Two strange observations about travel photography

Started Dec 24, 2013 | Discussions thread
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krugman Contributing Member • Posts: 957
Two strange observations about travel photography

These are based on my own experience and I am wondering if other people have found these two to be true. Each of them I find a bit disturbing because I failed to anticipate them.

1. Camera companies, starting with Panasonic and followed by Canon and Sony and most of the others, have been pushing the idea of "travel zoom," by which they mean a small sensor camera that can zoom to 300 or 400 mm or even 600 mm. This enthusiasm by the manufacturers was duly echoed by the camera review sites.  No reviewer I know of questioned whether these long zooms were practical or needed for travel photography.  But I find that for a photographer of city environments like me, a zoom that long would rarely be used, just occasionally for details of a building. And the travel zooms have too small a sensor for safari work.

Therefore I prefer a camera with a larger sensor even though it has a shorter zoom, such as the Canon G1X, the Sony Nex 5N, or the Nex 6, or the Fuji Xe2, or the m4/3 cameras from Olympus and Panasonic.

What most people do in this situation is yearn for a longer zoom range, and compensate by cropping in post processing.

But with a sensor that is very large compared to a travel zoom, why not use digital zoom on those unusual occasions where a long zoom is needed? This uses only part of the sensor but often a greater area than is provided by the tiny sensors on travel zooms. My gallery shows an experiment using photographs of my bookcase, that finds the results from digital zoom to be as sharp as a post processing crop.

An advantage of digital zoom over post-processing cropping, is that one sees as one aims the camera to take the photo, what the final result will be.

I don't know if the Nex series, or the m4/3 cameras from Panasonic and Olympus permit digital zoom, but for travel it seems to me a good idea and it more or less obviates "travel zooms."

2. A second observation has occurred to me, also based on my own experiences in travel photography. I started out in digital photography with a Nikon 5000, and when it was stolen in the Paris Metro, I bought a Sony W1, which had 5 megapixels. Both were good cameras and took good photos in good outdoor light.

As I gained more experience in digital photography, the poor performance of the Sony W1 in low light, giving blurred images of moving subjects, and blur before IS became popular, was making me crazy. A Canon G12 helped a bit but still was bad in low light. My present camera, a Canon G1X is fine in low light.

However, as I look over my 14,000 digital images of travel in many places, I find that by far the best visually were taken with the simple Sony W1. Why? Because that is what I used in Venice, on my three visits, the latest being in 2010. A place like Venice, and to some extent Rome, Paris, Istanbul, is so beautiful that the characteristics of camera become rather unimportant. If the images aren't 100% sharp, they look like Impressionism, so they look fine, but generally they are pretty sharp in good outdoor light and also look fine. I speak here of photos taken in good light outdoors.

In some of these places, you can't miss, you can just close your eyes, point the camera anywhere, and get a good image. And for better images, one doesn't need a better camera (except for work in low light) one needs just to know where to point the camera.

My conclusion from this is that for me, lacking great artistic talent, in the subject matter rather than the camera, determines the quality of the image, in travel photography.

Your own experience on either topic may be very different and I would be glad if you would share it here.


Canon PowerShot G12 Fujifilm X-E2
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