Camera & Accessories

If you are like most people, you will be bringing your mobile phone with you on your vacation.  You may be using it specifically for your travel photos as today's smart phones take wonderful clear high resolutions photos.  Smartphones can allow photos to be instantly posted to your social media websites if you want to share them with others.

We bring our smart phone with us on our travels for accessing our trip details using the Mobile Trip Profile.  Of course we also use it to stay in touch with friend and family, and for navigation if required.

When we travel, we always bring a high quality compact digital camera.  If you want to post photos to the internet or email them, many cameras offer wireless connectivity allowing you to take photos and transfer them to your phone.  Excuse the pun, but we are not 'focusing' on SLR type cameras here due to their size, weight and cost.  Our focus is on traveling lightly so carrying a compact style camera is the way to go.  With today's technology and cameras, you probably won't be able to tell the difference between photos taken with a compact camera compared to a larger SLR camera; even when enlarging photos up to 11x14 inches.

To make the most of your photography, it's extremely important to know some basic camera functionality.  View our Photography Basics page for some tips on camera functionality.  Our Tripod page will give you an overview on taking self photos, night photos and zooming.

Of course there are many different cameras available today with many different features and prices.  We have listed some features below to consider when purchasing a camera and accessories for your travels.

We are mentioning the Lumix line of cameras based on our own personal experience and satisfaction with them.
 
Panasonic Lumix ZS100 Camera
PANASONIC LUMIX ZS100 4K Point and Shoot Camera, 10X LEICA DC Vario-ELMARIT F2.8-5.9 Lens with Hybrid O.I.S., 20.1 Megapixels, 1 Inch High Sensitivity Sensor, 3 Inch LCD, DMC-ZS100S (USA SILVER)

This is now our camera of choice and we have been very pleased with it.

This camera has the same 10x Zoom as our old TZ3k shown above.  We have find that having a 10x zoom is completely sufficient for our photography.  Zooming past the 10x mark will often require a tripod to hold the camera steady and with smaller sensor cameras, zooming above 10x-15x can limit the amount of light captured causing photos to lack quality compared shorter zoom lengths.

We are now seeing more compact digital cameras having a larger 1 inch sensor allowing more light to be captured, increasing the photo quality.  These cameras are pricier but if you can afford it, you may find your photos to much better than the older cameras having smaller sensors.

  • Larger 1 inch sensor
  • 20 Megapixels
  • 10x (25-250mm) LEICA DC Lens optical zoom performance with a wide F/2.8-5.9 aperture for impressive background defocus effects
  • 4K Ultra HD video recording plus exclusive LUMIX 4K PHOTO and 4K Post Focus photo capture features
  • Eye-level Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)
  • Touch-enabled LCD for a wider viewing experience
  • Lens-mounted control ring brings DSLR-like exposure control to a compact point-and-shoot camera body

At the time of this writing, Panasonic has just released their new Lumix ZS200.  Reviews are still coming in and we have not researched the camera.  The price point is several hundred dollars above the ZS100.

 
Panasonic Lumix ZS70 Camera
Also available are the Panasonic Lumix ZS60 and ZS70.  These are slightly older models than the newer ZS100 but they are much more affordable.

The ZS70 is a 20.3 Megapixel camera with a 1/2.3 in. sensor and 30x Optical Zoom.  An earlier version still available is the ZS60 having a lower price point.  The features of both models are very similar although he ZS70 has introduced a few new features such as a flip up view screen and others.

We found reviews of both the ZS60 and ZS70 stating that image quality suffered in low light conditions.  We actually purchased a ZS60 to test it out and found this to be true.  After several tests, we decided to return the camera and go for the ZS100.

Our advice is to do your own research.  Spend some time reading, researching and if possible test some different cameras to find the one that's right for you.

 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3K 7.2MP (Older Model)
For reference, this is our old Lumix model we used for approximately 10 years of travel.  It has been a great camera and we have been extremely satisfied with the photo quality and it's features.  In fact, it still takes great photos and even wonderful night photos after all these years.  We do not actually recommend purchasing this camera if you find one due to it's age.  Newer models are more feature packed and would undoubtedly take better photos.  We have seen used cameras advertised for around $60.
  • 7.2-megapixel CCD captures enough detail for photo-quality 15 x 20-inch prints
  • 10x image-stabilized optical zoom; 3.0-inch LCD display
  • Intelligent ISO Control (I.I.C.) reduces image blur from subject movement and low light
  • Records full-size movies in wide-aspect VGA (848 x 480) at 30 frames per second
  • Stores images on SD/SDHC/MMC memory cards

The camera has a 28mm lens allowing you to take wide angle photos when not zoomed.  This is approaching the wide angle limit before falling into the distorted fish eye range. 

