UPDATED 12/2017:
People often ask me what camera gear I use, so I thought it would be fun to do a little write-up. As a hiking and backpacking photographer, I have found myself constantly trying to balance the pursuit of better image quality (higher resolutions and more dynamic range) with the desire to carry smaller and lighter gear on my adventures. Every piece of camera equipment is some sort of compromise between size, image quality, and price. And while big dSLRs used to be the mark of serious photographers, smaller mirrorless interchangable lens camera systems have really taken off in the past few years, giving people many different lighter, but not necessarily cheaper, alternatives.

Nikon D810 and Fujifilm X-T2 -- © 2017 Joe Braun Photography
The Fujifilm X-T2 and Nikon D810: two excellent system cameras.

Below are some of the camera systems and lenses that I am familiar with and enjoy shooting with. DISCLAIMER: While my experience and opinions may be useful, please take everything with a grain of salt! There are many different camera systems out there and everybody has different photographic goals, so I respect the fact that not everybody will agree with my choices in equipment...

Nikon Full-Frame SLR Cameras:

I have been shooting with Nikon dSLRs since 2003. When the Nikon D800 was introduced in 2012, it was a landscape photographer's dream camera with its high-resolution full-frame (FX) sensor. The follow-up Nikon D810 and the current 46mp Nikon D850 improve on the D800-series with a fast and reliable focusing system, a quieter shutter box, and the removal of the anti-aliasing filter for even sharper images. Aside from the luxurious resolution, other features that I like are the excellent dynamic range, well-controlled noise on long exposures (even shots that are several minutes long), the built-in eyepiece shade, and easy control over bracketing shots.

Little Hunters Beach photo (Acadia National Park) -- © 2013 Joe Braun Photography
Mystical sunrise in Acadia National Park.
Nikon D800 with Nikkor 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G at 18mm.



Favorite Lenses:

Wahclella Falls, Columbia River Gorge photo -- © 2015 Joe Braun Photography
Wahclella Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.
Nikon D810 with Nikkor 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G at 18mm.
Fujifilm X Series Cameras:

When weight and size are factors and you want to leave the big SLR behind, there are numerous smaller mirrorless camera systems out there that offer excellent image quality, including Micro Four Thirds (a camera system led by Olympus and Panasonic that has a very mature selection of lenses) and my current favorite, the Fujifilm X System (another system with a wide-range of high-quality lenses). The Fujifilm X-T2 is a wonderful SLR-style camera that is fun to shoot with and doesn't have all of the SLR bulk.

Upper East Canyon (Zion National Park) -- © 2015 Joe Braun Photography
Looking down a beautiful ridgeline in Zion's Upper East Canyon.
Fujifilm X-T1 with XF 10-24 F4 at 10mm.



South Manitou Island Lighthouse Milky Way (Michigan) -- © 2016 Joe Braun Photography
The Milky Way glows behind the South Manitou Island Lighthouse.
Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Rokinon 12mm f/2.

Favorite Lenses:

Nikon D810 and Fujifilm X-T2 -- © 2017 Joe Braun Photography
The Sony A7rII is a smaller and lighter full-frame alternative.
Sony A7 Series Full-Frame Mirrorless Cameras:

While Sony has offered mirrorless APS-C "NEX" cameras since 2010, it took the world by storm in 2013 with the introduction of its A7 series full-frame mirrorless cameras. The current Sony A7r III, with its 42mp sensor and updated controls, makes for a wonderful landscape camera and rivals the image quality of the Nikon D800 series and Canon 5D series cameras at roughly half the size and weight of the traditional bulky SLRs. It took a while to convince this Nikon shooter, but after spending a good deal of time studying and learning this camera, I really enjoy shooting with the A7r series now. While I have complained in the past about a lack of high-quality FE lenses for the system, Sony really turned the corner in 2017, releasing an excellent general zoom and several new wide-angle options. Third-party manufacturers (Zeiss, Tokina, etc.) are also working hard to add to the system.

Zion Narrows (Zion National Park) -- © 2017 Joe Braun Photography
Wonderful canyon glow in the upper Zion Narrows.
Sony A7rII with Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 G.



