« Stats | Main | 'That Face' at The Awl »

Sunday, 14 October 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

At the end of August I went to Kassel to see Documenta 13.

I always like to look at what other people are shooting with while on vacation.

What Dennis saw in the parks is close to what I saw while in Germany.

Anecdotally (in rough order of numbers):
Vast majority shooting with Canon/Nikon APS-C DSLRs and kit zooms. (this was surprising).

A number of compacts and of these many were super zooms.

Very few cell phone/iPad shooters. (also quite surprising)

Small number of mirror less (Olympus and Sony). More of these than FF DSLRs but both represented a very small percentage.

A few full frame DSLRs with serious lenses.

Folks still like to have decent cameras when travelling. When they know there will be things to photograph and "memories to preserve" they know enough to know that cell phones don't cut it.

And it seems that most find the APS-C DSLR to be the best option. They were everywhere!

The Internet has done an excellent job of becoming the amateur photographer's guide to all things photographic.

I would be curious to know how many mirrorless m43 and NEX type cameras you saw, if any. Did you include these in the DSLR numbers or in the "point and shoot" category?
I understand mirrorless is less common in the US but are growing fast in Europe and Asia. Particularly cameras like the Oly OM-D.

"I wanted to see if assertions that smart phones are replacing traditional cameras would be borne out."

Good article with interesting info, but it doesn't do much to answer what Dennis wanted to know. Tourists in national parks would seem to be a group least likely to use camera phones to me.

Walk around a city as a tourist, or go to a club or event of some type, and you'll probably see two things : tons of camera phones in use, and a lot more cameras used overall compared to, say, 10 years ago.

You say that 50% of the tourists you saw where Japanese. But when I was in Arches last week almost all the Asian tourists were Chinese. They all sported the latest in gear -- lots of Nikon D800s, Sony Nex-7s, Olympus OM-Ds, and a Leica M9. They were on tour buses. I chatted these guys up, and got to handle some of the latest gear which I have been reading about but have not seen.

Likewise, when I was in Estonia in August, it was the Chinese who predominated in the tours of the old towns.

Did you assume the Asians you saw were Japanese, or did you talk to them?

Just after reading the above, I found, completely by accident, this interesting piece on shooting with an iPhone:


The Canon and Nikon juggernaut rolls on. My casual observation of camera types in my area is almost exactly the same proportions. Personally I think this is bad for business all around but what are you going to do. At mass market retailers such as Costco, Target, Best Buy, etc. the BIG TWO are the only DSLR's on offer, along with a couple of consumer zooms. I would have to make a 130 mile round trip in horrid traffic to look at or handle a wider selection of cameras.

I New York City a month or so ago, it seemed the tourists were either carrying DSLRs or camera phones. I saw a scattering of point & shoots (points and shoots? points and shoot? whatever), a couple of Oly EP's and one guy with a Fuji X100. Almost all of the DSLR shooters seemed to be carrying the kit lens and no gear bag. As far as I could tell, there was no difference between the Asian, European and U.S. tourists.

A song from the past? People watching people watching people going by, or something to that effect.

My own story...went to the UK in 1972, took my one and only screw-mount Pentax, 50mm and 28mm lenses.
I wanted a 135, however the money was simply not there. Spent two or three weeks wandering, Canons were not seen, Nikons only with a pro and numerous small folding cameras with the general poulace.
All on Kodachrome, the slides are today as crisp as they were then.
I returned to the UK in 1985 and 1986 the latter with me Mum, who mastered the art of using my spare Nikon F quite well. Her photos were for some reason
better composed than mine. Then too at that time in my life I had a reason to take photos for me, my family, my friends. These days none of that applies.

These days I don't travel to foreign lands, too difficult for any number of reasons. However the big two would no doubt be seen all of the time, however the lesser brands? Not bloody likely.

Often wonder after these vacations/trips/journies to other lands, is the photo gear used at home as it were, or sitting on a shelf collecting dust?

