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Old Sep 8, 2007, 4:51 AM   #11
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dm67-

I apologize for confusing the two threads about heading off on a African Safaris. Another poster, "tekniq33" and his fiancee are going on an African Safari on their honeymoon. BTW, I prefer just "Sarah" to the handle, "mtclimber." At age 72, I don't climb many huge mountains anymore, but I do enjoy photography, and teaching photography for our state university and our local Community College.

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Old Sep 8, 2007, 10:56 AM   #12
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I think that Sarah's list of options on the FZ-50 is probably more at the upscale end than the bare-bones setup you mentioned. I really haven't paid attention to the other cameras, so I am not speaking at all about them. As it happens, I am well-equipped to address the needs of a fellow cheapskate, so let me make some suggestions for those of us who are real skinflints.

I bought a flash unit that I like a lot for a much older Panasonic. It was the Sunpak 383, and costs $80 from Adorama. It isn't as powerful as the Olympus FL-50, but it is rated for up to 100 ft, which is pretty honest in my experience. I would also want a stofen diffuser for another $10-15.

The amount of memory you need really depends on how you shoot. I routinely take 2 week vacations with 1 Gig memory, and have never run out of space. Some folks shoot like there's no tomorrow and save everything, some folks only shoot when they really want to capture the given image and are ruthless in deleting what they don't want to keep. Most folks are somewhere in between. Also, if you want raw image data as the norm, you will need more storage. If you aren't taking videos or fast sequences, get the cheapest card you can. Otherwise, worry about the speed of storage and spend a bit more (also, if you want to routinely shoot raw mode, you will want faster cards because they take a fair amount of time to write). Personally, I have always had good luck with Kingston SD cards, but just about any should do.

As to other important equipment, I would include a 0.6 graduated neutral density filter and a polarized filter (I don't know whether your camera requires a circular polarizer, but I doubt it.)I am a cheapskate, and I buy the low-end Sunpak filters. That would offend the blue-bloods on this site, but I find them very acceptable. The main thing to watch out for is glare -- expensive filters have coated surfaces that cut down on the sun's glare. So you need to be careful not to shoot into the sun with these. I don't think that they are water glass, but I have not noticed any tint from them. Of course, YMMV. Filters vary in price by size. My camera took 72mm, which is pricey. I think the current Panasonics take something like 55mm, which are much more reasonable. Adorama is a good source for these, too.

You will need asecond battery without a doubt. I don't buy Panasonic for such things, which cuts the cost by abouttwo thirds for pretty much the same quality. Places like the Battery Barn are appropriate for these items in my experience.

Personally, I find the camera bags that you can get at Circuit City or the like perfectly acceptable. Bring the stuff you want to carry with you to make sure you've got the right size and shape bag. It will cost less that $40 no matter what you need. It won't be a Pelican, but it will get the job done. I actually like to have two bags -- a small one that just carries the stuff I need on a day trip and a larger bag with my flash unit, recharger, etc. that I can put the small bag in if I need to carry everything. That shouldn't cost you more than $50 total anyway.

You probably will want some kind of a tripod. There is a cool bean bag that can fit in your large bag and use as a steady surface that costs about $10 if memory serves. I would also get a cheap tripod (many folks will go crazy at that idea, but I bought a $10 Samsonite(!) tripod ten years ago and have never felt the need to upgrade. What you DO need with it is a trigger cable for your camera. That was actually the hardest thing for me to track down. You can order them directly from Panasonic for about $20. This allows you to use that cheap tripod without bouncing the camera when you click the shutter.

I wouldn't bother getting a printer. It costs no more to have your prints done at the cheap places than to print them yourself. It's true that you get better control, but it is a rare photo that you'll want to agonize that much over. Splurge on an upscale printing house for that graduation photo of your daughter, and save the money on the printer.

The above stuff will addabout $250 to the cost of the camera, and you'll have all the equipment I routinely use with my camera to this day.
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Old Sep 8, 2007, 12:38 PM   #13
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tclune-

Many thanks for some real world input regarding the Panasonic FZ-50. Those are workable options as long as the flash firing circuit of the flash unit that you might choose does not exceed the safe margin of 6 volts for the new digital cameras.

I know, as you probably do, as well, that the Sunpak 383 flash firing circuit does not exceed that 6 volt maximum. But, least anyone else choose a different manual flash that voltage limitation should really be observed, so that you don't "fry" the internal electrical/elcectronic components of your camera.

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Old Sep 8, 2007, 1:47 PM   #14
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Sorry, not always sure when to use names or usernames. But Sarah it is!!

Still searching about to get as much information as I can to make a good decision.

I called a photograhpy shop in Little Rock about 30 mins away and they have some side by side print-outs that I can look at of the S3 (I believe not the S5) and the 6000fd.

Hopefully I will be able to get a good comparison. If I understand correctly they are of the same shot and comparable settings. Is there something I need to take into consideration / look at to make sure they are apple-to-apple comparisons?
I will not be able to go until next week so will have to hold off on my decision until after that. Perhaps another week out and the new fuji 8000 may be reviewed by then....yet another option to muddle the waters.

Thanks tclune for the info on the extras...also nice to know that good quality prints can be had without having own printer at a reasonable cost.

Do all cameras have the ability to have a remote to allow the photographer to be in the picture as well?


Sarah can you explain a bit more the advantages of an external flash. Looking at some pictures of dark rooms with the flash on camera it almost appears like the lights were on.

I think after looking at all the images from different sources(amazon, pbase,dpreview, here etc...) it looks like whatever choice I go with I should have a good camera. I am excited to be able to take great pictures like the ones I have seen.

David
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Old Sep 8, 2007, 2:13 PM   #15
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David-

Generally speaking a camera's built-in flash unit will take properly exposed photos ou to about 10 to 12 feet (distance from the camera to the subject. When an external flash is used, that distance, which is called Flash Range gets extended all the way out to 25 to 35 feet when Auto ISO is used becuse the external flash and the camera are able to communicate with each other. With an external flash all of the distance changes and the increase in Flash Range happens automatically. The photography just keeps taking photos. If you look in the Canon Point and Shoot Folder you will find the Canon S-5IS Flash Tutorial that tell you in much greater detail exactly why the external flash is such a real advantage for the S-5IS camera, and exactly, step by step how to use that extrernal flash in detail.

Virtually every camera is equipped with a self timer. However, the camera should be on a tripod, or in a secure place when using the self timer. I hope that helps. Have a great weekend.

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Old Sep 8, 2007, 3:33 PM   #16
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It is really hard to get a sense of the quality of pictures from a camera by looking at "similar shots." That seems odd, but it's true. Virtually every camera will allow you to set the defaults to what you like. The things that can change are saturation (I personally like less saturated, kind of "pastel-y" colors. Most folks like their colors blasted through to an almost cartoon-like saturation. Everybody in the pictures looks like they've been at the beach for the last month, even if it's the dead of winter. Canon almost always sets its defaults to that kind of color. Panasonic sets more subdued color saturation. But both camera companies allow you to set their cameras to better suit your taste.

Similarly, Panasonic tends to favor more sharpness in their images. This plays to the strength of their lenses. Canon favors lower noise (I find most Canon fixed-lens lenses of a bit lower quality, but they are still very good.) Fuji seems to favor something kind of between the two.

This doesn't mean that there aren't real differences in the cameras themselves -- it's just really hard to find out what they are (except for differences in ISO or shutter speed/aperture, etc) because the cameras are so flexible. In all honesty, I think that any of the cameras you're looking at are terrific. Get one and learn how to make it produce the kind of picture that you want to see. I know that there is a fear that you'll buy one and then find out that it is completely inappropriate for your purposes. But this is almost never the case if you buy a given class of camera (ultrazoom, in your case) from a major manufacturer. The market has done its magic to keep all the main players at a pretty similar level of excellence.

As to flash -- the things that are bad about built-in flash are that it doesn't have much range and it is aiming the wrong way. Everyone who is photographed with built-in flash looks pastey and often has red-eye. The one exception is if you use the flash for "fill" outdoors when the person is in shadow. That is the one really good use of built-in flash to my mind.

What you want from flash is bounce. I always try to use bounce with an angle between 45 and 60 degrees. More than that and the eye sockets can look in shadow. Less than that and you start getting the pasty look. Bounce light looks very natural. There are mild shadows from the light coming down from above, as one expects light to do. If you can't do that, use a diffuser, which is a piece of milky plastic. This allows you to shoot straight on or from an angle less than 45 degrees (you would use this if you weren't photographing in a building with a white ceiling that you could bounce the light off). The images are second-choice, in that they make the faces seem too evenly lit. To my eye, diffuse flash looks like poorly-set up studio lights, where the photographer got enough illumination but no shadow. Diffused light does not look pastey -- it makes the skin look too tan generally (for reasons that totally escape me. Anyway, it is pretty characteristic of diffused flash.)

One final thing -- the trigger cable that I referred to is not for you getting into the picture. It is a device that attaches to some cameras (if you want this, make sure the camera supports it before buying that brand). It allows you to click the shutter without touching the camera. This eliminates any movement in the camera fom clicking the shutter. I always use it when I use a tripod. I was joking a bit about my cheap tripods needing it -- it's a good idea with any tripod. You can look at the image through the viewfinder, and click exactly when you want to. If you don't have one, you can use the timer, but then you can't click the shutter exactly when you want to.
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Old Sep 9, 2007, 2:38 PM   #17
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Thanks Sarah for the tutorial you are working on. It explains quite a bit! Would it be possible to see a side by side shot of the cameras internal flash then external flash. Such as the one with Bradley in the garage (external flash). Because I do not have the experience of shooting pictures I do not know the gain vs. the internal flash.


From what you have explained and from other sources, I understand that the lower the ISO the more light will have to be in the area of the subject to get a good clear shot. If the area of the subject is darker the camera will need a higher ISO to pick up the subject. However, this also introduces/amplifies noise as ISO increases. The cameras I am looking at will begin to degrade at 200-400, perhaps 800 for the fuji.

With an external flash you get to put the camera back down to a lower ISO to get better image quality. There are 2 types of external flashes slave and compatible flash (do not know the real term...one that communicates with camera). Difference is slave does not communicate with camera to adjust amount of flash and will use what ever is currently set for the slave...could be to little or to much. Compatible will communicate and adjust as needed. Do slaves have manual adjustments for light output?

The UZ I am looking at will go from 10x to 12x zoom. I have not looked for the distance/range these are useable at but where do the flashes (external or internal) stop being useful? I suppose depends on lighting?

tclune - Yep does sound odd to not be able to look at a side by side of same shot same settings....but I understand each camera may have different ways of processing an image and if a person tweaks a bit they can get closer to the same output as another camera.

As far as how an image looks .....this may be a silly statement... but I would expect the image to look like how I saw it with my eye. If it is soft color or sharp contrast then I would hope to see that in the image output. Then if I want to use some software to make a different image than I could do so. I would like whatever features that the camera has to remove some of the negative affects of the camera, flash, lens, etc...such as red-eye or others that I am not aware of.

I will also get a tripod of sorts....would hope to get one that shrinks up a bit to fit in a back-pack. In the end I would like to take great shots so any device such as the remote to reduce shake would be good.

Sarah you mentioned that after ISO 200 the Canon will only be useable for prints of
4 x 6. But as my understanding above the external flash will drop it back to the 100-200 range and allow me to print out at larger sizes such as 8x10 or larger?

Is there a time when you would want to bump up the ISO even though there is sufficient light for the lower setting of say 100? Other than just wanting a noiser, grainier picture.

Hopefully, I am not moving too far off the subject of my original post but as I go along I am picking up more and more info on the overall theory of photography and I am trying to apply it back to the choice of cameras.


David


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Old Sep 9, 2007, 4:01 PM   #18
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david-

Thanks for answering a bit sooner than normal.

Yes, I will be happy to show you the difference in the garage environment by first using the S-5IS camera's built-in flash and then the external flash.

Here is the S-5IS Built-in Flash:



Here is the S-5IS using the External Flash:



As you see there is a real difference in these two photo. I did not get the zoom exactly thae same because all I could do was guess because I had to shut down the S-5 completely when I changed over to the external flash. But you really can see the difference.

Keep in mind, David, that yes, as you raise the ISO, after about ISO 200 with the Canos S-5IS and after ISO 400 with the Sony H-2, noise will become a factor that you will have to deal with in post processing. However, in the Safari Photo Environment you may need to raise the ISO setting just to achieve the higher shutter speed that you will need to stop the action of the charging elephant or Cape Buffalo. You accept the noise, because you need the shutter speed to stop the action. Then you run those image through some software such as neat Image, or Noise Ninja, and wipe out most of the noise, but you still have that great fast action shot.

Regarding the types of flashes: A Slave Flash is an uncontrolled flash, meaning that the flash will have the same amount of flashed light with each and every flash. The only element of control you have is to use your camera's Auto ISO mode. HLet's hope that the camera you are using has a very good Auto ISO system. I don't mind shooting with a Slave Flash, and I don't mind making all of those fine adjustments. I have been shooting photos for over 53 years. However, I don't think that you will be able or find it convenient to make all those fine adjustment that are needed on the fly. In the Safari Photo Environment, you usually only have time for one attempt at any shot. Therefore, a dedicated (that was the word you were searching for) flash would be much easier for you to use, because with the dedicated flash it would be working automatically in tandem with the S-5 and you would not have to make any adjustments.

Keep in mind, David, that any camera's built in flash (even when you bost the ISO setting to ISO 200) will only provide proper exposure out to 15 feet.

If you want to make enlargements , your best strategy is to keep the ISO setting at or below ISO 200. Yes, you can go to higher ISO settings, 400 ISO probably being the max, and 800 ISO in a real pinch, providing you are willing to use noise reduction software such as Neat Image, or Noise Ninja, which I mentioned previously and still get enlargements out of those photos, but you still will see some noise.

David, I think that takes care of all the questions that you asked of me. If I missed something, please just let me know. Bradley and I got those requested photos pretty fast for you didn't we?

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Old Sep 9, 2007, 4:29 PM   #19
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Sarah,

Yes you did! Thank you and tell Bradley thanks
Hopefully was not too much of a bother.

I do see the difference. I showed my wife and she said she liked the bottom one with the external flash.

May I ask how far away you were approximately? You may have stated it but if so I missed it. Also how illuminated is the garage when the photos were taken?



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Old Sep 9, 2007, 4:36 PM   #20
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Popular inexpensive non-dedicated but versatile external fashguns that come to mind are Sunpak 383 and Vivitar 283 or 285. Sunpak can still be bought new, Vivitars are discontinued and can be found on eBay. With very little practice you can take great pics, just select the aperture setting on the flash, set the ISO and match these parameters on the camera and shoot away. Just use the bounce flash if you can to get more pleasing light and avoid the hotspots.
This was taken from about 10 meters (30 feet) with Fuji S9500 and a 12 years old Vivitar 283:



Just my $0.05,
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