Traveling without DSLR- My experience, pros and cons

My usage/dependency on my main camera- Nikon 5100 has reduced in last six months. My last 2 international trips- to Phuket in Thailand in August and to Vietnam in September were without my DSLR. I did carry it to Bali in November but didn't use it as expensively as I used to earlier. This post explains what I gained and what I missed during my trips by not carrying the DSLR.
There were 2 main motives not to carry DSLR
1. Air Asia's 7 KG cabin baggage limit. I was not keen to buy extra check in baggage allowance- both because it throws my expense out of gear and because extra bags hamper my mobility. I figured that it is possible to manage whatever I need inside the cabin bag. 7 Kg limit is enough for 1 week trip- cloths, a laptop n other essentials. But camera bag alone adds up to 3.5-4KG, so I was forced to try manage without it.
2. Reasonably good mobile camera. My new Honor 6X is reasonably good at taking pictures. I wanted to check if I can manage entire trip with it.

After a few trips without the Nikon, I did take it to Bali because there was no 7kg limit with Malindo as compared to Air Asia. I did click many pics but I used it a lot less compared to how many snaps I would have clicked an year ago on similar trips. My 5 year old Nikon still takes better photos than a latest mobile camera, but the sheer convenience of not having to carry it, not having to change lens etc sometimes overpowers the benefits of carrying it.

I don't sell my photographs or need any super high resolution photos for professional use, so photos from good mobile camera are fairly adequate for my web use. Honor 6X with dual camera and aperture mode is even one step better. Thus I could mange my trips without major disappointments, it is important to know the pros and cons.

The advantages of tripping without a DSLR
1. More mobility and agility- I could move around with one bag, walk longer

2. More comfortable day trips- less the items to carry, more flexible you're while moving around, climbing stairs, having to walk long distance etc.

3. Less risk during rain: During rainy season, DSLRs are prone to water infection if not protected carefully. If I were to carry it I would be tempted to use it, and if I fail to protect it properly, it will develop fungus/water borne damages. With a waterproof GoPro and a splash resistant mobile with good waterproof pouch, I could manage without DSLR. (There're waterproof mobiles as well, but Honor 6X isn't waterproof)
Exploring Phuket on a scooter during rain
Got rains both during Phuket trip and Vietnam trip. As I didn't have a DSLR to protect I would move around without much worry.

4. I could focus more on the destination/attractions: With a DSLR dangling, my primary focus would have been how to better capture the scene in front of me- what settings to use, what angles to try, which lens to change to, where to focus, what should be the composition. This is supposed to get me better picture, but in the bargain, I would lose savoring the destination. Without a DSLR, I would take much fewer photos on mobile and spend more time viewing/observing/indulging in the destination. I've sort of realized that if I have to chose between spending more time at one place trying to get that one perfect shot vs exploring more places, I would chose the later. Because my trips are of limited duration, I don't have the luxury of time to spend lots of time at one spot waiting for that perfect shot. My travel usually involves clicking a few best possible pictures within limited time and move on to next.

5. Saves on camera fee: Most destinations in India have an extra fee if you're carrying camera. Mobile cameras are often ignored. This is not applicable abroad though

6. Less risk of theft/loss: Depending on what camera you use and how many lens/accessories you carry, a DSLR bag might be worth anywhere between 50000 to several lakhs. They are good targets for thieves and you've to plan better when you can't carry them around- like having to find a locker etc. Without it, I don't have to worry about its safety, manage all my other items in a waist pouch or a sling bag or a plastic cover and more around with less worry.

The disadvantages of not carrying a DSLR:
Though I have more comfortable trip with DSLR, there were moments when I wish I had it.

1. Missed being able to zoom in on the subject.. Digital zoom on mobile cameras are useless. If I had the 300mm lens I could have got some better pictures. Birds, buildings and various other subjects I could have clicked better shots if I had the telephoto. This is so far the biggest regret or disadvantage of not carrying a DSLR camera during my trips.

