Making travel plans?
Choosing the right camera for a vacation could be a real trip (pun intended).
There are four major groups of cameras best suited for travel, each with its own merits – Super Zooms, Compact Zooms, Ultra Compacts and High End cameras.
Apart from body size, zoom range, lens width, low light support, and other features (not to mention image quality per se), also consider that a built-in GPS could be a nice addition to a traveling camera, for easy geo-tagging of your photos later, in your vacation web album.
These are relatively large cameras with huge zoom ranges, weighing anywhere between 400 and 700 grams, providing zoom ranges of anywhere between x18 and x36.
A Super Zoom means you will have to carry a separate bag with you, making travel a bit more cumbersome. The up side is the ability to zoom-in on extremely far away objects, as well as shooting in RAW format (in most models).
Canon PowerShot SX40
Canon’s SX40 offers a comprehensive package, including a wide-angle 24mm lens, a x35 zoom range, an external flash hot-shoe, an electronic viewfinder, a flip LCD, Full HD 1080p video with stereo sound and a functional optical zoom. The only thing it doesn’t have is RAW format support.
Nikon CoolPix P500
The widest lens (22.5mm) and largest zoom range (x36) belong to the Nikon Coolpix P500. It has Full HD video with stereo sound and a functional optical zoom, a flip LCD, but no RAW support, no GPS, no external flash hot-shoe, and a painfully short battery life.
Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ150
Panasonic’s new Lumix FZ150 is a huge improvement from last year’s FZ100, including a new CMOS sensor which provides good results in most situations. The FZ150 offers a wide 24mm lens, a x24 zoom range, Full HD (1080p) video with optical zoom and stereo sound, an electronic viewfinder, an articulating LCD screen, an external flash hot-shoe and RAW format support. Putting aside a built-in GPS, this is the one of the most complete packages available today.
Sony Cyber-shot HX100V
There is only one Super Zoom camera with a built-in GPS – the Sony Cyber-shot HX100V. It also has a 27mm lens, x30 zoom, a Flip LCD, Full HD video with stereo sound and optical zoom, but no RAW support and no external flash hot-shoe.
A compact zoom could very well be a traveler’s best friend. It’s significantly smaller than any Super Zoom mentioned above and could fit in your pocket – some in your jacket pocket and some even in your jeans pocket. In spite of their small size, they provide a very large zoom range.
All compact zooms listed below have 1080p video with stereo sound and a functional optical zoom, a body weight of just over 200 grams and a zoom range of x14 or more.
Canon PowerShot SX230
Canon’s PowerShot SX230 is one of the top performers in the compact zoom group. Compared to the rest of them, it has a narrow 28mm lens, but that’s its only low point. It has a x14 zoom range, manual control over exposure, numerous filters for image creativity and a built-in GPS.
Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS10
The ZS10 is the latest of a long compact zoom dynasty from Panasonic. Even though it faces fierce competition by most camera manufacturers, it prevails on its own merits – a wide 24mm lens, a x16 zoom range, manual control over exposure and a built-in GPS.
Sony Cyber-shot HX9V
The HX9V offers a highly impressive mixture of manual handling and automatic gadgetry. Like the ZS10, it has a x24 lens, x16 zoom manual control over exposure and a built-in GPS, but is also has some clever tricks for overcoming noise in low light situations. The most fun (and efficient) feature of the HX9V is its automatic sweep panorama mode – a real treat.
Nikon Coolpix S9100
Joining the compact zoom race more than fashionably late, Nikon did so with an extravagant entrance. The S9100 holds one the largest zoom ranges available in cameras not much over 200 grams. It comes with a wide 25mm lens, 1080p video with stereo sound and optical zoom, but no manual control over exposure and no GPS.
When traveling light, it is very important that the camera will not be in your way, burdening your agility with its heavy weight and large size. These ultra compact cameras will add very little to your baggage (though they leave the GPS out of the bag as well).
Canon PowerShot ELPH 300
Canon successfully improved their ultra compact line through several generations of cameras, evolving into the ELPH 300. It has a wide 24mm lens, a x5 zoom range, 1080p video with stereo sound and optical zoom and Canon’s latest HS system for good image quality overall, specifically in low light.
Sony Cyber-shot WX10
This tiny gem holds enormous capabilities. Similar to the larger HX9V in most ways except for its shorter x7 zoom and the lack of a GPS. It has the same super-tech functionality, aimed at reducing noise in low light shooting, producing cleaner images. Of course, it also includes Sony’s excellent sweep panorama mode.
Some smaller than others, some not as small, with an emphasis on image quality, low light support, manual control and generally very good ergonomics.
Canon PowerShot S100
It would slip in your pocket while at rest, but when at work -it will provide the highest image quality of any camera on this page. It has a satisfactory x5 zoom range and a very wide 24mm lens, RAW format support, a large maximum aperture setting of f/2.0 and most crucially – a larger than average imaging sensor, which makes all the difference in terms of image quality.
If you end up buying a compact, get a belt case. It’s the most convenient way to carry a compact camera with you. Doesn’t bulge in your pocket (try sitting down with a camera in your jeans), quick to draw and easy to withdraw.
Most important – don’t forget to see, before you photograph.