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Old May 30, 2011, 8:06 PM   #1
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Default Megazooms - how much zoom is too much?

I am a novice photogrpher - I like taking pictures during trips to share with family. I just returned from a 14-day repositioning cruise from Seattle to Juneau onboard a 70 foot yacht on which I had to rely on my Sony DSC-T70 with only 3x zoom for all my photos and videos. Our encounters with humpback whales, orcas, dall's porpoises and many other wildlife have left me wanting for a better camera for any future travels.

Over the last two days, I've researched Compact Zoom (12x to 18x) and Extended/Mega Zoom (24x to 36x) cameras on several web sites and am wondering if there is too much zoom available on some of the mega zoom cameras.
Specifically my questions are:
1. At what zoom level would one be unable to hold the camera steady enough to take either video or photos without affecting the results?
2. At what zoom level would one need to use either a monopod or a tripod? I ask because I notice that when I use my 12x binoculars, it can be difficult to remain steady without leaning on something fixed.
3. What types of situations would require zoom above about 16X?
4. If I am mainly interested in auto capability photography of wildlife, are there valid reasons to go into the mega zoom range versus staying in the compact travel zoom category?

Budget is not an issue but I also do not want to go into the DSLR category as I do not want to haul that much gear around. Being recently retired and only a novice photographer, I'm not sure how many new tricks this old dog is capable of learning at this stage so I doubt I'll be using the manual features on many of the newer megazooms.

Thanks in advance for your feedback.
Dave

Last edited by SHS72ski; May 30, 2011 at 8:10 PM. Reason: Improve readability.
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Old May 30, 2011, 9:02 PM   #2
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"Being recently retired and only a novice photographer, I'm not sure how many new tricks this old dog is capable of learning at this stage so I doubt I'll be using the manual features on many of the newer megazooms."

So that's you in the profile pic? LOL Just kidding, couldn't resist. Welcome to Steve's Dave, I hope you'll hang around, you can learn an awful lot here, I know I have, and I thought I knew EVERYTHING!

1. Since I know you would never buy a camera without image stabilization, I can say that many people here get sharp images(in good light) with the zoom racked all the way out (600mm-800mm), but they are a lot more steady than I am. So really, it's a mix of how steady you are and what kind of shutter speed you are shooting.

2. See answer above. Again, that will be a judgement call on your part. How steady are your hands? Also. I don't imagine your binoculars have image stabilization, although I could be wrong.

3. Birds, Grizzly bear with cubs, bikinis on the beach, surfing pics, only your imagination is your limit on this one!

4. Dave, all I can say on this one is zoom range. For most wildlife, you want to get in as close as possible, so the extra zoom capability will be a plus. The compact is more portable, but you will lose some zoom. One example, the Sony DSC H55 10x zoom, 25mm-250mm, auto everything, but will it be enough zoom? In the compact cameras, the form factor and features are tempting, and if you want 500mm-800mm, then you are pretty much stuck with a camera like the Fuji HS20.
Hey, I just had a great idea! Buy one of each, and you'll have all bases covered!LOL Just kidding, again. Hopefully, others will chime in here shortly, I know what a nerve wracking decision this can be. It's not like deciding where to go eat!
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Old May 30, 2011, 9:04 PM   #3
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To quote May West, "To much of a good thing is just right."

If you are going to shoot long lenses in anything but really good light you will want a tripod/monopod. In particular for video. Many cameras have built in stabilzation - read the reviews to get an idea of how well it works for any specific camera. Stabilization in video will likely take out quick jitter but leave slow sea-sick kind of motion.
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Old May 30, 2011, 11:00 PM   #4
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One caveat here: do not try to equate the 'x' of a camera zoom lens to the 'x' of binoculars - or even the 'x' of one lens to another without knowing the baseline. Binoculars and telescopes use actual magnification numbers. Camera lenses use a ratio of minimum focal length to maximum focal length, as the 'x'. Camera lenses most often start at shorter focal lengths, so the maximum zoom on the megazoom cameras is probably only going to be equivalent to those 12x binoculars.

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Old May 31, 2011, 6:43 AM   #5
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G'day Dave

Many parts to your questions - many answers possible ...