Yosemite Valley startrails (Yosemite National Park) -- © 2017 Joe Braun Photography
Stars spin above Yosemite Valley.
Sony A7rII with Tokina FiRIN 20mm f/2.

Favorite Lenses:

Canon M6 and Fujifilm X-T2 -- © 2017 Joe Braun Photography
The Canon M6 is one of the smallest and lightest APS-C mirrorless cameras around.
Canon EOS M Series Cameras:

Like Nikon, Canon is best known for its big SLRs and was a bit late to enter the mirrorless camera market when it introduced its first M-series camera in 2012. While the Fujifilm X System and Micro Four Thirds (Panasonic and Olympus) may have a much more mature line of cameras and lenses, if you need to go as small and as light as you can and still get SLR-quality results, the Canon EOS M6 (24mp APS-C sensor) makes for a wonderfully simple and compact kit. (As confusing as Canon's model numbering is, the M5 is actually the SLR-like flagship model, while the M3 and M6 are the older and newer compact alternatives.) I have to admit that I really enjoy shooting with the little Canon M cameras, despite people scoffing at how they don't have all of the frills of their competitors.



Climbing Lady Mountain (Zion National Park) -- © 2017 Joe Braun Photography
Climbing up Lady Mountain, Zion National Park.
Canon M6 with EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM.

Favorite Lenses:

Olmsted Point (Yosemite National Park) -- © 2017 Joe Braun Photography
Sundown at Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park.
Canon M6 with EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM.

Little point-and-shoot cameras are a dying breed since smartphones have taken over and offer comparable image quality. But there are a few interesting specialty one-piece cameras out there, including the Sony DSC-RX100 V and the Canon G7 X Mark II. Both cameras have 1" inch sensors (roughly four times larger than your standard smartphone camera) and can shoot RAW, giving photographers near-SLR quality in a very small package. I shoot with the Canon G7 X when I have to go super light, and I have been quite pleased with the results for such a small camera.

Another class of specialty point-and-shoot cameras are the waterproof/rugged lines that most camera companies offer, including the Nikon AW130, the Olympus TG-870, and the Panasonic TS6. While image quality on all of these small-sensor models is pretty average, the ability to take photos in wet and inhospitable locations make these quite useful.


Tripods, like cameras, are a compromise between stability and portability. I typically like to have two types of tripods ready for different shooting situations, a heavier and sturdier one for maximum stability for solid time exposure shots and alternatively, an altra-lightweight one to bring on long hikes where weight matters. While there are many big names out there from Gitzo to Manfrotto and dozens of others, I'm a big fan of the relatively unknown Asian company, SIRUI. The Sirui N-1004KX Tripod is my reliable main tripod that easily supports a big heavy SLR and features a removable monopod and interchangable middle columns. The Sirui T-005KX Tripod is a good backpacking tripod when you want to go light, but it's a bit short and wobbly for long time exposures. As for lens filters, I sometimes use ND (neutral density) filters and polarizers. Polarizers can often make the sky more dramatic, bring out details in clouds, and remove unwanted reflections in water, but when overused, they can also make water look lifeless and turn the sky to an ugly dull shade of blue.


If there is one thing I have learned, it's that you can get great results from just about any camera system if you're willing to study it and make it work for you. And while it's always fun to look at and fantasize about the latest gear or debate which brand is better than the other, remember that it's not just about gear! Technique and composition make the difference. Whatever camera equipment you use, get out there and have fun!

Pine Creek canyoneering (Zion National Park) -- © 2016 Joe Braun Photography
Rappeling in the golden light of Pine Creek, Zion National Park.
Fujifilm X-E2S with 14mm f/2.8.
Western Point Star Trails -- © 2013 Joe Braun Photography
Magical light show above Western Point, Acadia National Park.
Nikon D800 with Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 at 14mm.
Pictured Rocks Winter Trek (Michigan) -- © 2015 Joe Braun Photography
Pink winter sunset under Chapel Rock.
Fujifilm X-T2 with XF 18-135mm at 24mm.

Joe Braun Photography

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