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The Potala, Lhasa, Tibet. © Beren Patterson. All Rights Reserved. This section shows you how to buy a camera that is right for you, at the right price.

Getting Started: Buying a Camera

Digital cameras are almost perfect for travelling. A good digital camera, especially a digital SLR will offer you great quality, lots of storage, the ability to email photographs as you travel, make backups of all your photos that you can post on CD-ROMs quickly and cheaply and much more. Digital storage media is now cheap, comes in good capacities and is more resistant to heat and x-rays than film. Ensure that the camera you choose has a rechargeable battery and consider getting a spare.

So how do you choose which camera is right for you?

The key to getting the right camera is doing a bit of research, and fortunately one of the best places to do this is on the Internet. One of the most comprehensive sites is PhotographyReview.com. Make sure you read several reviews. If you are considering digital, and I suggest if you don't want a film-based SLR that you do, then have a look at Digital Photography Review, a site with some amazingly detailed run-downs on digital cameras. Whichever format you decide on please buy a good brand. There is a reason that Canon and Nikon are popular - they make great gear. Olympus, Sony and others are also good.

Lenses are a critical component, and good quality lens will ensure your photographs have better color, less flare and more crispness. Photodo.com has a technical review of hundreds of lenses. A common mistake is to spend most of your budget on an SLR camera body and skimp with cheap lenses. Don't! The optics are the place that make the real difference, so budget them in. A professional quality 2nd-hand lens in good condition is far better than most brand-new standard lenses.

Think of the features you need now, but also try and find a camera that will grow with you. Once you have made a short list go to a shop and handle the gear. Sometimes a camera will look great on paper or the internet but feel horrible, be too big, too small or just plain ugly in real life.

Once you have found camera that suits your needs and budget search the net for the best price. Most camera shops will be able to drop their prices and may be able to match online prices. Often all you need to do is ask.


  • A bag obviously provides protection to your gear as well as stores and carries it all comfortably. A good bag will also offer some weather and dust proofing. The brand of bags I use claims to be "All Weather", but much more than a light shower is about all they can handle.
  • Cleaning kits should include lens cleaning fluid, tissues and a soft brush. See the care section for how to look after your camera equipment. You will also need a blower if you have a digital SLR.
  • UV Filter. This is very, very important! If you have a lens that accepts filters you should have a filter on at all times as protection. A Skylight or UV filter is ideal. Polarizers do not make good all purpose filters. Replacing a scratched or cracked filter is a fraction of the price of replacing a lens. Many good camera shops have a stash of 2nd-hand UV filters that are very cheap. A common one that is worth getting is a HOYA UV1A or B HMC. HMC stands for Hoya Multi-Coating and is worth paying a bit more for.
  • Lens hood. Most new lenses either come with a hood or have it as an option. Buy the proper hood for each lens. They can really help with your results by reducing flare and provide additional protection for your lenses against bumps, rain and dust.
  • A good tripod should be strong. The problem is that most good tripods are often fairly heavy, and the lighter aluminium and plastic tripods often don't provide enough stability to be useful with a heavy camera on.
  • Cable release. Try using the self timer instead , it is a good option if you take mostly landscapes.
  • Polarizing filter. These aren't good general purpose filters. They are, however, great for adding depth to sky scapes, sunsets, removing some haze and reflections.
  • Underwater housings for many point-and-shoot style digital cameras are now inexpensive and provide good protection for your camera not only when diving but other outdoor pursuits in snow, water, sand and other places your camera will die.
Common photographic terms explainedLinks to useful and interesting websites, books and DVDs
Tibetan man, Lhasa. © Beren Patterson. All Rights Reserved.