A voyage to Antarctica

In 2010 I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to join a voyage to Antarctica.

Like everyone on the ship MV Plancius, I wanted to record and document the experience. Passengers were advised to bring twice as much film as they thought they could possibly need. I came with none – instead placing my trust in a digital camera and a specially ordered 24 Gb SIM card that cost (at the time), a whopping AUD $125.

The camera I took was a Panasonic TZ-10. It’s no longer made but in 2010 it cost around AUD $700. Back then, serious photographers considered such cameras as toys…

But I thought this little digital camera was amazing. It had a 12 x zoom, which was incredible considering that at the time, you could easily pay twice that for an equivalent zoom for a 35mm film camera  – and that’s for just the lens, not the camera body. And this little camera also came with a built-in GPS – which could record where you were when you took photos – which is one reason it was sold as a “travel” camera.

The TZ-10 could also function as a video camera. It could shoot something the user manual referred to as “high definition” video.  This turned out to be 1280 x 720 pixels, which is the minimum definition of HD. (These days it would be called 720p while full HD is now defined as 1920 x 1080).

The camera used the AVCHD video format – jointly developed by Sony and Panasonic, and while it’s wise to be wary of proprietary standards, I was happy to go with this one because it was backed by Sony.  [Good choice- still supported in 2019]. As I expected, the camera’s built-in microphones were very susceptible to wind noise, but I found that in good conditions the audio was quite usable. Being so small and light meant this camera had a real advantage when climbing in and out of the rigid inflatables – especially when compared to the bulky equipment some of the other passengers were using.

My original plan was simply to document the trip by taking lots of photos. I hadn’t set out with the intention to make a video, but there were so many moments when  photographs simply couldn’t capture the experience, that I ended up shooting quite a lot of video.

When we returned from the trip I made a photo book, (doesn’t everyone), plus I made a very simple video assembly for the family, but it wasn’t intended for HD viewing. I didn’t own a HDTV then.  They were still quite uncommon.

Fortunately, I kept all of the digital camera originals from that trip. That made it possible recently for me  to return to the source material and edit the Antarctica story in HD. The resultant video turned out to be an excellent primer on what to expect on an Antarctic voyage. Looking at the image quality in the video, you would never guess that all but 4 of the images were shot on that little TZ-10 camera.

The important observation here is that it pays to shoot your images at the highest quality you can, and then be sure to back them up. You never know the future possibilities…  I edited this video using Apple’s iMovie – which is a surprisingly capable video editing tool,  considering that it comes free with every Mac.

The little TZ-10 served me very well for many years, but when it eventually succumbed to wear and tear, I replaced it with Sony’s HX-90V – a very similar sized travel camera, also with GPS, but with updated electronics and an even more powerful (30x) zoom.

I find the compact travel cameras incredibly versatile and useful, especially when shooting in reasonable light. People underestimate the quality they are capable of, or the physical freedom of carrying something that’s not heavy or bulky, and because these cameras look like “point and shoots”,  they make you far less conspicuous or vulnerable than people carrying DSLRs and the like. For me that’s a very big plus, and even should you receive unwelcome attention – losing a travel camera is not going to hurt your wallet as much as losing a DSLR.

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