Suntans may fade, but photos and video clips will let you recapture that vacation vibe long after you’ve unpacked.
– Bargain ($1–$30)
– Inexpensive ($31–$60)
– Moderate ($61–$150)
– Pricey ($151–$350)
– Splurge (more than $350)
Portability guide (from low to high)
Possibly one of the best combination laptop-and-camera bags on the market, the Lowepro CompuDaypack has three compartments that accommodate a 17-inch MacBook Pro, a compact digital SLR, four auxiliary lenses, a portable hard drive, pens, an iPod, memory cards, and all of your cables. It looks like a traditional backpack that you’d tote to class, but it has full padding for all-day back comfort, sturdy shoulder straps, and a cushioned handgrip. My CompuDaypack recently survived a trip through the car wash—it was in the car’s trunk, which had accidentally been left open. Although the bag was drenched, my camera and laptop were safe inside ($80;
Let there be light
Carrying around my digital SLR all day is exhausting enough; I can almost never muster up the energy to pack my hulking external flash, too. But that’s changing, thanks to Nikon’s new Speedlight SB-400, the smallest external flash unit you can buy that offers a tilting head so you can bounce light off the ceiling. The result is indoor lighting that actually flatters your subjects instead of washing them out. You can pair the flash with any Nikon digital SLR—or to really keep your bag light, use the flash with Nikon’s new Coolpix P5000, a compact 10-megapixel point-and-shoot camera that offers full manual controls, an ISO range up to 3200, a movie mode, and optical image stabilization (Speedlight SB-400, $130; Coolpix P5000, $400;
The traveler’s lens
If you want to carry only one lens when you travel, invest in a good general-purpose lens (also called a walk-around lens) that can accommodate the range of shots you’re likely to find while exploring. I recommend a lens with a focal-point range of at least 28mm to 135mm, in 35mm equivalency.
When you’re buying a lens, be sure to take into account your digital camera’s crop factor. Depending on the type of camera you have, you’ll need to multiply the lens’s 35mm-equivalent focal length by 1.5, 1.6, or some other amount (check your camera’s manual if you’re not sure) to find the range you’ll actually get with your camera. So, for example, if your camera has a cropping factor of 1.6x, you’ll need a lens that goes from approximately 17mm to 85mm to get the same range.
Save battery power
When you’re downloading photos to your laptop, don’t waste your camera’s batteries (or your time) by connecting the camera’s USB cable. Instead, get a card reader that can transfer files right from the memory card. If you have a MacBook Pro, Delkin Devices’ eFilm ExpressCard 34 adapter is one of the fastest ways to get files off your card. Simply slip this slim adapter into your MacBook Pro’s ExpressCard slot and then insert your memory card—it accepts six types of cards, including SD, xD, MMC, and Memory Stick ($60;
Stash your photos
There are plenty of devices and services that let you back up your photos from the road (for an overview, go to macworld.com/2714), but my favorite is Epson’s P-3000. Although it’ll cost you a pretty penny (at press time, Epson was offering a $100 rebate), this picture viewer offers a beautiful 4-inch high-resolution screen, a rugged body, and a 40GB hard drive that can store movies and music, too. Intuitive controls make it easy to navigate your photos, apply ratings that you can use to quickly group your favorite shots, and set options for displaying the image’s histogram or blown highlights ($500;
If you need more hard-drive space, check out Digital Foci’s Picture Porter Elite. Although its menus and controls are a bit less intuitive, and its 3.6-inch screen isn’t as sharp as the P-3000’s, the Picture Porter Elite performs many of the same functions and offers much more storage space for your dollar (120GB model, $489;
Two in one
If you want photos and video, but don’t want to pack two devices, choose a digital camera that also captures video (despite the impressive resolutions of camcorders, I’ve yet to find one that takes really good photos—a priority when you’re traveling). When it comes to video, Canon’s PowerShot TX1 stands out from the digital camera crowd by capturing scenes at HD resolution (1,280 by 720 pixels at 30 fps). The result is sharp, vibrant video that looks good even at full-screen (you can drop it into an iMovie project for editing). And the impressive 10x zoom gets you up close to the action. Despite its relatively small screen and odd orientation (you hold it vertically), I found the camera easy to adapt to and a lot of fun to use. Just be sure to pick up a high-capacity memory card to go with it ($500;
Phone it in
Why wait until you get home to tell family and friends about your adventures? If you have a cell phone, you can update your blog with text, photos, or even podcasts, at the push of a button. Mobile blogging, or moblogging, is a great way to stay in touch when you’re far from your computer. Just remember to set up an account before you leave.
Set up a free account with
Twitter, the fun and frivolous Web site that lets you post short text messages to your blog, so you can tell your friends what you’re up to. And you can set your phone to exchange SMS text messages with your Twitter buddies, so you can keep track of what they’re doing, too. It’s a great way to rope your friends into a never-ending conversation composed of shout-outs and snippets about life on the road.
With a camera phone, you can also share snapshots of the people and places you find along the way. If you have a smart phone, check out
SplashBlog. Download and install its software on your phone, and you can begin posting directly to your free SplashBlog page (Pro accounts are $30 per year). If you don’t have a smart phone, try
Flickr. Set up a free account (Pro accounts are $25 per year), and send your photos to a Flickr-provided e-mail address. To make posting photos even easier, set up the e-mail address as a contact on your phone, and moblog to your heart’s content—or at least until your phone’s battery dies.
If you want to share sounds from the road, try
Hipcast, an online service that lets you use your phone as a recording device. Pricing starts at $5 per month, and you can call and leave messages that are up to an hour long. Once you hang up, your recording is posted to the blog of your choice—and voilà: instant podcasting via your mobile phone