What camera should I pack?

What camera should I pack?

It was with a heavy heart that we decided to pull the plug on PhilGuides Southern Africa, it was a passion project and circumstances beyond our control made it impossible to continue. We saved all the information and carried it here. Geraldine and Pascal will try to keep it up to date and add more information as time goes by, you may even find a tour or two in the future.

We have a photographer on staff, and if you ask him, he will answer that anything else then a full frame DSLR will not do. Honestly, travelling with a DSLR is not practical, and the kit may set you back far more than the holiday and break your back too.

To help you chose which camera to pack, we listed the types of cameras you could use with pros and cons, as well as our recommendations.

Mobile phones and tablets

Nearly everyone has one, and it may be enough, except it does not have an optical zoom, those that do are not great at it. If you do not intend to photograph wildlife, it probably will be sufficient.

  • You probably have one
  • Geotags your photos
  • Share your photos straight away
  • No optical zoom for wildlife
  • Everything in focus
  • Bad in low light

Compact cameras

Often the most affordable camera on today’s market, they generally do not have the zoom capabilities and versatilities of bridge cameras. Some are specialised, to go underwater or rugged for example and others give near SLR quality images, these are commonly called range finders and are expensive.

  • Very light
  • Pocket-sized
  • Some have a fair zoom range
  • Some have specialised use
  • The good ones are pricey
  • The cheap ones may not be much better than your mobile phone
  • Most are all plastic

Examples**: Canon IXUS 185 and PowerShot G1 X, Fujifilm FinePix XP130 and X100F, Leica D-LUX and Q, Nikon Coolpix W300 and A900, Olympus Tough TG-5, Panasonic Lumix TZ70 and TZ110, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W800 and DSC-RX100.

Bridge Cameras

These cameras are often, affordable, light and offer a compact yet versatile solution for travelling. It is an ideal choice to take scenery and catch far away wildlife in a single package.

  • Affordable
  • Compact
  • Wide zoom range from 20mm to 1365mm* (or up to 65x optical zoom) on some models
  • High frame per second
  • From 720p to 4K video
  • Some models with NFC and Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to transfer your images to your tablet or phone
  • Swivel or tilt screens on most models
  • Not as flexible as a mirrorless or DSLR
  • May lack low light abilities
  • Can be difficult to handle and frame subject when fully extended
  • Some models have no viewfinder
  • Uses an electronic viewfinder
  • Plastic construction

Examples**: Canon PowerShot SX540 and SX60 HS, Leica V-Lux, Nikon Coolpix P900 and B700, Panasonic Lumix FZ80 and FZ1000, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H300 and RX10.

Mirrorless

A recent addition to camera technologies, it provides a lighter, more compact version of the DSLR and is often as good. Mirrorless cameras offer interchangeable lenses and high-quality sensors and images.

  • Light
  • Versatile given you have lenses suited for the occasion
  • High-quality images
  • NFC with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi in most models
  • Download to your phone and share
  • Fast shutter speeds
  • Rapid frame rates
  • Offers the same range of creativity as an equivalent DSLR
  • HD to 4K video
  • Most are solidly constructed
  • Touch screens on some models
  • Swivel or tilt screens on most models
  • Need more than one lens
  • Can be expensive
  • Some manufacturers do not have a wide choice of lenses
  • Most are all plastic
  • Can get heavy and cumbersome
  • Some models lack a viewfinder
  • Electronic viewfinder
  • Sometimes slow to focus

Examples**: Canon EOS M100 and M5, Fujifilm X-T100 and X-H1, Leica TL2 and M, Nikon 1 J5 and 1 AW1, Olympus PEN E-PL9 and OM-D E-M1, Panasonic Lumix GH4 and GH5S, Sony Alpha a6000 and A9

DSLR

Like the Mirrorless cameras, it offers incredible flexibility. With a mature technology derived from the 35mm film-based SLR, it provides reliability and excellent image reproduction. It is bulkier and more substantial than the others; it can be very cumbersome to travel with particularly when you need to take various lenses with you.

  • With the right lenses very versatile
  • Image reproduction
  • A wide range of lense
  • Mature technology
  • Fast shutter speeds
  • Low f-stop and depth of field
  • Professional grade lenses
  • Expensive
  • Heavy
  • Cumbersome

Examples**: Canon EOS 2000D and 1DX, Nikon D3400 and D850, Pentax K-70 and K-1, Sony Alpha 58 and 99

Summary

We like the bridge cameras to travel with; they are convenient, do a good enough job for most and will not break the bank or your back. If we have a choice without the financial constraints, we would opt for a midrange mirrorless and about 3 lenses to cover from 10mm to at least 200mm at f/4 or lower, depending on the system giving us between effective 15mm to 300mm on APC (Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Sony) and 20-400mm on MFT (Olympus, Panasonic).

When all is said, the best camera is without a doubt the one you have with you.

*All lens lengths are in 35mm full frame film equivalent.
** All cameras makes notes in alphabetical order to avoid favouritism and have a cheap and an expensive model for your reference.