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TRAVEL CAMERA: We have a winner

After much second-, third- and fourth-guessing of self, the decision is made.

For more than a year, I’ve been agonizing over this decision: What should I get for a travel camera?

For the last several years, I’ve been using the Panasonic Lumix FZ-30. I love the fact that the FZ-30 has a Leica lens on it at a price that mortals can afford. I love the “reach” that its zoom lens gives you, the equivalent of more than 400 millimeters in focal length.

The fact that I’m using an FZ-30 after nearly a half-decade also tells you something else about me: I’m not one of those guys who just has to keep up with the latest and greatest. There’ll always be something later and greater. As a consumer, you can chase the technology all you want, but you’ll never catch up to it.

You can, however, get farther and farther from your wallet. I don’t play that.

So why get something else? Three reasons:

1) I need a more wide-angle lens.
At the wide-angle end of the spectrum, the lens on my FZ-30 zooms out to only 36mm. Not very wide. In fact, back when I was a budding photographer wannabe in college, I was using a 35mm lens on my Pentax single-lens reflex camera as a “normal” lens. And as I’ve learned in my travels, there are just too many times when 36mm is just not wide enough.

2) I need something smaller.
The FZ-30 is not a full-blown SLR camera, but it’s about the size of one. I need a capable camera that I can drop into a pocket, whip it out when I need to shoot and drop it back in. There are times when you want to be inconspicuous. Not having a big, hulking camera around your neck helps the cause. and lastly—

3) I need a camera that shoots HD video.
The FZ-30 doesn’t. And while the whole world hasn’t gone HD yet, enough of it has to justify the need for a camera that can handle HD, especially since this is the year I plan to start adding videos to the blog.

That started me on an evaluation — more like a quest, actually — for a camera that could meet all those criteria and still gives me the controls and tools I need to get good shots

(Bearing in mind that the most important piece of any photographic equipment is ALWAYS the shooter him or herself.)

It ultimately came down to a choice between the Canon G12 and the Nikon P7000.

They very similar in many ways. Each does something that the other doesn’t, but not enough to make either clearly superior to the other. And each produces great pics. In truth, I probably would be delighted to travel with either of these cameras.

I almost tore my hair out making this choice — when your hair is as short as mine usually is, that is not a good thing.

The Nikon is slightly thinner and lighter than the Canon, making it more the pure “pocket” camera. But when you’re trying to hold a camera steady while you’re shooting, a little bit of heft is actually a good thing. Six, meet half-dozen.

The G12 has a built-in flash and an articulating LCD screen that lets you compose you shot from different angles. The P7000 has neither.

The decision is made. Say hello to my new little friend:

This is the camera that will go with me a week from now to West Africa.

A grateful shout-out to all the members of the IBIT family whose opinions and expertise helped me make this decision — don’t worry. If I can’t bring back some decent snaps with the G12, I won’t blame you.

Much. *wink*

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