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Old May 22, 2008, 3:28 PM   #1
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I am studying abroad next year in China for the entire year and I trying to figure out what I am going to take in terms of photo stuff and I wanted to get some advice. I have been doing more photography here at home and I think that there will be a lot of photo opportunities in China, so I want to be prepared. I know I will be taking my laptop, which is a Dell XPS M1210 and is perfectly capable of doing all my photo work. The only problem is it has an 80 gig hard drive, which is already mostly full. Instead of buying a new internal hard drive, which for my laptop maxes out at about 250 gigs and cost a lot, I think I will buy an external drive with 500-750 gigs of space (which cost about 100 bucks now and probably a bit less in a month or two) for photo and RAWs. That way I can keep all of my photos on the drive and keep my laptop internal drive free for other stuff.
In addition to an external drive, I want to be able to put my pictures up online for 1) backup because I will only have one copy on the external drive and if that fails I will loose my only copy, and 2) to share with friends and family back home. I was looking at the Flikr premium account which is like 30 bucks and gets you unlimited storage, but I liked the look of smug mug, which is about 40 bucks for a premium account and that gets you unlimited storage as well as some other stuff.
Finally, I am planning on getting a new camera. Right now I am using a Canon A620 and I like it a lot but my family wants to keep it at home, so I will be getting a different camera . The biggest decision for me is between a DSLR or a really good point and shoot. I want the camera to be rugged, take good photos (for artistic purposes and just for fun snapshots) and be portable. I have been getting really in to photography and I feel like the next logical step for me would be a SLR. But the fact that I am traveling changes things, Unlike most electric devices, it is really hard to get a good mix of portability and quality with digital cameras because the quality of the shot has a lot to do with the physical size of the sensor. Hence I find myself in a bit of a predicament.

Since I will be traveling a lot portability is a big deal, which is why I am leaning towards a point and shoot. This option is a bit cheaper and would mean I don't have to deal with buying lenses and such. So far the Canon G9 looks to be my best bet. It is fairly small (smaller than a SLR at least), and from what I have heard it takes very nice pictures. The reviews say it is jacket pocketable but not quite pants pocketable, which is a bit discouraging. In a perfect work it would love to be able to carry this thing around with me all the time and have it not be that big a deal, but I may have to make a trade off. Assuming that I get a G9, I would probably but a big bundle off ebay (most likely this one http://cgi.ebay.com/Canon-PowerShot-...QQcmdZViewItem)
The biggest decision when buying these packages is whether or not to get the telephoto and wide angle lenses. These add about 100 dollars to the package and seem like they would add a lot of extra bulk if I used them. On the topic of zooming though, I read that the G9 can have up to 15x zoom without degradation in quailty if you shoot at a lower resolution and use the digital zoom. Is this just the same as shooting at full resolution and cropping it down or is there some advantage to using the digital zoom?

Sorry this is so long. I want to be able to get this all set up here in so when I go to China everything is ready and I can shoot as I please.

In summary:
1) Does anyone have advice about a good external hard drive for around 100 dollars that can hold a years worth of photos plus extra stuff (I am shooting for 500 gigs minimum).
2) Can someone recommend a photo hosting site that can serve as both a gallery and an online backup for my photos (I am willing to spend around 50 bucks for this).
3) For my needs, is a point and shoot or a SLR more appropriate? If I get a point and shoot is the G9 portable enough or is there a smaller alternative that has the customizability and quality of the G9?
4) What accessories should I get for the G9?

Thanks!

P.S. Also does anyone here have the SC-DC55A Leather case? I have heard good things about it but it is a bit pricey becuase it was never released in the US.
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Old May 22, 2008, 5:26 PM   #2
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I am only home for 3 days before I head out again. However, I carried a Nikon DSLR and an external flash in January and February for 9 weeks in Asia, and concluded it was more weight than I wanted to haul around.

I am just back from a month in Europe with a Sony H-3 and a Panasonic TZ-5. The kit was pleasingly light and the photos were very creditable.

Sarah Joyce
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Old May 23, 2008, 2:44 AM   #3
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Budget is an issue of course, but could you stretch to getting a DSLR and a small P&S?

If you have to compromise and just get the one camera the G9 is a very good bet.

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/re...G9-Japan.shtml

Notice that the other camera he carries is the $5,500 Leica M8 (without lens, a lens normally sets you back at least another $2,000).