 
Important Camera Features
Timer: When taking self photos using your tripod, you must know how to work your camera's timer.  Most cameras have easy access functions allowing you to set the shutter timers in two different modes.  The length of time may vary by camera, but in general they are something like 4 and 10 second delays.

The short 4 second timer can be used when taking extended zoom and night photos using your Tripod where you need the camera to be held completely still to avoid blurriness in your photos.  This short timer allows you to take photos quickly without having to hit the shutter yourself and jar the camera.

The longer 10 second timer allows you time to click the shutter and get into the photo before the shutter snaps.

Exposure Setting: Many cameras have a dedicated button for the Exposure Setting.  This setting allows you to control how long the shutter stays open, usually having values of -2 to +2.  A negative number means the shutter will stay open a shorter amount of time letting in less light and a larger number means the shutter will stay open a longer amount of time letting in more light.

When taking night photos for example, you will want to set the exposure time so that the shutter stays open longer to capture more light.  Some cameras allow you to save your settings under a night time icon so that switching to the setting will maintain your exposure settings for shooting in low light.

Wide Angle Lens: As you tour around, you will find that many places are cramped with other buildings blocking how far you may move away from your photo subject.  As you move farther away, you may eventually not be able to capture your subject as it will become blocked by other buildings.  Having a camera with a wide angle lens will give you more opportunity to capture the photo the way you want it.

A camera with a 28mm lens allows you to take wide angle photos when not zoomed.  The 28mm setting is approaching the wide angle limit before falling into the distorted fish eye range.

If you have ever been to Ulm Germany and tried to photograph Ulm Minster, you will know what we are talking about. Ulm Minster is the tallest church in the world, and the 4th tallest structure built before the 20th century, with a steeple measuring 161.5 meters (530 ft).  Without a wide angle lens, it would be virtually impossible to capture the entire cathedral.

Optical Zoom: The optical zoom is one of the most important aspects of your camera as it allows you to zoom closer to objects your are photographing.  The optical zoom is a true zoom of the objects you are photographing without the distortion that occurs with a digital zoom.  Keep in mind that the more you zoom, the more the camera must be held steady to avoid movement and blurry photos.  This is where a Tripod becomes invaluable to stabilize the camera movement.
Digital Zoom: Most cameras have a digital zoom that will come into play once you have reached the limit of the optical zoom.  The digital zoom measurement should probably be the least of your your concerns as the quality of your photos will decrease when your camera changes from optical to digital as the camera uses it's computer to digitally enhance the optical view by cropping and removing pixels from the image making it appear magnified.
Megapixels & Sensor: Don't be fooled, the more pixels you have does not mean the sharper the image.  More important is the camera's sensor size.  Compact digital cameras seem to have an internal sensor around 1/2 inch which is considerably smaller compared to more expensive SLR cameras.  We are however beginning to see compact digital cameras with a sensor of 1 inch such as the Panasonic Lumix ZS100, but the optical zoom lenses are limited and the price is more than double that of the ZS50.
Photo Quickness: Photo Quickness is the length of time it takes to take a photo once you have turned your camera on or the time you have to wait in-between shots.  This may seem trivial, but you don't want to miss out on a photo opportunities waiting for your camera to respond.  We suggest trying cameras at the store to get a feel for the length of time you wait between photos.
Preset Settings: Besides the normal settings, you may want preset settings for night photos, high speed photos and others.  Most cameras come with several different pre-sets such as night, action, portrait, clouds, sunny, etc.
Viewfinder: We are now seeing more cameras having both an optical viewfinder allowing you to look directly at what you are photographing as well as a digital display panel on the back.  Not having a viewfinder has not really been as issue, but if you are concerned with shooting in bright sunlight where the back screen may be hard to see, you may want to consider a camera having both viewing options.  The other advantage of the viewfinder would be to turn off the back display panel and only use the viewfinder to conserve the battery.
Photo Directory Reset: Most digital cameras should have the ability reset the current photo directory.  This will allow you to group your photos by location or activity so that all related photos are in the same directory.

After you reset the photo directory for photos at a new location, if possible, take at least one photo of a sign or some other information that will help you identify where the photo was taken.

 
Batteries & Charger
Batteries: When we travel, we always bring an extra battery or two.  Even if your camera and battery are rated for 300+ photos, it's quite easy to take many more photos than that in a day.

Always start your day with fully charged batteries.

