Learn How to Choose a Camera for Vacation Photos
I know what you’re thinking. Why do I need to choose a camera for vacation photos? I have a smart phone and it’s always with me.
Trust me, I get it. Smart phones, particularly iPhones, take some really great photos these days. We love them and use ours every time we visit the parks. Since they’re online, you can quickly share photos on Instagram or other social media without waiting to download them to a computer.
You know how that feels. It’s like you lost the spontaneity of the moment.
On the other hand, cameras on smart phones have some limitations. While they’re convenient to take everywhere, it doesn’t take much to find out what they don’t do well.
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1: Smart Phone Limitations
One of the first problems you discover is that smart phones don’t perform very well in low light. If they can get a photo at all, it’s usually filled with a lot of noise. That pretty much ruins the photo. Poor low light performance also means a lot of those shots are blurry.
Smart phones aren’t the most stable devices. Yes, you can get stabilizers for your smart phone, but then you lose the convenience of just stuffing the phone in your pocket. Now you’re walking around with something that looks like the old Whee-Lo toy I had as a kid.
Looking for some old-school fun? The Schylling Classic Retro Magnetic Gyro is just what you need! This nostalgic toy is magic – how does it do that? – and will keep you entertained for hours. The quick flick of your wrist sends the wheel spinning down the wire with great precision, even upside down. And because it doesn’t need batteries, you can play with it anytime, anywhere. So go ahead and indulge in some classic fun – your friends and family will be jealous they don’t have one too!
Yes, I’m that old. Don’t judge.
Another problem is that they can’t truly zoom. Smart phones have a fixed lens. When you pinch to zoom your photos, all you’re really doing is cropping the photo. The more you crop, the more pixel density you lose. Basically, you’re just making a smaller photo that looks awful when you post it online.
They’re also slippery things. Try holding an iPhone to get a video while on Expedition Everest. That sucker will pop right out of your fingers when the G-Forces kick in during a curve.
2: Why You May Want a Point & Shoot Camera
The market for point and shoot cameras really took a beating because of smart phones. However, there are times when they step up the game quite a bit.
If you want to create a Vlog style video during your vacation, these cameras are hard to beat. You get much better video quality compared to a smart phone. Not only can a point & shoot zoom, but you can also get some bokeh (that defocused background) in your shots because it has a larger lens and sensor size.
Improved sound is another advantage for point & shoot camera. Check out some Vloggers on YouTube to hear examples. While the microphone is small, they actually work rather well. The downside for every camera is wind, but that’s another story.
We use a Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II. It’s one of the most popular vlogging cameras on the market these days, and for good reason.
The Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II is a high-performance camera that’s perfect for travel, events and anywhere on the go. It features a 1.0-inch 20.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor and a bright f/1.8–2.8 lens, making it ideal for capturing impressive images in low light conditions.
The DIGIC 7 Image Processor provides improved auto focus tracking, enhanced IS and superb image clarity, while the high-speed continuous shooting up to 8 fps in RAW, JPEG and RAW+JPEG modes makes the PowerShot G7 X Mark II incredibly versatile.
Additionally, it’s equipped with Full HD capability, built-in Wi-Fi and NFC and in-camera RAW processing for even more creative freedom.
Add a small tripod, like the Manfrotto PIXI Xtreme Mini Tripod, and it serves double duty as a hand grip.
The Manfrotto PIXI Xtreme Mini Tripod is the perfect choice for anyone looking for a versatile and reliable mini tripod. With a GoPro tripod mount adaptor, it can be used with GoPro and other action cameras, making it perfect for capturing great videos and taking amazing selfies.
The double functionality of the PIXI Xtreme means that it can also be used as a comfortable ergonomic grip to capture incredible images. It is made from high quality materials and is incredibly lightweight, making it easy to take with you wherever you go. With a payload of up to 2.2 lb and only 7.28 in tall when closed, the PIXI Xtreme is the perfect size for anyone looking for a compact and reliable mini tripod.
The Canon G7x Mark ii also has built-in optical stabilization, which means you can have a reasonably steady video when you’re done, compared to the jerky results you get from holding an iPhone at arm’s length.
While it’s a great improvement in photo, audio and video quality, it’s still small enough to fit in your pocket. The Canon G7x Mark ii also has built-in wifi to connect to your smart phone. That means you can take a better photo, transfer it to your phone, and post it right away on Facebook or Instagram.
3: Why You May Want a Dedicated Video Camera
Maybe photos aren’t your thing. Instead, you want lots of video. While I’m still happy with the Canon G7x Mark ii, some people are more comfortable with a dedicated video camera that fits in the palm of your hand.
They’re easy to use, have great quality, and offer more options for lenses, zooming and capturing video. The Canon has an articulating display on the back so you can see what you’re recording, but palm-sized video cameras pioneered that concept and have brilliant displays.
