By Eric Jay Toll
“I feel naked with just one camera,” says Rick Gerrity, a professional photographer for Panasonic assigned to help a gaggle of Traveling Moms (and one Traveling Dad) on a drippy afternoon in Disney World. “I usually have a couple of cameras with me and enough gear to make the TSA really nervous.”
We’re gathered around Rick in the tunnel under the Magic Kingdom train station. The seven of us in Group Bashful are clustered near a pillar splitting the unending stream of Disney World arrivals glued to a demo of the Panasonic Lumix ZS-40 digital camera. “Camera” does not give full credit to the multimedia, Wi-Fi-enabled device for all it delivers in imaging. This 8-1/8 ounce (245kg), 2-1/2 inch by 4-3/8 inch (63mm x 111mm) camera is capable of 18 megapixel still images and high definition, 4x video recording.
This camera is simple enough to use it can be handed off to the kids or anyone to snap a photo. It has much of the versatility of a digital single lens reflect camera without any of the bulk.
Lumix—light mixing with technology—is so versatile, I’m retiring my DSLR from everyday use. Here’s five reasons why:
- The LED viewfinder
One of the major reasons I skipped meals to buy my first single lens reflex camera was the ability to see exactly what I was going to shoot. That imperative didn’t change when I stepped up to my DSLR. One of the features best features on the Lumix ZS-40 is that viewfinder that gives you a through-the-lens view on a miniature video screen. It worked in the rain, at night and in bright sunlight the one morning we had it in Orlando. It also lets you see your adjustments in real time—cutting down the “retakes.”
- Simultaneous RAW and JPG recording
As a writer who illustrates stories with photos, I work with the RAW image to be able to adjust the photos as needed in Photoshop. RAW images are more accurate—recording exactly what the camera sees. The images are also substantially larger than the compressed JPGs used for email and web. It takes time to process the photos, and that generates gripes from close friends waiting to see the images. The ZS-40 has a feature allowing a simultaneous RAW and JPG image. This means I have an immediate image I can email to a friend, upload to Twitter or Facebook, and take my time with RAW image processing without the incessant calls to “send me that picture you promised.” The dual photos slashes the number of photos held on a memory card. About 270 high resolution RAW images can be saved on a 2GB memory card. I have a 16GB card to hold around 2,400 images in my Lumix.
- Wi-Fi file transfer
Smartphone, tablet, laptop…I’m traveling with a slew of devices grasping for bandwidth. I also need one USB cord for the iPhone 5c, another for the iPad 2, a third for the portable scanner, a fourth for the DSLR and now one for the Lumix ZS-40. Nope. Don’t need that one. The Lumix creates a Wi-Fi hotspot that requires a before-the-trip one-time setup, and then works flawlessly to transfer all or selected images from camera to smartphone, tablet or laptop. It’s fast and once the initial setup is complete, painless.
- 30x (300mm) optical zoom
At one time, I carried both the DSLR and a portable digital camera. The latter was no better than a (I’m dating myself) Kodak Instamatic. Its zoom lens was limited and the switch for “optical” zoom to “digital” zoom was an instant quality loss. The ZS-40 has a Leica – made by Panasonic – 30x zoom lens moving from 24mm wide angle to 300mm telephoto. Essentially it functions the same as my primary DSLR lens. I will confess that the ability to change lenses on a DSLR is an advantage over the fixed lens Lumix. However, the DSLR is only needed for special circumstances where a very wide angle or long telephoto are needed. For about 80 percent of the illustrations I shoot, the 24-300mm lens is perfect. There are some digital extensions to go up to 70x, a more than 600mm lens, but I haven’t used that feature yet.
- In-camera editing
As a writer, the ability to push your platform is becoming more important. In Orlando, I was the straggler while the other Traveling Moms in the group were shooting photos, wirelessly transferring to phones, and posting to Twitter and Facebook on the move. I’m not there yet, but need to be soon. The Lumix has built-in editing features that transform images with artistic effects and basic image edits. The artistic settings can be imposed while taking the photo or added afterwards. The available modes and options allow basic editing work that’s perfect for an instant upload.
The camera also has 780p and 1080p high definition video recording capability. The microphone is tuned to the zoom, so without modifying settings, it picks up sound from the focal point as you zoom. Video is my weakness, so others will need to talk about the features. I liked the zoom and the simplicity of starting-and-pausing recordings.
I found it priced online between $440 and $450. Panasonic provided the Traveling Mom group with cameras – and for disclosure purposes, they let us keep the Lumix ZS-40.