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wookie25 May 16, 2010 1:39 AM

Camera decision for Germany vacation and more
I've been a follower of Steve's Digicams website for many years now reading reviews but this is the first time I'm in the forums.

My situation:
I'm going to Germany next month for 2 weeks of vacation and I want to find a camera with the following (in order of priority):
1. Long zoom (>12x)
2. Good quality image (sharp, low noise, brilliant colors)
3. Some manual options (good to have)

My budget is ~<$400.

I currently have a sony w70 that suffices for family and friends shots most of the year, but I like to have a camera that takes good quality images when on auto, but also has the manual options for me to play with. I previously had a canon s5 that I used for 2 weeks in Netherlands and I was very pleased with the results. But after having it sit around at home for 3 months unused, I sold it off on ebay.

For the purpose of this vacation, I will mostly take pictures of castles, scenery and architecture. I now have the dilemma of either getting a the Panasonic FZ35 or Canon sx20is ultrazoom camera or getting a compact Panasonic ZS7 or Canon 210is.
I have read a lot of good things about the FZ35 on this website.

My main concern is whether the quality of the photo from the Panasonic FZ35/Canon sx20is are significantly better from the compact cameras Panasonic zs7/Canon sx210? I saw some photos uploaded by forum member in the Panasonic thread from both the FZ35 and the zs7. Taking into consideration variability, the zs7 seems to have sharper and more brilliant pictures.

If the quality of the pictures from the FZ35 or sx20 are not significantly different, then maybe I am willing to ďsettleĒ for the compacts. If I end up getting the FZ35 or sx20, I may consider selling it after the trip.

I would really appreciate any advice, opinions or suggestions of further cameras to consider.

Thank you.

shoturtle May 16, 2010 1:58 AM

2 Attachment(s)
None of the camera you listed are great low light camera's. so if you can give up on the low light, the FZ35 is a great camera that offer a hech allot of zoom. What the FZ35 and the SX20 gives you is allot of manual controls. That allow you to have greater control of your shots over the smaller point and shoots you listed. Between the FZ and the SX20, I think the FZ is a little better, but not by much.

If you want to travel really compact, the zs7 and sx210 are good 14x zoom camera. That will pretty much have similar quality, as they uses pretty much the same size sensor as the Fz and SX. You just do not have as long a zoom or as much manual control over your shot. If you are site seeing you should be able to get away with the shorter zoom of 12-14x. The big thing you need is a good wide angle, something down in the 25mm to 28mm to frame the castles and sites.

None of the camera you mention will be good in low light, if you are looking for low light shot like these as you will have a long twilight, you will need a dslr, you will need 1600 and 3200iso if you are not shooting on a tripod. All the point and shoot megazoom's have small ccd sensor, though they put 1600 and 3200 iso on them, they can not perform up that high well at all. You will not be able to hand hold long enough for low light shooting without good 1600 and 3200iso.

Here are 2 shots taking in Franfurt with 1600iso and 3200iso in low light handheld, the point and shoot will not be able to match these result. The only one that will come close is the canon S90 or G11, but they only have a 3x zoom and no HD. But as you are going to Germany pretty much in the summer, it does not get dark dark till about 8:30-9:00.

wookie25 May 16, 2010 9:30 AM

Thanks shoturtle, those 2 photos look amazing! Absolutely stunning.

Unfortunately the s90 only has 3.8x zoom and the g11 is somewhat north of my budget (and I'd probably want to add zoom lens on top). I may be persuaded to get a dSLR, but is there an entry model that around my budget that can handle low light well?

shoturtle May 16, 2010 10:54 AM

The XSi can shoot very well up to it's 1600iso max, it will give you image quality as good as the 1600iso sample I post, the left one. And it is not to expensive, but the bang for the buck low light camera that will handle night shot well would be the pentax K-x. The 2 lens kit will be 680 dollars with only one lens 520 dollars. And it is almost as good the my T1i in autofocus, and a little better with noise at higher iso. Here is a like to some test between the T1i and the pentax K-x.

wookie25 May 16, 2010 11:41 AM

Thanks again for the suggestions, I looked up prices for the K-x and the T1i, but even the used is rather beyond my price range.

If my understanding is correct, under the same settings, the zs7 compared to the fz35 theoretically produces similar quality pictures?

RioRico May 16, 2010 1:28 PM


Originally Posted by wookie25 (Post 1094831)
I looked up prices for the K-x and the T1i... If my understanding is correct, under the same settings, the zs7 and fz35 theoretically produces similar quality pictures?

They are nowhere even close. All P&S cams have MUCH smaller sensors than do dSLRs. The count of megapickles (mpx) may be similar, but on a tiny sensor those pixels are small, tight, and noisy. The critical factor here is pixel density: how many megapickles per square centimeter (mpx/cm2)? Lower density is better (less noise). Here's how the cameras in question compare:

zs7 -- 12.1 mpx -- 50 mpx/cm2 -- very dense
fz35 - 12.1 mpx -- 43 mpx/cm2 -- not as bad
ti1 --- 15.1 mpx -- 4.5 mpx/cm2 - much better
Kx --- 12.4 mpx -- 3.3 mpx/cm2 - the bestest

The Panasonic P&S's can produce nice shots at low ISO. They could be printed up to 8x10" and look pretty photographic. At higher ISO or larger print size, the digital artifacts will be noticeable, and they aren't as pretty as film grain. Comparing shots done with a P&S vs dSLR, you'll see that the dSLR pictures have MUCH more detail and dynamic range, and the optics allow much more control over the depth and quality of the image.