If I were using the G9 I would supplement it with an external optical viewfinder for the 35mm end of the zoom, because that is probably where you will mostly be using it.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...35mm_Lens.html

As for saving your photos, I would recommend a flickr pro account. There is no limit to the amount of photos you can store on the account, and it works as a great backup. And you would be very welcome to join the SFK flickr group (Steves Forums Kollaborators).

The only reservation I have about the G9 is that it's only 35mm at the wide end.


As an alternative though I think that if I were in your shoes, looking for a great camera for all types of work, but light and small with good image quality I would go for this:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...al_Camera.html

Notice that it has the tiny 25mm prime lens (equivalent to 50mm on 35mm film). I believe that simply taking off a zoom lens and putting on a fixed focal length makes you a much better photographer - primarily because you then have to use your brain to compose the shot rather than just twisting the zoom ring.

http://www.dpreview.com/news/0803/08...lympuse420.asp


And the final heresy, you might consider a film camera. *gasp* I believe that in China film use is much more common than in the west, and film and processing are reasonably cheap.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...amera_Kit.html



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Old May 23, 2008, 8:45 AM   #4
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As for external hard drives and being able to save a years worth of photos...... I use only segate hard drives since they have a very reputation and never had one fail on me yet.I take about 250 to 300GB of photos a year. Iam currently using a 1TGB seagate hard drive ina netgear strorage centeral device to save my photos as well as saving rthem on memorex DVD-Rs. Most of the seagate 750GB hard drives are more than $100. I would start searching places like bhphotovideo, best buy, sams club etc and see what they have in seagate drives. I would also suggest you burn DVDs with your laptop. If I was gonna be in China for a year I'd take 100DVD-Rs with me and burn multi session discs as I go and use the DVDs as backup as well as a hard drive which for me would be a 500GB model.

As for a camera make sure whatever you do that you get the proper power voltage and power plug adaptors for china so you can use your equipment and keep the batteries charged.

dave
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Old May 23, 2008, 9:56 AM   #5
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For storage needs, www.frys.com is mail order and carries just about anything you would ever need and their prices are among the lowest around. Seagate 1TB @ $320 external USB, regular price, sales are lower.

If you go P&S or pick up one of each, your going to probably be challenged on the wide end of things. Rather than worry about the situation, just get use to stitching the images together. That solves the problem.

A good supply of CD/DVDs should help if the network connections are slow and unreliable.

Just my taking something easy and simple will probably get more use and be taken everywhere more often.

If you wind up taking both a P&S along with a dSLR, use a common storage media like SD cards. Also, take more than a couple - they are cheap, and more is insurance against failure and loss.

Batteries - Remember to take more than a couple, probably rechargeables (along with a charger).

Otherwise - Enjoy!
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Old May 24, 2008, 1:59 AM   #6
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Thanks for the replies everyone!

mtclimber wrote:
Quote:
However, I carried a Nikon DSLR and an external flash in January and February for 9 weeks in Asia, and concluded it was more weight than I wanted to haul around.
This is good to hear. I think a SLR would be a bit too much for what I am looking [email protected] peripatetic Thanks for the advice. I was looking at that Olypus SLR, but I think I have concluded that if I can't fit it in my pocket I might as well get a D60 or a similar entry level SLR. The G9 review is very encouraging. The Flikr account seems like a good option too. I like how easy it is up upload lot of pictures and the 30 bucks for unlimited space is sweet. I probably won't go with the viewfinder or filim camera becuase I barely use the viewfinder on my current camera (I have grown up only really using digital cameras so viewfinders are not that big a deal to me). Along those lines, although I had not heard that film was more popular in China, it makes sense. The problem is that...well...film kinda sucks now that digital cameras are available. Plus I am pretty handy with photoshop and I don't think bringing a scanner is an option.

Photo 5 wrote:
Quote:
If I was gonna be in China for a year I'd take 100DVD-Rs with me and burn multi session discs as I go and use the DVDs as backup as well as a hard drive which for me would be a 500GB model.
I had not thought of using DVDs, but you are right that it is more than likely that uploading photos over internet might not be feasable. DVDs seem like a great backup device.

I am looking at these hard drives for backup.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...#goto_itemInfo

http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listi...16&sr=1-10 (refub one)

I have decided that I don't really care about the telephoto or wide angle lenses becuase I can't really see myself taking them around with me (they kinda defeat the purpose of a P&S portability).

