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Old Dec 28, 2004, 7:53 AM   #1
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:?Could somebody please comment on this problem or refer me to someone else ?:

After reading lots of reviews on the pros and cons ofprosumer-class cameras and DSLR-classI am still not sure which type of digital camerais more recommendable for the special intent of shooting photos of fairly small animals:

I am an amateur herpetologist (those people loving to watch and study reptiles and amphibians in warm countries and invest time and money to crouch down and crawl on the ground with them to take a closer look) who never was interested in taking photographs until a friend lent me his simple (but high quality) Sony consumer-class digital cam which could take close-upphotos from less than 3cm.
The resulting photos of the animal life (reptiles, amphibians, insects,spiders)in Central America were so much better than expected despite the inherent restrictions of pocket-sized camerasthat I decided to join the already enthusiastic community of digital photographers andto aspire for higher quality nature- and particularly macro-photography.

I`d like to take shots of herps i.E. snakes, frogs, salamanders etc., some ofwhich allow being approached within a meter (~3 feet) or even 10 to 50 cm (~0,3 to 1,5 feet). Most, however, are shy and only allow shooting distances between 5 m and
30 meters (~15 and 90 feet). Of course, capturing some of them allows pictures from very close distances like a few cm / inches. Most Reptiles and amphibians are rather small sized i.e.the smallest to shoot rangemeasure about3 cm.

Therefore the (almost) "ideal" camera would enable me to get fairly sharppictures with good resolution to make bigger prints (in German size: up to DIN A3, which means about twicethe size of a legal letter size.), even under the outdoor condition, that I'm shooting from may be a non disturbing distance of up to 90 feet.
The possibility of a macro magnification factor of at least 1:1 or up to 2:1 would be added value.

So, would a fixed-lens "prosumer" - cam like say Nikon 8800, Panasonic Lumix FZ20,
Minolta Dimage A2 fulfill those needs or would a DSLR with interchangeable lenses serve better ? The price rangemay be within 600 to about 1500 to 1700$.
I would certainly also invest in indispensable accessories like ring-flash for adequate illumination etc. :-)Thanks a lot for your tips or comments ! Yours, Stefan
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Old Dec 28, 2004, 10:22 AM   #2
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You get less noise and a better dynamic range with DSLR. But if you want a 12X stabilized zoom on one your are talking BIG bucks unless you go with the Minolta.7D, which has the stabilization built into the camera. You would use multiple lenses on that rather than a single lens with the full 12X range. If you don't mind carrying a tripod any DSLR would do fine. I would wait for some good test reviews of the 7D if you are interested in it. DSLR is the way to go if you can afford the lenses and don't mind carrying the gear.

Of the prosumer cameras available I think you have found the best. The FZ20 allows you to handhold in lower light because of the very bright lens – it is almost 2 f-stops faster than the 8800 at full zoom which means almost ΒΌ the light required at a given shutter speed without requiring a tripod. But the FZ20 is only 5Mp where the 8800 is 8Mp. That will make some difference printing an A3, but not a lot if you don't have to crop. You get about 175PPI printing an 11 X 14 from a 5Mp image. I've run tests with my two most recent photo printers and it is almost impossible to see any improvement over 180 PPI for most photos without a loupe – and even then it is very slight. But 8Mp gives a great A3 even with some cropping and the fully articulating LCD would probably be a big help in getting good shooting angles for your critters using micro. Both cameras have excellent micro modes but you do need a circle light as the large lenses on both cameras block the built-in flash and might even block some light from an external unit if it is mounted on the camera.

I would think you would need telephoto capability rather than the great wide angle on the A2. You can get telephoto extenders for the A2 and the control setup is probably the best of any digicam. The built-in flash works fine for macro work, but you would still get better results with a circle flash made for macro. The A2 lets you still focus very close at full zoom giving more versatility. The LCD doesn't fully articulate but it does flip up as does the EVF. The EVF is better than any other prosumer camera with enough resolution to focus if you zoom the view. It also displays the focus distance in manual focus – a big shortcoming of both the FZ20 and 8800 is that they don't display the focus distance. I like the manual zoom ring, lighted status window, Adobe RGB and the abundance of physical controls. The FZ20 is almost purely menu driven and I never much liked the control system of the big Nikons. They are all useable though.

For really critical work I like raw mode and the FZ20 doesn't have it. The 8800 is slow enough in raw mode to be irritating where the A2 will give you 3 shots in raw very quickly and then slows to around the speed of the Nikon. After 5 raw shots the Nikon goes from slow to very slow. Raw lets you adjust things like white balance, sharpening, saturation etc in the software just as if you had done it in the camera, so you are concerned with only focus and exposure while shooting. It also can extract a 16 bit image although the cameras are only using 12 bit. Even so it is better than the 8 bit of TIFF or JPG and also uses a much smaller file than TIFF.

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Old Dec 29, 2004, 2:38 AM   #3
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dear slipe, thank you so much for taking the trouble to deal with my problem !
you really did a sort of comparative review on the different cams which leaves no question left. So I will take your advice and compare the different cams considering each of your arguments as a sort of checklist before buying.

:idea:And what's more you give me the idea of asking retailers to let me test some of the cams outdoors before deciding which to buy.

I hope in some future to redeem your efforts in giving my advice to the photographic community, thanks again and best wishes for a healthy and successful New Year from Germany, Bavaria, Regensburg

Stefan Lanquillon e-mail: stefanlanquillon@web.de
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Old Jan 1, 2005, 2:45 PM   #4
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Hi Stefan:

Slipe gave you some good advice.

For the type of pictures you want to take, I think a fully articulating LCD panel would be very useful to you.See the attached picture,it was taken with aolderCanon G2 with the camera right on the ground....



Attached Images
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Old Jan 1, 2005, 4:16 PM   #5
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Nice turtle.. I think the original poster is planning to take much smaller animals, but I agree that a flip-out LCD is highly benefitial (but DSLRs and many of the high-end prosumers don't have flip-out LCDs)...
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