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Posts Tagged photography

Sony Cyber-Shot Digital Camera Tx30

The Sony Cyber-Shot Tx30 is the absolute best point-and-shoot camera I’ve ever owned. Yes, I have a DSLR that I bring on professional trips because, well, it makes me look like I know what I’m doing, but when given the choice, I absolutely always reach for the Cyber-Shot. Of course, any point-and-shoot compact camera is going to be lighter and smaller than a DSLR, ideal for those on-the-go moments when you need a camera that will fit in your pocket, but the Cyber-Shot Tx30 goes far beyond convenience. It offers high quality images, but more importantly to me, it is absolutely, completely indestructible.

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Sony describes the Cyber-Shot Tx30 as ‘certified waterproof, rustproof, shockproof, and freeze proof’ and they are not kidding. I have taken mine everywhere from snorkeling with whale sharks to sandy beaches to ski trips, and it has never failed me. It’s been in the hands of both preschoolers and teenagers, both demographics known for hard use of electronic items. It’s very user-friendly, with an easy-to-navigate touch screen that I can still see in bright sunlight, and turns on and off with a slide of the front panel, rather than at the touch of a button (easier to manage with gloves or while underwater). If your travels will be taking you outdoors in any capacity, this is the point-and-shoot that needs to be in your pocket.

Here’s the nitty-gritty (aka, why your photos will turn out startlingly well): the Cyber-Shot Tx30 has 18.2 megapixels, takes 1080/6oi video, and a 5x optical soon. It also has something called a 10x Clear Image zoom, but I have to admit I don’t know what that means. Sounds fancy.

I took the Cyber-Shot on a five day river rafting expedition, during which I was the only person to take out his or her camera on the water. Yes, all the DSLRs along for that trip took excellent shots of sunsets and cookouts, but they were packed carefully away on the rapids. What’s the point of bringing a camera you can’t use? My Cyber-Shot was on my wrist the entire five days, and I could use it everywhere, from a video selfie jumping off cliff rocks into the river to recording Class IV rapids from the vantage point of a kayak.

Here’s an example of video taken entirely with the Cyber-Shot:

Pick one up at Sony for $259 or get a deal on Amazon for $227. The Cyber-Shot comes in fun colors ranging from bright orange to pink, blue, or black.

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Mountainsmith Descent Camera Bag

The Mountainsmith Descent is a solid camera bag option for anyone who travels with their DSLR and extra camera gear. It’s not massive, so you won’t feel dwarfed by your camera equipment everywhere you go, and it’s affordable while still delivering on the features you need. The Descent is designed with a cross-chest carry (more on that in a minute) and features a handy clamshell access to the main compartment. You get a media pocket under the lid, and an external front pocket with key clip. A large front section offers plenty of organizational space for documents, a tablet or Kindle, and a wallet. The bag could definitely double as your carry-on if you travel light.

mountainsmith descentInside, the main compartment is divided into four sections with sturdy Atilon foam with a 14 L volume. You can fit two camera bodies and two lenses, no problem. The outside is nylon with waterproof coating, and there’s a rain hood as well.

The mobility for this bag is quite good. due to a secure hip belt in addition to the shoulder strap. I know some photographers prefer backpacks to sling bags, and I do too…when hiking good distances. When I have my DSLR with me, however, I tend to want to stop often and take lots of shots. If you’re like me, and want to access your camera at any moment, the Descent’s sling shoulder strap will really work for you. I like the ability to slide the bag forward as I walk or when I stop at a sight. I don’t want to  have to take the entire bag off my body to access the camera. Is the Descent going to be as comfortable to move with as a backpack style? No, but it’s darn close. If you’ll be hiking or traveling good distances between shots, a backpack might be for you, but if you’re a stop and shoot all day long kind of photographer, opt for the sling carry.

The Descent is versatile, fitting most users, but if you have a long torso, you’ll want to try it out in a brick and mortar store before ordering. The adults in our family had no problem exchanging the bag back and forth to wear, with easy adjustments to the sling strap and optional chest strap. Pick up the Descent for an exclusive $99 price at REI this December or find it on at other retailers and Mountainsmith in January.

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Crumpler Karachi Outpost Camera Pack

karachi outpost

In the world of camera bags, Crumpler’s Karachi Outpost  is like every other bag’s better looking, cooler cousin. The retro rucksack style of the small and large sized Outpost sports a soft, brushed twill fabric, warm colors, and fun accents (oddly, the medium has a more urban, sleeker look). But while it looks as though its all about appearances, the Karachi is very practical as well…a welcome surprise. That brushed fabric I mentioned? It’s all-weather and water resistant. The cargo flap pockets? Each has a purpose. Hidden from view? A padded 11-inch Macbook Air or tablet pocket and detachable tripod holder.

The Karachi is extremely comfortable to wear, even when loaded with camera gear and accessories. You get nine storage ‘zones’, with a total of 31 L of space in the main compartment, plus an extendable drawstring-closure hood. The main compartment is divided into 12 separate spaces defined by adjustable velcro ‘walls’ and four elastic straps. This is ‘build your own camera compartments’ at its best: it’s possible to customize your space to suit.

The hood pocket (that’s the drawstring closure one) is fully lined, which makes it the convenient location for your sunglasses. Also handy: a stow-able, elastic rain cover that’s easy to access. You get two side stuff pockets for that grab-and-go stuff you need at the ready, and a front cargo pocket with an internal mesh pocket (maybe for memory cards or extra batteries).

When I loaded up the Karachi, I easily fit a DSLR, modest telephoto lens, and numerous additional lenses, flash, and filters. The superior construction and double-stitching was evident right away as I hefted the pack up and onto my back. I loved the equipment walls: they are definitely of superior construction to what I’ve experienced in the past. They do a great job of holding the camera and lenses in place while the pack is in motion (on your back).

Karachi OutpostI already noted how comfortable the Karachi is to wear. This is because of the extra features you don’t usually see on a camera bag (but do see on quality backpacking gear): a length-adjusting harness, vented back padding, and Air Mesh shoulder padding. The chest belt/sternum strap is adjustable and removable.

My only caveat: The Karachi’s main compartment is rear-entry. Some might consider this a plus, but I don’t like the necessity of taking the pack all the way off every time I want access to my camera. Call me lazy.

If you want to pick up a Karachi, you have three size options, as noted above. The large has a width of 38 cm/15 inches and height of 52 cm/20.5 inches. It comes in three color options: a beautiful deep blue, a bright orange, and an olive green. You really can’t go wrong. The small is a few inches shorter and leaner. Grab the large for $265 or the small for $215. Available also on Amazon for the same price.

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Fuji FinePix S4200 Camera Is a Terrific Value

superzoom cameraOffering the best features-to-value ratio of any camera I’ve used, this sub-$200 Fuji Film FinePix S4200 delivers on all counts.

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.

Fuji S4200I 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.

Fuji Film

Siem Reap in night mode, no tripod

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.

Typical quality shot from the Fuji FInePix S4200 - unedited

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.

See the full specs at the Fuji Film website and pick up the S4200 at Amazon or search prices at other online stores.

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Carson Optical Camera and Mobile Device Screen Cleaners

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!

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