All photos copyright 2014, Jerry Finzi - All Rights Reserved
When I planned our Italy voyage I knew I didn't want to be loaded down as a pro photographer with my larger camera kit and multiple lenses. I made the mistake during our honeymoon in Paris and regretted having to schlep all the gear around with us--everywhere. Our Voyage to Italy a different kind of trip for us--to discover our roots. I didn't want to feel like I was working, but yet I wanted to bring enough photo-power to capture the best images of this trip of a lifetime. We were also going to have our 13 year old son with us, and with that came the need for ready to grab snacks, always carrying water bottles, plus all our our technologies--tablets, smart phones, etc. I wanted great quality in a smaller carrying package. The new breed of "Super Zoom" cameras filled that requirement...
We decided on two cameras, the Nikon P530 (42X zoom) and the P600 (60X zoom). These were affordable (one more so than the other) along with the advantage of their wide-ranging zoom lenses being integrated into the camera body (not removable--no sensor cleaning issues). I also wanted two similar cameras so we always had a backup, and for Lisa to have one in her bag so she could do a lot more shooting.
As it turned out, the choice was perfect for us. The bodies on these cameras are smaller--much smaller--than my hefty D7000 (a half pound difference!) Lisa could tuck hers into her "mule bag" and I fit mine comfortably into my messenger style camera bag (I didn't want to advertise my presence as "photographer"). We loved that these cameras were intuitive (even considering their wealth of menu controls) and easy to use; they were lightweight (becoming part of my hand via a wrist strap); and their "Super Zoom" lenses meant we didn't have to miss shots or carry a traditional DSLR with a variety of lenses (in the past, up to 8 lenses!)
There are currently two other Coolpix "Super Zoom" models I'd like to recommend:
The Nikon Coolpix B700 and Coolpix P900
Our P600 had a 60x zoom while the P530 had 42x range with both capturing 16 megapixel images. The newer Coolpix B700 ($447 on Amazon) also has a 60x zoom range, but bumps up the capture size to a whopping 20 megapixels with an added bonuses: it captures in RAW file format (this is the ultimate digital "negative" to capture) and 4K video. It offers a great combination for this price range.
Consider the Coolpix P900 ($559 on Amazon) as the B700's much larger cousin. Although it has only a 16 megapixel file size, it offers an amazing 83x zoom range (24-2000 mm equivalent)! With B700, you trade-off a higher zoom range for a larger file size (a great thing when zooming), and although the P900 has a lower file size, it affords a larger zoom capability. Just look at the what the P900 can do...
Now think of what that means. You can be sipping wine on the patio of a hilltop Tuscan town and take a photo of your wife, then a close-up of your dinner, turn to shoot the setting sun and then zoom in on that classic Fiat 500 you spied zig-zagging 3 miles down that twisty road in the valley below--all without having to change lenses. Great stuff, these "Super Zooms".
Personally speaking though, I'd go for more compact B700 with the larger file size. The 60x range of my P600 or with the B700 is plenty (35mm equivalent range of 24 – 1440mm) for most people, and for quality photos it's always better to have a larger file size. Keep in mind that if you do want to use the extreme end of these "Super Zoom" cameras to capture the highest, sharpest image possible, set the camera's ISO rating down low (under 200 for normal outdoor lighting) and use a tripod.
Here's an incredibly compact, sturdy, small-packing tripod that I highly recommend if you trying to save on space... the compact, folding Cullman Magnesit Copter (Click the Photo to see it on Amazon). It's great for propping up on stone walls, tables or vehicles for a steady platform. I upgraded the head on mine to a Giottos Mini-Ball Head.
What I really love about these Coolpix cameras is that they all have both an eye-level finder (digital) and a vari-angle, articulated viewfinder. The eye-level is useful for shooting "old school", with your nose and eye up to the back of the camera--immersing you into your framing. The swiveling display makes it very easy to shoot overhead (for a short guy like me, this is really appreciated) or for taking shots from very low or awkward angles (taking a shot from a medieval tower holding the camera at arm's length while looking down gives a real sense of height). Great for candid street shots, too, holding the camera down at your side with the display angled up toward you. Done right, people have no idea that you're even taking a picture.
