In a world of smartphones in every pocket there are few things keeping compact cameras relevant. For someone about to go on a trip it can be easy to assume that you’ll be fine just using your iPhone as your camera, but is that true?
Taking selfies and pictures of your food is hardly a reason to pack a dedicated camera. Focusing on landscapes and taking images you may want to frame one day should mean using a camera that perhaps isn’t as simple as using your phone. Compact cameras are facing an identity crisis as they readjust to stay important and wanted in the market. For those cameras with the capabilities of a smartphone they’re on the way out and should not be bought. For those cameras which have features a phone can only dream of, here is what we consider important.
We recently went to New York to attend an event with Sonos. In the days prior to the event we knew taking photos would be important and Panasonic provided a great option. The DC-TZ90 is an average sized camera, it isn’t a DSLR and it certainly isn’t the price of one.
The DC-TZ90 packs a feature we were desperate for in New York and no smartphone on the market had this one feature. The DC-TZ90 packs a 30 times optical zoom in the very small body. When you’re standing on the top of the Empire State Building there are views for miles. Having a great long zoom to make the most of it and puts smartphones to shame. What we mean by this is the difference between digital and optical zoom. Sure, on your smartphone you can pinch to zoom in and the object appears closer, but the quality of the image degrades. With digital zoom you’re merely reducing the size of the overall image making the object appear closer, essentially you’re cropping the original view. With optical zoom the camera is using lenses to bring the object closer to the same frame size. So similar to looking through binoculars the object looks very clear despite being far away. For example, see the image below…
Now, we could crop or pinch to zoom all we like but you’d never see the clock in the distance with such clarity as you do after using the optical zoom to produce the below image…
Scroll back up and see for yourself that the clock was even properly visible at all! Let’s do it again…
This below image is from the top of the Empire State Building, I love the Chrysler building in the distance…
This is the Chrysler Building!
See what we mean? One more example is the Statue of Liberty, some might notice she is smaller than you expect from the postcards. Well, from the Staton Island Ferry we were able to leverage the zoom to read what is written on her “book” thing. You’re not getting this clarity and this close on a smartphone.
When we were touring New York it was incredible how important this was and for many tourists relying purely on their smartphones we knew that their shots were not going to compare to ours, not for skill but for carrying the right equipment.
The important part to note here is that the DC-TZ90 is not a physically large camera, it fits in your pocket like your smartphone, can shoot 4K video, takes high resolution and very high quality photos and… packs Wi-Fi. This is the other important piece keeping compact cameras relevant. Do you think that after we sat at a cafe after visiting the Empire State Building we didn’t want to share that memory online? With smartphones it is click, filter, share. With these great images on the camera the addition of Wi-Fi meant that from my smartphone we could open an app, connect to the camera, copy the images we want and then follow the “filter, share” process. The Wi-Fi component is point to point so you don’t need to connect to a Wi-Fi network, the phone connects to the camera directly. In fact, if you were so prepared you could trigger the camera from the smartphone enabling you to have the image on your phone immediately.
As ever, a selfie is the only way to get a photo of yourself these days, heaven forbid you ask someone to take a picture for you. The DC-TZ90 has a flip up screen so you can see yourself in frame. Importantly there is also a trigger timer that can be set but also a control around how many images is taken at the one time. This is handy to frame up, countdown but also take multiple shots and get that perfect moment. You’ll also be pleased with the camera having a 20MP lens, which likely outweighs and outperforms the smartphone front facing camera.
One impressive feature from the DC-TZ90 is a post selection focus. This is getting a little more in depth on the usage but essentially you could take a photo, walk away, and upon assessment, decide where the image should be focused and what should be out of focus. Taking a photo of a flower for example would mean that the background is blurred, or perhaps the object behind the flower should be in focus. It allows some creativity after the fact (at the cafe) and not spending too much time bent over getting that focus correct.
The Panasonic DC-TZ90 retails for $599 (but shop around as you will find it for less). This may knock people back a little however our question to you is about how much your holiday costs and how much your memories from that trip is worth? If you’re spending $5,000 on a trip overseas and you’re happy with it all living on Instagram then we encourage you to reassess things a little. A holiday is full of great memories and capturing those appropriately means they’ll live on, longer than you.