It’s not the size of your lens that matters, it’s how you use it. That’s how that old saying goes, right?

Okay, setting aside the photographic innuendos — or is it a double entendre? I forget — there’s something to it.

As powerful a creative tool as my EOS R is, even when paired with a nifty 50, it’s still a pretty large and heavy piece of kit. If I’m being honest, this is probably the No. 1 reason I leave my camera at home.

Say what you will about smartphone cameras, but in a pinch, they are more than capable of rendering top-notch images. And while my iPhone XS is going on three years old at this point, it’s still a fine camera.

Camera quality isn’t the problem though. I have a hard time being creative with a phone. And believe me I’ve tried to overcome this hurdle, to no avail. It’s just the wrong tool, at least for me.

Little camera big potential

Over the holidays, my father opened my eyes to what is possible when you split the difference between a big mirrorless camera like the EOS R and a smartphone.

Around Christmas, he’d sent a used Panasonic ZS-200 that he’d found on eBay for an absolute steal. It was intended for my fiancé so she had a camera of her own.

No larger than a typical point and shoot, the ZS-200 is one of the few compact cameras packing a 1-inch sensor. What’s more, it’s paired with a 23-360mm equivalent F3.3-6.4 zoom lens that, while not terribly bright, offers a lot of range for a camera you can easily slip into a coat pocket or purse.

The camera itself features an all-metal build, twin control dials — one rear control wheel and a control ring at the base of the lens — a pop-up flash, and a bright and fairly high-resolution electronic view finder. About the only thing missing is an articulating rear LCD.

The camera’s lens and sensor combo makes for some very crisp images to boot. The 20 MP sensor is outstanding at lower apertures, though it does start to fall apart north of ISO 800.

You’ll also have to rely on lens compression at the long end of the telephoto range if you want to blur the background, as it’s a rather dark lens.

If I’m being honest, I’d have traded range for a brighter lens, but it’s not my camera. Niecie could care less about blurry backgrounds or the quality of the bokeh balls. She’s far more concerned with whether or not she can get close enough to subject.

Getting in the right headspace

The reason I bring all this up is while shooting with an iPhone feels incredibly awkward, holding the ZS-200’s EVF up to my eye felt perfectly natural.

No, it can’t hold a candle to the resolving power of the larger Canon, but then again why should it. We’re talking about a point and shoot with a sensor less than 1/6th the size. What’s really important here is that I can get into the same creative headspace with either camera.

Now that just leaves one problem: convincing Niecie to let me borrow her camera more often.

Further Reading

If you liked this post, you might enjoy these too:

Photographers need not fear Apple’s M1 MacBooks
Apple’s first crop of Arm Macs reimagine what is possible on a thin and light notebook.
Why I still shoot film
Two decades after the film industry peaked, I’m still shooting film.
Kodak Portra 800 — 35mm film review
Kodak Portra 800 offers stellar colors, great contrast and fantastic low-light performance, if you can live with a little grain.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below:

  • Do you prefer a smartphone or a point and shoot?
  • What advice do you have for getting creative with a smartphone camera?
  • Do you often find yourself weighing whether to bring your SLR or mirrorless camera?