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May 9th 2013 2:35 pm

Best vacation DSLR under $700?

I'm going to Sweden and Iceland this summer. I own the Nikon AW100 and plan on using it for most of my pictures and videos by purchasing another battery and bringing extra memory cards. I'm curious if I should invest in something like a Canon T3i. I've never had a DSLR and the size and cost of the thing scare me for taking on a two week vacation. I've had other point and shoots, but I like the AW100 for the durability.

My questions are:
1. How hard is it to learn how to use the thing? How durable is it?
2. It doesn't look heavy, but if I'm hiking or walking for hours at a time, is the weight going to be a pain?
3. Are the pictures worth the added hassle over my waterproof 16MP Nikon?

I'm really excited for this trip to see the one of a kind outdoorsy things that especially Iceland has to offer. I have to imagine that the $600 or whatever I spend on the camera is going to make awesome pictures, but I don't want to constantly be frustrated trying to learn how to use the thing. Couple that with the thought of missing out on moments (and shots) because I was fiddling with the settings or tired because the camera is so much bigger than what I'm used to.

Also, I did a project on the Lytro and love its form factor so much that I've been waiting for other high end cameras to shrink to pocket size. That's why I don't currently own a DSLR.


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Camera recommendations are like ice cream... everybody has different tastes. With that said, I like chocolate. :) But I also highly recommend foregoing a DSLR and going for a compact system camera (CSC), aka interchangeable lens camera (ILC), instead. Something like the Olympus PEN series. You can go under $400 and get a capable camera with better image quality than a point and shoot, ability to use very high quality lenses (rent one form and be amazed), and very user friendly controls. Spend more and get greater customization, better image quality, weather resistance, etc. Most important for traveling, CSC/ILC bodies are tiny... that means you will be inclined to actually carry the camera and use it! They are super light and lenses are tiny compared to the optical equivalent on a conventional DSLR. Depending on your lens choice, you can easily carry one in a cargo short pocket. Try that with a DSLR.

After saying all that, I recently visited Yosemite and probably 80% of my photos were shot with my iphone, due to ease of use and speed. So it's up to you. As the saying goes: the best camera is the one you have with you.
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