Extreme Travel | Adventure Sports

How to… buy a camera

WideWorld's guide to buying an SLR or a point-and-shoot
Panasonic Lumix G2

A friend of mine wanted to travel the world without taking a single photograph. Explaining this madness, he said he wanted to see the world with his own eyes, not through a camera viewfinder; that he said he wanted this experience for himself, not for lazy relatives and friends who refused to leave the comfort of their home.

He passed through Canada, the U.S,A.,  Latin America and Europe before he finally gave up and bought a disposable Kodak camera for £2.99 and was pleasantly satisfied with the “experimental” results. We’ll assume you’re not going to settle for a cardboard camera, no matter how interesting the results – so here’s the WideWorld guide to buying an SLR or point-and-shoot. Remember, equipment like this becomes obsolete quickly. So keep your eyes on WideWorld’s review section for the latest and greatest.

Buying an SLR

When choosing a good Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera, professionals urge not to spend too much money on the camera body and save all the pennies for the eye (the lens). It’s also a fact that for a good, sharp professional lens you need an awful lot of pennies.

Martin Edström, a Swedish photographer and journalist, recommends people to buy a fully functional SLR. “Loads of cameras are stripped of the core features to get cheaper, but turn out to be not much more than very large point-and-shoots,” warns Edström. “ It’s essential you have the possibility to use all available lenses on your SLR, as well as have manual buttons for the core functions such as shutter/aperture/ISO-settings. It might not matter the day you buy it, but it matters very much for your learning and future use of the camera.”

Olympus Evolt E620

Travel light, they say. Olympus Evolt E620, the world’s smallest digital SLR camera with built-in image stabilisation, is no bigger than a pack of instant noodles. It comes with 14-42mm and 40-150mm kit lens and a variety of “art filters” (’60s pop art, black and white, pinhole photos etc.). Apart from weight and size, both of which are great advantage whilst travelling, the E620 makes an average, reliable piece of equipment. Olympus also offer the PT-E06 non-compulsory underwater housing for the Olympus E620, able to reach depths of 40 metres underwater. The price: £670 for camera and £750 for housing.

Sony Alpha 230

With 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses is a great entry into the world of the SLR, especially if you plan to start small, but not too small. It’s a light and effective camera. The anti-shake feature allows hand holding of long telephoto shots with tripod-like results, and the 18-55mm macro zoom that comes with the A230 is fast, light and the colours are spot on. The camera has some features beginner photographers will appreciate like d-range optimiser, spot metering and bracketing. Price: £320

Nikon’s D5000

If a person could choose only one camera for everything, Nikon’s D5000 would be a perfect choice. The D5000 is the smallest, lightest Nikon that has technical image quality indistinguishable from the very best. There are scene modes for nearly any type of situation. The 18-55mm lens is fast and together with effective scene recognition and 3D tracking focus this camera is great for sports or adventure photography. And the new tilting LCD for shooting and filming over your head or round corners is a treat. Price: £470

FinePix S1500

“Minibridge, miniprice, but it is the maximum,” is the slogan that was associated with Fujifilm’s bridge camera – the FinePix S1500 is a good choice for a traveller who is unsure about committing to a full DSLR. The S1500 is small overall but has a few relatively large features. The camera comes with a powerful zoom. With the Tracking Auto Focus function you can track your subject while holding the shutter half way down, this reduces blur on a moving object. The Panorama Shooting Mode allows you to take three consecutive shots, combine them, and then saves them to your memory card as a single panoramic picture. Price: £137

Panasonic Lumix G2

With 14-42mm lens is a hybrid format SLR that seems quite mature and therefore able to satisfy many users. It performs well whether you’re shooting nature, scenery, action, or taking it on long hikes or expeditions. To top it all, it has movable touch-screen LCD not very different from the iPhone, a built-in eye sensor, face detection and automatic and manual modes. But we’ve saved the best news for last – for video lovers the G2 has the ability to shoot 720/30p HD video, and has an on-board Dolby Digital stereo mic and external mic jack. Price: £460

