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Old May 8, 2009, 1:07 PM   #1
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Default Camera for Alaska trip

We are taking an Alaska cruise and Alaska land tour in a month and need a new camera and/or camcorder. A guide on a bear excursion that we have booked said that some people use each but recommends a 25x zoom.

I am down to the Nikon P90, Canon SX1 IS, Canon SX10 IS, Panasonic DMC-FZ28 and Sony HX1. I expect to take more still photos than video, but have some interest in both. I want to be able to maintain photos and video on an iMac.

Thanks for any suggestions or recommendations?
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Old May 9, 2009, 7:52 AM   #2
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Hi Bruce:
I have about six digital cameras and love the long zooms. However, don't forget that big landscapes require a Wide Angle! We spent a couple weeks roaming around inland in Alaska, and a week cruising down the inland waterway. The long zoom is great for the wild life, but I sure could have used a 27mm (equivalent) for the landscapes.

For that reason, I am considering on adding the new Olympus SP-590 to my gear. That, along with my old Nikon 8800 (with the pivoting display) is probably going to be with me from now on - until I find a camera with all the features of both!
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Old May 10, 2009, 9:34 AM   #3
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I also booked a vacation to Alaska (cruise). I just ordered panasonic fz28, I'm going the first wk. in Aug. If your going before me let me know on the do's & don't.

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Old May 10, 2009, 10:05 AM   #4
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Morning Bruce,

My wife and I have been to Alaska twice on the Inside Passage cruise and it is beyond description. You will have a wonderful time. Cameras - well, I have a couple of general suggestions .....

1. Since you only have a month until you leave, I would order or pick up if you buy locally as soon as possible. Some of the cameras are in short supply - mainly the Panasonic, so do not wait. Also, if your undecided across say two models, order from some place that will take returns, so that you're able return the one that you do not want - doing it in parallel rather than serially. You are going to need at least a week playing with it so as to get use to it, because once on vacation it will go quickly.

2. Learn about stitching, and that is taking a number of images side by side and then via software "scotch taping" them together. You want about 30% overlap. Try it out at home first, so that you know what your doing when in Alaska and things will turn out. Also use the camera in portrait mode (on it's side) too, this way you are able to get additional vertical space into the frames and images. The stitching software comes with the camera, plus all the popular digital software packages support it also.

3. What ever camera you order, order another 2 or 3 batteries - one for the camera, one (or two) for your pocket, and one back in the cabin getting recharged. You do not have to buy them from the same place that you get the camera from, there are battery places on line that offer good prices and fast shipping. Just google the battery for the camera you wind up selecting.

4. Especially since your thinking about at least some video, go to newegg.com and order additional 8GB memory cards. They are cheap. I would take at least 4, unless you are taking a laptop to down load the images to, which in that case you would probably only need 2.

5. What ever camera you select - for the bears, figure out continous shooting pictures (not video). I did not do this and went whale watching and only was able to get one shot of the whale breeching in front of the glacier. You will burn up a lot of images, but you will get more than one of what you want and went for. Test it out at home before you go

So, back to your original question - which camera... First, I do not have any of them. I concur with Greybeard to not short change the wide side, since the vistas there are endless and just a single frame will not do it justice - hence the stitching suggestion.

I have a Panasonic LX3 - which will NOT work for you since it is very zoom limited. The reason why I bring it up is the Panasonic FZ28 has a great and well deserved reputation and a large following (and it is also in short supply, so if its your choice, order right away, and check to make sure it is not back ordered, and get a tracking number to follow it to your door step). Panasonic does a good job, has a lot of commonality across models, so it would be very high on my list. I would just leave it in IA mode and shoot away.

The Panasonic FZ28 is a bit short in the zoom range, however this is a very wide range to do well across. The FZ28 has a Leica lens that is f2.8 to 4.4 which is a tad better that all of the other selections - especially for low light fully zoomed out.


The Canons - Canon SX1 IS, Canon SX10 IS- I did a little reading, the main difference is the sensor type other wise they appear to be essentially the same. Some of the tests of the SX1 indicated a lot of noise everywhere, Plus the SX10 had many more reviews 10 to 1.


