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Old Jan 29, 2011, 2:04 PM   #11
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Every camera I know of lets you change the #MP. Some offer small decrements while others offer larger (i.e. one camera may let you go from 16MP to 12MP to 8MP to 5MP to 3MP, while another may only allow you to go 16-10-5-1 - this is just an example). Most of my 12MP+ compact P&S is set to a lower # of MP. I find that the ZS7 set to 8 MP produces much better images. Some cameras will lower the #MP if using real high ISO values (a marketing gimmick basically). Up to ISO 1600 the camera will most likely maintain the #MP that has been set in the menu.

I have the ZS7 and for indoor shooting I always have the flash set to forced ON. The reason is because when the camera is set to AUTO FLASH, sometimes the camera gathers enough background light that makes it think flash is not needed, thus it won't fire it and the subject may be in the dark. By forcing the flash, you always guarantee that the subject will be lit. I don't use iAuto either because even though these new cameras are pretty clever determining the scene and adjusting the settings accordingly, many times the settings chosen are not necessarily the most appropriate. Set the camera to P mode or to A mode at the widest aperture.
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Old Jan 29, 2011, 3:18 PM   #12
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Tullio-

No offense intended, but in my experience with the ZS5 and ZS7, I found the light output of the built-in flash units to be measurably weak. This had an adverse effect on the image quality of the indoor photos with the ZS5 or ZS7. Based on my experience, I would have to judge the indoor photo performance to be marginal, excepting when the ISO is allowed to wildly increase.

When that happens; yes, you get better indoor photos, but also a whole lot of noise or visible graininess right along with the somewhat better indoor image quality. At least for me that is not very workable at all.

That is what drove me to the Canon SX130, and the Panasonic FZ40 which have much better indoor image quality when using flash than the ZS7. Here is a photo sample from the FZ40 where I added a Slave Flash as well to get an increased Flash Range (camera to subject distance measured in feet) of 20 feet.

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Old Jan 29, 2011, 3:39 PM   #13
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I got my ZS7 the other day. I've played around with it quite a bit and decided it's not going to work for me. I was expecting less than stellar low light performance, but I honestly didn't think it would fare worse than my 5 year old canon powershot a520. The images are not acceptable to me. I love the zoom...and ironically, even the indoor, low light zoom shots turn out pretty well, if the subject is something other than a person. For some reason, details on people seem really washed out....much more so than my old camera. The outdoor shots were good, which I expected. If it was equal to my a520 indoors, I'd be okay with that. I'm really surprised...the a520 is 5 years old and only 4 megapixels...I thought every camera on the market today would outperform it!

So, now I'm back to square one. I still want more zoom than I currently have (which is 4x), but I want something that is at least equal to the a520 indoors. Any suggestions? I'm thinking about the Canon sx130. I've read a lot about the Panasonic FZ35 and 40, but I'm a little leery of Panasonic now.

Most of my pictures will be of my kids/dog/husband, etc. Most of the time, they will be outdoor shots, but I do live in Minnesota, so during the long winters, I tend to take a fair amount of indoor shots as well. I don't need something that excels indoors...it just needs to be adequate, if that makes sense. I don't take a lot of pictures of flowers, trees, etc. I'd love to hear feedback and suggestions.

Thanks!
Have you considered a Nikon S8100 ?
It has a 10X zoom, is very good in low light and takes a rechargeable battery

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Old Jan 29, 2011, 3:41 PM   #14
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The LX5 or S95 would be better, but not by a huge measure at all. Likewise the FZ35 or FZ50 will only be better by a small measure. So you see "better" is really a relative term.

If you go to the LX5 or S95 the gain is really small camera size.

If you go to the SD4000 the gain is also a very pocketable camera.

If you go to the FZ35 or Fz40 the gain is really extra zoom.

The SX130 still represents a very good compromise while keeping the price lower.

All have very good image quality.

Sarah Joyce
I own the S95, FZ35 and FZ40 ans the difference in low light performance between the S95 and the other 2 cameras is considerable.

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Five-O...a question for you...I have set my ISO at max400. Is there a way to decrease the amount of pixels it uses? Because wouldn't that decrease the pixel density and result in somewhat better images? Not sure if it's possible or not, but since you own the camera, I thought you might know. Thanks!
In all modes but iA, you have quite a few image size to choose from. I personally shoot in the 16:9 aspect. However, changing the size won't improve pixel density; it will simply make for smaller images in which the noise may be less visible (because everything is smaller).

