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Old Sep 5, 2008, 6:10 PM   #1
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Hey all,

I know that this is a very commonly asked question and a very difficult one to answer but I am sure that any advice I get from the experts would definitely help. To give a description of myself, I do not consider myself to be an amateur photographer but at the same time I would not call myself an expert. For example, I don't take all my pictures in "Auto" I love the manual focus in an SLR. At the same time, I usually don't touch the aperture and shutter speed settings in a camera. I've owned an S3 IS but gave it away recently and I'm looking for a new camera. I am torn between whether to get an ultra zoom camera or a DSLR. I did a lot of research last month and here are my findings:

Ultra Zoom Cameras:
Nikon Coolpix P80, Olympus SP-570UZ, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28, Sony DSC-H50, Fujifilm S100FS

I did not even consider S5 IS because it was almost similar to my previous camera. Although today I read in this forum about Canon SX1S and it has added to my confusion Among the 6 mentioned above, I liked Olympus SP-570UZ, Sony DSC-H50 and Fujifilm S100FS (strictly in that order). Here are my observations:

1) Olympus SP-570UZ:

Pros: 10 MP, 20x optical zoom, 5x digital zoom, Dual Image Stabilization, manually adjust focus using the lens ring.

Cons: Manually adjust zoom levels using the lens ring, can only use either the optical zoom or the audio during video mode (cannot use both), LCD monitor does not tilt.

2) Sony DSC-H50:

Pros: 30x digital zoom, 3-inch tilting LCD screen, NightShot.

Cons: 9 MP, 15x optical zoom

3) Fujifilm S100FS

Pros: 11.1 MP, 2.5-inch tilting LCD screen.

Cons: 14.3x optical zoom, 2x digital zoom


Digital SLRs:

Canon EOS 450D / Digital Rebel XSi, Nikon D60, Nikon D80, Olympus E-520, Olympus E-510, Sony DSLR-A200, Sony DSLR-A300, Sony DSLR-A350

Nikon D90 is something which I came across a few minutes back. It sounds very tempting with its video recording capability, Scene Recognition and live view. Anyway, getting back to the rest of the above cameras, my favorites are Nikon D80, Olympus E-520, Sony DSLR-A350.

1) Nikon D80:

Pros: I have heard great reviews from my friends and online reviews.

Cons: LCD screen cannot be tilted, Live View not available, expensive, No Image Stabilization.

2) Olympus E-520:

Pros: Cheap, Live View available, Image Stabilization, Face Detection and lots of scene modes

Cons: LCD screen cannot be tilted.

3) Sony DSLR-A350:

Pros: 14.2 MP, LCD screen can be tilted, Live View available, Image Stabilization

Cons: Expensive, image quality not as good as competitors (as per reviews).


And now back to the big old question So should I go for the Ultra zoom camera or the DSLR? I don't mind spending an extra 400-500 bucks more for an SLR, if it is worth it (given my experience and interest). I just fear that SLR expenses can run pretty high. I know I need at least an equivalent of a 12x zoom lens. So that might require me to get at least 2 - 3 lenses. So any approximate guesses on how much I would end up spending if I get an SLR?

I appreciate any help in this regard.

Thanks,
Nev

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Old Sep 5, 2008, 8:11 PM   #2
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The real difference is what you'll be shooting. You didn't give any detail about how you would use the camera.

A dSLR will give you a lot more flexibility and capability. As to costs, you can get cheap lenses that won't perform nearly as well as the lens in a superzoom, or you can spens a load of money for lenses that will run rings around anything a P&S will give you. If you want to go wide, most superzooms only go as wide as about a 63° angle of view, but even the kit lenses for most dSLRs can go as wide as 77°. But if you want to go long, a superzoom would be cheaper and, unless you want to spend a lot, better.

And, btw, if you got your info about the Sony A350 from the review on dpreview.com, forget it. That review is blatantly biased, and anyone that attempts to correct it is shouted down and banned. (See http://www.photoclubalpha.com/2008/06/12/sony-alpha-350-a-creative-review/#more-754)
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Old Sep 5, 2008, 10:41 PM   #3
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Sorry about that. I got involved with the details that I forgot to mention about that My usage is just for everyday use - pictures of people both indoors and outdoor. Occasional nature pictures like close up shots of insects, flowers, etc. I used to hate that in my S3 IS when I try capturing an insect and the camera focuses on the background. I also take long distance shots. I usually don't take pictures in dimmed light neither in very bright light. I am also not much into sports photography.

Yeah, I got my info about Sony A350 from dpreview. In fact, I got most info from there. So you would recommend this camera? Do you know how much it would cost me if get this camera + one lens for taking close up shots + one lens for taking long distance shots?

