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Old Mar 29, 2005, 10:38 AM   #1
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I am in the process of searching for the right digital camera. I have a few on my list that I am currently comparing:

Minolta DiMAGE Z3

Olympus C-770

Panasonic DMC-FZ20

Canon PowerShot S1 IS

Canon Pro 1

I am by no means limiting myself to any of these, these are just the one's I've researched. Price cap is about $600. Camera size is not a huge issue,

I will be photographing a variety of things, such as: My kids, indoor family party's, soccer games, vacations on the beach.

I realize that there is not the perfect camera for all of these so hopefully the list below will help narrow down.
Here's my criteria:
1. I like higher optical zoom 5x or higher
2. 4 mega pix or higher
3. Fast lag time
4. Image crispness
5. Color vibrance

Please let me know what your selections are, and not just limited to the ones above, I am open to any suggestions. Thanks for your time!

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Old Mar 29, 2005, 11:35 AM   #2
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I usually totally avoid queries directed at pros or professionals because I'm not one. With that caveat I'll try to provide some input.

Stabilization is a big advantage with a long zoom. It is also great for available light shots at wider angles. The Z3 is over a f-stop slower at full zoom than the FZ20. That fritters away about half of your stabilization advantage at zoom ranges. And since stabilization doesn't help for subject movement, you can capture sports or moving subjects better with the FZ20.

It is a clear sunny day outside right now here in Florida and the sun is high. I just walked outside and metered something in the shade of my neighbor's house and came up with f2.8 at 1/50 second. That is marginal and you would have to hold the camera very steady to get a really sharp image at 420mm equivalent focal length. Without the stabilization the standard formula would call for 1/400 second if you used good technique. 1/50 second would be 3 f-stops of stabilization and I think that is hedging a tad. It is better than 2 f-stops but I won't give it a full 3. The KM Z3 would have to use about 1/20 second for that shot, which is probably too slow. Keep in mind that I am talking about getting a good shot on a clear sunny day with the sun high. Many birds and animals seem to prefer the shade, and you won't get a really sharp telephoto image of something in the shade without stabilization or a tripod.

The S1 is only 3Mp and doesn't seem to take great pictures for some reason. Canon generally makes good lenses, but people don't seem to be thrilled with the S1. The stabilization works well and it doesn't lose as much light as the Z3, although it is about a half-stop slower than the FZ20.

The Oly 770 has the advantage of size. It is very small for a super zoom camera. But it doesn't have stabilization and is probably as slow as the Z3 at full zoom – Oly is careful to not say. It also has a smaller sensor, which means higher density. That usually means higher noise.

I have a FZ10 and have no problem with the lag time due to its having an effective continuous focus. I can pre-focus most of the time for almost instant shots when I see what I want. With continuous focus you don't have to release the shutter and refocus if something moves. You do need an extra battery if you want to fill a large card and use continuous focus – CF uses more battery. There are inexpensive aftermarket batteries that work well.

The FZ20 has an exceptionally strong built-in flash as well as a hot shoe. You can get very nice flash shots with an inexpensive auto bounce flash unit. It can be hard to frame well in very low light because neither the LCD nor EVF gain up well. Other than that it is a very nice family camera.

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Old Mar 29, 2005, 6:11 PM   #3
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Yes, I think I used the word "professional" lightly, as I am no professional either, anyone's thoughts on the matter are more than welcome.

Thank you for you input. I am currently feeling that the FZ20 is the best camera for my needs, although I am still reading reviews and comparing images with the Pro1 and A95. Seems like the Minolta's and Olympus camera's in my class don't have the same level of image quality and vibrance as the Canon and Panasonic.

Thanks again, and please let me know if anyone out there has any more thoughts.

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Old Mar 29, 2005, 9:17 PM   #4
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I'm relatively new to the current crop of digital cameras, but I've done a lot of research while looking for one for myself, and while I'll agree with you about the Minolta's image quality, I'd take issue with your assessment of the Olympus. IMO it's on par with Canon and Pan, and I think if you check out the sample pix of the C-770 you'll agree. I own a C-750 (predecessor to the 770)(4MP 10X) and it's sweet. But I agree with slipe that for your use and with your price cap, the Panasonic FZ-20 is the way to go. No one seems disappointed with that one.

