Go Back   Steve's Digicams Forums > Digicam Help > What Camera Should I Buy?

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old Oct 6, 2004, 1:42 AM   #1
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 8
Default

It is with hesitation that I even post here. I've read numerous "what should I buy" entries, have read every response, have looked at pictures, specifications and have become both more certain (and equally) more confused with each review. And so I will overcome my hesitation and post anyway.

I am a Dad. Pictures of my teenage children will encompass the majority of my picture taking. My son plays football and I'd like to get some reasonably good pictures from up in the bleachers when he's on the field (night games). My daughter is in band. I want to be able to snap a lower light picture of her when the band is on stage playing (and I'm seated in the auditorium). She also rides horses and I'd love to have that "timed just right" shot of her jumping a hurdle.

We also are avid scenario paintball players. I'd like to get some "in the woods" action shots while we are playing. Some of these pictures (ideally) would be of a high enough resolution to submit to magazines (with an accompanying story).

Previously, I had used an Olympus C-4000 4MP 4X-Zoom camera. In the two years that I owned this camera, I had not read the entire users manual. Other than to change the resolution setting, I typically made no other adjustments. It was simply "point and shoot".

Likes & Dislikes – I loved the fact that I could use rechargeable AA batteries and, in a pinch, could pick up a 4 pack of alkalines. I used the zoom often… but was disappointed with only a 4X zoom (it wasn't as much of a zoom as I'd anticipated). At only about 10.5 ounces, it wasn't tremendously uncomfortable to carry around (though I envied those who could put their camera in their pocket).

Most of the pictures were relegated to being stored and viewed on the computer. Occasionally, however, there would be that special shot for which I'd want to print it out as a 4x6 or an 8x10.

Ideally, I would like to spend no more than $500 on the camera itself. I understand that there will be additional costs for storage media and extra batteries. The option for AA batteries would be a convenience, but not mandated. I was comfortable with the weight of the Olympus and could take something a bit heavier but would prefer NOT to have a rock around my neck. Better zoom is extremely important as is catching that "action still". I don't know of any reason to take movies with my camera. Although I think that I'd like to have the ability to add a "wide" lens… the reality is that I'm not sure I really want to haul a camera bag full of goodies with me.


If you're still with me through this novel and would like to offer a suggestion as to what I should pay serious attention to (Make/Model), I'd appreciate your comments. And should you care to add the additional time to justify that response, I would consider that a bonus!

Thanks!

Jim



JimInVA is offline   Reply With Quote
Sponsored Links
Old Oct 6, 2004, 2:55 AM   #2
Senior Member
 
cameranserai's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 548
Default

Well, to start with let me compliment you on a well thought out and clearly put essay on your requirements. The trouble is being able to fulfill them for the price I'm afraid. Basically, sports photography needs a good lens, which many of the modern superzooms have, but secondly fast shutter response which many of them don't. Since most of your photos are going to be stored on the computer, and those that you do print aren't going to be enormous, we are not needing megapixel resolution like the latest Canon SLR, which is damned expensive anyway with the concomitant lenses.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"Since anything I suggest is goint to be a compromise, may I point you in the direction of the Olympus C750? Fron Steves report we seem to cover nearly all of your requirements with one caveat.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"It has a 38 - 380 mm lens, good for family shots and equally for longer range sports.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"The shutter lag is quoted at 2/10th of a second, great for sports if you have already half pressed the shutter for the autofocus. (Beware here though. 8/10th if your finger hasn't pre-focused).

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"The lens is still at a wide enough aperture at maximum magnification - F3.7. Great for sport that.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"The flash is pretty powerful having a range of about 15 feet. You can buy an additional flash for longer distance too.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"It takes AA batteries.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"It weighs only 10 oz.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"Given all of this the price is only $520 at Newegg.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"The caveat. Well, it is only 4m pixels, which these days is borderline for newspaper prints. 5m or better - the pros use 6m upwards mostly.

