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To bring or not to bring? (DSLR, ipad, laptop, etc.)

I'm trying to decide which combination of electronics to take with me on my trip to Vienna in a few months. I have a DSLR but I am by no means a professional photographer. I love using it, but I'm more concerned with the added weight of the camera than anything else. I could easily take my small point and shoot, but then I feel like I'm going backwards in photo quality, but that may be worth giving up considering how small and light the point and shoot is.

Has anybody ever regretted leaving a dslr at home?

I also need to figure out what to bring for internet connectivity. Though I think I'm leaning pretty strongly toward the ipad for it's size and minimal space. I thought I might want the laptop to load photos and edit video, but I think I'll just take multiple SD cards and leave uploading and video editing for when I get home.

Though...if I leave the weight of the laptop at home, then maybe the weight of the dslr isn't so bad. I'm staying in an apartment in Vienna the entire week, so once I get settled, all the stuff will stay in the room and I can pick and choose what to take with me for the day, meaning if I wanted to feel less weighed down for a day, I could leave the dslr behind and just rely in my iphone.

Thoughts? Although, typing this out had helped clarify things a bit, I think. Ipad yes, laptop no. What to do about the camera situation?

Posted by
9110 posts

You can by a gizmo to transfer files on an sd card to an iPad for about thirty bucks.

A semi-crappy p&s gets as good a picture as a Nikon F did.

Posted by
134 posts

I bought that "gizmo" last time, and it didn't work, so I think I'm going without (upgraded ipad means I'd have to buy another) and purchasing an extra SD card or two.

Posted by
10329 posts

I have the same gizmo Ed has and mine has always worked fine.

Posted by
339 posts

I found over the years that a DSLR was too heavy for travel the way I do. I think that being able to put a small point and shoot camera in my pocket and heading out was easy and I took many more pictures that way. I am not a photographer but have taken many great photos over the years. I also like the convenience of my phone which takes pretty good pictures and I like being able to hit a button and sending them on the spot.

Posted by
333 posts

I took my DLSR and Ipad. I have a gizmo that will transfer the pictures to the Ipad. The apple store will sell it, so perhaps stop there? I downloaded my pictures every night to the Ipad. I am a just in case kind of girl;)

I have to admit, I was over the weight of the DLSR by the end of the trip, but the photos did turn out amazing. Then again, I look at photos taken on my p&s and they are almost as good. So I know I am no help. I guess the question you will want to ask yourself is "will you regret not taking your DSLR?"

The best advice I had received about SD cards was to take a bunch of 4-8 gig cards. I have read horror stories about the big gig cards and them failing and people losing pictures.

Posted by
434 posts

Sorry to hijack this thread, but what do you do with your pictures once taken. I get mine home, make a short slide show of about 45 minutes to show relatives, and once done, almost never look at the pictures again. They just sit on my computer. I have in the past copied some over to CD or DVD, but again, never bring them out again to look at. So when my computer finally dies, or the CD/DVD goes bad, or technology changes, I've lost all. Makes me wonder why even bother to take pictures at all.


Posted by
5687 posts

Warren, sounds like you ought to start a separate thread for your topic on processing photos afterward.

I am a professional photographer and wouldn't dream of not taking my DSLR to Europe, though I don't sell many of my travel pictures. I do understand the burden of the heavy DSLR in a bag (with lenses) or around my neck. But for me, it has always been worth it to have nice pictures I can enlarge later. And I DO enlarge them, even if only for personal use (I have several large pictures from Europe I'm in the process of printing for my home).

You'll notice the biggest improvement in quality with a DSLR over a P&S camera in several cases:

1) low light. DSLRs have larger sensors and have less "noise" - speckles in your final picture - that you might not notice unless you enlarge the picture. Even DSLRs are prone to noise at higher ISO settings but it will be far less noticeable on a good DSLR. And digital cameras in "auto" mode tend to shift automatically to higher ISO in low light.

On a good, clear sunny day, a P&S may produce a beautiful picture even when enlarged, not a whole lot different from a DLSR. It's really those low light days - or late day light/sunsets - that make a difference.

