Smartphone vs. camera for travel photography, Panasonic FZ1000 Mk. II review (Week 31, 2019)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 31, 2019

Q. I am going to Europe in September and might take a camera on the trip, instead of using my smartphone. Do you think it is worth buying and carrying a camera, and if so what model do you suggest?

-L.D., Brooklyn, NY

A. I recommend you get a camera. While modern smartphones take great pictures and video, they can’t replace the ergonomics, photographic capability and flexibility of a good camera. A recent adventure of my own drove the point home.

In July I took a cross-country trip on Amtrak in a sleeper car, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to the Anaheim Regional Transit Center in California. It was a neat experience to go door-to-door to Disneyland without setting foot in an airport! If you have ever considered taking the train instead of flying, if you have the time for the journey I highly recommend it. Just be sure to get a Viewliner Roomette or Superliner Roomette or Bedroom if the trip will be more than a day. If you stay in a sleeper car there are showers available and all the meals are included. I took some electronics with me that you will be reading about in the column and on my website over the next few months. If you are Facebook friends with me you may have seen some of the pictures already.

On my last day in California I visited the Griffith Observatory and received a personal astronomy lesson from a Star Trek television star who is also a very knowledgeable amateur astronomer. It was one of the highlights of the trip as I saw the cloud bands on Jupiter and four of the Jovian moons through his telescope. I may be buying a telescope myself after the experience, and if I do I will write about it here. As he showed me, it does not cost a fortune to get started and there is a lot to see.

Speaking of stars, one of the stars of my trip was the $897 Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 Mk. II superzoom camera. It is the best travel camera I have ever used. The FZ1000 MK. II has tremendous imaging capabilities, is fun and easy to operate, and the picture and video quality are absolutely stellar. (There I go again with the star references!)

The FZ1000 Mk. II has a large 1-inch, 20.1 megapixel sensor paired with a Leica 16x (25-400mm equivalent) zoom lens. The lens is extremely sharp and the image stabilization is super effective. I was able to capture tack-sharp images at the 400mm setting easily in good light, and even sometimes when the light was not so good. Both the viewfinder and touchscreen are crisp and colorful, the panorama mode creates perfect panoramic images and battery life is excellent. (Always bring a fully-charged spare, just in case.) It records both 1080i and 4K video and the camera is loaded with clever operational touches. For example, to zoom you can use the thumb control, best for video zooming, or the lens ring, which is best for still pictures because of the precise framing and natural, organic feel.

Looking at the pictures and videos from my trip, I realized I could not have gotten 75% of them if I only had my smartphone. I would not have had the zoom range, nor the ability to frame as precisely or shoot as quickly as I could with the zoom controls, viewfinder and shutter button. They also would not have the incredible sharpness, color and detail captured by the FZ1000 Mk. II. It’s a winner, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.