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Old Oct 10, 2006, 8:22 PM   #1
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I am new here and hope you all can help me out. My Olympus film camera died today, and I hate our old digi Olympus. I have been going back and forth trying to decide whether or not to get a DSLR or a SLR-like.

I am a mom and basically use my camera to shoot vacation pics, dance and dance recitals, soccer, school functions, birthdays, holidays, etc. I hate the digital camera that we have (Olympus something or the other with zoom and it is 3 MP. It came out in 2002) because the pics are often blurry, they look grainy when I use the flash and because of the shutter lag, I always get pics of my kids running the opposite direction.

I was considering a DSLR for the longest time, but now don't know if I want to deal with carrying a camera bag and lenses everywhere. It seems like a pain, but if I need to to get the image quality and speed that I want, I guess I will do it.

To simplify things I was thinking it might be more handy to get a SLR like camera. I know they aren't exactly small, but at least I wouldn't have to worry about different lenses, etc. I have read the reviews, but I am pretty much a beginner and I don't know if they will do what I want/need (good quality images/fast/good zoom/decent performance in somewhat low light indoor situations).

I have been considering:

Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ50

Sony DSC H5

Canon S3 IS

Fujifil Finepix S9100 (I know it is not out yet)



If I went this route, I might also get a smaller camera to keep in my purse. Can you recommend a decent one with decent speed and zoom. I was thinking about the Panasonic Lumix TZ 1 for this, but am nervous about all the "noise" problems Panasonic seems to have in the reviews.

I just don't know what to do/get. Any advice would be helpful. Thanks so much. I have been contemplating what camera to get for over a year now! Ha! My film camera is on its last legs and is rewinding mid roll, etc. so it seems like I need to do something very soon!
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Old Oct 10, 2006, 9:12 PM   #2
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Would I be correct in assuming that when you say "SLR like" cameras you are meaning the 'ultra zoom' cameras? (which do tend to look something like SLR's)
Most of the digital cameras which look like SLR's have no real benefits over more compact digitals other than the extra zoom... (and maybe feel a little nicer to hold).
From what you have said you are wanting to photograph it sounds to me like you have two very distinct requirements.
1/ Good zoom, for the soccer and dance recitals, so you can get just what you want in the frame and not half the soccer field.
2/ Good low light performance for dance recitals and school functions (which I assume would mostly be indoors)

Most modern compacts would be fine for vacation snapshots, birthdays, holidays etc.
Any of the ultra zooms would get you plenty close enough to the action for soccer and dance, although speed might be an issue... because of their smaller sensor size they produce much noisier images at higher iso speeds (which would be needed if you want to capture fast movement without blur). Another issue with sports etc is that non-DSLR cameras are generally have much slower power up, focusing and shutter release times as well as slow EVF (electronic view finder) refresh... believe me when I say this will result in many missed photos.
For indoor shots at school functions etc, unless you are able to use a flash, then the noise/speed issue comes in again.

Solution:
Well, if you were happy to carry around the extra weight then a DSLR would be a much more versatile choice... Power up, focus and shutter lag are much better. The larger sensor in DSLR means less noise so you can use higher ISO speeds which would mean it is better for low light and fast action shots. You can also choose which lens(s) you will need on any particular occasion. There several 'general purpose' zoom lenses choose from which offer moderate wide angle (20mm or so) through to moderate telephoto (80mm or so) and one of these would probably meet most of your needs... might need a little more length for soccer unless you are right on the sideline.

If the weight, cost, etc of the DSLR is an issue then perhaps an 8MP compact with 3x or 4x zoom might be a good all around solution... if you are happy with less that 8MP resolution (say 4MP which is plenty for viewing images on screen) then you can crop the image down and effectively 'increase' your zoom without loosing any quality. One of these would be smaller and lighter than an 'SLR like' camera but offer just as much (except the extra zoom)

It might sound like I am steering you away from the 'SLR like' cameras... I guess that maybe I am. My last camera was a Fuji S5100 which I bought because it was 'SLR like' and my limited knowledge at the time lead me to belive it would be good for everything I wanted which included Aikido (a martial art) photos. Unfortunately what I discovered was that shooting people doing martial arts indoors (even in a well lit room) I either ended up with blured movement, excessive noise or a photo of nothing because the people had moved out of frame before the shutter triggered. Don't get me wrong... it was great for shots outside in daylight, and I even used it a couple times for lunchtime soccer games at work and it was fine... but doesn't even come close to the DSLR I upgraded to recently (Canon 350d) which, with the addition of a 50mm f1.8 lens, is perfect for Aikido photography. Now I just need to get an ultra-compact camera that I can carry in my pocket when I don't feel like lugging around the DSLR.

