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Old Nov 2, 2004, 11:25 AM   #1
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Hi everyone,

I've been lurking this site for a while, and it's been really helpful....mainly the camera reviews and the forums. However, I'm still having trouble deciding on a camera because every time I think I've found a camera and a price range I'm comfortable with, I then start considering other cameras that are somewhat offer somewhat different specs but are also attractive. I know I want to go dSLR sometime, but I have a lot of room to learn and I'm fairly certain I will learn faster with a camera that's easier to carry around than with something that really needs more lenses. I do really want to be able to get good prints at least 8x10 but capability to get larger ones would be even better (though not necessary). I'm also very interested in getting a great range of zoom lengths, but I fear the quality of the shots I do get with some of the superzooms may be significantly lower than with some of the cameras with, say, 3-6x optical zoom.

Having said all that, I've come across a few specific questions and would just like some general feedback from folks on some other points. So, here goes:

1. I noticed in the Nikon Coolpix 8700 review that noise at higher ISOs appears to be a significant problem. In fact, I get the impression that anything above the lowest setting has noticeable noise issues and that's a concern. However, I've spent most of my time trying to get a better feel with my current camera with apeture an shutter speeds, and haven't really experimented with the ISO setting that much. I know what ISO speeds do (essentially make the "film" more sensitive so as to require less light from the combination of shutter/apeture settings), but I don't know what the practical and/or creative impact it will have by being what feels like severely limited in the ISO choices with the Nikon based on Steve's review. Can anyone clue me in? Otherwise, it seems like a camera I could at least consider...

2. Some of the cameras I've looked at that seem to meet my requirements with respect to the basics (min 5+ mp, good zoom, is, quality pics, etc) are models that have been out for a couple or even 3+ years. Is there something about older models that I should look for that might make them poor choices? I realize that's a broad question, but given all the features of the cameras I've looked at, it seems near impossible to remember all the important features and maybe some of the older models can be excluded based on some more recent innovations...

3. Along the same lines as #2, what are some really nice features to have that may add to the functionability, but also some that are just more of a convenience. For example, some of the cameras have the ability to remember a group of settings you choose and recall those settings. To me, that seems like it would be a great convenince thing that doesn't really let me take pictures that other fully customizeable cams would, but still adds a lot of convenience. I guess what I'm looking for, given that so many cameras seem to be fully custimizable, are features that you don't find "across the board" in the different cameras that either add to it's abilities or add to it's convenience.

4. On an unrelated note, can someone point me to a link that does a good job of explaining how to crop an image in photoshop (I have version 5.5) and come up with the best quality result at a given print size (say 8x10)? I'm somewhat familiar with photoshop but I've never really used it for cropping images so I'm not sure I'm doing it correctly.

5. Finally, I can say that one of the cameras I'm considering, at least for now, is the Panasonic FZ20. I love the zoom ability and IS. One of the things about my current camera is that the zoom is 3x and that really seems to limit the shots I can get, and with a 3mp sensor, I don't think I can really crop that much and end up with the highest quality output. The problem, though, is I can't really get a read on how good the photos are from the FZ20 from Steve's review. Terms like "great" and "we were pleased" are somewhat nebulous in my mind, and without some raw score to compare across cameras in slightly different categories, I'm filled with anxiety about the possibility of trading great zoom capability for significant quality reduction. Basically, I want to be able to take a variety of pics (landscapes, closeups of wildlife, portraits, macro shots, etc.) but I want to really be able to print them (either at home or take them to a store) and have them worthy of hanging on a wall or sitting on a bookcase or something like that. I feel like there are some choices that might have a less zoom (say 5x) but that would produce better quality pics. I hate losing the great 12x zoom on the one hand, but given that I want to be able to print my photos and actually display them without looking like an idiot, I'd just like to get a better idea of what quality loss I might experience with the superzoom cameras versus something with less zoom. I mean, reading the conclusion sections of the reviews about image quality I can get the impression that the quality may not be the highest, yet scroll down to the final paragraph and get the impression that the camera is awesome and, therefore, the quality must be at least close to awesome, too. A good example of thisis the Cannon G6 review. (Incidentally, I'd be all over the G6 if it had a little more zoom, but I have zoom on the brain!)

Anywho, sorry for the long post, but I'm ready to make a move and I'm hoping a little feedback and help me decide better what the cost of trading zoom is in terms of quality and some additional features that people consider key, above and beyond what seems like across the board full manual control. Feedback on the other issues would also be greatly appreciated.

