My Travel Camera

By Kate Riley March 25, 2013

Hey everyone!  It’s good to be back home and working from my desktop again, but with so much to do to get caught up today. Thanks for your patience with me while I vacationed last week and for the sweet comments on yesterday’s post – yes you all absolutely must travel to Hawaii at least once in your lifetime! 

Many of you enjoyed the photographs, but would it surprise you to know the images do not come from my “work camera” which is my big heavy Nikon D90 and all its lenses? Nope I don’t travel with my fancy camera anymore, I haven’t for a year.

I decided last year that I absolutely did not want to travel with my Nikon D90 DSLR or risk having it broken or lost. Instead I invested in a “travel camera” which is light and portable, it offers the convenience of a small point-and-shoot and the functionality of a DSLR, with the ability to change the aperture and shutter speed and ISO and lenses too – this is my travel camera, the Nikon J1

nikon j1 camera and lenses


This is not a sponsored post – but I thought this the perfect time to share what I use to capture images when I travel. I bought this camera last spring after I spied it in a camera shop and did some research online. I bought it mostly because I wanted something high quality that would take great pictures, but be more compact and easy to travel with.

nikon j1 camera


The first time I used this camera was on my spring trip to New York City last year and I confess I was VERY frustrated with it the first time I used it for two reasons, and one was my fault. I didn’t read the manual before I traveled so I didn’t really know how to use it. I did get some great shots of NYC but the battery didn’t last very long, which was frustrating. 

spring nyc

But I was determined to figure out how to use it to avoid having to send it back because I really didn’t want to travel away from home with my bulky D90. I just hate carrying around a big camera all day when I’m adventuring someplace new.

The next time I traveled I read the manual and learned how to use the different settings and lenses for our trip to Savannah last year. You can also see in that post how one of the Smart Photo Selector option allowed me to capture several shots in a row to make a cool .gif of a cannon firing.

downtown savannah


I took the camera with us on our trip last year to Canada, to Montréal and Québec City.

window in montreal

old quebec city


To the butterfly conservatory in Niagara Falls.

butterfly conservatory


And to the Hotel del Coronado in September in San Diego.

hotel del coronado


The more I practice with it, the better I get with this camera, and with it I captured these recent images from the island of Oahu




I’m no expert on the nitty gritty details on what makes the inner workings of a camera great, but after I finally figured out how to work it, I concluded the camera gives me some really nice shots with good color and clarity and so it’s become my go-to travel camera (except for Yosemite in winter, when I was dying to test my new 35mm!)

If you’re interested in the details of the camera, do an online search on this model, there are people who know more than me about the framework of camera bodies that have informative things to say. 

Basically, these are the things I really like about the camera:

1) Interchangeable lenses in mini sizes which is very cool. I use the kit lens 90% of the time, but I took the 30-110mm out on a whale watching tour in Maui to get some extra zoom.

zoom lens

– It’s compact, lightweight, and sooooo portable compared to DSLR camera body. I actually carry this camera and lenses in a cosmetic case (seen above) in my luggage, purse, or tote bag.

– The basic still image mode takes really great images outdoors, but when you step indoors you can manipulate the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to brighten an image (like a DSLR), which is where many point-and-shoot cameras fail.

– The LCD viewer allows me to see the picture before I take it like a point and shoot, which I love. The camera has several modes, I like the Smart Photo Selector (mentioned above) since it takes 5 images at once, so I’m able to capture images of movement or my kids better than an average point-and-shoot. Bonus: the camera takes decent short videos too – we even made a few from our most recent trip.

There are a few little things I don’t like about this camera:

– You have to rotate and extend the lens in and out before you can snap a picture which takes an extra second and feels strange since I’m used to just snapping away with my DSLR, but I’ve gotten used to it.

– If you’re not careful, the rechargeable battery dies in two hours. To avoid that on an all day excursion, I have to remember to turn the camera off after every picture, which is a pain to have to remember to do that all the time. (It died on me in Oahu last week because I forgot to turn it off, so a few of those north shore images are iPhone pics!)

– The simple user manual is very  basic is not helpful at all for learning how to use the more complex functions. You have to sit and read the research manual online or on the CD they provide and then spend a few hours learning all the functions because they are very different than a Nikon DSLR, and it takes a while to learn them.

But bottom line, with all the gear we travel with as a family, the last thing I want to worry about is bringing my work camera (the heavier Nikon D90 and its lenses) so I consider this J1 a really good substitute when I’m traveling. It’s a step up from a point and shoot but not as fancy as a more expensive DSLR, however the pictures speak for themselves, they’re good enough to justify leaving the heavy fancy DSLR at home.

