Expert Recommendation

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Best Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $1500 with Manual Controls
Expert (4 Recommendations and 1 Compliment)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
August 26, 2008 Updated: September 3, 2008
Overview

If you are ready for a new traveling partner, then this prosumer camera - a camera having many features found only in professional SLRs, but with the ease-of-use and price in mind for the consumer - is packed and ready to go. The EOS 40D is my top pick.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon EOS 40D (with 28-135mm IS Lens)

With its strong magnesium alloy body wrapped in a rubber coating along with its dust and weather resistant technology, this Canon takes the rigors of traveling. As a traveler capturing largely landscape photos, one feature I find myself constantly using with the 40D is the depth-of-field preview. With an aperture selected, such as f16, press the depth-of-field preview button and you can clearly see how much of the landscape scene is in focus. If it is not what you want, change the aperture setting, check the preview again and once correct, press the shutter button. This takes all the guesswork out of depth-of-field. Now you can see your foreground object, subject and background, and see which ones are in focus.

Comparison with Pentax K20D (with 18-55mm Lens)

When comparing continuous shooting speeds, the Pentax K20D, at 3 frames per second, is half of the Canon 40D at 6.3 frames per second, meaning with the K20D, you will miss several shots during that action-sequence whale-dive set due to its slow burst speed.

Comparison with Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 (with 18-200mm Lens)

If you shoot a lot of action-sequence shots during your traveling, the Canon’s 40D at 6.3 frames per second will allow you to catch more of the action than with Sony’s A700 at 4.3 frames per second.

Pros
  • +
    Strong construction
  • +
    Live View
  • +
    Large 3" LCD screen
Cons
  • -
    None Noted
Canon EOS 40D (with 28-135mm IS Lens) is the Best Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $1500 with Manual Controls
Where to buy
Canon EOS 40D (with 28-135mm IS Lens)
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.8x
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
  • Size: 5.7 x 4.3 x 2.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 750 shots
  • Aperture Priority Mode Available: Yes
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Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Canon EOS 40D (with 28-135mm IS Lens)
2
Pentax K20D (with 18-55mm Lens)
3
Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 (with 18-200mm Lens)
Customer Rating
Price $1774.99
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Effective Sensor Resolution
10.1 megapixels 14.6 megapixels 12.2 megapixels
Image Stabilization Type Lens Shift Sensor Shift Sensor Shift
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LCD Screen Size
3.0 in. 2.7 in. 3.0 in.
Min Focus Distance (macro) 1.64 feet 1.5 feet 1.5 feet
Anti-Dust Available Yes Yes Yes-
Weight (without batteries) 26.1 oz 25.2 oz 24.0 oz
2
Pentax K20D (with 18-55mm Lens)

One feature most noted in this camera is its outstanding image quality with smooth transition between colors and tones, but with very little noise. Now, you can get that medium format film quality in your traveling photos with the K20D DSLR. Another noted feature of this camera is its completely user-defined features. Almost every function can be set to the user’s specifications - much more so than in other DSLRs.

Comparison with Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 (with 18-200mm Lens)

The Pentax K20D and Sony A700 are very similar in many ways, but the defining feature was the difference in the effective sensor resolution. At 14.6 megapixels, the K20D’s images are superior in quality as far as colors and tones to the A700’s at 12.2 megapixels.

Pros
  • +
    Image quality
  • +
    Flexibility in controls
Cons
  • -
    Odd noises when operating
  • -
    3 frames continious shooting - too slow for action sequence shooting
Pentax K20D (with 18-55mm Lens) is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $1500 with Manual Controls
Where to buy
Pentax K20D (with 18-55mm Lens)
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Resolution: 14.6MP
  • Size: 5.6 x 4.0 x 2.8 in.
  • Battery Life: 720 shots
  • Aperture Priority Mode Available: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (4 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 (with 18-200mm Lens)

As a casual photographer frequently traveling with your camera, you will appreciate the SteadyShot image stabilization which boasts up to a 4-stop gain in shutter speed in bright light. Even in dim lighting, you can expect a gain of around 2 2/3 stops. This means more of your traveling photos will be tack-sharp and not suffer from camera shake. Another nice feature is dual memory card slots. With both Memory Stick and Compact Flash slots, you can capture images on both cards, meaning if you have a card failure, all your photos won’t be lost. Some will be on the other card.

Comparison with Nikon D200 (with 18-135mm Lens)

As a travel photographer, I realize how heavy a camera gets when carrying it on a trip. When comparing weight, the Sony A700,weighing in at 24.0 ounces, is far lighter than the Nikon D200 at 29.3 ounces. Those extra 5.3 ounces feel like 5.3 pounds after a day of carrying.

Pros
  • +
    Quiet shutter
  • +
    Comfortable grip and controls location
Cons
  • -
    No Live View
  • -
    Proprietary hot shoe which limits the selection of flash units
Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 (with 18-200mm Lens) is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $1500 with Manual Controls
Where to buy
Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 (with 18-200mm Lens)
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4
Nikon D200 (with 18-135mm Lens)

With the D200, Nikon bridged the gap between entry-level and professional-grade cameras. With its strong magnesium alloy body and enhanced weathertight construction, you will enjoy traveling with this camera knowing you can carry it all day in all weather conditions and it will keep shooting. Coupled with the 18-135mm Nikkor lens, this camera handles a wide-range of shooting situations including wildflower close-ups, wildlife, wide-angle landscapes and indigenious people portraits.

Pros
  • +
    Sturdy construction
  • +
    Quiet lens motors
Cons
  • -
    No Live View
  • -
    2.5" LCD
Nikon D200 (with 18-135mm Lens) is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $1500 with Manual Controls
Where to buy
Nikon D200 (with 18-135mm Lens)
  • Best Price: $2299
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 7.5x
  • Resolution: 10.2MP
  • Size: 5.8 x 4.4 x 3.0 in.
  • Battery Life: 340 shots
  • Aperture Priority Mode Available: Yes
More
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