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Old Oct 11, 2006, 12:47 AM   #3
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I am also sceptical about those DSLR-like superzooms.

The only advantage they have over compact digital cameras is their zoom range. Everything else is just the same except they are large and bulky.

For me there's only one DSLR-like worth a look: Sony R1. It has APS-C sized sensor (most of DSLRs have such sensor).

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Old Oct 11, 2006, 6:38 AM   #4
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Mom,

This is a tough one. The 2 most demanding criteria you have are soccer and dance recitals.

As NivlacNZpointed out, the ultrazoom cameras have decent reach for soccer. But, the shutter lag, buffer handling, depth of field and Servo focusing are all going to be issues. It really depends on what your standards are. I will tell you this much - you need to get right on the field (not on the field of play but not in the stands or 30 feet from the field) to get acceptable shots even with a superzoom. I also STRONGLY suggest as a serious sports shooter that if sports shooting is an important criteria you look for sample photos taken of soccer or similar sports (lacrosse, rugby, football) with any camera you are considering. That way you can judge for yourself if the photos are of the quality you are expecting. If no one in this forum or other forums has used the camera for something similar that should tell you something.

Also, this assumes all soccer games are in the day time. If they're in the evening under lights forget about a digicam of any kind (based on what's on the market right now) being able to meet your needs.

Realize, if you went with a DSLR for soccer, you really need at least a 200mm lens, and preferably a 300mm lens. And, if your games are in the evening under lights you need a lens with a 2.8 aperture ($800-$1600)

For the dance recitals, you have 2 challenges: low light action and probably need for reach. None of the current superzooms available have acceptable low light performance - you'll likely be shooting at ISO 1600. I believe the Panasonic Fz30 has the best low light performance (although not yet up to DSLR standards for this type of shot) but it's only a 3x zoom - not enough reach unless you can gaurantee you'll always be in the front 2-3 rows. There is a new digicam coming out this fall that is supposed to have the same decent ISO 1600 & 3200 performance but 10 or 12x zoom. We'll see. I will also say that, despite several people touting high ISO performance of several digicams, I have yet to see any actual ACTION PHOTOS from the digicams in low light. I'm not saying the digicams aren't capable - I'm saying so far I haven't seen anyone post any examples anywhere that are of remotely acceptable quality.

Realize if you went with a DSLR solution you may require an expensive lens for the dance recital. Probably something like a 70-200 2.8 zoom lens ($800 - $1600) or a prime lens ($350 - $1000 if you can get close) - the prime lens being tough because of course you can't zoom. So you need to be about the same distance at every recital and select a lens of the appropriate focal length.

So, i just want to point out that while a DSLR is leaps and bounds a better solution for these two types of photography, it isn't JUST a matter of toting around lenses - it's a matter of some potentially expensive lenses. You are not going to be able to buy a DSLR with kit lens and shoot either activity.

Again, please continue to seek recommendations. Just be cautious about those recommendations. Make sure you see similar photos. If the person recommending a camera to meet your dance and soccer needs has never photographed those types of events before I'd be very hesitant about their advice. It's not like taking vacation photos - it's much more demanding of equipment than people realize. And, even if the person has shot those types of activities - I strongly recommend you look for sample images with the camera being recommended (for instance, I've shot both but I use a DSLR and I think it would be dangerous for me to say how a certain digicam would perform under those conditions if I hadn't used it).

In the end, you may decide (and nothing wrong with this) that the soccer and dance photos are not a top priority and not worth the thousands of $$ extra plus all the gear to invest in a DSLR. Nothing wrong with that at all. At the end of the day you want to buy the best solution for you. And, buying ANY camera or camera system involves choices and compromise.

Best of luck in your search. And remember, ask for examples - they'll tell you a LOT!!

