Some people love to go camera shopping and others dread it. Some find it fun, others find it difficult. The simple truth about finding the best digital camera these days is that almost any will do for most people. But there are some things to consider if you are a traveler and if you can spend a little extra time deciding on the best digital camera, you can find one that stands out above the crowd.
The good news about digital cameras is that while the market has created hundreds of modern models, the quality has become top notch. Just about any digital camera will take perfectly acceptable photos out of the box for nearly every user. But what can you look for if you’re a traveler? There are certain things travelers demand out of cameras and taking time to consider these can be very beneficial.
Several years ago the megapixel war started. Manufacturers started squeezing more and more megapixels out of their sensors and consumers were swayed by the higher ratings. Don’t fall for this marketing push. Chances are you won’t notice a difference between 6mp or 8mp, or even 10mp. You probably can’t purchase anything below 6mp these days but for printing, I wouldn’t go any lower. Anything above that is overkill so don’t let yourself get fooled into paying more for a camera just because it has a slightly higher megapixel rating.
Most people will never take a second thought about the lens on their digital camera but travelers should consider finding a camera with a wide-angle lens. Most wide angle lenses have a focal length of 28mm as opposed to the standard 35mm. It may not sound like much, but it is very noticeable and can mean the difference between fitting that entire statue in your frame, or cutting off its head or feet.
You’ll often find yourself in places where you have no control over whether or not you can move to get a different view. A wider lens will allow you fit more in your frame whether you are indoors or taking pictures of landscapes. Once you shoot with a wide lens, you’ll never buy another camera without one.
You should also take a look at the optical zoom range of a lens. 3x is pretty standard but higher is nice, although it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
Always ignore the digital zoom rating of a lens. Digital zoom is another marketing tactic and results in a terrible looking photograph. Turn off digital zoom in your camera and never use it (it is typically marked by a line in your zoom meter on the camera’s LCD screen). Manufacturers will often put a ridiculous zoom rating such as 12x or higher on their packaging to entice customers who aren’t knowledgeable about digital cameras. If you accidentally use your digital zoom, you’ll be very disappointed once you look at the photograph on your computer and see that it is unusable. All a digital zoom function does is increase the size of your pixels to the point that they look like big ugly blocks.
Some budget priced digital cameras will use replaceable AA batteries which many people like since you can find them anywhere, but those same people haven’t tried shopping in a souk in Morocco. Most digital cameras made today include a rechargeable battery. I’ve never had one last less than 2-3 days of moderate use which is respectable. They all come with their own battery chargers which, from my experience, are always multi-voltage. The only thing you’ll need is a plug adapter to plug it in to foreign outlets.
Over the past couple of years manufacturers like Olympus and Pentax have been producing waterproof models that can not only get wet, but be fully submerged in moderate depths of water. They don’t cost much more than an equivalent camera so these are good options for travelers who enjoy snorkeling or other water sports.
I just made that word up. I don’t know if it really exists or not but it describes the final thing that you should consider when buying a digital camera for travel. Size. I use professional digital SLR equipment for lots of things, but not travel. I find it too difficult to carry it around so I found a camera that has all features I need and also fits inside my pocket. It’s convenient and will let you take photos when you might have otherwise left your camera behind.
The good news is that most cameras now are relatively small and easy to conceal. Check if the lens protrudes from the body when not in use. There are also a few models out there that have a grip on the right side of the camera which make it difficult to slip into your pocket.
It’s hard to recommend specific models since new ones are released every few months. For my money, I always look at Nikon and Canon first. They’re all I use for my professional photography and I have found their compact digital cameras to be just as good of quality as their higher end models.
If you have any questions or recommendations on digital cameras please feel free to share them in the comments below.