A friend asked me not long ago for some camera(s) about lens selections for a digital camera — what to take along on her trip to the Pacific Rim. She was worried about not only weight but having to do too much changing of lenses while shooting.
Airline rules have made the chore of culling your carry-on gear into rocket science. It used to be that if you had the strength, you could drag the kitchen sink along if you could manage to lift it. No longer. While in America, the TSA will permit photographers a camera bag/pack in Addition to a purse/computer bag and a typical carry-on, many airlines pretend not to have heard this.
Once you venture onto a long-distance flight, it’s still the Wild West — some airlines have liberal carry-on allowances, but others are more restrictive. Therefore it pays a photographer, whether amateur or professional, to carry the minimum amount of equipment critical to get the job done.
A common error photographers make is to carry too many zoom lenses of overlapping focal lengths: for instance, an 18-55, 70-300, and a 28-80. Ideally, you want as little overlap as feasible so you are not always delving into the pack for a new lens & thus miss the photo. I utilise a Canon 24-105 lens as my main ‘walking ‘ lens, shooting on either my Canon 5D MKII or 7D (the 7D has a sensor size similar to the Canon Rebel). My other wide angle zoom is a 16-35. If you need a telephoto to photograph wildlife, for example, simply add a 100-400mm or similar-sized lens.
The point is to have a lens that covers 90% of the situations you’re likely to encounter so you don’t have to contemplate changing lenses or carry 2 cameras. That being said, with fewer lenses, you will learn quickly the correct way to pre-visualize a shot with little options. It just means you’ve got to be smarter at repositioning yourself before the shot!
Though having a digital camera with a non-interchangeable lens like the Nikon Coolpix can be an advantage size, weight and unobtrusive-wise, these smaller cameras lack the degree of control over the ‘standard SLRs’. One thing that you have to keep an eye out for is shutter lag, where there is a delay (even of one or two tenths of a second) between tripping the shutter and the photo taken. This could kill any ‘capture the moment ‘ type photos.
Most smaller camera don’t have through the lens viewfinders or any viewer at all, but instead rely on providing an LCD screen to compose & photograph. This kills any option of precise composition or capturing delicate movements or expressions, as you just can’t see the details obviously enough. If you are in bright light, this is especially the case.
An SLR permits an undistracted, clear view of the subject. It also, properly operated, allows for much more advanced control over where you focus in the scene — important for ‘street ‘ photography of locals (& wildlife, for that matter).
As you can see, I’m aficianado of the SLR as a digital camera for serious photo work, though come to think about it, I’ve had tons of fun with my iPhone camera lately! Talk about traveling light!
Randy Green is a photographer and naturalist who leads camera(s) around the world. He enjoys sharing camera(s) in the field.