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Old Dec 29, 2006, 10:29 AM   #1
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I'm just about to buy a digital camera and I'm trying to figure out just how important it is to have IMAGE STABILIZATION. I like the Canon A640 (no IS) and I also like the Panasonic DMC-FZ7,with IS.
So, any of you folks out there with these cameras might pass on your experience with them and tell me if you think Image Stabilization is a must have.
Thanks for your help. Doug
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Old Dec 29, 2006, 11:18 AM   #2
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the asnwer of course is - it depends. First, let's talk about what IS does - it basically tries to compensate for camera movement (primarily due to photographer not being able to keep the camera steady).

Next part of the equation - how steady do you have to hold a camera? A very loose guidleine is the 1 over focal length rule. That states for a given lens focal length you should have a shutter speed of 1 over that value in order to not show motion blur in your photo. According to this 'rule' a 100mm lens requires a 1/100 shutter speed to hold steady, a 400mm lens requires 1/400 shutter speeds to hold steady.

What IS does is compensate for 2 or 3 stops - so, in theory, instead of 1/400 you could go down to 1/100 (2 stop shutter speed difference) and still get a steady shot.

In practical application the 1 over rule is just a basic guideline - some people are more steady than others. So what focal length YOU can keep a given lens steady at is an attribute of your technique and physical constraints (if any exist).

Now, the 2 cameras you are considering have vastly different focal lengths - the A640 has a 35-140mm equivelent lens while the fz7 has a 36mm-432mm equivelent lens. So, in general, camera shake will be more pronounced with the 432mm lens equivelant of the fz-7. So IS benefits that camera more. For the Canon, the affect will be much less pronounced.

Enough theory then, here's my recommendation. If you want a 4x zoom like the 640, there are really only 2 reasons why IS would be a key feature:

1. You have difficulty keeping a camera steady

2. You plan on doing a lot of available light low light shooting hand-held.

If neither of those 2 are the case then IS is not an essential feature IMO for a camera in that focal range.

If you are considering a superzoom like the FZ7 then I think IS is indeed an essential attribute to have - especially if you like to use the LCD for framing rather than viewfinder since this method is less stable.

But, I'm more curious why you are comparing these 2 specific cameras given they are 2 different types of digicam. Do you need a 12x superzoom or just a 4x zoom?
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Old Dec 29, 2006, 1:57 PM   #3
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The maximum aperture at 140mm equivalent zoom on the A630 is f4.1. It is a bright sunny day here in Florida and I just set my camera on f4 in aperture priority and aimed at something outdoors in the shade. The camera metered 1/30 second. You would need stabilization to get the shot at 140mm eq. Stabilization adds a lot of versatility.

Some people think extra megapixels make up somewhat for optical zoom. To take the A630 from 4X to 8X zoom using 2X digital zoom or cropping takes the 8Mp camera to 2Mp. Most cameras resample back up to 8Mp, but you are using only 2Mp of the sensor and getting only 2Mp resolution. If you need zoom get the optical zoom you need and don't count on extra Mp giving you much improvement.

Stabilization is great for shooting anything still. It doesn't help at all for anything moving. If you plan to shoot action in anything but perfect light you might consider the Fuji S6000. It lets you crank up the ISO with decent noise. You get better photos of still subjects with stabilization and low ISO. But you get better action photography with a camera like the S6000 that lets you crank the ISO up. The S6000 also gives the advantage of wide angle, which is good for general photography.

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Old Dec 30, 2006, 9:31 PM   #4
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I mentioned those two particular cameras because they both seemed to perform well overall and I could work either of them into our budget. I could probably get along well enough with either, though I would like to have the option of the using the greater magnification of the Panisonic.
The ability to hold steady is not much of an issue for me but it is somewhat for my wife and since we can't buy multiple cameras just now, I want her to be comfortable with whatever we get.
The A640 is a handier size, though the FZ7 is not all that bulky. So, either would be accetable.
I would be interested to hear which other cameras you would choose that would be comparable to each of the ones I mentioned in performance, size, and price.
Thanks, Doug
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Old Dec 30, 2006, 9:43 PM   #5
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Thanks for that info and I will check out the Fuji S6000. I have a lot to learn about digital photography and I have been very casually watching the technology change over the years and every time I started homing in on a camera, the new advancements distracted me for anotheer year. Nuts! This is it! I'm going to jump in. Doug
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Old Dec 30, 2006, 10:32 PM   #6
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I've owned several of the A series Canon's (A10, A20, A60, A70). If one ofthe "must-haves" was a camera that fits easily in a pocket, I'd choose the A640. Otherwise, the FZ7 would be my hands down choice. All of my Canon's have come and gone, but I still have the FZ10 I bought a few years ago. Even though I recently bought a digital SLR, I know if I sold my FZ10 I'd only end up buying another one. I'd just miss it too much. Heck, I still find myself using it more than the new camera. It's versatile, rock solid reliable (not something I could say for the A60 or A70), and takes darn nice photos to boot. I would expect the FZ7 to have similarvirtues in a smaller package.
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Old Dec 31, 2006, 4:08 AM   #7
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Worth to mention that IS doesn't help to "freeze" motion. When I had a digicam with IS my first thought was "no worry - you got IS" and I was VERY disappointed to find it didn't help me to capture moving people in low light. Just because THEY moved, not the camera.

So if you want to shoot a static object and/or YOU shake the camera (maybe you move, are in a car etc. and so so on) - IS is a nice thing to have. If you go for low light shots or moving objects - IS does nothing for you, since the object itself moves.

Example: lets say you want to photograph playing kids. Without IS you might have 1/125s - with IS 1/60s or the like. The 1/125s has a chance to freeze the kids thus getting you a "sharp" picture, with 1/60s it is almost predictable that the kids move a bit which produces a "blurry" image.

On the other hand - IS shines when you want to increase DOF on a tele lens. 300mm handheld shots at 1/30s at f/4 might be nice, but if you can shoot at 1/10s and f/6.5 you get a wider DOF!

So it really depends - hard choice...

Battery drainage is much higher WITH IS - also a thing to consider!
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