The perfect camera and photo gear for summer travel

Updated January 29, 2024, 8:52pm PT

written by

Jeffrey Morrison

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Jeffrey Morrison Contributor

Geoffrey Morrison is a technology and travel writer/photographer for CNET. new york times, and other web and print publications. He is also the editor of The Wirecutter.he writes: sound & vision magazine, home theater Served as editor-in-chief of a magazine home entertainment magazine. He has his NIST and his ISF training and holds a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. his bestselling novel, ocean floorand its sequel, underwater atrophy, available in paperback and digital on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, traveling the world to live and work. You can follow his travels at and on his YouTube channel.

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feet of square meter laboratory space

Currently $110


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Add-on lenses for mobile phones

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$249 on Amazon


Places where cell phones are afraid to enter

GoPro Hero 10

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$575 at Walmart


Photos you can't touch with your smartphone

Camera with zoom function

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No matter what trip you're planning for this summer, it's natural to want to document it and share it with friends back home or strangers can be anything long journeya visit to 1 or 3 national parks Or maybe a trip to Disney with or without kids.

Camera equipment can be expensive, but the truth is you don't have to spend a lot of money to significantly improve your photos and videos. Even if you're just sharing online, the right settings on your phone or relatively inexpensive action camera can make a big difference. I'm a travel photographer, so I sometimes end up using my phone to take quick photos.The key is Know how to use your camera, regardless of price.

Here are some options at various price points. One of them should fit your trip and budget perfectly.

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Believe it or not, a cell phone may be all you need. If you know otherwise, just keep reading. Honestly, modern mid-end and high-end cell phones take great photos and videos.At least take some great photos some kind of. Most cell phones have fairly wide-angle lenses, so you can get great group shots and landscapes, but the bison in the distance will look very small.

For most people, and in most situations, all they really need is a phone. Once you understand a few basics about how it works (tap the screen to change exposure), you're good to go.

If you have an old phone and aren't happy with the photos you take, but aren't sure if you want to spend money on a dedicated camera, consider a new phone. I personally use Google Pixels, but CNET has lots of recommendations for Android and Apple.

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Add-on lenses on your phone are no substitute for a real camera, and even in the best of cases can reduce the quality of your images. You can take photos that would be impossible with just your phone's camera and built-in lens. The slight loss in quality may or may not be noticeable when posting on social media, but it's worth it.

The idea is to attach an additional lens on top of your phone's camera. When you combine them, they work as if you had a completely different phone camera.

CNET investigated Moment lenses a few years ago, but it's the current 58mm telephoto lens that I recommend checking out. It doesn't get you as close to the action as a “real” telephoto lens, nor does it give you the reach of some top-of-the-line cell phone telephoto cameras. However, it lets you get much closer to the action than most cell phones' wide main cameras.

There are also wide-angle versions of these add-on lenses. I love a good wide-angle lens, but most cell phone cameras have a panoramic mode that lets you do the same thing for free, at least when it comes to photography. This method doesn't work with videos. If you need an additional lens, please select it. But I think for most people, a telephoto will give you photos that aren't possible any other way.

Please note that you will need to get one of Moment's phone cases to connect the lens.

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The newest GoPro is the Hero 11 Black, but for most people I still recommend last year's Hero 10 Black. It's a little cheaper, but almost as good as the new 11. It can record 5.3K video at 60 frames per second, resulting in highly detailed and extremely smooth video. You can also take 23MP photos. What's even better is that it's sturdy, easy to use, and waterproof to a depth of 33 feet.

Additionally, there are countless mounts and accessories available not just online, but at hotel gift shops, dive centers, electronics stores, and just about anywhere else. If you lose your battery or need a new mount, it's easy to find.

The only downside other than the price is the wide-angle lens. You won't get cool images of wildlife or things far away. This is fine for most adventures, but if you're going on a safari or doing a hike with lots of cool wildlife, you might not get as much eye-catching footage as if you had a real camera with a zoom. There is a gender. See below for more details.

