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Old Nov 8, 2010, 8:55 AM   #1
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Default Cheap real-bridge camera

Hi,

I am looking some suggestions to buy a camera for my girlfriend.
I know the basics of phtography but I am quite a noob when choosing the right camera.

She is attending her first photography course (from novice).
Right now she has a SONY DSC-P120 camera (http://www.dcviews.com/_sony/p100.htm).
Last weekend she went out to take some shots with the teacher ans was frustrated because of the low capabilities of her camera (for example she often can only choose between two apertures), so I was trying to het her another cam.

As usual in this case, the teacher suggested to get an entry level DSLR (but I think he doesn't know much about bridge cameras!).

She's not looking for something exceptional, but I believe her camera should satisfy the following requirements:
1) be able to have a nice zoom (8-10x would be enough)
2) have nice performance at low light (decent noise-less ISO 800 performance)
3) have a good aperture lens which let some creativity (blurrying the backgroung without the need to take a macro picture)
4) be cheap (sub 300$ would be ideal)

Almost everybody suggests to stay away from bridge cameras and step up to a DSLR, but I am not convinced for the following points:

1) Budget is limited: sub 400$, possibly under 300$. If we buy a DSLR, we're not going to buy new lenses anytime soon, so do you think the lens that comes with the camera on purchasing is all that good all-around performer? Or is better the all-around lens of a bridge?
2) I consider that sensor technology has improved extremely in the last years and so even the small sensor built in today bridge cameras may be quite good (nowadays these cameras have ISO settings as high as 6400, so they should take quite good pictures at a much more modest ISO 800 settings, don't they?). I was hoping to parallel the performances of some years old reflex.
3) having a smaller sensor bridge cameras may have a better all-round lens which is not huge
4) smaller means you can carry it with you almost always

The problem is that most bridge camera I have seen seem to be geared toward ultra-super-zoom capability (15x-30x) instead of a good aperture lens (there is a trade-off among these two, right?).
Some models are nice but are expensive (800$). At that price I think it would be better jumping to a DSLR!

Nontheless I saw some models which seemed nice even if they belong to the ultrazoom category.
For example the Olympus SP-600UZ (http://www.dpreview.com/news/1002/10...0uzsp600uz.asp). But this camera has an aperture of f3.5 which *seems* a bit too high to me and the highest time setting is 1/2 s (this is something I can't understand... even the cheapest cameras have shutter which could stay open many seconds; somebody can elighten me?).
Or the Fuji finepix S1600, but again aperture is F4.0.
Besides, the maximum ISO settings of 1600 let me think of the not-so-good low light performances.
They are cheap as I can get them here in Italy for about 170 euros.

The ideal bridge camera would:
1) have a "normal", not exagerate zoom (8x-10x)
2) have a good aperture lens
3) maybe a *slightly* bigger sensor than compact cameras (may 1/1.6" instead of 1/2.33")

It seems manufacturers are more interested in proposing cheap ultrazoom cameras instead of cheap real bridge-to-DSLR cameras.

Any suggestion and opinion is welcome!

Thank you all!
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Old Nov 8, 2010, 1:17 PM   #2
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You should look at the FinePix S200EXR
Lens: Fujinon 14.3x optical zoom lens,
Aperture: Wide: F2.8 - F11, Telephoto: F5.3 - F11
CCD sensor:1/1.6-inch Super CCD EXR
It has manual zoom and focus,
I really want to have it
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Old Nov 8, 2010, 1:33 PM   #3
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well, unfortunately, there is no camera that fits all of your wants. you will have to compromise somewhere. and really if photography is something that your gf wants to continue, her teacher did give her the correct advice.

depth of field control (ability to selectively blur background, selective focus on objects) really does require a larger sensor dslr camera. with the smaller sensor bridge cameras the sensor is tiny so the lens is really a 5mm-20mm'ish focal length, so the depth of field is huge, making it nigh impossible to blur a background unless you are inches from the subject and the background is far away.

also, low light, this again is the realm of dslrs when you consider the sensor is many many times larger than any bridge or compact camera its pretty easy to understand why.

really, the best compromise here is to stretch the budget as much as possible, compromise on the zoom and just learn to use the kit lens on an entry level dslr.

if you want to compromise on the depth of field control, you could look into something like the nikon p7000 with its 1/1.7" sensor and 8x zoom lens. and it will be smaller than a dslr, but you will have no depth of field control, and it costs pretty much the same as an entry level dslr.

the mirrorless cameras may be another option as well, they have the larger sensors comparable to dslrs, but in a smaller package. Olympus EPL1, Samsung NX100, Sony Nex 3, Panasonic G1/G10 are the cheapest in this category. they will give you the depth of field and control and low light performance of a dslr in smaller package. but without the phase detect af or optical finder, not a choice for action/sports, though i think that was not your purpose anyway. so this may be a good choice to look into
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Old Nov 8, 2010, 1:58 PM   #4
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Just FYI, Adorama is selling factory-refurbished Canon Rebel XS dSLRs with the 18-55 IS kit lens for $400. You'd have to add an SD card. If you don't already have one, that would add ten bucks or so, but that would be a very decent way to gt into dSLR photography: http://www.adorama.com/ICADRXSKBR.html
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Old Nov 8, 2010, 2:09 PM   #5
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If you can afford it, probably, a cheap DSLR would be the best. However, Amazon is selling the Panasonic FZ35 for $299. It has a very small sensor, but has decent picture quality to ISO 800. It has a 27-486mm zoom range and very decent lens. I had the FZ28, its predecessor, and really liked it.
The Fuji S200EXR is a decent bridge camera but will cost you at least 50 dollars more and is harder to use at first and much bigger.
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Old Nov 8, 2010, 2:10 PM   #6
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Thank you all for your suggestions!

