Review: Panasonic Lumix ZS40 Digital Camera #LumixLounge #sponsored

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I received a Panasonic Lumix ZS40 digital camera while on the TravelingMom 2014 retreat. As always, all opinions stated here are either my own or those of my family.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love to take pictures, especially of my kids. My husband good-naturedly teases me about the tens of thousands of shots I have stored – but with digital photos it’s easy (and free) to take and store as many photos as you want, and I am constantly challenging myself to learn as much as I can about photography and to take the most interesting, unique and ‘best’ photos that I possibly can.

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Over the years, I’ve had a variety of digital cameras. I always mark my oldest daughter’s birth as the beginning of our ‘digital age’ for photos – we got our first digital camera when she was three months old, and realized exactly how much money we were already spending on film processing and print copies. Abbi is thirteen now, so that’s well over a decade of various cameras of assorted quality and price points. I’ve dreamed of owning a DSLR for years, but the cost of even a low-end DSLR has never been in the budget, so I’ve made the most of the point-and-shoot cameras I’ve owned – most notably (until now), my Canon Powershot SX10IS, which offers a great deal of manual control similar to what you would find on a DSLR, along with a 20x zoom that I’ve loved for shooting everything from the girls’ soccer games to beach trips.

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A good portion of the photos posted on this site (almost all the outdoor shots) have been taken with this camera – but while it’s great for taking pictures outdoors, it does such a bad job of interior shots that I don’t even bother to try anymore and for the past couple of years had moved to using my iPhone 5 almost exclusively for inside photos. I use the iPhone for a lot of general outdoor shots too because it’s small, portable and I always have it with me, unlike the much more bulky Canon camera.

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All of that has changed over the past month or so, after I was introduced to the Panasonic Lumix ZS40 digital camera. As a mom, I love the size and easy portability of this camera – I keep it in my purse so it goes everywhere with me and gives me the ability to take great photos wherever I’m at. And as an amateur shutterbug, I love the features of this camera. So much so that I am still exploring, experimenting and learning with it, almost every single day.

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I’m not going to give a laundry list of camera features, but instead will focus on a few of my favorites, that make this camera the reason I’m seriously not sure whether I still even need a DSLR (gasp!).

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First, the very best part of the Lumix ZS40 is the 30x optical zoom. Yes, that’s a better zoom quality than my ‘big’ camera and in such a small, easy-to-carry-and-use package too. Zoom quality is one of the most important features that I look for – to me it’s a must-have when you’re taking pictures at a distance (like for sporting events), but I use the zoom all the time, even just to better frame a shot of something that’s not very far away. Being able to zoom and frame a shot exactly how I want it is one of the most fun and creative things about photography to me, and having the ability to zoom in close also cuts down on the post-processing time to crop photos after-the-fact.

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My next favorite feature is the Live View Finder (LVF). As smaller point-and-shoot cameras have moved more toward larger LCD screens, they’ve almost entirely done away with view finders. And phone cameras don’t have them, of course. But as anyone who’s tried to take pictures outdoors on a bright sunny day can attest, the glare on a LCD screen causes you to have to simply point the camera or phone in the right direction and shoot blindly, hoping that you’re getting what you’re trying to take a picture of. Which is one reason why my Canon and it’s view finder have long been my go-to for outdoor shots. At least until now with the Lumix – again, having a feature normally found on a larger, bulkier camera in this small, slim body is a huge benefit. My only complaint is that the view finder is set just about flush into the camera back, causing my nose to squish against the LCD screen when I’m using the view finder. Not really a big deal, except that my LCD screen constantly has nose print smudges… Winking smile

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Along with having features that I already had in my ‘big’ camera in a smaller package, the Lumix ZS40 also offers features that I haven’t had before, and in some cases, had never dreamed about. I could go on and on, but a few of my favorites are the ability to retouch and use creative filters right on the camera, on photos that I’ve already shot. So I can whip the camera out and grab the shot while it’s happening, without having to think ahead of time how I want to get creative with it – that can come later.

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I also love the range of options available for ‘scene’ shots – something I’ve rarely used on previous cameras because I could get better results manually selecting my own settings. But I’ve been very happy with the results from the ‘sports’ mode – so much so that I use it almost exclusively for any kind of action shot where I want a quick shutter speed. I’ve experimented with a few others – the HDR, food and sunset modes being some other faves, along with the ‘Through Glass’ setting which is perfect for aquariums or shots through car windows. I did not have much luck with trying the ‘Starry Sky’ mode – although it’s hard to say if that may have been caused by a lack of enough stars in the sky when I tried it.

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One huge benefit to taking photos with my phone has always been the ease of having them immediately available to share via social media. The Lumix ZS40 offers Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can immediately transfer photos (whichever ones you wish) to your phone (via the Panasonic Image app). You can even use your phone as a remote view finder for the camera, which is perfect for including yourself in group shots or holding the camera above your head over a crowd and still being able to see what you’re shooting. I love being able to take a photo, quickly transfer it to my phone and share it on Instagram without having to wait until I get home and on my laptop, which would lose that whole ‘in the moment’ feeling of the post.

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There’s a lot more I could say about the Lumix ZS40 – I use it for shooting video as well as still photos (it shoots in full HD and has a stereo microphone). And I’m still learning more and more about it – I know there are features and shooting modes I’ve barely or never even tried yet. I’m looking forward to learning as I go and exploring my creativity even more with this camera.

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Do I still drool over DSLRs? Honestly, yes – but only for the full range of manual controls that I don’t have easily accessible on the Lumix ZS40. While I love all of the various shooting modes, I still prefer to choose my own settings at times, and I haven’t figured out an easy way to do that on this camera while still keeping the view finder at my eye. I also know that DSLRs offer a larger sensor size than you can get on a point-and-shoot.

#TMOMDisney2014-Day3 015But given the huge cost difference, the difference in portability, and the need to purchase additional lenses and filters for a DSLR, I just don’t see it being practical for me right now – if ever. If one were to drop into my lap (yeah right…), I’d love to improve my manual photo-taking skills and truly work toward more ‘professional’ shots. But for documenting my family’s lives, and taking good-quality, fun and creative pics to share on social media and with family and friends – all while still learning and challenging myself… Well, this camera is absolutely perfect for me.