From personal experience -
= my first superzoom was a fuji with 14x zoom and it was a magic camera with an amazing piece of lens. It died after about 90,000 exposures when the on/off switch failed
= Replaced by a canon SX-1 with 20x lens ... sold it 3 months later - didn't like the sloppy rotary dial on the back [lens info in a moment]
= Had a Panny FZ30 with 12x zoom for 6yrs, used it for lots of magazine work, sold it recently to a beginner
= Now have an Panny FZ28 & FZ35 each with 18x zoom lens
= have played with an Nikon & Oly 26x and a 30x lens, gave them back to their owners

OKay - you ask about zooms & megazooms
From the above cameras/lenses, I have found that "up to about 15x - 18x the lens performance is reasonably good. Over 20x to 30x the IQ performance drops away

While I found the IQ of the Fuji to be remarkable - fine detail & colour was superb, the Canon lens left me gasping - I could not get anything like the old fuji gave me. Images were larger [14x to 20x] but fine detail just wasn't there

The panny FZ30 12x zoom Leica lens was/is sharper than all the lenses I have for the new Pentax Kx recently acquired for magazine work. It's a pity that the media people I submit to now insist that images are to be from APS or full-frame - but that's another issue


IQ falls off for several reasons - optical and atmospherical
Atmosphere first - when I am shooting long-long lens stuff, it is often over "long" distances ... an entire footy field; across a creek at some wildlife; birds [both feathered & those sunbaking] etc etc and heat-thermal vibration wrecks the image sharpness. Additionally, with those large magnifications, the tripod starts vibrating in the wind as well - and the tripod I use is a video-camera-heavy-as-hell tripod
Secondly, I believe that IQ falls away as the poor old lens optics simply can't cover the huge angular-image change we are putting it to ... to change from one end covering 75degrees to the other end covering 3 or 4 degrees is just asking too much of the optics

Hope this long-winded comment is useful
Regards, Phil
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Old May 31, 2011, 8:10 AM   #6
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1. At what zoom level would one be unable to hold the camera steady enough to take either video or photos without affecting the results?

That depends on the amount of IS built into the camera and if the camera has a camera anti-shake mode as well. Cameras like Fuji HS20 and HS10 have some IS built into them and do a really good job controlling camera shake at long zoom. I use my HS20 at 30x without too many issues due to the IS built into the camera


2. At what zoom level would one need to use either a monopod or a tripod? I ask because I notice that when I use my 12x binoculars, it can be difficult to remain steady without leaning on something fixed.

See above. I have never used a tripod with my HS10 and or HS20 expect a couple of times I needed to use the self timeer and be in the picture


3. What types of situations would require zoom above about 16X?

Wildlife at the zoo for one and in your case wildlife in the ocean; a lot of the work I do in the fire-rescue field I find a longer zoom helps cause I can stay out of the water of the water spraying and things that are on fire and get really nice images.


4. If I am mainly interested in auto capability photography of wildlife, are there valid reasons to go into the mega zoom range versus staying in the compact travel zoom category?

When I went to Atlanta last year I went to the zoo and shot wildlife with my Fuji HS10. I found that I didn't like the results of having the camera on auto and shot in A and P modes for the most part. The longer zoom came in handy as I was able to frame gorillas tight because I was not able to jump the fence (not allowed for safety reasons) so I couldn't move forward, the zoom was VERY Handy.

Budget is not an issue but I also do not want to go into the DSLR category as I do not want to haul that much gear around.

For me I could never get a lens I cold afford that had enough zoom and would work in lower light like my Fuji HS10 and 20 do. I would have to change lenses all the time which was not good for the sensor especially in the kid of work I do. For me a bridge zoom camera is the way to go


Being recently retired and only a novice photographer, I'm not sure how many new tricks this old dog is capable of learning at this stage so I doubt I'll be using the manual features on many of the newer megazooms.

You can get a nice Fuji Mega-zoom with everything you'd need including batteries, memory card(s) for under $600.

Thanks in advance for your feedback.
Dave[/QUOTE]
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Old May 31, 2011, 8:32 AM   #7
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Thank you all for your feedback.
Robert, I browsed through your Flickr site, nice photos and I understand your point of view on 3.
Bill, I had not thought about applying May West's saying to this but it fits.
Brian, you helped the light go off in my head - I was not aware of the very important point. I'd looked up so many terms over the last two days but took zoom x factor at face value. I've done some experimenting with zoom comparing my 3x camera with our 10x video camera, now I'll bring my binoculars with me to compare the three and will bring them with me to the camera store as well.
Phil, I appreciate all the detail you provided to put your answer in context. Loved your photos of the Tamora airshow. What camera did you use for those and were the in flights photos cropped/digitally zoomed?
I will keep all the feedback you all provided in mind as I find a store (may have to drive to Denver for that) where I can get my hands on the actual cameras and try out the zoom and see how photos come out at the upper zoom range.
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Old May 31, 2011, 8:39 AM   #8
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Photo5, thank you also for your detailed response - it came in while I was typing my previous answer. The HS20 is one I am considering but it has taken a few knocks on menu navigation. Later today I'll send you a PM to followup on this.
Cheers,
Dave
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Old May 31, 2011, 8:47 AM   #9
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My HS20 is having an issue with overheating warning coming on and locking up the camera's shutter button. I am working on trying to get Fuji to replace it but they want me to send it in for repair. However my issue seems to not be common as many others on this board have had no issues. When the camera works propperly for me it is the BEST camera I have ever used hands down

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