Gear Geek: Up Your Travel Photo Game

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Gear Geek: Up Your Travel Photo Game

“Take only photos, leave only footprints.” Sage advice, and now that most mobile phones boast cameras that are better than most DSRL models, capturing the perfect shot (or … sigh … the perfect selfie) has never been easier. Here are a few products that help you turn your travel photo game up to 11, with everything from a fun instant camera to some crazy-surreal apps and absolutely no selfie sticks.

1. Moment Superflish Lens, $90; 2. LG 360 Cam, $200; 3. Prynt Phone Case and Printer, $150; 4. Polaroid Z23000 Instant Digital Camera, $300 (but discounted by more than 50% at Amazon); 5. Prisma App, Free; 6. Visionn App, $2; 7. Google Earth Live Case, $50.

Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).

Moment Superflish Lens

Fisheye lenses—those lenses with super-wide apertures that capture huge panoramics as well as glorioiusly distorted images like curving skyscrapers—came into fashion in large part due to the hip hop music videos in the '80s, but they're still a killer signature for any travel-centric photographer. Now you can capture full landscapes and cityscapes, and find interest, new ways to shoot a familiar, oft-photographed attractions with your smart phone via the Superfish. Slide it on your smart device via the included mounting plate and you can shoot super-wide vista shots as well as compelling video in tight spaces right through your phone, via the Moment App (to utilize more DSRL-like features). At 15mm it's the widest lens in Moment's arsenal, so it'll greatly expand the aperture of your existing lens.

LG 360 Cam

Want evidence that we're in the golden age of affordable camera tech? You can get a 360-degree camera for only $200—that's high-end inexpensive tech that didn't exist a decade ago. The LG 360 Cam captures full 13-MG 360-degree photos and 2K video (and 5.1 surround sound) via two wide-angle, 13 million-pixel lenses on a device that's less than four inches high. Better still, an app on your Android or iOS device transforms your smartphone into a remote control to let you see what you're recording in real time. It's also compatible with the YouTube and Google Streetview apps for direct upload.

Prynt Phone Case and Printer

Prynt takes the latest generation's obsession with instant gratification and layers in a welcome touch of the tactile world, while still taking full advantage of the high-end smart phone cameras. The interchangeable adapter system lets you use the same case/printer on multiple devices (including various iPhone models as well as Samsung Galaxy S5), so a handful of like-minded travelers can all shoot, print, and share in the moment. Their app includes the expected features—filters, text options, cropping—so you can alter/amend the shots before printing. The internal battery runs off a USB charger, and prints with "inkless" tech that prevents smudging. Each photo also stands as a key to a piece of digital content—anyone who has the print can use the app to access a "hidden" video.

Polaroid Z23000 Instant Digital Camera

From smartphone add-on to an actual camera, the Z2300 updates the nostalgia-rich Polaroid Instamatics of old by going all-digital (save, ya know, the printed photo). The 10-megapixel camera boasts a 6x digital zoom, the ability to shoot 720p HD video, and a suite of other digital features (cropping, borders, filters)—all to let you print out sweet, sharable physical photographs. The photos use a high-end Zink zero-ink printing process to produce the two- by-three-inch prints, and the camera comes in three bright colors as well as black and white.

Prisma App

This free app wears its influences on its sleeves, with filters based on some of the most well-known artists—everyone including Van Gogh, Picasso, and Munch's The Scream, as well as a handful of well-known ornaments and patterns. You can shoot directly from the app and apply the filter, or apply filters to your photo library via the app, and an intuitive interface lets you dial in the percentage of the filter you want overlaid onto the image. They update new filters often, and some can produce surprisingly awesome results, like the way the Mondrian filter can transform a beach landscape into an abstract series of negative space and colorful rectangles.

Visionn App

Like Prisma, this app turns your photos into art via filters, except for three big differences: you can view the filter in real-time (or apply to original images), and you can shoot video—features that make up for the other difference between Visionn and Prisma: the $2 price tag. But really, it's a small price to pay for suddenly looking at the world through your own animated, Waking Life-style window.

Google Earth Live Case

Less something to make your photos better, and more a reminder to keep taking photos (and to keep exploring), the Google Earth Live Case displays a live wallpaper that shows a curated selection of striking landscapes from Google Earth. Want to explore where that image originates? Just tap on the phone's programmable shortcut button and you'll trigger Google Maps. The case is slim-fitting for easy snap-on protection. And—as Paste has reported—Google's Pixel and Pixel XL smart phones offer pretty much the best camera on the market.