For a recent family vacation to Walt Disney World, I wanted a camera that was more compact than my DSLR to carry in the parks with us. Something easy to carry that could fit in a small hip pack. Something lightweight, accessible, easy to use, but still with flexible manual control and decent picture quality. Since at the time I thought I was in the market for a high end point and shoot, I decided to rent a Nikon P7000.
Since this was a rental, I really had no time to learn the camera before using it, so I can’t give a fair review of my experience. However I will say that the review on DPReview closely matches my experience with the camera. Simply put, it takes fine pictures but the user interface is slow. Using shutter or aperture priority the display does not keep up with the rotation of the command dials. I found myself overshooting the setting I wanted. The auto-focus was temperamental too. In scenes you would think should have no trouble getting a focus lock I had to keep trying to get the green square to come up. Based on early reviews of the new P7100, these issues have been addressed. But this article isn’t meant to be a camera review.
I just didn’t enjoy taking pictures with this camera, and I am not blaming this camera in particular. Since I bought a Nikon D70 DSLR when they first came out, every P&S I have used since then just aggravates me. This is especially apparent on family vacations where a “moment” arises and you just need the camera to snap a quick shot. Shutter lag and slow auto-focus seems to make this impossible with a P&S, even from the the high end models. Seems odd you can’t simply point and shoot with a point and shoot camera. In the end, at least for me, the convenience of light weight is completely negated by the aggravation of never being able to get “the shot”.
I am thinking that for family trips I will just bring the D300s and a do-it-all 18-200 lens. If I feel like going light one day, I’ll just use the camera phone. For me, P&S cameras are just too exasperating to bother with. The phone may not be any more functionally convenient and it may be less capable in certain situations, but its always with me. I already have a phone with a camera in it. Why sling another camera if its not going to satisfactorily fill the void between the DSLR and the phone?
To summarize: I thought I wanted to avoid the bulk of the DSLR on family vacations. But, with the shutter lag and slow focus of a P&S, I can’t seem to actually catch those family vacation moments. If I have to put up with the drawbacks of a P&S because I want to travel ultralight, then I may as well use the camera phone that is always in my pocket, and completely skip the dedicated camera. Below is a shot from my Samsung Fascinate using the included camera app.
As you can see, this shot isn’t half bad. Note that I did make a few tweaks in Lightroom. With the $2.99 HDR Pro Camera App, you can get shots like this:
Now a shot like above is difficult and not exactly convenient since you have to hold still for several seconds while the HDR app analyzes the scene and takes the photos, but the results are quite satisfying. One last example:
So, in my quest to find the right camera for the “family vacation” niche, I think I already own everything I want.
How about you? If you are a long time DSLR user, can you tolerate a P&S? Which is worse, the bother of the bulky DSLR or the bother of the slow P&S? What camera do you carry on family vacations?