2. Night time photos: Mobile cameras are still no match to DSLRs for night time photography. DSLR on a mini tripod can give much sharper and meaningful photo in low light. For example below photo of a bridge in Hanoi's Kiem Lake- If I had my nikon I could have got a much sharper image.
3. More stable pictures of moving subjects: If you're clicking from a moving vehicle or clicking photo of an object that is in motion, DSLRs have better technical ability to deliver a sharper image. Mobiles often result in a blurr or need some luck/multiple attempts to get good quality picture.

4. I prefer DSLR on mini tripod with timer than selfies: It is lot convenient to put Nikon on a mini tripod, set the frame, set a timer and pose, than trying selfies. Below photo was clicked with same technique.  Without it, we have to ask some strangers to click- their clicks often lack focus or composition.
5. Battery: Arun Bharadwaj as provided below input in instagram: DSLR batteries are usually much stronger and can last a day or two. Mobile batteries drain faster. We also need mobile for other purposes besides photography- navigation, browsing, etc. Thus carrying DSLR helps save mobile battery power.

In Future: I will continue to use Nikon where I feel the need. I was thinking of an upgrade but 28% GST on cameras is not helping a bit. But if I can manage without it or if the trade off is worth it, I will probably try to manage without it.

What are your thoughts? Any other advantages/disadvantages you can think of? With ever increasing advance in mobile technology, are you still very much dependent on DSLRs or moving away from it? 
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25 comments:

  1. Will totally agree with you on all the points. Even though my OnePlus 3T takes decent photos, however I do miss my DSLR at times. The only reason for not taking the DSLR is the space it occupies.

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  2. I subscribe to your views. In order to avoid heavy bag I downgraded to a lighter DSLR few years back. These days for family trips I manage 80% of photography through smartphones !

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    1. Thanks Shande... You're commenting after a long time :)

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  3. I subscribe to your views. In order to avoid heavy bag I downgraded to a lighter DSLR few years back. These days for family trips I manage 80% of photography through smartphones !

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  4. Exactly what I've done in the past one year, the main problem being lugging it around with you when you're travelling alone, especially in the train. I've devised my own system though, all pictures of food and self are clicked on my phone. Pictures of the monument/nature are clicked on the DSLR.

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    1. Good to know-so you still carry it around on most trips I guess.

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    2. Hmmm depends actually. If it's a short trip I don't but I definitely miss it when I spot something very scenic or interesting!

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    3. Agree! At times we carry it for the sake of it-so that something comes up and we don't regret not having it with us

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  5. I too miss zooming when I use mobiles.

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  6. Great to read. For few months I used my Redmi3sprime & Now Redmi4.
    Zooming and Night clicks not too good with my mobile.
    Thanks for the post.

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    1. Good to know your mobile works fine for zoom n night photos.

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  7. Interesting post! I kind of relate to what you have mentioned in terms of not using DSLR too often now. I have been doing the same for the past few trips of mine. I'd say the good picture quality of my phone camera has made me lazy --- with an SLR you have to keep changing settings, but with a phone camera it's so easy to move around and take pictures with ease. But, I believe that an SLR is an SLR and from now on I'm going to be conscious about using it the way I used to.

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    1. :) DSLR also has Auto mode which most people use :) and even mobile cameras now come with all professional settings

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  8. I totally get the 7kg cabin baggage limit and buying extra baggage but other than that there is no way I will leave my DSLR behind! Let us see if this changes in the future!

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    1. You don't have the 7kg limit I understand... :)

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  10. My wife jokes that I book a seat for my DSLR bag before booking for her :) I mostly love to do road trip and can stack my DSLR bag in boot or back seat. But agree with you on international trips, especially if one has 7kg baggage limit.

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    1. :).. No car maker has kept a dedicated place to store DSLR safely during roadtrips...

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  11. Mobile cameras these days have improved a lot, they give far better picture than their earlier avatars. I totally depend on my mobile phones but ya.. sometimes the food pictures I take aren't great in low light of restaurants. i guess i should consider buying a DSLR now :)

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    1. :) Buy an entry level one and few good lens like prime lens etc- it will be good investment

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