HD video cameras are both cheap and small enough that there is no reason to not own and travel with one. Which is to say, this is a mistake I won’t make again.
If you’ve been reading the blog, you know I have an interest in photography. And if you visit my YouTube channel, you’ve probably figured out that I like video editing as well. Since the iPhone 4S has a great camera for stills and does 1280p video, I assumed it was good enough for a trip where I’d be working every day. Well, we all know what they say about assumption…
When things don’t go as planned, we should have contingency actions ready to go. Car breaks down on the side of the road? Cell phone, spare tire, road flares, etc. Something unforeseen happens to your primary carry sidearm? Spare magazines, or a backup gun (or two)… Heck, half the reason I have a vertical foregrip on my AR-15 is so I have a compartment that can carry a spare bolt! But contingencies for the sake of leisure? Who’d have thought?
Things took an unexpected turn of events, and now I’ve had a bunch of days off in the Seychelles. Days that have shown me the limitations of my iPhone 4S. It’s a great phone, camera, etc. and turns out a quality product. But it’s still not a dedicated device with optical zoom (the ability to zoom and physically change the image registered on the sensor, as opposed to simply enlarging pixels which leads to blurriness)… Why’s that matter? Because stray dogs, of course!
There are lots of strays on Mahe Island. Domestic looking dogs with no owners, running in small packs. Sometimes a pair, other times a half dozen strong. And driving up a beach one day on an errand, I saw four dogs in the shallow water close to the road. Once my errand was completed and I was driving back, the tide had taken the shallow water further out the terrace, and those same four dogs had waded out about 80 yards. It occurred to me that I was seeing something I’ll probably never see back in the states: these dogs have learned how to go fishing for food. It was amazing to see these four domestic-looking animals, all different breeds of mutt, setting up a loose perimeter with backs toward each other as they hunted for lunch.
And without optical zoom, they were nothing more than black dots when I tried to capture them with my iPhone. Dang it. One of the most amazing things I’ve seen since being here, and I can’t share it with anybody.
My HD video camera is only about the size of my fist. My old Canon A70 may not have as nice a sensor as my iPhone, but it has movable lenses and optical zoom. In that case, either option would have been a better solution (with an SLR and telephoto being ideal).
I really like simplicity and paring down to the essentials. I want to carry as little bulk, weight, and unused items as possible. So the all-in-one nature of my iPhone is great when it’s my e-reader, GPS, compass, camera… But this is one time my self-imposed limitations came back to bite me. Given how tiny HD camcorders and still cameras are, and that I already own one of each, there’s no real reason I shouldn’t have thrown them in my suitcase for contingencies. I may have the clutter-free travel experience I enjoy so much, but some clever packing and carrying solution wouldn’t impede that much and would capture what I’ve failed to. I’d only use them maybe five percent of the time, but I can think of the exact three shots I’ve missed due to the technical limitations I saddled myself with and I’m kicking myself over them.
Always, plan for contingencies- both bad and good.