Buying a point-and-shoot

A great thing about buying a point-and-shoot camera is that nothing beats their simplicity. They don’t require extra lenses or giant bags to carry them, they simply fit into a pocket and attract little attention. Plus, as Martin Edström points out, “most point-and-shoot cameras today can produce good enough pictures for magazines to publish.” There are, however, a few things professionals suggest you should think about before purchasing a point-and-shoot camera. For one, think of what kind of pictures you are going to take. Second, know what the photographs will be used for. And third, are zoom shots important to you? The key features to look for are the ability to manually set aperture and shutter speed. You also want a model that can shoot images in RAW mode, and anti-shake or Vibration Reduction is another feature that will help to produce sharp photos.

Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR

A fairly powerful, yet compact digital camera that just fits into the palm of your hand. What defines this little thing from a regular point-and-shoot camera is the possibility to use the manual setting and the ability to take wide aperture shots that usually is a D-SLR trademark. The camera also features a ‘super intelligent’ flash, high contrast LCD, dual stabilisation for blurred or distorted shots and advanced Face Detection. The camera also includes the Multi-Frame technology that gives users the options to combine two or three burst shots together to make an animation. Price: £150

Panasonic Lumix LX3

With a cult-classic 20mm f1.7 pancake lens is a solid camera for enthusiasts seeking a travelling companion that’s more discrete than a digital SLR. LX3 series has been praised for its skill to take really great photos even in low-light conditions. 20mm means ultra wide and there are gadgets to choose from like pinhole camera simulator and ‘film grain’ that makes your photos look like it was taken with high sensitivity film. LX3 can also shoot HD video. Price: £450

Canon S95 IS

One of the best compact cameras ever made, due to the fast f/2 lens, the possibility to shoot RAW images and a relatively big sensor for nice, clean photos. The camera works well shooting portraits in low light conditions or using a shallow depth of field for soft backgrounds. The S95 is an excellent choice for underwater photography due to its wide-angle lens option. Canon and Ikelight both sell underwater housing for this camera. Other notable features are 720p HD video with stereo sound recording, multi-aspect ratio shooting and SDXC card compatibility. Price: £350 for camera and £245 for housing.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2

With the 28mm wide angle lens is a rugged, shockproof, waterproof, and dustproof digital camera perfect for travelling. It’s waterproof up to ten meters, shockproof up to two meters (i.e. you can drop it from two metres) and can withstand temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius. There are the usual gadgets including face recognition, image stabilisation and autofocus but also a new toy called “Happy Mode” for image colour, brightness and saturation optimisation. T2 records HD video and supports SDXC cards and it comes in various colours – silver, blue, orange and yellow. Price: £267

Olympus Stylus Tough 6000

Designed by Olympus to go places other point-and-shoot cameras wouldn’t dare to go and withstand some of the harshest environments on earth. It’s weatherproof, shockproof, waterproof, freezeproof and crushproof. After adding Dual Image Stabilisation to the kit to ensure that adventurers will come home with crisp, clear images, Nadine Clark, Olympus’s product manager pointed out that “after all, when you make cameras that can be dropped, submerged and frozen you expect the terrain where you use them to get a little rocky along the way, and you want stability as well as durability.” Stylus 6000 also boasts Advanced Face Detection Technology, Smile Shot feature which automatically takes the picture as soon as the subject smiles and Beauty Mode to retouch the skin as the shot is being taken. Price: £210

Nikon Coolpix P6000

Last year’s Backpacker Magazine editor’s choice, is built to take a few knocks. For mountaineering and hiking enthusiasts, the best thing about this camera is the built in GPS for Geotagging and even better it also stamps the photos with latitude and longitude data. This camera will upgrade your slideshows, has pop-up flash, full manual options, high-speed internet port, panorama stitching mode, and optional wide-angle lens. And when the sun is too bright to read the screen you can use the old-school viewfinder for framing. Pro photographer Hal Trachtenberg bought Coolpix 6000 as a backup for his SLR cameras. “I don’t really care about the gadgets like GPS. For me it’s just a handy camera to be able to have with me at all times.” Price: £320