I'm prepping for my April/May trip to Ireland. As a photographer I have always had to allot a significant portion of my luggage space to image-making tools. Several times I have taken a 4x5 view camera, big tripod, and all the extensive support gear such a camera requires. But on this trip I am facing the prospect of taking full advantage of the digital age and going well and truly light, in spades.
The working kit I am considering consists of a Panasonic Lumix LX5 with a Leica-designed 24-135mm stabilized f. 2.0 lens, plus a Sony TX5 that is water-, dust- and shock-proof (to mil-spec standards!). The Sony has a Zeiss-Tessar 25-100mm lens. Both cameras, and spare batteries for each, easily fit in my pockets. (I might consider taking the Lumix's little brother, a similarly Leica-adorned ZX1 as a just-in-case back-up.) The beauty of that tiny little Sony is that it can be always with you. It's smaller than a pack of cigarettes and weighs just five ounces, and it's almost impervious to most of the dangers that threaten cameras. The Lumix is larger (not by much) and weighs ten ounces with the detachable electronic viewfinder, and nine without it.
Pixel-counters will scoff, as both of these little guys are 10-and-a-bit megapixel cameras. But pixels tell only a small part of the digital image quality story. The Lumix, with its fast, super-sharp Leica lens and extremely well-designed sensor architecture is able to run rings around cameras with far higher numbers in the pixel department. I have no problem making excellent 13x19" prints with either camera, although the Lumix is superior.
I've never even come close to traveling this camera-light before and I may chicken out at the last minute and take one of the big Canon DSLRs and a couple of lenses. But I am doing my best to resist that idea. It would defeat the purpose of devising a compact solution for the traveling photographer and would substantially compromise my luggage situation.
Until I find an early passport I can't tell for sure, but I'm getting pretty close to my 50th trip to the Ould Sod and as you might imagine I have become something of a nit-picker when it comes to luggage and packing. Photo gear is always at the top of the list when the packing list gets made up.
I travel with three pieces. (1) A vertical, over the shoulderable, briefcase (made by Victorinox) that holds my laptop, charger, the Lumix, travel documents, any files I may be taking, snacks, and reading material. (2) A small, 20", rolling hard-shell carry-on. It carries the essentials I might need if the airline misplaces or outright loses my single checked bag. Actually, if I didn't always take over a bunch of stuff for friends, I could get along with just this bag for an indefinite period— especially if I don't have to load it down with photo gear. Unfortunately, on this trip it will be carrying a compact digital projector and auxiliary speaker, so things will be pretty crowded in there. (3) My checked bag, also a hard-shell roller, 24x17x10." Between these three pieces I feel I could go anywhere and stay for any length of time.
On this trip, for the first time, I will be wearing a new piece of "luggage": one of the Scottevest traveler's vests. I have always found the so-called photographer's vest useful but bulky, ugly, and pretentious. This new vest is quite trim and doesn't look anything like a piece of safari gear or something that Rambo might like to wear, despite its very cleverly designed twenty-two pockets. It will carry my travel papers, notebook(s), pens and pencils, extra specs, the Sony and spare battery, the iPod, some snacks, a magazine or two, and whatever else I need to have at hand. It even has a pocket for an iPad, which I do not yet own. Meanwhile, that pocket will nicely hold a couple of magazines or other reading material. All without the appearance of bulk or clunkiness. Just take it off, put it in the little bin, and send it through the x-ray at the security check. Neat.