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DSL, compact, or iPhone camera?

We are traveling to Europe for 17 days. It appears that our flights are with airlines that allow a carry on and a handbag/personal item for each person. If it was limited to the carry on, I'd be stuck with the choice between an iPhone or compact camera, but with the additional carry on it opens up the question of the DSL. I've narrowed it down to pros and cons:

Pros: will have regardless, fairly good outdoor photos
Cons: limited storage, terrible indoor photos, not great for enlargements

Pros: very small, shoots in raw, extra storage with Sandisk cards, GPS
Cons: it's a pain to use in raw mode, lower quality that DSL, shorter battery life (I could get an extra), I am not used to it so it's harder for me to use

DSL (Canon 50D with probably 2 lenses - telephoto & 60mm macro)
Pros: excellent quality indoor and out, shoots in raw, quality zoom & macro, easier to use
Cons: big, heavy, cumbersome

I hate to take such an expensive trip and end up with so-so photos, but I'll be carrying around my Macbook Air 11" already (must have for business) and my back is hurting just thinking about carrying that and my DSL. Thoughts?

Posted by
5837 posts

Depends on your photography preferences and how important photography is in enjoying your trip. Are you an Ansel Adams type (big cameras and tripods) or a Cartier Bresson (35mm with one short lens) type of photographer?

Posted by
32 posts

Somewhere in between. I'm a total amateur but between the quality equipment of the DSL and a couple of good lenses along with Lightroom, I can turn out a quality photo. I know enough for crappy quality to bother me (which is why the iPhone is not probably going to cut it), but I won't have a half dozen lenses and a tripod. If I decide to take the DSL, I'm considering investing in a Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD and just taking that one lens. That's still a lot of weight to lug around, though.

Posted by
2261 posts

I'm tempted to say bring the DSLR since it sounds like you are very comfortable with it in comparison to the compact. Do you have time before travel to become more accustomed to the compact? It seems that the compact would shoot jpg format as well, are you referring to large file size as the "pain"? Is the compact more than 5 years old? It may be worth it to you to invest in a new compact as advances have been huge of late, as with most things.


Edit: Cross-posting...if you feel you need a 300mm lens, then by all means; I personally really like my 16-85, great range and not huge. I also will sometimes just run with DSLR and a single 35mm lens, along with compact and an iPhone.

Posted by
32 posts

The compact is probably 4-5 years old. I really ended up just not liking it much. It's not the file size that is the pain, it's the interface. it just never seemed intuitive to me so I never used it and got used to it, so it never seemed intuitive, and round and round. I think part of the problem is that I discovered that I really don't like not having a viewfinder and it doesn't.

I don't really know what to expect with what size lens I will need. I adore my 60mm macro 2.8 and keep it on all the time, only changing to my 55-250mm (4-5.6) when I need to. I really don't want to carry both, though - too heavy and bulky. And swapping out lenses will drive my family nuts as I'll be saying "hold on..." too often.

Posted by
2768 posts

Anything but an iPhone camera. Yes, somehow some people can work with them to make good pictures. I can't. If you can't (which, unless you have worked at it you probably can't) then you just will not get good puctures, especially in lower light situations like night or interiors of dark cathedrals. Your trip will almost certainly include a lot of indoor sights as well as beautiful evenings and nights. Plus all the other cons you mentioned.

I use a DSLR (entry level Nikon) and it is heavy. I have one lens attached while out and about - an 18-200. A bigger zoom would be nice but...weight and convenience. I also bring a 35mm fixed, f2 that I put on at night or if I'm going somewhere especially dark. Otherwise that stays in luggage during the day. It's frustrating to carry, but I find that my photos are my best souvenirs. I have some framed on my wall, and I go through my albums as a way to remember trips. So it is worth it to me.

But if the weight of the camera will affect your enjoyment, your smaller camera would be fine! Get an extra battery and practice a lot on it. Might be a good compromise.

If you have the budget, look into mirroless cameras. Compct system cameras. Whatever. If I had funds that's where I'd go - similar controls to the DSLR but much lighter. But I can't afford that.

Posted by
1194 posts

First off, I think your analysis of the pros and cons are biased/incorrect.

DSL has one major con: the risk of theft. You have to take care of the thing all.the.time. And what do you do when you go into a museum?

I also believe your analysis of the iPhone is incorrect, based on my own personal experience.
I recently traveled with just an iPhone 6s on a 5 week long trip. I was fairly happy with the photos. The 12 MP quality was great. What really impressed me was the dynamic range of the sensors. I was able to capture great photos in low light and light with high dynamic range.
Now let me bust some of the cons on the iPhone:
* Limited storage - this isn't true at all, as there are many ways to offload the photos. First, you could back your photos up via the WiFi and the cloud. Second, you can back your photos up via storage devices. I used the SanDick connect WiFi USB storage device. You install the SanDisk app on your phone and then you can back up your photos on the USB drive via WiFi. I will also note that I never ran out of room on my phone, so never had to worry about storage. Disclosure - I went through my photos occasionally and deleted the duds.
* Bad indoor photos - less of a problem with the newer phones. Not sure which one you have.
* Not great for enlargements - the 6s has 12 MP. I'm not sure how much you want?

The real con of the iPhone is the lack of lenses. Even the add on lenses just are limited.
An additional pro is the editing feature on the iPhone. I found it to be very powerful. That, combined with some other photo apps, makes the iPhone a good alternative camera. And you always have it with you so can get those wonderful spur-of-the-moment photos.

I would also like to point out that there is a great on-line resource for iPhone photo users called the iPhone Photography School. I think you'll find out that the iPhone is way more powerful than you knew. There are many free classes/videos. You can also sign up for more intensive classes that cost money. I've stuck to the free ones myself.

With all that said, I would suggest taking what you really want as you'll regret it when you get to Europe. Remember that you'll have your iPhone with you anyway. I would strongly recommend the iPhone Photography School though.

Posted by
32 posts

Cindy - good point on museums. Security was on my mind but not listed - forgot about places that won't let me take it in. I'll look at the iPhone resources you mentioned. Mine is a 6 Plus. I'm probably just not using it to its full abilities, but photos in low light without a flash have been a problem with it. I much prefer my DSL with 2.8 aperture. I have to admit I've never really studied its abilities. Regarding storage, I wanted to avoid having to upload or transfer too often. Swapping out cards is a lot easier, which is why I list storage as an issue.

Mira - Thanks for the input!

Posted by
270 posts

I have the same question for every trip I take. I always have my iPhone 6 with me. It takes decent photos, but not great. And not they're not good enough if I want to enlarge the photo much. So I invested in a larger DSL cam. It's a pain to lug around all day, but it takes great photos. I bought a small compact camera (14 megapixel) a few years ago. It was easy to carry, but the photos were no better (and in some ways worse) than the iPhone. This year, I bought a better compact camera (20 megapixels). I'm hoping that it'll be a good compromise.

So here's my rule of thumb for myself. If I'm going to a place I've never been before that has a lot to see, I take the DSL. If it's a place I'm going to that I've been to before and I'm mostly going to relax, rather than see the sights, I'm taking the compact.

Posted by
32 posts

marctshark, what do you do about your camera when visiting museums/events where you can't take it in?

Posted by
2261 posts

Personally, I don't see DSLR's as a big security risk. If a thief is going to dash by and grab something, it's far more likely to be a purse they'll be looking for. Obviously you wouldn't leave it sitting on the edge of a table at a sidewalk cafe, but DSLR's are not a big target-iPhones, wallets, purses, both grab and run and pickpocketed, are the concerns.

I have not had an issue with a DSLR in a museum, I have both carried it with the instruction of "no photos", and checked it and retrieved on exit, no problem.

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks, Dave. That was sort of my thought - I'm far more concerned about my Macbook & wallet/passport.

Posted by
9784 posts

To me you sound like the photos you will take are important enough to you (and you are skilled enough at them) that you will be disappointed with either just the iPhone or the compact. My two cents is take the DSL!!

Posted by
518 posts

Ditto on the comment regarding cloud storage for the iPhone and improved quality of the iPhone 6s camera over older iPhones. One of the benefits of cloud storage is that you can't "lose" it. Once it's up in the cloud, it's there for good until you either delete it or you run out of cloud storage and it gets overwritten by newer files. Unlike the camera/iPhone/memory card itself, those cloud based photos cannot be physically stolen, lost by baggage personnel at the airport, pickpocketed, etc. Also, iPhone's and other mobile devices are great for the passing candid and of course...(drum roll)...THE SELFIE!

Posted by
32245 posts

I travel with a DSLR on every trip, and also don't find that it's a huge "risk" for theft. It's with me most of the time and if I do leave it in the hotel room at night, I pull the memory card and store it in my Money Belt so even if the camera is stolen, I still have the photos.

