Since we first started Little Grey Box, it has grown from a personal hobby blog to a small content creation business. Now, we don’t just create blog posts or take cute pics for social media, we’re regularly engaged by tourism boards and brands of all shapes and sizes to capture high-quality imagery to be used in print and on digital platforms. We’re also regularly contracted to create engaging videos and capture high-quality footage to be used by brands in marketing campaigns. What you see on Little Grey Box platforms is one small part of what we do yet all of it hinges on our camera gear.
We bought our first camera not really knowing what Little Grey Box would become or fully understanding what we really needed and why. Over the years, through a lot of trial and error, we’ve learned a lot and, as a result, the camera gear we use has evolved too. Today, I wanted to do an updated guide sharing all the camera gear we are currently using for our photography and videography. I also want to share some insight into a few things we don’t like about our current kit and what we wish we’d done differently as well as how we arrived at each piece we own. Hopefully, it helps shed some light on the best camera gear for any other aspiring photographers and videographers out there or just helps those looking to invest in a great camera for travel.
I recently got a Sony Alpha 6400 and I cannot rave about it enough! Given it’s a mirrorless camera, it’s incredibly light, which is perfect for travel. It has fantastic video capabilities, so I’m able to use it to take photographs and video, allowing me to capture high-quality video footage in addition to that which Matt captures. It has a 180-degree flip screen, so I can use it as a Vlogging camera and capture moments of both Matt and me, as opposed to Matt just filming me or me just filming me. The built-in Wi-Fi allows me to get photos from the camera onto my phone for quick and easy editing on the go! This is actually hugely important as it means I can edit throughout the day, rather than getting back to the hotel after a huge day and having to stay up downloading, importing and editing. Another thing I love about Sony’s mirrorless range and my 6400 is the low-light capabilities. This means I’m able to capture fantastic photos in low-light, so if I’m in a dark restaurant but still need a food photo or footage, it can handle it.
For me, the 6400 is a game changer. It is compact, light and powerful. I’m absolutely obsessed with it and love the photos it takes! Price-wise, the camera comes in a kit (which includes a great lens + small tripod/grip) for around AU$1,699. Given the camera’s capabilities, I think it’s fantastic value! The only downside I’ve noticed is the battery life, with batteries running down faster than they do with a DSLR. That’s easily fixed though, I just bought an extra two batteries and tend to only use one or two per full day of shooting. If you’re looking for a powerful all-rounder, this camera is perfect! If you’re thinking of buying a new camera for travel or for a business similar to ours, be sure to keep weight at the front of your mind as it’s a big factor.
The camera I used to use and why I changed
When Little Grey Box started to get serious, Matt and I bought a Canon 7D with a standard kit lens. Sometime later, we also bought a Sigma Art Series 35MM F1.4 lens. I’ve used these for years and they helped me take some incredible photos! But, being a DSLR, the camera is extremely heavy which has always been a problem when it comes to travel and huge shoot days. The size of the lenses also poses a problem, it’s just been difficult to lug them around and find room for them in my day bag. Not only that but I used the camera regularly and knew how to take great pictures in manual mode. When it came time for Matt to snap a photo of me, he hadn’t used the camera often enough to have that same knowledge and it made it difficult to get the shot. While I have absolutely loved having my 7D and the photos have been stunning, it’s definitely a camera best suited to a professional photographer, in my opinion.
As I mentioned above, I bought my Sony 6400 as part of a kit. The kit lens is a 16-50mm Sony lens and it’s perfect for what I do! It’s small yet powerful, allowing me to capture photos zoomed in and from a distance. This means it’s great for everything! I use it for food photography, landscapes, portraits, hotel rooms, action shots and everything else you can think of. It has a nice little background blur due to its F3.5 and can do a great job of bringing a portrait subject off the background, like the photograph below shows. When we’re out shooting, this is my go-to lens. I can put it on and leave it on all day if I feel like it. There are better lenses out there, no doubt, but I have no need to spend a whole lot of money on lenses when this one does such a great job and perfectly captures the photographs and video footage I need.
I mentioned above I had used a Sigma Art Series 35MM F1.8 lens. If you don’t know a whole lot about lenses, all you need to know is F1.8 (the aperture) means the camera is able to take really buttery, smooth shots where part of the image is crisp, clear and in-focus while the background is smoothly blurred. That’s something I came to love about my old camera and didn’t want to lose when I changed to the Sony 6400. I spent a lot of time researching and trying out different lenses at the camera store before I settled on the Sony E Mount FE 85MM F1.8.
