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Traveling to Phillippines

Posted on 01 May, 2024 / 13 min read

At the end of March I have gone on a small trip to Palawan, Phillippines - a place of beautiful water, beaches, landscapes. Although it was not a photography focused trip - these are different than family or friend outings - I tried to pack whatever I could in.

What did I take?

pic of the backpack

That's not including clothes or snorkeling masks.


Phillippines are rather lax when it comes to drone laws, and while it may seem annoying to outsiders, they know to keep them lax - social media WILL bring them more tourists. And it's fun to try to get some creative videos, and every decent shot is pretty much printable.

So, I took:

  • DJI Mini 3 Pro,
  • remote controller,
  • wide angle add-on, variable ND (2-32, 32-1024) filters, CPL filter,
  • bunch of third party spare props, screwdriver included with them,
  • 256GB microSD card (in drone), 64GB microSD card (in the RC)
  • two extra batteries, third-party charger that's cheaper and smaller than original, but still supports quick charging.


Trusty old X-S10, with trusty old setup. A must in every trip for guaranteed decent pics. Film may have some issues after all and not come out.

  • Fujifilm X-S10,
  • 2x 128GB SD card,
  • 3x batteries,
  • Fuji XF 18-55mm f2.8-4,
  • Fuji XC 50-230 4.5-6.3,
  • Viltrox 13mm f1.4,
  • M to X close focus adapter.

Why not RX100V? It didn't make sense to me to duplicate - it would be used in the same situations as X-S10. I would see it be more useful in more street context (more discreet), or if more hiking was involved (lighter).


I went against my own advice and mixed cameras of the same format. I just really wanted to bring the Hexar RF with me... so I did. The whole kit.

Later added Agfa Optima 1535, brought from Poland.


  • Tenba Axis 24L backpack,
  • Ulanzi Falcam F38 backpack mount,
  • Ulanzi shoulder bag,
  • DJI Osmo Mobile 6 gimbal,
  • PD neck strap,
  • handmade leather wrist strap,
  • Ulanzi clamp + ball head,
  • Ravpower RP-WD009, 1TB external drive,
  • lens cleaning brush, blower, wipes,
  • clothes with water shoes,
  • 15L Ocean Pack, phone case,
  • full face automatic snorkeling masks.

todo: check for anything else

The backpack is the one I take out with me to the airport, as a small personal item that will fit in the seat in front of me. Yes, it does. Sometimes barely. It's not convenient to take out on day to day basis though, but when you have no option it's better than nothing.

The backpack mount has proven very useful in the last trip. I like it better than neck straps.

The shoulder bag that's my daily driver is very useful as well, and I thought that I would leave the backpack at the hotel, and bring limited equipment for most outings in the shoulder bag instead.

Neck strap and wriststraps can be useful. The neck strap for the remote controller mostly, the wriststrap in general.

Ulanzi clamp is a limited, but smaller alternative for a tripod that would not fit in.

Ravpower PD009 is a router/power bank with an SD slot and USB. I put OpenWRT on it and configured it to my needs. Most importantly - I configured it to be able to dump data from SD onto an external HDD, formatted with ext4.

The Ocean Pack is a supposedly waterproof bag. They're cheap on taobao, and often sold by hawkers near any water in Phillippines or Thailand. I wouldn't trust it too much, but it's better than nothing.

Full face snorkeling masks are 50CNY on taobao. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

The trip

It will be rather short, as the focus of course is on gear, but few things to note.

Weather was great, with only one rainy moment one morning, that quickly gave way to the sun.

Three main destinations: Puerto Princesa, El Nido and Coron. I had no expectations for anything and didn't think there would be much to do. And while it was true for Puerto Princesa, El Nido and Coron offer island hopping and diving trips, taking a day.

The only worthwhile point of Puerto Princesa is the underground river, which itself does not last long, but is still a lovely place to visit.

