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We picked this for it's 10x optical zoom, great sample pictures and pc printer / dock. We used the EasyShare printer for a while, but the paper packets were expensive and the printer starting misfeeding, so we just used the dock for it's battery charging and camera-to-pc transfer abilities.
Camera gear, binoculars, phones, IPods and games - this was huge! Joe spent much of the previous year researching and selecting cameras and binoculars for the trip. Now we needed to buy it, at the best price, and try it out before we left. The cameras (a new digital extravaganza, an old digital backup and a Fuji disposable waterproof camera for the raft trip) should allow us to capture enough of Alaska to bore our friends for years to come! Gabi equipped us with the latest in cellphone technology and JJ gathered a small but capable IPod and videogame arsenal.
We planned our battery and a/c power needs and made sure we knew where the power would be coming from and how we were going to tap into it. We assumed we could always use normal electrical (110v a/c) outlets, though JJ needed a USB-to-A/C adapter for some of his games. We didn't take 'cigarette lighter' chargers because we figured we would either be in hotels or the motorhome, which had an a/c inverter with normal outlets.
Lithium ion camera batteries were supposed to last the longest and, since we had often run out of battery life, we wanted the longest battery life and more than one battery for those long Alaskan days and oh, so many opportunities for fabulous, once in a lifetime shots.
We took along a Fujifilm throwaway waterproof camera for the river rafting trip. If we lost it, it wouldn't be an expensive loss and, if it got wet, and it did, we would still get pictures out of it. Just a note... we didn't find a digital throwaway waterproof camera, so we just got prints. Now I'm seeing that Costco will digitize the prints and give you image files on a DVD. You might want to remember this if you're going to take pictures with a film camera.
Brand new camera...
Our new main camera - I don't stay up-to-the-minute on technology I use. When there's a problem, or I want to start using something new, I try to get up to speed. Going to Alaska, I started searching for 'digital camera compare' and related search phrases to get the latest reviews. It appeared that what I wanted was a compact with the most memory per shot and the highest optical zoom, face recognition, stabilization, movie mode (in a pocket camera?... what a shock!), and a continuing list in descending orger of importance. One camera kept appearing in comparisons and reviews and eventually the Sony CyberShot DSC T100 became my target. In my area, we look at Fry's Ad to see if the discount electronics giant has this camera on special or at a good price. For once, I wasn't in a hurry, so when Fry's Ad didn't have it, and their store didn't have it in black, I went to the web and ordered it online. My first seller didn't work out. They waited 2 weeks and called and tried to sell me a bunch of accessories. Now I was in a hurry, so I ordered from Adorama Camera in New York City (an Amazon supplier) and got the camera, memory stick, battery and charger in a couple of days to my great relief. Because of my research, I didn't try it out much before the trip, which is not a good idea, but, in this case, worked out ok. It seemed impossible to have all those features in the tiny black object in my hand. Everything was there, including a battery charger that plugged right into the wall... but no camera case. I then went to Fry's for an extra memory stick and found the camera case bundled with a spare battery (???). We now had the camera, case, two lithium-ion batteries and a 2 gig Pro Duo memory stick. I also picked up a Kodak EasyShare camera case and wall outlet battery charger, which I could never find before. Adding a little blue Case Logic case to hold both the Sony camera and a pair of Pentax binoculars (see below), I felt photographically prepared. In Alaska, the two batteries were charged each night and, together, got us through the longest days. The new camera had 31mb memory, which we saved for emergency, and the 2.0 GB Memory Stick PRO Duo, held everything until we got through Anchorage and back from Denali. It didn't look like it would last through the Kenai leg of the trip, so we bought another 1 GB stick (from WalMart) before heading south with the motorhome. We brought home a whole bunch of pictures and felt well satisfied with ourselves! Most shots were not used but all of them brought back memories of what we were doing when we took them. With digital pictures, you're not eating up film so you can take experimental, duplicate or optional shots and just delete what you don't want.
What are we talking about when we say 'compact'? Here's our Pentax binoculars and Sony camera with a deck of cards. Both binoculars and camera fit easily in jacket pockets. This small size takes some getting used to. There were times on the train, buses, boats and plane where I thought I forgot one or the other and they were right in my pocket! You don't give up durability because they are really rugged and you don't give up performance for small size. The little Pentax could be quickly focused and the 'target acquired' before it disappeared. The Sony camera was easily turned on with the big lens 'door' the big screen showed pretty much what would appear on the picture (jpg file). Some people think it's too easy to turn on accidently, but I didn't notice that. The big display draws quite a bit on the battery, though, and you have to be careful to turn it off if there's time before the next shot. The many features resulted in some great shots without me even knowing about them. My biggest problem was leaving the closeup setting on when taking distant and/or low light shots.
|This is the latest version of our Cybershot (same body but more features)|
Camera Accessories allow you to take full advantage of some of the most spectacular photo opportunities on Earth! We traveled without most of these 'helpers' but I now see situations where each of these, and others, could have 'earned their oats' in convenience and improved photos and videos.
|Absolutely needed to see LCD in the bright sun|
Camera Memory - 'memory' is where your photos and movies are written. This used to be the film spools, cartridges, reels and cassettes for analog, i.e., non-digital cameras. Then video cameras started using movable digital media like Beta, VHS and Super-8 videocassettes. Later was added movable digital disk media like DVD and even internal 'hard' drives. Always, movement of the magnetic or optical media past a read/write 'head' was involved... until finally memory cards allowed NO MOVING PARTS! The problems of a moving device are gone along with the weight. I can barely feel my 2 gig memory stick in my hand! And the 8-gig, and new 16-gig sticks, weigh about the same, so my camera weighs just under 5 ounces (4.97362 oz or 141 g) and takes both still shots and video with enough options for a really good photographer to get fantastic results. Oh, yeah... 2 'gig' is 2,000,000,000 'addressable dots'... 1-3 dots make a color pixel... in short, 2,500 pictures like the one here fit on this little card! By doing a little homework (see this great ephotozine article) in the beginning you can get enough space to never have to think about it again... maybe. Memory cards are not standardized for all brands of cameras (yet) but there are not as many variations as batteries, chargers and pc connectors. Most of the new memory cards are faster and larger capacity versions of existing cards. You can invest in a high capacity card and probably use it in your future cameras... maybe.
