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Old Jun 9, 2006, 10:12 AM   #1
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Many from Panasonic super-zoom camera users appear to be on the verge of jumping to DSLRs. I have used Canon 20D for a few months after 1 year with FZ20 and I would like to comment on my initial experience and advice:

1. don't buy a DSLR if you cannot afford a better lens than the kit.

It is really frustrating to work with the kit. You will surely get some better low light photos and higher resolution but the improvement will not be huge. Also, FZ lens is really sharp and it will probably beat Canon's kit wide open (especially in the corners).

Two good things about Canon kit: it is plenty cheap and fairly sharp if stopped down to 8F.

2. If you are short on money, used primes are an option. I personally have 50mm 1.4F and 100mm 2.0F but a cheap 50mm 1.8F is nearly as good. I guess there are some people out there that do not use zooms at all, so do not be afraid to buy the body with fixed-length prime as your first lens. You will most likely want to buy some kind of zoom later. Warning: If you buy one good lens, you are going to lust for more. Remember that your children need food and drink. Frankly, only the Pana makes me resist from selling the house to get all that fancy gear.

3. I also bought Canon 10-22mm ultra-wide (16-39mm in 35mm equivalence) lens because I missed wide angle on FZ20 so much.

The UW Canon lens and FZ20 superzoom made a great combo as they complement each other well in terms of focal length. I can see no reason for letting FZ20 go away since:

a. longer-reach high profile lenses are very costly and very heavy

b. cheaper Canon zooms are just too slow and quality (esp. contrast and corners) leaves something to be desired. Having our Panas we are spoilt and take IS and constant aparture for granted. Do not make a mistake - higher quality and usability come at a cost (measured in $, cubic cm of your bag and kgs).

In principle, zooms with more than 3 or 4-times multiplier are supposed to be a compromise between quality and usability in the DSLR world, so think twice before going in for Nikon 18-200VR, similar Sigmas or Tamrons, etc. You may end up with just a notch better solution than your Pana offers.

Therefore, FZ may stay with me tilll I have bought a second DSLR-body to mount longer lens on it. In the meantime I am going to take some great pictures with my FZ20 and be happy.

So was it worth it?

Yes. Why? For me, because of the following reasons (not sure about the sequence):

1. higher ISO (fast lens required)

2. wide angle available (Pana's weakness I guess)

3. better contrast and dynamic range

4. faster AF

5. optical viewfinder

Why should you not upgrade? Because of:

1. you cannot operate PAS modes. DLSRs should help to take better pictures but they are not going to replace the photographer. So take lessons.

2. because you cannot afford better-than-the-kit lenses. Save money and wait for the prices to go down.

3.weight - it is always better to take a so-so picture with a small camera carried in your pocket or beg than not to take any picture because the camera was just not there because you were not in the mood to carry it because of weight or size.

4. resolution (more megapixels). Personally, I do not need more than 5MP. Shooting RAW+JPEG I often delete the raw file and stay with 4MP JPEG file. There are so many pictures that need only 2MP.

5. you are not comfortable with the small viewfinder (e.g. Nikon D50 comes standard with only -1.6 dioptre adjustment)

Sorry for taking it to such lenght. I hope it was helpful.
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Old Jun 9, 2006, 3:48 PM   #2
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Actually, you've presented a well-reasoned, logical, conciseand rational posting to those of us, myself included, that have super FZ digis and are exhibiting varying degrees of dSLR envy/lust...

Your point about unrealistic expectations when one moves up to a dSLR/ kit lens system is well stated. Especially about the deep pockets needed to get the IQ at long range and with kit zoom lens.

I read a posting a few weeks ago by Genece/Gene before he went on vacation to, I believe, Alaska (Gene - you back yet?) wherein he commented about having to save/look into getting a higher quality/more expensive zoom lensz for his D50. At least he still has his Pany, though.

It'll be interesting to see his posts/comments when he comes back from a trek with both digis...
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Old Jun 9, 2006, 5:43 PM   #3
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you've pretty much hit the main points. i bought an FZ20 in late 2004, and have enjoyed it immensely. i've shot thousands of pictures with it (and posted a good number of them on this board :G), and gotten some superb results, with prints up to 16x20 hanging on my walls to prove it.

in March of this year, i broke down and bought a Canon 30D, along with a pair of lenses - a Tamron 24-135, and a Sigma 80-400. those two cover an equivalent range of 36-640mm, which is about the same as what i got from my FZ20 with my TCON-14B attached. the difference, of course, is that the 80-400 alone cost me more than my FZ20, adapter, TCON, and all my filters, batteries, and SD cards combined! like you said, the kit lenses that come with DSLRs will be a disappointment to anyone spoiled by the clarity and sharpness of the Leica lens in the FZ's, and the only way to get comparable quality glassis to spend money... lots of money!

on the upside, that money you spend on a DSLR buys you some real advantages. most you've listed, but there are a few others:

much lower noise
vastly superior ability tofocus on moving subjects
the optical viewfinder makes manual focus actually feasible, and doesn't black out or freeze up in burst mode
faster frame rate
you can change shutter speeds andaperture, in the appropriate mode, by simply turning a thumbwheel... no need to take your eye from the viewfinder and play with menus
much more flexible and responsive
battery life is 1000 shots or more, compared to about 220 with the FZ20

all that being said, there is a penalty as you said, in addition to cost, and that's weight and bulk. my 30D body alone weighs more than my FZ20, and that 80-400 lens is almost 5 pounds (2.2Kg)all by itself! it's 3.5" in diameter, and fully extended, with hood, it's over 14" long... hardly unobtrusive. but it gives me excellent sharpness and clarity - on a par with the FZ20's glass - and greater range. it's stabilized, and i can take sharp, clear handheld shots at 400mm (640mm equivalent) handheld at shutter speeds a low as 1/125, which is flat-out amazing. the FZ's OIS has nothing on this lens.

