Friday, June 6, 2008

The Right Digital Cameras For The Road or for travel

The Right Digital Cameras For The Road or for travel

Summer is fast approaching, and chances are, you're already planning to take advantage with a well-deserved vacation. Whether you're escaping the confines of your office to bask in the sun on some tropical beach, or a recent grad shaking off the obligations of school with a trot around the globe, you're going to want to make sure the memories of this relaxing excursion last for a very long time.

Digital Cameras For The Road (©

Finding the perfect digital camera for travel, one that is comfortable and durable and that will faithfully record your journey in high-quality photos, requires some research into what kind of places you'll be visiting, and some thought about what kind of photographer you aim to be.

Most travelers crave simplicity: a camera that works well when you need it and doesn't get in the way when you don't. That means light, small and easy to operate. The Canon PowerShot A470 is perhaps the finest example of a casual digital camera. Its diminutive profile (4.1 inches wide by 2.2 inches high by 1.6 inches deep) is perfect for slipping into a pocket or backpack.

Special shooting modes, like "Beach," "Night" and "Kids & Pets," instantly adjust the camera's settings to adapt to the situation you're in. The Canon A470 is also remarkably inexpensive ($120), so even if you accidentally lose it on a plane or drop it into the Seine, you won't feel so bad.

Another important feature of the A470 is its use of AA batteries. Small cameras typically use proprietary lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, which means you'll also have to lug around the camera's battery charger or buy a spare battery. If you're traveling abroad, you may also have to purchase an adapter to plug your charger into a wall outlet. AA batteries are ubiquitous: Run out of juice with the A470, and all you need to get going again is a quick stop at a corner store.

Manufacturers are unveiling lots of new models that marry high-performance photography with relatively small bodies. Panasonic has been leading the way with its TZ line of super-small extended-zoom cameras. The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 ($300) is a marvel, extraordinarily compact (4.1 inches wide by 2.3 inches high by 1.5 inches deep) yet loaded with an exceptional 10x optical zoom.

The TZ5 also has image stabilization, an absolute necessity for a camera of this size with such a long zoom. Canon recently introduced its own compact zoom camera, the PowerShot SX100 ($220), which also features 10x optical zoom and just about matches the TZ5 in dimensions.

But if your idea of leisure is trekking through the Andes mountains or diving at the Great Barrier Reef, you need a camera that is as rugged and adventure-ready as you are. The Olympus 1030SW ($375) is practically begging to be scuffed up, knocked around and completely soaked. You can drop the 1030SW on the ground from 6 feet and drag it 33 feet underwater without worrying one bit. It's crush-proof and freeze-proof, and yet with all this ruggedness it's about the size of a deck of cards (3.7 inches wide by 2.4 inches high by 0.8 inches deep).

It's not all feats of strength and endurance for the 1030SW, however. The camera can take highly detailed photographs with its 10-megapixel sensor. An in-camera panorama mode allows you to capture wide, sweeping vistas, and the integrated face-detection autofocus will zero in on the faces of your friends or family so they aren't lost in a blur.

Digital Cameras For The Road (©

For some vacationers, photography might not just be a way to capture memories; it may be the entire purpose of the trip. Serious photographers and enthusiasts won't worry about size or weight, just about capturing the perfect picture. That's where digital single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras like the Nikon D60 ($630, body only) and Canon Digital Rebel XSi ($800, body only) come in.

Both cameras are the latest releases from brands with proven records of success in the arena of high-level photography. These cameras require some serious commitment. You'll likely have to purchase a carrying case and possibly even some lenses. But when you're printing out poster-sized copies of your photos and impressing friends with your superb composition, you won't regret it.

There are as many cameras as there are exciting places to go, but with a little knowledge of the terrain and an understanding of your desires, finding the perfect travel camera should be easy. Taking the time beforehand to think it through means you won't have to fumble with a camera that doesn't suit your needs and instead can focus on making some memories worth snapping a picture of.