One point to consider is that you may only visit the places in Europe once in your life, so having good photos is important. With that in mind, a few thoughts......

  • iPhones - while they can get reasonably good pictures in good conditions, they do have significant limitations (low light, moving subjects). I've been travelling with an iPhone for the last few years and use it occasionally but it's not my primary camera.
  • P&S Camera - I always pack a P&S along as well, both to take out in the evenings when I don't want to haul the DSLR as well as to use as a backup if the DSLR has technical problems (which has happened on a couple of occasions). It can easily be carried in a pocket, so airline luggage limitations aren't a problem.
  • DSLR - this will provide the most flexibility in a variety of situations, and the best chance of getting good (and memorable) photos. I'm not sure a Macro lens will be the best choice for travel, but that will depend on your shooting preferences. I find that the majority of my pictures are taken with a 10-22 wide angle or a 24-105 medium range zoom.

Regarding the comments about "Cloud storage", that may not be the easiest option. If you plan on uploading files to cloud when you're out touring, that will require cellular data access. If you're planning to upload using Wi-Fi at the hotel, I've found that the quality of service can vary, and in some cases the hotels have "throttled" the service so large files just won't work. If you're travelling with a MacBook, you could also back the photos up there.

Posted by
4535 posts

Theft and museums are not an issue for DSL cameras. The only museums that don't allow them are ones that don't allow any cameras at all. And those are very rare.

Theft is really only an issue if you are the type to take it off and set it down (say while eating or resting). As long as it is slung over your shoulder, it will stay there. An iPhone seems a bigger theft risk depending on where you store it when not in use. If in a pants pocket, it can easily be picked.

I do get good results from my iPhone, better than I expect sometimes. But of course nowhere near the quality of my DSL. I use it for snapshots or when I don't have my DSL on me (like out at dinner).

Don't take a camera that you don't like. You'll just be frustrated or not use it.

I use a 18-200 lens that I like for its range. It does weigh a bit and sticks out, so you could manage better on that front with a more limited range. But I've never felt the need for more zoom range.

Posted by
10 posts

I took a DSLR Nikon and 2 lenses and my IPhone6S on the BOE21 day tour last September. Within the first few days of the tour, I got so aggravated with all the photo taking tourists. Especially in the museums. Half the time, the people did not know what they were taking a picture of or where they were. I packed up my DSLR and put it in secure storage in the bus. I used only my IPhone6s with ICloud storage. I was extremely satisfied with the photos of my trip. And it was such a relief, not to be lugging a heavy camera throughout our walking tours.
I did a RS scrapbook with a lot of my photos. You can check the quality out for yourself. #55

And check out a few of the other scrapbooks out, most mention what camera they were using and whether it was cumbersome etc.

Enjoy your trip!!

Posted by
16 posts

I guess it depends on how important your photos are to you? I cannot take a good photo with an iphone. When we took the BOE 14 Days 2 years ago, I took my Canon DSLR, 16-35mm, 35mm, & 24-70mm lenses. I only used the 16-35 a few times, but I was happy that I brought it. I was able to take the camera in all the museums and churches on the tour. I could not use a flash in some of them, but that’s when I used the 35 mm. Had to check my bag in Nymphenburg Palace in Munich, but could still have the camera. I ended up making 3 photo books from Costco with great photos after the tour that we shared with everyone. So it was worth it. Wasnt too bad carrying around everything in a shoulder bag.

This year, we are taking the Scandinavia tour this year, definitely taking the Canon DLSR and 24-70mm. My wife wants to take pictures, so another Canon DLSR and 35 mm. On the fence about the 16-35mm but considering bringing the 70-200mm. Definitely making photos books after the tour again. I am thinking of using a small backpack and giving the shoulder bag to wife?

Posted by
2764 posts

Several years ago I upgraded my small camera to the Sony RX 100 . It was not cheap (probably is cheaper now and there's probably a new fancy version!) It's been the great compromise between DSLR and small camera.

Rick actually talks about the camera I have in this blog post
Personally I find the iphone a horrid substitute for a real camera!

If you do go DSLR get yourself a Black Rapid strap (or one like that). Made carrying the big thing all over St. Petersburg last year a breeze!

Posted by
1252 posts


You more or less correctly summarized all the pros and cons in your OP, and the discussion is really not that much different from the other threads.

You already have all three options available to you. So it comes down to personal choice.

I would note that regarding your middle option of a compact camera, you could spend a little more time reading the manual and playing with the controls. Battery and memory is an issue for all three and more easily solvable for the compact or the DSLR. Still beats lugging extra film canisters back in the old days.