What about you? What camera do you travel with? Your DSLR or something lighter and more portable?




  1. Nice camera and great photos but what I really want to know is: Where did you get your white sun hat and is it packable? (This is a serious question!) Love your blog!

    • Ha! Great question Mary, I love that hat! I bought it years ago and always take it with me to sunny spots. It’s by the San Diego Hat Company (they are online too) and it folds up inside a suitcase but still maintains its shape!

  2. Welcome home! Loved your Hawaii pics and glad you took a well-deserved blogging break.
    Hawaii is one of my most favourite places. Your pics were gorgeous!

    P.S. My mom and sister both have this camera and love it.

  3. I was wondering about that camera. I use my DSLR on vacation, but it’s heavy. It would be nice to have a good smaller camera when visiting family and friends. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I’m a huge fan of my Sony NEX5 which is an interchangeable lens camera because it’s small but it takes killer pics!

  5. I always have at least one fully charged back-up battery in my camera case. That might help on turning on and off the camera.

    Thanks for all your other comments on this camera! I’m such a dolt I stick with my point-and-shoot Nikon, but have been drooling over this one for some time. The pictures you’ve taken with it are spectacular! Makes me want to put on my travelin’ shoes and take off!

  6. Thank you for posting this! I too have a DSLR and hate carrying it around while I’m traveling. I have been wanting a point and shoot but their pictures aren’t near as good as the ones I capture with my DSLR. I have seen this camera before but had never heard or read any reviews on it. I will be putting it on my wish list!

  7. Thank you for this post. I’ve been trying to find a different travel camera. Like you, I would take my DSLR with me everywhere, but since having kids it was left out most of the time. My husband has a little Sony point and shoot. It’s too sensitive for me. I can’t seem to take a picture without shaking it. Do you find the Nixon J1 to be more substantial then a point and shoot?

    • Yes Beth, it’s slightly heavier than an inexpensive point-and-shoot but not too much.

  8. I’ve been wanting to get another, smaller camera for the very same reason. Love my Canon Rebel but I’m not about to lug it around all day. Thanks for the tip!

  9. Love when you post about photography/cameras! Thanks for posting about your portable camera. My 13 year old is saving to buy her first DSLR and I’m thinking this might be a good one to start with!?! Not quite as expensive and easier to take with her everywhere.
    Your photos are beautiful – love Hawaii! The surfboard pic is my favorite!

  10. What perfect timing as I am looking for a good “travel” camera…I currently have a Nikon D7000 and it is heavy and cumbersome when “sightseeing”….I plan to travel with 6 other bloggers to France for great shopping of the Paris Fleas and sightseeing, so this information is fantastic!…thanks so much and your photography is always awesome!

  11. Welcome back! Your camera looks just about perfect for traveling! I would use my nikon cool pix or even my Android, which takes pretty darn good pics. I think phones have greatly improved in that regard in the last year or two.

    Oh, and Shirley, can I come?? ;)

    • Ha Doreen, me too! And yep, it’s amazing what the smart phones capture these days!

  12. Thanks for sharing that – I didn’t even know pocket cameras came with detachable lenses! We just got back from Maui as well and purchased the Canon G15 (we had a G11 we loved that my son left on the car right before we drove away-grrr) a couple days before we left as I didn’t want to bring my D90 with me this time either!!

    The first couple days were tricky trying to figure the contraption out, as we also didn’t read the manual first:), but got the hang of it eventually. Our photos turned out beautifully! I’m looking forward to seeing your Maui photos – I want to relive our vacation as much as possible as I’m missing it so much already!

  13. I’ve got a Canon Rebel and the only time I use it other than for my blog is when we go on vacation, so I relish the chance to use some of the lenses that I don’t use on a regular basis. We’re traveling to Europe this summer and I’m hoping to get a new lens for my Rebel before the trip. It will be a lot to lug around, but I wouldn’t travel without it!

    That being said, sometimes I wish I had a small camera that could fit in my purse. Not for traveling, but more for just around town or going to a friend’s house when I don’t think I’ll be taking too many pictures. I’m not a big fan of the camera on my smartphone.

  14. I love my 7D and get amazing photos with it, but this past summer I opted to travel lighter on our trip to Turkey and just brought my Canon S95 which I love. When I posted photos friends and family were shocked to find out all I took was my little point and shoot. Goes to show that it is the person behind the camera and the subject that makes the photo and not the camera. My back felt a lot better too!

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