I went another direction for action video by getting a GoPro Hero. It’s small, yet powerful.
Whether you're shooting video or photos, the GoPro HERO10 Black is the perfect camera for capturing your adventures. With its all-new GP2 chip, this camera is twice as powerful as its predecessor, making it capable of shooting 5.3K video and 23MP photos. And with its HyperSmooth 4.0 video stabilization technology, you can rest assured that your footage will be smooth and steady no matter what.
This camera is also cloud connected, so your footage is automatically uploaded to the cloud as soon as you charge it up. And with the Quik app, you can easily edit and share your photos and videos online.
For driving videos, I can mount this in my car using the GoPro Suction Cup Mount. That gives a nice point of view video, either driving down I-4 or through the Welcome to Walt Disney World gate.
GoPro's Suction Cup Mount is the perfect way to attach your GoPro camera to cars, boats, motorcycles and more. The industrial-strength suction cup is proven at speeds of 150+ mph and engineered for stability and a broad range of motion. The short extension arm allows for ultra-compact mounting. Includes a standard base and a quick release base for moving conveniently between shots and locations.
It’s also easy to control with voice commands. I just say “GoPro, Start Recording” and it starts recording. When I’m done, I tell it “GoPro, Stop Recording” and it stops. It’s freakin’ magic.
You can mount a GoPro almost anywhere:
GoPro's Head Strap + QuickClip is perfect for a variety of head-mounting options. The head strap is fully adjustable to fit all sizes and can be worn over a helmet or directly on your head.
The quick clip enables ultra-compact, low-profile mounting and can be used to attach your GoPro to a backwards baseball cap or other 3mm to 10mm thick object. With the head strap + quick clip, you'll be able to capture footage from a headlamp-like perspective, giving you a unique perspective on your adventures.
If you're looking for a more immersive way to film your outdoor adventures, the GoPro Chest Mount Harness is perfect for you. This chest harness lets you attach your quick-release GoPro camera to your chest, giving you a "lower than the helmet" view of the action.
It's ideal for skiing, mountain biking, motocross, paddle sports, or any activity where you want to get a close-up look at your arms, legs, and equipment. The chest mount is also recommended as a more immersive way to film than using a helmet mount.
GoPro Jaws: Flex Clamp is the perfect accessory for your GoPro camera. This clamp enables you to attach your camera to objects ranging in size from 0.25” to 2”, meaning you can get the perfect shot no matter where you are. The quick release bases make it easy to move the camera between different mounts and locations, giving you the flexibility to get the perfect shot every time.
I've used this on everything from shopping carts to the bar on front of my car at theme park rides. Easy on and off and it stays put.
Let’s be honest, the audio from a GoPro sucks. Be prepared to put music over that video, talk over it in post processing, or perhaps use an external recording system if you really want to geek out.
Here’s a video where I used my GoPro and the suction cup mount.
4: When to Use a DSLR
There are dslrs, and there are DSLRs. These camera feature interchangeable lenses, so you have options for the quality of your results. We see more than a few folks walking around with a small DSLR around their neck. It’s cute.
To be honest, most of them could save the pain in the neck and get pretty much the same results with the Canon G7x Mark ii that I mentioned earlier. There isn’t as much of a quality gap between that point & shoot and the small, crop-sensor DSLRs people use. It’s also a lot less expensive and fits in your pocket.
There are real advantages to photography with a DSLR, but convenience isn’t one of them. This is the type of camera you choose when capturing a photo is more important than having fun in a park. It’s what you use to create art, not get snapshots with the family.
We’re Nikon photographers and have a bucket full of lenses. They aren’t exactly cheap, either. The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens goes for just under $2,000. It’s long and heavy. You could use it as a billy club.
Nikon's 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is the benchmark for fast telephoto zoom lenses. With its jaw-dropping image quality, it is prized by pros and serious hobbyists alike. The new version takes that legendary performance to new heights. Whether you're shooting a DX DSLR or an FX powerhouse, the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR will take you to thrilling new heights.
This lens also works with Nikon Z-mount cameras when using the FTZ adapter.
That’s just one lens, without considering the cost of a camera or other lenses. This kind of photography isn’t cheap, but it lets you do some interesting stuff.
They’re great in low light. Put it on a tripod and get some nice fireworks photos.
You can get some interesting motion tricks with a DSLR.
They’re hard to beat for portraits.
A DSLR is bulky, but it’s the tool you want to get some of the most unique photos in conditions where smart phones and point & Shoot cameras won’t deliver results.
They’re great for action, since you can easily control shutter speed and aperture.
Lugging around a DSLR is a commitment. It’s the option you choose when you want a high quality photo at, perhaps, the expensive of being present in the moment.