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"However, I did start out by saying we would have to compromise, so I hope that the above is useful to you
cameranserai is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 6, 2004, 2:57 AM   #3
Senior Member
 
cameranserai's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 548
Default

However, please don't ask me why it came up with all those stupid Style Colr etc comments - lol
cameranserai is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 6, 2004, 11:15 AM   #4
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 2
Default

Another camera you may want to look at is the Konica-Minolta Z3. It would fufill your requiremants quite nicely. It is fairly small for a 12x zoom camera with a quick autofocus and shutter.It alsohas the added benefit of image stabilization which would come in handy.

See the review here - http://www.steves-digicams.com/2004_reviews/z3.html

Greg
Greg Anthony is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 6, 2004, 12:28 PM   #5
Administrator
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Savannah, GA (USA)
Posts: 22,378
Default

Jim:

I don't answer many of the "what camera should I buy posts". But, given your special requirements, I thought I'd point out a few things.

A well lit stadium is not as bright as you think for photos of your son's football games. Even though it looks bright to the human eye under all of the lights, it's actually not to a camera. The same thing applies to your daughter's band photos in an auditorium. These conditions are especially difficult for cameras.

EV (Exposure Value) usually runs around EV 8 in a well lit stadium. This is the way light is measured.

This presents a problem with getting shutter speeds fast enough to prevent blur (both from camera shake, and from subject movement). You'll need to increase the ISO speed, which will increase noise. You can set your Olympus C-4000z to ISO 400 and shoot to get an idea of the impact this has. Your Olympus is probably better at this compared to most of the "Ultra Zoom" models though (it's sensor is larger).

With an EV of 8 (typical for a well lit stadium), at ISO 400, you'd get shutter speeds of around 1/80 second once you get near full zoom with a model like the Olympus C-750UZ mentioned. This ismuch slower than the "rule of thumb" for hand held photos without a tripod (which is 1/focal length). In other words, if you're atit's wide angle lens setting (38mm equivalent) then you'd want shutter speeds of 1/38 second or faster. Or, if you're at the maximum zoom setting (380mm equivalent), you'd want shutter speeds of 1/380 second or faster.

This is only a rule of thumb (some users can hold a camera steadier than others). The reason you need faster shutter speeds is because any movement is magnified greatly as more zoom is used.

Now, you can getmodels with Image Stabilization to reduce blur from camera shake. But, they only work up to a point (2 to 3 stops is typical). But, you need to take lens brightness into consideration also. Some modelshave brighter lenses compared to others. For example, the Konica DiMAGE Z3 mentioned has an integrated anti-shake feature and fast autofocus times. However, it's lens is nowhere near as bright as more zoom is used, compared to it's competitors. So, it will have much slower shutter speeds.

Also, the light in the stadium may not be as good as EV 8 (which is typical for a well lit stadium). So, a bright lens becomes even more critical. Even though anti-shake can help some with blur from camera shake; it won't help blur from subject movement.

Here is an example of a thread where someone got a Konica-Minolta Z3 fortaking photos of Rugby games. The reason he bought the KM Z3 was to help eliminate blur from camera shake he was getting withan Olympus C-765UZ (same lens brightness as the C-750UZ). But, then his solution backfired on him (because the lens was not as bright on the KM Z3):

http://www.stevesforums.com/forums/v...mp;forum_id=20

Neither camera is really suitable for the lighting conditions he's shooting in (shutter speeds too slow -- even at ISO 400).

Hopefully, your sons games would be in better lighting (but you'll still likely have problems with either the Olympus C-750UZ or the Konica-Minolta Z3 -- even in a well lit stadium if you're using a lot of zoom).

The best solution for night sports is a DSLR with a bright lens (something like a Canon Digital Rebel or a Nikon D70; using a lens able to maintain a constant f/2.8 aperture is a good idea). These can shoot at higher ISO speeds with lower noise compared to the non-DSLR models. But, this kind of solution would be much larger and heavier (and more expensive). A Nikon D70 with a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX HSM lens (one of the least expensive lenses you'll find with this focal range and lens brightness) would run you around $1,800.00 from online vendors (not counting other lenses and accessories you may want).

I'd probably take a look at something like the new Panasonic DMC-FZ3. It's got a stabilized lens, is able to maintain a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout it's focal range and actually resolves more detail compared to models like the 4MP DiMAGE Z2 and Z3 based on tests I've seen (even though it's only 3 megapixels).

