ScoutingMay - June 2003

Outdoor Smarts
Picture Perfect

By Karen Berger
Photographs By John R. Fulton Jr.

Want great pictures from your next camping trip? Here's some professional advice for choosing the right camera and shooting better photographs.

Summer is almost here. Scouts and leaders are poring over maps, checking gear, and planning high adventure trips that will forge memories for years to come.

The Sony 3.2 megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-P71 ($350) features a 3x optical and 2x digital zoom. It uses Sony's Memory Stick media and can record silent MPEG video clips.

But what kind of camera will you trust to bring those memories home? Film or digital? An inexpensive single-use model or a pricey 35mm with several lenses?

Considering the conditions your camera is apt to encounter—dirt, sand, water, and rough handling—you are probably better off with a less expensive camera, says photographer Vince Heptig, whose pictures appear frequently in Scouting and Boys' Life magazines.

Heptig, of course, uses professional photo gear, but he stresses that you don't have to haul around two camera bodies and three lenses to get the perfect shot. (See Heptig's tips for shooting better photographs at the end of this article.)

Kodak's Max Water and Sport ($14) is a one-time-use camera with 27 exposures of 800 speed film. It is shock resistant and waterproof to 35 feet.

Single-use cameras

Single-use recyclable cameras are an inexpensive way to let everyone in your group record their experiences, and no one has to worry about losing or damaging Dad's expensive new digital camera.

The Kodak Max Water and Sport model is particularly good for the adventure photographer. Another Kodak model, the Advantix Switchable, offers the ability to take those long, narrow (and often dramatic) panorama shots.

Many single-use cameras include a flash, which lets you take pictures in dark forests, caves, and tents.

Kodak's EasyShare DX4330 ($370 with docking station) makes it simple to transfer pictures to your computer. This 3.1 mega- pixel model also captures video with audio and can play it back with the camera's LCD and speaker.

Digital vs. film

Digital cameras may be all the rage down at the local electronics store, but the overall price advantage goes to film.

"Digital cameras are becoming more popular, but for the amateur, the best deal is still film," says Heptig. The cost of digital equipment is proportionally higher than for film cameras, he adds, noting that picture quality "isn't yet what it's going to be a few years from now."

Minolta's Freedom Zoom 130 film camera ($150) features a variety of shooting modes, such as night-portrait, landscape/ night-view, and exposure-compensation.

Digital cameras don't use film but they do have other expenses, Heptig points out. The cost of special photo paper and ink-jet printer cartridges can add up to as much as regular prints. And don't forget about the expense of printers, memory cards, and computer software.

Instead, Heptig suggests looking at one of the dozens of film point-and-shoot cameras available. Cameras with built-in zoom lenses (the better to make that bear look like he was much closer to your tent!) start at around $70 and go up to about $300.

The Fujifilm FinePix A303 ($300) is a 3.2 megapixel camera with a 3x optical and 3.2x digital zoom. It uses xD-Picture Card media and two AA batteries.

If you do most of your picture taking outdoors, you might consider a waterproof model. Canon's Sure Shot A-1 is a small point-and-shoot 35mm, and it functions to five meters underwater.

If your locations will always be dry, check out Minolta's Freedom Zoom 130. The compact camera body features a 37.5mm to 130mm zoom lens and a sophisticated four-beam auto-focus mechanism to keep your subjects looking sharp.

Some reasons for digital

Despite film's advantages, there are several reasons to consider digital cameras.

The stylish Nikon Coolpix 3500 ($360) is a 3.2 megapixel camera with a 3x optical zoom Nikkor lens and a 4x digital zoom. It uses Compact Flash media.

First, digital cameras allow you to edit on the spot. You can see the result of what you've shot right on the camera and decide whether to keep the photo, throw it out, or try another angle.

Second, digital photography makes it easy to share photos via the Internet. (However, film photos can be developed to a CD or scanned).

If you do get a digital camera, Heptig recommends paying more attention to its "optical zoom" than the "digital zoom." In other words, you want a camera where the glass in the lens does the magnifying, not the digital trickery.

Canon's S230 ($400) is a 3.2 megapixel camera that features a 2x optical and 3.2x digital zoom lens. It uses Compact Flash media and can capture AVI movie clips up to three minutes long.

The adjustable swivel lens on the Nikon Coolpix 3500 lets you vary the angle of your shot. Measuring about four and a half inches long, this camera easily tucks into most jacket pockets.

Other digitals to check out are Canon's S230, Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-P71, Fujifilm's FinePix A303, and Kodak's EasyShare DX4330.

Karen Berger's new book, More Everyday Wisdom (Mountaineers Books), answers scores of outdoor questions. Visit her at

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