I went to Peru in 2006, at Muchu Picchu i'd say about 60% of people were using their phones to photograph the mountain ruins, nice 640x480pixel records of their trip... or was it 320x280 back then.

I'm of the firm belief that most tourists use tripods because the guy that sold them their camera told them they needed one, even in bright day light.

I'm currently finishing up a three week self-driving tour of eastern and southern Turkey (shooting historic architecture with a Cambo Wide DS 4x5 camera, another story) and have witnessed a different scenario.

Just today, the last full day of the trip, I saw my first other tripod (in the hands of another western tourist at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul).

(As an aside, tripods are forbidden at virtually every scenic location here in Turkey, with the typical refrain of TRIPOD FORBIDDEN from entry guards. I was actually marched out of Gobeklitepe. Today, as my partner separately entered Topkapi Palace with no tripod, her soft daypack was X-rayed and the guard demanded she open it in search of the tripod he thought she had.)

Even at famous scenic locations, the locals overwhelmingly sport phones and compact digitals in a roughly 50:50 mix. Perhaps one quarter of foreign tourists have big black blobs (err, sorry...I mean Canon and Nikon DSLRs), and three quarters have digital compacts. I've seen several Olympus Pens, a Sony A850/900, and one Leica M9. And around half a dozen iPads held aloft, quite a funny sight.

I have seen this with tourists here in Norway, too. A lot of the middle aged japanese men carry high end Canon and Nikon DSLRs, and frequently there are red or gold rings around the lenses. Some set up tripods even in the city. I have also seen young asians with film cameras, even a young guy with a Hasselblad on a tripod and a separate light meter. We don't have too many chinese tourists yet, but I assume the nouveau riches who are able to travel to Europe are into the latest status symbols.

The western tourists usually have budget or mid-range DSLRs with a kit lens if they don't use a compact or phone. Few people use mirrorless cameras. The DSLR isn't dead yet it seems.

John R, I can get my Pentax stuff from local shops, but I prefer to go to a proper shop. It's only a 90 mile round trip, not 130, but the hard bit is the £@&$?&! one way system into the centre of Watford! : [

The shop is called SRS.

I'm in Cusco today having been at Machu Piccu for the past two days. I'd say there have been an equal number of Canon and Nikon dslrs of all types from low to high end. One person on my tour is using the orginal digital rebel. One person is using a Canon T90. I haven't notced more than a couple of other film users.

I've seen a lot of Sony dslrs.

Among mirrorless cameras, I'm using an Olympus OM-D and I saw one other. Quite a few m43rds small cameras like Panasonic gf3s and one or two small pen cameras. One Nex. Nobody is using medium format.

Quite a few smartphone users and lots of small point and shoots. One or two iPads and one Android tablet. Man does that look weird.

I'd say half as many dslrs and mirror less cameras as point and shoots. But at Machu Piccu I think one is going to be drawn to using a good camera.

I saw a tourist in the city recently, walking around holding a flat book-like object out in front of her face. On closer inspection, I found she was taking photos with an iPad. Gosh, it looked awkward.

I recently returned from Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, both in Utah. I saw one other visitor with a film camera, a Minolta SRT I think. I caught his eye and pointed to my Nikon FE; he smiled. And yes, I too was surprised by the number of Canon and Nikon DSLRs on tripods.

My question is how many of the non-point-and-shooters had their selector on AUTO. In other words using them as very expensive point-and-shoots.

I would guess it's all the DSLR shooters that forgot to bring the manual.

"I observed only one person with a medium-format DSLR."

Sorry, what's a medium-format DSLR?

"what's a medium-format DSLR?"

Leica S2, Pentax 645D, a medium-format SLR with a digital back, etc.


"In January, I was one of about 17 people with tripods at Zambriski Point in Death Valley at dawn. I would guess there were two people without cameras or tripods. I think all cameras were high end DSLRs. I got a nice, but not very unique photo! Perhaps I should have taken photographs of them!"