Again, thanks for the help your posts have already given me and thanks, in advance, to anyone willing to read and respond here!

PS: One other issue I can't really get a feel for is the lenses that you can add to some of the cameras I'm considering. In general, if anyone can comment on quality or usefulness of being able to add lenses to non-dSLR cameras I'd be interested. It seems like it would be a way to expand the capabilities of the camera and may be a way to increase the longevity of my purchase before taking the plunge into dSLR. Thanks.

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Old Nov 2, 2004, 3:01 PM   #2
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This is coming from a newbie ...

Wannabe wrote:
Quote:
"...but I fear the quality of the shots I do get with some of the superzooms may be significantly lower than with some of the cameras with, say, 3-6x optical zoom."

Quote:
but I don't know what the practical and/or creative impact it will have by being what feels like severely limited in the ISO choices with the Nikon based on Steve's review. Can anyone clue me in? Otherwise, it seems like a camera I could at least consider...
What you said is correct: higher ISO is more sensitive to light. Where this comes into play is in low-light situations. During the night, for example, you might want to use a higher ISO (you can see things in higher ISO that may not show up well at a lower ISO during the night). The downside, of course, is that higher ISOs result in more noise. Check out the Panasonic DMC-FZ20 review I link below to see what happens when you increase ISO (all prosumer cameras start showing noise once you hit ISO200+; DSLRs, in contrast, don't show anything until well into the ISO600+ or even higher).

Quote:
2. Some of the cameras I've looked at that seem to meet my requirements with respect to the basics (min 5+ mp, good zoom, is, quality pics, etc) are models that have been out for a couple or even 3+ years.
That's surprising to me... are you sure they are 3+ years old and have those features? I can't think of too many that had 5MP+ 3 years ago! How many had image stabilization 3 years ago? Almost none. Maybe the ones you saw are DSLRs?? Could that be the case? DSLRs would have had advanced features, that you see on mainstream camera, 3 years ago...

Quote:
Is there something about older models that I should look for that might make them poor choices?
I don't know... maybe unavailable proprietory batteries, memory cards... warranty will have expired (I think)...

Quote:
I guess what I'm looking for, given that so many cameras seem to be fully custimizable, are features that you don't find "across the board" in the different cameras that either add to it's abilities or add to it's convenience.
I think your budget will sort of dictate everything...

Also, I find that the higher up you go (from cheap cameras to general point & shoot to high-quality point & shoot to prosumer/ultra-zooms to high-end prosumer), the more features you get. Sticking with the Canon brand (which I'm more familiar with, since I did a lot of research on this), you'll find that the G6 (general prosumer) and the S1 IS (ultra-zoom) have more features than anything that cost less than them. The Powershot Pro1, which is a higher-end version of S1 IS, has more features than S1 IS (for the most part)...and so on...

Unless you are looking for something qualitative (like size, or colour, or feel), you'll find that the higher-cost cameras have more features. The only thing the lower-cost ones might have is larger LCD or some newbie features (like easy printing directly or one-button access to something)...anyway, that's just my newbie opinion...

Quote:
4. On an unrelated note, can someone point me to a link that does a good job of explaining how to crop an image in photoshop (I have version 5.5) and come up with the best quality result at a given print size (say 8x10)? I'm somewhat familiar with photoshop but I've never really used it for cropping images so I'm not sure I'm doing it correctly.
lol didn't I say I was a newbie? I'm not there yet :O

Quote:
The problem, though, is I can't really get a read on how good the photos are from the FZ20 from Steve's review. Terms like "great" and "we were pleased" are somewhat nebulous in my mind, and without some raw score to compare across cameras in slightly different categories, I'm filled with anxiety about the possibility of trading great zoom capability for significant quality reduction.
I like the Panasonic FZ20 also :love: Too bad it's out of my price range :angry: If you can't find any reviews of the FZ20, you can get some rough idea from the FZ3 or FZ15 reviews (all those cameras are similar, with FZ20 being the top-end camera).

