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Travel Photographer Tom Carter's Essential Camera Gear List

Tom Carter
The list author says: "My name is Tom Carter, I am an American travel photographer, photojournalist and published author. I spent 2 years backpacking to all 33 provinces in China to shoot my 600-page photography book CHINA: Portrait of a People and am presently traveling across India in its entirety for my next book.

I did not attend photography school; I am entirely self-taught. I am NOT an accredited press photographer. I shoot freelance, on spec, and work independent of any photo agency. Nor am I paid to endorse any product or brand. I buy all my gear out of my own pocket.

I firmly believe that camera gear is relative to your individual ability and purpose, so to vehemently endorse one camera brand over another is, in my opinion, pointless (unless you are getting paid to do so, then by all means...).

I have been taking pictures for nearly 20 years but I've only been shooting DSLR for a little over a year. Prior to this I used a 4-megapixel point-and-shoot; professional photojournalists snickered, snobby photo enthusiasts scoffed, but for me, at the time, that little camera suited my purposes perfectly.

The result was CHINA: Portrait of a People, which was, as a book reviewer for the South China Morning Post newspaper pointed out, "how Carter managed to capture many of the candid shots in the book without intimidating too many of his subjects."

Good photos come from the eye, not the lens. Nonetheless, in the interest of disclosure and helping to point aspiring photographers in the right direction, this is the gear I am presently shooting with. Unlike other "what's in my camera bag" lists on Amazon, everything on my list actually fits in one camera bag.