I have also been reading about the Canon A650. This is the never version of my current camera (A620), but it looks like the specs are similar in terms of image quailty. The differences are that it is bigger (very bad) and is plastic, but it also has a twist LCD screen and uses AA batteries (nice). Since I hear the G9 has pretty average battery life, the A650 looks interesting because it can use normal batteries. On the other hand it is big enoug that i don't think it could possibly fit in my pocket. However it is about 100 bucks cheaper. Does anyone have any experience with this versus the G9? I am still leaning towards the G9 but I am a bit intruged by the A650.
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Old May 24, 2008, 11:49 AM   #7
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The first thing is you should like the camera, if not - your not going to use it. So what ever you do, go down to a store and play with each one (or the closest one you can find). I would probably take an SD card, slide it into each camera and take a few pictures, so that I could take the SD card & picutres home and compare them. Check out how it handles, its menus, if it fits in your shirt and pants pockets, its weight, and all the rest. Also, just how you like it - that counts too!

You said you like the Canon A650 since it is close to what you use now and like the AA batteries, but its size is a bit large. Batteries essentially define the camera size & weight. The A650 takes 4 AAs, so its going to be large. Canon also makes a much smaller size and lighter weight, the SD series that may be what your looking for. I have a Canon SD500 that is almost 5 years old and fits into my shirt or pants pocket, very light, takes stunning pictures and is a delight to use - it does just about everything. The only thing I would add is Image Stablization to it. It also takes special batteries, but the battery size is also smaller and takes a single battery. I have 4 batteries (1 in the camera, 1 for the recharger, 1 for my pocket and 1 spare), and they are good for several hundred shots per charge.

mtclimber (or Sara), is retired, use to teach college photography (if I remember correctly) and now teaches photography on cruise ships traveling the world most of the year, and has been doing photography for something like 50 years. She uses all the camera makes and models (dSLRs and P&S), so you can rely on her opinion and comments. The newest camera she likes is the Panasonic TZ-5, which is very similiar to the canon SD series. If she likes to use it and pictures meet her criteria, then its something to seriously consider.

Right now your looking to buy options. What is not important now, may become important during your trip. I say this on your wide and telephoto angle opinion. The TZ-5 has a very wide range (28mm to 280 mm or 10x), and according to a lot of review - takes stunning images with excellent quality. The A650 has a 35mm to 210mm (6x) lens. The Canon SD series is in the 3x to 5x range.

MegaPixels is probably the least important number, but the A650 and G9 are 12MP, the TZ-5 is 9MP with the Canon SD series running from 7 to 12 depending on the model. 7MP is really all you need and is a good minimum to use.

Your A650 and G9 has IS, as does the TZ5 and most of the Canon SD models. Image Stablization is something that you should probably have since it will help reduce the amount of jitter or blurring due to camera movement in your images.

They all use SD cards, and all have size image sizes (7mp to 12MP), so your probably going to want at least 2GB SD cards. Again something like 3 to 4 cards (1 in the camera, 1 for your pocket, 1 at the computer waiting to be uploaded, and 1 spare). This way you can get at least 100 images per card and when that is full, you have an empty one ready to go. If your laptop does not have an SD slot, an external SD card reader might help, so that you would not have to run the camera to upload the images, and clear the card.

The LeCie external hard drive, the sizes are good, but I had 2 LeCie die on me in my lab, at work a number of years ago. I would go with Seagate. Eventually they all will die, but people tend to have better luck with Seagate. Just an opinion and observation.

The camera packages on ebay are usually overpriced and camera dealers in Brooklyn NY usually do not have the best reputation. So I would look around. B+H, Beach Camera, BuyDig, Adorama are some very good camera stores with excellent prices. I would get the camera with at least 2 months before you leave, so that if something is wrong, you can get it fixed/exchanged before leaving. Also, it would give you time to expirement and make shure that you made the right decision (the option to return/exchange). Bottom line, you have to like to use it and be happy with it, regardless of how high the camera's ranking is or someone's eles opinion of it.

The main difference between the A650, G9 (have some additional manual controls) and the Canon SD's and Panasonic TZ-5 (have fewer) are manual controls. If you do not use them, then it does not matter.

Personal suggestion - They are all around $300 +/-. and since it appears that size is a consideration, I would lean towards the smaller units, the Canon SD (SD870IS, SD890IS, SD950IS, etc.) and the Panasonic TZ-5. In that the TZ-5 has a wider focal range and is pretty much the equivalent across the board, I would go with that. Do a search here on Steve's for "TZ-5" and you will run into a lot of comments from Sara. Here are a few that address the A650, G9, TZ5 and a few others....