Always bring an extra battery or two as backups with a portable charger.

Charger: Depending on your camera, you may plug it directly into the wall to charge the battery, or plug a charger into the wall.  Either way, you will more than likely you will need the correct Electrical Plug Adaptor for foreign electrical outlets.

Batteries may charge faster using an actual charger compared to plugging the camera in directly.  Having a charger will also allow you to use the camera while spare batteries are charging.

Most European electrical outlets run 220V compared to US 110V.  Be sure to read the small print on your camera, charger or device you intend to plug in to be sure it can handle 220V.  Most will, but double check to be sure.  You should find something like: Input: 110V-240V 50/60Hz.

 
 
BM Premium 2-Pack of DMW-BLG10 Batteries and Battery Charger
BM Premium 2-Pack of DMW-BLG10 Batteries and Battery Charger for Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200, DC-ZS70, DMC-GX80, DMC-GX85, DMC-ZS60, DMC-ZS100, DMC-GF6, DMC-GX7K, DMC-LX100K Digital Camera
  • Two DMWBLG10 Li-ion Batteries for Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70, DC-ZS200, DMC-GX80, DMC-GX85, DMC-ZS60, DMC-ZS100, DMC-GF6, DMC-GX7K, DMC-LX100K Digital Cameras
  • Battery Specifications - Energy Storage Capacity: 1200mAh /Voltage: 7.2 volts, Chemistry: Li-ion
  • No Memory Effect Lets You Recharge Partially Drained Batteries Without Reducing Performance
  • Rapid AC/DC Battery Charger
  • Folding plug on charger for travel
  • Cleaning Cloth
  • Car plug adaptor
  • European plug adaptor
 
Memory
Extra Memory: You may or may not need extra memory, but be sure you have enough to capture all your photos on your trip.  If you find you are running short on memory, it's usually very easy to find a location to purchase an additional card.  Remember that based on the camera settings, photos can take different amounts of memory on your card.  For example, setting your camera to take 5-6 Megapixel photos may allow one memory card to hold thousands of photos while setting it to take 20 Megapixel photos may limit it to several hundred.
Case
Carrying Case: Having the right case and features is important.  When looking for a case, select one with a fixed belt loop attachment and separate storage compartments for an extra battery and memory card.
 
Fit: Find a case that is padded and your camera fits snugly inside.
Wearable: Cases for compact cameras are small, so make sure they can be worn on your belt.  Wearing your case on your belt in front makes it very secure and convenient to access the camera.

Make sure the case has a belt loop and not a clip making it much more secure.  Avoid a belt look with a Velcro closure as fixed loops are much more secure.

Your case may also have a place to attach a strap for wearing it over your shoulder.  This is fine, but it is a less secure method compared to that of a belt loop.

Closures: Make sure all compartments are zippered offering greater security.  Having a case with Velcro, magnet or snap closure is less secure and will not keep your camera as clean and safe.
Compartments: The case should have a separate compartment just large enough to store an extra battery and memory card.
 
Case Logic DCB313 Advanced Point & Shoot Camera Case
  • Quality materials and logical organization ensure your equipment is stored safely inside, yet instantly accessible
  • Zippered front storage pocket holds up to 2 extra batteries with a separate compartment for a memory card or small accessory
  • Comfortable fit for these slightly larger cameras
  • Fits the Lumix ZS60, ZS70 and ZS100 as well as other comparably sized cameras
  • Fully adjustable detachable shoulder strap
  • Fixed belt loop
 
Final Thoughts
Quality Cameras: There are many different cameras available and our experience is with the Lumix series.  Our advice is to purchase a high quality camera which may cost several hundred dollars more than some of the cheaper models.  Consider that you will probably have the camera for years, so spending slightly more may be well worth the extra cost.  As stated above, we used our older Lumix for over 10 years before purchasing a new model.
Snap Often: Today is not like the olden days of expensive film and developing costs.  Remember, with digital cameras and large memory cards, you can take multiple photos of the same scene.  So when photographing an important subject, take several photos helping to ensure you get the perfect shot.  After your trip when you are reviewing your photos, you can simply erase the ones you don't want.  This is why it's important to have enough memory with you as you may take thousands of photos on an extended trip.
Be Respectful: Be respectful of locations not allowing photos or flash-photos such as religious sites and museums.  It can be tempting to sneak a photo but as a good tourist, stay out of trouble and don't risk having your camera confiscated.  Be respectful of photo restrictions.
 
Security - Using your Camera on the Train

See our page on Don't Become a Target for additional security information for using your camera while on a train.