I’ve included two images below, so you can see the difference. The image on the left is taken with the 85mm and the one on the right taken with the standard kit lens. You can see just how buttery and smooth the image on the left is, look at the definition of the cherry blossom flowers, the little stems sticking up from the middle and the detail in the branch. Then take note of the background, those circular-like shapes (bokeh) and how smooth it is. The image on the right is stunning too, no doubt, but the background isn’t anywhere near as smooth and lacks the bokeh effect.
I don’t think a lens like the 85mm is essential for everyone. I really wanted to have it because I love that type of photography and videography and would’ve missed not being able to capture it. The lens is small enough I can still fit it and the camera with kit lens attached in my small camera bag, taking up very little room in my day bag. It’s a prime lens, which means you cannot zoom with it. For beginners, that can be tricky, so it’s best suited to those with a little experience or the desire to learn. In terms of price, the lens retails for around AU$899. For me, the Sony 6400, kit lens and 85mm cover everything I could possibly need and allow me to capture the type of photography and video I love most but the 85mm is definitely a luxury item and a bit of a treat for me.
The Sony Alpha 6500 is Matt’s baby! We decided to get this camera for him when the videography side of our business really started to take off. To sum it up, it’s the best videography camera in the price range and to get anything better, you’ve got to spend thousands more. I don’t want to double-up too much but the 6400 and 6500 have a lot of the same basic capabilities. The 6500 is lightweight, compact, performs exceptionally well in a wide range of lighting situations, offers face tracking and, pretty much, kicks ass. Of course, it also takes awesome photos so Matt’s able to focus on videography but then still switch into photo mode and snap off some great photographs too.
The screen can be pulled out from the camera and while it isn’t a full flip-up like the 6400, it does mean you can, for example, hold the camera low or way up high, pull the screen out and still be able to see what you’re shooting. In terms of price, the camera and kit lens retails for around AU$2,199. Now, you’ll also notice the fluffy thing on top of Matt’s camera, that’s a Rode VideoMicro with a ‘Dead Cat.’ What the ‘Dead Cat’ does is cuts out wind noise, so we’re able to capture great quality audio when filming our to-camera pieces. It’s essential for anyone thinking of filming audio. For a videographer who works in a wide range of lighting situations and needs a lightweight but powerful camera at a reasonable price, you cannot go past the Sony Alpha 6500.
Matt’s 6500 also came in a kit and, in his case, it was an 18-35mm F3.5-5.6 OSS Zoom. The photo below was taken using the kit lens and, again, it’s just a great all-rounder. As you can see from the photo above, it’s a longer lens, whereas my kit lens is a lot smaller. That said, it’s still nice and light. We just shot, for the first time, using my full set up and Matt’s full set up and, to be honest, Matt did feel that my lenses performed better than his. That could just be because they’re newer but, still, we have no complaints thus far with this lens. The zoom capabilities are fantastic, allowing Matt to zoom right in to get a close-in shot, but still be able to pull back and capture a wide, landscape shot like the one below, for example.
This nifty little device is a DJI Osmo Pocket. I hope you can kind of get a sense from the photograph but, it’s tiny. It fits in the palm of your hand with a lot of room to spare. It’s hard to know where to start because it’s such an important part of our kit and offers so much value! The video this thing captures is incredible. It features a 3-axis gimble, which essentially just means it’s captures stabilised footage. We can be running, driving on a bumpy road, riding a bicycle or even just walking through a crowd and the footage will be super stable. For video, that means it can capture incredibly cinematic footage. In terms of price, DJI Osmo Pocket retails for around AU$599 which, for what it does, is insanely good value in my opinion.
The Osmo Pocket attaches to Matt’s iPhone if needed, so he can see a little better what he’s capturing as the on-camera screen is very small. We use the Osmo to capture all our time-lapses and have found it’s surprisingly great for selfie-style filming or even just filming me in a crowd as the face-tracking feature ensures the camera stays with me at all times! Another important aspect is the weight and size. It fits in Matt’s pocket easily, so it’s never weighing him down while he’s filming. It’s also very discreet, so he can easily film without making people feel uncomfortable or disturbing anyone. The Osmo Pocket is essential, for us, as it allows us to capture cinematic footage that really sets the scene in our videos. While our Sony cameras are amazing, they simply cannot compete with the level of stabilisation the 3-axis gimble offers.
