Choosing the right sidearm for photography on the road is a big challenge for professionals and enthusiasts alike. We run through some of the key points you should consider before investing your hard earned cash on the equipment you want to help document your travels.
What do I need a camera for?
I'm going to direct this part of the post to those going on holiday, doing some travelling or generally about to embark on some endeavour that they feel is worth photographing but can't be burdened by cumbersome or overly expensive gear. I have found this to be the time in someone's life when they might think to ask me about photography equipment and what they should invest in.
Digital Cameras: The Fuji x100 series shoots the same picture file and quality type as many high end DSLR cameras(the big black type of camera you're probably used to seeing a lot of people swing around). I've owned the first two versions of this camera, and I fully intend and picking up the latest or whatever Fuji releases in the future. I have bought and sold the ones I've owned to fund other gear. This is because I see them more as a personal camera rather than a professional tool I could use for the nature of work I'm commissioned for. When I was in possession of one, it would fit on the inside pocket of a bomber jacket I used to own, was small, smart, super powerful and also very attractive because of it's classic style. The look gave it two effects, people would admire it thinking I was using a film camera, and potential thieves might overlook it, thinking it was old and worthless. It helped me to produce a lot of beautiful photographs and you can listen to Kai from DigitalRev give it his initial impression here. The newer Fuji cameras have WiFi(in fact a great many point and shoot cameras have this option now) This isn't to connect to the internet so much as it is to connect to your phone. Sending photographs directly to your phone to be edited and uploaded is still an awesome workflow that I get a real technology kick out of. It feels like everything you own is working together, making shooting, editing and publishing a wireless instant joy!
eBay listing (1st generation x100)
Conns Camera x100T in Dublin(newest release)
Film Cameras: I have to mention the sheer power of shooting with disposable cameras and the long forgotten point and shoot film camera. You can pick up a disposable camera in any petrol station or newsagent right now. Not only will the controls be as simple as wind-point-shoot, but you can give it a beating, get it wet or covered in whiskey and it should still perform well enough to see the film roll through to completion. We are so precious with our digital investments and for good reason, we spend a lot of money on these things. However the recent trend of applying film like filters and even distortion filters to our images indicates that there is still something very special about film. No thief with his priorities in order would waste his time on your Kodak FunShoot disposable and the blocky nature of the camera will make it very hard to lose.
Arguably the most enjoyable aspect of shooting with disposables is that you don't know what you're going to get, and the moment has almost certainly long passed by the time you get the photos back from the print shop. This allows time to separate yourself from the moment the photo was taken, and relive it when you're holding your prints and cycling through them with friends. For you social media addicts, most print companies that develop film today will email you the digital versions of the photos or provide them on a disc so you can still get them out there on the web.
My favorite Kodak disposable (amazon)
Don't forget what you already have. You might be reading this on a current generation smartphone, in which case you already have a very powerful and capable camera in your hands already. The many advances in micro technology have meant that we are passively buying incredible cameras as we keep up with Apple and Android offerings. Both handset types have great cameras but it's the apps that can make or break how we feel about the strength of the camera itself. I have always had a preference to the camera type on the iPhone. I enjoy the simplicity, the aspect ratio and the colour accuracy of the screen (turn off dynamic mode right now if you own an android of any kind especially Samsung).
You will most likely have your phone with you 24/7 as you go through your day both at home and abroad. Why not invest €50 in a few high end apps to give your photography the finish it needs. It might seem like a lot of money but for that much you could see the true potential in what you already own, while saving yourself hundreds of euros in the process. I'll have an article about my favorite apps in a few days.
Before you commit to any purchase, try to establish your creative priorities, and what you expect from your camera. Consider your environment, your experience and your budget. And then ask yourself the following;
What photographs have you admired? This is going to help you decide what technology you'll need to achieve that effect. Perhaps a specific lens effect is what is catching your eye, which might indicate that a premium equipment purchase is called for.
What platform have they been shared on? If everything you are observing is on Instagram then this may indicate a mobile digital setup, you might already own the right phone or camera to make it possible, perhaps you need to invest in apps rather than equipment.
What process will you enjoy the most? If waiting on your holiday photos to enjoy with your friends and loved ones over coffee back home is your thing, then you have to go film. Disposable is cheap, foolproof and very low in terms of losses should the camera get damaged or put through a musical festival mud bath.