Why Your Smartphone Can’t Replace A Dedicated Camera For Travel


Gear and Gizmos  

Photo Credit: Denoir via WikiMedia

There is no denying that over the past few years smartphones have become indispensable tools in our daily lives. They help us to stay in touch with friends and family, keep up on current events through social media, and help us find the closest Italian restaurant, while allowing us to make dinner reservations en route. Their ability to take decent photographs has even made the smartphone the most popular type of camera in the world today, giving us the ability to quickly share our images on Facebook and Instagram. But more and more travelers are relying on their phones as a way of photographing their adventures, which is a mistake that could lead to regret down the line. Here are five reasons you should still carry a dedicated camera with you on your next trip.

Optical Zoom Lenses
While the vast majority of smartphones feature only digital zoom, most dedicated cameras will actually have at least some basic level of optical zoom as well. Digital zoom brings distant objects closer by actually blowing up the photo, sacrificing image quality in the process. But optical zoom uses dedicated hardware components to get a tighter shot without downgrading the quality of the photo in any way. This can be especially helpful when traveling, as we often aren’t able to get physically closer to the subject of our photo. A good optical zoom will capture high quality images, even from a distance.

Better Lenses
The quality of the lenses used in a camera isn’t just measured by how powerful of a zoom it packs. Just about any dedicated camera will incorporate much better glass into its lenses when compared to a smartphone, which may even use plastic components as part of its lens system. A better lens means sharper images and improved color reproduction, which in turn leads to photos that more accurately represent the subject you’re trying to capture. This is especially important to travelers who generally are trying to capture photos of places and events that they may never have the opportunity to see again.

Larger Sensor
Both smartphones and dedicated cameras use high tech sensors when snapping photos, with the amount of data that those sensors can capture being measured in “megapixels.” There was a time when the number of megapixels a camera could shoot was an important number, but for the most part those days are long over. However, since dedicated cameras don’t need to cram so many components into a small body, they tend to use larger sensors. Those large sensors not only include more megapixels but they also perform much better in low light conditions, which is often where smartphones struggle to capture decent images. When paired with high quality lenses and a decent zoom, the large sensor can make the gap in image quality between a camera and a smartphone becomes a significant one indeed.

Better Battery Life
Lets face it, smartphones have a lot of strengths, but great battery life isn’t really amongst them. Most of us have to charge our smartphones on a daily basis, which doesn’t bode well for their use as a camera while traveling. It can be a real travel nightmare to be at a dream location only to find the batteries on your smartphone are dead, completely eliminating your ability to capture the moment. A dedicated camera will have much better battery life and won’t need a charge at the end of the day. In fact, most cameras get good enough battery life that they can be used for an entire trip without the need to recharge. On longer trips, travelers can carry a spare battery, just to be on the safe side, swapping it out if the original battery dies. Many smartphones don’t even give you the option to change  the battery at all.

More Storage
Many smartphones, including the iPhone, ship with a fixed amount of storage space on their internal flash drives. That storage is shared amongst music, movies, apps, games and other items, which can leave little space for photos. To make matters worse, you can’t add any additional storage to the iPhone either. But memory cards are inexpensive and easy to swap out on a dedicated camera, giving travelers virtually unlimited storage capacity should they need it. The last thing you want to do when shooting photos in Paris or capturing the perfect shot of the Himalaya, is to limit the number of images you can take because of a lack of memory. Worse yet, you might have to delete other content on your phone just to make room. Making those kinds of compromise can be frustrating to say the least.

There are, of course, other reasons why a dedicated camera makes sense over a smartphone.For instance, built-in image stabilization for cleaner photos, a more powerful flash, the ability to shoot macro shots, and an impressive amount of customization options for capturing the perfect photo.

Clearly smartphones bring some great options to the table as well, such as the ability to share photos instantly on social media. But in terms of capturing the very best travel photos possible, a dedicated camera will win every time. For me, that trumps anything a smartphone can do.


About the Author: Kraig Becker

Kraig Becker is a freelance outdoor and adventure travel writer who covers extreme sports, mountaineering and active travel. Based out of Austin, TX he writes about his own travels while encouraging others to seek their own opportunities for adventure where ever they go.


  • As a professional traveler and photo enthusiast, I must strongly disagree. In fact in my experience, a smartphone is superior to a dedicated camera when used for travel. The only exception is if your a professional photographer. Dedicated cameras are just a hassle to carry and a prime target for theft. I exclusively use an iPhone 5 with a built in wide angle lens and (not to toot my own horn: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sixvaser/) often have far better shots than other travelers carrying an entire bag full of camera equipment. The thing is, when you add travel to the mix with photography, it should be “travelable”, mobile and not hold you down.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *