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Old Jun 6, 2008, 12:33 PM   #1
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Hi there,

I'm new to these forums. I recently went to Argentina on vacation with a Canon Powershot SD800. I've always had a mild interest in photography, but it greatly strengthened when I came back and saw my pictures. I really love love love to take landscape pictures - a lot of my shots came out great but I kept wondering how much better I could do with a better camera.

I initially wanted do buy an DSLR because of the ability to take panoramic shots by changing lens. I am beginning to think otherwise because of new programs out there that enable better stitching together of photos. I'm also rather petite, and I don't think I would like lugging around a DSLR + lens. I'm not sure if I am ready for the investment as well.

As I said, I am really interested in learning more about photography. I would like to be able to change things such as aperture. I prefer taking either landscape shots or the occasional night shots of a starry sky (so I would need a reasonable shutter time as well??) I also prefer an optical zoom > than 4x. So, I am considering a SLR-like. Some people may say its a wasted investment though.

What do you think? Does anyone have any suggestions? I am considering the Panasonic Lumix DZ-8, etc. Thanks for your help! This really means a lot to an aspiring amateur .
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Old Jun 6, 2008, 3:04 PM   #2
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I'm not the best person to answer your camera questions as I moved to a dSLR several years ago and have lost touch with specific advanced p&s cameras. However, I do have a philosophical opinion on the dSLR vs. p&s camera question that might help make up your mind. I completely disagree with the blanket statement that buying an advanced p&s is a "wasted investment". It might be the perfect investment, or it might not be.

There's no question that you have greater flexibility with a dSLR and it will do some specific things significantly better than a p&s, such as indoor sports. But you are talking about things where you can use a good tripod and slow shutter speeds, so you don't need high ISO values (something that fixed lens cameras, with their smaller sensors, don't do very well).That puts the fixed lens camera much more on a level playing field with an entry dSLR.

As you noted, the main disadvantageyou would have is that the fixed lens cameras aren't very wide and you would be forced into taking several shots and stitching them together for a panorama. I know that there are pretty good programs out there to help you do that, but I've always found them time consuming, at least to get right where you don't see the joins, and it takes a tripod to keep things lined up right. After playing around with several, I got frustrated and bought a wider lens. But if you find yourself looking at details more, and using a longer telephoto lens more than the wide angle, then it might not be such a big deal for you.

There are a lot of disadvantages to a dSLR - as you noted, they are larger, there's more equipment involved and more weight. You have to think about a lot more than just framing. You end up taking more time to approach each shot, looking at what your subject is and how best to portray it. So you have to invest moremoney, time, thought and muscles to use a dSLR. But the results CAN be so much better, depending on the subject and the capabilities of the photographer. They can also be so much worse, if the photographer makes mistakes.

While it sounds like you might be a candidate for a dSLR somewhere down the line, it doesn't sound like it yet. So get a bridge camera and have fun with it for a while. Find out if you feel limited by it at all - you could easily be completely happy with it (there are a number of really nice fixed lens cameras out there) and never want to move into a dSLR.
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Old Jun 6, 2008, 5:40 PM   #3
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lj322 wrote:
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I initially wanted do buy an DSLR because of the ability to take panoramic shots by changing lens. I am beginning to think otherwise because of new programs out there that enable better stitching together of photos.
...
There are a bunch of oldies but goodies for stitching, many that are free or fairly cheap. Those based on Panorama Tools (free, but unuseable by anyone but a geek) seem to be the best. None of the automagical stitching programs will deal with all situations so those that allow manual adjustments are the ones to look at. In particular, manual placement of the stitch line, e.g., so it goes down a tree trunk instead of the branches.

The charactoristics of a camera that make it nice for panoramas are a fairly wide lens and manual settings. Even though you are stitching, it is very nice to have fewer to stitch and to have a taller image without two row stitching. Manual setting mean fewer problems matching images in color and exposure.

lj322 wrote:
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I'm also rather petite, and I don't think I would like lugging around a DSLR + lens. I'm not sure if I am ready for the investment as well.
...
You have hit on a major disadvantage of a dSLR. To get a feel for what that feels like, attach a brick to a neck strap and carry it about for the better part of a day. If you can deal with the weight, you will not regret getting a dSLR.
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Old Jun 6, 2008, 9:54 PM   #4
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A dSLR is a 'No Compromises' camera, and it sounds like you may be ready for one.

No P&S digicam has as wide a lens as you can get for a dSLR, or even as wide as the kit lens on a dSLR, and so handicaps like stitching software is necessary for P&S digicams while they may only be nice to have for a dSLR.

And stitching software brings with it some issues. For instance, the exposure may be slightly different from one shot to the next as you pan, so the brightness and contrast might be slightly different and the stitching software must account for that. Also clouds may moveacrossthe scene as you are shooting. And the effort to create invisible seams might result in softness of the image.

I believe you'll be better off with a dSLR than a P&S with stiching software. And, of course, there's no rule that says you can't use stiching software with a dSLR too.
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