Thanks again for the help.
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Old Sep 6, 2008, 12:56 AM   #4
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I also have the Canon 450D, but i also just purchased the Fuji S100fs that i really like and takes great pictures, sure it doesn't perform like my 450D but it's good enough
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Old Sep 6, 2008, 5:58 AM   #5
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First problem is that the kit lenses for dSLRs have smaller maximum apertures at most angles of view than the lenses in superzooms. If you will be doing a lot of shooting people indoors, you'll need either to use flash or get a faster lens. The flashes that are built into camera bodies (dSLRs or P&S) aren't very powerful or flexible, so you may need to go with an external flash either way. There are some very good larger aperture lenses for dSLRs if you want to go the available light route, but larger apertures also limit your depth of field. I use the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 (~$400)for indoor shots and like it a lot.

Second problem is that there are lots of ways to shoot close ups, and none are particularly convenient. There are close up lenses that you would mount onto the filter rings on the end of your kit lens. These come in kits of 3 or 4 lenses (~$100), can be used individually or in combination,and are simple to install. You really don't know how much closer you'll be able to focus with them until you get a lot of experience with them, and unless they are really good (read 'expensive') they will degrade the image quality. You can use extension tubes which are installed between the camera body and a lens. These are sold in sets (~170)or individually ($60-$100), and contain no optical elements so they do not degrade image quality. But again you really don't know how much closer you'll be able to focus with them until you get a lot of experience with them. Lastly, there are macro lenses (~$300 up)that are lenses that fit on the camera just like the kit lens. These are usually fixed focal length lenses (as opposed to zoom lenses)and are the most expensive option, but havethe greatest capability and flexibility. They can focus as close as a foot and out to infinity, so they can be used for conventional subjects as well. So you will need to decide how much you want to invest in macrophotography.

As to long distance shooting (I presume you're not talking about 'Birding') there are inexpensive lenses that can go from 70mm to 300mm (that's about a 22° angle of view to about 5°), some available as part of a kit, so you can get away without spending a lot of money and see if these might fulfill your requirements. I think the Tamron 70-300 Di LD is the best of the inexpensive ones and goes for about $160.

Since you're not talking about sports, you don't really need the fast autofocus system that Canon has, though you should be aware thatthe autofocus system in the Olympus' and entry leve Nikons is pretty slow.

Image stabilization is a nice to have feature that reduces (if not eliminates) motion blur due to camera shake. Nikon and Canon use optical image stabilization in some of their lenses, which makes them bigger, heavier and more expensive. Pentax, Sony and most Olympus models use sensor shift image stabilization in the camera body, which means that any lens will be stabilized, including 20+ year old used Pentax and Sony (Minolta) lenses.

Canon and Nikon have the best selection of OEM and third party lenses and accessories, followed by Pentax, Sony and the entry level Nikons. Pentax and Sony also benefit from larger selections of used lenses. Pentax has a better selection of shorter, large aperture lenses, while Sony has a better selection of longer lenses thought hey can be very expensive. Olympus has the smallest selection of OEM, usedand third party lenses, and they can be very expensive.

Olympus makes the smallest and lightest dSLRs, and by virtue of their smaller image sensor, their lenses are the smallest and lightest as well (for equivalent angles of view.)

I can't speak intelligently about superzoom digicams except in general terms, but I can say that a superzoom will be more convenient and may even provide very good image quality for not a lot of money (comparatively speaking.)
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Old Sep 6, 2008, 7:44 AM   #6
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Thanks a lot for your suggestions. Those were very helpful. To be frank, I really liked the Sony A350 a lot even before because of its 14.2 MP, tiltable LCD screen, Live View available and Image Stabilization. My only concern was that everyone seemed to be raving about the image quality in Nikons (although they do not have the features of Sony I mentioned above). So packing 14.2 MP into a same sized CCD is not a bad thing? On a side note, I don't think I am savvy enough to differentiate between image qualities.

I saw this link: http://www.broadwayphoto.com/viewpro...spx?id=9842435
They are selling this camera for $689 with 18-70mm and a 55-200mm lens kit. In fact, I will be shell upto 1K for the entire kit. Besides the fact that the website could be a bogus site, do you think both these lens should help me cover all my everyday needs? Also "approximately" how much is 55-200mm lens' zoom in terms of "X" (in point-and-shoot)? Also I don't carry my tripod around. So do you think I will be able to manage this 55-200m lens without image stabilization? Also for now, I am not very concerned about taking indoor shots. I can buy the lens if I strongly feel the need to. I have the same feeling with macrophotography. I was happy with the pictures of insects I have captured with a 17-50mm lens with Nikon D80.

And long distance shooting, I was talking about taking pictures of lakes, mountains, skyline, etc. Also could I get a 70-300mm instead of a 55-200mm?