El Nido also has a nice Nacpan beach not too far, you can take a tricycle to there and chill out for the whole day - there are restaurants and drink bars. Water is nice and clear too.

The shared island hopping trips are great and cheap, 1000-2000 PHP, including lunch. Starting at 8-9 in the morning, finishing after 16-17, and then you're free to rest, get dinner or a massage.

People are generally nice, speak English well (unlike HK) and don't want to scam you, but of course do not leave your belongings unattended.

Food can be in 200-600 PHP range, so I wouldn't call it super cheap, and the quality can be a hit (sometimes) or miss (more often than not). If you find a good place (shoutout to Tupi Cafe in Coron), stick to it.

Actual usage

Was everything used? Almost. And sometimes I had to force myself.


Banana beach

Did a lot of flying when island hopping, beaches. Learning how to start and land on your hand is a necessity - sometimes you may be flying from a swaying boat. Be mindful of your fingers, accidents may happen... but the Mini series propellers won't cut through the bone. And skin will heal, few hundred USD spent on the drone will not. One slightly annoying thing is related to starting and landing from a boat - you may need to override the vision sensors as the drone will refuse to move closer where you need it, and to do that you switch to sports mode, where it moves much faster, making it actually harder to control. Urgh.

ND32-128 was a must for most of the daylight flights. I took it off only to take sunrise or sunsets. The sun is really bright (duh), the sand and water are very reflective (duh), and if you want to have reasonable shutter speeds for filming natural water (1/30-1/125), you need to have the ND.

I ended up not using the wide angle and the CPL filter. Wide angle distorts too much and the space isn't really limited - if you want something to fit in a picture, you can either use panoramic mode or just go further.

The spare props didn't get used either... thankfully they didn't need to. On the last day one of the props got chopped but that was the last flight of the trip period. The screwdriver added by the manufacturer was garbage. I tried replacing the props, but only stripped the screw with it. You can't get enough torque in this tiny package, and the head is too small for the bit. Once I got back I ordered legit props and replaced them with a proper #00 screwdriver. If you do strip a screw, it's really an ordeal to get it out, so don't do it.


Tried and tested system, did everything well. Of course be careful when handling your camera near water or if you take it on a kayak, but no accident happened.

CPL was a must.

I did not use it that much though. As I mentioned, I went against my own advice and mixed formats. Rangefinder and mirrorless are different in usage yes, but they have similar limitations in my own shooting, cover similar focal lengths, especially since I took almost my whole M mount collection.

I did not use extra batteries or SD card much either - changed them once basically, but that's also due to taking the Hexar.


That helped me rephrase advice for traveling - check out the last section.


Used it all, but one roll of Ektachrome. One word of note? Don't bring untested expired film - that should be obvious, but I made the decision to use it in the Agfa. There were results, that's all I can say.

Puerto Princesa Underground River

Hexar is lovely. And I did pick it with either Elelelcan or CoLLLapsicron + 15 + 90 over X-S10 on some days - shoulder bag + drybag space is limited, and even then you don't really want to juggle and make the decision to use which on the spot.

Beach 7-11

I do love their tricycles.

Resulting slides from Ektachrome (repackaged E100D) were absolutely splendid. The camera itself did get dinged here and there, keep that in mind of course if you take something worth a bit more than usual.


Taking the shoulder bag was a great choice. The backpack did stay mostly at the hotel and was an organizing tool to keep all my toys in one place. The bag is also coated in some plastic, so I considered it splash proof - it would keep the contents dry if splashed by the seawater on the boat.

In turn the F38 strap holder did not get much use, as I would just put the camera back into the bag.

The clamp was also used only once and only because I kind of forced myself to use it, so it wouldn't feel like a waste of space, to make a timelapse.

Gimbal got some use at the beginning, but over time I decided not to bring it. I shot few short videos to cut up later, and I didn't need the extra stabilization. I believe it could be more useful for vlogging or e.g. at food markets, basically showing a place and walking around, where you could really use the extra reach and stability.

