Picture Snob

June 3, 2008

Digital Cameras for Travel: Key Features to Consider

When it comes to photography on the road, there's some key digital camera features that will help you avoid a life of frustration and travel photo mediocrity. We're going to focus on point-and-shoot cameras -- they're the most convenient for travel due to size and weight. Plus, you DSLR folks already know what you're doing, right?

Below are 6 considerations we believe to be crucial to having the best tool for travel. And just what camera lives up to this wish list, you ask? Check out Panasonic's Lumix DMC-TZ5K. At $269.99 you're getting 10X optical zoom, wide angle, 9-megapixels, incredible intelligent auto modes as well as manual options and decent video capabilities. lumix_TZ5K.jpg1. Wide-Angle Lens
A wide-angle lens isn't a common option for point-and-shoots, but it's one to keep an eye out for. Like a zoom gives you the flexibility to get close-up or shoot from far away, a wide-angle can add depth and help you capture shots in tight places. Just beware that capturing a group of people with a wide-angle is mutiny -- the people on the outside 20% of the frame will look like they're in a fun house mirror. Which isn't fun.

2. Flexible Controls for Aperture and Shutter Speed

While we love auto mode because we can use our brain for other things, it's not always the best move. Look for cameras with "Aperture Priority" and "Shutter Priority" modes. These are semi-automatic modes that allow you more control for unique lighting situations like sunsets and night shots. For example, in "Aperture Priority" mode you set the aperture (how much light gets in the lens) and the camera adjusts the shutter speed accordingly. If you've got a travel tripod, using "Shutter Priority" to set a long shutter speed (how much time the light has to get in the lense) can be a nice way to capture a sunset at dusk.

3. Understanding Optical Zoom vs. Digital Zoom
If you can get 10X optical zoom, go for it. Remember that digital zoom is practically useless -- in fact, you should turn it off on the user settings to avoid accidentally using it. Digital zoom basically simulates a zoom by cropping an image and enlarging it at the expense of pixels. You'll notice digital zoom images will look fuzzy. It's just a cheap trick.

4. Less Shutter Delay
This is a constantly improving feature, but most bellies still boil at the thought of a shutter delay. A shutter delay is the space of time between when you push the button and when the shutter actually clicks. The average delay is 0.5 to 0.8 seconds, which is an eternity if your subject is moving. If you're in the $500 or less market, your best bet is 0.4 seconds. Another thing to look out for is "next shot delay" -- some cameras need up to 3 seconds before they can take another shot.

5. Megapixels: The More the Better
For the average person who's happy with 8x10 prints, 7-megapixels will do you well. If you like some extra pixels to be able to edit, crop or print large scale, get as many as you can.

6. Batteries: To Charge or Not to Charge

If you're going to be in places with questionable power sources or you can't haul around adapters and such, consider a camera that takes regular AA batteries. You can find these almost anywhere in the world. Next up would be Lithium, which last longer and you can pack a supply of. If you are going the rechargeable battery route definitely invest in a spare battery so you aren't caught with your bars down.

Read More in: Digital Cameras | Tips and Tricks

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Posted by Susan Moriarty at June 3, 2008 6:39 AM
Recent Comments

If this camera had a viewfinder, I'd buy it!

Posted by: Ann at June 3, 2008 4:14 PM
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