BEST TRAVEL CAMERAS 2015 review
Top recommended travel cameras (pocket, midsize, DSLR, full frame) as of February 2016:
Research by Tom Dempsey recommends the following portable cameras and gear best for on-the-go photographers. Yearly advances now put the sweet spot for serious travel cameras in the range from 1”-Type to APS-C size sensors (read article). Personally, I carry a high-resolution midsize APS-C camera with 11x zoom lens, plus a backup pocket-size 1″-size-sensor camera good for macro (close focus).
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Best pocket camera: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III
A. World’s best pocket-size camera:
Sony DSC-RX100 (IV, III, II, or I) packs a surprisingly bright lens and big 1-inch sensor (read my article) into a pocketable zoom camera. Add a Sony AG-R2 attachment grip. Compare in Tom’s Sony Cyber-shot RX100 review article — save money with used or earlier III, II or I versions. Or consider rival pocketable cameras:
- Panasonic Lumix DSC-ZS100 (April 2016, 11 oz, 25-250mm equivalent lens, EVF, 1″ sensor)
- Canon PowerShot S120 (2013, 8 oz, 24-120mm equivalent lens)
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1 (2014, 7 oz, 28-200mm equiv lens, EVF, 1/1.7″ sensor).
- Cheapest: Canon PowerShot ELPH 170 IS (2015, 5 oz, 25-300mm equiv lens, 1/2.3″ sensor).
- Pocket superzoom: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 (2015, 8.6 oz, 24–720mm equiv 30x zoom, EVF).
- Underwater, shockproof, dust-resistant: Olympus Tough TG-4 (2015, 8.7 oz, 25-100mm equiv).
B. World’s best midsize travel camera:
Best midsize travel camera: Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Camera, with 16-50mm lens
Sony A6000 with 16-50mm Lens (2014, 12 oz + 4 oz 24-75mm equiv zoom, 24mp APS-C) has truly Fast Hybrid Autofocus! Upgrade to 11x zoom Sony 18-200mm OSS E-mount SEL18200 silver lens (18.5 oz, 27-300mm equiv). A Sony 10-18mm f4 OSS E-mount lens is sharper, good for architecture and landscapes. Extend telephoto reach with 10x Sony 24-240mm OSS E-mount lens (27.5 oz, 36-360mm equiv). Sony A6000 tops Nikon for travel with 11x lens (read article) and beats my earlier Sony NEX-7. Other good midsize cameras include:
- Best superzoom with 1″-Type sensor:
Panasonic FZ1000 (2014, 29 oz with 16x zoom lens 25-400mm equiv, 20mp).
- Best 33-oz portable 810mm-equivalent telephoto for wildlife, birds, sports:
Nikon 1 V3 camera (2014, 14-oz body, 1″-Type sensor 18mp) mounting a Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 70-300mm CX format f/4.5-5.6 lens (19 oz, 189-810mm equiv) with blazingly fast hybrid autofocus! Add a 10-30mm kit lens (3 oz) or Nikon CX-format 10-100mm lens for Nikon 1 (10.5 oz).
- More-compact, 11x zoom, with smaller sensor, 1/1.7″-Type:
Olympus Stylus 1s (2015, 14 oz with 28-300mm equiv f/2.8 lens, great EVF).
A smaller, noisier 1/2.3″-Type sensor allows extended zoom range in the following midsize cameras:
- Panasonic Lumix FZ300 (2015, 24.4 oz, 12 mp, bright f/2.8 lens 25-600mm equivalent, 24x zoom range, weather sealed).
- Nikon Coolpix P900 (2015, 32 oz, 16mp, 24–2000mm equivalent 83X zoom lens).
- Cheaper superzoom: Olympus Stylus SP-100 camera (2014, 21 oz, 50x zoom, 24-1200 equiv).
