Taking a DSLR, the usual paranoia from a first timer...

Travel Forums Travel Photography Taking a DSLR, the usual paranoia from a first timer...

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1. Posted by DulSaSeans (Budding Member 21 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Hi all,

I realise this question has been asked a million times so I'd like to apologies in advance for repeating.

I'm a really keen amateur photography and I've had my DSLR for about 36 months.

When I first decided to head off travelling the first thing I knew I couldn't leave behind was my SLR.

Now, after reading numerous forums and blogs, I'm in the 50/50 camp. I'm travelling alone and my rough trip is E. Europe, India, Nepal, S.E Asia and then on to NZ/Oz over a 6 month period.

I've a couple of pretty specific questions to help me decide if I should take it. My main concern is security/unwanted attention so I'd like to hear from people who have taken a DSLR while travelling alone and how you faired out.

- If you have taken a DSLR before, have you ever regretted it? Why?

- If you were leaving a hostel for a day/going out for a night and didn't want to bring a DSLR with you, do most places have a safe place that you can leave it? (This obviously shows my fear of the unknown :) )

- If you were travelling alone, have you felt over paranoid about taking your camera out?

I'm really not too concerned about the extra weight as everything else will make room for it! (the tripod will definitely be left behind),

I just don't want to take it with me only to feel uncomfortable to use it when I'm travelling alone.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!


2. Posted by nomadSteve (Budding Member 13 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Hi there.

I'm currently in the middle of a long trip through Asia (in India at he moment) with a dSLR.

I am still in the 50/50 camp. Whilst I love the photos it takes, there are a few issues with bringing it along. The main lens i brought travelling is now playing up (and also full of sand from a desert trip...) so I am now wondering new lens or higher end compact?

To answer your specific questions.

Yes I have regretted it on occasion. For numerous reasons. The extra bulk and having to bring a bag with you. A small compact camera you can stash in a pocket most of the time. Obviously, this aint gonna work for your SLR. This can slow you down (extra security in some places) cause trouble in crowds, and provide an extra target for pickpockets. Twice now I have caught people trying to open my bag whilst it's on my back. Also it gives you something else to think about, always wondering if your bag is safe etc. It also adds size and weight to a daypack (or an extra camera bag, not really recommended as it makes you a target), which can be slightly annoying on overnight trains and buses. Also if you are having a night out with friends etc, you tend not to take your DSLR and miss some social type shots.

A lot of places to provide safes etc to store valuables, though truth be told I haven't used them in a lot of places. I try not to get too attached to anything I'm travelling with (even my DSLR!). In India and Nepal at least most cheap guest houses have pretty basic locks (just a metal bar and padlock) which can be pretty foolproof with a good padlock. Most travelers here have their own padlocks, which makes rooms actually pretty secure.

At times, especially earlier in the trip, I was paranoid about getting my camera out, and missed quite a few shots. For both security and cultural reasons. It's certainly a lot more intrusive to people to swing a large DSLR towards them compared to a compact. Also it's more effort to pull an SLR from a bag compared to a compact from a pocket.

Not quite security related, but if you have an SLR or large camera bag slung around your neck, to the locals it makes you look rich. Particularly around markets and the like (which can be great to photograph) you can be charged a LOT more for things, and makes haggling harder.

I don't mean to dissuade you from taking it, just consider your need and what you want out of your trip and your photos. As I said, I love the photos, just not entirely sure if it suits my way of travelling. The rest of my stuff is light and small, and the DSLR adds a surprising amount of bulk to a daypack. Some of the higher end compacts can take some damn good photos now as well and are worth considering.

As I said, I'm still not sure myself. New lens or compact?

3. Posted by DulSaSeans (Budding Member 21 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Hi Steve,

Thanks a million for taking the time to post the reply.

You've hit on all the issues that I was worried about and it's still a pretty tough choice. You are completely right when you say that I should think about what I want from the trip. If the top priority was photography then it would be such an easy decision but that isn't really the case. Like you, I'm not entirely sure that it will suit my way of travelling.

Ideally I would travel as light as possible and really want to keep my plan loose. The last thing I want is for the camera to impede on some of the freedom that I want to enjoy or to restrict me in anyway.

All your points have been taken on board and again I appreciate the response. I'd love to hear what you decide to do.

I hadn't even thought about dust/sand etc and the maintenance of lenses. That's another issue to throw into the mix.

The current batch of 'high end' compact cameras really are superb. Recently I had the chance to compare similar holiday snaps between a 450D and an LX3 and I was taken aback by the lovely colours and sharpness of the LX3. In low light this changes as the larger sensor works much better, but it does seem for a high percentage of the shots this would do the job nicely.

Ah, tough call . . .

