Two-Week Trip to Europe: The Gear I Brought and the Gear I Should Have Brought

Two-Week Trip to Europe: The Gear I Brought and the Gear I Should Have Brought

As a personal approach to traveling, I generally bring more gear than I think I’ll ever use. As is almost always the case, I find that there’s something more I should have brought or, conversely, something I should have left behind.

In late February, my lady and I took a two-week trip to Europe. We flew into Frankfurt, where some of my close friends live, and the six of us explored the Hessen region for about a week, and four of us traveled to Innsbruck in western Austria for a week. I brought three cameras with me under the assumption that while I would be rotating through them throughout the trip, they would also provide my travel companions opportunities to take some photographs of their own. 

What I Brought

To start, a lot of my work is done on film, and this is even more so the case when traveling abroad where I want a range of lenses, which I only have for my Mamiya 645 system. Also, as you may have noticed from my review on the Fujifilm GA645, I had just picked up this camera a few months before our trip. I was eager to put the camera through its paces. As such, I only took my film system, as two of the friends we were visiting had digital kits that I thought would be more than enough to cover those bases. To reflect this, I am going to split up the list of what I took into the gear itself and the film that I brought as well.



I know that seems like a long list of films, but in reality, nearly all of it was gone by the time we landed back in the states. All told, there were almost 1,000 photos taken. Mostly from my perspective, but as intended, my traveling companions would sometimes make use of the cameras I wasn’t using at the time. 

Of the film gear that I brought, without a doubt, the Fujifilm GA645 and Nikon F100 saw the most action. Given the slower lens on the Fuji camera, once it started getting towards dusk or if it was very gloomy out, I didn’t bother bringing it out. Instead, in those circumstances, I relied heavily on the F100. I picked up a used Tamron 45mm for $200 just a week before we left to replace the 50mm f/1.8 D that I have been using since I bought the camera, and it came in the clutch so many times. With the vibration control built into the lens, I tested it in the store and was able to get tack sharp images down to 1/13th of a second, which was just shocking to me. Also, the Tamron was vastly sharper than the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 shot wide open. As a result, the F100 was capable of shooting well into the evening while the Mamiya and Fuji 645 systems were entirely useless. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the cameras that were collectively used the most across everyone were our phones. There is still no competition for the convenience of having a decent and friendly camera in our phones. 

While I did use almost all of the gear and film that I took, there were some things that I brought along for the trip but did not get used a single time: most notably, three film backs. Looking back on it, I cannot tell you why I brought the third one. Almost always, I keep two on me: one for color and one for black and white or one for higher speed film (in this case 400 ASA) and one for slow speed (usually 100 ASA) film. The backs are not huge or heavy, but they are big enough to take up an obnoxious amount of room. In addition, I did not use the teleconverter a single time.

Given that it requires an additional 2 stops of light compensation, and my 300mm already has a maximum aperture of f/5.6, I was never inclined to slow it down even more. I get too nervous with such a long lens when using slow shutter speeds, even with a tripod, mirror lock-up, and a cable release. There was so much wind on top of those mountains that I didn’t want to push my situation any more than I had to. Last for this list, I wish I had left the Mamiya 55mm C lens at home. Given that the Fuji camera had a very similar focal length, I never found myself getting it out of the bag, and it’s the second heaviest lens I have for the system. Between the third film back and the 55mm lens, I didn’t lose much space, but when you’re hiking and/or carrying around a backpack for hours on hours, every little bit helps. 

What I Wish I Brought

While I did not need my Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D on the trip, there were a few days where a buddy of mine or my fiancée was shooting the F100 in broad daylight with no need for shooting wide open or making use of the vibration control offered by the Tamron. Instead, I know they both would have preferred a substantially smaller and lighter lens. Also, part of me wishes I had brought my Manfrotto tripod with me instead of the Three-Legged Thing. It is substantially more compact and would have been less room in my bag, making it more easily carried around and more often used. Lastly, I wish I had brought my Sony a7 as well. I know, I know. The guy who only took film gear wishes he took his digital camera — go figure. I don’t know that I would have used it all that much, but there were times where I know I would have made good use of it. 

I would like to think that I am not unique in this sort of reflection. Do you have any similar experiences? 

James Madison's picture

Madison is a mathematician turned statistician based out of Columbus, OH. He fell back in love with film years ago while living in Charleston, SC and hasn't looked back since. In early 2019 he started a website about film photography.

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That is a sh*tload of gear... managing that much while away seems a nightmare to me... I don't see the point in 35mm film if your going to take medium format or your iPhone... I have traveled with my Alpa 12TC and my phase one back and a film back with a few lenses but it very much changes your approach. I have also travelled with my Phase one XF and a few lenses and that was at my limit. :-)

Hahaha. That it was. I only carried a portion of the gear when we went out but it was nice to have options day by day.

I've never used an Alpa 12TC but they look wild. They remind me Cambo cameras which I've seen and messed around with a little.

Holy man! Was this meant to be a vacation? Hauling so much gear and thinking to enjoying it? I can imagine the stress preparing all this kit, get it safely transported and sorted out what to take for the day...definitely not funny at all! And the you say you should have brought another kit as well.... makes me speechless.
It’s like going to the circus or a concert and photographing the whole time. No chance to enjoy or even remember what you’ve seen...

It was quite the vacation! Haha. As much as it was a lot to bring, it was my first time going to the Alps and, without experience knowing what I'd need and want, I was planning to bring more than I needed than to go and wish I brought more. I typically pack light for the majority of trips but for a trip like that, packing light wasn't a priority. As for bringing another kit, it would probably have been instead of the F100, not in addition to.

Blimey. You must have been fun to be with. Sounds to me like like you're more of a gearhead than a shooter. ;-)

This is nuts, and I too am heavily a film shooter. The problem is over packing and then spending all your time looking through the viewfinder instead of actually enjoying the trip. For trips, I go with my Yashica TLR, my old first gen RX100, and the phone. Everything else just gets in the way. Sometimes I replace the Yashica with an old Zeiss Ercona 1 folding 6x9. I leave the DSLR, the numerous SLR's, and the other MF gear at home. It just gets in the way.

I typically pack similarly but not for my first time in the Alps. Haha. I don't regret bringing three cameras. I only took one camera out a day but each had their strong suits.

It depends on the reason for the vacation and if your partner is or isn't a photographer. If it's a vacation that is meant to be a photographic endeavor, then gear becomes much more relevant. Or, if you're on vacation and your partner is NOT a photographer, then all bets are off. That is my case. It would be unfair to my wife for me to wander into a place and work on setting up shots, waiting for good light, etc while she is standing around bored.

If such a time happens in the near future, I'd have to think about getting Tamron's 35-150. Or, if I get a chance to head to Churchill, MB to photograph polar bears, it would be all hands on deck as far as gear goes. :-)

That is quite a lot of stuff. I’ve managed to pack a fujifilm kit into one small Manfrotto rucksack for 2 of us, 2 bodies, 5 lenses, travel tripod, mini tripod and accessories. I’m even considering getting rid of one of the lenses to lighten the load.