C. Best-value DSLR-style travel camera
Nikon D5500 (2015, 15 oz body, 24mp APS-C sensor/DX format), or earlier Nikon D3300 DSLR camera (2014, 16 oz), is bulkier than mirrorless but offers more lens choices:
- Recommended travel zooms for Nikon DX format (APS-C sensor):
- Best wide angle lenses for Nikon DX format (APS-C sensor):
- The following telephoto lenses seriously magnify wildlife, birds, and sports with optical stabilization and also full-frame coverage:
D. Best full-frame-sensor travel camera:
Sony Alpha A7 Mirrorless camera (2013, 17 oz body) or Sony Alpha A7 II full frame camera (2014, 21 oz) requires Sony FE (full frame) E-mount lenses. The full frame sensor resolves more detail with less noise in dim light at high ISO 3200+ (when compared to APS-C and smaller sensors).
Tom recommends the following accessories:
What makes an ideal travel camera?
The “best” travel camera is the one you want to carry everywhere. The best Light Travel cameras (as chosen above) should minimize bulk and weight while maximizing sensor dimensions (read article), zoom range, lens diameter, battery life ( ≥ 350 shots), and ISO “sensitivity” (for lower noise in dim light). Upgrade your camera every 3 years to boost image quality. An optimally sharp zoom lens should change the angle of view by 4x to 11x to rapidly frame divergent subjects, without the extra bulk or annoyance of swapping lenses. Lenses should autofocus fast (with hybrid AF minimizing shutter lag ≤ 0.3 sec), optically stabilize images, and focus closely (for macro). Travel cameras should pop up a built-in flash and also flip out (articulate/hinge/swivel) a high-resolution display screen to jump-start your creative macro, movie, and candid shooting at arm’s length. OLED displays usually outshine LCD. Sunny-day reflections often obscure display-screen visibility − but to save bulk, most pocket cameras sadly lack a viewfinder. A camera with a brilliant electronic viewfinder (preferably an EVF with ≥ 1 million dots) gives better feedback on the final digital image than a non-digital optical viewfinder.
TIPS for travel in adverse conditions
- Weather & dust protection: Prudent bagging can avoid the extra expense of a weather-sealed body & lens – keep a camera handy, safely in a front pouch on your chest or hip (where it can be retrieved more quickly than from a pack on your back). Adverse fluctuations of temperature & humidity, or dusty conditions, or sea spray all require cameras to be double-protected in a zip-lock plastic bag inside the padded pouch. Use a soft, absorbent silk cloth to wipe away moisture or dust from lens & body before bagging.
- Cold batteries: Using camera batteries below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (or 4 Celsius) loses their charge quicker, causing camera shut down or lock. Revive and extend battery life in cold or below-freezing weather by warming an extra battery or two in an interior pocket near your skin and swapping with the camera’s battery after every 5-10 minutes of cold exposure.
- Off the grid: For trips away from electrical power sockets, recharge your hungry GPS, phone or tablet devices with:
- Satellite communication: Stay in touch everywhere in the world via Iridium satellite with DeLorme inReach Explorer (7 oz; buy at Amazon): send and receive 160-character text messages with GPS coordinates (accurate to five meters) to cell numbers or email addresses worldwide and post updates to social media. This new, affordable technology connects campers, hikers, hunters, backpackers, alpinists, and backcountry skiers who often venture outside of cell phone networks. The portable 7-ounce device includes a color-coded map with waypoints, elevation readings, current speed, average moving speed, and compass. Also, you can trigger an SOS, receive delivery confirmation, and communicate with DeLorme’s 24/7 search-and-rescue monitoring center.
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In more detail, compare the best NEW travel cameras
A. Best pocket-size cameras for everyone
- The best pocket-size camera has a physically larger and sharper light-gathering sensor:
- Sony DSC-RX100 camera version IV (best-ever pocket camera 2015, 10.5 oz) bests earlier version III with: a new Exmor RS stacked CMOS sensor (faster operation but same image quality); viewfinder dots 2.36mp (formerly 1.44mp); new 4K (UHD) video; improved dynamic range in video and JPEG (using S-Log2 gamma setting under Picture Profiles); greatly-improved Auto ISO; fast eye-tracking AF; instant magnification of AF point in playback; and 15 fps electronic shutter. Same lens, 24-70mm equivalent f/1.8-2.8. But battery life has decreased to 280 shots (down from 320 shots in version III).