2) long exposure shots. I always take a (small) tripod with me when I travel too. I love to take long exposures at dusk or night with my DSLR, and these are almost always the pictures people get excited about when I show them off. You CAN put a P&S on a tripod and try to take long exposures, if it has a full manual mode, but many P&S cameras do not. (mine actually does).

If you won't be enlarging your pictures (mostly for web or email use or for small prints) and can live with a few of lower quality here and there, I'd just take the P&S and not worry about it. If you hope to make enlargements - 8"x12" or larger - you really might want to take the DSLR.

Posted by
5687 posts

As far as taking a laptop: I bought my first "travel laptop" a few trips ago. Taking my heavy 15" laptop on a trip was a big burden, but a small 11.6" netbook fits in my camera bag and has a full-size laptop keyboard! My first Acer netbook was really slooooow but I survived with it for a few trips. I recently upgraded to a much faster Acer of about the same size - only about $200 on sale so not really a big expense compared to the cost of a trip to Europe. It's fast enough that I usually use it every day even at home now and do all kinds of stuff on it, even photo editing.

I use my travel laptop not just for email/web and to view and edit my pictures as I travel - even if just to post them on Facebook for friends while I'm there - but also to backup my pictures. I consider a backup of your pictures - if you care about losing them much - to be essential. I guess if you don't take too many pictures, you can try uploading them on WiFi while you travel, but I take far too many pictures for that to be practical for me. It would take too long to upload them somewhere on a hotel's WiFi connection. (On my last two week trip to Germany, I shot about 150GB of pictures and videos.) So I always bring a backup drive. I upload all the pictures from my camera cards to the laptop every night and also back them up to the backup drive every night. Then I erase the camera cards and start clean the next day.

If you don't take many pictures, you can just bring a lot of memory cards for your camera - not really that expensive anymore - and keep your pictures on the cards, then also upload them to your laptop or tablet. If you have an iPad and have enough space to store all the pictures you might shoot on vacation (and also have the USB attachment to connect up your camera card to it), that might work for most people, though it wouldn't work for me.

Posted by
71 posts

Just to add a little perspective on the DSLR side of things...

I love my DSLR, but I didn't used to love carrying around a big camera with a heavy lens around my neck all day. Not only do you look weird, it's not very comfortable. A few years ago I switched to using a DSPTCH camera strap, which replaces the stock strap. The DSPTCH is just a more comfortable and flexible strap, but I paired it with the Camera Strap Buddy. Combined, they allow you to carry your camera on your side by one of your hips sling-style, with the lens facing downwards. This gives a much better feeling and sense of balance when carrying the camera around all day, serves to make the camera itself a little less noticeable by not having Canon or Nikon logos emblazoned all over you, and with one practiced move of the arm, bring it up to shooting position. You don't need a different strap than the stock one to use the Camera Strap Buddy, but I find that they work well together.

The only real downside with the different strap is that it has some quick release clips. If you're paranoid about thieves or whatever, you may want to stick with the stock strap or something that doesn't have these clips.

Posted by
2081 posts


Although i would love a DLSR, i choose to go with 2 Point n Shoot (PNS) cameras. I found that having/using 2 PNS could make do and was small enough that the weight wasn't an issue.

as far as Laptop vs iPad, theres no reason you can do it all on that. the iPad would be much smaller/lighter than the laptop. If you're going to write a novel on your vacation, then i would bring the laptop for the full size Keyboard, but that would be the only reason.

as far as transferring files from your digital camera, there are dongles (adapters) to go from an SD card to your i device.

happy trails.

Posted by
134 posts

Wow, I didn't expect so many replies! Thanks everyone.

As brought up by Warren - yeah, after reviewing a lot of them right after the trip, I don't go back to them often, but I do occasionally.

BUT as Andrew pointed out - after my last big trip, I DID come home and enlarge and print a few of my favorite photos. Though I only used a point and shoot then.

Also - thinking about the "gizmo" I may have been wrong. I got a combo pack - one that allowed you to plug a USB into the iPad and one an SD. The USB one was the one that didn't work. A simple flash drive was too much for it to handle. And I don't think I bothered uploading my photos until I got home, even though I had the card reader.