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Have you considered a Nikon S8100 ?
It has a 10X zoom, is very good in low light and takes a rechargeable battery

Bob
The Nikon S8100 seems to get very poor user reviews and will also fall behind the S95, LX5 and SD4000 in low light.

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Tullio-

No offense intended, but in my experience with the ZS5 and ZS7, I found the light output of the built-in flash units to be measurably weak. This had an adverse effect on the image quality of the indoor photos with the ZS5 or ZS7. Based on my experience, I would have to judge the indoor photo performance to be marginal, excepting when the ISO is allowed to wildly increase.

When that happens; yes, you get better indoor photos, but also a whole lot of noise or visible graininess right along with the somewhat better indoor image quality. At least for me that is not very workable at all.

That is what drove me to the Canon SX130, and the Panasonic FZ40 which have much better indoor image quality when using flash than the ZS7. Here is a photo sample from the FZ40 where I added a Slave Flash as well to get an increased Flash Range (camera to subject distance measured in feet) of 20 feet.

Sarah Joyce
The ZS7 flash is weak (about a 8-10 ft limit) but "low light" (though an unofficial term) always refers to images without flash. No offense intended, but that FZ40 photo is awful btw. The slave flash seems to have totally ruined the color of the photo.
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Old Jan 29, 2011, 5:34 PM   #15
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If I were to get the canon s95, would the quality be such that, if I cropped the images, they would still be fairly crisp? Thus, I may not need the higher zoom? Just wondering...
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Old Jan 29, 2011, 6:23 PM   #16
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Unfortunately, cropping to equal zoom is really not a viable solution, even with the S-95.

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Old Jan 30, 2011, 12:31 AM   #17
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Where did you get the notion that higher pixel density means more noise thus decreased IQ (image quality)?

1) Higher pixel density means a lot of things. Higher pixel density can add to IQ even on small sensor cameras or take away from IQ.

2) Apertures cannot be compared without stating the sensor sizes - otherwise it is out of context and loses much of its meaning.

Question to OP: do you view your images at 100%? If so ... that's not the way to assess the ZS7's performance versus your older camera. Try viewing the images at the same size as your older camera and you may notice dramatic improvement in the ZS7's images. But, if you purchased the ZS7 specifically for its megapixels (e.g. for huge prints), then this is a pointless test.

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It has nothing to do with the brand and everything to do with recognizing a given camera's limitations. You don't have to look much further than the specs to at least get a general idea of low light performance amongst various cameras. To keep it simple: lower numbers are better for both pixel density and aperture in terms of low light performance.

Canon A520 = 16 MP/cm² w/ an aperture of F2.6 at the wide end
Panasonic ZS7 = 50 MP/cm² w/ an aperture of F3.3 at the wide end
Canon SX130 = 42 MP/cm² w/ an aperture of F3.4 at the wide end
Panasonic FZ35 = 43 MP/cm² w/ an aperture of F2.8 at the wide end
Panasonic FZ40 = 50 MP/cm² w/ an aperture of F2.8 at the wide end
Canon SD4000 = 35 MP/cm² w/ an aperture of F2.0 at the wide end
Canon S95 = 23 MP/cm² w/ an aperture of F2.0 at the wide end
Panasonic LX5 = 24 MP/cm² w/ an aperture of F2.0 at the wide end

The FZ40 shares the ZS7's pixel density but has a slightly brighter lens. Low light performance will be equally abysmal. The SX130 isn't going to provide much low light improvement over the pair either and will perform slightly worse than the FZ35. The S95 and LX5 are obviously the best choices for low light out of the cameras listed, but the SD4000 is worth considering in order to stay within your $300 budget.

btw, if you are using iA mode on the ZS7 (or if you have intelligent ISO set to ON for any other mode), the camera attempts to detect movement and raises the ISO accordingly. Indoors, the camera will already default to a higher ISO; when shooting moving subjects, it will raise the ISO even higher so it can utilize a faster shutter speed. This would explain why moving subjects look even worse than still subjects indoors.

FYI, I own the ZS7 and in my experience, you nearly always need to use a flash indoors unless you are shooting still objects using a slow shutter. I have my ZS7 set to a maximum of ISO 400. As I shoot a lot in low light, I gave the ZS7 to my wife and purchased a Canon S95.



There are physical limitations which make that impossible without making the camera larger. Check out the Nikon P7000 which has a 7.1x zoom. It has received some mixed reviews in terms of usability issues but it has a sensor similar to the S95/LX5 in size (for low light improvements).

