Posted by
4684 posts

Hi Rachel. I took my Canon DSLR + lenses to Europe for quite a few trips before I got tired of lugging it all around. (not mirrorless, but my DSLR has always been prone to dust on the sensor also - drove me nuts!!!!). In 2017, I finally gave up on it for travel and instead bought a "bridge camera," a compromise between a DSLR and a P&S. I got the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000. It has a fixed zoom lens, the equivalent of 25mm-400mm. It has limitations vs. a DSLR for sure, but at least I know what they are, and mostly I have learned to work around them. I've been surprised that I really do use the lens both wide and tight and in between. (If I could choose, I'd love to get a little wider.)

Anyway, I'm not sure I could live with just one of my DSLR lenses. This camera has been a great trade-off for me. (Still need a tripod though - wouldn't give that up, because I love taking night shots.)

Sony has a similar (some would say superior) camera to mine, which is a bit old by now anyway - DSC-RX10.

--

As far as memory cards: I have one 64GB SDXC card in my camera, which is usually enough for a day's shooting while I travel - I shoot every frame as RAW+JPEG. If I shoot videos too, that will really eat the space quickly, but I mostly shoot stills.

I always travel with my small laptop plus a portable hard drive for backup. Every night, I dump the memory card to my laptop and then backup all of those photos to the backup drive. That way, have at least two copies of everything, on separate media. And once I'm done that for the evening, I format the memory card in the camera so it's fresh for the next day's shooting.

I often wind up going through my photos while I travel too and can do soon the laptop.

If I didn't have the laptop? Then I'd buy a bunch of extra memory cards many more than really needed so I could swap them out every few days - they are pretty cheap nowadays. And I'd try to figure out a way to get some of the images (JPEG, anyway) over to my phone, to have at least some of the highlights saved in case of a catastrophe, so I'd have SOMETHING if I lost my memory cards or something.

Having at least one spare battery for the camera is essential also. I tend to buy cheap after-market batteries on eBay or Amazon for my spare batteries. They don't have the same capacity as the original, but they cost a fraction of the original. If they only last 2/3 as long, doesn't matter because they probably cost 1/5 what the original cost.

Posted by
30894 posts

rj,

I'm an avid photographer and always pack along a full sized Canon DSLR along with a P&S camera. The DSLR is a bit bulky and heavy to travel with, but I've adjusted to that and don't find it to be much of a problem. I've found that I use two lenses about 99% of the time - a 10-22 wide angle and a 24-105 medium zoom. I don't change lenses too often during the day but haven't noticed much of a problem with dust getting into the camera.

I wouldn't suggest using either a 55 mm or 35mm prime lens, as it's going to be too limiting. I'm not too familiar with Sony lenses, but if you're concerned about dust ingress, you could use a medium range zoom such as THIS 18-105 zoom which appears to be f4 across the entire range, and leave that on the camera for the entire trip. If not supplied with the lens, a lens hood would be a good idea. Check the Sony website as there may be other good lenses.

I always pack along a spare battery when going out touring, and make sure both batteries are fully charged. Which size of memory cards to use will depend on your preferences. Do you normally shoot RAW only, a combination of RAW + JPEG or JPEG only? RAW + JPEG will create largest files and require larger memory cards, while JPEG only will create the smallest files as they're compressed. If you're not travelling with a laptop or portable hard drive, two or three 16GB cards should be fine, unless you're also shooting video.

If I'm going out for the evening, I often leave my DSLR in the hotel room and just take the P&S. However I always remove the memory card from the DSLR and store it in my money belt. If someone were to steal my camera, at least the photos would be safe.

Posted by
68 posts

I think David from Seattle has good advice. We recently returned from a month in Italy during windy rainy weather. I also take oodles of pictures. I used only prime lenses on my camera. The camera & lenses are WP but changing does expose insides. I exercise great care during lens changes - so far OK. Buy a Sony sensor cleaning kit to take along as well as a "Rocket" blower. Take lots of SD cards because interior pix call for bracketed HDR. Save as jpeg & raw - jpeg can be viewed right away while raw allows more post-production corrections. I don't backup to another device while traveling; just swap out SD cards often & store in safe location. Take batteries & a charger. Since you have a full frame Sony, a 24 - 105 zoom is a very good range. Your camera also has "in body stabilization" so you don't need a stabilzed lens. Even so, the available lenses are expensive. 50 to 55mm is the "normal" lens. 28mm is a good wide angle - 24mm is better. Most pix will be wide angle. Maybe a 100 to 150mm macro/tele could be used occasionally. But you can use the 55mm and crop as you have a large pixel count. Don't make the trip only about pictures, look at things first. Take a pix if you see one you want. The pictures should augment your memory - not be your only memory.

Posted by
4 posts

Don't make the trip only about pictures, look at things first. Take a
pix if you see one you want. The pictures should augment your memory -
not be your only memory.

So true!

Wow these are all such awesome suggestions, I really appreciate it, If anyone has a link to some Italy photos they took I'd love to see them!

Thanks everyone!

Posted by
2924 posts

Beautiful work , Andrew , these will keep me occupied for hours !

Posted by
245 posts

How big are your memory cards/what do you bring?

I take multiple cards (about 8 or 10), and switch them out regularly. I do upload my photos regularly to my laptop, but I maintain them on the card until I'm home and sure of my finished choices. I also take 3 or 4 batteries, since the batteries on the mirrorless cameras don't seem to last as long (I have a Sony A6000).

I'm a strictly amateur photographer, but (since we're sharing) here are my Italy photos from last October: https://500px.com/chiaraswitzer/galleries/italy - all were taken with my Sony Alpha a6000. They're a mix of decorative shots and share-my-vacation shots.

Posted by
433 posts

Contrary point of view: I am a retired photographer and video producer/animator. I have not looked through a viewfinder or plugged in a cable for two years. I survive and I enjoy the reduced complexity in my life: no equipment to keep track of and I don't care about software.

Camera? I obtained an older Apple iPod touch at discount and put it in a waterproof Otterbox Defender case. Light enough to go on a neck lanyard, it's instantly available yet fairly secure. After many experimental and debugging trips about town and out on my bike, I have proven to my satisfaction the iPod touch is all the camera I need for traveling.

I completely appreciate every amateur and professional shooter's desire to obtain the finest photographs possible under any conditions but I am no longer selling my images or accepting commissions. While I still look for interesting angles and I carefully compose some shots, I now live more in the moment. Moving around freely (without two cases, three Nikons, and four to eight lenses) is refreshing and liberating. I hope you someday find yourself free of the need for extensive documentation, find other artistic relief, and can put your gear to rest.

Posted by
245 posts

I hope you someday find yourself free of the need for extensive documentation, find other artistic relief, and can put your gear to rest.

While I do understand how seeing things though a lens (or screen) is different than seeing them without, I'm not sure why you think it is an artistic venture we should not pursue? Some write in journals, some sketch, some photograph......is there a reason one is worse than another? If someone enjoys looking at their photographs, that seems reason enough to keep taking them

Posted by
68 posts

I too spent time as a professional photographer. I definitely do not miss the pressure of having to get THE picture on a schedule. But I do enjoy taking pictures under my terms for myself, family & friends. I always hope that I can capture another magic image to add to my small set of such pictures accumulated over 60+ years of photography. And I hope that other people continue to try for their great trip picture. Just don't stand in front of me with that selfie stick!