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Old Oct 20, 2005, 8:19 PM   #1
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So my camera's about to crap the bed, and it's about time I get a new one. I got a Fuji FinePix 3800 almost 3 years ago... when I got it, it was the one of the best optical zoom models I could find, which was a major selling point for me.

It had it's ups and downs, but overall I was satisfied. The zoom was great.

The biggest problem I had was shakieness, which I've seen with a bunch of other cameras too. I've found that when the flash isn't on, the image comes out very shakey in lower light situations. It doesn't shake with the flash on, but then everything far away comes out too dark, even if I cover the flash. I've taken a lot of pictures covering the flash so that I at least get a clear picture, even if I have to brighten it in photoshop. It was always so dissapointing to see how bright the images could be without the flash, but there was just so much shaking in the image. I finally invested in a tripod, which helps me when I'm taking pictures of landscapes or fireworks or anything, but I can't bring a tripod to a concert.

But anyway, I figured if there's any cameras out these days that can take a clear picture in low lighting without the flash on, that people here would know.

So what's a good camera to get? I like having zoom. I know that there's some with 10x now, and possibly more. Zoom is always a plus for me. I don't care greatly about megapixels, they're not a big selling feature for me... as long as the image is the size of my desktop, it's big enough ;-)

Also, I'd like to get something a little more slim if possible. The 3800 was just too big to stick in a pocket... something that's thinner and longer like most cameras are would be nice... I tour with a band, so it's nice to have a camera in my pocket to capture any of the cool things we do. But this also isn't a huge issue, as I'm considering that if it's the best solution, to get something simple to take around with me, and something else for concerts.

Well I think I've rambled enough for now.

Thanks for any suggestions.

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Old Oct 20, 2005, 9:20 PM   #2
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Taking existing light photos at a concert is a serious challenge. I have specialized in theater and concert photography for the last five years. You will need a digital camera that has seriously high ISO capabilities. The Fuji 3800 certainly does not have ISO capabilities.

Point and shoot digital cameras such as the Kodak P-850 are marginally capable. Most likely, your best best is a dSLR camera with ISO 3200 capabilities such as the KM 5D, the Pentax 1st DS, and the canon 20D.

Here is an example of what can be done with a dSLR camera.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Oct 20, 2005, 10:57 PM   #3
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Justin, I'd like to suggest that before you spend your money on a new camera, you take the time to learn a bit about the basic principles of photography. You don't have to get a degree in the subject, but it would help you a lot to know what "aperture" means, and "shutter speed" and "ISO", and how they work together to determine how much light your camera captures ("exposure").

Then you would understand why those low-light zoom shots are blurred by camera shake. And why your technique of turning on the flash but covering it avoids the blur but with the result of underexposed images.

You can find out a lot by looking up confusing terminology in the "Digicam Dictionary" on this site. But for a good, crash course, I recommend you visit Fred Parkers photography site at http://www.fredparker.com/ and find the link (near the bottom of the page) to his "Ultimate Exposure Computer". Spend a little time with it, and a lot of things that have been confusing will start to make sense.

As Sarah has already pointed out, a digital SLR is your best bet for available light photography, especially if you need zoom. If your budget is unlimited and you're willing to carry around a lot of equipment, you really shouldn't consider anything else. Otherwise, you need to be aware of the strenths and weaknesses of the alternatives.

You will find that a lot more "ultra zoom" cameras are available than when you bought your Fuji, and they've come a long way. But low light zoom shots are still a challenge for most of them.

I like the Panasonic zoom cameras, myself. Like a few others, they have a feature called "image stabilization," which makes it possible for you to hand-hold the camera at longer shutter speeds. That means you can sometimes avoid the blur caused by camera shake. (However it doesn't do anything to reduce the blur caused by your subjects' movement.) They also have good lenses that are "brighter" (or "faster") than most when zoomed all the way in. This allows you to use faster shutter speeds, which helps to avoid blur caused by camera shake AND subject motion. But they do not offer high ISO options, which would also allow faster shutter speeds.

Panasonic cameras are often criticized for the "noise" in their photographs, especially those taken in low-light situations. This is (in my opinion) a perfectly valid criticism, but many people seem to think it's much more significant than it is. All I can say is that you've been brightening severely underexposed images in Photoshop, you have certainly encountered noise in images. And I think you would find less noise in correctly exposed images from a Panasonic FZ5 or FZ20.

I think the FZ5 sounds like the ideal camera for you. But there are a lot of other options, and you should check them out to see which one suits you best.
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Old Oct 20, 2005, 11:41 PM   #4
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You got good advice from the first 2 responders.

Image stabilization is a nice feature for ultra zooms.

You might like the Panasonic FZ-5. However, the Panasonics don't usually really do well in low light. At high ISO's (400 and above), there is usually a lot of noise in the pictures.

