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Old Jun 7, 2006, 8:56 AM   #1
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I'm looking for a good (though not too pricey) camera to supplement my Canon Elph S400. I want manual settings and the "super zoom" functionality. Basically, I guess I'm looking for poor man's digital SLR. It looks like either the FZ7 or FZ20 would fit the bill, but which is the better camera? I'll admit that the Leica lens has probably swayed me towards Panasonic more thananything else. The most obvious things to me are that the FZ20 has a hot shoe (Though I don't know that I would use it much. I only used a flash on my Minolta film SLR for indoor family shots and portrait), and that the FZ7 has 6 MP as opposed to the FZ20's 5. I've looked at the reviews, but am interested in opinions from those who have used them, and also, if another Canon, or possibly Olympus or Kodak might be better for me.
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Old Jun 7, 2006, 10:42 AM   #2
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If you are interested at all in taking movies with your digital camera the FZ7 is the obvious choice. Movies from the FZ20 are too small to be worth the trouble IMO. With stabilization and VGA movies you can get decent movies with the FZ7. The Canon S2 is even better for movies because you can use the optical zoom while filming and it has wind buffered stereo mics. The FZ7 is also much more compact than the FZ20. The FZ7 also has a little better battery life than the FZ20.

The biggest advantage of the FZ20 is that it maintains f2.8 all the way to 12X. It might not seem like a big difference but shooting a bird in the shade on a sunny day is right on the edge of being able to handhold with the FZ20 using stage 2 stabilization. The good burst mode on both cameras is a big help in those situations.

The hot shoe on the FZ20 is often of limited value. Both the EVF and LCD dim so much when you are set at an appropriate shutter and aperture for an automatic flash unit that you can't see to frame in dim light. The FZ20 does have a little stronger built-in flash and better flash range at full zoom.

You might include the Canon S2 in your considerations. Besides good movies it has a flip-out LCD that is handy. There isn't much to choose between the Canon and Leica lenses – they are both very good. I'm not a big fan of the weight and hassle of four AA batteries, but the S2 gets great battery life with them.

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Old Jun 7, 2006, 12:16 PM   #3
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I think Slipe makes some good points. However, I would take issue somewhat with the idea that the hot shoe is of limited use on the FZ20. I agree completely that it is implemented in a bizarre and quirky way that takes time to get used to. Here's what is true:

if you were to use the camera in manual exposure mode, the LCD would be too dark to use. However, aperture priority does not darken until you half-press the shutter. That is irritating, but does not impede your framing. Other irritations are that it is very easy to ffail to get the shutter speedset to 1/100 (or 1/200, if that's what you want, etc.) when using aperture priority. (It defaults to the last picture's shutter speed, so I make sure to take a dummy photoat the desired speed before switching to aperture mode)Once you beat the stupid UI into submission, it is quite possible to use the hot shoe, however. I seldom take any flash pictures except with my Sunpak 383, using bounce lighting if possible. The built-in limitations beyond the kludginess of the UI include that you can't use through-the-lens (TTL) exposure -- that is, all shots are manual (this refers to the FLASH being used in manual mode, not the camera aperture/speed)-- and that you can't use the back porch for the slow synch. These are relatively standard limitations outside the DSLR world for external flash.

If you want a Leica lens, articulated LCD, and hot shoe, you might consider the FZ30 (which also takes decent video, if you care about such things). The kludgy flash UI does not seem to have changed at all with the FZ30, however.

One other thing the FZ20 (and fz30) has that the FZ7 lacks if I'm not mistaken is the ability to accept an external shutter trigger. This is really important for taking shots from a tripod in my experience.

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Old Jun 7, 2006, 2:18 PM   #4
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I think I'll pull the trigger on the FZ7. Looks like a win win for the money.
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