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-   -   Think I want a super-zoom. Which one? (

JohnnyKay Dec 6, 2006 7:45 PM

Hi. I'm looking for a camera for my wife.

The camera will mainly be used for pictures of kids & sports, primarily outdoors. So the main things she'd like to have are a good zoom capability, low shutter lag and quick picture-to-picture capability.

While a DSLR may be able to do some of these things better, I'm not sure she has the time right now to get up the SLR learning curve. Probably better to get a camera that's largely p&s, but may allow some additional control that she could play with and then decide if a DSLR might be the way to go further down the road.

Good low-light performance would be a bonus, but the shutter lag & picture-to-picture delay are probaby more important.

And I don't know how important IS might be if most of the subjects are moving.

Are any of the super zooms better for what we want? Any ideas or suggestions? Need any more info?


mtclimber Dec 6, 2006 8:53 PM

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You have expressed a very common bit of mis-information about what IS really does. IS is just what it says: image stabiliztion at the camera. Thus it compensates for those small involuntary movements that the camera user might make while taking the photo. It does NOTHING at all to the subject or subjects in the photo. It is especailly useful in a long zoom camera, because the slightest motion of the camera by the user is shown in the photo at the same multiplier as the optical zoom.

Therefore, if your wife has zoomed the camera out to 10X optical zoom, that very tiny, involuntary movement that she made as she released the shutter would be magnified or enlarged by 10X or 10 times in size in her photo.

The obvious choices in ultrazoom cameras equipped with ISare: the Sony H-2 and H-5, the Canon S-2 and S-3, and the Panasonic FZ-7.Most objective reviewers will acknowledge that while the Panasonic FZ-series cameras do very well in good (read: regular outdoor sunshine)the FZ-7 at ISO setting of 200 and above show noticable visible noise in low light level shots. The Canon S-2 and S-3 have gotten good reviews, but like the Panasoic FZ-7 weaken at ISO settings of 200 and above. The Sony H-2 and H-5 have gotten very good reviews and hold their photo quality without much noticable noise at ISO settings at and below ISO 400.

I ownboth theH-5 and S-2myself and really like the Sony H-5 the best. It is a greatcamera. The lens is an excellent Carl Zeiss lens, I like the the sharp, highly defined 3" LCD, the excellent EVF, and I especially like how the H-5 performs at ISO 400.

Attached you will find a sample photo from the H-5. It was taken handheld, without flash, at ISO 400, from a distance of about 60 feet.


JohnnyKay Dec 7, 2006 7:25 AM

Thanks for the input and clarification. For some reason, some of the info I have read made it sound like IS was less effective when shooting a moving subject vs. a stationary one.

I'll try to give each of those cameras a closer look.

Thanks again,

mtclimber Dec 7, 2006 9:47 AM

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Here is a nice sunrise shot done this morning with the Sony H-5.


JohnnyKay Dec 7, 2006 10:00 AM

Very nice shot!

Do you think the differences between the H5 vs. the H2 are worth the extra $ to most users? Looks like 7 vs. 6 mega-pixel and the 3" vs. 2" inch LCD (with the 3" also higher res) are the only major differences. I can probably guage the value of the bigger LCD when I check them out. Wondering if you have any thought on the added pixels.

Thanks again,

mtclimber Dec 7, 2006 10:26 AM


Technically, there is not much difference photowise between the H-2 and the H-5. The only real difference is the 1.2mp in resolution and the somewhat smaller LCD. Iwent to purchase the H-2 and they had none in stock, so I purchased the H-5.

Bottomline, if I had to do it again, I would save the money.


JohnG Dec 7, 2006 10:56 AM


Back to your original question - the statistics you want to look at in revies are:

frames per second (actually part of the specs for a camera) - this will tell you how much lag there is between shots

shutter lag (some reviews time this) - the amount of time that elapses between the shutter being pressed and the shot firing.

The other factor is how good the servo tracking is on the camera - I don't know if any of the camera reviews consider it - but it's important for your intended use.

But the first two should be discussed in steve's reviews of a given camera or in reviews in other places like DP Review.

bobbyz Dec 7, 2006 12:04 PM

To MT,

The theater shot, shows EV of -2. Was it taken in RAW or jepg and what kind of PP if any?

Personally I think at the web size posted any camera picture would look ok, even if taken at ISO400.

mtclimber Dec 7, 2006 1:07 PM


The theater shot wasset-up this way:first I set the ISO ISO 400/ then with trial exposures, I reduced the Exposure using Exposure Compensation until I got the facial tones to the proper exposure. Then I shot the posted shot.

Post processing was done in Paint Shop Pro where I tried to take the most advantage of the backlighted backdrop.