On the downside, it's slower to focus than the Konica Minolta Z3, and it's EVF doesn't gain up in low light. So, you'd have to work around these issues.

But, at least you'd get faster shutter speeds with it to reduce blur from camera shake and subject movement (thelens on the Panasonic DMC-FZ3 is over twice as bright as the lens on the Konica-Minolta Z3 at longer focal lengths). In a well lit stadium with an EV of 8, you'd only get shutter speeds of around 1/50 second at full zoom with the Konica-Minolta Z3 at ISO 400 (because it's lens stops down to f/4.5). With the Panasonic DMC-FZ3, you'd be able to get shutter speeds of around 1/125 second in the same conditions and ISO speed setting (because it's lens can maintain a constant f/2.8 aperture).

Now, noise levels would be high at ISO 400. But, there are some good tools to help reduce it. Here are a few:

http://www.neatimage.com

http://www.picturecode.com

http://www.imagenomic.com

Last, I would buy any model you choose from a vendor with a no restocking fee policy -- just in case you decide that the quality is not as good as expected in the conditions you'll be using it in.
JimC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 6, 2004, 4:49 PM   #6
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 8
Default

I thank EACH OF YOU for your responses and I am hopeful that others will find time to add their own additional comments and observations. Jim... thank you for the outstanding tutorial.

I find that I already have additional questions (or think I have) but want to make sure that I fully understand what hasalready been presented. I value the time and effort put forthfor my benefit and will return equal time and attention towards understanding before commenting further. Allow me a day to become comfortable with this new knowledge.

Again, THANK YOU!

Jim
JimInVA is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 6, 2004, 6:05 PM   #7
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 130
Default

You can see a review of the FZ3 at www.dpreview.com. The compared section shows the effect of both noise at higher ISO and resolving power at lower ISO..

Since you have a digital camera you can go to the statum in question and see what light you need. As long as you don't need manual focus, the FZ3 sounds like it would meet your needs. Bill
wmussatto is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 7, 2004, 1:23 AM   #8
Senior Member
 
cameranserai's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 548
Default

I read JimC's reply and totally agree, but it once again a trade off given your original specifications. To explain, I do motor racing and golfphotography, and have a Nikon D70 with 70/200 anti vibration lens, plus the SB800 flash. I also have a "point and press" for everyday use though.To be sure, the Nikon is awonderful piece of kit, producing superb results and I would highly recommend it, but given the scope of the request it fails onat least twopoints:-

1)Cost. D70 with kit lens (for normal rangephotography) $1,300. 70/200 lens $1,600. SB800 Flash $300. Total cost $3,200 (I used 17th St Photo for the prices)

2) Weight. Add the long lens and flash to the camera and we have over 5 lbs!

The problem is that we are trying to get a quart out of a pint pot and I don't think that whatever we recommend at the priceit will give good enough results for sports photography. Increase the ISO rating and the noise (or grain as we called it in the Flintstone age) willgive photos of very poor visual quality, even if the desired shutter response can be achieved. I have seen too many friends with such cameras at a racecourse with nothing but a succession of empty frames, the photo taken after the car has passed. In low light blurring will be the problem as JimC explains too.

JininVA, please don't think I disagree with JimC at all, I agree totally with his comments, but the problem is that your requirements can only be properly be fulfilled with a digital SLR, with the concomitant cost and weight. The Canon Rebel is cheaper than the Nikon D70 and would do as well for what you need with the appropriate lenses, but we are still way beyond your original stated budget. For decent sports photography you need big glass - just look at the professionals surrounding the pitch. In amateur terms that means at least a lens that is F2.8 throughout the range of the zoomtogether with the immediate shutter response that only an SLR can give. The recommendation that I gave was designed to fit your stated requirements, that's all. I am sure JimC would agree with me when I say that whatever superzoom camera you buy, you will be disappointed with the sports results except perhaps in bright sunlight.

In conclusion, is there any way you can borrow a camera of the type you envisage for a trial? Once you have seen the results, you'll know whether it is up to the job or just a waste of money. My money were I a betting man would be on the latter I fear.

