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Old Dec 3, 2007, 8:44 AM   #1
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Am planning a big road trip around the rocky mountains next July, and am beginning to look for something to shoot photos with in the ~$600 range. I'd like to get it a couple months before hand so I can get used to shooting, etc.
One recommendation I got from a friend was to consider a Camcorder with a 30 Gig HD as there are several models that have 32-34x optical (not digital) zoom. I'm wondering why camcorders can support that while most long range digital cameras I've seen go to 15-18x, and the ones above 12x all seem to have issues with image quality.
For my purposes, I know I'm looking a bit at extremes. I want something with a sharp auto focus that can handle a good macro mode as well as a long zoom. I currently have a Canon 2IS which does a decent long zoom, but auto focus in macro almost doesn't work.
I don't want a camera with interchangeable lenses because I'll be doing a lot of hiking, and don't want to spend a lot of time switching between two or three lenses.
Any thoughts?

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Old Dec 3, 2007, 8:54 AM   #2
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EwanG wrote:
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... One recommendation I got from a friend was to consider a Camcorder with a 30 Gig HD as there are several models that have 32-34x optical (not digital) zoom. I'm wondering why camcorders can support that while most long range digital cameras I've seen go to 15-18x, and the ones above 12x all seem to have issues with image quality.
I'm guessing that camcorders have smaller, lower resolutionimage sensors that produce less noise and allow simpler lens designs. Larger, higher resolution image sensors require more complex lenes designs that don't adapt well to very long zoom ranges.

But I may be mistaken.

But I will add that I haven't seen any camcorders that offer 32x-34x optical zoom, so I think it's also possible that your friend is mistaken.
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Old Dec 3, 2007, 10:46 AM   #3
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EwanG wrote: But I will add that I haven't seen any camcorders that offer 32x-34x optical zoom, so I think it's also possible that your friend is mistaken.
I saw a camcorder with a 34x zoom in one of the electronics chain store ads within the past two weeks - I think it was eithera JVC or Samsung.
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Old Dec 3, 2007, 11:43 AM   #4
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Yes, I foundaJVC camcorder with 34x optical zoom (see http://resources.jvc.com/Resources/00/00/89/53.PDF ).

It has a 680K pixel image sensor. This is not in the same class as a digicam.

But they can squeeze out that kind of optical zoom because the image sensor is so small and they can use simpler optics.
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Old Dec 3, 2007, 1:36 PM   #5
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OK, so a camcorder with a 34x optical will deliver somewhat "impaired" quality. Are there any digital cameras in the 15-18x that are better? Every review I've seen of ones over 12x seem to complain about the quality. Part of the reason I was thinking I might go the camcorder route - at least it's closer fuzzy pictures :-)
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Old Dec 3, 2007, 3:11 PM   #6
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EwanG wrote:
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OK, so a camcorder with a 34x optical will deliver somewhat "impaired" quality. ...
"impaired"!?!?!

The manual (Think twice! It's 19MB.)( http://resources.jvc.com/Resources/0...T1668-001C.pdf ) says the resolution of still images captured with the JVC GZ-MG130 is 640x480. That might be ok for 3x5 prints, but anything larger and the pixelation will be visible.

EwanG wrote:
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Are there any digital cameras in the 15-18x that are better? Every review I've seen of ones over 12x seem to complain about the quality. Part of the reason I was thinking I might go the camcorder route - at least it's closer fuzzy pictures.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX18 (for instance) has an 18x optical zoom and an 8MP image sensor. If you zoomed all the way out, and did a 50% crop (effectively, a 36x zoom) you'd still have a 4MP image. You could print that out at 8x10 and not see the pixelation.

To be sure, the JVC GZ-MG130 is probably better at recording video, and can definitely record a longer video on its 30GB hard disk drive, than the Panasonic DMC-FZ18. But, on it's best day,it couldn't make still images anywhere near as good.

Perhaps for both good videos and good still images, you should see what the people in the Hybrid Still/Movie/MP3 Digicamsforum are using.
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Old Dec 3, 2007, 4:13 PM   #7
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My bad for being less than clear with my question. So let's try this from the top...

Once in a lifetime vacation coming up next summer. Currently have a Canon S2IS that does ok Auto Focus at full zoom (12x), but can barely get the auto focus to work in Macro mode.

Plan to do a LOT of photos (although willing to consider going to video instead if that's a better option) of stuff that's high in the mountains (would like a lot of zoom), and wildflowers and such nearby (good macro).

SO, is there a camera with a long zoom built in (since I don't want to carry several lenses) that does an equally good job of auto focus in macro and zoom (and in-between ideally), has sharp images, good image quality, and is in the $600US range?

Thanks,
Ewan

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Old Dec 3, 2007, 5:16 PM   #8
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See http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...amp;forum_id=7

From that, it looks like the Olympus SP550UZ does fairly well. But I don't know if the user went manual or not.

Try taking a look at the Close-upsforum, and see if anybody there is using a superzoom with autofocus.
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Old Dec 4, 2007, 12:46 AM   #9
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TCav wrote:
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX18 (for instance) has an 18x optical zoom and an 8MP image sensor. If you zoomed all the way out, and did a 50% crop (effectively, a 36x zoom) you'd still have a 4MP image. You could print that out at 8x10 and not see the pixelation.


Just a point to make here, as I'm sure you know this, but in this instance you would end up with 2MP, not 4, as you crop in two directions. This is the reason that digital zoom very quickly becomes useless. It is an area formula, so cropping by half results in a quarter the area. In the same vein, in order to double resolution, you need 4 times the pixels. (assuming the optics are capable)

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Old Dec 4, 2007, 6:18 AM   #10
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VTphotog wrote:
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Just a point to make here, as I'm sure you know this, but in this instance you would end up with 2MP, not 4, as you crop in two directions. This is the reason that digital zoom very quickly becomes useless. It is an area formula, so cropping by half results in a quarter the area. In the same vein, in order to double resolution, you need 4 times the pixels. (assuming the optics are capable)
You are correct. Thanks. My bad.

But a 640x480 image on a 3x5 would have a resolution of 128 dpi, while a 3264x2448 image,cropped50% (1632x1224), on an 8x10 would have a resolution of 152dpi.

So the FX18 would still produce a better image than the MG130.
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