DSLr vs point-and-shoot

Travel Forums Travel Photography DSLr vs point-and-shoot

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1. Posted by pdx.traveler (Inactive 2 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

I've always just carried a point and shoot camera along while traveling because I like that it's lightweight and small. Now I'm becoming more interested in expanding my photo options - bracketing for HDR, night shots with stars, raw format, etc. - that aren't really possible on point and shoots. To those of you that have traveled around with a DSLr, do you find it bulky? Do you use a point and shoot for day to day photos and pull out the DSLr for special photos? Basically, traveling day to day do you find it cumbersome to carry the DSLr along or your happy you have it?

2. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1070 posts) 51w 1 Star this if you like it!

I took 16,927 photos and videos (totaling more than 170 gigabytes) with a pocket camera (a Panasonic Lumix ZS60) on a recent seven-week trip to Nepal and India. Check out my photos on Travellerspoint and you'll see that the photos are quite OK.

I usually take two pocket cameras on trips (one as a backup). I seldom bring my larger cameras for a variety of reasons. Weight is one. But the more important factor is that a pocket camera with a decent zoom (the ZS60 goes from 24mm to 720mm) allows you to get candid shots of people, often without their noticing. A big camera with a large lens is very noticeable, particularly if it's pointed at you. i once was chased by several men in China after they saw me photographing them having their hair cut in a rural market. I carried a big camera then; and decided that using a smaller one in that situation would have been wiser.

Panasonic now offers a pocket camera with a larger sensor -- the ZS100 -- that performs better in low-light conditions.

You don't want to carry a DSLR or two or three and then also carry a bag with several lens. In 2013, I traveled to Uganda to see mountain gorillas. The rangers don't allow visitors to carry bags as they approach the gorillas (you're supposed to leave the bags behind with porters as you get closer). But one man insisted that he carry his camera bag with mulitple lens up the mountainside. After his loud protestations, the head ranger finally assented. But when we got near the gorillas (each of us rotated in dense vegetation to get a good view) the rangers provided him with no assistance. Weighed down by his bag and his attitude, he saw no gorillas.

I'll bring a larger Panasonic Lumix FZ300 (water and dust resistant) on an upcoming trip to Antarctica. But I'll use my ZS60 while hiking in Patagonia beforehand.

Where have I traveled with a pocket camera? This year to the eastern Caribbean, Italy, Austria, Poland, Ukraine, the U.K., France, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Russia (including the Kamchatka peninsula hiking on active volcanoes and photographing bears), Nepal (Lower and Upper Mustang) and India (tribal areas of Odisha and Chhattisgarh states). Last year, I used it in West and Central Africa among other places.

P.S. The ZS60 has been discontinued. It's superseded by the ZS70 and the ZS100 (overseas models begin with TZ). But it's still available at some U.S. retailers, such as Costco, which currently sells it for US$280. I use my Pixel 2 mobile phone to take photos, too.

[ Edit: Edited on 21-Dec-2017, at 20:17 by berner256 ]

3. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5295 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

I first set out travelling - for what ended up a trip of more than 2 years - in 2003, with just a point 'n shoot. I took hundreds of photos each day, and every evening sorted through them, editing the best, and constantly reviewing what worked and what didn't, to end up discovering after a couple of months that I'd gotten pretty good at this whole photography thing, and that I was constantly running into the limits of what my camera was capable of. Researching DSLRs back then (which basically had two consumer models at that time), I ended up buying a Nikon D70 some 9 months into that trip. I put it into a triangular top loader with just a single general purpose lens. When I wanted access to the camera, this bag was carried separately. When not, it fit easily into my daypack.

I haven't looked back since, except that I upgraded the camera twice over the intervening years. I still always and forever travel with a DSLR. Yes, it's heavy and bulky, but both the image quality (which I have also compared to modern point 'n shoots), the versatility, and above all the focus speed and direct access to essential controls, mean that for me it's a tradeoff which is more than worth it. I don't want to imagine how many amazing split second shots I would've missed with a point 'n shoot. Picking a versatile yet small set of lenses to go travelling with is always a challenge; but at least it's a challenge you have, where with a point 'n shoot you're stuck with the limitations of the fixed lens. And of course you can pick your lenses based on what you'll expect to see / focus on during a trip. Worst case you can always just put on a super zoom to cover a more useful range than most compacts (due to starting at a wider angle). and still have significantly better image quality (even if not everything the camera is capable of).

There absolutely are situations in which a point 'n shoot offers an advantage, and berner's street photography example above is one. But for landscapes, wildlife and architecture, for me at least the advantage firmly goes to a DSLR, and that so much that I've never been tempted to also bring a compact to the side.

4. Posted by aussirose (Respected Member 252 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

I'm a DSLR convert. I have always loved taking photos and thought I'd never convert but when hubby bought one and took fantastic photos on our Europe trip in 2011.... I just had to get one. So now I have a light weight Canon 60D and have never looked back. Check out my blog here of favourite photos from 2013 on.
I have joined an Australian photography site and have enjoyed numerous tips on how to better my photos and have not looked back since. Travel and photography go hand in hand.
It's exhilarating to see what's around every corner and even better trying to capture that amazing shot!
Love it :)

5. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 837 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

I have been taking photos since I was 10 and my parents gave me a Brownie camera (in 1948). My dad gave me a 35 mm film camera for my 20th birthday. It was a great camera with a really good lens. Then I got a job where I was given 35 mm point and shoot film cameras for work. They had a flash which my original film camera did not have and I thought they were great. But the photos were not as good as my own camera.

