Episode 4: Photo Equipment Basics

Welcome back to the Adventure Ready blog!

Now that we’ve covered the basics of camping, and shed some light on overlanding, we thought it was a good time to introduce some information on photography equipment basics. As you travel, be it around the world or through your local state park, documenting your adventures can be as huge of an undertaking as the trip itself. Whether you photos are primarily for your own memories, or also plays a role in your social media presence, having the skills and equipment to take beautiful pictures can make those moments you experience last a lifetime.

“The best camera is the one that’s with you.”

This famous quote came from photographer Chase Jarvis is as poignant now as ever. Nearly everyone on the planet who owns a cell phone or tablet device has a built-in camera available to them, but these cameras might not be the best, and might not produce the quality of image you’re hoping for. As you plan to take photographs of your travels and adventures, it’s important to have a good understanding of what technology and gear is available to you, and what benefits each bring to the table.

DSLR cameras are the digital version of the well-known SLR (single lens reflex) cameras. When you picture a news photographer or studio photographer, you most likely picture a large DSLR camera with a big lens attached to the front of it. When a photo is taken, a large mirror flips up, exposing the sensor to light through the lens, imprinting the image the sensor, and thus creating the image. The most common DSLR manufacturers are Canon, Nikon, and Sony, with setups available at a multitude of price points from a few hundred dollars into many thousands of dollars depending on your needs and their features. DSLRs are known for some of the highest quality image capabilities in the world, as well as the most adaptability for accessories and interchangeable pieces.

*Personal note: Having grown up with Canon SLR cameras, I evolved into shooting with their DSLR setups in around 2005 and have never looked elsewhere for reliable technology to capture images with brilliant quality.

Mirrorless cameras are newer to the market and have received much acclaim from the photography industry as a whole. In contrast to the SLR options, a mirrorless camera simply doesn’t have a mirror, instead the imaging sensor is exposed to light at all times. Technically a point and shoot camera is a mirrorless design, but the name came about once mirrorless camera bodies started facilitating detachable lenses, allowing for a variety of wide angle and telephoto zoom lenses to be interchanged. These cameras are much smaller in size, namely due to the lack of mirror box taking up space, which might be a huge benefit for those looking to throw a camera in a backpack or have it fit in smaller spaces where a DSLR might not. They typically are not as expensive as high-end DSLR setups, however also manage to pack in an immense amount of image quality with certain models.

Mobile Phone/Tablet cameras won’t be contenders for the best images out there for some time, but their quick availability due to almost always being nearby certainly makes them absolutely worthy of a mention. iPhone, Android, and Google phones, along with many other manufacturers, can create some pretty great images with the press of a button, and have the added benefit of easily sharing captured photos on social channels as soon as they’re taken. Front facing (selfie) cameras are often lower resolution than rear-facing cameras, so keep that in mind if you’re using your phone to capture a moment. The benefit here is that you likely already own this camera in one version or another, making it a cost effective option. With more and more advancement in phone technology, the on-board cameras will likely someday step their game up to be real contenders for the best image quality for the majority of people.

Drone & Stabilizer cameras have come to be wildly popular over the last few years, namely with the introduction of Mavic and their series of drones and handheld cameras. While the sensor sizes in these cameras are not stellar for still photography, their ability to capture stabilized (aka super smooth regardless of operator motion) 4K video while also capturing photos makes them worthy of a mention in this list of cameras. Plus, the ability to put the DJI Mavic Pro 400 feet in the air allows everyday users access to photo viewpoints that previously would have required a very expensive helicopter and pilot! The cost of stabilized cameras starts around $300, and the best prosumer drones can go upwards of a few thousand dollars.

Point & Shoot cameras are widely popular with consumers and readily available at stores like Target and Wal-Mart if you need one on the go. They typically have decent megapixel sensors (the hardware that determines how good image quality is) and built-in zoom lenses, though usually struggle in their quality, capabilities in the dark, and limited technical controls for those who prefer a hands-on approach to their shooting. These are usually the cheapest option, in the low hundreds of dollars range. 

Image Overview of Cameras

So there’s an overview of the most readily accessible and better known kinds of cameras. Most are available at local electronics retailers, bulk-buy warehouses, and even Wal-Marts and Targets; for more advanced options, check out the likes of B&H Photo and Amazon. Your phone may very well be the best camera in your arsenal if it’s the one you’ve already got; that said, if your hope is to document your adventures for years to come in the highest possible quality, or to perhaps learn the intricacies and nuances of photography by taking full control and operating the camera in manual mode, it might be worth your time to look into a good mirrorless or DSLR setup to get the most out of every image. We’ll be back soon to spend more time covering the ins and outs of what gear is necessary for a capable camera bag, but hopefully for now this gives you an idea of what’s what with the backbone intricate world of modern day photography.

We'll see you down the trail! 

         - Torro Offroad


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