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=87
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=87
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=23
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=87
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=87
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=87
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=87
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=87

... and just to be fair, here is a set of comments about some drawbacks of the TZ5
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...mp;forum_id=23

Hope that helps....
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Old May 24, 2008, 12:32 PM   #8
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abjam-

Interested Observer has given you a whole lot of excellent information. Perhaps it would help if I elaborated a little on why I consider the Panasonic TZ-5 to be virtually the ideal travel camera.

My husband and I travel between 10 and 11 months each year. Therefore, I have a lot of hands-on experience with the travel photography niche. There are times when you want to provide your viewer with a wider perspective. A 28 mm wide angle position on your camera is very valuable for scenic landscapes, or taking photos of a group of people where you want everyone to be included. The TZ-5 also has the ability to handle various photo formats. There is of course the 3:2 format used to print standard 4" X 6" prints. It has the 4:3 format that produces standard print formats such as 5" X 7" and 8" X 10." Finally there is the 16:9 format which is a common format used on wide screen flat panel Television screens. I often use the 16:9 format to provide that sweeping view.

There are a lot of times when I either cannot intrude on a person's personal space, or with photos of children where I want to stand back and still take close-up photos of them without them being overly aware of my prescence. Those situations require some telephoto power. Or another example, you see a fabulous pagoda on a hill that you want to photograph. You are in a passing boat, but the telephoto power of your camera will bring the pagoda close-up without you having to move your position.

There are also times when the time frame for the photo that you want to capture is very short. So you want a camera that operates quickly and taken excellent photos on the fly. The Panasonic TZ-5 can do all of the items that I have mentioned with speed and ease. There will be many memories that you will want to capture during your semester or year in China, therefore, a good camera to record those memories is essential.

Before settling on the TZ-5, I explored the Canon G-7/G-9, the Canon A-650, the Canon SX-100, the Canon A-720, and the Canon A-570IS. I also looked at and used the Canon SD-series expensively and the Olympus Stylus series. However, I really wanted a wide angle and the ability to have some telephoto zoom. Therefore, I tried and decided on the Panasonic TZ-5 and have been very pleased with the camera.

As you will notice from my previous post, I also carry a Sony H-3 camera. You are probably wondering, why two cameras? I carry the H-3 for its wonderful flash capabilities. It has a flash range of up to23 feet. Many normal point and shoot cameras only have a flash range of just 10 to 13 feet. So the H-3 fills out my flash capabilities very nicely.

Sarah Joyce



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Old May 24, 2008, 10:59 PM   #9
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Well now I am in a bit of a conundrum. I like the size of the TZ-5, and I am intriqued by all of the cool technology that it packs, but I am dissapointed that it has essentially no manual controls (especially becuase they can all be added in software!). Correct me if I am wrong, but it does not have a shutterspeed or apeture priority mode right? I belive that the software is good enough to get the setting right, it is just hard to get my head around buying a new camera with fewer options than my current one. The lower price is welcome and I like the movie features. If someone hacked the firmware and added RAW, auto bracketing, time lapse, and manual shutter speed and apature controls I would be sold.

Gonna have to go to a store and compare them I guess.

Poked around the Panasonic site and found the DMC-LX2. This has a lot manual more features than the TZ-5 but only has a 4x zoom. It is slightly larger too. Anyone have an opinion on the LX2?
This guy goes for the G9, but does admit that it is heavier and a bit bigger.
http://photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00Mea1
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Old May 25, 2008, 1:10 AM   #10
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With your liking the smaller size, but wanting some manual controls, I went to another site that searched their data base and I came up with the following:
Format: Ultra Compact
Aperture priority: Yes
Shutter priority: Yes
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 - about $350
10MP, 25 to 125 (5X), JPG no RAW, IS

Leica D-LUX 3 - about $600 (a rebadged Lumix DMC LX-2)
10MP, 28 to 112mm (4X), JPG and RAW, IS

In order to gain some features, you loose some others. The Leica is an older camera (2006) and some report problems. The Panasonic has been out almost 2 months, so there is not a lot of history. There never is a perfect camera, everything is a choice and a balance of features. You have to decide on the relative value of the various features to you and select accordingly.

In a larger camera body you have
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LZ10[/*]
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LZ8[/*]
  • Canon Powershot A590 IS[/*]
  • Kodak Z8612 IS[/*]
  • Nikon Coolpix P50[/*]
  • Nikon Coolpix P5100[/*]
  • Casio Exilim EX-V8[/*]
  • Casio Exilim EX-Z1080[/*]
  • Canon PowerShot G9[/*]
  • Canon PowerShot A720 IS[/*]

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