So difficult, and I wish you well in your quest
cameranserai is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 7, 2004, 9:13 AM   #9
Administrator
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Savannah, GA (USA)
Posts: 22,378
Default

cameranserai wrote:
Quote:
The problem is that we are trying to get a quart out of a pint pot...
I like that one.:-)

Yes... You're going to need to compromise on your requirements with any camera. There is no one model that is going to be great in all conditions, especially when you factor in desired size, weight and cost.

Quote:
Increase the ISO rating and the noise (or grain as we called it in the Flintstone age) willgive photos of very poor visual quality, even if the desired shutter response can be achieved. I have seen too many friends with such cameras at a racecourse with nothing but a succession of empty frames, the photo taken after the car has passed.
Image quality aside, autofocus lag will be your biggest problem. Toreducelag, you can use a half press of the shutter button first, focusing on the general area you want to take the photo. Then, at the desired moment, press the shutter button down the rest of the way. Using the continuous mode feature can help you get more frames to choose from when you do start taking the photos (but timing is key and will take practice).

Noise will be high. That's why I suggested using your Olympus at ISO 400 to get a better idea of it's effect. The Panasonic will most likely be a little worse (it's using smaller sensor to keep the lens size down). Basically, a model with a small sensor can't gather as much light. So, you need to amplify the signal more for equivalent ISO sensitivity. This also amplifies noise. A DSLR model is still going to have noise when you increase ISO speed, but it's *much* lower than you'll have in the non-DSLR models, and you have higher usable ISO speeds, too.

Quote:
The Canon Rebel is cheaper than the Nikon D70 and would do as well for what you need with the appropriate lenses, but we are still way beyond your original stated budget.
If you decide to go with a DSLR solution, there is not much difference between the Canon Digital Rebel and the Nikon D70 when comparing body only prices (retail prices on the D70 body run about $999.99 -- about $100.00 more than retail prices on the Digital Rebel). Both are available in kits that include one lens, and the Nikon kit has a higher quality lens included when you buy it as a kit (more focal range, faster focusing, etc.).

So, the Nikon D70 kit is more expensive (around $1,299.99). The problem is that nobody is discounting the Nikon D70 yet, and online vendors are discounting the Digital Rebel. If you look at a vendor like Ritz Camera (that charges full price), the Digital Rebel Body is $899.99, and the Nikon D70 body is $999.99.

You will see more difference at stores that offer discounts (simply because the D70 is selling well, and nobody is discounting it yet)

The Canon kit is only a little more than the body only. So, buying these models this way (as kits) would be less expensive with the Canon. If you went with a Canon kit + a lens like the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX HSM; you could get by for around $1,700.00 from online discounters (+ the cost of memory card, spare battery, etc.)

There are pros and cons to either one. Personally, I'd spend a little more for the Nikon. If you decide to go with a DSLR, then we can discuss more of the pros and cons of each.

On a D70, the lens that camerainserai is using for Sports is a Nikkor AF-S VR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF. This lens will focus fast, has Nikon's "Vibration Reduction" technology (similar to the stabilizationtechnology used in the Panasonic model mentioned). So, it is designed to reduce blur from camera shake.

On the D70, this lens would give you a 35mm equivalent focal range of approximately 105-300mm. For any lens you buy for the D70, you must multiply the focal range of the lens by 1.5 to get the 35mm equivalent focal lengths. This is because of a "crop factor". Even though the sensors used in the entry level DSLR models are much larger than the sensors in the non-DSLR models, they are still smaller than 35mm film. So, you get a much longer lens on a DSLR with them.

Canon also makes a 70-200mm lens with similar technology it calls IS for Image Stabilization (Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM) for use on a model like the Digital Rebel.A model like the Digital Rebel also uses a "crop factor". It's 1.6x (so a 70-200mm lens would have a 35mm equivalent focal range of 112-320mm on the Digital Rebel

This is a popular focal range for sports photography. The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX HSM lens I mentioned with this focal range is also very popular for low light sports use. It's around $799 discounted. It does not have lens stabilization like the Nikkor lens that camerainserai is using. However, for most Amateur uses, it will do just fine (at around half the cost of the Nikkor or Canon stabilized lenses).

