DSLR owners may scoff at the suggestion of traveling with a superzoom as a primary shooter, but I’m going to try and convince you otherwise. First, let’s make one thing clear; we all know that a superzoom will never stand up to the quality and versatility of a true DSLR. That said, superzoom cameras compensate for their shortcomings in other ways. For example, superzooms don’t require extra lenses, allowing you to travel lighter and conserve space. Additionally, most superzooms are priced significantly lower than even entry-level DSLRs, translating into less tears if and when disaster strikes. For me, the disaster came three years ago while backpacking through Ecuador.
My first DSLR (a four week old Canon Rebel XS) and I had just completed a 60km bike ride through the Andes Mountains. The camera exceeded my expectations as I used it to capture over 30 waterfalls and many gorgeous landscapes. Twelve hours later, three men with knives decided I didn’t need my backpack or my camera anymore. Sadly, I didn’t think to ask for the card, and I never saw my Canon Rebel or the pictures ever again. From that moment on, I had a hard time justifying backpacking with expensive equipment, and decided instead to travel with a Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ-35.
Recently I was curious to see how far Superzooms had come since my purchase, and was pleasantly surprised to see the feature-packed models released by Panasonic and Canon. The companies’s flagship superzoom lines — the Panasonic FZ and Canon SX — have set the industry standards, offering big features in a compact body at a modest price. Their newest models, the Panasonic DMC FZ-150 and the Canon SX40 HS, both offer rich features that leave many consumers vacillating about which to purchase. And even though nothing compares to holding and using the cameras, the following comparison should help you if you’re trying to make that difficult decision.
- Max shutter
- Long exposure
- 35x (24 mm – 840 mm)
- 1080p at 24p | 720p at 30p
- 10.3 fps | 2.4 fps with AF
- $350 – $430
- 24x (25 mm – 600 mm)
- 1080p at 60p
- 12 fps | 5.5 fps with AF
- $470 – $500
As you can see, the Canon outdistances the Panasonic in zoom capabilities, although anything over 24x will most likely need a tripod and defeat the point of traveling light. Another important feature is video capability. If you enjoy traveling light, you want your camera to cover all the bases. Both of these cameras take excellent video, but I prefer the ability to shoot at 60 fps, even if it means sacrificing the cinema-style 24 fps. Furthermore, the Panasonic features faster continuous shooting with and without AF. Although the Canon looks comparable at 10.3 fps, there is a limit of 8 consecutive shots. Next, the Panasonic supports RAW, whereas the Canon does not (although there is a workaround known as CHDK [Canon Hack Development Kit], which should allow you to tweak settings and capture RAW).
Aside from max shutter speed and exposure length, the price difference is the biggest distinguishing factor. Are the features of the Panasonic worth the extra $100? I say yes. I travel light and want a camera packed with features at reasonable price that won’t break my heart if something happens to it. The RAW photo support, higher fps video capability, and lighter body tip me towards the Panasonic.
It’s worth noting, however, that both of these cameras are solid options, and I doubt either one would disappoint you. As I mentioned earlier, neither will stand up to your main DSLR, but if you’re looking to travel light, take good photos, and gain the peace of mind that your $2,000 DSLR is safe at home, these superzooms offer a great solution for you.