Posts Tagged photography
I’m too much of a light packer to be weighed down by a bunch of DSLR gear, so my camera of choice that works for both my travel writing career and family outings is a super-zoom point and shoot. With this kind of digital camera you get manual controls when you want them, a serious zoom for getting close-ups, and a bigger lens than on your pocket point-and-shoot. With something like this Fuji FinePix super-zoom I can shoot photos good enough for a magazine spread without bringing along a whole other bag of equipment.
Not all of these are created equal, however. Since I started the original version of this blog way back when, I’ve tried a short-lived Casio one, two Kodak ones (see a review here), and a Nikon Coolpix L120. The first three were all good, but that last one was so crappy I only used it a few months and eventually sold it on eBay.
This Fuji one is not perfect: I hate this trend to use AA batteries requiring a separate charger and the body is a bit bigger than I’d like. The controls are also not as intuitive as many others I’ve used.
I consider these rather minor inconveniences though because it does have a lot going for it that others don’t, including an optical viewfinder, which is really essential in bright sunlight or using the full zoom. It also has an impressive 24X zoom, which is enough to get facial shots from so far away the person doesn’t even know you’re there. In this picture to the left, for example, I was at least 30 meters away, across the road. The “noise” in the shot was so low I could have cropped down to her eyebrows and still had a clear photo.
This 14 megapixel camera takes terrific shots in the automatic setting, so I end up using that most of the time in good lighting. When I need to adjust, however, there are lots of preset modes that have become relatively standard across cameras: portrait, night shot, low light, snow, beach, sunset, fireworks, text, etc. There’s also an “SR Auto” mode that detects which of these is right for the situation and goes right to it—including smile detection. (There’s a blink detection mode too, though it seems to mostly come on when I’m photographing a statue…)
The time I go wishing for a little improvement is in the manual controls. You can go full manual, aperture adjustment, or shutter adjustment, with none of them being very quick or easy. Trying to figure out which buttons do what takes quite a bit of trial and error—and a few missed opportunities until you get the hang of it. Eventually, they work.
There are controls for the built-in flash, which has a manual button to release it. I like that because it doesn’t pop up every time the camera thinks the light is too low. One of the special modes allows you to take two shots at once, one with flash and one without, which is pretty cool. Keep the best one, ditch the other.
Other features I now consider essential are in place: good HD video with sound, the ability to shoot multiple photos in succession, and a timer that’s easy to get to. I don’t really use the panorama mode much, but it seems to work okay when I do. The three-inch display is bright and crisp and I can shoot for days without needing to recharge the four AA batteries. This camera also turns on fast (rated 1.8 seconds, but really faster in my tests) and there’s almost no shutter lag.
Rounding out the features are ways to tag your photos for Facebook before uploading, but this seems like a gimmick that few people will use. It’s faster just to do it online.
Overall, for a camera that generally retails for $160 to $200, this Fuji FinePix S4200 really outperforms and delivers more than you would expect. It’s about the size of a DSLR—partly because of the 24X zoom—but it’s worth the little extra weight and bulk to have this kind of versatility. I’ve published photos from this camera in magazine articles and on webzines, so it’s certainly going to be good enough for your travel shots.
Avid photographers know that maintaining your equipment is of utmost priority when traveling. While I do not consider myself an avid camera toter, I do like to keep my camera and other electronic gear spiffy and neat when on the road.
Carson products were not on my radar screen, but from everyone that I have spoken to about them, these are the top of the line for professionals. They offer the perfect accessories to throw in your travel bag especially when you want to capture that ideal shot at the least expected moment.
Even non-professional cameras should maintain squeaky clean surfaces for long-term durability, something that many travelers overlook. You may shudder, but for years I carried my camera loosely in my bag’s pocket (without a case, because it added weight to my carry-on…and yes, international airlines often weigh carry-on bags to insure they are under seven pounds). Yes, I just threw it in a pocket of my bag without ever thinking twice.
The screen became rather scratched and the door to the main lens eventually broke teaching me an expensive lesson. This is a main reason why I learned to appreciate cheap products that keep your camera safe.
Carson’s C6 line of cleaners feature a specially formulated dry-cleaning compound that cleans the lens effectively and quickly (very important when you are in a hurry to snap that perfect in-the-moment travel shot). Travelers will find them useful for everything from binoculars to iPhones, iPads, and Kindles.
A pack of lens cleaners (available from a variety of affordable retailers) is a no-brainer for photographers to throw into their bag. Who wants to miss that shot of a child’s first step into the ocean’s waves or a safari adventure’s idyllic lion yawn. While these may seem like extraneous purchases to some travelers, those who can enjoy the perfect family photo or travel adventure enlarged in print know the value of having a clean screen. Take it from this former camera abuser…it pays to have a clean screen!
This rugged, masculine travel bag from Jill-E is the perfect companion for travelers with bulky camera equipment or lots of business gear that cannot be risked as checked airline luggage. While it seems this is ideal for a safari or luxury camping expedition, the intended use of the bag’s interior compartments are for camera equipment. Photographers with DSLR equipment and lenses who want fine leather instead of nylon.
