My quest for the travel-photo-grail

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Maxmolly7 Contributing Member • Posts: 574
My quest for the travel-photo-grail

Dear All,

inspired by another thread, here some food for thought to start a good discussion on the "perfect" gear or, "the grail" for travel photography.

I am digital Canon shooter since 2003 and EOS M user since its introduction. I shoot for pleasure; mainly around the family and on vacation with occasinal outings with photo friends. Subjects range from cities, landscapes, builings, people, nature to some wildlife.
The heaviest backpack I ever ended up dragging through the woods weighted 15kg, containing among accessories 3 bodies, several lenses and a huge tripod.
My constant quest ever since I started photography in the slide film days, has always been to search for uncomplicated lightweight gear covering a wide focal range and IQ performance at reasonable cost.

In 2013 I sold my semi-pro EOS DSLR in favour of the much smaller and lighter EOS M-system.
I was happily using a superzoom (Tamron 18-200 mm in EF-M mount) for several years and replaced the EF-M 18-55mm kit lens because I wanted tele reach without swapping lenses.
Over the years, the Tamron required 2 firmware updates for M3 & M6 by service which were luckily covered by a 5 year warranty to my name.
I tried to use fix focal length lenses (22mm, 50mm and 100mm) for some time in search for a more artistic approach in my photography, but I concluded that fix focals were simply not made for me.

End of 2019, I tried to take my quest to the next level when I came across a used and, very cheap Tamron 18-400mm to use for my M6 Mk1.
This combo was intended for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Mexico (City) which in the end was cancelled due to Corona.
The lens plus added EF-S to EF-M converter combo are not exactly small, so they balance not so well, but I loved the flexibility of the extreme focal range to have at hand; great compositional freedom from 29mm wide to 560mm tele without changing lenses.
I also became a big fan of close-up shots at full tele. I have used this combo intensively for about 6 month. When I examined my images from a Berlin-Potsdam trip more closely, I discovered that the 18-400mm performance was rather weak in the corners (especially architecture) and the AF accuracy was so-so, resulting in images without a "plop". The IQ was actually OK for the most images (especially the close-ups), but often too soft and lacking micro contrast especially when I compared it directly with my other (better) lenses.
Ultimatively, the AF might perform better if I had upgraded to the newer M6 Mk2 model, but I decided to go another way.

Because I loved this extreme focal range and, because I made favorable experiences with a 1" sensor camera Lumix TZ202 (24-360mm) previously as my only camera for holiday trips during 2 years, I decided to buy a used Sony RX 100 VII and a Sony RX 10 IV used at reasonoble prices.
I checked both against all my EF-M APS-C gear. Corona gave me the necessary patience and time to run some in-depth side-by-side tests which concluded in the following until today:

  1. I sold my M and M3 cameras
  2. I sold my 2 EF-M 18-55mm kit lenses (too short and not so sharp)
  3. I sold my Tamron EF-M 18-200mm (equal or better than kit lenses, but not as good as EF-M 18-150mm)
  4. I sold my Tamron EF-S 18-400mm (equal or, at some settings better than the 18-200mm, for sure not as good RX 10 IV)
  5. I sold my EF 100mm f/2 (loved IQ but did not use it enough)

For APS-C, I am keeping the following for now, especially for local shoot-outs and for low light:

  1. M6 Mk1 (might upgrade to Mk2 at reasonable used offer)
  2. EF-M 11-22mm (best wide zoom I ever had, very sharp even in the corners, on par with EF-M 22mm)
  3. EF-M 18-150mm (bought used, best of all standard zooms I owned so far; very high IQ)
  4. EF-S 55-250mm STM with adapter mounted (very lightweight, even with adapter not too bulky)
    I added Kenko Telepuls HD 1,4x DGX to increase reach to 560mm eff).
  5. EF 50mm STM with adapter mounted (very sharp, decent bokeh/DOF to isolate things)
  6. EF 100-400mm MK1 (only for use as wildlife lens on pre-planned trips)
  7. EF-M 22mm (not sure what to do with it, yet)

My main travel gear for the next trips to come, as I am a "good weather photog":

  1. Sony RX 100 VII (with grip) as my pocket camera e.g. for city trips. It is always with me whenever we go on a stroll. I added an adapter to use a polfilter just in case.
  2. Sony RX 10 IV as my main camera, I have equiv. 24 to 600mm at my reach with very good IQ. It even holds up very well in comparison to my APS-C gear as long as I keep ISO lower than 1600.
    I added pol- and Vario-ND-filter.
  3. The Lumix (IQ is almost on par with the Sonys) is also still around and used by other family members.

In addition, I have now consequently downsized/optimized my bags, tripods, monopod and along their heads, the latter all equipped with the small & lightweight Novoflex MC quick mount.
With my new RX 10 IV packaged, I am today down to roughly 2kg including a lightweight tripod and still can cover 24 to 600mm focal range! Now I can't wait to start travelling again...

I am curious to hear about your experiences and your "quests".

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May THE LIGHT be with you!

 Maxmolly7's gear list:Maxmolly7's gear list
Sony RX10 IV Sony RX100 VII Canon EOS M6 Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM +11 more
Canon EOS M3 Canon EOS M6 Panasonic ZS200 Sony RX10 IV Sony RX100 VII Tamron 18-400mm F3.5-6.3
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