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Old Oct 11, 2006, 6:55 AM   #5
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You've gotten some really good advice here. I'll just add a quick few observations of my own. I just recently purchased my first DSLR (Pentax K100D). While I absolutely love it, I wouldn't recommend a DSLR to everyone. If you are interested in photography and want to spend the time & money to really get into it, you simply can't beat a DSLR....period. BUT, if you just want a good camera with nice features to take quality photos of your kids and vacations, you may not want a DSLR. You can fill those needs very easily with a good fixed lens super-zoom such as the Fuji S9100 you mentioned. It will be less expensive, lighter, and less complicated than a DSLR and you will still get excellent photos. With that said; I could never go back now after experiencing a DSLR. You just need to decide what you want from the camera and how involved you want to be. I hope some of this helps. Good luck in your decision.


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Old Oct 11, 2006, 1:43 PM   #6
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Your predicament sounds exactly like mine. I want to upgrade my camera now that i have a son (5 months) and only have time for pictures :-)

The first thing you need to do is set a price limit, because otherwise someone will convince you to get a $3000 SLR and great lens and just run it in auto mode all the time. That will work, but it's overkill.

Second, you need to answer this question: Are you going to really get into the camera's inner workings or do you just want great prints of what you see in the viewfinder. I would say again, if you don't care that much about shutter priority, weighted metering, and RAW mode, then you probably want an SLR-like/Advanced Point and Shoot camera. Also a lot of people here take their pictures and then spend hours editing them and tweaking the colors on the computer. I don't know about you - but i have NO desire to do that.

Third, you have identified what's important to you - a great zoom, good low-light images. Physics tells us that no matter what it is hard to combine these two needs for cheap. You spend a few thousand dollars on gear, and try to take pictures from the back row in a school gym, and still not be happy.

The other thing is, and I don't want to sound rude, but it's doubtful that the pictures of your kids on the soccer field are going to look like the cover of Sports Illustrated. You've seen the size of lenses those photographers use!

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So here's my final suggestion, as someone with similar needs. Stick to getting an SLR like camera. You just don't sound like you want to be fiddling with lenses and lugging gear here and there (me either!!). Get a good super zoom camera. I think some of the newer models, like the fuji you mentioned (which I'm thinking about too), have anti-shake technology that will help for both zoom shots, and lower light indoor shots.

The one other thing is to not be swayed by number of megapixels the camera has. I'll put it this way. My digital camera from 2001 with 3.1 Mpixels makes beautiful prints at 6x8! That's a big print! Just about every camera today will make good 8x10 prints (provided the picture on its own looks good).

GOod Luck!!!

(oh I have one recommendation. Go to flick (http://www.flickr.com ) and search for "dance recital" "school play" "soccer" and look for really good photos that mimic the situation you will be photographing in. On the Bottom right of the screen, after you click on a picture, it often tells you the camera used to take the picture. This is a great way to see real-world examples.

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Old Oct 11, 2006, 2:08 PM   #7
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Digraph- some really good points. I just have a few cautionary comments to add to your excellent advice

digraph wrote:
Quote:
The first thing you need to do is set a price limit, because otherwise someone will convince you to get a $3000 SLR and great lens and just run it in auto mode all the time. That will work, but it's overkill.
Quote:
Maybe it will work maybe it won't. Don't kid yourself - spending $3000 doesn't mean you'l get great shots. Especially in demanding situations. Your point about sitting at th back of the gym is right on point - you still need to do the work. Sports and low light shooting takes work on the part of the photographer. It is not, by any stretch a point-and-shoot situation. My DSLR has a sports mode on it but that mode is useless for low light sports. You can't spend your way out of having to know about photography. And sports and low light shooting requires some knowledge - otherwise you'll spend $$ and still get poor photos.
Quote:
Second, you need to answer this question: Are you going to really get into the camera's inner workings or do you just want great prints of what you see in the viewfinder. I would say again, if you don't care that much about shutter priority, weighted metering, and RAW mode, then you probably want an SLR-like/Advanced Point and Shoot camera. Also a lot of people here take their pictures and then spend hours editing them and tweaking the colors on the computer. I don't know about you - but i have NO desire to do that.
Quote:
Great points! You have to be willing to do some of this stuff if you want to get the most out of a DSLR. But guess what? If you want to do low light and sports shooting you'll have to do it no matter what camera you get - no camera on the market - including the pro level DSLRs handle these situations in an automatic mode. So, if you're not willing to invest this time be prepared for your low light and sports photos to be low quality - cameras just aren't smart enough yet to do everything that needs to be done.
Quote:
Third, you have identified what's important to you - a great zoom, good low-light images. Physics tells us that no matter what it is hard to combine these two needs for cheap. You spend a few thousand dollars on gear, and try to take pictures from the back row in a school gym, and still not be happy.
Quote:
Exactly - great points.
Quote:
The other thing is, and I don't want to sound rude, but it's doubtful that the pictures of your kids on the soccer field are going to look like the cover of Sports Illustrated. You've seen the size of lenses those photographers use!
Quote:
It's true that you need to manage expectations. THose lenses cost about $7000 (mounted on a $4000 camera). The key is to find a level of quality you want to achieve and then find out what equipment is necessary to achieve it. You can then decide if you're willing to spend that money. Which is again why I always suggest you get sample photos of a particular type of photography with the given camera. So you want to take pictures of a dance recital? look for recommendations from people that have used the camera for that type of thing - dance recital, concerts, music recitals - something similar. Otherwise you could spend $700 on a superzoom and find out it can't give you any acceptable photos at all.
Quote:
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So here's my final suggestion, as someone with similar needs. Stick to getting an SLR like camera. You just don't sound like you want to be fiddling with lenses and lugging gear here and there (me either!!).
Quote:
My advice here is that you then need to re-evaluate what results you expect to get. Again, you're not going to get good recital photos using auto mode - you certainly aren't going to get good sports photos using it. Good vacation photos? Certainly. Good family snapshots? Yep. Just not good low light or sports photos - those take a little more investment of time and knowledge on the part of the photographer.
Quote:
Get a good super zoom camera. I think some of the newer models, like the fuji you mentioned (which I'm thinking about too), have anti-shake technology that will help for both zoom shots, and lower light indoor shots.
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As discussed in other threads - antishake is great for low light shots with stationary subjects. But if your subject is moving it doesn't really help you. High ISO capability and maximum aperture of the camera's lens are much more critical to success than anti-shake if your subject moves. This can be an expensive lesson to learn.
Quote:

The one other thing is to not be swayed by number of megapixels the camera has. I'll put it this way. My digital camera from 2001 with 3.1 Mpixels makes beautiful prints at 6x8! That's a big print! Just about every camera today will make good 8x10 prints (provided the picture on its own looks good).
Quote:
Again, great point. Any current model camera has enough megapixels for amateur needs. So deciding between 6, 8 and 10 mp is a non-starter. It just won't matter.
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GOod Luck!!!
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Old Oct 11, 2006, 2:11 PM   #8
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Nicely put, digraph. It sounds like you and I are both giving her the same advice. I just wanted to point out one thing. You made the statement that, "many newer models like the Fuji she mentioned" have anti-shake technology. The Fuji does not. If you read more about that camera, you'll discover that what the Fuji does is bump up the ISO and shutter speed to compensate for shake. While I'm sure it works, it will also increase noise (because of higher ISO). That's not to say that it's not a great camera....it probably is. I just think their marketing is a little deceptive. The Canon S3 IS has true image stabilization.
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Old Oct 11, 2006, 2:20 PM   #9
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Quote:

The Canon S3 IS has true image stabilization.

The Fuji cameras have great ISO performance and ISO 100 - ISO 1600 (or ISO 3200) with their SuperCCD. That's a great ISO range as well. The Canonmega-zooms will not beas high performing as the Fuji mega-zoom cameras at higher ISOs. (Especially the 6 MP SuperCCD versions are superb!) :!:
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Old Oct 11, 2006, 2:32 PM   #10
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BenjaminXYZ wrote:
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Quote:

The Canon S3 IS has true image stabilization.

The Fuji cameras have great ISO performance and ISO 100 - ISO 1600 (or ISO 3200) with their SuperCCD. That's a great ISO range as well. The Canonmega-zooms will not beas high performing as the Fuji mega-zoom cameras at higher ISOs. (Especially the 6 MP SuperCCD versions are superb!) :!:
That may be true, but what's that got to do with my point? I simply don't like the way Fuji advertises that line of cameras as having "anti-shake" when it doesn't. At least not the true optical image stabilization that most people think they are referring to. With that said, I'd probably choose the Fuji also. I just hate deceptive marketing.
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