RedBlur Dec 7, 2006 2:17 PM


I own one of the cameras mtclimber mentioned - the Canon S3IS, as well as a Sony DSC S600 and a Nikon D50. I also had a Panasonic FZ7 for a couple of weeks that I ended up returning for the Canon. Both have image stabilization, which does work, but still requires the user to practice good technique. In certain instances I could get sharp pictures with pretty low shutter speeds hand-held. All the attributes of the Canon and the Panasonic have been well documented in the reviews out there from Stevesdigicams, dcreview, etc., so I won't rehash old news – I'll just toss out some of my own experiences. First of all, all the cameras mtclimbermentioned are excellent cameras and all are capable of taking excellent photographs. My Nikon D50 dSLR is pretty compact, and actually quite easy to use, as dSLRs go. It takes as good or bad a photo as the operator instructs it to. In other words, I don't think your wife would have any problems using one, but also think either one of the other cameras mentioned are capable of excellent results with less cost and in a smaller, more compact package. Despite being a compact dSLR, my D50 is bulkier and heavier than my S3IS.That is the beauty of these ultrazooms.The Canon S3IS, Panasonic FZ7, and the Sony H2/H5 pack a lot of performance into smaller packages, yet they all feel good in the hands and "handle" well (though one will likely feel better overall to you or your wife). With an ultrazoom you get a very broad focal length range without ever having to change lenses, so you need not worry about introducing dust and other debris onto the surface of the sensor's low pass filter. While I can get a much wider angle of view from my D50's 18-55 kit lens (27-82.5mm in 35mm equiv.) and up to 450mm with my 70-300 lens,the Canon is pretty good with a range of 36mm to 432mm in 35mm equiv. You'd be changing lenses fairly often to take advantage of that kind of range.

Here's what I liked about the Panasonic FZ7:

Sharp Leica labled optics produced very sharp and detailed photos

Pretty accurate, if not slightly flat colors (at least compared to Canon)

Solid feeling and well built, nice feel to buttons and controls, simplified menu system, good video capability, light weight

2.5 in LCD is bright and colorful, though a tad grainy – has feature which allows you to see the image on the screen when raised up overhead for shots over a crowd for example

Pretty good software

Very fast focus speeds and generally very fast shooting performance/burst speeds

Image Stabilization (IS) works well – especially with long focal lengths

What I didn't like: Imager Noise. That's it. Most of my photos came out really sharp and detailed, but occasionally with very noticeable noise. Prints at 4x6 usually came out beautiful though. In the end I returned it for the Canon S3IS because I had only 2 weeks to make a decision to keep it or return it (Circuit City). In retrospect I did not have many photos with bad noise issues, but enough that I knew I'd always be looking for it.

Here's what I like about the Canon S3IS:

Packed with features

Very smooth zoom that can be used with video (most don't allow it)

Articulating lcd screen makes getting tough shots easier, self portraits, etc.

Vibrant colors out of the camera

Excellent video, records sound in stereo, can zoom and take photos during video

IS works well

Snappy performance, very quick start up, low shutter lag, fast focus speeds, quick shot to shot, can shoot on burst till card is full

Solid feel, well laid out controls, feels very good in your hands – a joy to use

Accessory lenses, filters, and flashes available (requires adapter tube)

Uses 4 AA batteries – alkaline AAs can be found anywhere in a pinch

Don't like:

LCD screen could be larger and brighter

Focus hunt/difficulty attaining focus lock at long focal lengths, esp in low light

Autofocus system can struggle with low contrast situations/ object is close to your subject

Colors can be too vivid at times; highlights tend to get blown out/clipped

Lens cap falls off easily - does prevent lens damage if cap on when cameral turned on

While optics are sharp, not as sharp as Sony or Panny

While not as noisy as Panny, more imager noise than some others at ISO 200 and up

I mention the Sony S600 I own because I'm constantly impressed by the image quality this little thing delivers. I see similar traits in H2/H5 images: excellent color, sharpness, and detail along with much better than average high ISO performance than most other non-dSLR sensor equipped cameras.

I bought the Sony (after I'd purchased the Canon) mostly to take along on mountain bike rides. If I had it to do over, I probably would have purchased the H5 instead of the Canon since experiencing the Sony's picture quality. That said, I would have missed the articulating screen though, and I'd always have wondered if I would be missing out on the Panasonic's ultra fast performance and compact size. In the end there is no perfect ultrazoom. I would suggest you get out and try each camera at least once to get a feel for them. You can't go wrong with any of them, so it could come down to which feels better in your wife's hands. Narrow it to 2 and buy from a store that allows a trial period in case you feel you would prefer the other one after living with it for a while.My wife liked the FZ7 the most by the way.

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