As a cruise junkie (40+ cruises), a professional travel writer and photographer, and a normal human, I never leave home without my Apple iPhone X. Despite this, I would never go on a cruise with just a smartphone or tablet as my only camera.
Most of your cruise clients probably own smartphones or tablets. For the past few years, these devices have had state-of-the-art cameras built into them. Under most situations, they produce some great pictures. Sending photos to others via emails or texts is easy, and all the images are stored in the Cloud where even you can’t lose them. Most importantly, clients will be shooting with a camera that they already know how to use.
However, as in all things photographic, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Smartphones and tablets have certain problems that limit their use as travel cameras:
The glare from a smartphone or tablet screen severely limits their use in bright sunlight. Clients will often shoot without being able to compose your photo carefully.
Smartphones and tablets don’t have optical zoom lenses. While you can enlarge the subject by spreading your fingers apart, this results in mediocre images.
A sensor in a smartphone is a fraction of the size of even the most compact camera. This limits your ability to make high-quality enlargements and shoot in dim light.
Most smartphones and tablets are not weather-proof or shock resistant. Using them in a tender with waves crashing into the boat, or dropping them onto a slippery wet deck, can put a real damper on your vacation.
Thus smartphones and tablets aren’t the best choices as your only cruise camera. Here are some other kinds of cameras that will extend your smartphones’ capabilities, and help ensure that you always will come back from cruises with wonderful photos.
A superzoom camera with an eye-level viewfinder (EVF) and at least a 28-300mm f2.8 zoom lens. These are the Swiss Army knives of the camera world since they are relatively light and don’t require clients to change lenses. My pick is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 that provides a 25-600mm F2.8 Leica zoom lens and 4K video. It’s also weatherproof and splash-proof , and sells for $409. Its small sensor will not usually permit you to make high-quality 11×14” enlargements.
An adventure camera that you can take diving down to 50 feet, drop on the pavement, or accidentally bury in sand or mud. These cameras are nearly indestructible and you can even permit your preschoolers to use them. My pick is the Olympus Tough TG-5 $450). Its only weakness is its small sensor that usually can’t make high-quality enlargements beyond about 8×10 inches.
A pocketable camera that’s at home in your dress slacks or purse. To add capabilities that your smartphone doesn’t have, these cameras should have an eye-level optical viewfinder (EVF), and a large sensor (Micro Four-Thirds or One-Inch) that can make 16×20” enlargements. Top picks are the Sony DSC-RX100-V ($1000), the Leica D-LUX Type 109 ($1100) and the Panasonic DMC-LX100 ($647). The Panasonic LX100 is a virtual clone of the Leica and rumored to be made in the same Japanese factory. Also, Sony still sells new, discontinued RX100 models, such as the Sony DSC-RX100 Model III ($469).
A fixed- lens camera that weighs less than a pound, let you shoot unnoticed, and can make 20×30-inch enlargements that clients can hang on their walls. These cameras tend to be treasured by their owners, despite the fact that don’t have interchangeable or zoom lenses. They are light, fast handling, virtually unnoticeable, and yield studio-quality prints. The Fujifilm X100F is the “bargain buy” in this category ($1300). These are usually cameras to which you graduate when you have spent at least a decade in photography.
An interchangeable-lens camera with several lenses. These are the most versatile cameras but tend to be heavy when equipped with telephoto lenses. The best ones for cruisers are mirrorless models made by Olympus, Fujifilm, Panasonic or Sony because they’re lighter and usually cost less than DSLR cameras made by Nikon and Canon. My pick for cruisers is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera body ($850), and the Olympus Travel Lens Kit ($800). The kit consists of the 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 zoom lens and the 17mm f1.8 fixed-length lens. The zoom gives you an effective reach of from 28-300mm without having to change lenses, and it weighs only 9 ounces. The 17mm f1.8 lens is meant for shooting indoors or in the evening without a flash. The weatherproof camera body and its anti-shake stabilization is all you need to go on a world cruise and make 20×30” enlargements.
This only gives you a taste of the possibilities that are open to your clients when they realize that their smartphones or tablets won’t answer all their photo needs. For a more detailed view, see the $0.99 Kindle edition of the newly-released book on Amazon, Choosing Great Cameras For Cruises & Tours by Steve Frankel. It’s a 50-page expanded version of this article with hyperlinked detailed descriptions of the cameras by the best reviewers writing today. You might want to order a Kindle copy of the book for some clients you’ve just booked on a cruise. There’s also a $14.99 paperback version of the book for clients who aren’t computer savvy, or when you want to be sure clients will remember you when they book their next cruise.
Steve Frankel’s email address is steve@CruisesAndCameras.com. More of Steve’s photos can be found at his website, www.CruisesAndCameras.com. In addition to his writing and speaking activities, he’s also the CEO of the online travel agency, Cruises & Cameras Travel Services, which specializes in small ship cruises providing noteworthy photo opportunities.