Posted by
2529 posts

This thread reminds me of the newer Fuji X series cameras which are surely enticing and a bit less weight/smaller than my current DSLR camera.

Posted by
127 posts

In full disclosure, I'm more of a hobbyist than a serious photographer.

I've been very happy with my Nikon camera with just a single general-purpose lens. It seems like a brick sometimes but I just wasn't happy with the results on my first European trip when I went with a compact camera. And including a telephoto lens on the second trip convinced me that I may not get all the close-ups I would like but can manage to capture enough of the trip with just the one lens. My recommendation would be to go with the DSL.

One other point, from the above discussion. I've never had a problem taking my camera into a museum (with all the normal caveats about flash photography). What you often have to check is any day packs or other large bags. I've had no problems with theft when doing so.

Finally just to voice a pet peeve to any other photographers out there. Just because you are in a beautiful church, it may not be the time to take a picture. Be sensitive about your surroundings.

Posted by
1068 posts

There is no "right" answer to the OPs question (IMHO.) It depends on what you value most (e.g., portability/I'll have it anyway vs better picture, low light capacity.) There is (again IMHO) no perfect solution..... there is always a trade off. Some people think i-phone photos aren't all that bad (ooookkkkkkayyyy!) while others think only a DSLR will produce acceptable results (alright, if you say so.) Others think a compact is a compromise so don't even bother with them. All of the above statements are true for some people. The questions revolve around you and your shooting. What do you do with your photos? How important are they to you? What do you like to shoot? Are you a traveler who photographs or a photographer who travels? The choice of a macro 60mm and telephoto are interesting to me so I may emphasize what it is you are trying to shoot. I also don't understand what you mean when you say your compact is a pain to use in RAW mode. It is no harder shooting RAW than jpeg, in fact it is easier (you don't really have to preset white balance and you generally have a bit more leeway with exposure.) Of course you do have to post process RAWs, but programs like Lightroom or On-1 make that very easy. You mention your DSLR shoots RAW so I'm guessing you have experience post processing. I've traveled, at various times, with a DSLR and up to 3 lenses, a bridge, a compact or two cameras. But then again, I have specific goals for my photography. No matter what I took (or take) I almost always have a moment or two when I wish I had something different with me. What are you most comfortable shooting with at home? That might be a good place to start.

Posted by
733 posts

We traveled last spring to Europe for 24 days. I brought my Canon 70D, a P&S, and my Samsung Galaxy 5. My P&S photos were the least impressive.

I don't think I will ever travel without my dSLR. I love it. I love taking pictures and I take a lot of them as it helps me remember what we did and where. I try catching restaurant marques in my pictures too, to help me identifiy what the names were! I also brought a small laptop (11.6") and I downloaded my pictures each night and organized them by date in folders. I never worried about theft as I carry my camera cross body on a Black Rapid Strap as seen here (which I highly recommend).

I don't know about your 60mm lens, though......I brought my Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 and a Canon 10-18mm lens but used the Sigma almost exclusively. The wide angle came in handy for some of the bigger museums/cathedrals however.

Posted by
32 posts

I know you DSL owners think I'm odd for wanting to take the 60mm. It wouldn't be for buildings, but it takes such incredible people pics that I love it. It's an L series and I love the 2.8 aperture and the resulting bokeh for whenever I'm shooting people or details.

That said, it's not realistic for this trip since it wouldn't be useful in all situations and it would leave me changing lenses too often. After all of the discussion, I'll probably end up taking the DSL with one general use lens, and if I can find room I'll bring the compact as well. The lens I own that is most appropriate for this trip has terrible lens creep so I know I won't take it. I'll have to decide whether to get a different one or go with one of the others.

The issue with the compact shooting RAW is that unlike my DSL, IIRC I can't shoot RAW in auto mode, and since I don't like the camera's interface it takes me awhile to get the settings correct for various shots. I'm just not fast enough with settings in touristy situations to be continually changing them, and especially not with that interface (it's a tiny camera with tiny buttons). With the DSL I usually shoot in aperature mode rather than full auto or full manual.

Anyway, thanks for all the suggestions.

Posted by
219 posts

I'm not sure I'd be happy with a 60mm and a 55-200, 55mm being the widest? I like to have at least a lens that has 18mm on the wide end in cities.

