Up until last year, the only camera I brought with me when I traveled was my Nikon Coolpix 885, a 2001 model that was practically an antique by the time I decided I needed to upgrade. It took perfectly fine photos for 4″ x 6″ prints, but once I started my travel blog and started uploading photos to my website, I realized I needed something better. It’s also a bit chunkier than other point-and-shoot cameras, so I couldn’t even fit it in my pocket. Ugh.
Fast-forward to 2008, when I joined a local photography club to learn more about taking better pictures. I was the only one still using a point-and-shoot. One of the members loaned me his Nikon D70 to try out, and it was love at first sight. I knew I had to have a DSLR. After some research, I went with Nikon’s budget DSLR, a D40. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the money to buy an all-purpose 18mm-200mm lens, so I had to go with the 18-55mm (wide angle) lens that was included and buy a 55mm-200mm (zoom) lens as a supplement. I love my Nikon D40. Among its positive points:
- It was less expensive than many DSLRs.
- I can take much better pictures with it than with a point-and-shoot, without having much skill level as a photographer. But there is also great manual functionality for those of you with more skill.
- The zoom lens is the best thing that’s ever happened to my photography.
- It is very girl-friendly, meaning it fits my hand perfectly (whereas my friend’s D70 was clearly made to fit a man’s hand).
- It’s lightweight.
But over the past year, I’ve realized it has some limitations. These are:
- Despite how lightweight the Nikon D40 is for a DSLR, once I’ve been carrying it around for a couple of hours, it feels like a bowling ball around my neck.
- It never failed that whenever I wanted to take a wide shot, I’d have the zoom lens on the camera, and whenever I wanted to take a zoom shot, I’d have the wide lens on the camera, requiring constant swapping out of lenses. This is very cumbersome and annoying.
- If you take a lot of photos when you travel, as I tend to, there is no way around the fact that you will have the camera on a strap around your neck for much of the day. This identifies me as a tourist and the camera becomes a target for thieves.
After my trip to San Juan, I realized what I really needed was a new point-and-shoot as a backup for my DSLR for those times when I want something small and lightweight that I can just slip into my pocket and carry with me easily. I’ve been a Nikon loyalist for the past decade, but after reading this great review by Christine Ka’aloa at Grrrltraveler on her new Samsung Dualview camera, I took a closer look at it and decided this would be a great camera for me.
The front LCD screen makes it easier for the solo traveler to take her own picture. One of my problems with solo travel is not having a lot of pictures with me in them from my trips. I’ve tried asking people to take my photo with my DSLR, but have learned the hard way that most people don’t know how to use them. (Even though it’s pretty much exactly the same way you use a point-and-shoot. I think the size intimidates them.)
A couple of weeks ago, I happened to be walking past Radio Shack in my local mall and decided to see if they had the DualView in stock so I could handle it and see how it fit my hand. I’m not the kind of person who normally makes impulse purchases, but having read up on this camera for months, as soon as I saw it, I fell in love with it and bought it on site. Since then, I’ve been practicing with it (though I need a LOT more practice, to be sure), and here is what I’ve found are its pros and cons:
- The front LCD screen rocks.
- At $179 for the newest model, it wasn’t too expensive.
- It’s very small and lightweight and fits in the pockets of all of my clothing.
- The quality of most pictures is pretty good, though they certainly are not DSLR-quality.
- Automatic smile detection. This is one of those nifty high-tech features that makes me ooh and aah.
- Not that I’ll ever use it, but there’s also a child photo feature that involves sounds to make the child smile and stay interested in looking at the camera.
- It has video capability.
- It takes the same kind of memory card as my Nikon D40, so I can use the same cards in both cameras without an additional reader to upload shots to my laptop.
- The zoom lens doesn’t zoom in very much, so you still have to get fairly close to things. This will never replace the zoom lens on my DSLR.
- No stabilization for handshake. My hands shake a lot when I take pictures, I’m not sure why. So with the Samsung DualView, I will either need to use my tripod or rest the camera on something stable, or I’ll need to take a lot of pictures of the same subject to make sure something turns out well. [Edited to add: Uh, yeah, actually it DOES have Digital Image Stabilization, I just hadn’t discovered it yet. Excuse me while I trot off to read the rest of the user’s manual….]
- No viewfinder. This really threw me off. I’m used to using the viewfinder, rather than the back LCD screen, when I take photos. Outside on a sunny day, it’s hard to see from the LCD if I’ve truly got the subject I’m aiming for in my shot.
- The smile detector sometimes jumps the gun a bit. “But I wasn’t smiling yet!” doesn’t seem to convince the camera otherwise.
- I had to turn the volume to high when testing the video function on the camera, because I couldn’t hear sound with anything less than that (despite the fact that what I was recording was very loud).
Despite the cons, I’m pleased with my DualView. It is definitely a step up from the Coolpix and serves the purposes I purchased it for. I’ve decided that for my travels from now on, the Samsung DualView does one thing that will help me a lot: Since it takes good wide angle photos, I could theoretically just throw the zoom lens on my Nikon D40, throw the DualView in my pocket, and leave the 18-55mm wide-angle lens at home. No more swapping out lenses. That alone is worth the price of the DualView.