Hey Lifehacker, I’m going overseas for a year backpacking and working and I don’t want to carry a big DSLR camera. Should I just stick with a smartphone or add a smartphone lens? And how should I back the photos up? Can I set it so it only backs up on Wi-Fi? I would be looking for a point-and-shoot phone with GPS. Thanks, Camera Confused
Smartphone selfie picture from Shutterstock
Smartphone lenses are a great way to boost the quality of your photos via improved optical zoom, a higher megapixel count, better image stabilisation and a higher ISO sensitivity. However, the drawback is that you have to carry around a delicate and awkwardly shaped gizmo.
This is obviously a nuisance while backpacking, especially if you like to travel light. Most camera lenses, such as the DSC-QX100 are reasonably bulky and may require a protective case or carry pouch. In other words, a proper compact camera will only take up slightly more room in your bag.
In addition to the portability issue, smartphone lenses can be quite fiddly to set up. This can lead to missed photo opportunities — instead of taking a quick snap with your phone, you’re arsing about with the lens attachment. Some models also restrict the phone’s other functions while in use, which obviously isn’t ideal.
All in all, we reckon you’re better off sticking to a standalone, high-end camera phone. As long as you don’t require large-sized prints of your photos, this should be perfectly serviceable in most situations. (Two notable exceptions are low-light environments and distant subjects — but a lot of this can be rectified via inbuilt filters and cropping. The results won’t look perfect, but should be fine for Facebook and Instagram uploads.)
When it comes to backing up photos, we’re pretty big fans of Google Drive. You can easily set this up so that it only syncs over Wi-Fi or perform all your backups manually. You can find out more about how this storage app works via our Google Drive tag.
Another thing to be mindful of is power conservation. Camera applications are power-hungry and can drain your battery surprisingly quickly if you’re taking lots of photos. The last thing you want is to be stranded on the road without a camera or a phone. Take the money you were going to spend on a smartphone lens and invest in a second battery instead.
If any readers have their own suggestions for lightweight travel photography, let CC know in the comments section below.
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