You might ask Sarah what she thinks of the Fuji FinePix S5200. I don't think it will have the light capabilities of DSLR's, but it's pretty good compared with other cameras in that price range. It has a 10X optical zoom.

Good light!
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Old Oct 21, 2005, 10:54 AM   #5
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robbo is correct-

I spent 2 1/2 years and three Panasonic FZ cameras, hence a buch of money,attempting to make them work for concert and theater photography and they are nice cameras that are very capable indeed under normal lighting conditions, but they cannot cut it in consistent low lighting conditions. That is just my experience, your mileage may vary.

As I mentioned cameras such as the Kodak P-850, the Fuji S-5200, and the Fuji S-9000 may possibly be able to handle the task to your liking. I have personally only attempted it with the Kodak P-850 when I was doing a review on it, and if you are not picky, it is OK.

I normally use a Canon 20D and a Pentax 1st DS and have achieved very nice existing light or no flash results, such as shown in the photo with my first post.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Oct 21, 2005, 9:18 PM   #6
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The Panasonic FZs will do fairly well at a concert. With f2.8 out to full zoom on some models and the stabilization, bright stage lighting is usually good enough to get decent shots. The problem is that stabilization doesn't help for subject movement. If you use the excellent burst mode and time your shots you can usually get some good shots – albeit with some blur in the drummer's hands. You need to work on a steady hold. With the larger FZs I find I have to put my left hand under the lens rather than try to hold the end.

I see one FZ3 available new. The FZ1, 2 & 3 have the advantage of about a half f-stop faster at full zoom than the FZ5. From what you say your use will be, an older used model might be cheaper and better for your purposes. The FZ5 is a nice camera, but with a bit slower lens. The FZ15, 20 & 30 would be too large if your Fuji is too large presently.

You need an ISO around 800 to be the equivalent of a stabilized shot at ISO 100. The ISO 100 shot from the Panasonic would be less noisy than anything but a DSLR at ISO 800. The advantage of the high ISO is that it will allow you to use a higher shutter speed and freeze the action better. Some of the Fuji models seem to be the best smaller cameras for high ISO.

A DSLR is the obvious choice for concert photos, but a good DSLR with a bright lens would probably be too pricey and too large.

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Old Oct 21, 2005, 9:33 PM   #7
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I think you'd be better off with a Canon DSLR 'cause the image quality is good right up to ISO3200 (very sensitive to light).

I don't know how close you could get to the stage, but if you can get within 50 feet you could use a really fast prime lens like a 28mm or 50mm, preferable with a F2 or wider max aperture.

I use a 50mm F1.4 Canon lens for my low light situations.

-- Terry
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Old Oct 26, 2005, 9:15 PM   #8
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By coincidence, there are new some shots in Steve's Panasonic forum that demonstrate what the FZ20 can do in a concert setting:


(Link may wrap. If you prefer, you can also search for the thread with the title, "Welcome to My nightmare!")

And also (if it's allowed) this post about the FZ5 in the Panasonic forum at DPR:


(Again, it may be easier to go to the site and find the thread beginning "FZ5 in concert:")

Both threads mention the undeniable truth that concert pictures like these are difficult to get. If you choose any non-SLR digital camera for the job, you'll want to shoot a lot and hope some turn out reasonably well.
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Old Oct 26, 2005, 10:09 PM   #9
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I was impressed by the links you supplied of Concert Photos done with the Panasonic FZ series cameras. Over a nine month period I used the FZ-10 and FZ-20 for concert and theater photography. I was very disappointed with my results.

I moved to dSLR cameras. The Canon 20D and the Pentax 1st DS are my favorites. Here is a sample photo from the Canon 20D.

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Old Oct 27, 2005, 12:35 PM   #10
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The pictures from the FZ20 look OK, but they're nothing compared to the other pictures taken with SLR's in this thread.

I have a Canon Powershot S2, it takes more or less the same quality of pictures (will try to post some later), but still they have a little noise on ISO200, and a lot of noise on ISO400, and even more if you adjust exposure compensation. If you postprocess them on the pc with noise reduction, they can be quite OK, but still not as good as what you can get from a dSLR.

The Alice Cooper shots are great for personal / forum use, to show your friends or to get some normal prints, but for a magazine or professional use they're by far not good enough. It all depends on what you want the pictuers for and how much you want to spend.

By the way, if you want a SLR with picture stabilizer, Canon has IS lenses for the Rebel cameras, but they're really expensive. If your budget is around 500 USD, get a Panasonic FZ20, a Canon S2 IS or a Sony H1, but if you can spend around 1000 -1500 USD and you're willing to carry a bag with different lenses and more equipment in order to get really professional shots, go for a dSLR.

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