The A95 is a great all around camera, but only has 3x zoom. The Canon Pro1 isin a different league than even the Panasonic--but doesn't have the image stabilization or the AF assist lamp. Even so, it's a beautiful piece of equipment.
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Old Mar 30, 2005, 1:27 AM   #5
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I have the Panasonic FZ20. I think it's the best camera inits price range. I did the same kind of homework as you, and based on all the reviews I bought the FZ20. After playing around with it, I created this thread: http://www.stevesforums.com/forums/v...mp;forum_id=23. Check it out for sample pictures in various conditions.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"Now, is the FZ20 perfect? No. Here is a letter I sent to Panasonic with suggestions for their next model:

Dear Panasonic,

I am the owner of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20. I love the camera, but I wanted to make a few suggestions on how to improve on it.

1) Instead of the fixed LCD screen, make it a swivel screen. Having previously owned a Canon Powershot G5, it was a huge step backward for me not having the flexibility of the swivel screen.
2) Improve on the macro ability. Many newer cameras have a "Super Macro" mode which allow close-ups as close as 1 cm.
3) Get rid of the "dead zone" in tele macro mode. As soon as the zoom exceeds 3x, one has to step back 2 meters (!) in order to be able to focus. That's a unique problem to this camera.
4) Use a larger CCD, ideally 2/3 inch or more. While 8 or more megapixels would be great too, a larger CCD is more crucial to keep down noise and add detail. In my wet dreams, you'd employ the Fovean x3 or similar technology on a 36x24mm CCD. I know this represents a challenge given that the large optical zoom makes it tough to incorporate a large sensor into a relatively compact body. However, the Nikon Coolpix 8800 incorporates a 2/3" 8MP sensor behind a 10x lens. Despite being no technical expert, I am sure it could be done. If it resulted in a slightly larger camera, or a slightly reduced zoom (10x instead of 12x), I would accept that compromise.
5) With a larger CCD, you should be able to increase the ISO range up 1600. This would be great for indoor sports shooting.
6) Add a thread for filter attachments in front of the lens without the user having to add an adapter first.
7) Make the LCD's "gain up" in low light conditions. They are pitch black in low light conditions.
8) Strengthen the low light focusing beam, so it reaches past 10'.
9) Incorporate the improved auto focus employed in the new FZ5 model.

That's all I can think of at this time. Would be great to see some or all of these features in the FZ30 model. Other than the above points, I am very happy with your product and have recommended it to many others.

Some feedback to my requests would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for creating fantastic cameras.


Rainer Duve, Los Angeles

I hope this input helps in your decision making.

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Old Mar 30, 2005, 10:22 AM   #6
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hakaplan, after your comment on the Olympus I did go compare a few of them and stumbled across the 8080 wide angle. Very impressive. The wide angle made me think a bit about my actual usage of this camera. This would be great for family shots and indoor shots. I was also very impressed with the sharpness and all around image quality. I downloaded some samples and was very impressed, especially after adding a bit of saturation. I know this camera is in a different league, but it definetly has me thinking, it has been added to my list, probably on the level with the Pro1. Thanks for the input, let me know if you have any more input on the these camera's.

rduve, those pics are great, I especially like the close-ups of the drops of water on the leaves, great shots. I do agree that the FZ20 is one of the best in the price range, I just need to make up my mind on the price I want to spend.

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Old Mar 30, 2005, 11:59 AM   #7
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If you aren't into nature photography a wide angle might make for a better all-round family camera. In the US you can get the Minolta A200 for less than the 8080. It has a greater zoom range and stabilization. I think the images are slightly better with the 8080 at higher ISO, but you have to blow things up and look critically to see the difference. And the 8080 does seem to have more purple fringing. I don't think you would see any difference in normal every day photography and the A200 has some great features.

The A200 buffers raw shots and the 8080 doesn't. That makes raw impractical for anything but static situations with the 8080. I like the big manual zoom ring on the A200 over electric and I prefer a focus ring even though it is really electronic. The A200 also has a better movie mode – 15 fps is a little jerky. The A200 has a fully articulated LCD where the 8080 only moves up and down.

But the big difference to me is the stabilization. You can get wide angle available light shots with good indoor lighting where you need a flash without stabilization. It really adds a lot of versatility. After using it I won't buy another camera without stabilization.

I also like raw. My only camera that takes raw doesn't buffer raw shots and I really miss that feature. The cycle time isn't as long as the 8080 because it is only 5Mp, but it I still miss too many shots waiting for the thing to cycle.

You might also want to look at the Oly 5060 if the 8080 and A200 are more than you want to spend. They seem to still be making it and it is a lot less expensive with 5Mp. It doesn't quite have the zoom range of the 8080 but the wide angle is a little wider. Nice camera for the price.

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