To say photography has changed over the last 20 years would be an understatement of epic proportions. The development of digital media effectively killed off film and, in the process, opened up a whole new level of flexibility. Today we take photos where ever and when ever we like, not worrying about how many shots we have left on the film. And we don't take photos to show our friends on a slide night. We can share them instantly with our friends and, indeed, will the whole world if we want, thanks to social media. So when you're travelling the country in your caravan or camper, the choice of camera or cameras you take may be a difficult one to make. Here we will look at what's available and look at the differences in the end results.
Digital SLR Camera.
Anyone old enough to remember what it was like to take photos with film will know that you could not have been considered serious about your photography unless you had an SLR camera. The ability to accurately control exposure combined with interchangeable lenses gave fabulous photos even by a moderately competent photographer. As technology developed and computers were incorporated into the camera body, perfectly exposed pictures were almost guaranteed. The real skill was in obtaining the correct framing and composure of the picture.
The advent of the Digital SLR camera was a natural progression for those of us who were used to film cameras. We could still use our expensive lenses with a new digital body and it's this ability to interchange lenses as well as the ability to manually control the exposure that gives these cameras their advantage in the field. The downside is the need to carry the camera and its lenses and often it is necessary to have a camera bag of some description. For the younger generation, this may seem like a step back to the dark ages.
Today's digital SLR cameras are extremely advanced and offer a dazzling array of features and picture modes that can turn anyone into a professional photographer. Lense technology has also advanced with zoom lenses, auto focus and image stabilisation all common features. In fact, it's possible to get a single zoom lense that can cover 90% of photo opportunities, from ultra wide angle for panoramas to telephoto for close up wildlife photos. They are still bulkier than other camera options, but the flexibility they offer a good photographer is unmatched.
Mobile Phone Cameras:
Who doesn't carry a mobile phone with them these days? We do even if we don't have mobile network coverage. Why...? One very good reason. They all have cameras on them and thanks to the wizardry of the software that runs on them, they take really good photos. The latest Android and iOS operating systems pushes these tiny cameras to the limit with effective digital zoom as well as really impressive panorama modes. Using the later, it is possible to take a full 360 degree photo and share it on Facebook in such a way as the viewer can pan the image as if they were there with you. It's an incredible use of technology.
If that wasn't good enough, the standard editing software can turn an ordinary photo into something really special and it all happens on the device. There's no need to download to a PC and process the shots using an expensive software package. It's like having a professional photography studio ready to go into action when ever you need it and it all fits into your pocket. For an old fart like me, this is incredible technology. For the younger ones, it's nothing special. They demand more and today, it is possible to take you photography one giant leap further.
Drone Mounted Cameras:
Years ago, when I got my first ultra portable digital camera, I wondered if it would be possible to mount it on a kite and take aerial photos. I never quite got around to trying. Then remote control drones started to appear on the market and they were powerful enough to carry small digital movie cameras like GoPro cameras and the like. Then they started to appear with their own inbuilt cameras and this, combined with considerable price drops, made aerial photography accessible to the ordinary photographer. And now that they can be controlled by your smartphone, they are very easy to use. What's more, you can now download your videos and pictures from your drone to your smartphone and share the results instantly on social media. It's the ultimate level of advanced photography for the average traveller.
Making the Choice:
Looking at the differences at a very basic level, I've taken three shots from the same point at about the same time for all three cameras I have. This gives an idea of what each looks like without any processing or other fancy stuff.
First is my iPhone 6 Plus in normal mode.
Next is my Canon 400D with Tamtron wide angle zoom lens set to full automatic exposure.
And last, still frames captured from the drone's video feed.
The idea here is not to look at the three frames as a stitched together panorama. Instead, look at each frame individually. Now I'll admit this is far from a thorough test but is does show how much more impact and drama can be instantly available in photos taken with SLRs and drones.
Now look at the image below of the same scene taken on the iPhone in panorama mode. Really makes you think doesn't it?
The first choice is probably the easiest as we all have made it already. We all carry at least one smartphone and we all use it for taking quick photos on the go. In fact, for many travellers, the smartphone may be the only camera they carry. On our trip to the US and Canada, Kylie chose to leave her SLR camera at home and she didn't regret doing so. For me, I really like taking landscape photos and the panorama mode on the smartphone produces simply stunning images with ridiculous ease.
Digital SLRs are great but their bulk is a disadvantage especially if you're on the move. I would find it very difficult to leave my SLR camera at home for any trip as I really enjoy photography. One thing I do is to have a camera bag large enough to be used to carry other items like a bottle of water, my keys and wallet and other items that us blokes carry in our pockets. I guess you could call it the ultimate manbag...! As good as mobile phone cameras are, there will always be a situation where the only camera that can do the job is an SLR. Long time exposures, extreme telephoto for wildlife, depth of field shots, these are just a handful of situations that demand an SLR camera.
Taking a drone on your travels is definitely more a decision for the dedicated or committed photographer. You would need to be doing more than just wanting to take unusual photos from heights. They are not necessarily something you throw into a backpack and fly around anywhere. As any amateur drone owner will tell you, trees are the natural enemy of the drone and they are literally everywhere. But the technology is developing rapidly and drones are becoming smaller and very intelligent. Some can follow you around and take video footage as you move. Others can be preprogrammed with a flight path using digital maps and GPS to avoid obstacles and take that shot exactly the way you want it. In five years time, drones could be a popular as digital SLR cameras.