How-to: Choose a Camera for Touring
Bicycle touring and photography seem to go hand and hand, and it makes sense. You get to travel to incredible places at a relatively slow pace, there is plenty of time to kill, and after the tour is over you want to be able to share your experiences with others. Just thinking about the staff at Adventure Cycling, where I worked until recently, there have been some incredible photographers within our own walls over the years, including Aaron Teasdale, Tom Robertson, John Sieber, and our co-founder, Greg Siple.
I'm by no stretch a great photographer, but I do love shooting photos on bike trips. One thing I have learned over the years is that it is really easy to start geeking out on camera equipment just as you can on bike equipment, which is incredibly dangerous. I don't need a fancy DSLR, just like a don't need a custom Co-Motion with a Rohloff hub, but I want them both anyway. Fortunately, common sense takes hold of me before I dig myself too far into debt, and I find a good compromise. For those of you in a similar boat wanting a high-quality camera, but not wanting to drop thousands of dollars, there are some excellent options available.
Four years ago I bought a used Canon G9 for a bike tour, and even now I still toss it into my jersey pocket for nearly every ride I go on. The current Canon G12 is capable of taking very high-quality photos, in addition to 1280p x 720p HD video. There are a lot of manual control options available -- so, depending on your skill level, you can really play around with aperture and shutter speed for some unique photos. If the G12 holds up as well as my G9 has been, it's a camera that can survive a lot of tours, making it a pretty good deal for $500.
If you want to be able to swap lenses but don't want a heavy or bulky camera, the mirrorless Lumix cameras from Panasonic look really attractive. The Panasonic Lumix DMC GX-1 camera body is very low profile like a simple point-and-shoot, but it accepts a number of zoom lenses to give you a ton of options. Just like the camera body, the Panasonic lenses are small and light, so you would have no problem fitting this camera along with two or three extra lenses into a small handlebar bag. You can shoot high-resolution photos at 16 megapixels, and you have the ability to capture 1080 HD video. The camera runs around $800, which includes the 14-42mm kit lens.
This article originally appeared at Josh's Adventure Cycling Blog column, Touring Gear and Tips, on February 4, 2012. Obviously, it is not an exhaustive piece on choosing a camera, but it puts forth some good ideas. We'd love to hear from you readers about your choices in cameras for touring!
Top photo by Sarah Raz; others by Josh Tack