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Capturing Antarctica’s Natural Beauty: Best Cameras For Antarctica Photography

What camera should you bring to Antarctica, you ask?  If you are passionate about photography, this article is for you! And if you are not as passionate about photography, this is also the article for you.  As the anticipation and your packing list is growing, make sure to have the right camera packed to suit your needs!  It is essential to pack the camera that will capture Antarctica’s natural beauty.  Better yet – bring more than one.  Anything can happen, and there are no stores in Antarctica to buy a replacement!

Antarctica has a remarkable and “one of a kind” display of wildlife, landscapes, and history.  No matter how many times you travel to Antarctica, each adventure will be the experience of a lifetime.  While your eyes are best for capturing memories, bringing a camera to catch everything along the way ensures that you can share your adventure with friends and family when you return!  It is important to embrace every second you have in Antarctica, and it is critical to choose a camera that will capture Antarctica’s natural beauty for you to reflect on for a lifetime.

Which Type of Camera Would Be Best For Your Antarctica Vacation?

The camera you bring depends on your style.  There is not necessarily a “right” or “wrong” choice concerning cameras for photography in Antarctica, but different cameras match different needs. If you want to travel light, bring your phone and use it’s camera. Most smartphones lately are equipped with great technology and some even take RAW images providing greater editing ability after capture.  If you are more serious, bring a small point and shoot camera. If you are very passionate about photography, bring a mirrorless camera or DSLR to ensure the highest quality photos.

Tour guest takes photo with phone

Phone Cameras

Camera phones have become  better and better every year in their photography quality, so take your phone if nothing else! For those that like film, bringing disposable cameras may make photography fun (just make sure you don’t forget to have them developed once you return home)!

Although camera phones may not suffice for those that are passionate about photography, they still do a great job.  Technology has evolved and many phones today have many features that cameras have.  For example, cell phones take high-quality images and typically have time lapse, panoramic features, and high resolution video capabilities. Phones have many similar abilities to cameras, sometimes even more that could help with taking photos of Antarctica’s natural beauty.  For example, you can adjust focus and you can adjust the brightness of the image before actually taking the picture.  If an image comes out too dark or too bright or the white balance is off, you can always use the photo editing software on your phone and quickly change those settings.

Just like with the “regular” cameras in Antarctica, be mindful of salt water and moisture.  Always keep your phone in your jacket pocket when there is water, rain or snow.  This will help protect your cameras in Antarctica weather.  If you use your camera phone a lot, we recommend buying a holder or grip for it.  If you do, bring a holder, your hands will thank you, your phone will be a lot easier to hold, and you can activate the shutter from that grip.  This will increase the quality of the photos you take!

Gentoo penguins, Antarctic wildlife

Point-And-Shoot Cameras & DSLR Cameras

Smaller, portable cameras have made great strides regarding image quality—making it an admirable selection of cameras in Antarctica.  A small point and shoot camera that has a zoom lens with a wide angle to a telephoto setting will be an awesome companion for your cruise experience as you capture Antarctica’s scenery and wildlife.  If you bring a camera with interchangeable lenses, cover the focal lengths from 20 or 24 millimeters to about 200 or 300 millimeters.  Everything else beyond that would likely be too heavy and burden you on your Zodiac boat rides and landings.  Today’s cameras have many mega pixels.  You can always crop your images a little bit, too.

There are rules surrounding the minimum distance you can approach wildlife – you cannot get too close and disturb the penguins and seals.  Hence, reason that a moderate telephoto zoom lens will be useful—it should cover a range of about 50 to 200 or 300 millimeters.  Every camera manufacturer has a different set of lenses – most DSLRs have 24 -70 millimeters, as well as 100-400 millimeters or 100-300 millimeter lenses.  If you’re bringing what is called a crop camera, you can easily get away with something in the 100 to 200-millimeter range. 

Protecting Your Camera From The Elements

You do not need filters, except for a UV filter to protect the front of your lens from water, and perhaps a polarizing filter—not for the skies!  I do suggest bringing it as you may see seals and penguins underwater.  A polarizing filter will eliminate or at least reduce the reflections on the water’s surface.  It will also protect your lens from spray, rain and snowfall.

The biggest enemy for your cameras in Antarctica will be the salt water.  Always be careful when you are on your zodiac rides from the ship to shore.  It is important to leave your camera in its bag or cover it with your body. It is vital to bring a protective case for all cameras in Antarctica, as the weather is constantly changing and there may be snow or rain at any point in time.  When the cameras are brought back to the ship, leave them in the cases or wrap them in a plastic bag or a towel.  The difference between outside and cabin temperatures is often large, and the cameras in Antarctica get condensation on the inside of the lenses.  That condensation may take a long time to get rid of.  If this happens to your cameras in Antarctica, you will see it as “fog” in the middle of the lens.  To fix this issue, you may use the hair dryer in your cabin and blast the lenses with the warm air; forcing the condensation to go away within a few minutes.

Taking Videos

For those that are passionate about photography and want to always capture Antarctica’s natural beauty, feel free to complement your experience by taking videos.  If you are wanting to take videos with your cameras in Antarctica, be sure to take a small tripod.  This does not have to be a multi-pound large tripod that extends to 5 or 6 feet.  Rather, a table-top one that is 5 or 6 inches tall will suffice.  While exploring, you can usually find a rock or block of ice to set this tripod and your camera on.

What Camera Accessories Should You Bring?

Ensure that you have lots of memory cards and extra batteries for your cameras in Antarctica.  Charging batteries will not be an issue: you can always charge your batteries back on the cruise ship.  On the other hand, you will not be able to buy memory cards during your cruise for your cameras in Antarctica.  A piece of advice is to bring twice as many memory card space you think that you may need.  Another alternative is to bring a tablet or a laptop computer to download images.  You do not want to be stuck without a camera while trying to appreciate Antarctica’s stunning views.

Choose The Best Camera For You!

Overall, a variety of cameras will help with capturing Antarctica’s natural beauty—there is no “right” or “wrong” options.  Some key pieces of advice are to bring back-up batteries, bring gear to protect your cameras in Antarctica, and haul extra memory cards—even when you don’t believe it is necessary. If you have any questions please reach out to our team! We’re happy to help with any advisement as our founder is a world-travelled photographer and is passionate about polar photography.