I won't get into all the features here, but rest assured, depending on the model, they have a wealth of high-tech tools: GPS and POI (Points of Interest) to help create Google pin maps of where your photos were taken, or even to list Points of Interest nearby your current location; built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth; "Near Field Communication" compatibility (NFC); Full HD or 4K video; and ISO ranges of 100-12,800 (P900) and 3200 (B700).
You can also connect to compatible smart phones and tablets with Nikon's Snapbridge, sharing and editing photos or even controlling the camera with your device. And thankfully, these "Super Zooms" come with a vibration reduction feature to lessen motion blur when you're zoomed in (shut this feature off to prevent unnecessary battery drain when not needed.)
The communication features are really great to have... Our P600 had Wi-Fi and we used it several times while in Italy to transfer shots to our phone or tablet so we could then Email them to friends or post them to our blog. Basically, you connect your phone (or in our case, our Kindle) to the camera's Wi-Fi hotspot--very easy to do. We also used this feature to dump shots to our phone or Kindle and then back them up to Dropbox as a backup. The Near Field Communication feature is useful if you have a NFC enabled smart phone... tap your phone to the camera and it instantly makes the Wi-Fi connection. Another very techy feature is that the LCD display automatically switches to the internal electronic viewfinder when you hold the camera up to your eye--and vice versa. On the P600 I have to press a button when I want to switch finders.
I personally see little use for the GPS feature. This has to be turned on from the menu and will tag photos with lat/long coordinates. Useful for posting photos on Panoramia and Google Earth, I suppose. It also has a feature which lists points of interest near your current location. Sorry, but I don't really need it to tell me that the Colosseum is nearby. I'd recommend keeping the GPS turned off until you really need it... it's a real battery drain.
The camera has a multitude of shooting modes for all levels of photographic expertise. If you want full manual control, you've got it. If you want full-auto, it's there too (and does an excellent job). If you prefer selecting Scene modes, here's a sampling:
Backlighting, Bird Watching, Beach, Black and White Copy, Close Up, Dusk/Dawn, Easy Panorama, Fireworks Show, Food, Landscape, Moon, Museum, Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Pet Portrait, Portrait, Snow, Sports and Sunset. Scene Auto Selector is another option that analyzes the scene and selects the most appropriate one automatically.
With one charged battery, any of these cameras can take hundreds of pictures, but I really recommend buying a few extra batteries. Video and flash both eat batteries fast on these digital cameras. I brought 3 batteries for each camera and could have used an extra one or two each, so I suggest traveling with an even half dozen for each camera you take. And don't forget to buy one or two battery chargers for your camera's battery model. Even three would be better--you will more than likely run out of battery power long before you'll fill up a large capacity SD card. It's best to carry fully charged batteries with you at all times. Here's a dual bay model that would work well... the BM USB charger with 2 Pack of EN-EL23 Batteries ($28 on Amazon). And the perfect companion to this would be a rapid start, "Smart" USB charger for all your devices (battery charger, phones, tablets, etc.) like the Sabrent Quick Charge 3.0 [UL Certified] 54W 5-Port Family-Sized Desktop USB Rapid Charger ($25 on Amazon). We had a charger like this. This type senses that amount of power each specific device requires and can charge 5 devices at once, with one of its ports being a fast charger (how's 20 minutes sound?)
That's about it... all you need to take fantastic photos and travel with with a new "Super Zoom" camera. Here's a tip though: If you are planning a trip in the near future and want to buy a new camera, make your purchase well in advance your Voyage--perhaps 2-3 months prior to departing. This will give you enough time to become fluent with all the features and settings of the camera. They are very powerful tools and can capture amazing images, if you just take the time to learn all of their functions.
I hope this helps you decide whether a "Super Zoom" might be best for your own Voyage to Italy. If you have any questions, be sure to ask...