Everyone close to me knew of the great struggle I had before I went overseas.
It really was quite the conundrum, a dilemma that I fixated on for quite a lot of time. I spent a lot of time thinking about it, talking about it, and trying to decide on the best option. It was quite a difficult time for me. What is the million-dollar question, you ask?
What is the best kind of camera to take travelling?
Yeah, that’s right; that was my big dilemma. I’m sorry to all the friends, family, and work colleagues who had to put up with me going on and on and on about my first world problem of selecting the best travel-camera. But, in my opinion, when you’re paying that much money to go on the trip of a lifetime, you want to be able to capture the best moments perfectly.
For me, I had a few options that I was considering; my fancy mirrorless micro four thirds Olympus OMD-EM10, my parent’s more compact Olympus Stylus Sh-1, my iPhone’s camera, a GoPro, and finally the polaroid camera my boyfriend bought for me for my birthday.
Overwhelmed with choices, I took to the internet and discovered that there isn’t really a clear-cut best option. The kind of camera you need to take with you depends on your own skill level and your own personal needs. So, I’m going to break down the pro’s and con’s of the different types.
So, for instance, my Olympus OMD-EM10. While this micro four thirds camera is quite a bit smaller than a DSLR camera, I’m still labelling it as a ‘big camera’ because it has an interchangeable lens.
- These kinds of cameras take the best quality pictures. They perform well in all kinds of situations including low light settings or when the subject is moving fast. They will give you the clearest, most lifelike image possible
- Bulky! These cameras are a lot bigger than your everyday point-and-shoot. Don’t bring one of these bad boys with you unless you are prepared to lug it around.
- Different lenses – not only is the camera itself bulky, but you will need to bring different lenses with you to get the best range. It’s a lot of extra luggage. You will also need to change the lenses at a moments notice, so unless you have a lot of spare time on your trip this can be difficult.
- You have to know how to use this kind of camera properly. It’s true that these cameras give the best quality images, but only if you have experience using them. If you don’t know much about ISO settings or aperture then you will have to put in a bit of extra effort learning how to use this camera before you go on your vacation. So don’t leave it until you’re on the trip or you will be heading for a photography-disaster!
- The price. Yup, these fancy cameras and their lenses come at a high price. I’ve paid close to $1,500 for all of my camera gear and I have only used it a couple of times (probably because I haven’t finished figuring out how to use it yet).
Pretty much everyone has a phone with a built-in camera these days. I’m a little outdated with my iPhone 5, so this has probably swayed my verdict a little.
- Compact and versatile – is it a phone? Is it a camera? Is it a portal to free WiFi? No, it’s all three!
- Easy to use. Obviously, phone cameras are very basic; point and click, upload to Instagram.
- Cheap, because, well… it’s already part of your phone.
- Easily attached to a selfie stick so you can get the view in the background instead of just your beautiful face!
- Poor quality. While more updated phones like the iPhone 6 or the Samsung phones have pretty great quality, my iPhone 5 just doesn’t cut it, especially in low light situations. If you have a better phone than me, you might find the quality is good enough.
I tried using a GoPro before my trip. I follow a lot of Instagram accounts that use GoPro’s and I thought it would be amazing because their photos are so great, but it really didn’t work for me. I mostly felt that because I don’t lead a particularly action-packed lifestyle, this kind of camera wasn’t for me… if I was the kind of person who is always snowboarding or surfing or skydiving, then yes it would be a great option.
- Waterproof/durability. This initially was a big drawcard for me; seeing as I was visiting Europe in the winter I imagined there would be a lot of rain and snow around and whatever camera I took would benefit from a little water protection.
- Versatility – the GoPros are very versatile and you can get some amazing angles that you just can’t get with any other type of camera.
- To get the versatility of the GoPro in full action, you have to buy a lot of additional, expensive equipment.
- The wide-angle lens creates a fish-eye effect. I didn’t want to look back on my Europe photos and see myself as a warped, googley-eyed weirdo in every shot.
- Requires a micro memory card – more additional equipment to buy!
- I found that the quality of still photos wasn’t that great. The video quality was awesome, and I understand that you can take stills from a video, but that’s a lot of fussing around that I wasn’t looking for.
- Reviewing photos is difficult. The GoPro I used didn’t have a screen, so to view my photos I had to look at the app on my phone. This was time consuming and not really appropriate for the fast-paced travel life. If I had used one of the GoPro’s with a screen this probably would have made a big difference to my opinion.
I was the gleeful receiver of one of those cute little Polaroid cameras on my birthday, and I love it. But is it a good travel camera?
- Cuteness. There really is something special about a Polaroid picture. I don’t know if it’s the vintage-feel or the fact that you get a physical copy straight away in your hot little hands – but I think they’re great.
- The quality is not the best. This can be either a pro or a con because the quality does add to that vintage kind of look. But if you’re looking for perfectly exposed and non-grainy holidays photos, this is not the camera for you.
- Price. While the cameras themselves aren’t too expensive, the film is. It works out about $1-$2 per photograph, so your vintage memories come at a price.
- Bulky. The camera is quite large and the film takes up a lot of space in your backpack.
- Doesn’t work well in the cold. If you take a Polaroid in cold weather make sure you put it straight in your pocket so it develops.
COMPACT DIGITAL CAMERA
Like my parent’s Olympus Stylus SH-1, these cameras are a lot smaller than a DSLR or a micro four thirds camera, but work almost as well.
- Decent quality photos. Not as good as a ‘big camera’ but still pretty darn great. You can capture some amazing photos with a camera like this.
- Compact – these cameras are a perfect size to sit comfortably around your neck or in your bag, and some can even fit in your pocket.
- Reasonable price. You can get a camera like this from anywhere between about $80 – $1,000. The Olympus SH-1 was about $400 and it’s a great camera.
- No interchangeable lenses. You don’t have to worry about carrying around extra lenses. Most of these cameras have really good zooming capabilities.
- Doesn’t perform as well in low light situations as a ‘big camera’. I found this a bit frustrating at times.
As you can see, there are a lot of different options with a lot of different pros and cons. In the end, I took my parent’s compact digital camera, my Polaroid, and obviously my phone.
The compact digital camera worked great. I have a lot of amazing photos and they are mostly really good quality. There were times where I wished I had my big camera, but overall the little one was definitely the best option for me – especially seeing as I took the bulkier Polaroid as well.
The Polaroid may seem quite impractical, but for me it was what I wanted. I really, really, really, wanted a Polaroid picture of the Eiffel Tower, of the John Lennon Wall, of Big Ben and, well – everywhere. I rationed it out to two polaroid pics a day so that it wouldn’t be too expensive and so that I’d only take photos of the highlights of the day. For me it was worth it.
I also ended up using my phone camera quite a bit, mainly in moments where I was caught off-guard with my proper cameras in my backpack. While the quality wasn’t so great, it was still okay for an Instagram/Facebook update.
In the end, you’re the only one who can decide what type of camera works best for you, but I hope I’ve helped a little by mapping out the pros and cons of the different types and my own personal experiences.
I would love to hear from you guys what kind of cameras you have used for travel in the past or are planning to use in the future. What have your experiences been like?