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Old Dec 13, 2006, 11:21 AM   #1
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Since this is my first post on the Panasonic forum, I suppose an introduction is in order. My name is John M. Gibson. My friends and acquaintances refer to me as "Big John" or "Big Bad John" and I live in the Jackson, MS metro area. I got started into photography like most folks, I guess. I bought a Canon SureShot Date 35mm film camera in the early to mid eighties after I was first married and the kids were born. It was an "automatic-everything, idiot-proof" camera. I used Polaroid "One-Film" since it was supposed to work in ALL situations. That was the extent of my knowledge until recently…load the One-Film, center up whatever you were taking a snapshot of, mash the button, take the film to WalMart. Presto! Instant memories! And with a date printed right on the pictures to remind my plaque-laden brain when those events happened!

Since film seemed to be a dying thing lately, I began to look into digital cameras last Christmas. You know, an "automatic-everything, idiot-proof" camera, only digital. When my boss gave me a nice sized gift certificate for Cabela's Outfitters and I already had an impressive collection of hunting and fishing equipment gathering dust in my closet, I went online to Cabela's website and found out they had digital cameras. I bought the most expensive one I could find, the Nikon Coolpix 7600, a horrid little camera by account of most online reviews. However, I did read a few user reviews who praised the camera saying that learning the camera well would allow you to get some pretty impressive shots. So, I put a little of my money with the gift certificate and paid FULL PRICE for the Nikon. It has been my constant companion since.

I used the camera mainly at work in the oilfield gas compression business where I work. We build very large gas compressors driven by very large industrial natural gas engines. We rent them to oil and gas companies who use them to compress natural gas from low-pressure wells into high-pressure pipelines for sales. I used the camera to take pictures of the units as they were being built and after they were delivered to the oilfield and hooked up. It provided us with a pictoral record of how certain piping was arranged, other mechanical subsytems on the unit were arranged, and how things were hooked up on the lease.

One day I had about 30 to 40 pictures laid out on the conference room table, arranging them chronologically for the "As-Built" file on the unit we had just finished. Several coworkers came by for break time and commented on how some of the pictures were really good pictures. They all picked the same 8 or 9 pictures as "good" without commenting on the others. Obviously, something had caught their eye and their comments got me to wondering why the same group of 8 or 9 pictures appealed to all of my coworkers and the other pictures didn't. In short, why were those few "good" pictures good?

I should have ignored their comments, but I asked a friend here in town who is a talented photographer and artist, why the "good" pictures were good. He reviewed the pictures I had taken and critiqued them saying that I had "filled the frame", framed the subject on the "rule-of-thirds", etc. Huh? I went to the web and began to learn what those terms meant and why they were important and I'm still learning a year later. It turns out by the account of others who should know that I have a pretty good natural eye for photographic composition. Like most gifts, it must be cultivated to be useful or appreciated, so I'm looking into classes for additional help.

I realized that since photography is now much more for me than a way to record events of my life and work that I wanted to get some better equipment and learn how to use it to my full advantage. I want to shoot landscapes, buildings, festivals, portraits, EVERYTHING! I'm now looking for the best equipment "for me" at this stage in my photographic endeavors to get the results I'm after.

I originally looked at the Fujifilm S9000, but the well-noted problem of the command dial breaking scared me off. I've read reports of folks who've had the command dial break two and three times and they've been without their cameras more than they've been able to use them. I also considered the Sony R-1, but it lacks a movie mode which I NEED and there are only the SONY conversion lenses that match the quality of the main lens, very expensive. With the bigger sensor and the 5X zoom, noise is reduced, but not as much it seems as most claim. The reviews that show actual lab tests of the picture quality indicate that it starts getting noisy at about ISO 400. Not much gain over the…

Panasonic DMC-FZ50. I'm convinced this is the camera for me. I NEVER print directly from the camera, I always post-process in Photoshop. So, if the FZ50 is noisier as some claim, I can reduce the noise in the editing phase and can shoot RAW to get the best data available to start with. Besides, who decided that the correlation between digital sensors and ISO film speeds is correct as currently accepted? As an engineer, I see no correlation between digital sensors noise and the "graininess" of film except that it is what we all agree it is, but in my mind there is no correlation of the accepted standards on any technically defensible basis. In short, I my mind ISO film speeds have little to nothing to do with a digital sensors proclivity to noise.

My questions are for those of you who actually use the FZ50 and are serious amateurs or budding professionals are as follows:

  1. Is the noise (in general) as bad as some claim?[/*]
  2. When shooting at the long end of the telephoto lens in low light (high ISO), is it difficult to impossible to get a RAW image that can't be post-processed to an acceptable standard for to up to 8" x 10" prints?[/*]
  3. Can you print 20" x 30" (3:2 Aspect Ratio) in good light and have a fairly sharp print?[/*]
  4. What is a TTL flash? I've read that the FZ50 must use one of the Panasonic TTL flashes, and the 500 model can cost as much as the camera. I've also read that it can use other non-TTL flashes, but there may be some limitations. Which is true?[/*]
  5. Is the movie mode acceptable for short clips to record certain events, or in my work to illustrate a problem?[/*]
  6. Is the FZ50 durable? I hope to use it for quite some time![/*]
  7. Has anyone purchased the conversion lenses from Panasonic and are they any good? Are there other alternatives? I want high-quality conversion lenses. Price is a secondary consideration here. If the conversion lens is a "real deal" but degrade the native quality of the main lens, who needs it?[/*]
  8. Does anyone use the remote release and how do you like it? Seems to me it would be very beneficial when shooting those long telephoto shots in low light to avoid camera movement when pushing the shutter release by hand. Also seems good for portraits.

