Real camera or camera that also makes phone calls? - CycleBlaze

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Real camera or camera that also makes phone calls?

Mike Ayling

Wayne Estes refers to using a "real camera" with telephoto lens for some of his pics in his latest  journal.

Mary and I each carry a point and shoot Nikon Coolpix A300. Mary sometimes exhausts her battery during the day and then grabs mine which I hardly use anyway.

I suspect that the phone camera would probably give the same results as the point and shoot but if using the phone for navigation draining the battery taking photos may not be such a good idea. I also don't want to share my photos with Mr Google so like being able to transfer the pics from the camera to desktop when I get home rather than uploading from the phone to the cloud.

What do you think and do?


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1 week ago
Catherine HacquoilTo Mike Ayling

Hi Mike,

I am also interested in this question.  I usually carry a DSLR and a smart phone camera.  I'm a bit of a camera tragic and love my DSLR in full manual mode, but Ive managed to wreck a few lenses with vibration and dust, and that was only on rides of 10 days or so.  Using the DSLR also means spending a bit more time transferring the pictures to a laptop or similar before uploading.  On shorter tours I've done all this once I'm home, but a longer tour would require doing this on the road.  I'm currently dithering between the DSLR or a good quality compact with weather proofing for our multi-month tour starting in ~August. 

I wait with bated breath to hear how other people handle their photography on the road :-)

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1 week ago
Edward HitchcockTo Catherine Hacquoil

First question: Why do you take photos?

If you take photos so has to help jog your memory when you want to remember your trip, then photo quality is not very important.  Ease of use becomes most important.

I like a camera small enough to fit in a  pocket, that I can use with one hand, and that I won't grieve over too much should it fall, get water damage, or get lost.  A low end real camera is my answer for that.  For many situations, low cost is a valid alternative to waterproofing or ruggedness.

But I do use my phone camera too.  I have turned off google photo uploading, because that will no longer be free soon.  I try instead to accumulate all my photos onto a (backed up) laptop running FastStone Image viewer.

If you take photos because you love photography and making great images, then you need to be suitably equipped.  I personally don't like to travel with equipment that needs a lot of mollycoddling.

The photo shows my Panasonic LS1 that has served me well, but is beginning to be a bit temperemental due to its age and hard life.

It has had sand in the lens, been dropped (and repaired with a screw), been a bit wet, and it still works but only just.... It fits in my pocket and I can take photos with one hand.
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1 week ago
John PescatoreTo Mike Ayling

I've found the cell phone camera meets my needs and does not exceed my limited artistic capability - I was pretty much a point and click, auto-settings kind of photographer even when I carried a real camera.

Since I went to a bike GPS for navigation (Wahoo) years ago, the phone is only used as a phone and occasionally as a camera.

Just as easy to get the photos to my PC as it was with a digital camera - though since we pay for Amazon Prime, I get unlimited photo storage and since my wife never deletes any photos, we tend to upload to that for backup and longer term storage.

A neat thing I've used recently: my daughter had a baby last November, and for Xmas she gave us and her in-laws PhotoShare digital frames and she just emails baby pictures to them and they appear - I don't have to join the millennials on Instagram to see them! From my phone, I can email trip photos to that, even though my daughter was aghast to see something other than baby pictures on the frame...

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1 week ago
George HallTo Mike Ayling

Mike - similar to Wayne, I too carry a "real" camera on tour.  I carry a Pentax K5 DSLR (APSC sensor size) with a 20-40 normal lens and a 55-300 telephoto.  The entire kit, both the camera and the 2 lenses, is environmentally sealed - neither dust nor rain is a concern, and I have shot many photos in the rain.  The K5 is a bit dated in the Pentax lineup, and it is of little monetary value now so I don't worry much about it - but I would not be happy to lose or damage the lenses.   The gear rides in my large Arkel handlebar bag, which is completely waterproof (yes, it's been tested by me in some serious downpours) - when I note something to photograph it's usually just a quick stop straddling the bike and 10 seconds to grab the camera and shoot.   In the early morn I have the telephoto mounted for any wildlife sightings,  and by midday I have mounted the normal lens.   And I have learned to do a 1-handed grab and "point-and-shoot" while riding downhill fast and (sometimes) capture a decent photo that way - probably not the safest thing to do though.

So that's how I roll.  With the battery charger, camera, and 2 lenses, I am carrying an extra couple of pounds - but it makes me happy.  If I really wanted to travel lighter, I should work on losing more belly fat!  

If you already shoot with a DSLR and enjoy it, well then you should bring it along - what's the point of having it if you aren't going to use it?  OTOH, I wouldn't go and buy a DSLR for the trip unless you are already a photographer.  There are many good point-and-shoot cameras on the market - the larger the sensor size, the better the image quality, and the more you will pay - look for the 1" sensors if you want a good point and shoot.    Phone cameras have improved greatly, but even a simple point-and-shoot gives you a lot more control - but that only matters if you understand what to do with that extra control (in other words, if you are already into photography).  Best of luck,


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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Mike Ayling

We use the phone camera only by exception, when I’ve forgotten to bring the ‘real’ camera along, or when Rachael is off on her own.  Phone cameras are getting better all the time, but they really can’t compete yet in my opinion.

