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Old Jun 13, 2011, 3:28 PM   #1
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Default Megazoom dilemma - yet another

Hi everyone; Iím looking for some advice and would appreciate any opinion about which camera is best for me.

Last year I replaced my old point-and-shoot Kodak Z740 with a Fujifilm HS10 but only had a chance to use it a few times before it was stolen so I canít comment on its quality.

Now Iíve finally decided to get another camera and mega-zooms are still my best bet because of their versatility. This is an ever-growing sector and Iím spoilt for choice which, in theory, should be good Ė except that I canít make up my mind as the experts do not seem to agree in their reviews.

My short-list is, in order of preference:
  • Fujifilm Finepix HS20
  • Nikon Coolpix P500
  • Canon PowerShot SX30 IS
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100
Compared to many serious photographers on this forum, my requirements are modest: I donít take videos and my photos will be viewed on a 22-inch screen or printed to postcard/A5 size. Most will be taken in auto mode but I also like to play at being creative and tinker around with aperture and speed.

Apart from general family snapshots and landscapes, I would be using the camera for:
  • indoor snapshots without flash or tripod (museums, churches)
  • close-ups of interesting details on buildings (hence my wish for a long lens)
  • some macro-photography (outdoor flowers and insects)

I donít take sports photos and the fastest moving objects I photograph are leaves fluttering in the breeze; the possibility of taking indoor photos without noticeable camera shake is probably my main priority.

Although by no means an expert I also dabble in Paintshop and donít mind retouching pictures to modify colour temperature, saturation, sharpness, etc. Finally Iíve also been reading about exposure bracketing and would like to try it but itís not a deal-breaker.

My first automatic choice would have been the HS20 but I started getting second thoughts after coming across some negative articles and videos where its electronic IS system and, especially, image quality, among others, were much criticised.

At any rate, I hope the other members wonít mind me asking for their opinion (and sorry for this extra-long post).
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Old Jun 13, 2011, 4:06 PM   #2
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First, you are in entirely the wrong camera class if you want to take indoor shots without a flash. For that you need a larger sensor and/or a brighter lens, neither of which is provided by any bridge cam on the market. For $400+, you can however still find a Fuji S200, which is slightly larger and heavier than most/all bridge cams, but has a larger sensor and a 14x zoom as well.

Moving on, I would recommend the Panasonic FZ35 or FZ40 in the bridge cam class. Since video and burst aren't a concern, it makes more sense to go with a camera that will provide better still IQ. The SX30 would probably be my next choice, though it really suffers from CA, feels a bit cheap, and I didn't personally like the handling or feel of it.
Disclaimer: I take photos of life rather than live to take photos and my opinions of cameras are reflected accordingly.
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Old Jun 13, 2011, 5:57 PM   #3
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G'day Avel2

For the most part I agree with 5-O here...
Originally Posted by FiveO View Post
(If) you can however still find a Fuji S200, which is slightly larger and heavier than most/all bridge cams, but has a larger sensor and a 14x zoom as well. (then this is a great camera)
[amongst others] I have a Panny FZ35 and it has let me down too-many times in low light photography ... ISO-400 and I get yellow patches all over the image

I would suggest overall that you seek out as lowest-megapixel sensor as you can find coupled with a 12x to 18x zoom lens
1- as the megapixels are squeezed in, the pixel-size is reduced and the noise increases out of proportion to the results gained [noise looks like 'grain' back in film-camera days, as well as colour changes across the image]
2- lenses in the 12x to 18x are good quality lenses, not full of compromises as the 20x to 30x lenses must be to cover that sort of zoom range

Hope this is helpful
Regards, Phil
Has Fuji & Lumix superzoom cameras and loves their amazing capabilities
Google me at Travelling School of Photography Australia
Recent images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ozzie_traveller/sets/
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Old Jun 13, 2011, 8:38 PM   #4
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This reply is based on using the HS10 for roughly 32,500 images and the HS20 for 12,000 images so far. I have not used any of the other cameras you asked about.

I would suggest another HS10 (used or new where you can find one) or an HS20. I have taken picture indoors without a flash (in a church for a wedding) using the high ISO and low noise feature without too much of an issue, but using the flash is better when you can.

