Picture It!

A lot of college and high school kids will be going on “breaks” and “field trips” and “summer vacations” all over the world over the next few months, as will many others who are taking either their annual vacations or going into retirement. Everyone going on such a trip wants to capture that memory forever in pictures, so from $6 to $600 we look at cameras for that trip you’re taking!

If you’re not a photography nut, you’re probably not going to want to invest in an expensive camera, so many of you will be taking along “disposable” cameras and there are basically three high end units you should consider for that priceless trip:


The Kodak High-Definition 400 or 800. Designed for use outside and inside (it comes with a flash) these cameras have two higher quality Ektanar lenses for better sharpness. The 400 is a versatile all around use camera, especially if you think you might make some enlargements, but the 800 speed camera will freeze action better (it has a faster shutter speed) and will take flash pictures indoors up to 15 or 18 feet (you are limited to 10 or 12 feet with the 400 speed camera). Priced from about $6-$10 each if bought near your home ($12 to $20 if bought on board a ship or at a port).

Fuji also makes a 400 speed entry (True Def) with a two element lens, priced around $6-8 that is very comparable to the Kodak High Definition 400 model.

A Cut Above

The Canon SureShot series is a very low priced, yet high quality 35mm film camera. Starting at about $60 for the 80mm zoom and going up to about $125 for the larger (150mm) zoom cameras.

This is a reusable camera, with a multi-element, fully coated, glass lens assembly that zooms from modest wide angle to moderate telephoto to help bring those distant shots closer to you or back you off from large groups of people poolside!

The coated glass lens means sharper pictures, clearer pictures, with better color and super excellent flash pictures that avoids that “smear” you get with most disposable cameras due to their plastic lenses.

Plus, film is much cheaper! You can buy a 4 pack of Polaroid (made by Agfa, a good company) for about $5 in 400 speed, a 4 or 5 pack of Fuji 400 (even better quality) is about $6 to $8 and the similar Kodak pack is about $8 to $10. This is enough for about 80 to 100 pictures!

Even Better!

The Canon Rebel K2 SLR camera. Priced around $200 this camera lets you look through the lens so you never cut off the top of heads, feet or someone’s shoulder in a group shot. It has a far superior lens to the smaller SureShot series so you get even clearer pictures that will make excellent enlargements. It comes with a moderate wide to portrait level telephoto zoom lens and you can add other lenses that go to over 200mm to really bring in those distance shots! The only down side to this camera is it’s a lot bigger than everything else, including most of the camcorders!

Watch it Move!

Camcorders are by far the most popular item for many people because you can capture all sorts of local events like birthdays or barbecues, as well as those vacation memories.

Many people ask for one that can take both still and video images, but the sad truth is that no video camcorder can take a very good still picture, but we found one at a low price that does an ok job for snapshots almost as good as a disposable camera:

JVC GR-270. With a 25x optical zoom, using Mini-DVC tapes and it takes an SD card for still pictures, generating a still image roughly 1 megapixel (most other camcorders give you an image that is 640 x 400 or about 2/3 of a megapixel). This still image is good enough for 4x6 pictures, but just barely! You can also do “interval” video photography with the camera (to capture time lapse pictures of flowers opening, sunrise or sunsets with a frame every so often).

The viewfinder and LCD screen are both in color (most camcorders have a black and white viewfinder). Using the viewfinders extends shooting time on the battery, which is just over an hour with the Lithium Ion battery that comes with the unit (you can buy one with up to 3 hours recording time separately).

The camcorder is small, light, easy to hold in your hand and shoots 60 minutes of video at high quality (520+ lines) or 90 minutes of lower quality (both audio and video drop, but they are still close to DVD quality). Priced under $400.

Sony DVD-92. A new low priced small format (8cm) DVD camcorder that uses those little “2 inch” type disks that fit in most DVD player trays and will play on almost any DVD player bought in the last 18 months (plus many older units). Formatted for DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD+RW disks.

It will take 640x400 still pictures on the RW style disks (no card for stills). It will shoot 20 minutes high quality (520+ lines) DV videos or 30 minutes DVD (480 lines) or 60 minutes of VHS (240 lines) quality videos on a single disk. The disks cost about $6-$10 each. The camcorder is a bit on the high end at close to $600, but considering that only a few months ago at the holiday season you paid $800+ for this type of unit it means the prices are coming down to Earth!

It has a 20x Zeiss Tessar optical zoom (one of the best lenses you can find in a home camcorder priced under $1,000), a touch screen LCD, black and white viewfinder and it will take a series of still shots on RW disks at regular intervals.

The nice thing about DVD camcorders is you can usually just bring your disks to peoples homes to show the videos (although not all DVD players will run all disks, especially if they are older than 2003) instead of having to bring the whole camcorder with cords to connect to the TV set. Yes, this one also comes with cords to connect to the TV should the disk not play in a given unit!

For under $200 you can get a VHS-C camcorder from JVC (the GR-17) that produces tapes you can pop into an adapter and play in most (not all) VHS decks. On the downside you only get 30 minutes recording time, these units are large, bulky and somewhat heavy, plus the quality of the videos is far below that of a DVD.

Add about $30 more and you can get the next up in the JVC (the GR-37) line that comes with the VHS adapter (saving you $10-$20) and allows you the option to tape in higher quality S-VHS (but you can't play these recordings in a conventional VHS player, even with the adapter).

Digital Still Cameras

Most of these units will also take movie clips, but the movies aren’t as good as those from the camcorders (you really didn’t think the camera companies would shoot themselves in the foot, did you?)! Most record clips with sound.

Olympus 535 is on the lower end, priced around $130 with a 3x optical zoom, silent movie clips, but it has no viewfinder so you must use the back LCD screen. It takes the faster XD card for memory (comes with internal for about 14 pictures) but this card is also more expensive (about $35 for a 128mb card for 100+ pictures).

Kodak 7330 is probably one of the best buys out there at about $150. A 3x optical zoom, viewfinder, sound movie clips to the length of memory (16mb internal for 14 stills or about 30 seconds of video), but the 7430 offers a little speaker for video sound playback, plus another megapixel (4 total) so you can get bigger enlargements or crop your little pictures. This unit is closer to $200.

Nikon Cool Pix 4600 priced around $200 is very small, 4 megapixels, with a 3x optical zoom, viewfinder and sound video clips. Very competitive with the Kodak, with the famous Nikon quality glass lens.


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