The Magnificent Seven
When you're standing atop Glacier Point looking out over Yosemite Valley, you're going to wish you had the best optics to enjoy and take home the view. Canon's new ES6000 ($1,699) is expensive but spiffy, with an "eye control" feature that tracks what the user is looking at through the viewfinder, automatically centering and focusing the image. The ES6000 also has a color viewfinder, a 20:1 optical zoom lens (40:1 digital zoom), and a variety of editing effects. Other first-rate camcorders for vacation shooting include Sony's CCD-TRV30 camcorder ($1,099). Composing your shots is made easier thanks to a flip-out, three-inch LCD monitor that lets you watch the action in color while shooting. It shoots in less than one lux of light, has a 12-power zoom, and comes with a wireless remote. Sharp's VL-E39U Viewcam ($1,000), meanwhile, uses a three-inch full-color screen as a full-time viewfinder. Special glass makes it usable under almost all lighting conditions. Finally, for budget-minded filmmakers, Samsung's SCX-915 ($599) has a 12:1 zoom lens, programmable auto-exposure, and fade control.
Still-photo types will appreciate the auto-focus capability and all-around ease-of-use of Nikon's N6006 ($563 for body only). Pair it with a Sigma 28-200 F3.8-5.6 zoom lens ($451) to get just about any shot you'll come across on vacation. For even simpler vacation picture-taking, Pentax's IQZoom 90-WR ($385) is a weather-resistant point-and-shoot camera with a 38-90mm zoom lens, a sophisticated auto-focus system, and an easy-to-handle contoured body.
Olympus's new Stylus Zoom 105 ($436) is billed as the smallest, lightest weatherproof camera on the market to come with a 3:1 zoom, red-eye reduction, auto-focus, and built-in flash. And though expensive for a point-and-shoot, Minolta's slick little Vectis 40 ($598) has a surprisingly powerful 30-120mm zoom lens and uses the new Advanced Photo System film. APS film yields improved picture quality, lets you change film mid-roll, and gives you a choice of print formats.
For just taking a closer look at things, Canon's 10 X 25A compact binoculars ($219) fold for easy storage and are built to take the kind of abuse you can expect on vacation. For even sharper viewing, especially in low light, Steiner's Rocky 10 X 28 binoculars ($649) have razor-sharp optics with special coatings for high light transmission. They're also designed for rough wear, encased in an armored coating to keep out dust and moisture, and the folding rubber eyecups are kind to eyeglass wearers.