With the HS20 you can lower the MP from 16 to 14 to 12 to 8....... so when you really need to print a huge print or do a wedding and the bride wants to make a poster size print you can shoot 16MP and when you don't you can shoot at a lower MP. I have been finding that 12MP on the HS is really sweet as far as printed photos go and look nice in the local paper I work for.......

Unlike Phil I haven't really found any issues in the 20 to say 26x range of my Fuji HS20 only from 27 - 30x is it slightly soft but not to the point its a problem. I do however agree that 12x - 18x is the best range if you need perfect images, but like I said I haven't had any real issues with image quality at the long zoom.

Hope this helps.

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Old Jun 13, 2011, 9:07 PM   #5
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Photography is a compromise in just about any direction you choose to go. Out side of a dSLR, I really do not know of a camera that will do ambient low light indoors well - while having a large zoom range.

I have a Panasonic LX3 that I carry when I am unable to bring my Pentax K20. The LX3 still sells for the mid $300 to low $400 and does a wonderful job in terms of wide angles and low light. It has a Leica f2 lens, manual options and exposure bracketing capabilities. However, it is limited to a 2.5x zoom range (yes - its limited). It also has one of the largest sensors around in a P&S/bridge camera. With its resolution capped at 10MP, and with the f2 lens along with image stabilization, the combination provides it with very good low noise, in a low light situation. You can also go to ISO 80, with the upper ISO value of 400-600(?) that is really useable. You can go higher, especially with today's improved noise reduction utilities.

However, outside of a dSLR its low light capabilities are excellent... These links have a lot of explanation in them in terms of what and why I was attempting to do, along with the how. Nothing really exotic - most hand held or held down to something substantial (bench, railing, etc.) that was not going to move.
You give up the larger zoom range, however you gain everything else. There is a newer LX5 with a slightly larger zoom range, but it comes with a larger price tag.....

Last edited by interested_observer; Jun 13, 2011 at 9:40 PM.
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Old Jun 14, 2011, 3:17 PM   #6
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Thanks to everyone for their input.

FiveO has a point about the need for a large sensor and he set me thinking whether I should go for an entry level dSLR such as one of the Sony Alpha's; I've found an A100 for less than 800$ on ebay. I would lose the telephoto of course and it's about 60% more than I intended spending but the sensor is much larger than that of any bridge cam so it should be much better for indoor photography.

Interested Observer, I've looked up the LX3 and LX5. Your photos are impressive but I think perhaps it's more merit of the photographer than the camera.

Photo 5, the HS20 looks exactly like the camera which was stolen from me so buying it would be like replacing something I've lost and that is tempting. I like the manual zoom because, apart from other advantages, it apparently helps to prolong battery life. On the other hand it is heavy and when you're counting every ounce you put in your luggage that becomes an issue. I've also seen sample photos with a so-called "water colour effect" though that should not be a problem in small-sized photos.

In conclusion I'll think I'll look around online for, maybe a refurbished dSLR and see if its better IQ makes up for the lack of an ultrazoom.
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Old Jun 14, 2011, 3:22 PM   #7
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The other possibility is something like a Nikon P7000 or Canon G12, which have a decent low-light ability, but still some reasonable zoom.

Unfortunately every camera has compromises of some sort.
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Old Jun 14, 2011, 6:07 PM   #8
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Another system to consider is the mirrorless type digital cameras made by Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung, Ricoh, and Leica.

The advantage of this design is:
The ability to keep the camera body very small, while still offering interchangeable lenses.
Offering a much larger sensor than the 1/2.33 typically found in most superzooms.

Of the group, Panasonic and Olympus have been offering this type of camera for the longest time. Thus, they have the largest collection of lenses to suit most situations.

Additionally, you can use manual focus lenses originally made for 35mm film cameras. These lenses are available for modest cost as compared to AF lenses designed for dslrs

Currently, the Olympus ELP-1 micro 43 camera is available with both a 14-42mm and 40-150mm lens for 549.00 USD. Because of the 2X crop factor of fourthirds sensors, the lenses cover a focal length from 28mm to 84mm on the 1st lens and 40-300mm focal length on the 2nd.

In low light situations, I use a Minolta Rokkor 50mm f1.4 lens without a flash
I bought the lens used for 50bucks.

Just another option available to you.


So you want to be a better photographer? Open your eyes and take a look at what is all around you.
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