I'm actually much more a videographer than a photographer, even more so now than I was a few years ago...and Andrew, now I'm tempted to bring a tripod! (but probably won't)

Posted by
1068 posts

There are already lots of good answers here. I enjoy photography and try and take the best pictures I can for my personal travel photography site, my "travel wall" and the hard bound book which I make for each trip. Generally, I take a DSLR with 2 lenses for "important sites" as well as a point and shoot for walking around. What I think is helpful is to ask yourself what you want to do with your photos. If you keep them small (generally under 8x10) IMHO even a P&S will take ok pics. If you are shooting at night or inside a church/museum, you may find the pics a bit weak, but that is the trade off with taking a smaller lighter camera. Of course, what makes a "great picture" is highly subjective. When I travel, I try for a balance of documenting my trip and taking "artful" shots. For the "artful shots" it often helps to have the capacities of a DSLR. Two other considerations for equipment are cross over cameras; 1) the various types of mirrorless cameras (smaller and lighter than DSLRs but with interchangeable lenses and better pics than a P&S) and 2) some point and shoot cameras with large(r) sensors (which helps in low light situations and in making bigger prints--see the Sony RX100 -either II or III- although they are costly because of the sensor.) For some of my shorter trips, say 10 days in Central Mexico last year, I only took my RX100. Because it has a good sensor and shoots in RAW I was pleased with the pics. However, the DSLR went to Russia.

Posted by
134 posts

I actually just scheduled a four day trip to Seattle at the end of this month and decided that what I'll do is bring along my dSLR and if I'm glad I brought it, I'll bring it to Austria, and if I hate lugging it around and leave it in my hotel room and rely on my iPhone, I'll leave it behind this fall too. :D

Posted by
3696 posts

While Seattle is beautiful and I love it... not sure it would be a fair comparison to a European vacation and what I might want to record photographically:)) I personally think that when people are questioning whether or not it is worth it to bring a DSLR it probably is not.... If photography is extremely important to you, there is no doubt what camera you would bring. But, a small and convenient camera that you will use will probably give you plenty of memory photographs. Also, with proper exposure you can most definitely enlarge some of the images for your home. Take the equipment that you will use... and be happy using.

Posted by
19146 posts

Let me second Andrew H.'s suggestion of a netbook. Mine weighs a little over 2#, only a little more than an iPad and has a real keyboard. In addition to holding my travel speadsheet with all the train schedules, addresses, maps of places I'll be, I use it to keep track of my expenses. I write a lot on mine while in Europe (email, journal, posting to my website), so I like having a keyboard. I also have a pad (with a faux keyboard), and I would never even think to bring it to Europe.

Posted by
134 posts

Thanks. I'm not really in the market for a netbook though. I wouldn't use it beyond this trip.

Posted by
6 posts

I'll be leaving for Europe next week and bringing a few cameras with me. Photography is my most of my livelihood, and I've been involved in photography using film from 35mm to 8x10" back in the day. One option that has only been around for a few years now combines some of the best of the DSLR world with DSLR sized sensors and equal image quality. Mirrorless cameras can create an image that is just as high quality as a DSLR but are much smaller and lighter.

On my next trip I'll be bringing my Canon 6d SLR with me, but will also pack two Sony mirrorless cameras and lenses. In my case I've got an NEX 6 and NEX 5n. The bodies are about the size of a deck of cards. Since the sensor is the same size as common DSLRs (APS C sensor) the lenses are usually not super small, but certainly smaller than my "full frame" Canon lenses. Plus there's an adapter that allows the use of Canon lenses on NEX bodies. There are a number of good mirrorless systems besides Sony out there including Fujifilm, Canon, Olympus, etc with various sensor sizes.

Perhaps the achilles heel of mirrorless cameras for travelers is a relatively short battery life. The mirror box that they've gotten rid of is replaced with either an electronic view finder (EVF) or the back screen monitor, both of which use battery power. But on the plus side you can see what your exposure simulated in the view finder. In fact one cool thing if you like black and white photography is to view your subject through the EVF in BW, and even capture in both BW and color for later processing! A minor plus to my newer Sony is that you can also charge the camera battery with the standard Android/Windoze usb charger and aftermarket batteries cost about the same as one roll of 35mm film used to cost a decade ago.

