There are essentially six types of digital still cameras available today:
- SLR/SLT cameras - These are full size cameras with interchangeable lenses. These cameras provide the absolute best image quality and give the photographer the most control over the exposure settings. These cameras are also the largest and heaviest.
- EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) or mirrorless cameras - These cameras feature interchangeable lenses as well, but are smaller and lighter than SLR cameras because they do not have a mirror or optical viewfinder system. Generally a LCD screen takes the place of the traditional optical viewfinder.
- Bridge or "Super Zoom" cameras - These cameras have a fixed lens like a standard point and shoot camera but generally include more manual controls and a stronger zoom function. The camera is larger than a typical point and shoot and somewhat resembles a small SLR camera.
- Compact cameras - Compact digital cameras are the most popular and come in many varieties. These cameras have a fixed lens and in most cases use a large LCD screen as a viewfinder (although some also include an optical viewfinder). Their quality spans a very large scale as do their prices. These cameras can be extremely small point and shoot only models or they may include all sorts of manual controls. In most cases these cameras are small enough to easily fit in a jacket pocket.
- Cell phone cameras - Many people carry a camera with them at all times since there is one in their cellphone. Cell phone cameras vary in quality but some take surprisingly good photos.
- Video cameras - Many video cameras now include still image capture modes. Some even allow you to take still images while simultaneously recording video.
|Photo: Dirk Beyer|
The easiest way to narrow down your choices is to ask yourself why you're going on vacation. Are you going on vacation to relax and participate in activities, or are you going on vacation mainly to take pictures?
If you are going on vacation to sit at the beach, go to theme parks, tour museums, etc. then you most likely will not want the burden of carrying a large camera everywhere. A smaller camera is better suited for your trip, ideally one that you can carry in your pocket or in a small case attached to your belt so you don't need to carry a separate bag with you.
If you are going on vacation specifically to take pictures (such as outdoor walking tours of cities, safaris, special events, etc.) then you will most likely be willing to carry whatever it takes to come home with the absolute best images possible.
Cameras I don't even consider
|Fuji Finepix S9000 bridge camera|
|Olympus PEN-EPL1 EVIL camera - Photo: Benoit Marchal|
|Canon HV30 video camera with still image capture mode|
The two remaining camera types line up almost perfectly with the two vacation types that I mentioned earlier.
|Canon 5D Mark II SLR - Photo: Charles Lanteigne|
If you're carrying the SLR then you'll most likely be carrying a bag with some other equipment, such as additional lenses, in it. Once you decide that you're carrying a separate camera bag you might as well bring the best lenses you have so you'll always have the right lens for the shot you're trying to capture. I recommend you carry a bag, however if you are really trying to cut down on what you have to carry then I suggest either shooting with a 50mm prime lens, or an 18-200mm zoom lens. The 50mm prime will keep the entire camera rig as small and light as possible yet still yield fantastic photos (especially in low light), while the 18-200mm zoom will give you a wide range of focal lengths in a single lens although some image quality is sacrificed. In either case you can put the camera around your neck and not hassle with carrying an extra bag while you are walking around on vacation.
|Sony DSC-W170 compact camera - Photo: Pierre Bauduin|
Compact cameras come in many varieties from extremely inexpensive models to ones costing upwards of $400. Some of the higher end models even include exposure controls that rival full SLR cameras. Many manufacturers now even offer waterproof models for carefree shooting at the beach or pool.
|Photo: Benjamin D. Esham|
It all comes down to either taking a SLR or a compact. If you are mainly going on vacation to take photos then the SLR is your best bet. If the photos are secondary then the compact is for you.
Another great option that many SLR owners embrace is to take both their SLR and a compact with them on vacation. See a great photo opportunity near your hotel? Take the SLR out and get a fantastic shot. Going out for the day? Grab the compact and travel light.
No matter which camera you choose my final advice remains the same: Make sure to take extra memory cards and at least one extra battery. You don't want to miss that once in a lifetime shot because you ran out of storage or your battery died!