Last edited by TechOutsider; Jan 30, 2011 at 12:33 AM.
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Old Jan 30, 2011, 9:09 AM   #18
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What I've been doing is taking the same pictures with my ZS7 and my A520, and viewing them at the same size. I don't know if it's 100% or what...all I know is that the ZS7 pictures look significantly grainier than the A520. I've tried different settings...I've tried intelligent auto, P, A, S...on BOTH cameras. I even took the ZS7 outside to get some shots of the kids sledding yesterday. I expected those shots to be good...we were outside, after all...and they were quite dark. Honestly, this whole thing has been very frustrating. I'm willing to spend $300 - $400 to get a camera that is "better" than my cheap 5 year old camera. I'm honestly shocked that this has been so difficult. Granted, I'm no pro, and admittedly, I might be doing something wrong with the ZS7, but I was able to get some darn good pictures with my old canon. Yesterday I tried to test a variety of cameras at Best Buy. That was a waste of time, as most of the cameras I tested didn't have internal memory, so I couldn't really study the shots I took. I'm heading to National Camera today in hopes that they can help.

I am guessing that my problem is the assumption that I could get a decent zoom while still maintaining the ability to get reasonably adequate indoor shots. All I wanted was something that would give me equal indoor quality as my old camera. I thought that was a reasonable expectation. Now I understand that you get one or the other.

One question I have for Tullio, is how do you set the ZS7 to 8 MP? I've scoured the on-line manual and I have no clue how to do this. I'd like to lower the setting and take some more pictures to see if that can give me the quality I'm looking for.
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Old Jan 30, 2011, 9:50 AM   #19
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At the same sizes? Interesting.

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Originally Posted by acscoggins View Post
What I've been doing is taking the same pictures with my ZS7 and my A520, and viewing them at the same size. I don't know if it's 100% or what...all I know is that the ZS7 pictures look significantly grainier than the A520.
Sledding implies there is snow. Can I see some of the images? The exposure meter may have been tricked by the bright bright snow and deliberately underexposed the image - but for a $300-400 dollar camera, this is rather surprising and quite unacceptable.

Another possibility is that the EV is not at 0.
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I've tried different settings...I've tried intelligent auto, P, A, S...on BOTH cameras. I even took the ZS7 outside to get some shots of the kids sledding yesterday. I expected those shots to be good...we were outside, after all...and they were quite dark.
Mmmmhmm. I completely agree with you. I also have a 5 year old camera. My ZS7 does struggle to keep up whenever my old camera can use the flash.

The flash on my old camera blows the ZS7 away. It can illuminate subjects indoors with ease. My ZS7 resorts to pumping up the ISO.

Do you often shoot with flash on your Canon indoors?
Quote:
Originally Posted by acscoggins View Post
Honestly, this whole thing has been very frustrating. I'm willing to spend $300 - $400 to get a camera that is "better" than my cheap 5 year old camera. I'm honestly shocked that this has been so difficult. Granted, I'm no pro, and admittedly, I might be doing something wrong with the ZS7, but I was able to get some darn good pictures with my old canon.
Cameras from Best Buy aren't going to be significantly better than your ZS7. They generally stock lower-end consumer cameras unlike the ZS7 which is a tier above those other cameras in terms of pricing, IQ, and features.
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Yesterday I tried to test a variety of cameras at Best Buy. That was a waste of time, as most of the cameras I tested didn't have internal memory, so I couldn't really study the shots I took. I'm heading to National Camera today in hopes that they can help.
Absolutely.
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Originally Posted by acscoggins View Post
I am guessing that my problem is the assumption that I could get a decent zoom while still maintaining the ability to get reasonably adequate indoor shots. All I wanted was something that would give me equal indoor quality as my old camera. I thought that was a reasonable expectation. Now I understand that you get one or the other.
Good idea. Setting it to 12 MP means there will be more noise visible in the final image.

Setting it to 8 MP means there will be less noise visible, at the expense of detail resolved. Noise and detail go hand in hand. The more megapixels, the more detail and noise resolved. However, since you were satisfied with your previous 4 MP camera, I don't think you'll think there is a lack of detail in your ZS7 images.

Of course, you can run noise reduction, but I believe that would be unacceptable as you are clearly looking for good results right out the camera.

And please share some of your unacceptable images with us please .
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One question I have for Tullio, is how do you set the ZS7 to 8 MP? I've scoured the on-line manual and I have no clue how to do this. I'd like to lower the setting and take some more pictures to see if that can give me the quality I'm looking for.
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Old Jan 30, 2011, 9:51 AM   #20
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if the SX-130 is a better choice for indoor photos and low light, then is it a better all around choice than the ZS7 ?
Just curious.
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