Disney After Dark, Magic Kingdom Night Shot with Panasonic Lumix ZS40. Photo Diana Rowe, TravelingInHeels.com

Disney After Dark, Magic Kingdom Night Shot with Panasonic Lumix ZS40. Photo credit: Diana Rowe, Traveling Grandmom

Photographs are memory makers, and the right camera will keep your family vacation fresh and vivid. I was one of the lucky TravelingMoms presented with an opportunity to review the new Panasonic Lumix ZS40.

I was ready for a new camera option, having grown weary of carting around a montage of cameras, including my Nikon DSLR with 2 lenses for photos and a Canon PowerShot for videos and convenience.

But none of these really gave me a stellar nighttime photograph. Whether due to my lack of knowledge or the technology of the older cameras, they always seemed to be lacking something. Hoping to capture the magic at night,  I eagerly listened to my hands-on Lumix luminary Darin Pepple as we entered a rainy Magic Kingdom for a Disney After Dark photography session.ProductReview

The Lumix DMC-ZS40 Basics

Panasonic Lumix ZS40 with Impressive automatic and manual capabilities

Panasonic Lumix ZS40 with Impressive automatic and manual capabilities

In early May 2014, Panasonic introduced me to the Lumix DMC-ZS40 travel zoom. Equipped with Wi-Fi and NFC, it provides a 30x zoom range (24-720mm equiv), an 18.1 megapixel sensor, and a built-in electronic viewfinder. For those more advanced photographers, it also includes a control ring around the lens and raw shooting capability.  The price point is a competitive $450, or you can opt for other Panasonic cameras via TravelingMom deal, valid through June 9, 2014.

Amazing Night Shooting

Disney's Magic Kingdom entrance, taken with Panasonic Lumix ZS40, Pictures Effect Change, One-Point Color setting. Photo: Diana Rowe, TravelingInHeels.com

Disney’s Magic Kingdom entrance, taken with Panasonic Lumix ZS40, Pictures Effect Change, One-Point Color setting. Photo: Diana Rowe, Traveling Grandmom

The rain and darkness both presented challenges, but Darin Pepple’s teaching skills lessened the learning curve for the new camera technology.  After a quick classroom overview, this Lumix camera is point-and-shoot intuitive.

Our small group of eight entered the Magic Kingdom in the late afternoon and immediately started shooting photos at the entrance. By the time the sun set on the Disney After Dark experience, we were oohing and ahing over the “magical” photos we snapped!

Quick Tips to Night Shots

SCN (Scene) setting on Mode Dial of Panasonic Lumix ZS40.

SCN (Scene) setting on Mode Dial of Panasonic Lumix ZS40. Photo courtesy of Panasonic.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or an advanced photographer to take great night shots.  It’s as simple as spinning the mode dial, located at the top of the camera. The camera’s automatic settings are easy to use. Once you turn the mode dial, the screen will show you icons with options.

Set your dial to iA – Intelligent Auto Mode.
The camera reads the scene when pointed at the subject and will adjust automatically to the optium settings, including Night Portrait, Night Scenery, and handheld Night Shot.  Press halfway (lightly) to focus and press full to take the picture. This is the simplest way to take almost any picture.

Panasonic Night Portrait Scene Mode

Panasonic Night Portrait Scene Mode

Scene Mode (SCN on the mode dial) allows you to take pictures that match the scene recorded.  For night pictures, you have two options:

 Portrait with night scenery. Hold the camera firmly and the subject should keep still for at least one second.

Night Scenery: For taking a picture with night scenery, the shutter will be set to max. four sec. Be sure to use a tripod or place the camera on a flat, immoveable surface.

Scroll through the SCN icon options via the camera ring or with the “lightning arrow” button on the round Menu to the left of the screen. Press the middle Menu/Set button to select.

Taking Picture Effects

Creative Control, another setting on the Panasonic Lumix ZS40 camera

Creative Control, another setting on the Panasonic Lumix ZS40 camera

During our Disney After Dark adventure, we discovered several Creative Control Mode (the Palette looking icon on the mode dial) that were effective for night photos. These included Expressive, Impressive Art, One Point Color, and Star Filter.

Go Professional
For those who prefer to create their photographic destiny, you may manually adjust your camera settings, including A – Aperture adjustment and S-Shutter speed adjustment. That’s about as technical as I get, but there are many more manual options available.

Disney After Dark, Photo of Magic Kingdom Carousel, taken using Impressive Art, Creative Control Mode. Photo: Diana Rowe, TravelingInHeels.com

Disney After Dark, Photo of Magic Kingdom Carousel, taken using Impressive Art, Creative Control Mode. Photo credit: Diana Rowe, Traveling Grandmom

Need Help?
Once you purchase your new Panasonic Lumix, you aren’t just left in the cold.  The Lumix Lounge offers tips to use your camera – and experts who will answer your specific questions.

SUMMARY:

For me the best news is that I can leave my bulky DSLR AND PowerShot cameras behind, and replace it with one super light, pocket-sized Panasonic ZS40 Lumix without sacrificing quality photographs!

Seriously, this camera has so many options to take the best photos. The best approach is to experiment with the camera’s settings and have fun! My new favorite Lumix camera can be a point-or-shoot, or I can opt for manual settings.

Photos courtesy of Diana Rowe, TravelingInHeels.com