The rolling wheels and sturdy handle that extends from the back of the bag turn what could be a heavy bundle to travel with into a standard rollaboard carryon bag. It can easily fit into most aircraft overhead compartments. The bag’s exterior is comprised of a weather-resistant nylon keeping it looking good even if it gets stuck sitting on a rainy tarmac by a regional jet.
Even for those who do not travel with bulky camera equipment, the numerous padded compartments within this bag (which can be moved and adjusted as needed) make it easy to separate paperwork, a laptop, and hefty electronics cords. Climbing up stairs or an escalator in a hurry is as simply as grabbing the leather handles on the top of the bag like a typical duffel bag. I appreciated that feature while running to catch a flight once.
Fellow travelers who saw me with the bag were intrigued at its unique appearance with Colombian leather accents and unconventional exterior pockets. Most thought I was on an outdoorsy type expedition and were surprised when I opened the bag to show them how easy it is to store my business travel accessories inside. My long laptop fit inside easily and was secure even when jerked around in transit. I even found space to fold clothing into one compartment for a quick weekend trip although one would not want to place formal business attire inside as it could easily wrinkle (but this is not the bag’s intended use).
The large pockets on the outside are perfect for storing keys, mobile devices, or even passports. It was not as easy to access them in a jiffy like a zippered pocket would be, but it also makes it safer from the sticky hands of pickpockets.
It is as heavy as a typical rollaboard bag making it a great travel companion for short jaunts, but probably not as useful on longer trips. The hefty price tag of $289 indicates its high-quality materials and durability. In addition to other Jill-E products, this bag is available at Jill-E Designs website. eBags, and Amazon.com.
Camera bags aren’t always easy to bring along on outdoor adventures. If they’re sturdy enough to protect your DSLR and lenses, they’re often also heavy, or they lack the space necessary to combine your gear into one, convenient bag. But the Lowepro Photo Sport 200 AW is a backpack and camera bag, in one convenient package.
The pack is lightweight but sturdy, and its padded shoulder and hip straps are enough to keep it securely attached to you. Even more straps are included for additional gear. There’s also a built-in rain cover, to keep the pack protected from the weather.
The padded camera pocket protects your camera gear with an extra cinched section to keep it from bouncing around while you’re out being active. A side-access pocket allows you to rotate the pack to the front, unzip, un-cinch and get to your camera quickly. Much better than having to take the bag off and dig around for your camera, only to have the perfect photo moment pass you by.
You can see a slick HD video with eye candy scenery of all this in action at this link, the narrator alternately trail running along the ocean with this pack and whipping out his camera to get some good shots.
The upper compartment of the pack provides up to 13.9 liters of volume for you other items—whether you’re out for a multi-day hike, or a day of mountain biking. There’s also a hydration pocket for a 2-liter hydration reservoir, however the reservoir is not included.
Their latest product is another item that looks strange enough to make you do a double-take and works well enough that you realize this is how it goes when form and function come together as one. The GorillaPod Hybrid is meant for heavier cameras that need more support than you can get from a mini tripod. It has stronger, thicker legs to grab onto whatever object is around, with the capacity to hold a camera weighing up to 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds). That’s enough for super-zoom cameras and many compact DSLRs. The rubberized legs wrap well and stay in place on their own, but the knobby design also enables you to really lock them around each other when necessary.
There are a few nifty additions to this formula though that go beyond the cool factor of being able to wrap your tripod around a branch or flagpole as pictured here. There’s a swivel ball system that allows you very precise movements after you have the legs secured. It will move up or down 90 degrees and will swivel 360 degrees. You loosen the ball, get the camera situated at whatever angle works, then tighten it in place.
The other great addition is a level integrated into the design: no guessing on whether your shot will be parallel to the horizon or not. This is especially helpful when you’ve got a camera hanging in a strange place or the light is dim and you’re taking a timed shot with a long shutter speed. (It’s that green part with a bubble in the shot to the right. In the photos at the top it’s facing the photographer.)
There’s also a quick-release hub that can be separated from the tripod. This allows you to just pop your camera on and off in different positions instead of having to unscrew it and rescrew it when taking shots with and without the tripod in use. If you want to use the GorillaPod for a remote flash, there’s an add-on accessory you can get for that.
There was a time when the SLR version of this tripod was a lot more than the $40 this lists for—and it didn’t do as much. This new Hybrid introduction uses “Japanese medical-grade ABS plastic and German TPE.” I take it that’s a good thing and declare this item an excellent value.
* Win a Joby Gorillapod original! If you’re using a regular point-and-shoot, you can use a Joby GorillaPod original version to get better photos with no shake. So we’re giving away one to our readers. Two ways to win: 1) Go join us on Facebook for the first time and leave a link to your wall in the comments below, with the make and model of the camera you use. 2) If you’re already following us there, just leave a comment below with the kind of camera you use. We’ll wrap it up and pick a winner at random on March 15, 2012.
Update 3/19/12 – Congratulations to Theresa J. who scored the original GorillaPod tripod. Go shoot some great new shots!