- Read my full review of Sony RX100.
- To better grasp its slippery body, attach a Sony AG-R2 grip.
- Fit it into Tamrac Digital 1 Photo Bag with extra Wasabi Power NPBX1 batteries.
- The earlier Sony RX100 pocketable camera version III (best-ever pocket camera 2014, 10 oz) introduced a pop-up electronic viewfinder (OLED SVGA 1.44M dots), widened lens view to 24mm equiv (brightest aperture f/1.8), restricted zoom to 70mm telephoto but brightened it to f/2.8 (for noticeably sharper images), tilted its 3″ LCD to a full 180 degrees for selfies, and added a Nuetral Density (ND) filter. It beat rival pocket cameras with 20mp 1″ sensor, very fast 0.15 sec autofocus, and sharp LCD (1,228,800 dots).
- The earlier Sony RX100 pocketable camera version II (2013, 10 oz) doesn’t tilt the LCD as far as version III, has one stop better ISO 800+ than version I in terms of noise, and has a flash mount (not found on versions IV, III, or I).
- The first edition Sony RX100 pocketable camera version I (2012) weighs 8.5 oz and has a 28-100mm equivalent lens with f/1.8-4.9 brightest aperture from wide to tele, with close focus/macro distance 5 cm.
- Compared to Sony RX100 III, the rival Canon PowerShot G7X (2014) has no viewfinder, poor battery life, unreliable focus and poor manual focus magnification. In its favor, Canon G7X has longer 4x zoom 24-100mm equivalent (versus 3x 24-70mm), brighter lens from 24-50mm (up to 2/3 stop better), touchscreen LCD (that also flips 180-degrees for selfies), in a body having the same weight, size, and sensor, capturing similar image quality in studio comparisons.
- Cheaper: Canon PowerShot S120 digital camera (2013, 8 oz, 24-120mm equiv lens, f/1.8-5.7 brightest aperture, 1/1.7 inch type sensor) beats slower-focusing Canon PowerShot S110 (2012, 7 oz).
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1 (2014, 7 oz) 28-200mm equiv lens, unusual EVF, 1/1.7″ sensor, 12mp.
- Budget $120-250 pocket-size: beat cell phone image quality for sharing on web and small prints.
- Superzoom pocket-size travel cameras: beat cell phone image quality.
- Underwater/shock-resistant/dustproof pocket-size cameras can go to wetter, rugged places for hiking & climbing:
- Olympus Tough TG-4 (2015, 8.7 oz, brightest F2.0-4.9 lens, 25-100mm equiv 4x zoom): long CIPA battery life 380 shots.
- Canon PowerShot D30 (2014, 8 oz, 28-140mm): trusty, CIPA battery life 300 shots.
- Nikon Coolpix AW120 (2014, 7.5 oz, 24-120mm): good quality per dollar; CIPA battery life 350 shots; dim LCD.
- Tip: For easiest underwater focusing, shoot at default wide angle (without zooming).
TIP: As a workaround for sluggish autofocus in cheaper compact cameras: prefocus (lock) on a contrasty edge of the subject by half pressing and holding the shutter button, then the subsequent full press will be instant, ≤ 0.15 second. But half-press autofocus lock doesn’t work in continuous focus or action modes. Don’t let an inferior camera frustrate your capture of action, people, pets, or sports. Instead, consider a newer model with hybrid AF such as pocket-size Sony RX100, or midsize Panasonic FZ1000, or interchangeable-lens camera as follows for surer action shots:
B. Best midsize cameras
The best midsize cameras for travel have interchangeable-lenses and an Electronic ViewFinder ( EVF / mirrorless ) as follows:
1. TOP TRAVEL CAMERA OF 2014-15: a bigger sensor (APS-C size) gathers more light through a larger lens:
- Sony A6000 with 16-50mm lens (2014, 12 oz body + 4 oz lens, 24mp) with Fast Hybrid Autofocus
- Sony A6000 beats Nikon for travel with 11x lens − read article. Compared to earlier Sony NEX-6 or NEX-7: the A6000 is superior except lacks a horizontal level indicator and has poorer resolution in the viewfinder (1.44 million dots vs 2.36 million, with slightly smaller magnification 0.70x equiv versus 0.73x).