And speaking of cool stuff that you can do with photography now .... geotagging is amazingly fun and useful for captioning travel photographs. My Canon 6d has GPS built in. But you can geotag any old digital files with the help of your phone and some simple instructions. And as for transferring images to your ipad or whatever... you can also transfer images via WIFI from many modern devices including my Canon 6d and Sony NEX 6. And you can do something similar with special SD cards like those from Eyefi.

Posted by
720 posts

I have very few regrets about leaving my DSLR home on my last trip. My high end point and shoot, a Panasonic LX-7, worked great for almost everything. The only thing I missed was extreme wide angle shots, especially inside churches. On my next trip, I am seriously considering taking my DSLR just for the wide angle possibilities. Or maybe not.

I would recommend taking your DSLR on a long walk, at least 3-4 hours, and seeing hour your shoulders and back feel at the end of the walk. Then, make your decision.

I would highly recommend taking your iPad and several SD cards.

Posted by
99 posts

Warren asked,
"Sorry to hijack this thread, but what do you do with your pictures once taken. I get mine home, make a short slide show of about 45 minutes to show relatives, and once done, almost never look at the pictures again. They just sit on my computer."

After editing them, I burn my photos to a CD. Then my husband and I combine our best photos and make a picture book - it's easy now on shutterfly or iphoto. (Before digital, I made a scrapbook).

We also make calendars: for ourselves and adult children. This month's calendar photo was taken last Sept in Nepal.....

Posted by
54 posts

First trip I made, I bought small point and shoot with a small telephoto lens. It worked pretty well and made it so I could take a few videos. Second trip, only used I pad and smart phone. That worked pretty well and was convenient, but I missed the ability to zoom. Last trip I brought a small DSLR camera and I used the telephoto lens fairly often and I was glad I had it. I like the iPad and iPhone for the convince and not looking so much like a tourist. I like not having to carry a bag large enough for the larger camera. This time, I will bring both again and judge on a place-by-place basis whether which one to carry with me or both.

Posted by
221 posts

I just got back from Europe last week. Before I left, I also debated over bringing my P&S or DSLR. I finally decided to bring the DSLR because if I am not going to use it in Europe to photograph the beautiful scenery, where am I going to use it. Of course, I will use it to photograph the many beautiful places in the USA, too, but to many people a trip to Europe is the trip of a lifetime. I was able to carry the camera and a zoom lens in a holster bag that wasn't too heavy. I am pleased with my pictures, and am glad that I brought it with me.

Posted by
134 posts

Thank you for continuing to weigh in on this! I'm leaving in 10 days and still undecided. :) Since I'm going by myself, I will certainly have time to wander slowly and take lots of photos...but on the other hand, I don't have a great camera bag. I'm thinking of putting my purse in to my small, light, Rick Steves backpack and so if I want to take my camera and lens out for the day, I can use the pack and comfortably carry it around, and if I want to leave it in the apartment and just use my phone and P&S, I can easily carry those in my purse. (I do have cushioned sleeves in which I keep my camera and extra lens, so the backpack situation should be fine.)

Eeek! So much to do!

Posted by
2145 posts

Hi J, please post a trip report when you return and let us know what you decide to do. My photos are my most important souvenir and I never regret taking them with a decent camera. I also found my I-pad to be invaluable for Facetime and keeping in touch via e-mail. Hope you have a great trip!

Posted by
3237 posts

I compromise the dslr camera by taking only one lens, as the lens is what adds the weight. I take the normal lens for my camera, 40 mm. The camera then easily fits into my pac safe metro 200 and I can just slip it out like a point and shoot, except I can be much more creative by using the settings I want to use. Of course, it depends what one likes to photograph, but I find I can usually adjust where I stand vs using a telephoto lens which weighs so much more. I am happy with the compromise, as my purse then looks and feels like any other purse I carry. (My husband, on the other hand, still packs at least two lenses and a whole bunch of other stuff. I have regretted leaving the dslr at home because it seems when I don't have it, that's the time I see that great photo opportunity I'll likely never have again! Have a lovely trip.

Posted by
134 posts

Well this isn't a trip report, but it is a packing report -

I'm waiting for my Lyft to arrive and take me to the airport. The DSLR is staying home just due to space. I'm taking my point and shoot, iPad, and iPhone.

Thanks to all who weighed in!