Posted by
32 posts

The 55-200mm is the one I own, but not what I'd like to take. I have another one with a wider end but it has lens creep in a bad way, which is why I was looking at getting the Tamron. Their 18-270mm is $100 off for an end price of $349 right now. I don't really need it to go all the way to 270, but it's nice for having everything in one lens.

Posted by
91 posts

Hello , in all the years I have traveled no problem about theft , I keep the camera around my neck and bag very close and zipped toward the front . Never been told that my camera / bag was not allowed even at the Louvre , or in England , USA.. Back hurts , shoulders but I figure I will build up my muscles and lose a few pounds , good trade for photo's I can enjoy. I also relive my vacation over again more bang for the money I have spent in the long run..

Posted by
635 posts

There is no "right" answer to the OPs question (IMHO.)

Amen to that! So I offer the following only as my answer, not the answer.

I appreciate good camera equipment, but while traveling I appreciate mobility more. Everything is a tradeoff. So my primary travel camera is a pocket-sized Canon S120 point-and-shoot. It does some nice things, and most of its deficiencies can be remedied with a little Photoshop tweaking when I get home.

My last trip was interesting, though. Last May I took my 14-year-old grandson to Rome and Munich. The S120 was in my pocket, and in my bag was a backup, an older Samsung WB150 point-and-shoot, of negligible size and weight. I had packed the Samsung on previous trips, but had never needed to use it.

But this trip was different. While on the flight from Chicago to Rome, I was shooting some window views from the airplane and suddenly noticed a big, black dust spot in the middle of the Canon's frame. The camera was toast, so I stuffed it into the bag, and dug out the Samsung to put it into the game.

Ryan and I landed at FCO; we took the FM1 to Ostiense, and started the two-mile walk to our lodging on Quirinal Hill, as planned. We were still at Porta San Paolo just a block from the station, and after less than a dozen photos, a dust spot appeared on the Samsung! This one, though, was just at the top edge of the frame, so I decided to go ahead with it, and compose photos with the intent of cropping out the spot later on.

That worked well for the next ten days. But on our last full day in Munich more spots appeared, making the camera unusable (I'd never had dust spot problems like this before, and this was really getting annoying!). So my last day's photos were taken with ... you guessed it ... my iPhone.

My grandson, meanwhile, had left his Nikon DSLR at home and brought only his iPhone -- and he took home some absolutely stunning images.

Go figure.

Posted by
703 posts

as others have said there is no real answer, but I think people sometimes might not consider some of the issues. ( I must mention I own all of the camera options mentioned)
How long are you going and how active are you going to be?
for a relatively short trip with limited walking etc then carrying a heavy DSLR around is OK but if the trip is for months and each day you are doing tens of thousands of steps then personally I could think of better options. ( assuming you have the option of buying/taking a different camera)

how many churches/museums etc don't let you take photos? I have been amazed and 'unhappy' many times when I planned the day , remembered to pack the camera etc only to get to the church, museum etc and there are signs saying no photos allowed. once again carrying around a heavy DSLR that is then rendered 'useless' would make me even more 'unhappy'.

So I have been more than happy with my decision to leave the DSLR's at home and use a very capable compact camera ( is relatively inexpensive- too loose) that fits nicely in my pocket, where it is easily accessible ( the whole day/night) weighs virtually nothing and the photos are typically good enough and are OK to enlarge far bigger than most would ever need.

On my next trip I might even replace my trusty old Canon s100 for one of the newer G7x , Sony RX100 or similar. I am that convinced that it suits our travel needs.
BTW I appreciate the option of also having a Macbook with us when we travel to also be able to download the photos/videos at night and back them up to additional hard drive storage. yet another 'issue' that I guess some people might not consider when using phones etc?

I hope this helps.

Posted by
393 posts

"My grandson, meanwhile, had left his Nikon DSLR at home and brought only his iPhone -- and he took home some absolutely stunning images.
Go figure."

A few quotes to ponder.

“A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart.” -Arnold Newman

“The important thing is not the camera but the eye.” – Alfred Eisenstaedt

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” – Ansel Adam

Posted by
3696 posts

The only question really is what camera are you most likely to use? What camera will allow you to take images that will enhance your trip and memories of that trip, and what camera is likely to cause you stress?