I have photographed the photographers (or happy snappers) with the scenery in the frame plus a conventional shot, and the former is often far more interesting. Having people in the frame gives the viewer scale and a point of emotional connection.

It's not one of my best, but there's an example at http://mandenomoments.com/piha28-3-10/e24a66f8f

I just returned from two weeks in Amsterdam, Paris and other French towns. aside from myself with my Pentax K5 and three primes, I saw two others using Pentax. The vast majority were using Canon or Nikon APS-C entry level DSLRs with the kit zoom lens. I saw very few mirror less m4/3 cameras, which surprised me as I expected a lot more of them to be used. saw one M9.

I was just in Portugal and I also noticed more DSLRs than I expected. They made up the majority of the cameras I saw, in fact.

I live in Toronto and while I do see a fair number of DSLRs I also tend to see more smaller cameras.

I was at Bryce Canyon National Park last week in the early morning, at the famous Bryce Point outlook. Yes, DSLR photogs, with tripods, were out in full force: my Olympus E-PL1 looked quite out of place. But what I was wondering was, why the tripods? The light was quite good and the subject matter was very far away, so that technically speaking, a tripod was not required. Is it that some folks see a tripod as a sign of seriousness?

I spend the last week of September and first week of October in Yellowstone every year (for the last 8 years now) and found Dennis' comments quite interesting compared to mine (I left on the 5th of October)

While I agree with some of his general observations and won't argue with his "big 2" statistics, I do not agree with his general conclusions, for the following reasons:

1. In the Lamar and Hayden valley areas (and a few other areas like Pelican Valley) you will find a very heavy concentration of wildlife photographers shooting with DSLRs, long lenses, telescopes in some instances, and spotting scopes. Individuals and groups in these areas year round make up less than 10% of the total visitation to the park, though they do tend to spend longer periods (up to a week or more as opposed to 1-2 days) in the park. Big money on the trips, big money on the equipment, tripods abound. Outside of these areas and these folks you won't see this level of financial dedication. Interestingly, these are almost all Americans, British/Australian, and German photographers. Nearly no asians (see below).

2. In the rest of the park, especially the thermal areas, the tour groups lead the pack by about 90+%. Lots of DSLRs and a few tablets. Many smart phones and few point and shoot rigs. For example, I spent two days and one night (well, 4 a.m. morning) capturing Fountain geyser (only erupts twice a day) and despite there being well over a hundred folks both afternoons, most with cameras of some kind, I could not account for more than a half dozen tripod setups either time. At the 4 a.m. shoot, under a full moon, all 9 of us were on tripods, which only makes sense.

3. I definately agree with the observation about the Japanese/Chinese (it is more than just Japanese, to my experience and observation) presence in late fall, and the fact that many, if not most, of these folks are carrying at least 1, if not 2, DSLR rigs. However, at Old Faithful, Biscuit and Black sand basins (where you want to be during the warmest part of the day to avoid the mists obscuring the pools and thus MUST mingle with the crowds to do photography) I have seen an interesting behavior the last several years. Time after time I see "tourists" in obvious tour groups zoom into an area, photograph the devil out of everything with their DSLRs AND simultaneously photograph the same things with their smart phones. I can only assume they intend to email the photos somewhere when they get service (see final comment). I rarely see this behavior outside tour groups.

4. Over the past 4-5 years I am seeing a distinct growth in presence of retirees (individuals and self-directed groups). These folks all appear to have higher end camera rigs (sometimes both husband and wife have their own rigs), don't exhibit smart phones even if they have them, and do not seem interested in point and shoot cameras.

5. Finally, in regard to his observations about smart phones, Dennis may not have known that cell phone service is generally ONLY available at Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful, and sometimes at Dunraven Pass (oops! that's supposed to be a secret). That fact alone would tend to skew his observations.