The benefit of a model with lens stabilization is that you can use slower shutter speeds for hand held photos. So, you can often keep ISO speeds set lower, for even higher quality images compared to a model that doesn't have this feature (or take photos insome other conditions at higher ISO speeds that would be virtually impossible without a tripod toreduce blurfrom camera shake). It depends on the quality you really need for the conditions you'll be using it in.

This Sigma lens (which is not stabilized) is available in mounts for popular models (Pentax, Nikon, Canon, Minolta).

BTW, one interesting new DSLR model to keep an eye on is the new Konica-Minolta Dynax 7D (or Maxxum 7D in the U.S.). It incorporates anti-shake into the camera body. So, any lens you use on it would automatically benefit. I've been impressed with the samples I've seen so far from it. It will most likely be priced higher than models like the Nikon D70. But, if you factor in the cost ofstabilized lenses (if you are inclined to go this route), then the KM Dynax 7D/Maxxum 7D model would be less expensive (assuming that they don't price it too high).

It should begin shipping early next month. So, it would be one to watch forreports on quality, etc. (it's too early to tell yet how well it will do in all areas, but initial samples have been very promising). Even ISO 3200 looks usable from samples I've seen (depending on the print and viewing sizes needed).

Quote:
In conclusion, is there any way you can borrow a camera of the type you envisage for a trial? Once you have seen the results, you'll know whether it is up to the job or just a waste of money. My money were I a betting man would be on the latter I fear.
If you can afford a DSLR solution (and can live with the increased size and weight), you'll get much better results. If you want to stay within your original requirements (not too heavy, price under $500.00, etc.), then I'd be inclined to try a model like the Panasonic DMC-FZ3. It's got a verysharp (and bright) stabilized lens, is reasonably small and light for a model with it's focal range, and would be within your desired budget. But, make sure to buy it from a vendor with a no restocking fee policy, as I pointed out my first post -- just in case you are not satisfied with the results.

Perceived quality will vary by user. If you use noise reduction tools, and don't try to print your low light photos too large, you may find the Panasonic acceptable (but, make sure you can return it if you're not satisfied). It's the best solution I could come up with, "trying to get a quart out of a pint pot... ". :-)

JimC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Oct 7, 2004, 8:31 PM   #10
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 8
Default

Again, my many thanks! I've learned much during the last couple of days and realize that there is much yet to learn. Fortunately, the kind and gentle guidancegraciouslyofferedby each of you, has endowed me with amuch better understanding of many things...

Buying a camera, for me, is much like buying a computer would be for a first time user. ThereIS much more toit than the sticker that says "computer"... or "camera" or "12x Zoom". Iown a computer company and have come to realize that "fast" is an entirely relative term. Fast, to me, ismy 3800+ Athlon64, fast to the novice who has an old 200MHz computer would be today's entry level system. Digital cameras seem to parallel computers in that context.

With digital cameras, slow and fast still apply... but only as they relate to "quality". And if we're going to be taking pictures, quality IS what its all about. Fortunately for me, those who have responded felt my query was worthy of a quality response. I do feel much more "informed".

IWANT the Nikon (or the "sometime soon" KM Maxxum) butrealize that I'm not yet ready to make that level of commitment to photography (though I detect the start ofthe "bug" that might get me there sooner than I might anticipate). I also realize that zoom, at my price comfort point, comes with its own limitations (and why all zooms are not created equal). And so I have another question to ask... one that may not be entirely fair... for it will likely require an equal dose of personal opinion and camera knowledge...

Given that the zoom might not yield the quality of picture that would be hoped for... and considering that zoomed action shots areunlikely at best (particularly in lesser lighting)... do I still go with the FZ3 and shoot it for all its worth...or should I disavow zoomed pictures for the moment and consider something else? The obvious question... what would that something else be?

Although I had to ask that question, I will also be honest and say that I'm inclined towards the FZ3 - to discover its every strength and weakness while I contemplate my own desire to embark on a new hobby - that of photography and the equipment to properly support it.

Again, my thanks!

Jim


JimInVA is offline   Reply With Quote
 
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off



All times are GMT -5. The time now is 4:43 AM.