Testing a new Travel Zoom camera; by travelling!

After several years of using Panasonic’s Lumix range of compact digital cameras, I’ve bought myself another brand (shock!).  I have kept true to one of my principles, taken advantage of the very short production cycles that cameras have these days, and bought a model that’s been replaced by a “better” one.  The new camera is a so-called “Travel Zoom” compact.  That’s a small camera with a large zoom range to give maximum photographic flexibility.

The camera I’ve bought is a Samsung WB650.  It has many “bells and whistles” most of which I will never use!  One such feature is the Smile Detection where the camera will only take a picture, without the need to press the shutter button, when your subject smiles.   The built-in GPS system is potentially useful but takes forever to lock on to the satellites.  The time taken means that your photographic moment might have gone.

"Boat at Laugharne 1" by Derek Gale

It does have a very large lens focal length range; a 15x zoom.  At the wide end it’s the equivalent of a 24mm lens, and at the telephoto end it’s the equivalent of a 360mm lens.  The 24mm equivalent allows for big landscapes and was a “must have” feature for me.  This shot of a boat at Laugharne in South Wales, a town made famous by Dylan Thomas, was taken with the 24mm equivalent.  The visibility that day was amazing and you could see the distant Gower Peninsular very clearly.  Rhossili Down on Gower, nearly 15 miles away, can be seen on the extreme right of the horizon.

"Boat at Laugharne 2" by Derek Gale

This image shows the other extreme of the lens focal length at the equivalent of 360mm.  It was a very warm day and the heat haze shimmer has made the boat look like a watercolour painting.  You can also see the perspective compression that you get with long lenses.  It made the background look closer to the boat than it really was.

"The writing shed" by Derek Gale

Laugharne is a place of pilgrimage for Dylan Thomas fans.  His writing shed (not the more famous boathouse) is perched on top of the cliffs and has a great view over the estuary.  It wasn’t open so I had to shoot through some very dirty perspex in the window, and give a lot of positive Exposure Compensation because of the light pouring in through the far window. The camera dealt with the extreme contrast pretty well.  I’ve used an “aged photo” action in Photoshop to give a nostalgic feel.  It almost looks as if he’s just popped out for lunch, or several beers…

The wide zoom range means that it’s easy to get the composition “just so”.  With this image of an ice-cream kiosk on the beach at Tenby I was unable to change my position as I was on a walled path.  I focused with the kiosk in the centre and then reframed to give the correct composition.

I’ve used the same reframing technique here on the stunning Marloes Sands in Pembrokeshire.  The image was taken on a very warm and sunny summer Saturday and there were hardly any people there.  We were on a 6 mile walk, and when doing long walks on hot days it’s important not to carry excess weight.  A DSLR and equivalent lenses would have been much bulkier and heavier.  The WB650 was easy to carry, being so light, and gave excellent results.  It meant I was also able to take my Panasonic GF1 and 20mm lens with me…

I’m looking forward to further real life tests, because that means more travelling!


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