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The biggest change to the GoPro Hero 11 Black over its predecessor is a new, more square image sensor. This allows you to record high-resolution vertical video without rotating the camera. The advantage is that you can record everything with the camera in one position, and during editing you can crop vertically for TikTok and Instagram, or horizontally for YouTube and traditional aspect ratios. Previous GoPros required you to select the desired direction before shooting, which limited the quality if you wanted to use the footage in other directions.
If this doesn't make sense to you, or if you don't care about video quality when cross-posting between social media platforms that prefer portrait or landscape, the Hero 10 Black mentioned above will probably do just fine and save you money. A little money.

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Certain types of photography actually require a real camera. The ability to “zoom in” with a standard cell phone camera is limited so far. Fortunately, even inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras usually have some degree of optical zoom.

Optical zoom is what you want. Don't be fooled by the “digital zoom” specifications. Digital zoom is not zoom at all. Just crop and enlarge the photo. You can't “zoom or enhance” on your device, despite all the movies and TV shows that would have you believe so. At least not of any quality.

Since the advent of “camera phones”, cameras as a whole have become less popular and more specialized, so there are fewer inexpensive options. Expect to pay a price between a GoPro and a large interchangeable lens camera. Most products can also shoot video, so you don't even need a GoPro unless you're specifically doing an action-type sport or doing something in and around water.

We like the Sony ZV-1 because it's small enough to fit in your pocket, has a decent zoom (70mm equivalent), and has a screen that rotates so you can see yourself. If you need a little more zoom capability, the Canon G7X Mark III with its 100mm equivalent lens offers similar capabilities. There are many options, but once you start looking at cameras that cost over $1,000, it's worth considering an interchangeable lens camera instead.

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If you're serious about it, interchangeable lens cameras are at the top of the camera food chain. Historically, these cameras were called SLRs or DSLRs, but increasingly so-called “mirrorless” cameras do not have the mirror that all SLRs/DSLRs have. This allows it to be more compact, along with some other features that I don't have space to describe. Suffice it to say, mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses are the future and digital SLR cameras are on their way out.

However, the main advantage of both is the ability to use a variety of lenses. Want a super zoom lens that combines wide angle and telephoto in one package? Lots of options. Do you need an ultra-sharp prime lens? Would he like to observe the hair on a llama's back a mile away with a spectacular telephoto lens? There's plenty of that too.

Generally, you can think of these cameras in two categories: full-frame and cropped. Full frame cameras are so called because their image sensor is the same size as 35mm film. Crop sensors are becoming smaller. For most people, the difference isn't that big. Full-frame cameras offer more lens options and usually offer better image quality, but they also come at a higher price. A crop camera is sufficient for beginners. I've been using this at work for years, but last year I upgraded to a Canon R6. I'm glad I did that. Don't spend thousands of dollars on a camera unless you completely understand what you're doing.

On the entry level end of the spectrum, I'm a Canon guy, so I have the EOS Rebel T8i. It can shoot 24.1MP photos, 4K24 video, and has a swing-out screen. More importantly, once you learn how to use your camera and find what you need, you'll have access to a huge range of lenses. Meanwhile, the linked kit comes with his two basic lenses: a wide-angle zoom and a telephoto zoom. It also comes with an almost certainly defective tripod, some filters, and a number of accessories whose long-term usefulness is questionable. Great as a starter pack. Even if this particular kit runs out, there are always plenty of options on Amazon. Look for a kit that has both an 18-55mm wide-angle zoom and a 75-300mm telephoto kit lens.

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In addition to covering television and other display technologies, Jeff also takes photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, giant aircraft carriers, medieval castles, and epic 10,000-mile road trips. . Check out his Tech Treks for all his tours and adventures.

he wrote this bestselling science fiction novel A city-sized submarine sequel. You can follow his adventures on his Instagram and YouTube channels.

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