I think Dennis' statistics, and thus his conclusions, may be a bit overdrawn due to observational bias.

I was at Arches about ten years ago and went up to Delicate Arch just before sunset. There's a single good spot to get a photo from; that photo winds up looking just like everyone else's. It struck me as being a particularly pointless exercise.

Last week I was in Canaan Valley, West Virginia for the fall color peak. Up at Bear Rocks for sunset and the serious photographer:tourist ratio was about 4:1. Mostly DSLRs. One micro 4/3 and I think I saw a Hassy.

Ok. I'm curious about the tripods. Were you guys seeing serious tripods or $25 junk? What was the mix?

I took my M8 to Yellowstone, but not my snowboots. Did OK, though:

Pedestrian Bison, Yellowstone National Park, WY, October 07, 2011

Many smaller photo gear retailers deserve to go out of business, because they don't try, don't learn a thing or two from big retailer's mistakes. Which means, they don't try to give us real choice, but by following the philosophy of big retailers (sales of huge quantities of very few products) they also help create a market of limited choices.

In addition, they also don't educate their staff and behave heavily prejudiced.

As such, lots of wonderful new things on the market go unnoticed by the public who buys only what's available, and what's been recommended to them. When such a mindset turns a cycle or two, all we get becomes even more limited in scope.

Only way to fight such mentality, and to preserve fertile photographic future by fostering *true choices*, is by ordering online, and supporting those solutions and manufacturers not commonly found in largest but heavily limited retail chains, and their small followers.

One thought is the type of camera may depend on where in the US national parks you happen to be. When a relative worked for the NPS he said that government data stated 95% of NPS visitors never walk more than about 100 feet from their cars. I think it's possible the folks you meet on the longer trails may have more time, expend more effort, and may have more money for spending such time in the parks pointing to perhaps having more expensive camera gear. My experience over the past ten years has been the folks carrying cameras on the paved trails and in the "Kodak Moment" and parking areas tend to be shooting entry level DSLRs with kit zooms whereas those on the longer trails have all types of gear. The one Leica SLR shooter I've met in the wild was on a Rocky Mountain NP trail several miles from the roadside pull-out.

My wife and I haven't hiked a trail longer than a roundtrip of ten miles in the past 15 years due to having our children with us but I've never seen anyone shooting with a tripod or large format gear. I've been seeing a few of the colorful Pentax cameras in the parks the past couple of years. The one park we've visited where we've seen large numbers of Japanese visitors was Yellowstone. And I may just have had the only film camera in the Great Smoky Mountains this past summer.

One thing the author apparently did not see was someone photographing with both, as I do quite often. If I want to quickly email what I'm seeing, or message it, I will always take out my iPhone and snap a few pics, that while my DSLR is either in my bag, on my tripod, or over my shoulder. No reason you can't use both.

Those low-end P&S he speaks of (and I found his stats quite enjoyable to read btw), are damn good at what they do. I once went out with my then D3 and my G9 and photographed some trees and leaves at a local town park. I'd dare anyone to tell which camera took which picture by just viewing them on screen, which my guess is where over 90 percent of people view their photos and only where they view their photos.

I own an Epson 7900 and love to print large, frame them myself and then hang them in my home.

How many even print the photos they take any more?

I just returned from shooting in Baxter Park, Maine. The number of photographers was insane. BTW, for every seven Nikon DSLR's I saw two Canons. I guess it must be some kind of East coast, West coast thing.

Nicely done article, I am very amazed of how you observed all of that. Yes, people love to take pictures using their best cameras especially when they are in places like park, beaches, weddings, and many more.

I photograph around London many times a week, and I concur that APSC DSLRs and P&S cameras still dominate, followed by superzooms and smartphones.

Nearly all the DSLR users use consumer EOS and Nikon systems with kit lenses, but I see a small number of Pentax's. Can't remember seeing an Alpha for a long time.