I didn't convert to digital until after 2000. The photos were so much better with that first digital camera - they were almost the equal of my original 35 mm film camera. I gradually upgraded my digital cameras. But I found that using screen on the digital cameras was much more difficult than using a view finder. It is harder to hold the camera steady, and the screen tended to wash out in the sun. So when the camera I was using started to get cranky, I wanted a camera with a viewfinder. And the P&S cameras do not have view finders. So I got a Canon. It is a great camera, but it is bulky and heavy. I also have an iPhone. It takes good photos, but it does not zoom very well. It is good for food in restaurants, or street scenes if I don't want people to know I'm taking photos. But if I want to take photos of birds in the trees in Costa Rica, or pictures of the shore from a ship, the point and shoot camera does not do it for me. I have to use the Canon with a 300 mm lens to do that.

6. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 2125 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

Size could matter! If you travel as a backpacker staying in cheap hostel rooms or shared dorms a big bulky camera is harder to store safely. A smaller camera is easier to conceal when out in about too.

But if you have the budget to choose better places to stay at, places with safes or safety boxes, maybe with some other security assets you do have a little more protection for your gear. Out wandering around with bulky expensive gear you will have to be wary who is near you.

In another life when I was a quite a bit younger my work involved photography, even as combat photographer for a few years. Big bag of lenses, spare film, exposed film and extra camera sometimes a strobe for inside work. Usually Nikons or Leicas depending on situation. (Leicas were quieter for some situations where stealth was necessary.) Later on for a few years for leisure travel I had my Nikons and a few lenses with me. Then I discovered compact digital cameras and that was it for 35mm film! Back at home I wouldn't have a problem with a larger digital camera and accessories but traveling internationally for leisure I will stick with something smaller and easier to travel with and conceal if necessary.

Do what you are comfortable with.

7. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 837 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

I am not a back packer, and I am not staying in hostels, nor am I traveling in Asia. I use a mobility scooter to get around, and I am restricted in my ability to get my body to a good place to take a photo. I have to use the extra lenses to get what photos I can without tromping through fields or vaulting fences or climbing stairs. It is perfectly obvious to anyone looking at me that I'm a tourist. I don't wear jewelry or expensive clothes. I don't carry a lot of money. If my camera gets stolen, well it's just a camera. I can buy another one (or use my husband's). I think it is worth it to be able to get the pictures that I can get, and I will risk the camera to do that. The only problem with using the bigger heavier camera is that I have arthritis in my neck (and most of my joints) and the camera hurts my neck.

8. Posted by Teoni (Respected Member 613 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

I think it also comes down to what you want the pictures for. If you just want to upload photos to the internet to the casual viewer they are unlikely to see any difference in quality between a point and shoot or DSLR. Fact is everytime you upload a photo you lose a lot of the quality. If you want to blow up pictures and print them as posters than the DSLR is best, though in saying that I have seen some amazing blown up photos taken on mobile phone cameras It has to be said that editing technology has come a long way and can fill a lot of the gaps between point and shoots and DSLRs. I suppose if specialised photography like "night shots with stars", animal or fast moving scenes is somethig you are going to be doing a lot off than the investment would be worth it but I think when it comes to just general scenic shots the P&S is probably enough

On a side note is there anyone who has ever used a Mirrorless Compact System Camera? I hear a lot about these and they are suppose to be as good as a DSLR but with the added benefit of being smaller and lighter, but I haven't met a traveller who uses or has used one:( Just wondering if they are really any good for travelling photography:)

[ Edit: Edited on 22-Dec-2017, at 17:22 by Teoni ]

9. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 837 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

One of the things I like about my Canon is the speed with which it turns on and focuses (I don't shoot raw) My husband drives and he does not slow down for me to take photos. The older cameras were too slow for me to do that easily. My grandchildren and my children do use the smaller lighter cameras. My grandson tripped and fell with his camera in his pocket. It smashed the screen. The camera still worked, but you couldn't see what you took a photo of until you downloaded it to the computer.

10. Posted by ToonSarah (Travel Guru 758 posts) 50w Star this if you like it!

I swear by my bridge camera, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. It's far better imho than a point and shoot - full manual mode when I need it, excellent range of semi-automatic settings when I don't, and a really good Leica lens. I used to have an SLR in the pre-digital days and while I liked the quality and flexibility it gave me, these days I am glad not to have to carry and change lenses. All the photos in my blog of recent travels were taken on the Panasonic (apart from a few food ones that were probably on the iPhone). The quality is good enough for me to be able to sell some through an online agency and I very rarely lose a shot through having to fiddle with camera settings. The zoom is good enough for quite distant wildlife photos too - the whales in this blog entry were shot on it, at a distance of several hundred yards and from a small boat in choppy waters. I can also achieve the depth of field and other effects I want relatively easily, which is hard with a point and shoot. I completely agree with Grandma about the need for a viewfinder (my husband uses a more compact and lighter camera but without a viewfinder, which I've found a challenge on the couple of occasions I've tried it out) and I use that 95% of the time, but my Lumix also has the bonus of a screen that can be swiveled in various ways which makes candid photography easier - I can 'shoot from the hip' for instance!

Despite all the above I can assure you I don't have shares in Panasonic - I just love my camera