Vacation season is coming, is a P & S in your future?

Bil Bowden

There was so much 'stuff' hanging around my neck, shoulders and waist, the image was one out of a comic book. Indeed, it became rather comical.

Last summer, I visited Longwood Gardens, an exquisitely beautiful gardens in Kennett Square, Pa., with one subject in mind-- the colorful night-blooming water lilies. Loaded down with two cameras, an armful of lenses, random accessories, a tripod and a monopod, I struggled to the ponds. It was all a bit 'much'.

Point and shoot camera (P & S)--  having or using preset or automatically adjusted controls (as for focus or shutter speed).

Before the set-up was complete, a young person wandered up, and asked if I'd like to see photos they'd taken with an I-phone.  A common scenario, really. It's almost a contest-- who has the better photos? Phone photos rarely win out. After all, I have all this 'stuff' and spent piles of money for it.


The unveiling taught me a lesson we all ought to learn. The pictures were indeed, masterpieces. Light was perfect, color spectacular, focus was spot-on. While I struggled, the camera was slipped back into a purse.


Now, that's not to say those photos would look as wonderful when blown up to wall size canvases. But how many of us will submit our work to National Geographic, or print 6-foot pieces of art? Most of our pictures will never get beyond a I-pad screen. Beyond that, do you really want to spend your vacation fretting about camera settings when you should be enjoying the sites?


Always shop locally for cameras, especially if you're unsure about details. Prices might be lower in New York, but reps won't answer questions or offer help as quickly. In York, check with the Camera Center of York, and talk with Chris or Cathy. In Lancaster, check with Wes at Perfect Image. Both sell Canon and Nikon and lenses/accessories that go with them. Both also sell used equipment.

To paraphrase someone much wiser than me --"Never use a sledge hammer to kill a bug. It flies away and all you're left with is a hole in the wall."  Cameras are a tool. Don't use a sledge hammer when a fly swatter will do.

All these photos were taken at Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, near Cape Canaveral, Florida, by a Canon SX 50.

Women and men who do photography for a living are often asked what kind of camera to buy. "I'm traveling to (insert your bucket-list place here) and I want to take some  wonderful pictures," they say. "What camera do you suggest?"

That, of course, is like asking where one should vacation. My favorite vacation locations probably aren't yours. Even if the location is the same (Florida, for example), do you prefer museums, art galleries and man-made sites? Or scuba diving and parasailing? What camera you choose depends on what you shoot, how often, your budget, where and how the photos will be seen.



and Nikon cameras are excellent (although some prefer one over the other), but within these two camps are dozens of choices. So, the better question is "I'm headed to the western US to see natural sites. Buffalo, birds, bears, landscapes. Nothing will be bigger than a 4 x 6 or my I-phone."  On the other hand, they will decorate the house with all the photos taken in museums on this trip.

The high-end DSLRs are wonderful bits of machinery and look oh-my-goodness-professional. But if you don't understand F-stops, ISO, shutter speeds and how they relate to one another, you might be better off with a smaller, cheaper camera. Or risk returning home with pictures you have to translate for your friends.

Both Nikon and Canon boast long lists of upper-end point-and-shoot (P&S) cameras-- cameras with no detachable lenses and limited ability to control settings. Or drop down further, and check out the tiny palm-size cameras, many of which are weather proof and drop proof. You'll never be 'stuck' because of rainy weather again.


The advantages of these upper end  lightweight, easy-to-operate cameras are many. While they have dials galore, most shooters don't need them all, and might stick to one or two settings-- although it's an advantage to understand them all.

But these gems will do things very well that the expensive and heavier DSLRs won't.  With no attachments, some will shoot macro photos close enough to see the fuzz on a honey bee. Or capture the bald eagles a quarter mile away. And while hiking through the forests or wandering through the Smithsonian, which would you rather carry? And there is always the smart phone camera option.

DSLRs require macro lenses to capture closeups and monster long lenses to compete with the P&S. Even then, it's not an easy fix. The Canon SX 50 zoom, for example, is equal to a 1200mm lens.  DSLRs can't touch that, short of spending many thousands of dollars. Thousands.

Granted, the P&S cameras have their limitations. As mentioned earlier, don't expect huge posters. And to shoot action or birds, race cars or Jamie's soccer game, there are better options. Certainly, easier options.


Don't for a minute think the more expensive option is necessarily the better choice. Choose a camera suited to your needs, your credit card and your time.