my "short" lens is a Tamron 24-135, equal to 36-215mm, which is a great all-round range. it's not stabilized, unfortunately, but i made a conscious choice to trade stabilization for zoom range and macro focus. this lens will focus to less than 10 inches at full zoom - that's the same as the FZ20 focusing at 6x at the same distance, which it simply will not do, without a close-up lens like my Nikon 6T. the Tamron won't give me the close-up shots i can get with my FZ20/6T combo, but it gives me brilliant color and sharpness, especially above f6.3 (it's a 3.5-5.6 lens). it's wide enough for landscapes, especially given the DSLR's 3:2 aspect ratio (the FZ20 shoots at 5:4), and is perfect for portraits, flowers, scenery, etc.

these two lenses, with my 30D body, are all i really needfor most photographic situations (though i confess, now that i've used the 80-400 for wildlife, i find i do need more "reach", and a 2x converter is next on my list). the whole setup, with spare battery, filters, andfive 1GB CF cards, has probably set me back a hair over $3000 so far.

is it worth it? unequivocally, yes! i'm getting far more "keepers" than i ever did with my FZ20, and the photos i take require substantially less work to make them look good in terms of post processing. i can get shots with the DSLR i simply wouldn't have even attempted with the FZ, and i can crop away half the image and still have enough resolution left for a clean, clear 8x10 print. i can make a photo-quality 12x18 print with no interpolation required, and capture multiple frames of moving targets without the hassle of EVF blackout or resorting to red-dot sights (i have one on a pistol... it's not something i want on a camera!).

does all this mean my FZ is no longer valuable? not at all. i still use it from time to time, and it makes a simply awesome backup camera, or for use when weight and space are at a premium. hauling 15 pounds of camera and lenses (not counting tripod, etc.) on a long hike is not my idea of fun, and the FZ20 is a feather by comparison. it's much noisier, but i'd far rather have a noisy picture of that beautiful mountain lake than no photo at all. and that Leica f2.8 lens is 3 full stops brighter than my 80-400 at full zoom - a real bonus in low light situations (i can compensate for that somewhat with the Canon by upping the ISO, but that only buys you so much...).in my mind, the FZ and the DSLR complement each other verynicely. they both offer similar focal ranges and optical performance, and the FZ makes a perfect "second" for the Canon.
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Old Jun 9, 2006, 6:15 PM   #4
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Thanks for posting your perspective, squirl... your insights and opinions do carry weight w/ a lot of us on this forum and, like you, have found the FZ line to be just short of amazing when one considers the 'bang for the buck'.

But, alas, unless and until Pany or someone else comes out with a prosumer bridge to dSLR entry that can address the shortcomings of the FZ30, those of us are doomed to either continuous dSLR envy/lust or much, muchlighter pocketbooks... :sad:
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Old Jun 9, 2006, 6:46 PM   #5
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Such a nice well explained post!!
Seriously, this post should be mount top on the "what camera to buy" or "Newbie help" forum.

I would suggest one more point in your "Why should you not upgrade" list; that is if you want to carry an all-in-one camera that can take both photos and video.
That was basically one of the main reasons why I bought my FZ-30 instead of buying a DSLR.
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Old Jun 9, 2006, 8:06 PM   #6
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Thanks for the post - some pretty important and relevant points that anyone considering moving to a DSLR has to consider. Panasonic/Leica has spoilt us with the quality of the glass on the FZ's and like you said it is better than the glass with the std lenses bundled with the Canon350xt/20D/D50 - although the 18-70 lens on the D70 is supposed to be pretty good and the Oly Zukio kit glass has always been superior than their Canon & Nikon counterparts.

My own thoughts on an upgrade to the FZ10 are mainly for low light shooting , so I know excatly what I'd want one for. I have no inclination of selling my FZ10 at all unless its to get say the FZ40. If Panaleica introduced a 4/3 sensor with a fixed 28-200 f2.8 (thats a 14-100mm) cam I would buy it like a shot - my thoughts on a DSLR would go out of the window. I will be looking to see what the FZ40 brings to the table and I'm hoping it does something revolutionary. However, I'm realisitic and know that Panaleica want to go after the DSLR market so the chances of a DSLR beating cam with really good low light, excellent DR and combined with a top notch lens will be someway off - although Pana's own LC1 and Sony R1's are pretty close within their focal range.

Which DSLR for me then - well I'm still seriously looking at the DMC L1 - its discreet range finder looks, size (small compared to the 30D/D70/D200) and hopfeully lightwieght and most important the IQ that the Pana's have. I do have a concern over how Pana implements the Venus III engine is not as good as it should be as TZ users over at dpreview have pointed out and also that IS is in the lens and not the body. Over all I love the quality of the pic's that the FZ's produce and a lot of that has to do with the Lecia glass and if the price of the L1 and the kit lens falls into the Canon 30D price range then I will get one (You have to compare the Leica D to the equivalent Canon L glass with IS which will put you back £800=$1200) However, I won't buy at any price. If the L1 is not competitive then Sony's alpha A100 + Carl Ziess 16-80 lens should be just as good as the L1+Leica D and at a really good price point or the FZ40 or even the Sony R1 will do.



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