Big Trip – Which Camera? Computer? Phone?

Posted in Blog, Learn, Photography

In the spring of 2011, my husband and I took a 5 week trip to SE Asia. Now some women agonize over what clothes and jewelry to take. I, on the other hand, agonize over what technology to take! Specifically, which camera, what computer, and what about our phones?

These are the choices we made based on our priorities, options in each category and the advantages and disadvantages of each option. In making your decision, I suggest that you start out by likewise listing your priorities, options and the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

CAMERA
Our priorities
  • We knew that we would be moving around a lot (15 flights, 12 airports, rarely more than one night in any location) so ease of moving through airports and lightness of gear was important
  • Camera with which we were both comfortable and familiar
  • Movie capability
  • Full featured camera for all situations
  • Capability to use external flash
Our options

Of course we could have bought a new camera, but took a careful look at what we already had first and were able to make a good choice.

Option #1 – Canon 30D SLR with multiple lenses

Advantages:

  • Great quality images
  • Extensive flexibility because of lenses

Disadvantages:

  • Big, heavy, bulky
  • Requires another bag to track through airport security
  • No video – would need to take our video camera too
  • Very conspicuous

Option #2 – Canon G12 Point and Shoot

Advantages:

  • Small, could carry in my purse or husband’s fanny pack
  • Lightweight
  • Full manual features
  • Hot shoe for big flash
  • Video
  • HDR in camera processing
  • ‘Flip’ screen that enables overhead, down low and self shooting
  • Less conspicuous shooting

Disadvantages:

  • Limited flexibility in lens distance
  • Lower quality images than SLR (but still great)
  • No zoom on the video
Final choice

Based on this analysis, it was really a no brainer to take the G12. Afterwards, I can say that, yes, there were a few times that I wished I had my big gun, but hey, we weren’t shooting magazine covers here, and the many advantages certainly played out as outlined.

A few accessories that we added were a little lens adapter extender that enabled us to use a polarizer filter, a small tripod (especially handy for shots of ourselves and when shooting HDR). We also took our big Canon Speedlite 580EX II flash, but in fact, ended up not carrying it around every day, and essentially not using it. In retrospect, we probably should have.

Here are some links for more details about the G12 from Amazon if you are interested:

Camera only:

Canon G12 10MP Digital Camera with 5x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.8 inch Vari-Angle LCD

Camera package:

Canon G12 10MP Digital Camera w/ 5x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom & 2.8 inch Vari-Angle LCD W HD Video Super Bundle With 16GB Secure Digital High-Capacity Memory Card, DigPro Deluxe Case, Hi-Speed SD USB 2.0 Card Reader, BP-7L 1150mah Battery Pack & More

Canon G12 Accessories

Canon G12 Accessories

COMPUTER

This was a tough one too. I already had a nice 15 inch laptop fully loaded, but in the end, the choice was clear.

Our priorities
  • Ability to save images to two places (my Golden Rule for image sanity), in our case, the laptop and thumb drives
  • Small, lightweight
  • Internet accessibility
  • Camera for Skype
  • Big enough processor and memory for processing images using Lightroom preferably
Our options

Option #1 – 15″ HP Laptop

Advantages:

  • Fully loaded with memory, software, top processor
  • Large screen for image processing

Disadvantages:

  • Large, heavy
  • Main computer, danger of loss, damage

Option #2 – Acer Aspire One Netbook

Advantages:

  • Small – fits in hotel room safe – this was HUGE for us!
  • Lightweight
  • Internet accessible, camera for Skype

Disadvantages:

  • Small screen
  • One GB of RAM memory
  • Low power processor
  • Need to load all programs, tweaks
Final choice

The little Acer netbook worked great – I did upgrade the memory to 2GB which helped a lot when running Lightroom. I didn’t do much image editing, but was able to cull out the bad ones, do some cropping/straightening, add keywords, backup our images onto thumb drives, and organize them into catalogs with no problem – a huge help on return home with 3000+ images and videos.

Here’s more info about the Acer Aspire if you are interested

Acer Aspire

One last note – a lot of people ask me why I’m not a Mac person, being a photographer and all… Indeed I know many Mac addicts, and know that there are great choices on that platform that would also work for regular use and travel. For me personally, I’ve just used PC’s so long, have all the PC software, train on PC’s so need to use them, and frankly have a heck of a time trying to do things on Macs that are simple for me on a PC (like finding my image files!). Plus I hate paying so much extra for them when I can do everything I want on a PC, have no problems with them that I don’t hear Mac people likewise having (hard drive failures etc). So, a PC with good anti-virus is likely how I’ll be for a long time.

PHONE

So hard to imagine being without a phone after having one in hand practically 24/7.

Our priorities
  • Ability to make emergency calls and calls to our local contacts (tour guides, my son, our friend)
  • International call ability
  • Low cost
Our options

Option #1 – use our existing phones

We use Verizon as our local phone provider. I have a Droid with all the bells and whistles (not surprising eh?) and my husband has a simple flip phone.

Advantages:

  • Already have the equipment
  • Familiar with phone use
  • Internet access on the Droid

Disadvantages:

  • Cost!
  • Concern about losing main phone

Option #2 – Buy a simple phone and use locally purchased SIMM cards

Advantages:

  • Cheap!
  • Worked locally

Disadvantages:

  • Time limit on card (need to figure out how to track)
  • Getting the right card could be confusing
Final choice

We picked up a small basic phone for $30 in Bangkok, along with a SIMM card for 100 minutes which was plenty. This card worked only in Thailand – when we went to Viet Nam, we got another SIMM card (very easy to buy at the ubiquitous 7-11 stores or other convenience store) for another 100 minutes that would work only in Viet Nam (about $2.50 USD). Then when we went back to Thailand, we just switched back to the first card. This does change your phone number to switch cards, but that wasn’t really a problem as most of our calls were outgoing and if someone needed our number, we just made sure to give them both numbers.

Conclusion

All of these choices are very personal decisions, and likely yours will be different from ours. Bottom line, use the procedure we did – outlining the priorities, options, disadvantages and advantages – and you’ll come up with what will work best for you!

Have a great trip!

A few shots from our trip

More tips about traveling with a digital camera