By Greg Illes
There are literally thousands of different kinds of cameras, any of which can make digital snapshots to last a lifetime. But, depending on your skills and preferences, there are probably only a few that are just right for you.
To help you think about your preferences and your choices, I’m going to share with you my personal camera “kit” — the devices that I’ve chosen to meet my particular needs. Sure, your needs are likely different, but perhaps a glimpse into my requirements and rationales will help you in your own quest for the perfect camera (assortment). So, here, after years of purchases and replacements, is my current kit:
Cell phone — This ubiquitous device is an obvious choice for me, for the simple reason that it is always with me. My smartphone has reasonably good resolution and great color scale and white balance. But sadly, its zoom is deplorable (digital only), it’s incredibly awkward to use, and the screen is all but invisible in daylight. So, on balance, it’s very handy but very limited.
Digital SLR — Okay, here’s a REAL camera, with interchangeable lenses, huge versatility, instantaneous focus and storage for fast-action shooting, great telephoto choices for nature work, tons of programmable modes for different photo techniques, and so on. A photographer’s camera. It’s also expensive, bulky, heavy, needs spare batteries and chargers, and generally a royal pain to lug around. In fact, the typical full-size DSLR was so obnoxious to me that I instead picked a compact version, the Nikon V2. This nearly point-and-shoot-sized camera is half the size and weight, but still with most of the capabilities of the bigger DSLRs. But it’s still too big to always have with me.
Waterproof point-and-shoot — Neither my cell phone nor my DSLR were capable of withstanding even a mild dunking without severe damage. For kayaking or other water-threatened activities, I needed something more durable. I tried a waterproof container for the DSLR and a different one for the cell phone, but they were disasters, making the once-useful cameras nearly unusable. The Fuji XP65 turned out to be an ideal midrange choice. Submersible and durable, with a medium “real” zoom range (optical not digital), it can undergo my wettest adventures and come up smiling. I’ve even used it to take a few pix half-submerged for above-and-below water snapshots. The Fuji also does double-duty as a better camera than my cell phone when I just don’t want to carry the DSLR. It easily fits in a cargo pocket or backpack with little fuss, so I don’t have to put up with a strap and a camera banging around my waist.
There are some other camera types I’ve toyed with the idea of owning. The GoPro is one, with its specialized wide-angle video camera capability. But my needs for “video snapshots” are minimal. I actually don’t see myself driving my RV down the road with a helmet-mounted camera any time soon.
I hope these ideas and motivations help you with finding your own best-match camera (or cameras). Photos are a big part of travel recollections, and it’s quite pleasing to own good tools with which to make good memories.