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nevsar Mar 28, 2014 1:34 PM

Panasonic Lumix FZ200 or other 50X+ super-zooms for hiking/birding?

Let me start of by providing information on what I am looking for:

1) I want to purchase a super-zoom point & shoot camera

2) My primary usage is for hiking and birding.
a) Note that I am a DSLR user with average skill. I currently carry it for my day hikes (use my 17-50mm f2.8 for landscape pictures and 55-200mm or 70-300mm for birding pictures).
b) For non-hiking purposes, I plan to continue to use my DSLR.
c) However, for hiking purposes, DSLR is a pain because of the lens changing involved (during that time the bird may fly away, and also I get dust on my sensor). Also 300mm does not cut it for me. It is for these reasons that I am considering a P&S. Another side-effect benefit is that I will have less weight to carry.
d) Cost is not an issue (as long as the extra price is justifiable)
e) Although not a deal breaker, I would like to have a tilting LCD screen and also good macro capabilities.

3) The Panasonic Lumix FZ200 has great reviews. If I were to own only one camera for all purposes, this would have been an easy pick. However, since I plan to use it mostly for hiking & birding, the 50X & 60X zoom cameras are very tempting (since I expect my hikes to be reasonably-well-lighted).

4) So here are some questions:
a) Is 24X zoom good enough for birding? Or would you prefer having a 50X/60X zoom?
b) The FZ200 has great low light capabilities. Would the 50X/60X zoom be particularly bad at the higher end of the zoom (remember I'm talking about day hikes and not indoor shooting).
c) The 50X/60X cameras I am leaning towards are the Fujifilm FinePix SL1000 or the newer S1, Sony DSC-HX400V/B and Nikon Coolpix P600 (not released yet). I rejected the Samsung WB2200F, Sony H400/B, Olympus Stylus SP-100 IHS, and Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ70 because none of these have a tilting LCD screen.
- Do you have any thoughts on the above cameras? How do they compare to the FZ200 for birding/hiking purposes?

I appreciate your opinions in advance,

Ozzie_Traveller Mar 28, 2014 3:57 PM

G'day Nev

As you're well aware - life + cameras & lenses is a series of compromises
I would go for the FZ200 without too much to worry about as the optics + many of the cameras integral features have got so much going for them

I would also contemplate the use - when needed - of the Panny EzyZoom feature of controlled digital zoom done internally long before any jpg action takes place during the saving process

This will stretch your lens to about 32x ~ 35x zoom if / when you need it

My missus has the FZ100 and her images from an African safari when printed as 8 x 12's in her album are very sharp, and viewers of her album say that "it seems as though she could reach out and touch [the animal concerned]

The biggest issue you'll face is camera shake taking the edge off the image's sharpness ~ so I'd also seriously contemplate a monopod

Hope this helps a bit

SIMON40 Mar 28, 2014 5:38 PM

Whilst the FZ-200's 600mm might seem paltry compared to some other superzoom/bridges, it's still one heck of a reach- and we'd have been salivating at such a reach not too long ago..!!

From what I've seen, bigger lens ranges tend to lead to softer images at the long end (except maybe the Canon SX50hs)- no doubt optical limitations compromised by such compact form. They also have smaller apertures at the long end- resulting in higher iso settings necessary to keep shutter speeds up- which only exaggerates any optical flaws.

The FZ200 would be my choice as not only does the lens gather more light at anything other than wide angle (keeping iso settings down...), but it has a sharp and accurate autofocus system also- never mind good burst performance at full resolution (even in RAW...)- both useful for wildlife use.

If range was an absolute must, I'd go with the Canon SX50hs...

If you wanted to travel really light, maybe something like the new TZ60 might be worth a look with it's 30x zoom... and a viewfinder..! Or, maybe the TZ55- a drop to 20x zoom but adds a tilt screen and touch screen..!

TCav Mar 28, 2014 6:30 PM

One of the things I've noticed is that, unless you'll be using your camera as a spotting scope a lot, anything that's so small and/or so far away that you need a (35mm equivalent) 600mm lens to photograph is too small and/or to far away to be seen with the naked eye, so you won't know it's there to point the camera at it.

With that said, I suggest you look at the Sony HX300 and the new Sony HX400. I haven't used either of them personally, but what I can tell you is that any time a 20MP Sony image sensor is mated with a Carl Zeiss lens, it's a tough combination to beat.

nevsar Mar 28, 2014 8:36 PM

Hi All,

I really appreciate your valuable inputs. Your comments on the 24X zoom being good enough, is pretty convincing; especially TCav's practical reasoning.

I still want to be 100% sure that for my purposes, the 24X with better image quality is better than a 50X with lower image quality. I still think the extra reach from the 50X could come in handy on some occasions (like a sailboat on the sea, top of a lighthouse). However, am I compromising on significant image quality for this extra reach?

And I do have the Sony HX300 & HX400 in my consideration. Do any of you have any experience with it? How does it compare with the Canon SX50h? (The Canon was not on my list because of its smaller aperture). Also Fujifilm FinePix SL1000 has great reviews. What is your opinion?

And I'm not looking at smaller cameras. In fact, bigger the better (more comfortable to hold). Of course, the main reason being that they don't come with great zooms.

wanaclick Mar 29, 2014 12:55 AM

Would you trade all other advantages e.g.20mm wide angle in FZ70 for a tilting screen? then go ahead.

