Shooting photographs will make you smarter. Just ask brainiac Ansel Adams, that guy was a genius. Still, people who take their camera on the road are usually on the hunt for that one “epic shot,” the amazing image that lingers in their consciousness and forever sums up their experience with just one look. Take a look at the rise of Flickr and you’ll see just how popular this perennial hobby has become.
I won’t be going into technique here what with the thousands of places online to learn how to take great pictures. But since all great pictures start with great equipment, I’ve compiled a few of my favorite cameras for you to become obsessed with on your own journey around the world. Without getting too technical (no one reads the specs anyway, do they?), here is my hugely opinionated short-list of great cameras for the traveling amateur.
If you’re not sure what style of camera to purchase, start by asking yourself how much you want to work at getting a great shot. Here are three different varieties of camera in ascending order of simplicity: the point and shoot, the mid-range all-around, and the D-SLR.
Which camera is the best for travel?
Point and shoot:
If you like to be discreet about taking photos in foreign lands (some people still consider breaking out a massive lens to take a snapshot indiscreet, imagine!), the compact point and shoot is your best bet. There are so many of these to chose from but my fave for size and quality is probably the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS25. This camera comes equipped with a Leica lens, consistently one of the best lens-makers around, and a 5xs optical zoom. So it’s great for wide angle and zoomed shooting. The image quality will be excellent with its 12MP sensor and the 3″ screen will enable you to review your photos in detail. Plus, this little guy comes in around $200.
For something that slips into your pocket, this is definitely a great choice. Makes a great stocking stuffer!
Mid-range all-around: The Canon G9
My nod goes to the Canon G9. After a year on the market I still really covet this bad-boy, probably because of its size and versatility. Bigger than most compact point and shoots this camera offers a full set of features (automatic and manual shooting modes, high ISO settings) and throws it all into a well-built expandable camera body (it has a hot shoe for an external flash!). Sitting at around $500, it’s priced higher than your simpler compact cameras but the added available creativity makes it totally worth it.
This is last year’s model of the G series but unlike the G10 it keeps the slimmer body of its predecessors, making it super easy to carry around and whip out when you need it.
D-SLR means Digital Single Lens Reflex, or simply stated, a camera that uses a detachable lens. The term comes from the way the mirror moves out of the way to let light reach the image sensor. SLR cameras typically allow for multiple settings (aperture priority, shutter speed, fully manual and creative settings) which gives you the most creative control over your pictures than any other camera-type.
Of course SLRs have a huge price range but these days it’s not necessary to spend $1000 + to get one. Most of these fancy, super-pricey cameras are purchased purely for bragging rights (no matter what they say), or to appear professional. It is, however, possible to stay under $800 and still get a great camera that takes amazing pictures.
I’m a little biased but my suggestion for the SLR is the Canon Rebel T1i. This has all the features you’ve come to expect in an all-around shooting camera, with great performance and excellent image quality. Plus it’s far more affordable than the cameras at the next price point up. Take one for a spin—you’ll see what I mean. It’s dreamy.
Honorable mention: The Olympus PEN E-P2
This camera will wow your friends and live up to any performance standards you have in a camera. With its great retro-look this camera won an EISA award in 2009 for best camera of the year, and you can see why: a great look, the detachable electronic viewfinder, a removable lens, full tracking auto-focus and a nice 12.3 megapixel sensor. Video, too! From what I’ve read it’s as easy to use as any point and shoot but with SLR-quality technology.
At $1100 it’s pricey but the features, cool look and envy of your friends will make up for the splurge.
With all the huge storage options now available in your standard memory card (they’re up to 32 gigs these days!) you can shoot away and get that image to reminisce over from your trip to Paris, Thailand, Australia, Africa or wherever.