It’s the June holidays, and most people have planned – or are planning – for a vacation getaway. One colleague came up to me in the late evening and asked me for an opinion on whether he should be buying a mirrorless camera specially for his upcoming vacation. And if you are asking the same question too, this article is your answer.
The type of camera you need for the vacation depends on what you want to shoot
I don’t want to go into details because I could write a book. There are a few things that you need in order to capture great photos.
Quality: Image Sensor
There is no argue in that: a camera with a large image sensor will deliver much better image quality and resolution. Smartphone camera looks great on small screens or small prints, but zoom it in the details and you will be terribly disappointed.
If you are going to a extremely scenic location to capture some stunning views that offers amazing details and dynamic range, you must arm yourself with a camera with sizable image sensor. That will guarantee you to capture photos worthy for poster prints.
Choices: Mirrorless, DSLR or Compact Camera with large sensor
Shooting Angle: Lenses
Smartphones are convenient, but the lenses are fixed. You have limited shooting angles, and if you try to zoom in digitally, you cannot capture details. Interchangeable lens systems like mirrorless and DSLR allows you to switch lenses from wide angle to telephoto, so you will achieve great photos consistently in any situation. The challenge is to bring all the bulky lenses and to swap them.
An alternative is to get compact cameras with good lens specs. Yes, you cannot swap them out, but given most situations, you really don’t need to be so versatile.
Choice: Mirrorless, DSLR or Compact Camera with good variable zoom and large aperture
Agility: Camera Size
What’s the use of a great camera if it if too bulky to carry it around with you all the time? That’s why smartphones are practically the best way to capture memories anywhere we go. DSLRs are bulky and heavy, and you can’t slip it in your pocket. Many places do not allow DSLRs or mirrorless cameras as they are deemed “professional camera equipment”.
Choice: Smartphone, Compact Camera
Among all the imaging equipment, DSLR has the longest battery life, because there is no large LED to draw power (unless you constantly use the live-view display for framing). DSLR uses an optical path to let you see actual scene through the actual lens. The camera can be left on at all times and it will never drain even after days. I once survived a vacation with a DSLR on one battery after I forgot to pack the special charging dock. Fortunately, most DSLRs today can support USB charging.
I am assuming you do not need to worry about shooting speed unless you intend to shoot really fast action scenes, like a sports event. If so, then you have to go with a DSLR. Can mirrorless camera replace DSLR? They are still not as agile due to the reliance of live-view display electronics. They are getting better, but for now you have to pay a premium for the better mirrorless models, like the Sony A9 with zero-blackout shutter.
If you are going for wet vacation, then make sure the camera is waterproof. There are no waterproof DSLRs, but there is one mirrorless that is completely waterproof, and it’s the Nikon AW1.
Waterproof compact cameras are aplenty, but most of them can’t shoot above-average quality photos above-water. Smartphones, well, you know there are many IP67-rated ones, but technically they are not waterproof, just water resistant, good for water splashes, or brief submerges underwater. I once brought an IP67 smartphone to a water theme park and it died at the end of the event. Fortunately, uncooked rice and dry box revived it.
The advise I gave to my colleague is to get a good compact camera with large image sensor. The model that comes on top of my mind is the Sony RX100 series, but the latest model is prohibitively expensive, even more expensive that a decent mirrorless camera, and even more expensive that a premium smartphone like Samsung Galaxy S9+.
I recommended him the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II, because it is compact, has a 1-inch CMOS sensor, has a good 4.2X zoom range (24-100mm) and large aperture (f/1.8-2.8). It also captures RAW if you want to do post-processing, retails at S$799, and was low on stocks for many months after launch a year ago. If you can afford to go a little more bulk, then take on the Canon PowerShot G5 X, which comes with an electronic viewfinder and a hotshoe mount, retails at S$999. Or you could settle with the Sony RX100 III (2014), which is 2 generations behind the latest Mark 5 but selling at around S$800+.
What I Actual Bring For Vacation
In my last overseas vacation, I brought a mirrorless camera (Fuji X-E3 on review), a smartphone (LG V30+ on review), and a 360-degree camera (LG 360 CAM, my own). I brought a compact camera (Nikon Coolpix W300 on review) but my daughter was holding on to it all the time for her creatives.
The Fuji X-E3 is the camera to go when I needed to shoot a scenic moment, when I need to zoom-in, and when I wanted better quality images. I shoot mostly with the LG V30+ because of its ultra wide-angle capability, equivalent to 10mm. I love wide angles, and here’s why. The LG 360 CAM grabs those 360-degree moments at specific landmarks. Read how you can have fun with 360 cameras. With these 3 equipment, I cover all angles from 0mm (360-degree) to 82mm, or more if I bring additional telephoto lenses.