You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Redux)

A few years ago – when we got serious about cruise holidays – I had to accept the idea that I would not be taking my very best camera equipment with me any longer.

This happened early on when – after a couple of cruises with an SLR, 4 lenses and lots of film – I decided that I couldn’t schlep so much equipment off and on the ship every time.

When I went digital in 2007 I still carried a rather large and bulky bridge camera, but this wasn’t a good solution either.

I embarked on a search for the best travel camera, and I got a pretty good one in 2016. The Lumix ZS50 I use now has a viewfinder, a huge zoom lens, and is very lightweight.

No travel camera is ideal. The ZS50 has a slow lens and small sensor. My Nikon DSLR is infinitely superior as a picture taker. But I don’t want to haul a large camera and lenses around anymore – especially onto an aircraft.

When the light is good, the ZS50 really shines. I can get a photo like the one above (from an orchid garden in Barbados.)

Or this riot of color that is Willemstad in Curacao.

This pic of a Spanish patrol boat shadowing our cruise ship could only have been taken with the travel camera. It is at the limit of the 30X zoom.

But you can’t always get what you want. The tiny Lumix photosensor means that I sometimes have trouble in low light situations. I have to be very careful when trying to photograph the interior of churches, like this cathedral in Barcelona. The film sensitivity has to be cranked up, and the shutter speed must be slow. There is always the problem of blur and noise, and autofocus can be inconsistent.

Sometimes I can take advantage of the light coming through stained glass, and if I hold the camera very steady, things look OK. At least they do in photos I want to post on this blog.

High contrast photos such as this rose window in the cathedral of Palma de Majorca can also be a problem, although this one is not too bad.

One of the best things about a travel camera is that you’ll have it available at the right time, right place. How often will my daughter and grandson be in the Mediterranean with me off the rock of Gibraltar? Here the Lumix does a decent job of filling in the shadows with its flash.

Since I got the Lumix ZS50, a number of camera companies have come out with small units featuring much larger photosensors. This might solve my low light problem, but none of them have such a large zoom lens. I would have to say goodbye to the patrol boat photos. These large sensor compacts are also heavier and more expensive. At this point, I can’t justify switching.

Taking photos with a travel camera will always involve compromise, but it’s better than no camera at all. I have to take advantage of my knowledge and experience as a photographer, and accept the fact that some photos just will not be the best. Of course, with a film camera 20 years ago I would not have been able to take the picture at all.

You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find you’ll get what you need.

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