Batteries and Chargers - Welcome to the jungle!!! We don't need no stinkin' standardization here!!! Every camera, cellphone, iPod, MP3 player, DVD player or other electronic device will probably have it's own unique battery and charger... and probably a unique cord and connector just to keep everything 'special'.
|I found this 'Universal External battery' kit, which apparently uses a 'universal' battery with any of 8 connectors. It's just crazy enough to work... in many cases!|
|For those who do not want to leave their battery power to chance, here's some examples of batteries, chargers and connectors you'll be needing.|
Binoculars - Alaska is big and you need to see long distances. We couldn't hope to get close to these caribou on the far side of the valley, but we got a good look with our binoculars. We wanted binoculars with the best combination of small size and best performance. I got up to speed on features, like magnifying power, BAK4 quality prisms, image stabilization, water resistance, ease of focus, eye relief, etc., by viewing astronomy, birdwatching, and hunting websites. I then priced the combinations that looked the best to see what was realistic. The result was go with our lightweight We found a few birdwatching websites for binocular recommendations and selected Pentax 8x25 UCF-X II reverse porroprism compact binoculars which were great. We took two - made sure we had enough for everyone because we used them all of the time!
Cell Phones - on vacation, you may be trying to get away from phone calls but, for a teenager, talking and texting your buddies can be a real luxury. Here's our high school freshman getting caught up after being out of contact. You may also want or need to know what's going on back home. Check with your carrier and find out if you will have coverage where you are going and if it's included in your plan. Ours worked and was included at no additional charge. You can eliminate the chance of unintended charges with a prepaid phone from cellphone carriers or even Wal-mart. You can set the amount you're willing to pay and just call the company to increase it, or buy an airtime card off a rack at Wal-Mart. ACS (Alaska Communications System) is the local wireless provider and appears to have the best coverage. We didn't use it, but it could be a good option. Just remember, any cellphone needs electricity, so you still need batteries and (maybe) a charger compatible with the phone and your electrical source (AC, carcharger, disposable, etc.).
GPS or Global Positioning (Satellite) System GPS is spreading everywhere from finding a market to finding a Pacific island. You can now have a personal GPS receiver and use the time you're normally lost to enjoy the vacation. What's really fun is 'geocaching'. One person hides something and notes the GPS location coordinates. He gives the coordinates to the players who then use their own GPS's to find the 'treasure'.
Music/Movie Players IPods are enormously popular but they are not the only music/movie players out there. Not only are there a variety of non-Apple players, even cellphones are getting into the market.
Movie Players Hotels, motels, motorhomes and most laptop computers all have DVD players for watching movies, but they also have very compact and affordable DVD players for the plane, train, car, beach or campsite. There's a lot of traveling time and 19 hours of daylight to consider when you can catch up on your movies. Note that your own headphones can be used for the on-plane movies, so make sure you pack them 'carry-on'.
Video Games may be what you want to get away from on vacation, but they have served us well on long trips with kids. Here's our son and grandsons all playing Pokemon on a recent trip. Three age levels all happily occupied while we drove between attractions. We all took turns using the charger outlet, so you need to allow for this but it can really be worth the trouble. Note - many hand held electronic devices need their own adapter to connect to the inverter especially those that normally connect to your computer for recharging.
Computer Accessories can actually make taking your laptop to Alaska realistic. The towns have broadband and dial-up service in both wired and wireless connection. We didn't try it, but a pc wouldn't be a problem from what we saw. You have to protect it from normal handling and allow for charging, electrical and internet connection but the computer age has definitely arrived in Alaska.
Portable Power allows you to run your gadgets without the approved battery and charger.
Clocks and Watches The 'Midnight Sun' gets your timing off and you may not be in a position to leave a wakeup call, so you can't forget about time just because you're on vacation.
AM, FM and XM Radio Remember radio? Well, it's still around and you can pick up local news, notices and warnings if you have an AM/FM receiver and you can pick up the world if you have XM or Sirius.
Sound Recorders You have sound recording on your camcorder, but you may want to make some mental notes or just record the surf or bird calls to fall asleep to. Sound recorders today don't need cassette tapes or memory cards or any other removable media. They can have built-in memory that holds hours of sounds. They can also be voice-activated so you don't take waste memory space.
Cleaning Supplies You don't want to scratch that camera or binocular lens cleaning them with napkins or your t-shirt, so think about some specialty cleaning supplies to protect your investments. You can get supplies in Alaska, but why add another 'thing to do' to your vacation?
Gadget Organizers So many 'accidental tourists' have forgotten, lost or reconsidered what they needed to store, carry and access their gadgets on vacation, so you are the beneficiary of thousands of organizers. These are some we think could be of interest depending on where you're going and what you're doing. You might even come up with a better idea and make millions... but, if not, give some thought to what these products are trying to do.
Connectors and Cables Nothing is more frustrating than having the perfect place to use something and not have the right connector or cable. Think about what you're taking and what you might find where you are going. A six-pin Firewire cable or iPod Y-adapter might save the day.