I have only seen a handful of PENs and NEXs.

Around 10-20% of DSLR users carry a small lightweight tripod.

The above seems to be true irrespective of national groupings.

More expensive SLRs are primarily owned by older American and European males, nearly all Nikons are owned by men (!!?) and most P&S cameras are owned by women. Smartphones are mainly used by teenagers.

Amongst the non-tourists (I meet and chat to fellow Brit photographers almost every day) prosumer DSLRs (both APSC and FF) with prime lenses and tripods are quite common. London is very popular for night-shooting. If I see a film camera, MF camera or Leica, it's nearly always a local.

Well, I'll toss in my comments. This past year I've traveled to Istanbul, the Netherlands, and across the US from Baltimore out to Davis, CA and back, traveling through 5 national parks, many national monuments and forests, and a couple of Canadian provincial parks. At all times I was checking out the gear I saw (I had a FF Sony A850, 6 lenses, flashes, tripod, portable storage plus a netbook, an NEX 7 plus 4 lenses----so I was packin' heat on both trips. I only left my 6x9 home because I'm still looking for a decent hand processor where I live...).

What I can tell you is this: Abroad I saw little gear that was the equal of what I'd brought. Instead it was mostly superzooms and P&S's, with just a sprinkling of APSC Canon/Nikon. I saw one other guy (from Malta) with an A900, saw some M4/3, saw some NEX. I saw very few film cameras, disposables, and nothing in larger formats. The tourists in late March-early April were overwhelmingly European and Muslim in Istanbul, with a lot from Indonesia/Malaysia and a bunch from central Asia. Typical numbers of east Asian tourists, and was told increasing numbers of Koreans. In Amsterdam most of the flower tourists were either native Dutch or east Asian, plus what appeared to be other Euro tourists. Did not see many Brits or yanks, probably due to time of year.

On the cross country trip in the summer it really depended where I was as far as what gear I saw. I would say in response to the original post that the Tetons and Yellowstone attract a preponderance of megafauna/wildlife shooters, and they of course are a tribe that needs tripods and long lenses. You don't see as much of this in other parks and places. Didn't see so much of that in Yosemite, for instance, or a number of other amazing places I went through. In fact, I was amazed how little camera gear I saw in Yosemite, considering the hoards of people I saw. And the photography going on was 99% family snaps stuff. Saw one other guy with good gear, a D800----we both pulled off the road at nearly the same spot. At the North Rim of the Grand Canyon during a sunrise shoot @ Crown Point, however, ALL of us had excellent gear and tripods. But of course, we'd all had to get up at about 3:45am to get out there in time for sunrise and setup. So I'd say that was a non-typical group of about 8 of us culled out from the rest of the temporary human population in the park. As for the rest---didn't really see many cameras at all!

So, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

...or how about people at national parks or Machu Picchcu generally have more money and so they can afford expensive cameras! I'm not sure I see the point of this article...it all depends on where you are (how much it costs to get there), class (yes, there's class in the US and tied to disposable income), and what works in that context (slr advantage over iphone in wildlife or nature photography is obvious and significant).

What does this all mean?

"What does this all mean?"

What do you mean what does it mean? It means what it means.


People who are into taking pictures of nature are likely to spend money on "better" equipment.

People who aren't into that probably had tiny cameras or phones on them, you just didn't see them out and using them.

2 questions:

1 - do people buy high end equipment to go to National Parks etc. or do they go to them because they have high end equipement?

2 - of those that use tripods, what percentage use tripods suitable for the equipment they're using, or are using them in such a way as to gain any benefit?

Oh, yes a third question ... what percentage had their lens hoods on backwards?


Spent two weeks in Yellowstone / Grand Tetons this Sept.

Agree with "B Grace" above... what gear you see depends on how far you are from the parking lot. Backpackers usually have compacts and micro 4/3 gear - you almost never see them lugging a DSLR.