- Sony says A6000 autofocus (as fast as 0.06 seconds) is the world’s fastest on a mirrorless camera with an APS-C image sensor. [For faster AF as of 2014, you would need a much more expensive Panasonic GH4 (20-oz body, 2014, mirrorless with smaller 4/3 sensor) or much bulkier DSLR such as Nikon D4S (48oz body, 2014, full frame sensor).]
- Using Continuous autofocus at an impressive 11 frames per second (fps), A6000 will track moving subjects right up to the edges of the frame, even recognizing and tracking faces.
- Buy extra Wasabi Power NP-FW50 (1300mAh) batteries for A6000 when trekking away from electrical outlets.
- If you don’t need a viewfinder, Sony A5100 has the same great autofocus system and adds touchscreen at a cheaper price.
- Save money on a USED Sony A6000 camera with 16-50mm lens at Amazon.com.
- Add a sharp 11x travel zoom (27-300mm equiv) to make the world’s best travel system:
- Sony 10-18mm f/4 OSS Alpha E-mount wide-angle zoom lens (8 oz, 2.75×2.5 inches, SEL1018, 2012) is significantly sharper than SEL-18200. The SEL1018 is sharpest at f/5.6 to f/8 as you zoom, with least distortion from 14-18mm, good for shooting architecture indoors and out, plus landscapes and slot canyons.
- Sony 24mm f/1.8 E-mount Carl Zeiss Sonnar lens resolves the most detail from 24mp A6000 (or NEX-7), best at f/2.8 to f/4.
2. Best splash-proof, dust-proof, hardy midsize camera for travel (with Micro Four Thirds sensor):
- Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera (Mark I) (2012, 15 oz weather sealed body) with splash-proof M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ lens (24-100mm equiv, 7.5 oz, with splendid video, macro down to 36×27 mm).
- Features: high res Electronic Viewfinder (EVF), tilting 610,000-dot OLED LCD, 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization, best 16mp sensor. The external, clip-on weather-sealed flash unit fits easily in a pocket.
- A more versatile travel lens with extended telephoto doesn’t have weather sealing:
- Most compact (1.1″) Premium “X” lens (without weather sealing): Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS lens (3.4 oz, 2012).
- Compare cameras:
- Sony A6000 with 16-50mm lens (2014, 12 oz body + 4 oz lens, 24mp) with Fast Hybrid Autofocus beats Olympus OM-D E-M5 in price, AF speed, and more (except E-M5 has a weather sealed body).
- Olympus OM-D E-M10 Camera (Mark I, 2014, WITHOUT a weather-sealed body) is $300 cheaper than an E-M5, for equal image quality. But Sony A6000 easily beats Olympus E-M10 (due to larger sensor APS-C versus Micro 4/3, faster autofocus, smaller body, longer CIPA battery life of 420 shots per charge versus 320, faster 11 fps continuous shutter, and more movie modes; with equal viewfinder & LCD).
3. Best portable 810mm telephoto for wildlife, birds, sports (33 oz with 1″-Type sensor):
If you don’t require interchangeable lenses on your midsize camera, consider the best superzoom models:
A superzoom midsize camera can save money while capturing wide-angle landscapes and also magnifying distant wildlife. Serious travel photographers should get a bigger sensor, at least 1-inch Type (13.2 x 8.8 mm), as follows:
- Panasonic FZ1000 camera (2014, 29 oz with lens) f/2.8-4 lens 25-400mm equiv, 16x zoom. 1-inch-Type, 20mp sensor. Fast autofocus. Fully articulated LCD. Notes:
- For the same weight (but twice the price) as FZ1000, you can upgrade to Sony A6000 with 18-200mm lens and APS-C sensor (having 3x bigger light-gathering area, but maybe not as sharp at long end of telephoto).
