What camera is best for travel photography?

In a day and age where we all want to share our adventures with our family and friends,
how do we know which camera is for us?

Ahhh, memories of summer as I'm sitting in winter...

“A life worth living is a life worth recording.”

I think that to a certain extent, many of us hold a secret desire to stash and tuck away a large number of our experiences into a more accessible part of our memory. Be it the look in your eyes when you had your first sip of Coca-Cola as kid or when you bungee jumped off a questionable-looking bridge somewhere in Latin America, part of me believes that it’s safe to say that we all have moments in life that we never want to forget, or at least, that we wish we could relive.

Alas, and for better or for worse, it is the unfortunate case that our minds – as brilliant as they are – can be somewhat inefficient at ingraining in our memory the small and big details that make up every experience. Necessity being the mother of invention however, we find that our creative and ingenious species has come a long way in fixing that little shortcoming.

Photography

Travel is the one thing that especially calls out for this means of remembering more than any other occasion in life. We always seem to want to bring back or keep with us a visual souvenir as a testament of having visited a certain place. Except for, maybe the bathroom.

there are exceptions, of course

And in this new dawn and age of digital photography, it seems that the devices for doing so are more likely inside our pockets than sitting at home in the closet (as would be the case with a DSLR and its collection of lenses). Rather than asking if anyone has a camera handy to take a picture, don’t we actually find ourselves usually asking: does anyone have a cellphone?

A wise man once proclaimed: The man with the best camera is he who has one on them at the exact moment when it is needed (ladies, this goes for you too obviously!). So in many ways, be it on your next journey abroad or simply when you step out the door next time, realize that this anxiety of forgetting your experiences is actually mitigated quite powerfully by the technology you simply carry around inside your pocket on a daily basis.

What kind of photographer are you?

As the line gets blurrier by the day between smartphone cameras and DSLRs/point-and-shoots, it’s becoming even harder to justify the price of buying a bigger piece of machinery and lenses when something so tiny offers so much already. Even more troubling is the fact that smartphone cameras are starting to pack more bells and whistles than your average camera could shake a stick at. Starting from apps that stitch panoramas for you on the spot, all the way to letting you edit and share your pictures on the web right after you’ve taken them, it’s easy to see how standalone digital cameras are falling behind in terms of the tools and convenience they offer their user.

Look at this guy, even sporting a Jeweler’s loupe, so classy....

But there are many things the traveler must take into account before picking their camera of choice for their upcoming journey. Specifically, what do you want to get out of your images? Take a look at the following categories and questions to help you figure that out:

  • Type of photography: Low-light or bright-light? Soft-focus? Are you going to be taking pictures of birds? People up close? Skylines? Do you want creative control over shutter speed and aperture? Will you be taking your camera with you underwater?
  • Image Quality: What will you be viewing these pictures on? Will you be printing numberswiki.com

    them up into larger sizes? Or just posting them on the web? Are you all about getting the details in your photograph as sharp and focused as possible?

  • Connectivity: How frequently will you want to let the people you care about see where you’ve been and what you’ve been up to?
  • Convenience: How ready are you to haul around an extra couple of pounds around your neck or in your backpack? How intimidating do you want to look pointing your lens at the locals?
  • Safety: How well will you want to conceal your camera, given the areas you’ll be in?

These are all vital questions you must ask yourself before deciding on what kind of camera you’ll be taking with you, and as you answer them you should be getting a clearer image of what type of camera best suits you.

And I know. While there’s a large number of our readers slowly transitioning (and we love it!) into the electronic version of our books – which means they’ll be reading our guidebook on-the-go, either from their phones or tablet – the answer is pretty clear: Go with your phone or tablet if it has a camera, Go with what you’re already taking with you. Tablets are rather fragile though, so I wouldn’t advise taking that out with you on a daily basis.

The Purist Photographer

But there’s still many of you reading this right now probably thinking:

But what if I don’t feel comfortable taking my prized possession with me off into some unknown land? What if I don’t even own a smart phone or a tablet?

Well dear traveler, find some respite in knowing there’s some incredibly powerful cameras available on the market today that can fit inside your pocket, or at most – very inconspicuously in your satchel or backpack. Not to mention, some are even waterproof, unlike your phone! But all in all, I’ll have to point most travelers away from going the DSLR-way…

Not because I hate them, not at all! Just…

Bigger is not always better. In my experience, portability has always managed to trump the image-quality of a DSLR. I mean this in the sense that weight – for the sake of quality – is never a sacrifice I’m willing to make when it comes to remembering an experience. I’d rather be less burdened by my camera and enjoy the ride, than lug around its whiny-weight and end up distracted by all the care/effort I have to put into it.

Look Ma! I made it all the way up to the top with my point-and-shoot! And I can prove it!

And that’s not to say that there aren’t cameras that pack a mighty punch in a small package. Below I’ve listed some examples of some solid, compact and light-weight options depending on the type of photography you’re interested in exploring.

  • Lens-interchangeability: A luxury you can cradle in your palm, mirror-less camera’s are slowly paving the way for DSLR and smartphone convergence.  For those interested in changing their depth of field, or tinkering with their aperture and shutter speed, this is it.
  • DSLR strength (in a point-in-shoot body): Packing a big sensor in a point-and-shoot body can make you feel like you’re driving a Volkswagen with a Porsche engine under the hood, sometimes. Check it out.
  • Point-and-Shoot: When you’re not in the mood to have to fiddle with your camera to get the shot you want, relax.
  • Waterproof: If you have the sinking suspicion that you’re going to end up getting completely soaked, stay dry. 

The Magic is in The Moment

Just remember, what makes a picture isn’t really the quality of the camera nor how many megapixels it has. Sometimes it all just depends on being at the right place, at the right time, and having any type of camera on you to capture that moment – that’s what will do the trick. And a marvelous trick it is, for our memories.

So dear traveler, just soak it in and keep your eyes peeled! You never know what you might miss if you’re not looking!

Happy Travels,
V!VA

 

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