SIMON40 Mar 29, 2014 5:08 AM

Why I'd go for the Canon regarding range....
And high iso performance....

nevsar Mar 29, 2014 9:04 AM

I must say that I am as (or more) confused now than when I started this thread :) With the plethora of options available for super-zooms, I had to draw a line in the sand somewhere. My final toss up was between the FZ200 (a class of its own with excellent image quality albeit smaller zoom) and all other 50-60X super zooms. In my opinion, all these 50-60X zooms were similar, and hence picked "tilting screen" as a more-important criterion for rejecting cameras from my consideration (and thereby making my decision process slightly easier). As 'wanaclick' pointed out, I did like the FZ70 for it's 20mm wide angle. So did I like the Sony H400/B for it's 63X zoom and Olympus Stylus SP-100 IHS for it's built-in dot-sight feature. However, I think the tilting screen will be more useful to me than these features.

Last night, I got to do more research on Sony DSC-HX300, Canon SX50hs and Fujifilm FinePix SL1000. Let me share my thoughts and please correct me if I am wrong.

What I like about Sony DSC-HX300:

a) Ability to use lens ring for manual zoom
- As an SLR user, this is more natural to me.
- For still photography, I think I can achieve my desired zoom length quicker with the manual zoom.

- For video, for smoother zooming, I can use the zoom lever available on top of the camera.

-- The Fujifilm FinePix SL1000 with its zoom lever on the lens is also pretty good (although not as good as Sony's lens ring). For movies, I think this zoom lever on the side is better than using the one on the top, for stability reasons.
-- The Canon SX50hs, unfortunately, only has the zoom lever on the top.

b) Ability to use lens ring for manual focus

- Again, as an SLR user, this is more natural to me. Of course, I plan to use it only on some occasions when the auto-focus tends to hunt for focus (for e.g. macro photography, or when the object of interest is very small w.r.t. the rest of the frame).

-- The Fujifilm nor the Canon has this.

c) If I go with the newer model, HX400, I will get WiFi and GPS as bonus.
- These features are nice-to-have but not deal breakers.
-- The Fujifilm has WiFi (and I've heard good reviews about the ease of use) but no GPS.

-- The Canon has neither

d) Handling

- From the pictures the Sony and Fujifilm seem to be nicer to hold (since they are closer to an SLR size). The Canon looks smaller. However, I'll make a rationale opinion after trying them out in a store.

e) Image quality

- The Canon's images definitely look nicer (from Simon's link) than the other two. At the same time, the Sony's (with Carl-Zeiss lens) and Fujifilm's don't look that bad. Please note that I almost never print my photos. I do occasionally make photo albums but I expect it will mostly be my DSLR photos that make it in the album.

What I did not like about the Sony DSC-HX300:

a) Lack of fully-tilting LCD screen (Minor issue)

- Its not a major issue since a tilt-up & down will cover 95% of my use cases. However, a full-tilt will help take easier self-portraits and also fold-back the screen when not in use.

-- Fujifilm and Canon have this ability.

b) Lack of eye-sensor for EVF (Minor issue)

- I expect to use EVF most of the time, so its not much an issue.

-- Fujifilm has this feature. Not the rest.

c) Not weather-resistant (Very minor issue)

-- The newer, Fujifilm FinePix S1, is water and dust resistant. Its a neat feature considering I'll be using the camera for my hikes. The camera also has a 920k-dot EVF. Also I heard the 5-Axial image stabilization is very good.

d) Wide angle starts at 24mm

- FZ70 starts at 20mm which is great. Unfortunately, none of the other cameras do it. So I have to reluctantly sacrifice on this feature.

I can't think of anything else.

And if Canon decides to release their next version of SX50hs in the next one week, it better be much nicer than the others. Otherwise, I'll be in a soup again :)

By the way, despite my lengthy post on 50X zoom cameras, the Lumix FZ200 is still a strong contender. Based on youtube videos, the zoom capability for the Lumix seems good enough for my purposes.

Thanks again for your time,

pcake Mar 29, 2014 4:52 PM

the FZ200 will give you 2x your current lens, which is quite a bit, and it's a great camera, not to mention feature-rich. just saying...

i always seem to end up with panasonics when it comes to non-removable lens cameras. sometimes i buy other brands, then end up selling and buying another panny to replace them. it's not because of brand loyalty, as i happily try any brand that seems to have what i need, but in real life use, panasonic (for bridge, compact and m4/3) and canon (for DLSRs) have always delivered what i need. obviously that's not try for everyone.

Ozzie_Traveller Mar 29, 2014 5:16 PM

G'day Nev

Returning to one aspect from your original post ...
4) So here are some questions:
a) Is 24X zoom good enough for birding? Or would you prefer having a 50X/60X zoom?

From today's early morning walk around my place, I have come across an Osprey juvenile sitting on a lamp post. My shooting position would have been about 18 - 20metres from it

Here's the result via my Fuji X-s1 at 26x zoom ...

1- the full image

2- a 640 x 640px crop, no pp sharpening applied
Exif = Fuji X-s1; 1/250s x f5,6; EV +0,7; 625mm [26x zoom]; iso-320
ps- EV @ +0,7 is to combat the bright sky causing underexposure

I also remember from film-camera days using my lovely Sigma 1000mm long lens for wildlife stuff ... sitting it on top of a 3kg solid video-camera tripod to avoid shake and cursing the heat haze across a meadow that caused the image sharpness to decline badly. Just another aspect of using very long lenses on sunny days

Hope this helps in some way

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