- The Panasonic FZ1000’s brightest “equivalent F-stop” (f/7.7 to f/11 equiv from 25-400mm equiv) is not as bright as Sony’s E-mount 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 lens (f/5.25 to f/9.45 equiv from 27-300mm equiv). [Definition: “equivalent F-stop” is the F-number on a full-frame-sensor camera which has the same hole diameter as the brightest F-stop of the camera lens being compared, and lets you compare control over shallowest depth of focus/field.]
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 camera (2013, 29 oz) is more compact, with 8x zoom lens, f/2.8 maximum aperture (which is f/7.6 equivalent in terms of 35mm-size-sensor-systems throughout its 24-200mm equivalent).
Cameras with smaller sensors:
- Olympus Stylus 1s (2015, 14 oz with 28-300mm equiv f/2.8 lens) is the world’s smallest camera having an 11x zoom on a 1/1.7″ type sensor. Its great electronic viewfinder is same as Olympus OM-D E-M5. Good 410-shot CIPA battery life.
- The following cameras have a tiny 1/2.3-inch Type sensor which should beat cell phone quality, requires bright outdoor light, and is suitable for sharing images online or making small prints:
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 (2015, 24.4 oz, 12 mp, bright f/2.8 lens throughout 25-600mm equivalent, 24x zoom range, with OIS/Optical Image Stabilization, HD Video with sound, and raw file support) introduces weather sealing to keep out dust and moisture. Save money on earlier, non-sealed FZ200 or FZ70.
- Nikon Coolpix P900 (2015, 32 oz, 16mp, 24–2000mm equivalent 83X zoom lens)
- Olympus SP-100 camera (2014, 21 oz, 16mp, 50x zoom, 24-1200 equivalent, 1 cm close focus, nice 920k dot EVF): innovative On-Camera Dot Sight helps track distant birds or moving subjects.
The best mirrorless designs can pack more quality into a smaller box, but DSLR cameras (below) offer more specialty lenses, with a design legacy inherited from the 35mm film era, where an optical viewfinder’s mirror box adds bulk.
C. Bulkier DSLR cameras have more lens options, fast autofocus+tracking, and optical viewfinder (via mirror):
As with most DSLR-style cameras, the following great travel system focuses fast using optical viewfinder but autofocuses very slowly in Live View on LCD:
- Best price-value travel DSLR camera: Nikon D3300 camera (2014, 16 oz body, sharp 24mp body); or upgrade to Nikon D5500 (2015, 15 oz).
- Compare DSLRs: Nikon D3300 offers more for your money (at a lighter travel weight) than Canon EOS Rebel cameras of 2014 and earlier. Also, the earlier Nikon D3200 beats Canon Rebel DSLR cameras of 2012.
DSLR cameras are best for interchanging more lens choices and for shooting action (sports, birds) reliably with little shutter lag when using their optical viewfinder. “DSLR” means Digital Single Lens Reflex, where a mirror lets the viewfinder see through the lens. During a shot, the mirror briefly flips up to expose a digital sensor. However, almost all DSLR cameras of 2014 and earlier have excruciatingly slow autofocus (2-4 seconds) in Live View on the LCD − except for Canon 70D (2013, 27 oz, with Dual Pixel CMOS AF built into its 20mp sensor), and for Sony’s super fast Translucent Mirror Technology (a fixed mirror). Sony’s Translucent Mirror Technology speeds past the excruciatingly slow Live View autofocus of most rival DSLR designs:
TIP: Upgrade your camera every 2 or 3 years (like I do) to get better real resolution, lower noise at higher ISO speeds ( ≥ 800), and quicker autofocus. Since 2009, most cameras take sharper hand-held shots using optical image stabilization (branded as Nikon VR, Canon IS, Panasonic OIS, Sigma OS, Tamron VC, Sony OSS). Today’s cameras capture much better highlight and shadow detail, by using better sensors plus automatic HDR (high dynamic range imaging) and other optimizations for JPEG files. Plus, editing raw format files extracts the most detail.
