One of the best things about a family vacation is all the memories you make. And in the 21st Century, that includes all the photos you hopefully take of those moments. Planning for that trip means getting a new family camera, if you’re lucky. So how do you choose between all the options, from fancy mirrorless cameras to middle of the road DSLRs to the huge range of Canon Powershot cameras and other point and shoots? Use this list of the priorities and evaluate your answers to identify the perfect camera and get on with the trip.
This is obvious but it’s important to make the decision first. A digital camera is a luxury item and you can find something satisfactory at nearly every price range, although $200 is typically the cutoff for acceptable quality. But if this is your first recent foray into shopping, you don’t have expensive needs. Set a budget first. Just remember that you don’t have to break into triple digits to get amazing photos from a convenient device.
2. Optical zoom
Zoom isn’t the most important feature on an SLR. But on your family vacation camera, nothing has a bigger impact on the quality of shots you can get. A huge optical zoom lets you capture your children’s faces as they splashes away at the other end of the pool in crisp, clear detail even if you can’t run over and stage a perfect shot.
3. Battery type
Some cameras use their own rechargeable batteries and others use AA batteries. You can also purchase rechargeable batteries that fit cameras designed for typical AA or AAA. The advantage of the former is saving money on batteries, while the latter means you can ensure your camera has power anywhere in the world to take photos even without access to an outlet.
4. Weight, size, and convenience
First, a relevant aside. Many people feel that between a powerful DSLR and their five-megapixel smartphone they are covered for all situations. The problem is that although significantly more convenient, smartphones perform poorly in low light and action environments. These are some of the most common situations that people having a good time on vacation want to photograph. This is one of the main reasons to have a digital camera chosen for its convenience and ability to take great photos.
That being said, obviously the lighter and slimmer a camera, the more convenient it is to carry and pack. However, that doesn’t necessary translate to the most comfortable, effective camera when you’re actually taking photos. On the other hand, a nice mirrorless camera or a DSLR camera with a decent lens will be less convenient to pack and carry due to its size, and be heavy when you’re walking around. There is also a tradeoff in terms of a higher price for the same photographic quality the smaller you get. Typically, this means you want a camera comparable in size to a mid-sized point-and-shoot.
Vacation and kids are tough on cameras. However, unless you want a waterproof housing or are ready to spend a ton of cash on a “tough” brand camera, you don’t have a lot of options. However, when you hold the camera and operate the buttons and screen you can get a sense for how sturdy it feels. The feeling of heft and sturdiness or lack thereof is also an important metric whenever you buy a camera, even if you end up ordering it online in the end.
You may notice this list doesn’t include megapixels, rotating LCDs on a bezel, exposure setting ranges, fancy filters and in-camera editing, Wi-Fi connectivity, or the range of lens options they offer. If a great family travel camera is your goal, none of those features are of primary importance. If you’re choosing between two similar models, decide based on your preference among those features. But first, stick to the five priorities outlined above to ensure that you get the right camera for your needs, whether you are choosing mirrorless cameras or mid-range point and shoots.