I use a Panasonic ZS-60, a point and shoot super-zoom.  For me it’s the perfect camera for cycle touring.  Light and small enough that it fits comfortably in my jersey pocket; gives excellent image quality; and provides shot opportunities that only a fairly powerful zoom can give you.  And it’s smart - I only use its ‘intelligent auto’ feature, because it’s way smarter than I am.  Note that it’s one or two generations behind the latest version, which is perfect too if you can still find one - it’s cheaper, and smaller and lighter than the newest models.

The Panasonic ZS-60. Pretty hard to improve on for a travel camera in my opinion.
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1 week ago
Wayne EstesTo Mike Ayling

I used my "real" camera almost exclusively before I started posting a few daily photos to Facebook. About 5 years ago I started to use my phone camera to post a few photos to Facebook every day. For a couple years I took many photos with both cameras.

In the last 3 years I have used my "real" camera less and less because the phone camera is adequate more than 90% of the time. I'm mostly an outdoor landscape photographer. My phone is excellent for wide angle photos in bright light. The "real" camera has an optical zoom and much larger sensor, so it is significantly better for telephoto and low light photography. It also has a powerful flash that I seldom use but appreciate on the rare occasion that it's truly needed. The "real" camera also allows me to take silky time exposures of waterfalls and rivers. I can name many situations where the "real" camera works much better, but those situations don't occur very often during bike tours.

My "real" camera is small compared to some serious photographers. My Canon G7X has a 1-inch sensor and a very fast F/1.8-2.8 lens. The 4X zoom range is limited, but I can crop away 95% of the image and still have enough pixels to look good online.

Most of my tour routes have so few turns that I seldom use my phone for navigation. I also never use my phone to record my route. Battery life is not a problem for me but it surely is more of a constraint when using a phone extensively for photography and navigation.

I think it's a shame that most high-end cameras can't charge an internal battery via USB. During tours I charge my 3.6V LiIon camera battery with a 10 gram USB-powered "clip" charger.

10 gram USB-powered charger for LiIon camera batteries.
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1 week ago
Gregory GarceauTo Mike Ayling

I cannot believe how many years of backpacking in the American west that I relied on my memory and my written descriptions to be my camera.  Edward Abbey once said, "A word is worth a thousand pictures--if it's the RIGHT word."  I've repeated that quote many, many times.   Unfortunately, I'm not as good of a writer as Mr. Abbey.

I didn't even take many pictures on my first few bike tours, again mistakenly thinking I could come up with the "right words."  Now I take lots of pictures with my phone to enhance the narrative.   Perhaps too many of them.  I like taking the pictures, but after seeing other people's pictures, I realize the quality isn't there.  I'm always behind the curve.  Maybe some day I'll get a high quality camera.  Maybe.

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1 week ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Mike Ayling

Hi Mike

I've gone in circles here.  I got my first SLR after being disappointed by the (huge) difference between what I had seen in the viewfinder of the point-and-shoot I had as a teenager and the result on the film.  Specifically, I remember watching the changing of the guard at Ottawa's Parliament Building and waiting to get the entire group of guards in view but when I got my developed prints back, the guards were a tiny blob in the middle of the frame.  I saved up and got my first SLR because what you saw was what you got.  Then switched to P&S when my kids started moving too fast for me to manually focus.

Fast-forward to my return to cycle touring after kids, when I took along my first digital SLR.  I wasn't enamoured with the results but I think a lot of that was because I was using it as a P&S.  But it was bulky, so I got a little Panasonic super zoom for cycle touring.  Then, at a viewpoint on the Icefields Parkway, someone asked me to take a photo of them with their SLR and the big bright viewfinder was so much better than that on my little camera.

So now I take my Olympus O-MD, a couple of lenses, and a polarizing filter.  It's micro-four-thirds, so not too big or heavy.  Mine is a weatherproof model (the smallest one would be great for cycle touring but doesn't have this feature) and I take it unless there's some reason I can't.

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1 week ago
Karen CookTo Mike Ayling


I use a camera because I am one of the slowest on this earth to upgrade my phone technology.  I only JUST upgraded from an Iphone 5 to an Iphone 6 but only because the battery stopped charging altogether and I had no point is that I don't go for phones for much more than making phone calls, texting, and sending emojis and bitmojis to anyone lucky enough to be in my bitmoji circle of friends...


When I first started touring I got a "point and shoot" with some decent bells and whistles (for that type of camera) like very good zoom and setting options.  But I was going through about one camera per year because it got so beat up on trips.

The main issue was moisture getting inside and gumming up the works, so I got a waterproof point and shoot that can be dropped off a cliff (according to their advertisement).  That was 6-7 years ago and I still have it, it works great and it has been underwater many times, sometimes intentionally sometimes not.

However, I think almost any current camera (or current phone camera) can take a picture with a high enough quality to make a nice journal post.  It is more about the editing.  And I say this not as any kind of photo expert, which I am not, but for several years I was lucky enough to have an office next to a photography instructor and he gave me about 20 minutes of tips on how to edit my photos (cropping mostly) to improve the quality, subject wise.  I learned that most beginners (like me) try to do too much with a photo instead of focusing on the subject and elements in the scene.  It was a HUGE help, watching him crop my terrible photos into sometime much more interesting in a matter of seconds.

Since then I think my photos have improved, but I have also learned when NOT to waste my time, by stopping and taking a photo in the first place if it won't work.  I take far fewer of them than I used to only because I know which scenes, or lighting, etc, wont look good.  I can enjoy the scene myself but don't waste time trying to photograph it.

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1 week ago