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Old Apr 12, 2011, 11:56 PM   #1
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Default Friend Wants A Digicam.

Ok, this is not about me this time. It's about my friend, well his dad.

He wants a new camera but doesn't know anything about photography or anything, he has a 6mp nikon point and shoot that he got in like 2006. He wants to have some good zoom to shoot photos of his son (my friend) playing baseball.

What I am unsure of is the whole "Optical Zoom" thing. I'm used to MM not like 42x optical. What does that mean like My 70-300 lens, how much optical is 300mm? He said he saw a camera with 42x optical zoom and then I saw one with 18x.

So how big is the difference and does anyone have any suggestions on a cheap digital camera that's good. Price isn't a huge issue but he'd probably like to spend under $400. Anything like the fuji s1800, nikon coolpix series, a canon something? Something in between the point and shoot and a dslr.

Thanks.
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Old Apr 13, 2011, 8:29 PM   #2
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Optical zoom is the image the lens can actually give you. Digital zoom is a blow-up of the original image via electronic means. Generally speaking, the more digital zoom you use, the lower the image quality becomes. The "x" designation for zoom power is intended for people who don't know much about cameras - in both a good way and a bad way. But it means nothing if you don't know what focal length you're starting with. 10x optical zoom gives you 280mm if you're starting with 28mm. But if you're starting with 36mm, it's 360mm. Great at the long end, but you'll have less wide-angle to work with. You'll have to educate your friend. Things are just not as simple as many people would like.

Some other things: Tell your friend any camera with a fairly long zoom range really needs a viewfinder. Think about the way people hold most point-and-shoots - by extending their hands in front of themselves. That's not a very stable arrangement. It doesn't take much movement to mess up an image at 300mm and beyond. And image stabilization can't handle everything. Being able to steady the camera up against your face as you look through the viewfinder makes a big difference.

All this being said, generally Canon and Panasonic seem to be taking home most of the high ratings in the megazoom department. Canon's SX30 IS (35x zoom - 24-840mm) can be had for $399 at Amazon.com. Panasonic's FZ40 just went out of production and so prices have jumped way up to the $500 neighborhood. But Panny's FZ35 (18x zoom - 27-486mm), which is a bit older (and some people say a bit better), can be had for under $300 at Amazon.com.

Fuji's are interesting but I would avoid the lower-end models like the S1800. The image quality is really a step or two behind the Canon and Panasonic. But the Fuji HS20 (30x zoom - 24-720mm) is a very interesting camera that looks and works much like a DSLR. Amazon lists it for $488. The older but similar HS10 (same zoom range) can be had in the $350 range. What makes the Fuji's so cool is their manual zoom feature. Unlike all of these other megazooms, which use a toggle switch to zoom, you zoom with the Fujis like you do with a DSLR: You grab the lens and twist. Much faster and reliable. The Fuji HS cameras are the only megazooms that operate this way - at least to my knowledge.

Frankly, as good as the company's DSLRs are (and I really mean that), I am not impressed by compact cameras from Nikon. Again, it's a case of image quality. Check out professional reviews for the P90 and P100. Mixed at best. But if you or your friend really want to check out Nikon, the P500 (36x zoom - 22-810mm) is going for $499 and the P100 (26x zoom - 26-678mm) is going for $329 at Amazon. The feature set of these cameras is very good. I'm just not impressed with image quality. But you or your friend might feel differently.

Good luck... hope this helps. Let us know how it goes.

Last edited by Biro; Apr 13, 2011 at 9:18 PM.
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Old Apr 14, 2011, 12:35 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Biro View Post
Optical zoom is the image the lens can actually give you. Digital zoom is a blow-up of the original image via electronic means. Generally speaking, the more digital zoom you use, the lower the image quality becomes. The "x" designation for zoom power is intended for people who don't know much about cameras - in both a good way and a bad way. But it means nothing if you don't know what focal length you're starting with. 10x optical zoom gives you 280mm if you're starting with 28mm. But if you're starting with 36mm, it's 360mm. Great at the long end, but you'll have less wide-angle to work with. You'll have to educate your friend. Things are just not as simple as many people would like.

Some other things: Tell your friend any camera with a fairly long zoom range really needs a viewfinder. Think about the way people hold most point-and-shoots - by extending their hands in front of themselves. That's not a very stable arrangement. It doesn't take much movement to mess up an image at 300mm and beyond. And image stabilization can't handle everything. Being able to steady the camera up against your face as you look through the viewfinder makes a big difference.

All this being said, generally Canon and Panasonic seem to be taking home most of the high ratings in the megazoom department. Canon's SX30 IS (35x zoom - 24-840mm) can be had for $399 at Amazon.com. Panasonic's FZ40 just went out of production and so prices have jumped way up to the $500 neighborhood. But Panny's FZ35 (18x zoom - 27-486mm), which is a bit older (and some people say a bit better), can be had for under $300 at Amazon.com.

Fuji's are interesting but I would avoid the lower-end models like the S1800. The image quality is really a step or two behind the Canon and Panasonic. But the Fuji HS20 (30x zoom - 24-720mm) is a very interesting camera that looks and works much like a DSLR. Amazon lists it for $488. The older but similar HS10 (same zoom range) can be had in the $350 range. What makes the Fuji's so cool is their manual zoom feature. Unlike all of these other megazooms, which use a toggle switch to zoom, you zoom with the Fujis like you do with a DSLR: You grab the lens and twist. Much faster and reliable. The Fuji HS cameras are the only megazooms that operate this way - at least to my knowledge.

Frankly, as good as the company's DSLRs are (and I really mean that), I am not impressed by compact cameras from Nikon. Again, it's a case of image quality. Check out professional reviews for the P90 and P100. Mixed at best. But if you or your friend really want to check out Nikon, the P500 (36x zoom - 22-810mm) is going for $499 and the P100 (26x zoom - 26-678mm) is going for $329 at Amazon. The feature set of these cameras is very good. I'm just not impressed with image quality. But you or your friend might feel differently.

Good luck... hope this helps. Let us know how it goes.
Thanks, that helped alot.
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Nikon D200 Body
Nikon 18-55 f3.5-5.6 AF
Nikon 70-300mm f4-5.6 G
Nikon 50mm f1.8
Nikon SB24 Speedlight
Lowepro Slingshot 200AW
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