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Old Oct 17, 2004, 10:17 PM   #1
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Hi! I am by no means a "newbie" to digital or film photography--but I have a challenge for anyone out there who uses the Panasonic FZ20, the Sony 828, or the Nikon 8800 (well, maybe 8700 for the moment...). About half of the photography I do--the most important half--is underground. Literally. Total darkness, mud, water, silt, sand, pits, you name it. Go find the muddiest, yuckiest, wettest place you can think of, roll around for several hours, then pull out your best camera and take a few photos. So.... I have spent many days reviewing camera options (it is time to upgrade) and have narrowed my choices to the Panasonic FZ 20, the Sony Cybershot 828, and the Nikon 8800. I would love to go dSLR--but that route is prohibitive both financially and physically. The places I go to take photos does not allow for carrying excess gear and dust has a habit of interfering with interchangeable lenses. Much of my shooting is for research--reference photos and such--in total darkness. 100% control of the light--but distance ranging from an inch, or less, to dozens of feet. After examining multitudes of photos from the three cameras I am still in a muddle. It probably makes little difference which of the three I choose--but at the moment, the 828 has an edge. It's ability to achieve great focus in total darkness and impressive macro end are hard to beat. BUT, Nikon's 8800 is also hard to beat as far as image quality! Less CA and noise in dark zones compared to other 8 MP cameras. But what about the FZ 20? It SEEMS to have good macro ability... and a fast lens is a bonus. Though Canon's wealth of extras (macro lights, etc) make the Pro1 an option! Ah, but it doesn't have a focus assist lamp.... AAARGH! No one make THE camera that I need! Any insight would be appreciated!!!!

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Old Oct 18, 2004, 9:15 PM   #2
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I have an Sony F717. It uses the same laser hologram focus system as the F828. It really does allow the camera to focus in total darkness. I believe it is affective up to 4.5 metres, I have had success at longer ranges than this. Another great feature is "nightframing". The camera emits IR light and the normal IR filter is removed from the path of light to the image sensor. The sensor is very sensitive to IR at this point and a "black and white" IR image is shown on the display, good enough to frame the subject. Press the shutter button and the laser focus does it's job and then the flash takes over for the exposure. The whole system works very well.The IR images shown on the viewfinder/lcd screenare quite spooky, pictures can be taken with this method using the "nightshot" feature, without flash, ie infra-red pictures.

It is certainly the most impressive system I have seen for taking pictures in total darkness, but.....someone else may know better.

Good luck with your choice. Let us know what you decide and how well it works out for you.

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