@Hards80: even the FinePix S200EXR suggested Hernan8804 is not up to the task?
I was hoping that some manufacturer was able to give us a cheap camera with fast lenses (trading that against zoom)... but I was wrong...
It only makes me amazed how many ultrazooms are out there, and everybody says they're crap.

Also, I was thinking that with incredible developments in sensor technology even the smallest todays' sensor would rival some "old" APS...
I saw some models which offer lower resolution at the highest ISO settings, anybody has experience? I think 6 MP is more than enough if it reduce noise a lot.

Hards80, the bridge cameras are crap at only 800 ISO, too?

I understand that I have little DOF control on bridge cameras, that's all.

Anyway if I should go for a DSLR or mirrorless, do you have any cheap model suggestions?

I have read something about Fuji S200EXR and Panasonic FZ35. They seem pretty decent.
I just have not a good enough idea of the different performances between these and a DSLR.
They seem good at ISO 800 plus they're cheap (especially the FZ35) they use cheap SD cards and do HD videos...
However a base DSLR doesn't cost much more...
At this point I am wondering if:
- the more control over DOF (but how much more with stock lens?? I am going to use the camera for a long time with the kit lens) was worth the extra money, no video capability, CF cards, more weight?
- would the ISO settings of 1600 and more which I could access with a DSLR be useful in dark conditions? Do you use them a lot?

You can help me with some examples?
still a pletora of suggestions of models is welcome!

Thank you once more!

Last edited by davide_m; Nov 8, 2010 at 2:34 PM. Reason: update
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Old Nov 8, 2010, 2:33 PM   #7
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sony a290 is around 430 with the kit lens and free shipping, panasonic g10 with 14-42 lens 450ish you can use nextag or something like that, and also try adorama used.
Hope you find what are looking for
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Old Nov 8, 2010, 2:34 PM   #8
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I just have to agree with Hards80, stretch the budget and go for a DSLR if you can.

I just went through a nightmare with a Panasonic FZ100. After returning 2, one for defect and one because I just wasn't happy with the results, I went to a Canon DSLR. What an absolute treat and surprise it is.
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Old Nov 8, 2010, 3:53 PM   #9
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@Hards80: even the FinePix S200EXR suggested Hernan8804 is not up to the task?
No, the f200exr is not up to the task either. the nikon p7000 i mentioned would be much better option if you had to go bridge, but then the price difference is just not there to be worth it.

Also, I was thinking that with incredible developments in sensor technology even the smallest todays' sensor would rival some "old" APS...
really, they don't. some of the better 1/1.7" cams like the nikon p7000, canon g12, offer pretty clean 800 and 1600 iso, but still not resolving the same amount of detail and again no dof control

Hards80, the bridge cameras are crap at only 800 ISO, too?
well, they aren't crap. at smaller print sizes or web size they aren't terrible. but not in the league of a larger sensor cam.

I understand that I have little DOF control on bridge cameras, that's all.

Anyway if I should go for a DSLR or mirrorless, do you have any cheap model suggestions?
DSLR = Canon XS, Sony A290, Pentax KX, Nikon 3100
Mirrorless = Olympus EPL-1, Panasonic G10 (cheapest), Sony Nex3

I have read something about Fuji S200EXR and Panasonic FZ35. They seem pretty decent.
I just have not a good enough idea of the different performances between these and a DSLR.
They seem good at ISO 800 plus they're cheap (especially the FZ35) they use cheap SD cards and do HD videos...

Well you do get HD video with some models i listed (Nikon 3100, and all the mirrroless). and i think all these shoot SD cards.

However a base DSLR doesn't cost much more...
At this point I am wondering if:
- the more control over DOF (but how much more with stock lens?? I am going to use the camera for a long time with the kit lens) was worth the extra money, no video capability, CF cards, more weight?
if your gf will pursue artistic photography and has an interest in low light, i think its worth it, especially given the small price difference between these entry level dslr and mirrorles compared to bridges, not much different. as someone pointed out earlier can get a panasonic g10 or canon xs or sony a290 ~450 or less, and the other models arent much different.
- would the ISO settings of 1600 and more which I could access with a DSLR be useful in dark conditions? Do you use them a lot?
if you are shooting in low light without flash, its extremely useful. you miles may vary of course depending on how often you shoot in these conditions.
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Old Nov 9, 2010, 12:40 PM   #10
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i'm with the others - you aren't going to get good low light performance from a sub-$400 camera. the larger sensor digicams tend to have short zooms, and the sensors are still much smaller than those on a dslr or m4/3 camera. way too much noise from most bridge cameras even at ISO400 in low light. if your girlfriend is serious about artistic photos, low light photos and wanting to stretch her photography, and you just can't afford more, i'd either get a refurb dslr or talk to her to find out where she's willing to compromise.
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