I am in a similar positon that I am going on an 18 month trrip.. the thing is that I have never used a SLR so I really don't want to buy an expensive camera I have no idea how to use but at the same time I want to make sure I can capture great photos to remember my trip by.
At the moment I have an IXUS 55 which is (as far as I can gather ) a simple point and shoot camera?? I really really want to get a better camera for those important shots but what do I get if I just don't feel confident with a proper DSLR?? At the same time I really really don't want to spend £££ on a camera I will not get full use out of.....
My two cents.
It depends partly on how much you know about cameras and partly on what you intend the photos for. If you think you are artsy or commercially skilled enough that you can sell your pictures, then you'll need to go DSLR. If you want to take good pictures as a keep sake and to impress your friends back home, then stick with a good quality digital point and shoot.
The DSLR will be a pain in the ass to drag around, pull out, set up, and its a major investment and one more thing to worry about being nicked while your off for a swim. The majority of your photos will probably be of the "oh look get my picture in front of the funny looking man", or "look monkeys!" or "oww another sun set". click and move on.
the thing is that I have never used a SLR so I really don't want to buy an expensive camera I have no idea how to use but at the same time I want to make sure I can capture great photos to remember my trip by.
I guess it's time to trot out the age-old maxim again here: cameras don't take great photos; photographers take great photos.
No camera will by itself allow you to take the kind of shots that you'll love for a lifetime. Any camera will take the kind of shots that will record memories you'll love for a lifetime. But to have these be great shots as well as great memories, you'll need to put in time and effort. Photography is a skill like any other, and can be learned. Moreover, 80% of the required skilled can be learned in 20% of the time. All it takes is you actually wanting to take the effort. Go out. Experiment. Push your camera to its limits, whether this is a point 'n shoot or a DSLR. Do this right at home, observe the results of your experiments, and go out again to improve upon them. Keep doing this until you start to figure out that either 1) "nah, this isn't for me, I'll stick to snapshots and memories" or 2) "yeah, I can start seeing how I can influence the results I get; given 18 months to really learn the ins and outs of the camera, it'll totally be worth getting the best camera I can afford so that I can get the highest quality possible for the photos I take".
I never really considered these things before I set off on my own 2+ year trip. I wasn't into photography at all, and so had just a basic point 'n shoot (though luckily one which had a manual mode so I could really push it). After six months I'd taken so many photos and seen the results improve so much that I was constantly getting frustrated by hitting the technical limits of my point 'n shoot, and at nine months I spent half of what I'd earned while travelling on my first DSLR. Best decision ever. Nowadays I only wish I could've made it a year earlier, so that I wouldn't be quite so frustrated with the lack of quality in my early shots. (On the other hand, it's giving me the perfect excuse to go back and re-record all that I saw.)
And yes, a DSLR is a pain to have to take care of. It's bulky, and not something you slip out of your pocket whenever your friends are goofing around. But then, that's not the kind of experience where you really want to record the best possible photograph anyway. While travelling, you do have a lot of those experiences. Once in a lifetime sights... Personally, I consider those worth any- and all of the hassle my camera gives me.
Other people don't.
Only you can decide what you feel about it.
i would love to bring an SLR with me but i think, for me, its not worth the hassle. some of the best photos iv ever taken werent on my SLR but my ickle canon ixus and my Lomo LCA.
i agree that its the photographer not the camera that takes the photo, but a good lens can kick ass.