I need to say this right from the get-go: our drone is seriously outdated! We love having it as it allows us to capture absolutely stunning footage and add a high-quality, cinematic feel to our videos. But the major drawback with the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced is that it’s huge! Matt has to carry it around in this huge backpack and, when we travel with it, that’s pretty much his carry-on. Not only that, but we bought it many years ago and the technology is now a little outdated. If we were made of money, we’d definitely be upgrading to something newer and smaller. DJI has an amazing range of drones to choose from and we’d probably look at something in the Mavic range as it would take better-quality video and photos while being much smaller, discreet and easier to transport. A drone in the Mavic range retails from around AU$1,599.
I will say this… DJI can be difficult to deal with so it’s important to bear that in mind when purchasing from them. We had some issues with our old Osmo (the model before the Osmo Pocket) and they were very hard to get hold of, in the first instance, and difficult to deal with from then on. I don’t think DJI’s customer service standards are anywhere near what they need to be for a brand of their stature and, honestly, it feels like it’s just not a focus for them as it’s well-known that their customer service standards kinda suck. But, here’s the thing, their products are the best on the market so we’ve got no choice but to buy from them. It sucks, but it’s the reality of the situation.
When it comes to filming and photographing in water-based situations like snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef or capturing hotel swimming pools, our go-to is the GoPro Hero 7 Black. To be honest, I think we’re both a bit frustrated by ours and GoPro are in serious trouble anyway as DJI has just released a superior product in the form of the DJI Osmo Action. I haven’t actually held one in my hands to try it out but based on the video reviews I’ve seen it’s a better camera, captures incredibly stabilised footage, is waterproof and has all-round better capabilities. We’ve found our GoPro to be unreliable and, at times, very frustrating, but it has allowed us to capture some important photographs and video footage for clients over the years.
For us, we’d love to get an Osmo Action and I’m really interested in getting a proper underwater housing for my Sony 6400 as I think that’d just allow me to take my underwater photography to the next level in a way the GoPro simply can’t. The GoPro Hero 7 Black retails for around AU$399 and the Osmo Action retails for around AU$499. Sadly, for GoPro, the Osmo is the better pick, I would think.
The camera gear we use to take the photographs and capture the video is just one part of the process. All the images used in this post today have been edited in Adobe Lightroom using presets. I found the presets I use simply by doing a google search for great free presets for bloggers! Then, I tweaked them until I was happy with the look and saved them as my very own preset. A number of Instagrammers actually make part of their income now by selling their presets in packs! Pretty savvy and perfect for anyone who absolutely loves someone else’s editing style and wants to emulate it. Though, I would always suggest tweaking the presets to give your photography its own distinct style.
While the presets I found were free, access to Adobe Lightroom isn’t. You can purchase Lightroom on its own or as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud. Given Matt still freelances as a graphic designer, using programs like InDesign and Photoshop, and uses Premiere Pro to edit all our videos, it makes sense for us to have a subscription to the whole suite. Because it’s such an integral part of our business, we’re able to claim it as a tax deduction too. What I like about Lightroom is the mobile app too, so I can quickly edit my photos on my phone while I’m on-the-go. If you want to check out the prices for subscriptions to Lightroom and/or the Adobe Creative Cloud, you can do that here.
Of course, I always feel it’s important to live within your means and if it’s not financially possible or viable for you to shell out for a subscription like this – don’t! There are plenty of fantastic free apps out there including Snapseed, VSCO and AfterLight. Spend time playing around with different apps, find free filters that you like and make them work for you. While Lightroom is great, it’s a luxury not everyone can afford and I totally get that – the only reason I use it is that it came as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud Matt uses for his graphic design. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be shelling out for it.
Useful travel resources for your trip next adventure
As always, our guides and content are completely free. If you found this post (or anything we do) useful, we’d be grateful if you considered using the affiliate links below. We’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Rest assured, these are the services we love and use ourselves. Thank you in advance for your support! Phoebe and Matt.
Agoda – one of our go-to sites for booking hotels
Skyscanner – our go-to for booking flights
RentalCars.com – a great search engine for renting a car
Booking.com – another of our go-to sites for booking hotels
TourRadar – a great search engine for booking tours
Uber – our go-to ground transport option