Gear Up: All the right stuff for taking photos
With cameras becoming easier to use and ever more compact, you no longer need to sport the flopping-camera-on-the-belly tourist look, or beg the kids to hold still while you wrestle with the f-stop.
Although APS is gaining in popularity, 35mm is still the vacationer's choice, because of its higher picture quality and the sheer variety of models available. Among the easiest to use is the recently revised Olympus Stylus Zoom 80 Wide DLX ($190). The weather-resistant DLX has controls that fall right where you want them, plus a sharp 28–80mm zoom lens, backlight compensation, and remote shutter operation.
Another superb 35mm point-and-shoot is the Leica Z2X ($329), with a razor-sharp all-glass lens, automatic flash, and an easy-to-see-through viewfinder. A "slow" shutter speed lets you take tricky night shots using a tripod. If you prefer interchangeable lenses, Minolta's new Maxxum QTsi ($300 with 35–80mm lens) accepts a wide array of fixed focal length or zoom lenses, in a camera that's as easy to use as a point-and-shoot. Though not just for youngsters, Nikon's new Fun Touch 6 ($45) 35mm compact has a host of kid-friendly features, including a built-in flash, automatic film advance and rewind, and a wide 28mm lens.
Divers like the Epoque ET-100 Plus ($250), which is watertight to 150 feet and has a fixed-focus 35mm lens, a big viewfinder for use with a diving mask, and a built-in flash that also works well on dry land.
Until now, film-based cameras have been far better for vacation use than digital ones, which had limited storage capacity. But Yashica's just-released Samurai 2100 DG ($799) holds up to 84 photos in "normal" mode, 24 in "fine." With 2.14 megapixels, it captures twice the resolution of one-megapixel cameras, and its 4:1 zoom lens is equal to a 35–140mm range in a 35mm camera.
Sony's innovative DCR-PC100 ($2,000) combines video and mega-pixel in a single package--expensive, but worth it for its small size (1.3 ounces), sharp Carl Zeiss lens, picture-stabilizing system, and advanced editing features. Record your journey on digital videotape, or store up to 304 still photos (with the optional 64MB Memory Stick, $180) for e-mailing home.
Advanced Photo System
Canon's new ELPH2 ($300) is an even more compact version of its ground-breaking predecessor. The little ELPH uses Advanced Photo System (APS) film and a smaller cassette package that's easier to handle because there's no film leader. Weighing just 6 ounces, this sprite has a 2:1 zoom, a built-in flash, and a sturdy stainless-steel case.
A similar machine is the new Pentax efina T ($315), a tad larger and with a heftier 3:1 power zoom. Both cameras can imprint time and date on each picture. --Douglas Gantenbein
Photography by Clay Ellis