If you think DSLR might be an overkill for me, do you (or anyone) have any good suggestions for a good ultra-zoom P&S? I somehow seem to like the Olympus SP-570UZ but I am too inexperienced to figure out the negatives.

I'll go check out Ritz camera or some other store today. That might help get some feeling for the camera.

Thanks once again for the excellent help. I look forward to your response.

- Nev
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Old Sep 6, 2008, 8:33 AM   #7
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nev81 wrote:
Quote:
Thanks a lot for your suggestions. Those were very helpful. To be frank, I really liked the Sony A350 a lot even before because of its 14.2 MP, tiltable LCD screen, Live View available and Image Stabilization. My only concern was that everyone seemed to be raving about the image quality in Nikons (although they do not have the features of Sony I mentioned above). So packing 14.2 MP into a same sized CCD is not a bad thing?
Increasing the pixel density ("packing 14.2 MP into a same sized CCD") does have a tendency to increase the potential for noise, but, from Steve's review of the A350:

"When reviewing our sample images, I found the A350's image quality results to be very pleasing for an entry-level dSLR. We primarily shot using the 14M Large Fine JPEG setting and Program mode with the ISO set to 100. Doing so, the majority of our samples showed good overall exposure. When using the Standard creative style mode, color saturation was very natural looking. I was impressed with the low noise levels found when shooting available light shots of our M&M man. Noise was very low at ISO speeds of 800 and below. At ISO 800, you can start to see some signs in low contrast (shadow) areas when viewing an image at 100%. Using 1600, noise is present throughout the photograph. This also seems to be when the High ISO NR (Noise Reduction) kicks in. There is slight detail loss from this, which you can see by looking at the wording on the magazines in our samples. The ISO 3200 option shows even more noise, however, I feel both of these settings still have the ability to produce usable prints up to maybe an 8x10. ..."

nev81 wrote: Take a look at this link: http://www.resellerratings.com/store/Broadway_Photo

nev81 wrote:
Quote:
...do you think both these lens should help me cover all my everyday needs? Also "approximately" how much is 55-200mm lens' zoom in terms of "X" (in point-and-shoot)? Also I don't carry my tripod around. So do you think I will be able to manage this 55-200m lens without image stabilization? Also for now, I am not very concerned about taking indoor shots. I can buy the lens if I strongly feel the need to. I have the same feeling with macrophotography. I was happy with the pictures of insects I have captured with a 17-50mm lens with Nikon D80.

And long distance shooting, I was talking about taking pictures of lakes, mountains, skyline, etc. Also could I get a 70-300mm instead of a 55-200mm?
First, 'X' doesn't mean what you think it means. 'X' is just the ratio of the shortest focal length to the longest in a zoom lens. The 55-200mm lens is about a 4X zoom, but so is the 18-70mm lens. And a 50mm fixed focal length lens would be a 0X lens, but so would a 500mm lens. So there is no direct correlation between 'X' and focal length or angle of view.

And remember that the Sony and the Olympus you're looking at have stabilization in the body. Also, the longer a lens is, the more useful image stabilization becomes, and 55-200 isn't very long.

The 55-200 is a pretty good lens for the price. Do I think you should get a 70-300 instead? For "lakes, mountains, skyline, etc.", the 55-200 might do fine. The best way to determine that is to go through the EXIF data in the photos you took with you S3 IS to see what the 35mm equivalent focal length of those shots were, then divide that number by 2/3 for a Canon, Nikon, Pentax or Sony, or by 1/2 for an Olympus. That should be the longest focal length lens you'd need.

nev81 wrote:
Quote:
If you think DSLR might be an overkill for me, do you (or anyone) have any good suggestions for a good ultra-zoom P&S? I somehow seem to like the Olympus SP-570UZ but I am too inexperienced to figure out the negatives.

I'll go check out Ritz camera or some other store today. That might help get some feeling for the camera.
I don't think a dSLR would be overkill for you. You've had experience with the Canon S3 IS and clearly felt it was time to move on, so maybe you'd be dissatisfied with anything less. And I agree thathandling the cameras would be a good idea.
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Old Sep 6, 2008, 8:35 AM   #8
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If a price looks too good to be true, it probably is. Always check out any vendor you consider using http://www.reselleratings.com (they're better about keeping out fake customer reviews compared to most store ratings sites, since vendors will often try to pad their own ratings with glowing reviews, and scammers with nice looking web sites are very common.

