Do You Need an Actual Camera When You Travel?

With cell phone cameras getting better and better every year, it begs the question whether or not you should take up room in your bags for a camera. Even if we have a camera with us, we still use our camera phones in addition to using a traditional camera. On a couple of occasions we have decided not to take our camera with us at all, but in most cases we always take a camera with us. There are several reasons for packing our camera and extra lenses when traveling, despite the improvements in cell phone camera technology.

Monkey in Panama with a Phone
Taken with a Camera and Zoom Lens
Colosseum in Rome with the Camera and Zoom
Zoomed Using the Cell Phone

We have a couple of lenses for our camera, including a vibration reduction zoom lens. There are many times during a trip that we get the opportunity to have amazing views of a city or landscape. Having a camera with a zoom lens allows us to take photographs of objects in the distance and see them in a way that we couldn’t otherwise. Many of these photographs turn out to be some of our favorite photographs from a location. Another benefit that we find for taking photographs with a camera when traveling is that we can quickly focus on various objects as we walk through a location. Whether on a tour or just walking through a place on our own, we don’t want to stop every 30 seconds to take a picture and we find that we can get photographs of different objects without having to come to a full stop and playing with the zoom of a camera phone.

Quick Picture in the French Quarter of New Orleans
Same Shot from the Camera Phone
Florence Skyline from the Phone
Zooming in Really Close with the Camera

With that said, there are times when the cell phone camera is our preferred choice.  Obviously, there are the selfies, probably one of the biggest reasons that camera phones became popular. Also, when we are in a restaurant and want to take a photograph of our food, we’re not likely to pull out our camera and snap a few pictures. Depending on the lighting, we have also found that cell phone cameras work fairly well in low light situations like inside of buildings, churches, and museums. There certainly isn’t any doubt that camera phones continue to improve and they can produce high quality photographs.

Camera Inside of the Church in Nuremberg
Taken with the Cell Phone

We have included several similar photographs here, one taken with the camera and the other will the cell phone. Obviously, there are other factors that come into play regarding the results, but we found the comparison interesting. For the reasons previously mentioned, we’ll continue to take a camera with us, but that doesn’t mean that everyone should. Would you leave your camera at home on your next trip and rely solely on your cell phone camera?

Statues in Luxor, Egypt from the Phone
Same Statues with the Camera


21 thoughts on “Do You Need an Actual Camera When You Travel?

  1. I also take my dslr camera with me whenever I travel and use it for the same reasons…especially when I want to make an enlargement later after my trip. Very interesting though how great cell phone cameras are though especially for certain situations like that interior shot!

  2. Very nice and well thought out article. The phone camera capabilities are improving all the time. I sometimes travel with a Nikon J1 with a short telephoto that fits nicely in a jacket pocket. It is almost a serious camera. When it is really serious photo journey it is a load, full frame Nikon, 3 or 4 lenses and sometimes the Nikon film camera loaded with black and white. It also represents a very serious chunk of change! Thanks again

  3. More recently we’ve relied on the Iphone6 camera, rather than lugging a camera and lenses around with us. However the photos on Ian’s android phone are very poor quality. Have been researching a new, smaller camera for our next trip.

    1. We recently switched to the iPhone Xs because of the camera capabilities. It has very good quality. For other cameras we like Nikon. Even the less expensive ones work very well.

  4. I’m a fan of both. My iPhone is great for some things, but you’ll prize my Canon 5D out of my cold dead hand before I’ll stop carrying a camera.

  5. Thanks! This is really useful to me. I have a great camera but I hate pulling it out. I have meant to do exactly what you have done! Speaking of photos, I wonder whether you know that the emails I get about your posts have (sometimes disgusting) advertising on them. I think you can get rid of this for few dollars a month.

  6. Great post! I am going to New Orleans in about a month and I was thinking about whether or not I would want to bring my camera. After reading your post, I decided I will bring my camera because the quality is a bit better and I don’t want to get distracted by my phone while taking pictures.

  7. These images look great. I often do the same. I like the iPhone for a quick photo, but the camera really does catch that photo clearer. Plus, keeps space on the phone… Thanks for sharing..

  8. I am admittedly lazy when it comes to carrying/using my dslr. I shoot SLR film cameras pretty often when traveling but rely almostly solely on my phone for digital. My husband gets some pretty good shots with our dslr, but honestly he doesn’t take enough pictures, haha!

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