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I have the Nikon D3200 with the kit lens (18mm - 55mm).

I'm going on a road trip soon and I'd like to take pictures of Christmas lights, Christmas trees, architecture, detail shots and photos inside museums.

I've been thinking of adding some equipment before the trip, but I'm not sure what's a must-have and what is just nice-to-have.

Here is what I'm considering:

  • Tripod (Dolica TX570DS Ultra Compact Tripod with Professional Ball Head and Built-In Monopod)
  • Flash (Altura Photo AP-UNV1 Speedlite Flash Kit)
  • An extra battery
  • An extra memory card
  • Prime lens (Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G)

I'm tempted to get the prime lens, because I've heard so many good things about it, and it would help me to take better low light photos. I've been using my zoom lens set to 35mm to get the hang of it and it's actually the position that I prefer. But it's the most expensive thing on this list and I already have a lens.

I don't currently have a tripod, flash, or remote control. These could come in handy not only on vacation but when I'm taking pictures at home in the evening, when there is no longer any natural light.

What would you recommend?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Philip Kendall, Itai, James Snell, mattdm, Hugo Dec 13 '15 at 16:22

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Depending on how long the trip lasts, I would take not 1 but 2-3 extra memory cards. – Rafael Dec 10 '15 at 17:36
  • The trip is 10 days. I'm planning to download the photos to dropbox each night. – amylynn83 Dec 10 '15 at 17:41
  • I would suggest retitling this to focus on your actual subjects and goals; the answer to the current title question is "none of them are essential; you could leave them at home and enjoy the moment without recording it". But this is really photography road trip, and answers generally applicable to just any vacation aren't necessarily right. – mattdm Dec 10 '15 at 18:48
  • You said you don't have tripod, flash, or remote. If you don't use them now, you are even less likely to use them on a vacation. I find one 32GB card works for a 12 day vacation (with 30MB raw images), but a spare card would be very wise. A battery charger would be very wise. – WayneF Dec 10 '15 at 19:26
  • You don't say if you have any companions traveling with you. That would be my determining factor. My wife and son will tolerate lens switching and quick on-camera flash use, but almost never a tripod. – Dan Wolfgang Dec 10 '15 at 19:43
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4) Lens Given your wide subject range, you are probably ok with the lens. You likely will use the wide end more, and have little use for tele beyond what you have.

3) Memory card If you shoot RAW, extra memory cards are a must no matter what the occasion. If you shoot only JPEG, then it is not as big a concern, as you can get many more images per card.

2) Battery If you have access to power, then you should be good with a single battery if you charge every evening/over night. However, if you have VR lens or if your camera has built in GPS, you will need an additional battery

1) Tripod In my opinion, for your intended case, Christmas lights, trees, architecture, my assumption is that these images will not be in bright daylight, but instead evening shots. In this case, the most useful item is going to be a tripod above everything else. Your shots will be done with low shutter speeds, especially if you wish to have the ISOs at manageable levels (below 800). This will demand a very steady camera, far more steady that you can get hand-held, even with VR.

  • I've decided to go with 1-3 and save the lens for another time. Thanks! – amylynn83 Dec 11 '15 at 12:47
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Just my 2¢, but without a charged battery, all the other stuff becomes useless, so I'd say your #1 priority is to get a car charger for your camera batteries.

Extra batteries and memory cards are useful, but if you can download and backup the images (never feel secure with only one copy of your images), and clear off the cards every day, you may or may not need a lot of extras, depending on how much you shoot and the individual capacity of the cards.

If you're planning mostly on doing Christmas light shooting and architecture, the tripod is probably the piece you'll want the most, and the fast lens the one you want the least.

If you're planning on mostly doing museum shots, then the fast lens is the one you want the most and the tripod the one you want the least.

The flash... just me, but a $35 manual-only flash is not a great investment as your first/only flash. I'd highly recommend budgeting upwards and saving something closer to US$150-$200 for your first flash, and getting something with TTL capability and a good reputation. Flash can be more transformative to your photography than a new lens, you should budget accordingly.

See also: What features should one look for when selecting a flash?

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This is totally opinion based. But my priority list would be.

1) 1-3 extra memory cards. Depending on the duration of the trip. So you do not need to download the cards to a laptop.

2) You probably can not use a tripod on a museum, but probably you can use a monopod. There are some with a tiny tripod on the far end. https://www.google.com.mx/search?q=monopod+with+legs

3) One interesting thing you can use on a urban architecture trip is a neutral density filter.

In conjunction with a real tripod (not a monopod), you can use a very low speed to blur the people passing by and take interesting images on outdoor landscapes.

From there you can go several ways.

  • You will need a flash mainly if you are taking photos of people. But you can not use it on museums. If your priority are not people, but landscapes (including urban landscapes), you do not really need it.

  • The prime lens could be an interesting option but only if you are NOT satisfied with the quality of your current lens, or you feel some clear disadvantages now. Probably the focal length, the speed or the sharpness. If you do not notice the diference, probably it is too soon.

  • I would consider an extra batery or 2 but if i was on a wildlife trip. On a city, where you will be in an hotel at night it is probably not a real issue. Mainly if you are not using the flash to focus, iluminating a scene or using too much the live view.

  • You do not need a remote control, again, except if you have already being in a situation where you need it. If you are in a lonley place, like a mountain and you want a selfie, yes. If you want to be in a family picture, yes. For a trip, I do not think so.

  • The disadvantage that I find with my current lens is that I can't open the aperture very wide, and I end up compensating with shutter speed or ISO. ISO can get grainy and sometimes I want to use a faster shutter speed but can't. – amylynn83 Dec 10 '15 at 17:55
  • My first choice would be the tripod, before a wide aperture lens, becouse you first need to define what focal leingth you like the most. – Rafael Dec 10 '15 at 17:59
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Two of the items in your list are, in my opinion, not optional.

  • Extra battery: you need a second battery. Need. For me, especially while on vacation, it's easy to use up a whole battery's charge, forget to stick it in the charger at the end of a long day, etc. See also: What do camera experts do for cameras that take too much battery power?

  • Extra memory card: well, first, evaluate how many photos will fit on the card you have, in your preferred format. If you can fit thousands, you probably don't need another memory card. 200-300? You need another memory card. Again, for me, especially while on vacation, it's easy to fill a memory card, or forget to transfer photos to the computer at the end of the day, etc. Also, if you're not taking a computer (or other device you can transfer photos to), then that should mean you get at least one, maybe two, more cards.

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Take some 'test' shots around your home before you go. Get familiar with the camera. You don't want to learn how to use a function when the 'once in a lifetime' photo happens in front of you! Take some photos of lights at night. Take pictures with street-lights, etc. And, as many mentioned before, extra batteries, extra memory cards.

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