The family camera is always an important purchase. To me, no gadget is more important than the one that augments my memory of time spent with loved ones. For a lot of us the most critical piece of our smartphone is the camera. For this reason, a perusal of iPhone and Android reviews will tell you more about the camera than any other component.

I’m by no means a photography expert but I’ve been taking pictures as a hobby since I was child. Smartphone cameras have changed the way we document life; they’re always with us, easy to use, and do a decent job of capturing moments on the fly. That said, I think we’ve all been disappointed by their limitations at one point or another. I’m curious to hear how many of you use only a smartphone for photography and video (sound off in the comments). I know it’s a pretty popular option these days; I just can’t seem to do it. I even bought the Nokia 1080 thinking it was the holy grail, it got closer than any phone before or since but I still ended up packing a full size unit for vacations and family gatherings.

I’ve owned every conceivable type and brand of camera at one point or another. I hopped  on the digital train at the first stop and haven’t looked back. The Casio QV-10 is still one of my favorite devices of all time. When it came time to upgrade this summer; I had a very specific list of requirements I needed my future device to meet.

  1. Portability – Full body DSLR’s are truly amazing pieces of equipment but taking one on a hike up the side of a mountain can be a chore to say the least. Even toting one around Disney for a day is too much.
  2. Zoom – Not getting a shot because the subject is too far away just plain sucks.
  3. Quick First Shot – Not getting a picture because your camera is still booting up is frustrating.
  4. View Finder Flexibility – Some of the digital camera’s I’ve owned took great pictures but framing the shots was an exercise in futility.
  5. Budget – I was willing to invest $450.00

With these requirements in mind I started the research. I’ve always been a “do it myself” type of person so rather than heading to one of the many excellent camera blogs, I started on the manufacturer’s sites. With my list in hand, I had found my top 4 contenders in a few hours. If you’re interested in the specification sheets use the links below.

Once I had narrowed down the field; I went to find the cameras at stores. I try not to purchase a device that’s going to be with me long term without getting my hands on it first so I headed to my local electronics stores. I’m glad I made the effort. I decided on the Nikon after seeing the screen. It’s swing out and tilt function lets you get shots the others simply can’t. The screen extends out from the frame 2″ and can be tilted to almost any angle up or down, it can even flip over to “selfie mode”. On paper, the other cameras offered some superior specs such as raw file support and built-in GPS but for me those things are rarely used features.

 

I’ve owned the camera for just about 6 months. It has been on two family vacations, countless day excursions, and kids events galore. I am pleased with my selection. It is small enough to fit in a jeans or cargo shorts pocket but with a 35X optical zoom and less than 1.5 second boot time (faster than taking a pic with my iPhone 7) you never miss a shot. The 4K video is jaw dropping on my TV but I usually shoot in 1080P to keep from filling up the SD Card. The battery can be charged either by plugging in a USB cable or by removing the battery and putting it in a stand-alone charger (this is a nice feature, I have two batteries for it now).

One of the features I considered to be a gimmick has actually proven to be very useful. That is the ablitliy to connect the camera to your smartphone. It supports NFC so if your phone is new enough, just touching the two devices is enough to pair them. If not; it is fairly simple to download the app and do the normal bluetooth pairing procedure that all BT devices use.

Once you have you camera and phone paired, the software will allow you to download pictures (can be automatic) for easy upload to social media. It sets the clock and can tag pictures with your location. You can even remotely contole the camera which makes getting in shots yourself much easier than setting a timer does. Selecting the remote photography or high resolution download options will cause the camera to connect with your phone over a private WiFi network (nothing to setup). This increases the range to around 300 ft vs. the 30 you get from bluetooth.  I find myself using the app far more than I originally anticipated.

 

The camera meets my requirements so well that I am hard pressed to come up with someting negative to write about it. Of course there are people who will want more of the options you’d get in a DSLR; manual focus, lens attachments, etc. but in my opinion thats not what this class of camera is used for and that stuff just gets in the way.

In case you’re wondering what that zoom can do, here’s a picture of the moon. Its not cropped and there are no filters or any editing. I was holding the camera in my hand and it was set to auto. For more examples; look at the home page in the Wallpaper Shots feed.

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