D. Full-frame-sensor cameras excel at indoor, night, or dim-light action shots at ISO ≥3200.
- Sony Alpha A7 Mirrorless camera (17 oz body, 24mp, 2013) or Sony Alpha A7 II camera (2014, 21 oz) is the lightest-weight, best-price-value, full frame-sensor camera. The A7R upgrade (2014, 16.4 oz) captures 36mp. A7S (2015, 17 oz) has 12mp optimized with large photosites and more sensitive autofocus great for low-light videographers, but its stills require ISO 12,800+ to beat A7R’s 36mp image quality. Instead of having an optical viewfinder like a DLSR, the A7, A7II, A7R, and A7S have a great electronic viewfinder (EVF) with 2.4 million dots (XGA). The 3-inch tilting LCD has 1.23 million dots (except 921,000 on A7S). A7 cameras interchange the new FE-series (full frame E-mount) lenses. New Hybrid AF builds phase-detection autofocus into the sensor of A7 versions I and II, capturing 5 fps with continuous autofocus. With contrast-detection autofocus only, A7S shoots 5 fps and A7R shoots 4 fps. Weatherproof bodies. Alternate:
- Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX1 full frame compact camera (17 oz with 35mm f/2 fixed-lens, 24mp, 2012) fits in a coat pocket, but the optical viewfinder/rangefinder is a costly add-on. Shooting as high as ISO 25,000 still captures usable pictures. (Lens is fixed and cannot interchange.)
- Nikon D750 DSLR camera (26.5 oz body, 24mp, 2014): Excellent camera. 6.5 fps continuous shooting. Tilting 3.2″ RGBW LCD screen has 1.23 million dots. Long 1230 shots CIPA battery life. Uses Full frame Nikon F Mount/FX Format lenses.
- Nikon D810 DSLR camera (big 35 oz body, 36mp, 2014) camera demands highest quality full frame Nikon F Mount/FX format lenses and excites professional studio and landscape photographers with its very high resolution (3200 lph raw for D800 and better in D810) rivaling the quality of medium format film for making big fine-art prints. In dim light at dusk, dawn, or indoors, capture low-noise images at high ISOs 6400 to 12,800 — even ISO 25,600 can look good in small prints. Capture unprecedented dynamic range in raw files from bright to dark. Unfortunately it has very slow autofocus using LCD Live View (fixed by using mirrorless Sony A7). Frames per second at full res FX mode has increased to 5 fps for sports (versus 4 fps in D800, or 6 fps if DX frame size).
- Nikon D610 DSLR camera (30 oz body, 24 mp, 2013) costs less than D800. Captures less noise than Sony NEX-7 by 2-3 stops of ISO when set at ≥3200. Raw resolution up to 2800 lph.
Recommended close focus/macro lenses for DSLR cameras
For close focus (macro enlargement of insects and plants), copy work, and extra-sharp general photography:
- Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens for APS-C sensors (12 oz) captures true 1:1 reproduction ratio.
- Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8G ED Macro Autofocus lens (15 oz) with fast SWM (Silent Wave Motor) and IF (Internal Focusing), captures true macro 1:1 reproduction ratio.
- Compared to the above 60mm lenses, longer macro lenses such as 100mm and 105mm give you a few more inches of comfortable working distance from the front of the lens (to avoid startling insects) and can have a different bokeh (character of out-of-focus areas), but at the cost of larger size, weight, and expense.
Instead of carrying one of the above prime macro lenses for a DSLR camera, consider carrying a pocket camera (at top, 8-10 ounces) which can focus very closely at wide angle with deep depth of focus, and can serve as a backup for your larger/main camera.
See related articles: “BEST TELEPHOTO ZOOM LENS 300mm+” and “BEST WIDE ANGLE LENS for DSLR.”
- DSLR lens filters
- A clear glass filter protects your valuable DSLR lens when dropped. I speak from experience! Get a clear glass filter, NOT a UV filter, which modern multi-coated lenses have made redundant.
- Use a circular polarizing filter temporarily only to remove reflections or haze, or to contrast clouds with polarized sky.
- Printer with archival quality
- 2x Cactus Wireless Flash Transceiver Duo triggers your flash or camera wirelessly at distances up to 328 feet.
- Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE film scanner (2014): The scanner’s built-in infrared channel removes dust and scratches during scanning, saving you much editing time.
- Recommended fast computer for running Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop
- HP Envy Desktop PC with Windows 64-bit operating system (or Apple is fine), quad-core 3.5 GHz Intel i7-3770K Ivy Bridge (or i5-3570K) processor, 12 to 16 gigabytes RAM, GeForce GTX570 graphics card, hard drive 2 or 3 terabytes 7200 RPM, and USB 3.0 ports.
- Essential computer workflow software
Where to buy cameras and gear with reliable customer service
Gear history: Click here to see Tom Dempsey’s travel cameras adopted from 1978 to now.
Terminology and metric conversions
- oz = ounces. Above camera weights in ounces (oz) include battery and memory card.
- g = grams. Multiple ounces by 28.35 to get grams.
- sec = second.
- mm = millimeters. A centimeter (cm) equals 10 millimeters. Multiply centimeters (cm) by 0.3937 to get inches.
- ILC = Interchangeable Lens Compact = “midsize mirrorless camera” term used above
- DSLR = Digital Single Lens Reflex (traditional camera where an optical viewfinder uses a mirror to see through the interchangeable lens).
- EVF = Electronic Viewfinder.
- LCD = Liquid Crystal Display.
- OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) beats an LCD in dynamic range from darkest to brightest and consumes less power.
- LPH or LPPH = resolvable lines per picture height = the best empirical measure of real resolution of a camera’s sensor for a given lens (independent of pixel pitch or megapixel count). A camera with higher LPH can make sharper large prints. Look up cameras on dpreview.com to find absolute vertical LPH judged by photographing a PIMA/ISO 12233 camera resolution test chart under standardized lighting conditions. Note which lens, settings, and camera body was used in each test, and compare with others within the same web site.
- “equivalent“ lens = To compare lenses on cameras having different sensor sizes, equiv or equivalent lens refers to what would be the lens focal length (measured in mm or millimeters) that would give the same angle of view on a “full frame” 35mm-size sensor (or 35mm film camera, using 135 film cartridge).
- Compared lenses are “equivalent” only in terms of angle of view. (To determine sharpness or quality, read lens reviews which analyze at 100% pixel views.)
- “Crop factor” = how many times smaller is the diagonal measurement of a small sensor than a “full frame” 35-mm size sensor. For example, the 1.5x crop factor for Nikon DX format (APS-C size sensor) makes a lens labeled 18-200mm to be equivalent in angle of view to a 27-300mm focal length lens used on a 35mm film camera. The 2x crop factor for Micro Four Thirds sensors makes a lens labeled 14-140mm to be equivalent in angle of view to a 28-280mm lens used on a 35mm film camera.
- Superzoom lenses
- In 2013, superzoom often refers to lenses of about 15x zoom range or larger. Steady quality improvements in the resolving power of sensors has made possible superzoom cameras in ever smaller sizes. As superzoom range increases, laws of physics require lenses to focus upon smaller sensors (light detectors) or else to increase lens size. For a given level (most recent year) of technological advancement, a camera with physically larger sensor (bigger light detecting area) should capture better quality for a given zoom lens range.
- “10x zoom” = zoom lens telephoto divided by wide angle focal length. For example, a 14-140mm focal length zoom has a 10x zoom range (140 divided by 14). An 18-200mm zoom has an 11x zoom range (200 divided by 18).
- “equivalent” F-stop = refers to the F-stop (F-number) on a full-frame-sensor camera which has the same hole diameter as the F-stop of the camera lens being compared. The concept of “equivalent” F-stop lets you compare capabilities for creating shallow depth of focus (depth of field) on cameras with different-size sensors. Smaller-sensor cameras use shorter focal lengths for the same field of view, so at a given F-stop they have a smaller physical aperture size, meaning more depth of field (with less blur in front of and behind the focused subject). Formula: F Number (or Relative Aperture) = actual focal length of lens divided by diameter of the entrance pupil.
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