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Old Feb 10, 2006, 9:38 AM   #1
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I currently have an Olympus c4000 that has served me well these last few years but it's time to upgrade since I'm getting a bit more interested in photography and figure it's time to start seeing what these fancy cameras can really do.

So this is essentially what I need a camera to do:

1. It has to have enough turn-on-point-and-shoot functionality that my wife can use it without getting frustrated. She doesn't care about scene settings or any of that she just wants to be able to turn the camera on, focus, hit the button and have it cough out a picture. (I may just keep the c4000 for her and let her use that, but I'd like a camera she can use as well.)

2. I really like zoom. My c4000 had 3x optical zoom but I found that limitting, I even bought an adapter and a screw on lens that brought it up to (I think 6x zoom) but it caused a lot of distortion and made the pictures pretty awful at the full zoom length. Live and learn I guess.

3. I also really like macro shots! My c4000 had a macro/super macro mode and I used that a lot, I have an endless collection of bug pictures and I would really miss this if I purchased a camera that didn't have it.

4. I'm hoping to take a photography course soon, so I would really like a camera that has 'manual' functionality, once I learn what all the different settings do I'll definetely want to experiment with them.

5. I enjoy post processing my pictures so I'm also looking for a camera that can do RAW format. (If however it didn't have RAW I'm sure I'd find a way to live.)

5.5. Just wanted to edit and add a note to say that Movie mode is not important to me, I don't care if the camera has it or not. I also don't mind a full body camera, I'm not looking for something I can stick in my pocktet.

6. I'm trying to keep my camera purchase to around ~$800-$900CDN ($800ish USD)

So that's essentially what I'm looking for in a camera, now the specific cameras I've been looking at are:

Fuji Finepix s9000, Panasonic FZ30, Nikon d50, and the Pentax ist DL.

Is it worth it for me with the requirements above to step up to the 'budget' slr range? If I wanted to get a lens to fit either the nikon or pentax that would give the rough equivalent of 10x zoom how much would that set me back? Would the wife be able to turn out decent pictures from an SLR with just a point and shoot mentality? I love the razor sharpness of the pictures I've seen from the SLR's but I'm not going to have a huge amount of money to budget towards buying aditional lenses etc. in the future. Also another incentive for the Nikon d50 is costco here is sellingthe kitfor $890CDN ($775 USD) which is a good price here in Canada for that camera and since they aren't an authorized dealer they are extending their satisfaction guarenteed policy to cover the entire 2 years of what would have been Nikon's warranty. So if at any point in the 2 years I became dissatisfied or wanted a different camera I could simply return it and move on from there.

Is there a clear leader between the Fuji s9000 and the Pana FZ30? A lot of fuss has been made about 'noise' in the pictures but is this something a simple trip through Neat Image can weed out for me once a profile is built for the camera? Given what I've outline above am I better off getting one of these cameras over a budget SLR? I really like the idea of 10x zoom or better, and they both have macro modes so bugs watch out. (I have no idea how SLR's handle macro modes, do they need a special lens?) And finally are there any other point and shoot cameras I should be considering besides the s9000 and FZ30? I've looked at the Canon S2 IS but I'm just not overly impressed with it, but it is considerably cheaper than the others.

Anyways, if anyone can offer me any advice in sorting this out it would be very much appreciated.


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Old Feb 10, 2006, 11:06 AM   #2
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You'll find lots of posts here recently comparing the FZ30 and the S9000, and they would be ultimately cheaper than the Pentax. If your choices are between the two, and you like to post process your own photos, I'd opt for the FZ30. Then you have control over how much or how little noise you remove from the picture (and Neat Image works quite well with FZ30 photos). However, if your wife is a bigger concern then she might be happier with the S9000 - from what I saw, it processes the noise out better in jpg mode.

I would tend to get one of these 2 cameras if your wife isn't interested in learning the ins and outs of the *ist. The *ist is fairly good about doing point-n-shoot things with the modern lenses, so shouldn't be totally ignored, but the 2 fixed lens cameras take nice photos, are more point-n-shoot like, and are quite a bit cheaper.