1) cheap APS-C DSLR's with kit lenses still dominate - canon and nikon mostly, but saw some sony too. the "best" photographers i saw - doing really clever compositions outside of your usual snapshot - were using aps-c dslr's

2) compacts, especially superzoom, were the next most common sight. lots of snapshot photos. i think because of the destination, it often triggers a new camera purchase before the trip. lots of new-looking compacts.

3) cell phones were very common (mostly the younger crowd) and i saw a few ipads (mostly older, clueless crowd who thinks they're hip). photos for facebook I guess.

4) full frame DSLRs - mostly being used as status symbols than for serious photography. These guys were almost always taking the same shots that the compact camera users were taking. The only serious photogs I saw with FF were old guys, parked on the side of the road with 600mm and 800mm lenses, waiting in their lawn chairs for wildlife to show up.

5) mirrorless - saw only a handful, olympus and panasonic. most of them were out from the parking lots on the trails. one guy gently chided me about the size and weight of my 300mm f/2.8 compared to his tiny olympus. after that hike, i agreed with him.

6) film - only saw two film cameras, both being used (perhaps "ironically") by young hipsters.

?) large format etc., medium format, veiw cameras - didn't see ANY.

?) filters - very, very few people were using polarizing filters. Yellowstone is probably one of the best places to use one (cut the glare on all of the pools), and i think i saw three other people using them the entire time. i used mine almost daily.

?) tripods - i almost never saw them. during the day there is plenty of light and you don't really need them, so only the wildlife photographers with long lenses are using them (and not always - saw a lot of beanbags on cars). in the early mornings and evenings, you see more serious photographers, and a higher percentage of tripods due to the low light.

Also, nice shot of the Bison in the snow Maggie. :)

So, you only saw Canon, Nikon and Sony DSLRs? Then you didn't see me out there with my Olympus DSLRs.

Always sticking up for the underdog...

Was also in Yellowstone early September with OMD, HOLGA and Fuji 120 camera - shocked to see someone using their iPad as a camera. I almost ran over a Japanese Tourist who was standing in the middle of the road and my wife nearly wiped out a bicyclist. Amazed how many people disregarded the safe distance warning - was waiting to photograph those tragedies but fortunately they didn't happen; Bison can and do run faster than a horse.

Popular spots in Everglades NP are lousy with serious photographers and fine equipment. However, few venture far from the road or visit before sunrise or when it's buggy or stormy. Many beautiful places are wide-open if you're willing to spend some time and get off the beaten path.

Thanks, Diego! Who knew a 35mm lens was a "wildlife lens?" ;^)

Want to have some fun the next time you are in Arches?

First buy one of these.

Fill it with marbles and put it in your camera bag.

Next to to the delicate arch at dawn and set up somewhere in the moving carbon fiber forest. Next pull out the mug, fake a sneeze and drop it on the rocks. Pick it up and give it a shake (marbles, remember?). Shrug and say "oh well there's lots more where that came from". Toss it in the trash, go into Moab and have breakfast.

A thing that intrigues me when travelling in Asia is the number of people who have a tiny compact sat upon a not so tiny tripod. I never see that at home. Kind of defeats the purpose of getting something small and pocketable to me.

Gee! I wonder if the medium format camera was mine?

The most interesting camera I saw when I was there at the same time was this one:


One other thing to note amongst all these observations - I'm guessing time of day matters too. People who get out at sunrise/sunset are probably more likely to use DSLRs than those that care less about photography quality/lighting and are likely to use their camera phones at other times of day.

I visited Yellowstone last September for sightseeing and photography (photos in the link below!). In the general sightseeing areas there were plenty of people with DSLRs but I'd say probably half of them were Rebels with a kit lens. When I got out to the wildlife viewing areas early in the morning, that's where you see the 'big guns': 1Ds with 400mm f/2.8 + teleconverter... *drooooool*

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007