UBUD, Indonesia — After having journeyed across Indonesia, I thought it time to reassess my previous camera dilemma — and my choices.
Always compelled to maximize my technical ability and to do it with efficiency, I fretted about what would make the best travel camera for a trip of indeterminate length. I heard strong arguments from both sides, which boiled down as such: A lightweight, unobtrusive point-and-shoot lent itself perfectly to uncertain itineraries vs. a full-sized, semi-pro DSLR would provide the best quality images.
The Nikon would be accompanied by a ultra-wide-angle 12-24mm lens, which is my absolute favorite, and likely the 18-70mm kit lens, which has given me plenty of great images. Unfortunately, it came with significant heft, weighing more than 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) with the grip and extra battery.
But oh, so comfortable.
The Ricoh was a contender because of its fast 24mm f/2.8 lens and its 2:3 aspect ratio. Cons: Shutter lag, noisy video images and poor low-light performance.
The Canon offered great manual control and solid video performance, but its shutter lag, boxy shape and 3:4 aspect ratio did not endear it to me at first.
Nathalie, a talented photographer who made her way through Southeast Asia for eight months, further advised that such a conspicuous camera would be out of place in villages where a pricey DSLR represents a significant proportion of the local per capita income. (I thought of my travels across Peru, where this was also the case.)
After weighing everyone’s input, I decided to sleep on it and see how I felt the morning I left for the airport.
So, what travel camera did I choose?
Ultimately, I couldn’t bear to pick just one.
The big, honkin’ Nikon is my camera. It’s what I feel most comfortable with and it does everything I need it to do, nearly as quickly and effortlessly as I need it to. It’s responsive and tough. If it meets an untimely end, as it has once before, it will have died a good death. It holds two batteries, and I can see how much juice each has, so I can best judge when one needs recharging.
It means that when doing things such as driving a motorbike around Bali, I had no recourse but to sling it over my shoulder and expose it to the elements, including a sudden, heavy downpour that further loosened the camera’s rubber grip.
Bringing this camera also means I’m leaving nothing to chance. Sure, the poundage is one drawback — as is its high profile — but these are things I deal with when toting it around New York.
That said, it’s nice to have a video option when traveling — as well as a backup camera. So, I decided to pack both the Canon and Ricoh.
The extra camera equipment, while not the best choice for everyone (and maybe not even for me), came at the expense of my total packing capacity.
For me, it’s a fair trade-off.