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Old Mar 20, 2006, 11:20 AM   #1
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I have never owned a digital camera. I am looking to purchase a solid camera for $500 or less. I want to purchase a camera that will have underwater housing available for it as I hope to scuba dive when I take future vacations. There are so many factors when researching cameras that it can be a little overwhelming. I will mostly use my camera for nature, taking pictures of birds and animals. I also plan to bring my camera to sporting events and concerts, as well as taking pictures of family and friends. Hopefully I can also find a camera this is somewhat compact but this is not necessary.
Many people have suggested putting money into the optical zoom. If this is good advice, I plan to have at least 10X optical zoom. It sounds like megapixels are somewhat overrated so while it will be nice to have 8+ MPs, I may settle for 5-6 MPs. I have heard that lithium batteries are the way to go which is disappointing since most of the cameras I like take AA batteries.
With my limited knowledge, even though I have done a lot of research, I have narrowed my list of cameras I am interested in down to these three: Nikon Coolpix S4 (AA and no underwater housing), Olympus SP500 UZ (AA batteries), and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ27. All three have 2.5 inch screen, all are 6 MP as well and all have at least 10X opt zoom. All are under $500 too.
So, please give me suggestions. I want to know if I am on the right track with narrowing down to these three. I am open to suggestions of other cameras around $500 that might have what I am looking for. I am also wanting to know if I am better off increasing the amount of money for my first camera if I plan to have it for a while. I am open to suggestions regarding underwater equipment as well but I also don't want to get too overwhelmed as I am having a difficult time already just choosing the camera.

Thank you,
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Old Mar 20, 2006, 11:29 PM   #2
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Consider the Canon S2 IS
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Old Mar 21, 2006, 10:45 AM   #3
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It isn't easy to quickly acquire and follow a moving target without an eyelevel viewfinder at 3X zoom. I think it would be even more difficult with a 10X zoom with the LCD as the only viewfinder.

If you want a very small camera with a long zoom lens there isn't anything available with an eyelevel viewfinder. But if you want such a camera I would wait for the Panasonic TZ1 which should be available shortly. Image stabilization is a big help with a long zoom, and with the LCD as the only viewfinder the hold isn't as steady. The LCD on the TZ1 is also much higher quality in terms of resolution than the S4. The S4 is a nifty little camera but I would want stabilization.

The FZ 5 and FZ7 are the most compact and lightest superzooms with an eyelevel viewfinder and stabilization. I know it isn't a movie camera, but go with the FZ7 of the two. Often it is all you have with you and you want to be able to take decent movies. With the current choices of superzooms I wouldn't go with an unstabilized camera like the Oly.

The 4 NiMH AA batteries make the Canon S2 a good bit heavier than the FZ7 and it is a little bulkier. But it is an excellent camera and reasonably compact. I usually defend the lithium batteries, but I wouldn't overlook a camera I wanted to avoid AAs. They are taking orders for the S3, but at full list which is at the limit of your budget. You do avoid shipping and tax though. The S2 is a better buy right now and you can have it without waiting. The S2 and 3 have a lot of really good features. http://www50.shopping.com/xPC-Canon_...S2_IS~S-P~OR-0

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