Thanks for taking the time to read my very long post. Any replies are greatly appreciated. I plan to purchase the camera, conversion lenses, extra batteries, tripod, remote release, etc. in mid-February. I'm sure to have more questions by then. I downloaded the manual from Panasonic and have begun reading it. Thanks for any help. BBJ
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Old Dec 13, 2006, 1:49 PM   #2
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Firstly, welcome to the forums John, I too am fairly new to the whole photography thing. I dont have the FZ50, but I do have the FZ30 its predecessor and I have had it for about a year.

I will try and answer the questions I know, and let those more knowledgeable answer the rest (or at least fill in the gaps).

1. Firstly, noise, it can be bad, in low light conditions, but nothing that cannot be controlled with some PP, I dont really find it an issue.

2. I honestly think you will have no problems when shooting RAW in low light at max zoom at only 8 x 10!

3. Sorry, someone else will have to answer this, I hardly print.

4. TTL is Through The Lense, someone else will have to sing its praises and explain.

5. Movie mode is excellent, clear and sharp.

6. A very durable camera, I have had mine for a year, and I keep it in a small lowe pro bag and I have actually dropped it a couple of times without any adverse effect, its a pretty solid build.

7. I have a number of add on lenses and I have opted for third party lenses, not necessarily due to cost, mainly from advice from this forum, I have the Olympus TCON 1.7 teleconverter, works a treat, nice peice of glass. I also have two Macro add ons, the Nikon 6T and the Raynox 250, both are quality. Maybe someone else can comment on the quality of the Panasonic addons?

8. I use the remote often, mainly for landscapes in low light on a tripod etc, but yes a valuable additon, although you could make do by just using the timer (2 seconds and 10 seconds on the FZ30).

A top quality camera in my opinion and I think the FZ50 will only add to that of the FZ30. I look forward to seeing some of your pics, welcome.

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Old Dec 16, 2006, 10:07 PM   #3
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Hi. I also own FZ30 and love it. Best P&S there is.
1. Noise is not bad at all at 80 ASA 100 ASA still good and that is all.
2. Lens on FZ30 is outstanding from wide to tele and 8X10 are quite nice.
3. Yes you can, providing that you won't view it at very close distance.
4. TTL flash reads information through the lens. Built in flash is TTL.
I use Vivitar 283 made in CHINA. Sunpack 383 is better choice. Camera will automaticaly set on manual F 4.0 I don't use flash too often on FZ30.
5. Movie mode is good, I tried it, but don't use it.
6. FZ30 is quite solid and so is 50.
7. Conversion lenses I got are LW 55 from Panasonic and TC-E17 from Nikon. There is a step up ring 55 - 60 made by B&W and I got that one at B&H. An outstanding ED lens. Heavy.
8. Remote release is working fine, however I use 2 sec delay for about 80% of my photos.
I personally think that you are good candidate for Digital SLR which will give you limitless options. Flash work with any Nikon SLR body is second to none, endles options in lenses and what ever you will desire to do with your equipment. I use my D70s Nikon whenever I will need bigger prints 11x14 and larger. Any even cheap SLR will blow away even the best P&S in low noise, flexibility of use, speed and again flash use. I hope my answer shed some light on your questions.
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Old Dec 17, 2006, 7:47 AM   #4
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I do not have a FZ50 but I do have a FZ30.....first thing I want to say.....I do not find the noise of the FZ30 to be a problem and the FZ50 is better. But if you think a Sony R1 is noisey at ISO400 ,there is no consumer grade camera that will fill your needs as far as noise is concerned. And certainly no ultrazoom.

next....it is difficult to use the long end of the tele in low light....Panasonics IS is as good as any I have seen but it still can not work miracles.

next...I have several 20X30 photos hanging on my walls that I think are beautiful

next...TTL = Through the Lens Metering......you do not need to use a TTL flash but why not....you can get an Olympus FL 36 much cheaper than the Panasonics. But a non dedicated flash such as the Sunpack 383 will work on the FZ50.

next... Movie mode is useful for just that sort of thing

next ...The FZ series cameras are very durable , may be one of the major strong points.

next...A Tcon 17 is a very useful teleconverter and really does not degrade an image..but you may wish to see what the FZ's built in zoom can really do 432 to 700mm is a lot of magnification. For wide angle a DCR6600 may be worth looking into.

Next....A remote is a very useful tool when using a tripod.
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