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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


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!

Canon Power Shot A720IS Camera

Power Shot A720IS Camera

Instead, look at the Olympus 720SW ($310;, 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; 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;, and you solve half of that problem.

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Filed To: Digital Cameras
Lead Photo: courtesy, Canon