Q: I am looking for a good, small camera with a long zoom for trips. I recently got my first smartphone (an iPhone 6) and it takes great pictures, but I like using memory cards to store and save pictures. I am not very tech-savvy, and I like the simplicity of a camera and memory cards. I would like to spend $100 to $200. Do you have any suggestions?

A: These days it is hard to find cameras like you want because most camera manufacturers have abandoned the entry-level marketplace. With the proliferation of smartphones, no one was buying inexpensive compact cameras anymore. And for good reason — the average smartphone camera absolutely clobbers any $100-$200 compact in terms of image quality.

I’ve mentioned my Google Pixel 2 XL phone before, and I am still flabbergasted by how good the camera is. Add in the ability to share instantly and automatic backup to Google Photos, and you have a formidable picture-taking machine. Even when I zoom in with the digital zoom, the quality remains pretty good. I definitely get better results when I use my Sony DSC-RX100 or Panasonic DMC-GM1, but it has gotten to the point where you need that quality of compact camera to significantly outdo a good smartphone.

Of course, cameras offer other advantages, like optical zoom, the ability to take along extra batteries, having a viewfinder, easier operation and expanded creative capabilities. But for most people who are simply out to capture memories, the smartphone does a perfectly good job. I’d never take a vacation to Europe or Asia with just my smartphone, but for a trip to the local amusement park, the smartphone may be just the camera I need.

You asked for a brand recommendation, and that probably is the best I can do given the current marketplace. Check out Kodak PixPro cameras. J.K. Imaging, which makes the cameras for Kodak (kodakpixpro.com), is one of the only companies still serving this market segment.

Wi-Fi meets meat

Barbecue season is upon us, and I have a neat gadget to tell everyone about: the Meater Wireless Meat Thermometer.

It’s a rechargeable meat thermometer that communicates with your smartphone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to tell you when the meat is cooked to your liking. The probe has two sensors that it uses to measure both the internal and external temperature of the meat, using the combined information to determine its actual resting temperature.

I’m both an avid fan of barbecuing and a stickler for perfection. I fuss over getting the meat cooked just right. It drives me crazy when I cut open a piece of meat at the table only to realize that I have to put it back on the grill because it’s undercooked — or worse, discover that it’s overcooked, at which point there’s nothing I can do. Now, not only are those concerns are a thing of the past, but I don’t have to keep opening the grill, letting the heat escape, every time I want to check on the progress of the meal.

It comes with the smartphone app and a storage box that also recharges the unit. It sells for $69 at meater.com.


Send questions to Don Lindich at donlindich@gmail.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.