There is no ideal camera out there to suit everyone's taste or occasion .....not just yet anyway!
Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, Samsung etc., all have huge lines of excellent digital camera's, and personally have used Canon, Sony, Minolta, Olympus, Panasonic and Fuji camera's over the years.
For traveling, light weight and compact is the way to go (unless you are a semi-pro or above, then nothing but the full DSLR kit will suffice!) For keen amateurs like myself, a bridge model with a good fixed lens is ideal, the Panasonic DMC-TZ5, Canon PowerShot SX1 IS, Sony Cyber-Shot DSCHX1, Olympus SP-570UZ and their siblings, are all fairly compact fixed lens models, that are capable of excellent results in a variety of situations, spare batteries and cards being the only extras needed.
If DSLR's are your choice, then the cheaper to mid range models have more compact bodies and slightly less features than their parents, if your like me, then most of the features never see the light of day anyway, and only make navigation round the menu more difficult, so, streamlining is good!
Canon EOS 450D
Canon EOS 500D
All these DSLR's, are the pick of the crop at the time of this post, but are only as good as the lens you put on them! Please choose your extra lenses carefully, the lens market is a minefield, and the same rules apply here as with binoculars, you normally get what you pay for, but there are exceptions!
Do some homework, check photo forums/blogs for unbiased customer reviews, better still, find a local club where you can try before you buy, and glean some tips from others why your there.
Every now and then, I go out with a group of photo buddies, we're all amateurs, and we choose different locations for a day of snapping, each has a variety of kit, and we learn from each other as we go!
We might even start another blog about our days out, posting the best pictures and how we came about developing our own style! This is a great way of honing your photo kit and skills, plus it's a lot of fun, last time we went to Howletts Zoo and Canterbury Cathedral, haven't laughed so much in ages, lol!
Green Tree Frog in the Amazon Jungle, taken with my trusty Minolta A200
My ideal Digital camera is almost a reality, 2 new Canon's are the closest thing to it at the moment, the Canon EOS 500D, 15.1 Megapixel, Digic IV processor, large 3in LCD screen with live view, and HDMI video, all housed in a compact and ergonomic body, has almost tempted me to go down the DSLR route and upgrade from my trusty Minolta A200 (no longer available), a bridge model, 8 Megapixel, 28-200mm fixed lens (7x) compact model, that has served me very well for the last couple of years, but lately have found it wanting in a few areas, and the reviews the Canon's are getting right now, they might tempt me yet!
The other, is the Canon PowerShot SX1 IS, another bridge camera, with a 10 Megapixel CMOS sensor (the first PowerShot to get one!), DIGIC 4 processor, a 20X Optical lens, Optical Image Stabilizer, Full HD video at 30fps, and a 2.8"Vari-angle LCD Screen, this it would seem, is the ideal camera for travelers like you and I.
The many reviews on the SX1 have been very good, it's probably the best bridge camera available at this time, a little bulkier than my Minolta, but then it does have to pack that 20X lens somewhere! It would have been nice if the lens had a threaded end for filters and protection, plus a manual zoom ring, I find it so much easier than thumbing a zoom button which tends to jump past where you want it (the SX1 zoom button surrounds the shutter release and I have yet to try it!), and it saves on battery power.
It uses 4 AA batteries, of which I'm not a big fan, as they don't seem to last as long as the high-capacity rechargeable lithium-ion types, so I would advise on getting some good NiMH rechargeables and not the throw away ones which are filling up our landfill sites with harmful toxins!
Of course, AA's do have one advantage, if you run out anywhere in the world, there's a pretty good chance you can buy some new ones quite easily.
So, what are my reservations about diving into getting the Canon EOS 500D? First, the LCD screen is fixed, it would benefit hugely if it had a swiveling function like the new Nikon D5000 and SX1 , I like to take a lot of macro shots, many of which are at ground level, and although I don't mind lying in the dirt, I would prefer not to!
Secondly, the HDMI video only shoots at 20 frames a second at full 1080 HD, 30 fps at 720, and although that is quite adequate for a mid range DSLR, I think that Canon may upgrade it next time around. If they do and include a tilting screen and a geotagging function, coupled with a compact 28-300 mm macro lens, I'll be a very happy man!
Sorry for being such a big Canon fan, most of my friends have one of some description, and the results are very impressive!
Storage and media players again offer a huge variety of different products, at present, I have an "Archos 704 80GB HD WiFi Multimedia Player " that has and still is, giving good service, storing over 15,500 full sized jpegs on my 8 month round the world trip, along with some previous photo albums, my entire music collection and about 40 movies, all on it's 80 GB hard drive and all viewable on the lovely 7 in screen.
Archos have since updated the 704 to the 705 (still available if you can find one), and now the 7, available in 160GB and 320GB versions, the OS being faster and more intuitive on the new one, both are available at PurlyGadgets for £301.95 and £327.99
respectively, the best price I have yet to find anywhere!
It's great showing fellow travellers your photos on a good sized screen, having your music and movies with you wherever you go, and get online when in a wireless hotspot, even if it is a little tedious with the Opera operating system, and after living with it for a few years now, I have some thoughts on what would be an ideal replacement, which I will be writing about shortly, so stay tuned?
I took my Archos with me on a recent trip to St Petersburg in Russia, and one evening at the Soul Kitchen Hostel where I was staying, there were a few guys hanging out taking it easy after a long day sightseeing. One of them wanted to watch a movie, but the DVD player was out of action, so I offered a film from my library on my Archos, after a few minutes, I had connected it to the widescreen TV, and they were soon debating what to see!
The choice was not an obvious one (I have about 50 titles), but they decided on "Mr Beans Holiday!", it was not until about half an hour into the film, that I suddenly realized that nearly all the people staying at the hostel (about 20 odd), were all stood watching it too! There were people from all over the world, but no matter what language they spoke, this one film had a common language that they all understood............humor!!
It was a very special moment to witness this coming together of so many nationalities, who would have thought that one simple movie could unite us all in such a positive way!
There is a lesson to learn here I think!!
Some useful sites for cameras, electrical gear and software;