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Old Nov 30, 2006, 11:04 AM   #1
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I'm looking to purhcase a new camera for hobby outdoor stationary and mobile objects (animals, landscape) as well as indoor and outdoor portrait shooting.

I have some old film SLR experience, but never owned a digital one. I've been trying to decide between an ultrazoom and a dSLR. I have an old (15-20 years) standard canon lens, and have access to a canon zoom lens (don't know the numbers). I'd like to reuse those lenses.

Anyway, I like the low price, high zoom, and adjustable features of the ultra zoom cameras, but I understand that the digital SLRs are much higher quality, as in they can capture pictures more quickly, have less grain at higher ISO levels, are generally higher quality, are easier to manually focus, have exchangable lenses etc...

The problem I have is that I really don't want to spend more than 500 dollars, and I'd prefer to spend less than 350. I know I can get an excellent ultra zoom for under 300, but if I want to buy an SLR I'll have to spend at least 500.

Can somebody give me a rundown of the differences between the ultra zooms and entry level Canon dSLRs? My real concern is cost and the fact that if I spend money on an ultra zoom I'll have a whole package I can use whereas with an SLR I'd have to buy lenses and other peripherals.

Also if possible can somebody suggest a year or two old dSLR body, maybe 4-5 megapixels, that might be cheaper than the more recently released dSLRs? (it seems that people tend not to want to part with their old SLR's even if there's better technology and it's difficult to get a better price on technology that's slightly worse than the present standard).

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Old Nov 30, 2006, 12:39 PM   #2
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Can somebody give me a rundown of the differences between the ultra zooms and entry level Canon dSLRs? My real concern is cost and the fact that if I spend money on an ultra zoom I'll have a whole package I can use whereas with an SLR I'd have to buy lenses and other peripherals.
It seems you already have a pretty good handle on the situation. DSLRs have a much lower pixel density in the sensor and give you much less noise and a little better dynamic range.

The small sensor on the ultrazoom cameras give some advantages though. To get f2.8 to f3.3 at 420mm equivalent focal length with a large sensor would require a very large, heavy and expensive lens. Add the advantage of optical image stabilization and you can shoot wildlife without a tripod at ISOs that give good images.

Whether or not noise is a problem in an image involves variables. One is how large you want to print or display it and/or how much it has to be cropped. Most shots from stabilized super zoom cameras in decent light can be printed 8 X 10 and look great without a lot of work. For larger prints you can use noise reduction software. I find that works best in an image editor because you can remove noise just from areas like the sky and shadows that really need it without softening other parts of the image. You can do that even with the free version of Neat Image by putting the reduced image in a layer over the original and just erasing the parts that don't need noise reduction. It is a little less hassle with a plug-in.

You get the best dynamic range shooting in RAW. If the camera you are considering doesn't shoot raw or if the raw workflow is too much hassle for you, get a camera with no less than five levels you can set for contrast. The lower the contrast the greater the dynamic range. Any method you use to raise the contrast in editing loses some of the dynamic range, but it is there to use as you see fit.

The electronic viewfinders (EVF) on any of the ultrazooms will seem really poor after using a film SLR. Your SLR viewfinder is better than many DSLRs, but much better than an EVF. The EVF has some advantages once you become accustomed to the lower quality. Most zoom for focusing which makes them a little more accurate, although not as good as a DSLR. But the EVF shows the image not only after it has passed through the lens but also through the processor. It will alert you to gross errors in your settings just looking through it. You also have a lot more information available in the display. A great tool is the real time histogram if you always keep it in view and learn to use it.

You would probably want to limit your used SLR body to Canon since you have lenses you want to use. You can get a decent 6Mp camera in your price range if you intend using your lenses. You can almost get an entry level new DSLR in your price range. If you consider that route ask on the Canon DSLR board for specific recommendations.

I spent a good part of my life carrying around film SLRs and the stuff required to make them a versatile tool. I also always had a small 35mm to carry around. My last was a little 3X Konica with a 28mm wide. I found that over the years I had more photos with my small carry cameras than with my SLRs. With the small cameras requiring higher ASA film and having fewer features I could take much better photos with the SLRs. But the photos I got with the small cameras were infinitely better than no photos at all.

The gap is narrower in digital IMO. The small film cameras had very small apertures compared to good SLR lenses and the smallest even lacked simple features like spot metering. With digital the smaller sensors pretty much eliminate the aperture disadvantage. The noise/grain disadvantage is still there but even simple pocket digitals have spot metering or live histograms with EV shift to avoid blowing out highlights. I would never discourage someone from getting a DSLR. You do end up with better images. But with some image editing skills and a learning curve you can get the ultrazoom images pretty close in most situations.

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Old Nov 30, 2006, 4:28 PM   #3
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I have all DSLR's I need. What I don't like is the necessary kit weight. Thus, I tend to prefer the flexibility and freedom that an all in one camera can provide at much less costs. I use my Sony H-5 and my Fuji S-6000fd more than my DSLR cameras.

The Sony H-5 is a very competent camera, even at high ISO settings, I prefer to use ISO 400 and produces excellent results at a cost much less than any consumer DSLR.

This sample H-5 shot was done handheld/ISO 400/ from a distance of 60 feet.

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Old Dec 1, 2006, 3:05 AM   #4
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Well I ended up selecting the Panasonic FZ7. It looked really good for the price, it records TIFF, has decent macro, great zoom, great manual settings, great battery life, picture quality is good, and despite what people say, Steve's photos seem to show noise at higher ISO levels is lower than average, and nearly as good as the Sony H5. Mostly, unbeatable price. For $100 less than the S3 or H5 I got a nearly equivalent model IMO, and for the same price as some of the others, I feel I got a much better deal.

Thanks for the advice, btw. Maybe I'll post some pictures when I get it...

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