The Nikon P90 has the widest and longest zoom. It is also the newest camera of the bunch you identified. There are not a lot of reviews available. Amazon probably has the most reviews to offer and they are generally good, while there are always folks that will complain. The most complaints were that at 24x zoom the images were fuzzy, but then its zoomed longer that the other - so you were able to get a picture. (also remember even at 18x zoom - you can crop the image so that it equals a 24x zoomed in picture - so all is not lost).


One selection that you did not have is the Pentax X70 - Same zoom factor as the Nikon, and it is even newer, so reviews are sparce also. Appears to do much better than the Nikon, but the problem is the battery life (so if you go this route, buy the 4 extra batteries, and have an 3 in your pocket). There are also limitations of zooming while in video (it uses digital zoom rather than optical zoom). Folks have returned the Nikon and took the Pentax.


Sony HX1 - This is just as new as the Nikon and Pentax, and appears to have received limited but some pretty good reviews. It is not as cutting edge at 9MP and 20x zoom. It has a neat feature to automatically stitch images together.


So it all boils down to what you actually want. The consertive selection would be the Panasonic FX28, If I wanted the absolute most zoom and was willing to gamble a bit - then the Pentax X70. However if I wanted something a bit more in the zoom area than the FX28 and did not want to go all the way out to the edge (24x) then I would go with the Canon SX10 or the Sony as the middle of the road. The difference between the SX10 and the HX1 is probably slight but the Sony lens is a bit faster for low light in full zoom and has a slightly higher ISO for low light.

Anyway, that is just my 2 cents....
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Old May 10, 2009, 11:28 AM   #5
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Default Camera for Alaska

You will have the trip of a lifetime! I visited Alaska last May, my son is in the Coast Guard stationed in Ketchikan. I took my Canon S3 IS and got many nice photos, I debated taking my DSLR but in hindsight was glad I didn't. I purchased the Canon SX10 and love it, big improvement over the S3. The SX10 lens is wide enough to capture the vastness and the 20x zoom is excellent! I have posted a few from my trip with the S3 and a couple with the SX10. I hope you have a great trip and post some of your photos here when you get back!!

Bob H.

Last edited by bhammitt; May 25, 2009 at 9:35 AM.
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Old May 10, 2009, 11:35 AM   #6
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Default Sx10

One landscape and a bird at full zoom from 20 feet away out my kitchen window.

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Old May 10, 2009, 1:02 PM   #7
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I would look at the SP-565 UZ Digital Camera, butr does have the drawback of using xD cards.

Another camera to look at is the Exilim Ex-FH20. It uses SD/SDHC cards.

Both of these cameras use AA batteries. As was mentioned earlier and I CAN NOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH take 3 sets of batteries with you at the highest mha you can find (look for 2700 and 2900 ratings -- newegg and bhphotovideo sell these in sets of 4 and 10) and a charger. Also take plenty of memory cards with you (way more than you think you could ever fill) or carry a hard drive/memory cards reader device like Wolverie flashpack700 or Jobo etc (where you can copy the memory cards to and reuse the memory cards) or carry a laptop and make sure the laptop has ample room on the hard drive (or carry DVDs to burn the pictures to) as you go.

As for capturing pictures of wildlife like Whales and Eagles think continuous/sports mode if you want stills, sure you get way more pictures than you want or need bit you can pick the perfect shot and delete the rest at the end of the day or end of the trip. However if you can get Eagles in flight you will want a video I am sure. Videos will eat a lot of memory so be prepared with plenty of memory. Also check to make sure the camera you get can record longer videos. Some cameras are limited to shorter videos, while others can write till the card is full.

Good luck in the hunt and have a great trip. Don't skimp on memory and storage options. From what my uncle told me he was sorry that he did (he used an Olympus C-770 with 2x 2GB xD cards) and ended up in the middle of the trip trying to find more cards for sale at a very very high price (and only in 512MB size).

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Old May 11, 2009, 12:46 PM   #8
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You should also add the new Kodak Z980 Camera to your list. It has 24X optical zoom and a 26mm wide angle lens for around $(US)350.

Sarah Joyce
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