Except, as I wrote in The Best Advice EVER for People Who Fear Getting Lonely While Traveling Alone… when you travel alone, you are rarely actually alone.
Take yesterday, for example. I stopped into a Dominical surf shop to rent a board, and ended up catching a ride to the beach with one of the coolest couples ever.
Back in the States, they are professional sports photographers (they take photos for NASCAR and the US Women’s Soccer team)… and when they travel, their camera of choice is the Nikon COOLPIX S9900 Digital Camera with 30x Optical Zoom and Built-In WiFi. (And, because they’ve since released a newer model, it’s only $269 on Amazon!)
The photos they take on their S9900, though, were pretty fantastic -- not surprisingly, considering that 750mm is an incredibly powerful zoom. Here are a few shots they took of me. In low light. From about 100 meters away. (Photos: M. Stahlschmidt/SSP © 2016)
Also worth noting: these photos were taken handheld. I'm currently using an Olympus PEN E-PL 1, and I get blurry images more often than I would like in lower light.
So the reasons I love this camera are:
1. It weighs 0.64 pounds.
2. Incredibly powerful zoom. It’s got a 750mm lens, which equals a 30x optical (not to be mistaken for digital) zoom. I really wish I’d had a zoom like that while I was checking out sloths and moneys in Manuel Antonio National Park.
3. Great built-in flash. Most flashes are either weak, or blindingly bright -- making everyone in your photo look ugly. Here's a photo of me with the flash. It doesn't make me look ugly at all!
If you want a slightly better camera and you have a little bit more money to spend, you can buy the newer model: the Nikon COOLPIX A900 Camera. This one has an 850mm lens, 35x optical zoom, and can record UHD (ultra high definition) 4k videos at 30 frames per second. It’s $396 on Amazon.
With either camera, you will also need at least a 16 GB data card. My new friends recommend 32 GB, and to never buy anything but SanDisk. All the other brands are lower-quality. This isn't advice I would have known to give before today -- but now that it's been said, I can't help but recount all my bad experiences with an SD card... all of which involved those "other" brands.
I've always had good luck with SanDisk.
Another reason I would recommend a camera like this either in addition to or instead of a DSLR for travel is that... well, sometimes a big camera can feel a bit intrusive. Either because you're just being self-conscious about photographing someone's home (or life or whatever) with a giant camera, or because it actually is more intrusive.
Having never owned a DSLR, this advice comes from another sola traveler I met over the weekend. Catarina travels with both a DSLR and a smaller point-and-shoot for the exact reasons described above. Not more than an hour after she shared this perspective, we ended up here:
I took a few photos while we were there... and I definitely understood why it would have felt a little weird to take the pictures on a bigger, clickier-sounding camera. And it's not like the photos I took were terrible:
So there you have it. The best camera for travel. If you've got one, I would advise you to also bring your GoPro. This will allow you to document your underwater explorations, capture your craziest sports moments... and get extremely wide-angle photos without the burden of a wide-angle lens.