Aside from enjoying all of the attractions, guests at Disney World spend a good chunk of their time taking pictures. With so many exciting things to see, who can blame them? The majestic Cinderella Castle, meeting your favorite characters, or even the amazing details found in everything Disney Imagineering puts its heart into. Surprisingly, one item that often is forgotten during planning is the choice of camera. Many visitors tend to just grab whatever they have and bring it along without thinking through what type of pictures they plan to take or how they are going to lug that DSLR on the rides.
When packing a camera for your Disney World vacation, the first thing you want to consider is what pictures you plan to capture. A first time visit for an active young child, scenery shots, or maybe just selfies to share on social media. Then you can narrow down exactly what you need. There are three key areas to think about when choosing a camera for your vacation: Flexibility, Portability, and Ease of Use.
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A Disney World vacation offers up a myriad of settings, weather, and lighting conditions for shooting pictures. One of the key factors to deciding on which type of camera, or cameras, to bring is flexibility. Action shots, portraits, landscape. Intense sunlight, dim indoor lighting, fireworks. You need to consider which types of pictures you’ll be taking and what type of quality you’re expecting.
The second factor is portability. You’ll be trekking around parks, riding attractions, and packing into buses. While choosing a camera for your picture taking needs, consider how easy it is to carry and stow away when not in use. Stopping to take your camera out of a backpack every time you want to take a picture is not fun and you’ll miss a lot of great moments. Also take into consideration frequent heavy rain and rides where your camera could get wet.
Ease of use
The third factor I consider is ease of use. Things can happen quickly while strolling around the parks or on a ride, so think about how long it takes to get your camera ready to shoot. Storage, start up time, and focusing are important. You may also want cast members (Disney employees) to snap a pic of you with a character, so make it easy for them too.
Now that we’ve discussed the some of the settings you’ll encounter and factors to think about, let’s look at the common camera options available.
The quality of cell phone cameras is so good that I consider them to be the base line of travel cameras. Easy to use and the inherent benefit of quickly sharing to social media make these the go to for most vacationers today. Add to these benefits compact size and the availability of durable cases to protect them on a busy day of park touring.
There are a few limitations to consider. Zoom quality is not that great for many cameras and some may not adjust well to various lighting conditions. Know how well your phone works in a variety of settings too determine if it will meet all your picture taking needs on vacation. By the way, selfie sticks are not allowed in the Disney World Parks.
My go to for travel. Compact cameras offer ease of use coupled with a decent optical zoom for long range shots. Compacts typically have a wide range of special settings to compensate for lighting conditions. For example, my Canon PowerShot has low light and fireworks settings that work wonderfully. Most new compacts have wifi capability, so you can either connect to your cell phone or to Disney’s wifi coverage for social sharing.
Choose a compact camera which has easy to use controls and is comfortable in your hands. Also look for a quick start up time and good optical zoom. I’ve been using Canon’s lineup of compacts for years and have been very happy. My current model opens up in a flash and is contoured so I can easily hold it in one hand.
The next size up is basically builds on the compact cameras while adding larger or interchangeable zoom lens. There are some really nice mid size cameras out there, such as the Canon EOS M series. The drawback is a downgrade in portability since they are a bit larger and many are clunky. Mid size cameras tend to be convenient for people who like to shoot a lot of scenery pics, but still have to navigate with a family or luggage. Choose a camera at this level with a good selection of interchangeable lenses and isn’t too clunky for storage.
The ultimate for shooting landscape and portraits, but heavy and cumbersome. Choose this if your primary purpose is to take pictures. While my go to camera is a compact, I always bring along my DSLR on trips when I want to focus on my photography. You can’t beat the flexibility for composing any type of shot from fireworks to small details on rides.
Carry a backpack instead of a camera case and keep a large 2 gallon Ziploc handy in case of rain. Also be sure to buy a comfortable neck strap for that nasty Florida humidity.
Bonus Tip: Disney’s PhotoPass Photographers
You’ll run across Disney’s own pro photographers at characters meets and iconic picture locations, such as on Magic Kingdom’s Main Street. Use them to your advantage. They are well practiced in capturing pictures at the location, plus they and their assistants will typically take snap some pics with your camera if you ask. I’ve also found them to work well in tandem with me while capturing pictures of my daughter meeting the princesses when she was young. Visit Disney World’s PhotoPass page for more details.
Be sure to set up your camera before asking a cast members (Disney employee) or PhotoPass photographer to take a picture since they will not change the settings. You can also ask characters if you can record a video message from them to a family member or friend.