I should also suggest to anyone traveling in developing countries to purchase camera insurance; obvious advice except that I can't count how many fellow photographers who have had their gear stolen while on the road."
Nikon D700 12.1MP FX-Format CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only) (OLD MODEL)
Nikon D700 12.1MP FX-Format CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only) (OLD MODEL)
"There is no real reason why I chose Nikon over Canon, I just did, but I am happy that I did. The D700 is a solid piece of machinery and very easy to learn. The megapixel count is low compared to the new D3x, but other than that they are virtually the same camera, so save that money for lenses!"
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
"Glass is more important than body, this is a time-tested fact of photography. The 70-200 is expensive as heck, but the resolution at 200mm is crystal clear. You might save money on those cheap, plastic 200mm lenses, but your pictures will just suck. Its big and heavy, but it is my primary walking-around lens and I have come to adore it."
Nikon 50mm f/1.4D Auto Focus Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras - Fixed
Nikon 50mm f/1.4D Auto Focus Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras - Fixed
"For up-close portraits and low-light shots, there is no better lens. Shooting at f/1.4 is heavenly."
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Auto Focus-S Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Auto Focus-S Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens
"Actually I rarely use this lens, and admit that there are more versatile wide-angle zooms on the market. Plus there is no lens filter that will fit it, leaving that expensive glass wide-open to fingers, dust and scratches. But, when I have used it for landscape and architecture, the beautiful shots I get pay for the lens."
Nikon 77mm Screw-on Neutral Color Filter
Nikon 77mm Screw-on Neutral Color Filter
"Protect that expensive Nikkor glass! Fits the 70-200mm."
Nikon 52mm Screw-on NC Filter
Nikon 52mm Screw-on NC Filter
"I use filters for protection, not effects. Fits the 50mm."
Adorama 52mm Wide Angle Rubber Lens Hood
Adorama 52mm Wide Angle Rubber Lens Hood
"Keeps light out of the 50mm lens.  I like the rubber hoods because they collapse nicely in my bag."
Nikon MB-D10 Multi Power Battery Pack for Nikon D300 & D700 Digital SLR Cameras - Retail Packaging
Nikon MB-D10 Multi Power Battery Pack for Nikon D300 & D700 Digital SLR Cameras - Retail Packaging
"There is no point in owning the D700 without the battery pack. The grip is SO useful, and the extra power will allow you to use the rapid shutter release, which is like a machine gun."
Nikon EN-EL4a Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery for MB-D10 Battery Pack and Nikon D2 and D3 Digital SLR Cameras - Retail Packaging
Nikon EN-EL4a Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery for MB-D10 Battery Pack and Nikon D2 and D3 Digital SLR Cameras - Retail Packaging
"This is the battery to use with the MB-D10.  Lasts all day, sometimes two, and only takes about thirty minutes to fully charge.  Dreamy!"
Nikon MH-21 Quick Charger for Nikon EN-EL4 and EN-EL4a Rechargeable Li-Ion Batteries
Nikon MH-21 Quick Charger for Nikon EN-EL4 and EN-EL4a Rechargeable Li-Ion Batteries
"This is the charger you will need for the MB-D10. Nothing else will charge that battery. Bulky, but fast."
Nikon BL-3 Battery Chamber Cover for Nikon EN-EL4 and EN-EL4a for the MB-D10
Nikon BL-3 Battery Chamber Cover for Nikon EN-EL4 and EN-EL4a for the MB-D10
"An example of Nikon really robbing their customers.  You NEED this part to use the MB-D10 battery grip.  So why does Nikon sell it separately, and for so much money? And why donít they even TELL us we need it before buying the MB-10? Nikon gets the middle finger for that move."
Fotasy HASNK Genuine Leather Hand Strap for Nikon D4 D3 D800 D700 D600 D7100 D7000 D90 D5200 D5100 D5000 D3200 with Premier Cleaning Cloth (Black)
Fotasy HASNK Genuine Leather Hand Strap for Nikon D4 D3 D800 D700 D600 D7100 D7000 D90 D5200 D5100 D5000 D3200 with Premier Cleaning Cloth (Black)
"Actually, I use the Nikon AH-4 SLR Leather Hand Strap but they donít sell it on Amazon, so I just put the Janco as an example. I LOVE my hand strap. I think neck straps are so friggin stupid for so many reasons.  Check out my images on my Amazon profile page and you will see my hand strap in action."
Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
"I never use flash.  Ever.  I love natural light.  Nonetheless, for client shots itís a requisite, so I go with the top of the line."
Sanyo Eneloop AA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries - 8 Pack (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Sanyo Eneloop AA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries - 8 Pack (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
"I used to work at Sanyo when I lived in Japan, and was responsible for writing and proofreading Eneloop cells label and packaging for this very product.  But I am being 100% objective when I say that these are some long-lasting batteries with little charge time. Use them with the Speedlight flash."
SanDisk SDCFX3-016G-A31 16 GB Extreme III CompactFlash Card (Retail Package)
SanDisk SDCFX3-016G-A31 16 GB Extreme III CompactFlash Card (Retail Package)
"I have three of these in my camera bag, but one is enough to get me through the day, even when shooting in Jpeg + Raw format."
LaCie Rugged All-Terrain 320 GB Firewire800/Firewire400/USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive 301832
LaCie Rugged All-Terrain 320 GB Firewire800/Firewire400/USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive 301832
"If you are on the road as long as I am, you will want at least 2 external hard-drives to store your images.  I carry one in my day pack, and leave one at the hotel, because storing your precious images all on one single hard drive is suicidal."
NIKON MC30 Remote Cable Release -31.5 inches
NIKON MC30 Remote Cable Release -31.5 inches
"A must-have for shooting on a tripod in low-light."
Manfrotto 7302YB M-Y Tripod with Ball Replaces 725B
Manfrotto 7302YB M-Y Tripod with Ball Replaces 725B
"I am not an expert on tripods because I donít like to use them unless I really have to. If I had the money I would get one of those miniature titanium ones, because this size is kind of big for traveling."
Sport Shield 200 Rain Cover
Sport Shield 200 Rain Cover
"If you are traveling in countries with monsoon seasons (or insane water festivals like Holi), get this. I tried garbage bags and I tried other brands, but really AquaTech is the only model that really fits and works. If you are going to spend ten grand on camera stuff, then whatís another two hundred bucks to protect it all?"
Lowepro SlingShot 350 AW -Black
Lowepro SlingShot 350 AW -Black
"I have a love-hate relationship with my 350. Love it because it holds EVERYTHING on this list, about 25lbs in total hanging on my back all day, every day. Hate it because Lowepro really effed up their design: they didnít use metal zippers, they used string zippers, so you canít lock the damn thing!"
Gregory Palisade 80 Backpack
Gregory Palisade 80 Backpack
"I have been living out of my Palisade 80 for over a year now since Iíve been in India. Itís a good, solid pack and feels nice on my hips and back. I am 6í4Ē so the 80 might be too big for some people."
Pacsafe 85L Backpack and Bag Protector
Pacsafe 85L Backpack and Bag Protector
"Works like a metal fishing net and fits a size 80 pack just fine. For anyone who has ever been on an Indian train or hotel room, you will understand why I use this."
GOGO Thick Solid Color Pro Wrist Sweatband, price for one piece
GOGO Thick Solid Color Pro Wrist Sweatband, price for one piece
"In lethally-humid countries like China and India, wrist bands are great for when your skin is dripping sweat but your hands are holding a camera and you canít conveniently get to the du-rag in your back pocket."
Nikon 8072 Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
Nikon 8072 Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
"To be honest, I think a du-rag or tee-shirt are sometimes better than these cleaning cloths, which tend to leave little fibers all over my lens filters."
Stoner 94203 GUST Easy Air Duster - 12 oz.
Stoner 94203 GUST Easy Air Duster - 12 oz.
"The only problem with canned air is some airports wonít allow it - even on checked luggage. At Shanghai International I constantly have to deal with Chinese airport security officers who just canít understand why I am traveling with air. They think itís some kind of terrorist poison gas."
Intertape Polymer Group 5638 Vinyl Impregnated Cloth Gaffers Tape, 1.88-Inch x 60-Yard, Black
Intertape Polymer Group 5638 Vinyl Impregnated Cloth Gaffers Tape, 1.88-Inch x 60-Yard, Black
"I completely covered my camera, lenses, accessories and bag with gaffers tape, which is vital for protecting from the elements. Plus I donít like to show off the brand name of my gear lest any thieves be tempted. Gaffers tape makes my gear look old and cheap and I like it like that."
Rothco Carabineer Compass
Rothco Carabineer Compass
"I am always monitoring the position of the sun, because I prefer shooting early morning and late afternoon and need to check my angles before hand."
Mastering the Nikon D700
Mastering the Nikon D700
"Just wanted to throw this on the list, but the truth is that I never read this book. The D700 owner's manual that comes with the body is very thorough and also fits in my back pocket. But I suppose you can learn a few extra tricks with this book; seems popular."
Olympus Camedia C-4000 4MP Digital Camera w/ 3x Optical Zoom
Olympus Camedia C-4000 4MP Digital Camera w/ 3x Optical Zoom
"My first digital camera, which I used to photograph my book CHINA: Portrait of a People. She is now retired and packed away for nostalgic reasons. What a great little camera! Check out the images on my Amazon profile page to see her in action."
China: Portrait of a People
China: Portrait of a People
"600 pages and over 800 photos of life and humanity from the 33 provinces in China.  Took me 2 straight years of hard-core budget traveling to complete.  It is my hope that this book will motivate others to visit China and see parts of the country that are not in the tourist guide books."