You can see customer reviews for the vendor you mentioned here:

http://www.resellerratings.com/store/Broadway_Photo

You can expect to pay $999.99 for that A350 kit from a reputable vendor that will actually sell one for that price with any catches. ;-)

As for 14MP in that sensor size... it will place higher demands on the lens quality needed for best results. Personally, I think you'd be wasting your money buying that kit over the lower resolution A300, unless you plan on something other than a lens like the 18-70mm. I've seen more than one user comment that the lower resolution 10MP A300 had better images using that lens compared to the A350, and I've looked at a number of side by side images comparing them, too.

Here's one review showing that. Read through this page and you'll see it discussed in more detail:

http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/So..._results.shtml

I've seen similar tests in forum posts elsewhere (same subjects in the same conditions shot with both camera models). That's probably one reason some reviewers comment negatively on this models image quality (because they're judging it using the kit lenses).

You'll need better glass using a camera with resolution that high for best results. The A300 is also a faster camera shooting in continuous drive mode (thanks to the smaller file sizes from it's 10MP images). Of course, it also has the benefit of being less expensive compared to the A350.

Ditto for noise comparisons. While I appreciate David Kilpatrick's enthusiasm for the A350, my eyes don't see any improvement with the higher resolution sensor (especially in the shadow areas where noise is destroying the detail in his samples if you look at the full size originals, not to mention that exposure was leaning towards the brighter end of the scale, which helps noise levels). You'll have to judge for yourself.

Now, if you decide to buy higher quality lenses later, then the 14MP sensor may offer some benefits for printing at larger sizes or if you plan on cropping a lot.

As for how much optical zoom you need, you'll want to compare the 35mm equivalent focal lengths versus the x factors you see.

With a dSLR using an APS-C size sensor, you'll need to multiply the focal length of a lens by 1.5x to see what lens on a 35mm camera would give you the same angle of view.

For example, a 100mm lens on a model like the Sony A300 or A350 would give you the same angle of view you'd have using a 150mm lens on a 35mm camera (100mm x 1.5 = 150mm). So, a lens like the 18-70mm would give you the same angle of view as a 27-105mm lens. Or, a lens like the 55-200mm would give roughly the same angle of view as an 83-300mm lens on a 35mm camera.

Most point and shoot models already show you the 35mm equivalent focal lengths in their specifications (so you wouldn't need to use any multipliers with most of those).

As for photos of insects, you may want to consider a dedicated 1:1 Macro lens for best results. For example, a Sigma 50mm f/2.8 Macro or 105mm f/2.8 Macro. These lenses can "fill the frame" with a subject the same size as the sensor the lens is being used on. Most kit lenses have a macro rating of around 1:4 (which means that the smallest subject you can fill the frame with at their closest focus distance is going to be 4 times the size of the film or sensor the lens is being used on.

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Old Sep 6, 2008, 8:50 AM   #9
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P.S.

If you want a slightly different opinion about it, see this thread:

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...p;forum_id=101

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Old Sep 6, 2008, 2:13 PM   #10
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Thanks a lot guys. I really appreciate the time you are taking to help me out. I am a little more confused on what camera to get but I am happy about it I would rather be more knowledgeable and confused rather than being ignorant and unconfused. Here are some pointers I picked out:

1) A DSLR might be a better choice for me than an Ultra-zoom P&S:

- I always had the heart for a DSLR but I was unable to justify myself to spend so much on a camera. So you guys have done a good job with that

2) An A300 would suit me better than a A350:

- Based on what you say and what is mentioned in the links, the A350 captures poorer images than A300 because is it shipped with a poorer lens (to keep the cost down). I also read that I can buy the A350 body alone. So could I still get the A350 body and buy a good lens instead of the one they provide by default? (I saw that both of them almost cost the same).

3) A 55-200 mm lens should be enough. 70-300 mm lens is not needed:

- I can see why you would recommend that. I guess the 70-300 mm would be more expensive, bulkier and may be even more difficult to take steady pictures. If these are the only reasons why you are recommending the 55-200, I would rather get the 70-300 mm lens (provided they are not more than 200 bucks of the 55-200 lens). Would the quality of images taken depreciate if I get a larger lens?

And thanks a lot for explaining about the "X" factor. I understand the theory much better now but still a little hazy. For example, assume I am on the shore taking a picture of a ship. If I zoom fully to 12x on my S3 IS, I know how much of the ship would occupy my image. If I want the ship to occupy the same space on my image, what size of lens should I get for the A350 (assuming me and the ship are at the same positions)? I hope you understand what I am trying to convey. I apologize for using amateur, layman terms.

4) I think I am almost set to get a A350. How come none of you mentioned about Nikon? Is it because you think I wouldn't use those features given my experience? Or is it because Nikon has too much hype and Sony is almost as good? I did not like the features of the Nikons but Nikon D90 seems tempting with its live view and movie recording. I don't think I would get it just because of its sheer price but do you have any thoughts?

Thanks once again,
Nev
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