4. Posted by flyingbob (Inactive 842 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Compact - v - DSLR is a debate thats been going on for several years now.
I really like my DSLR, but just like a laptop - its just so much lagging around.
For me, before the age of DSLR and the only way was an SLR or Hasselblad / Bronica etc., a compact (Olympus Trip etc.) wasn't ever an option, so I thought nothing of it. Then along came digital and the birth of the compact digital camera. Oh joy. It started off as a bit of a joke with 1.2 mpix efforts that really didnt have much hope. All of a sudden, there were 5 mpix compacts that were just incredible. Now its common place to have 10 mpix compacts that are just so good and fit in your top pocket.
If you want 4 frames per second and little more, then it still has to be a DSLR, but the latest compacts are so close with their picture quality to DSLR's that unless you have the eyes of a hawk and are endlessly particular with the quality to to the finest detail, then there's too little in it for me. I'm slowly switching over to compact completely, for my trips abroad.

5. Posted by DulSaSeans (Budding Member 21 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Thanks Flyingbob,

Wow, a modern dlsr pales in comparison to what must have been required to haul a Bronica around.

when you asked about fps that was needed it got me thinking about the photos I have previously taken while on shorter trips. I just went through about 40 random photos from my previous travels to see what shots would be tough to take with a compact.

The only ones I found were long exposure shots at night (worried about noise in compacts here), portraits with nice out of focus backgrounds and finally all the shots that were taken with the beloved 10 stop ND filter. All the other 'creative' type shots were usually taken when going out with photography being the sole purpose which won't really apply here - I definitely do not want to spend all my time looking at the world through a viewfinder.

Anyway, out of all the shots these accounted for very few, but at the same time were some of my favourites so it's still pretty close to call, although maybe leaning towards the lighter option.

Thank you both again for the replies, it really has got me thinking from a few different angles and I am leaning more now towards bringing a nicely specced compact. The G11 looks great but is still a little bulky and seems to defeat the purpose of a small camera a little bit (i.e. It's not going to fit too comfortably in your pocket). Currently the LX3 really looks like a camera with enough manual controls to keep the keen amateurs happy. It also has a nice and fast F2.0 lens which is a bonus for low light. . .


6. Posted by Q' (Travel Guru 1987 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

I'm in the "good compact" camp as well. Once you understand the gear and know what it can and can not do, you don't miss much from a DSLR. You'll find ways around the limitations. While the larger sensors and processors on DSLRs give you higher quality images, I like the flexible features, like swivel LCD view finders and built in wide angle to super tele zooms, that the newer compacts offer. Flexible features offer more creatively in my mind. Also, a smaller camera tends to put other people more at ease leading to more natural pictures of them and generally just less trouble.

I'll lug my DSLR gear around when I'm travelling by car or have a home base where I'm going. In that case, generally, I already have a plan of what subject I'm after and bring the appropriate thing. But for exploring a new locale, I'm a big fan of a nice compact camera.

7. Posted by genevie (Inactive 6 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

i too am an amateur photographer or a hobbyist in simple terms when traveling alone, i really like to travel light because i know i'll bring back something from the trip to make room for it. as you said, photography is not the main purpose for your travel, then why not settle with a digicam, there are lots of digicam such as Sony's T series that takes shots with an image quality of an SLR. lightweight and you can bring it anywhere. And you are also right about the LX3, i have seen it and boy! it was a pretty sight, it is a compact slr with almost the same specs as a dslr. if you are going to travel for that long then i suggest pack light, as i have said for sure you will be buying something from those places. enjoy! i envy you, having all the time and resources to travel that long. :)

[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]

8. Posted by fabyomama (Respected Member 560 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Considering the prices and small sizes now, what about a movie camera?

edit: could also be used as personal note-taker for travel journals/messages home...

[ Edit: Edited on 25-Jun-2010, at 01:01 by fabyomama ]

Post 9 was removed by a moderator
10. Posted by nomadSteve (Budding Member 13 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

The quality of compacts is now pretty competitive and the LX3 is a very nice camera. Great control, good lens, and the right size. Also with an SLR it depends on what lens (or lenses) you are planning to take. I am using an 18-200 which adds to the size/weight problem. If you are planning on a kit 18-55 lens you are not really gaining much on something like the LX3, similar zoom range and actually a much better apperture on the LX3. Still quite limited though.

I've always liked the panasonic "travel zooms." And the addition of manual options (allbeit a bit fiddlier than in the lx3 or an SLR) makes them a really good option. Now the other companies have good options as well. High zoom range makes them ideal for travelling. Definitely recommend something with a wider angle for landscapes and indoor shots (at least 28, 24 is around now).

The maintenance and protection of lenses hasn't really been an issue for me. The desert trip was pretty extreme conditions (sandstorm basically) with sand getting EVERYWHERE. Two of the other 3 people on the trip came back with stuck lenses on their compacts from the sand. A quick repair job and it's usable (though their is a quantity of sand in the lens) and not necessary to replace just yet. I shall wait until SE Asia where there are more options.