As a few others have said, it is not only the camera, but the photographer. I am a professional but still do not want to lug around a ton of equipment... it stifles my creativity. I do take DSLR, but one lens(zoom) There is no reason to shoot RAW if you have the correct exposure, and it just adds a lot more work. I enlarge photos all the time to 24x36 for wall decor, and everything is done in jpeg fine (after plenty of testing and comparison) You can see some of my work on my facebook page
Terry Kathryn Lawrence Photography. My idea is that the camera is only a tool to create images and you need to keep it simple....I have done some images with my iphone that did enlarge quite well, but it would not be acceptable as my only camera (but, if I had to, I could do it) I do challenge myself often to use the iphone.
I would get a compact camera with a zoom lens that would be easy to use and concentrate more on the composition, lighting and subject matter to be sure you have amazing images.

Posted by
393 posts

" ... concentrate more on the composition, lighting and subject matter to be sure you have amazing images."

Terry, sound advice (and great work, BTW). But there is hardly any such discussions here.

Learning to take good photographs is like learning many other skills. It takes studying, experimenting and practicing, IOW time and effort. Instead many would put the emphasis on equipment, as if the tool is the key.

Posted by
1194 posts

I would like to clear up several outdated misconceptions I have seen on this thread about iPhones. I raise this not because I advocate iPhone only (I am not) but because I've seen several misstatements of fact that deal with obsolete technology.
External storage: There are several external storage options, such as the Leef iBridge or the previously mentioned SanDisk. Google iPhone external photo storage. There is no need for an Internet connection. Many of these devices act like card memory.
Camera: things have come a long way from the iPhone 4 camera (ugh). The new 12 Mp camera on the 6s is fairly powerful with great dynamic range. The statements that the camera doesn't work indoors or low light are no longer true. Also as an FYI the phone has a fast shutter option. And did you know that your head buds can work as a photo sync cord?
Other camera: one new feature of the new IOS is that Apple opened up the camera software to other apps. There's a whole slew of new apps for all sorts of specializations. That means you can play with shutter speeds, among others. I use Slow Shutter that actually has a bulb setting on it. It's great for moving water pictures too.
The iPhone is like any other camera in that it works best if you learn how to use it. Apples documentation is terrible. There are some free online tutorials out there. I've mentioned my favorite above (iPhone photography school). And as mentioned by others, having a good eye, knowing your equipment, and editing go a long way in great photos. Btw, Apple improved the editing feature on the photo app. It's fairly powerful.
BTW I have a lanyard on my phone. I can clip my phone to things so I don't lose it. I also carry an external battery pack which fairly small and light.

In short, I'd ask that people consider the newer technology when making statements about the iPhone. It is a rapidly evolving technology and it is unfair to base opinions on 5 year old (or older) products. That's forever in dog years. Use the technology you prefer, but be fair.

Posted by
32 posts

I realize that the photographer and not the equipment are what make for good photos. I've had my DSL for 6 years and have a good understanding of white balance, exposure, aperture, shutter speed, and composition and I know how to post process to improve my deficiencies. I'm not asking for feedback because I have no skill, I'm asking more because I haven't done a trip like this and was concerned about weight of the DSL. That said, I have plenty of room for improvement - I'm not a pro. I am an amateur... and I still will be by the time we go on this trip. I work full time and volunteer for multiple organizations, so it's unlikely my skills are going to significantly improve between now and the trip.

I will invest some time learning to better control my compact Canon S100, but that's about all I have time for, especially given that I know I can get good photos with the DSL.

I say all of this not to say that I don't understand the importance of learning, but to remind folks that it's not always a possibility given the time constraints before a trip.

Posted by
32 posts

Terry, this is very helpful: "The only question really is what camera are you most likely to use? What camera will allow you to take images that will enhance your trip and memories of that trip, and what camera is likely to cause you stress?"

Ultimately that thought process is what made me realize that I do want to have my DSL, probably with one lens. Worst case scenario, I'll leave it in the room if I decide it's too much to carry. Not ideal, but it's not the end of the world if something happens to it. I like Ken's practice of taking the cards with him and not leaving them with the camera. I'll have the computer and will load the images there as well, and if I have Internet will sync them to Dropbox for cloud storage.

As to your comments about shooting RAW, Terry - I know you are right but it is important to me because I can correct my deficiencies in post processing. I almost always find something that is enhanced by PP, and I haven't used the camera as much in the past couple of years, so my skills have declined (I'm not a photographer but I used to use it for work and no longer do). I feel like I have a safety net with RAW that I don't have with JPG.

One last comment about iPhone cameras - I have a 6 Plus, and the photos I take in low light without a flash are terrible. I may be missing some setting that will help, but they are dark and extremely noisy. Enlarging a photo taken in good light would be fine, but I would never trust my iPhone for anything in low light without a flash.

