Choosing a Travel Camera

Have you ever been amazed by the majestic landscape before you and thought to yourself, “if I only had my camera” or missed capturing an action scene because it took too long to get your fancy SLR camera out of the bag?

I’ve been there many times myself and finally did something to stop the frustration once and for all camera for travel vlogging.

I consider myself a semi-professional photographer and was something of a camera snob for years. I have several high end SLR cameras, both digital and film, which I still use when I am really focused on getting the perfect shot. There is no question that they let me take higher quality pictures with better control of the result but they don’t do me any good if I don’t have them with me.

My camera snobbery ended rather abruptly, however, when I was on a last minute business trip with colleagues who happened to be amateur photographers themselves. I was in the midst of moving and my best camera equipment was in storage so, at the last minute, I borrowed a little Casio pocket camera that my wife uses for snapshots in her real estate business.

My colleagues knew they would be traveling long before I did and had easy access to their equipment so they naturally brought their best SLR cameras. I had a bad case of camera envy and thoughts of buying yet another high-end camera for a very long series of flights.

The trip, you see, was to India and had already been arranged to allow for a side trip to visit some of the most spectacular and historical sites in the country. I was looking forward to the Taj Mahal, Mysore Palace, Aga Kahn Palace and the Red Fort along with a string of palaces and monuments. Not to mention the amazing sights one can expect when visiting such a diverse culture when planning to drive through much of the countryside.

As we were landing in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), I was thinking that a few thousand dollars isn’t really that much to add another camera for my collection. It would be easy to explain to my wife as we were flipping through the pictures when I got back home.

Yeah, right! Cameras and other electronic luxuries have a steep markup in India, at least in the stores that I could get to without a major detour. The cost of even a basic SLR was pretty steep and anything I would be proud to add to my collection was clearly going to lead to a crucial conversation with my wife.

And so plan B was born. I would rely on my colleagues for the really good pictures while taking a few snapshots here and there with the camera I had from my wife. I actually even ended up taking a few pictures with the camera which came with the cell phone I was carrying at the time.

When we returned from the trip and had a chance to compare pictures, a curious thing happened which has changed the way I look at casual photography. As we went through the pictures online, it was surprisingly hard to tell the difference in quality between the pictures taken with SLR cameras from our group and my little Casio or camera phone. In a couple of cases the pictures were mixed up and we had to resort to checking file names or file sizes to determine which camera was used.

I’m not saying that the lower resolution pictures would be as good as those from higher resolution SLR cameras if we were trying to produce large format prints or crop pictures to emphasize small details . For the common task of running through a set of travel photos in a slide show, however, even the 3 megapixel shots from my camera phone were good enough that most viewers needed to see them side-by-side to notice a difference. Even my camera savvy travelling companions thought that the Casio (7.2 megapixel Exilim) pictures were good enough that they were having second thoughts about hauling around their SLR with associated gear for some of their trips.

It became obvious that I was able to get many quick pictures of surprises as we were driving or walking while the rest of our group were considering if the scene would still be around by the time they got their SLR ready. I also took many more pictures since I was “just taking snapshots” while the SLR gang was striving for “fine photography”.

So, which camera is best for travel photography? In my view it has to be the one you actually have with you and ready for those surprise shots. Don’t fuss that you left your good camera at home when you have a surprisingly good camera phone at your hip. It was only a few years ago that the rule of thumb was a 1 megapixel camera for decent digital photography. Today you can get a 10 megapixel camera for less than $200 and 3 megapixel camera phones are pretty common.

I’m not about to toss my SLR collection and I still use them regularly for planned photography outings but I now take a lot more pictures with these little pocket cameras because they are so easy to take everywhere. If you give it a try, I would bet you will find your experience is similar.

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