If you are buying for yourself, I would highly recommend the Pentax. The kit lens is quite good, and while it wouldn't offer you all the zoom you want, you could potentially pick up an older, used Pentax lens and have 2 lenses that would cover as much or more than what the FZ30 and the S9000 would. Pentax has by far the best backward compatible lens system, which would give you the option of picking up some older, nice lenses for less than a new one would cost you (and yes, you sometimes give up modern functions when you do that, it depends on the lens). I'm not that crazy about the all-in-one lenses - I've never tried one but the photos I've seen posted show that they don't have as good quality as some of the other, older, lenses, so I'm going to pass on getting one. If that is a primary concern for you, then the Panasonic or the Fuji make more sense.

However, the quality of picture you get out of the Pentax is (to me) significantly better than the other 2. I owned an FZ30 for a month but couldn't get what I wanted out of it - it didn't have as much dynamic range or capture as much detail as I wanted. I bought a *ist DS with kit lens at Costco 2 weeks ago and love it! I've been using either the kit lens or (more often) a 20 year old, manualKiron 80-200 zoom. My flower photos are (to my eyes) signficantly better.

It's all a personal thing, and all a compromise. Is the quality of the FZ30 or the S9000 photos pleasing to you? If so, then get one of them because they offer all kinds of room to grow and develop as a photographer, then perhaps go with a dSLR in a couple of years. If you aren't going to be happy with the quality of the photos then get the Pentax *ist. I'm so glad I did!

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Old Feb 10, 2006, 2:43 PM   #3
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If you think your going to spend the time and learn some of the advanced ins and outs of the camera, a DSLR gives you more room to grow (and MUCH more ways to spend money). With a good lens you can get some incredibly sharp pictures from one, but with a budget super zoom lens your not usually going to get the most spectacular results. That dosent mean you have to spend a bunch on money on lenses, just shop carefully and realize that you will be changing leses from time to time (forget the all-in-one setup).

The most important difference from the digicams to the DSLR's is probably depth of field, you'll have a much shallower DOF with a SLR which can be good or bad (in low light that requires a large aperture your stuck with it, but a defocused background would look great in your bug pictures).

I recently upgraded from a high-end digicam (minolta A1) to a DSLR (5D), and I wouldnt go back. Initially they *can* cost the same, but probably you'll spend a bunch more on the SLR system (add a telephoto lens and macro lens to the kit). The hope is that you'll keep most of that system if you upgrade again later, where you start from scratch with a digicam if you need to upgrade.

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Old Feb 10, 2006, 2:57 PM   #4
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Thank you for taking the time to reply.

The point you make about potential savings by carrying over lenses to future SLR upgrades is a good one. How 'compatible' are lenses generally? For instance if I get a Nikon d50 now and buy lenses for it, am I going to be stuck with Nikons for the rest of my natural life or will I be able to pick up a pentax and slap my lenses on that?

You mentioned that I don't need to spend a lot of money on lenses, just shop smart. What would be an appropriate amount to pay for a decent lens for a dSLR that would allow me to get a decent amount of zoom?

Thanks for the replies,

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Old Feb 10, 2006, 6:54 PM   #5
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if you buy nikon lenses, you are stuck with nikon.

and you do get what you pay for in lenses. a good lens will set you back at least $400 dollars.

some things to keep in mind.
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Old Feb 10, 2006, 11:21 PM   #6
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I don't think there are lenses that go across platforms, each manufacturer has their own mounts and electronics. While I can use all my old manual Pentax lenses on the *ist DS or DL, a friend of mine tried to use some equally old Nikon manual lenses on a Nikon digital camera (don't know which one) and they didn't work. I asked about the price of one of the 18-200 mm lenses and they were around $395. Once I started seeing the lovely results with my manual lenses, I decided to hold off on buying a new one. Perhaps I'll check out a camera show or two and look at used lenses.
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Old Feb 11, 2006, 12:53 PM   #7
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You could consider a Canon S2.

It has a very interesting 0 cm macro function and definitely a nice zoom (12x) with a good image stablizer which makes it useful.

I did a few test shots with it, and the pictures came out great on auto in the store, so I would think it would be a good camera for the entire family.

You can add vebal notes to your pictures, too using the build in microphone. This microphone is also very good when shooting movies, including the wind noice reducing setting which actually works.

drawback: no tiff or raw format.

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