Posted by
2261 posts

"The statements that the camera doesn't work indoors or low light are no longer true."

"Use the technology you prefer, but be fair. "

Cindy, while I take your point that an iPhone 6s (which I own) is a night and day difference over a 4 (or 4s or 5, etc) I feel that your defense of the iPhone is overly strident. I don't recall anybody saying that it "doesn't" work in low light, but that performance falls off in more challenging situations-low light, zoom, freezing motion, and the like. My DSLR or my "point and shoot" in manual will deal far better with these situations than any iPhone will. The iPhone is an incredible piece of technology, it is not the end all be all-and I know you're not saying that it is, but I think it's important to keep perspective and not overstate what it will do well.

Posted by
3696 posts

Just to clarify... I wasn't meaning that you should take a photo class to concentrate more on composition, etc. I do know that often if you are worrying about changing lenses, settings, etc. that might stifle creativity. No matter what kind of images someone takes, the camera is just a tool. I taught photography for years and found that when the camera becomes second nature and you can use it without thinking, the images improve....
I try to work on improving my photography on every trip. I will often challenge myself by doing some little self-assignments. Sometimes I might have a color of the day, and do a series of images with that color... or photographs that represent a word, or a subject, such as 'the working people of Italy'... there are any number of ways to make our photos more interesting.

Often I will get up really early and go out and do photography by myself, especially if I am traveling with non-photographers. Gives you time to play and also get some amazing images before the rest of the tourists are up and about.
Since you made the decision to take the DSLR, I don't think you will regret it. I would never hesitate to bring mine, but I do want to keep the equipment as light as possible to get the results that I want. For each person that might be different.

Posted by
1252 posts

If "bokeh" is important to you, I don't know why there would be any debate.

Posted by
32245 posts


While the current crop of Smartphones can take exceptional photos at times, they're simply not equal to those from dedicated cameras. I've seen a phone photo sensor and there's absolutely no way that can achieve the same quality results as an APS-C or full frame sensor in a DSLR, especially when all the benefits of using a plethora of settings, shooting RAW and post production are included.

Posted by
1194 posts

@Ken - at no time did I ever assert that any smartphone was ever an equal to a DLSR!

I understand the limits of the phone, especially with lenses and sensors. I do take issue with some comments such as "anything but an iPhone camera" or "a horrid substitute for a real camera" which infers that the quality is so poor that it isn't even worth considering.

I personally think that @vatraveler should take the DLSR as that's the camera he knows the best. You are going to take your best pictures with the camera you know the best.

Posted by
32245 posts

Cindy H,

Your point is noted. Perhaps I should have used slightly different wording.

I should mention that I do also use my iPhone 4S Camera on occasion, and it can produce acceptable results in good conditions, albeit a bit "grainy" at times. "Photo enhancing app's" are somewhat limited in how much they can clean the images up. The inventor of the popular Camera+ app seems to be able to get good results with an iPhone but gets much better results with her Canon 5D MkII, as you can see from her website (wish my photos were that good!).

I'd love to upgrade to an iPhone 6S but that would be about a $600 bill and being on a pension prevents that at the moment. It will be interesting to see the next version of the iPhone which will supposedly be introduced on Monday (rumours say it will be an upgraded 5-series phone labelled as the "SE").

Posted by
1221 posts

I saw the 'We' in the original post, and, assuming it's not the Royal version of 'we', an agreeable travel companion can often act as a camera gear sherpa. I'm not the big photographer in my family, but I am the one with the medium-sized Pac Safe purse that can hold three lenses and the 'spare' DSL in addition to my wallet and such so that Spousal Unit's bag looks less like a camera bag proper.

Not sure of your route, but very few places that have a bag check area really want the responsibility of making sure a several thousand euro camera kit is truly safe in their care, and it seems like as long as you follow posted 'no pictures' rules, they're glad to let you have the camera on you.

Also- would not leave a nicer camera unsecured in a hotel room, but it seems like even if a hotel doesn't have room safes, there will be a safe at the front desk for guest use.

Posted by
32245 posts


"Also- would not leave a nicer camera unsecured in a hotel room, but it seems like even if a hotel doesn't have room safes, there will be a safe at the front desk for guest use."

I've never had any problems (so far) leaving my DSLR in the hotel room in the evenings if I'm going out, however I make sure it's out-of-sight in a closed bag and the Memory Card is in my Money Belt. As the rooms are cleaned in the afternoon, there's usually no reason for hotel staff to be in guest rooms in the evening.

