Q:

Which camera should I take on caving and climbing trips?

My son is a Geology major and is going on seven-week, field-study trip in Montana this summer. I saw the Bushnell outdoor camera and wondering what you know about it. My son is always climbing some mountain or going caving, so he needs a durable camera. Nicole Snellville, Georgia

Jan 3, 2008
Outside
Outside Magazine
Canon Power Shot A720IS Camera

Power Shot A720IS Camera

A:

It’s true, Nicole, there are plenty of choices. Maybe too many. But the good news is that it’s fairly difficult to go wrong. Unless, of course, you get the Bushnell Outdoor Camera. It’s a decent little camera, but for its $300 retail price, there are much better choices. Its claim to fame is a ruggedized case, which to be honest is kind of dorky looking. Otherwise it’s pretty mediocre—3.2 megapixel resolution (low by today’s standards), and it doesn’t have a true optical zoom. Instead it “zooms" by simply cropping the image area. Feh!

Instead, look at the Olympus 720SW ($310; olympus.com), which is waterproof to ten feet, can take a five-foot fall, and has excellent 7.1-megapixel resolution coupled with an above-average 3x optical zoom lens, meaning the lens morphs to get closer or capture a wider area. That results in much better pictures. It also has fast start-up, a 2.5-inch LCD screen for viewing, and a whole array of settings for different picture needs. The one thing that doesn’t make my shutter flutter is that it takes a proprietary rechargeable battery. That’s not necessarily a handicap as power outlets are common enough, heaven knows, and there always are solar chargers. But it can be limiting.

So I often favor cameras that take AA batteries, the battery that powers most of the portable electric/electronic gadgets on the planet. That would include the eight-megapixel Canon Power Shot A720IS ($200; canon.com). Whoa, but this is a lot of camera for the money: 6x optical zoom, image stabilizer, a 2.5-inch LCD screen with image rotation, and much more. And it takes two AA batteries. It’s not waterproof or shockproof, but get a decent case for it (Lowepro Apex 10AW, $20; lowepro.com), and you solve half of that problem.

The 2008 Winter Outside Buyer’s Guide is now online. From snow sports to trail-running to camping, get reviews of more than 300 new gear must-haves.

Filed To: Digital Cameras

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