If you shoot in good light, don't enlarge too much, and still want pictures to look photographic, a P&S is fine. Such even works with larger and higher-ISO shots, if you're doing art and not photorealism. I've shot with an old 1mpx camera and blown images up to poster-size -- and they look like posters, not photos. It depends on what you want with the image.

Some things to remember: A picture on a computer screen does NOT look like a print. If you're printing pictures, you can play with print size, matte and mount and glass, placement, all of which greatly affect what the image looks like. Almost any picture looks good if it's far or small enough. Some of the most important and striking photos in history are blurry blobs shot with gear we'd now consider crap. The best camera (or lens) is the one you use. The worst is the one you don't use, or wish you'd "upgraded" recently.

shoturtle May 16, 2010 2:35 PM


Originally Posted by wookie25 (Post 1094831)
Thanks again for the suggestions, I looked up prices for the K-x and the T1i, but even the used is rather beyond my price range.

If my understanding is correct, under the same settings, the zs7 and fz35 theoretically produces similar quality pictures?

pretty much, the the biggest difference is the zoom. The sensor is slightly larger on the FZ35.

wookie25 May 19, 2010 1:30 PM

After reading a lot more reviews and threads, and re-assessing my photo taking preferences, Iíve modified my selections and criteria:

When I travel, I enjoy taking pictures mostly of 3 things:
  1. Churches and old/medieval buildings (castles in this case; interior>exterior) - from past experiences, I think I need some decent low light capabilities
  2. Nature and landscape scenery
  3. Unique buildings
When Iím not traveling, I only take pictures of friends around the dinner table.

So Iíve reworked my choices (not in order):
  1. Panasonic FZ35
  2. Canon G11
  3. Panasonic zs7
  4. Canon s90
  5. Pentax K-x

zs7: Iíve seen some night time shots with the zs7, and it seems that they were acceptable up to iso 200. Maybe it will be acceptable indoors? (And the daylight photo samples I've seen are amazing)

Sacrificing the pocketability of zs7 for more zoom, and slightly better image quality than zs7 (although I can't tell from online sample photos).

s90: Iím considering sacrificing zoom for the low light capabilities of the s90. But I'm really hesitant because I have concerns that 3.8x zoom will not be enough.

G11: Although the G11 is slightly north of my budget (~$430), I might be willing to stretch it for the ďrightĒ camera. The G11 is added on the list mostly because of itís lower pixel density and (as I understand it) better low light capability. But again, I'm not sure if 5x zoom is sufficient.

K-x: Iím a little hesitant on the K-x mostly because itís treading into the SLR range of things and I donít think Iíll use half of the features (based on the available options Iíve read in reviews). I still donít think I want to go into SLR, mostly because I donít think Iíll use it enough to learn the ins and outs of it. I put the K-x on the list because itís very closely priced to the G11.

More thoughts:
- All of them will suffice for when Iím not traveling, just a matter of size (s90 and zs7 would be best in this scenario)
- my current thought is that I am willing to sacrifice some amount of zoom for a more all-around better quality image capability, and thatís pushing me towards g11.

I really wish there is a compact camera with >12x zoom and good low light capabilities.

I think the next best thing for me to do is go to a store and play with them. Any comments, ideas or suggestions?

shoturtle May 19, 2010 2:30 PM

churches and castle indoors, you will need iso better then 1600 at times if you are not the steadiest handed person, under 1/30 of at set at 1600iso.

So the K-x will be my choice. Know how low the lighting at the Koln cathedral is. 3200iso will be what you need. As flash is not allowed

If you are very steady handed, you may be able to hold down at 1/8 and 1/16 with the IS of the G11 or S90.

The FZ and the ZS will not be able to get the shot handheld. You will need a tripod, and some of the churches and castle will not let you set them up.

So knowing your low light needs, my order recommendation from first highest to lowest would be

Pentax k-x

RioRico May 19, 2010 3:35 PM

I would also recommend the Kx, because of: its low-light capability, its in-body shake reduction (SR), interchangeable lenses, and image quality (IQ). Shooting in small interior spaces calls for a wide lens; at 20mm and with SR on, you can get SHARP hand-held shots at 1/10 sec, maybe even slower. (I mention 20mm because that's within the range of common 18-xxx zooms.) After shooting with a kit lens for awhile, you may decide that other lenses will help you take/make more shots. You'll have more future flexibility with a dSLR than with any P&S. And the quality of the images will be MUCH better.

Do you NEED to learn all the advanced features of the Kx, or any camera? Not right away -- but they're there if you want to explore just what you can do with this nifty tool. Put the camera in P(rogram) mode and set the Program Line to your desired priority -- aperture, shutter, or quality (MTF) -- and it will work quite automatically. Later you can try to outsmart the camera. (I am an obsolete software engineer. I have been repeatedly humiliated by machines with less intelligence than a paramecium.) Using the Kx or any modern dSLR can be as easy or as difficult as you want.

My basic minimal starter's package would be Pentax Kx and 18-250mm (14x) superzoom. This will cost almost twice your budget. Yikes! But it will last longer and do more than any of your P&S options.

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