Many smaller hotels don't have a "safe at the front desk for guest use". They may instead just put larger valuables on a shelf in the office, in plain sight. If they have to step away from the desk to attend to guests, get a coffee or use the WC, the valuables are accessible to anyone that happens along and spots them.

Posted by
8 posts

I can only discuss my experiences. I consider myself an advanced amateur and photography is a huge part of my travel experience. In the past 13 years or so I have traveled with my DLSR extensively. When I'm not walking a lot with my luggage (car based travel) I'll take my body (Canon 7D), a wide lens (10-22mm), a walk about lens (24-105L) and a long lens (70-200L). When I'm carrying my luggage a lot (think Rick Steves tour) I would leave the long lens. I found I used the 24-105 for 90% of my shots the 10-22 for maybe 8% and a very few with the 70-200. The body, 24-105 & 10-22 weigh in at over 7lbs. Add in extra batteries, cards, backup devices and all the other stuff and it adds up quickly. I'm getting too old for that.

For our upcoming Best of Switzerland tour (2 months and counting!!!) I bought a mirrorless 4/3rds system (Olympus E-M5 w/24-40 f2.8). Smaller, lighter (<2 lbs total) and all of the capabilities I need. I couldn't be happier and my back & neck will be better off for the change. Add in my iPad (for blog posts & books) & my external hard disk for backup & I'm good to go.

The bottom line, of course, is for you to do what you're comfortable with and to enjoy your travels!

Posted by
221 posts

I, too, took my DSLR to Europe in 2014. I am glad that I did, but I didn't enjoy switching to the zoom lens when I was in a hurry. At that time, my point and shoot was older, so it stayed home. My spouse carries a point and shoot, so we always have a back up. As I enjoy photography, I decided to get a new camera so that I don't have to always take the DSLR. I now have a Nikon Coolpix P610, which I think that I will take to Europe this coming fall. It is a super zoom, so should meet my needs. It is not as small as a traditional point and shoot(due to the zoom), but is much lighter wt. than carrying my DSL with an extra lens. So far, I have been happy with the pictures.

Posted by
724 posts

As someone previously mentioned, there is no right answer to this question. Every choice will involve some trade-offs, and only you can determine where you want the trade-offs to be.

The iPhone is fine when the light is good and you can get close enough to your subject. (Actually, the iPhone is much better in low light than one would expect for such a tiny sensor.) All the same, it's not ideal for some challenging situations. I love to take photos with my iPhone, but for a major trip I wouldn't want to rely solely on my phone

Here are some photographic challenges you might encounter:

  • Low light? How low? I have had good luck with the iPhone in museums and churches, but at night the quality pretty much falls off a cliff.

  • Bad light (other than low light)? Maybe off camera flash is important.

  • Bad weather? Are you willing to put your camera away when it starts raining? If not, weather sealing is important.

  • Subject too far away? Do you like to take pictures of architectural details on buildings? Will you be taking pictures of animals on safari? If so, a long zoom may fit the bill.

  • Subjects that move? Quick focusing and/or focus tracking can be handy.

The problem is that solving these challenges requires money and extra weight. Solving all the challenges, probably requires a sherpa. I would pick specific problems/challenges, and then pick the camera that solves the most important challenges. What works for you is entirely personal.

I usually first set a hard weight/size budget, and then pick the equipment to fit the budget. For me, all the electronics -- the Macbook, the spare hard drive, the camera(s), and the lens(es) -- have to fit under the seat in front of me on the plane and weigh less than ten pounds. My daily equipment has to fit inside my Billingham Hadley Small bag (or something similar) and weigh less than five pounds (including the bag).

On my first trip to Italy, I took only a high end compact. I was happy with the basic tourist shots, but I missed out on a lot of impromptu portraits and street shots that are important to my way of working. These days, I usually travel with a Micro 4/3 camera and an assortment of lenses, and I have been very happy with the balance between weight and capability.

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks for the updated replies. I've decided on taking the 50D with a fast 24-70mm lens along with the iPhone that is going regardless. I took out the compact and used it recently and realized again how much I hate it. It is SLOW. Even with an extreme memory card, it just couldn't keep up. Hoping I can get dh to carry the lens or body to spread the weight around a little in our carry on baggage.

Posted by
32245 posts


Good choice! I think you'll be much happier with the results you get with the flexibility of a dSLR.

I may have missed it, but when is this trip taking place?