Shooter's choice: Digital? Camcorder? Splashproof? Or just goof-around basic?

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside Magazine, 1999 Annual Travel Guide

Gear to Go

Shooter's choice: Digital? Camcorder? Splashproof? Or just goof-around basic?
By Peter Burian

Cameras The latest trend is in digital cameras — especially those with one-million-plus pixel resolution — and they're more affordable now that prices have plummeted. You can view your travel photos on a computer monitor or on a TV screen, manipulate them, send them to friends via E-mail, or get photo-quality output for your album with an ink-jet printer.

Some models can be complicated but the new Kodak DC210 Plus ($599; all prices quoted are approximate discount retail) is almost as easy to use as the traditional camera it resembles. (It takes an 8MB compact flash card instead of film.) It's well equipped with a 1.8-inch color LCD monitor for previewing images, automatic exposure and fixed focus, a highly effective multi-mode flash, and an optical viewfinder. The 29-58mm lens is an optical zoom for maximum sharpness. The Fujifilm MX-700 ($725) is a comparable model but with a digital zoom lens.

Many travelers also want video capability. Enter the Canon Optura ($1,800-$1,900), a hybrid: a digital camcorder that handles like a 35mm SLR and can also take still frame shots — with sound — on mini DV tape. Primary features include a 14x optical zoom lens, (30x digital), effective autofocus and exposure as well as manual control, color viewfinder, and stereo sound, plus many of the capabilities found on camcorders and on 35mm cameras. Aside from the superior image quality (720 x 480 pixels) the camera includes Optical Image Stabilization for sharper photos from a boat, car, or horseback.

The Advanced Photo System hasn't blown 35mm single lens reflex cameras away, but it does have advantages in travel photography: less weight and bulk. As a bonus, drop-in film loading and midroll change are ideal when you're on the move. The Nikon Pronea 6i ($400) accepts all Nikon autofocus lenses from 16mm to 600mm super telephoto for everything from landscapes to skittish wildlife. Its Focus Tracking technology is particularly reliable, while the 3D Matrix metering provides beautiful exposures indoors or out, with or without flash. Canon's silvery EOS-IX ($365) offers similar capabilities and even easier-to-use controls.

If you're planning a boat or beach trip, consider an all-weather camera, designed to tolerate spray. One of the most popular of this type, the Pentax IQZoom 90WR ($225) with its high-grade 38-90mm lens makes for quick shooting, thanks to its Program mode, multi-mode flash, and its wide autofocus area, ideal for quick off-center compositions (this model will soon be replaced with the 105WR, with a 38-105mm lens). A comparable model (with central-spot autofocus), the weatherproof Olympus Stylus Zoom 105 ($220) with 38-105mm lens is even more compact, appreciated when you're traveling light.

For quick vacation snapshots, consider a more modest camera like the weatherproof Vivitar A35 Big View Splash Camera ($45). This one has settings for 100 and 400 speed film and a large, oversized viewfinder you'll appreciate when wearing sunglasses. With its 35mm focus-free lens, flash, and foolproof film loading, it's incredibly easy to operate. For an Advanced Photo System model, check out the banana-yellow Minolta Xtreem Vectis GX-4 ($99), suitable for snorkeling down to 16.5 feet (its extra large viewfinder is great when you're wearing goggles). Obviously, neither of these cameras is intended for serious photography, but they do take better pictures than single-use cameras.

Photographs by Gary Hush

Copyright 1998, Outside magazine

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