Maybe you thought it was going to be something like the Sony RX1-R II, RX 100 Mk IV or Sony RX10 Mk III; Leica Q; Panasonic GX85; the newly-announced Canon M5; or maybe the iPhone 7 Plus. All of them -- and many more, most likely including whatever you already have -- are capable of exceptional imagery in the right hands. Use the money to get your learn on in the real world instead. Isn't that what travel's about? Video at end of post.
After returning from three weeks of foreign travel (Switzerland, Germany and Italy) and thinking back over 20 years, I've come to realize yet again that it's not about the gear, it's the people. More than that, experiencing life rather than capturing it is what "it" is all about.
Spend the $1,000 - $4,500 you were thinking of applying to your next travel camera, and spend it instead on the travel itself. Buy a plane ticket, and if there's money left over, cover your lodging, food and a rental car too.
Your smartphone will be more than good enough.
Maybe even spring for the entrance fee for Giotto's Tower in Florence and climb all 432 claustrophobic steps for an incredible view of the Duomo. Or, if you're of a different bent, get to the BMW Museum in Munich.
Late Summer, 2016
Which is exactly what I did this summer.
Let's get a little perspective.
Back at the Turn of the Century, 16 Years Ago
Put simply: cameras have improved massively since then, but they were fine back then. Today's cameras, however, are dramatically smaller, more capable, and more expensive. Do you really think you couldn't get great shots with the gear above even now?
Runners-Up for Best Travel Cameras, 2016
I'd thought about getting my hands on each of these cameras to take with me, but in the end logistics, cash flow and a recognition that I wanted to experience more than I wanted to capture led me to make do with what I already had. I brought my trusty Sony a6300 with me, but I almost never used it. When you want to travel as lightly as possible, you really can't beat a smartphone.
Sony RX 100 IV
The Sony RX100 IV has a built-in Zeiss zoom with an equivalent reach and field of view as the 28-70/2.8L; sports a 20.1mp sensor with ISO range up to 12,800; records 4K video; and weighs 11 oz with battery and memory card. It takes up about 250 cc's. We're talking something about 1/5th the weight and size of what was state of the art a decade and a half ago. It costs $998 [B&H|Amazon]. You can't beat it for size, image quality and functionality, but I returned mine after I grew tired of having to pull out and then push in the viewfinder every time I popped it up.
Sony RX10 III
Sony RX1-R II
iPhone 7 Plus
Summing It Up
I think travel is about gaining perspective and growing through experience. Go get it. Enjoy it when you can, learn new lessons when you can't.
And if you get to Munich, visit the NS Documentation Center. It will open your eyes wider than any piece of gear.
One More Thing
- No, I'm not sponsored by Apple in any way shape or form (though I am the author of Apple's iPhone: The Next Video Revolution, available -- and the irony is not lost on me -- on Amazon).
- I didn't miss shallow depth of field or telephoto reach nearly as much as I thought I would.
- If you don't think a smartphone can ever be used for professional level photos -- especially travel photos -- I beg to differ.
What do YOU see?