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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Is a Smartphone the Smart Choice for Cruise Picture-Taking?

Smartphones seem to be the camera of choice on cruises these days. Well, why not? They’re compact, slip easily into your pocket and double as a phone, TV set, radio and game console. Photo album, calculator, mirror, flashlight…
In fact, smartphone cameras are so easy to use that they turn everyone instantly into a photographer. But is a smartphone the smart choice to capture and safeguard your cruise memories?
Cameras can be easy to use too—and give you much better results. I barely ever take mine out of the “IA” setting and have gotten some really amazing shots. IA stands for “Intelligent Auto,” which means the camera uses the intelligence the photographer clearly lacks and automatically adjusts to the conditions (e.g., a lot of light, not a lot of light). So you don’t have to do a thing but aim and shoot.

Of course, you can keep on using your smartphone as a camera. But know the downsides:
Tiny sensors limit what you can do. Smartphones typically have tiny sensors that let in less light. So you end up with fuzzy photos of the parades on the Oasis Promenade or acrobats in the Caribbean Princess’ piazza.
Wimpy flashes keep you in the dark. Smartphone flashes are minimal, so photos of your friends and family inside the ship can’t be taken from more than a few feet away. 

Hard to hold makes for shaky shots. Smartphones are very light and hard to hold steady, making it tough to get your photos crisp and clear. Throw in a little boat movement and you might as well throw in the towel.
When the sun comes out, the screen goes away. The smartphone’s screen washes away in bright sun. Which means you have no clue what you’re shooting.  
The RX100 is even smaller than the Galaxy III

Small zoom misses opportunities. There’s barely a zoom capability on smartphones, so you miss out on capturing Caribbean parakeets on palms over the streets of Aruba, rainbows melting into the hills of Dominica from your verandah and other in-the-moment photos.

If, at this point, I’ve succeeded at convincing you that a real camera is the way to go, how do you choose one? You’ll need to do some research, but below are a few thoughts. And note that these cameras are no bigger than a smartphone:

For inside the ship You’ll want something with a larger sensor, which lets in a lot of light and allows for photographing inside and up close. So, you can get great shots of family and friends, ship food, artwork and just about anything your imagination can conjure up. An example is the Sony RX100.

The RX100 captured this yummy shot on Celebrity's Constellation.
For the ports
A camera with a substantial zoom (up to 30x) is great for outdoor faraway shots, like seagulls in flight or the blue ice steeples of Alaska’s Glacier Bay from the deck. With a camera like this, you’ll find in your photos what your eyes can’t even see. You’ll want one with a viewfinder, so you know what you’re shooting, even in bright sun. And it will help you hold the camera steadier. An example is the Panasonic ZS50.  

This seagull at Princess Cays didn't know the ZS50 was pointing right at him.
A jack-of-all-trades, but not pocket-size
You can even get a camera that has it all, a “superzoom,” with a wide angle for close up, good zoom (e.g., 24x) for far away, and a viewfinder to boot. This will be bigger than a smartphone, though, but is easier to hold and much more versatile. An example is Panasonic FZ200.

To get shots like this one on Princess Cays, you'll need a bigger camera, like the FZ200.
All digital cameras today not only come with bigger sensors than a smartphone, but also image stabilization, to keep your shots steady even when your hand isn’t; and high definition video.

The right camera will open up a whole new world of exciting photo possibilities onboard and on shore. For some ideas on the cruising creativity that can be yours, see the posting Fun Ship Photography: Unleashing Your Inner Artsy-Fartsy.
And just what do you do with all your terrific new shots? Check out What to Do with Those Cruise Ship Photos.
Musing’s Top Tip: Some great sites for doing research on what camera to buy are and

Photos by RJ Greenburg