Ravpower RP-WD009 failed me as a power bank - not sure if it's due to the cable I used or something else, but it would drain the power from my phone more, instead of charging it. It was fine in Thailand, I'm not sure what changed. So I used it for backing up SD cards daily, and sharing with SMB from the HDD to my phone. That's always useful - in case you lose your device in the waters or cliffs, you still have a backup. In any case, after coming back I purchased a quick charging Anker power bank to accompany me next time instead.

Ocean Pack drybag was a necessity, but a painful one at times. I am still not sure how waterproof it is, so if we had to swim, I would not bring it with me. Okay for the kayak, to be splash proof. There's also no organization inside, so all the toys - drone, RC, camera, lenses would be banging against each other. I would cover them in eggbags or the towel from the Drainage Department of Hong Kong to keep the damage to minimum, but still, there's no pockets. I could consider buying a proper waterproof backpack in the future.

Water shoes were cheap and very very useful for sharp rocks. They also don't interfere with your swimming either.

Full face snorkeling masks were a failure though. I mean, they kind of worked, but would flood easily, and if you wanted to dive, you have no option to equalize your ears, giving you pain quickly. Just get a normal separate diving mask and snorkel. Oh, and fins. I went scuba diving and it was fun, just wish I could apply the skills to snorkeling and freediving.

Lessons for future?

Don't need to take so much to enjoy a trip. Choosing better companions for traveling will give you more pleasure than gear.

Hong Kong is choking. It's awful. I'd rather spend more time in poverty of Phillippines than go back, but then I had to. Gotta do more trips, reserve a weekend every month or two for a city break, and actually use its location to my advantage.

Another camera experience helped me put into words...

My rules of traveling with a fun camera

Don't mix cameras of the same format. More than one 35mm camera is stupid. More than one medium format camera will not be comfortable to carry. More than one large format camera... could be fun again.

Bring one trusted shooter - whether digital or 35mm, if you're going for film only. It will do the bulk of your shooting in most conditions. Preferably zoom lenses. Now, it doesn't have to be particularly pleasant to shoot - I like rangefinders now, and consider my X-S10 to be boring - but it will be reliable and get you results.

Now, the fun camera must be fun to use. That's subjective, of course, so for example from my own collection I would not be tempted to bring Canon EOS 30, Minolta XD or Bronica S2A. They're great shooters, get out of your way, but they're not thrilling, or they're too unwieldy like Bronica.

The fun camera should be rewarding. Slide film is one very rewarding aspect of shooting that can help, but overall the image quality from the film and camera/lens should blow you away. Either in Holga aesthetic, or super sharp.

But the fun camera must have its own time and space. It shouldn't be interchangeable with your main shooter, so you don't have to make the decision in the morning which one to bring. You should be able to bring both, if you can, but not regret not taking the fun camera if you cannot.

For that, the fun camera must have its limitations. I don't shoot too many images of a single scene, so I don't consider 36 pictures of a film roll to be a limitation. 15-16 in 645 is more limiting, and I would consider that the higher end. One or two focal lengths, so you don't get the full coverage, and makes it easier to carry. Complexity of use (for me) also adds to both fun and limit.

In essence, you would be using your main shooter mostly, but when you see an extraordinary scene that fits within the limitations, you may think "yes, I want to spend more time to get a rewarding shot with my fun camera".

This concludes why the GS645S is the ultimate travel companion.

Agfa Optima 1535 is actually fun, but falls short on the image quality department - there's not much reason I would pick it over the digital.

Hexar RF with CoLLLapsicron + maybe 15mm could work.

Large format cameras are cumbersome to use and bring. They're great but require prior planning, and specific trips. Island hopping on a boat? No.

I can't even think of a camera that would be better than the GS645S - if anything, just another medium format rangefinder with amazing glass, such as Mamiya 6 or 7, or a TLR.

But you gotta work with what you have, and these cameras aren't common or cheap anymore.