Here is a good review of the FZ20:

http://dcresource.com/reviews/panaso...ew/index.shtml

You can get some FZ20 pics here (although you can't really tell much from pics on a computer screen):

http://dcresource.com/reviews/panaso.../gallery.shtml


Quote:
I feel like there are some choices that might have a less zoom (say 5x) but that would produce better quality pics. I hate losing the great 12x zoom on the one hand, but given that I want to be able to print my photos and actually display them without looking like an idiot, I'd just like to get a better idea of what quality loss I might experience with the superzoom cameras versus something with less zoom.
I'm not an expert but here are some problems that ultra-zooms generally have but the general point&shoot or prosumer point&shoots don't have (check the FZ20 or any other ultra-zoom (eg. Canon Powershot S1 IS, Konica Minolta Z3, etc) review to see how these issues pop up):

* vignetting (darkened corners) and barrel distortion at wide-angle (lowest zoom)
* purple-fringing (bright contrast areas show up with a purple tint) at telephoto (highest zoom)
* auto-focus problems at telephoto
* blurry images at telephoto (you can improve this by using image stabilization, faster shutter speed, etc) (NOTE: even though this is an "issue", lower-zoom cameras by default will never have this issue because shaking the camera doesn't do much)
* electronic viewfinders... nearly all of the ultra-zooms have electronic viewfinders :angry::angry::angry: I don't know if focusing images using a pixellated image on a viewfinder is something you like but that's where the ultra-zooms are...

Those are the major things I can think of...

Quote:
A good example of this is the Cannon G6 review. (Incidentally, I'd be all over the G6 if it had a little more zoom, but I have zoom on the brain!)
yeah... I know what you mean... but that's why we have an ultra-zoom category... the G6 vs S1 IS shows what sort of decision you have to make if you go with high zoom.... if money isn't an issue, you can also consider high-end prosumer cameras (eg. Canon Powershot Pro1)--these generally have around 6x to 8x zoom while having very high image quality similar to prosumer low-zooms (eg. G6).

Quote:
PS: One other issue I can't really get a feel for is the lenses that you can add to some of the cameras I'm considering. In general, if anyone can comment on quality or usefulness of being able to add lenses to non-dSLR cameras I'd be interested. It seems like it would be a way to expand the capabilities of the camera and may be a way to increase the longevity of my purchase before taking the plunge into dSLR. Thanks.
I'm just a newbie so I'm not sure how useful these are... but I HAVE seen some people use polarizers and other adapters to good effect. I just bought the Canon Powershot S1 IS (if I didn't care about video, I would have gone with the Panasonic DMC-FZ3) and I've come to the conclusion (simply based on research) that the adapter lens are uesless for me. The wide-angle only increases the area by around 30%; and the telephoto increases zoom by around 70%; so you'll have 17x zoom on a 10x camera. These are all extreme cases (you'll have issue with barrel distortion and stuff). I don't find these numbers that significant. So my newbie, non-tested, opinion is that the lenses are not that useful. Having said that, I think any macro lens (if available) and polarizers ARE useful.

Hope that helps...
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Old Nov 2, 2004, 4:30 PM   #3
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Thanks a ton for your response. Believe it or not, I tried to pare down my original post because I know the effect a long initial post like that can have with respect to getting replies. I do really appreciate you taking the time to respond.

I'm really all over the place and I'm getting real antsy (lol). I've looked at the Pro1 and it looks like a great camera, but man once I start thinking about spending that much money I can't help to fall into the notion of getting a dSLR. I read your response about comparing dSLRs to prosumers (and have seen the same point made by others), but for me it isn't so much a comparison as it is an alternative. I really think I'm eventually headed to a dSLR and, if so, spending $800-$1000 now on a prosumer is really going to hurt if I decide before long I really want to step up to the dSLR. My budget is far from unlimited, and while I might be able to come up with enough to buy dslr kit now (and therefore the money to alternatively buy a top end prosumer cam), it very well could be the case that if I do decide to step up any time soon I'd be stuck with just one lense for quite some time.

From what I can tell, the Panasonic DSC-FX20is probably a really good alternative. I'm far more comfortable with the price, love the immediate options the 12x zoom provides, and think I can probably learn as quickly with it as I could with the dSLR alternatives. I could see myself eeking out a rebel kit with lense, but I'm not sure when I'd be ready to add another lense so I'd end up spending a great deal more money now and end up without near the zoom capabilities not only now, but in the foreseeable future.

What to do, what to do....

Anyway, thanks again so much for your response.


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Old Nov 2, 2004, 8:34 PM   #4
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I know what you mean about the Canon Powershot Pro1, with its high price and its questionable focusing problems (same issue as S1 IS). I think the Pro1 is for people who want DSLR-like features but don't want a DSLR. I can't think of too many hardcore photographers who are like that but maybe someone who just wants something "simple" without going overboard may go for the Pro1. The thing about DSLRs, from what I understand, is that they really require commitment and aren't as much fun (unless you are already good in photography). For example, most DSLRs have nowhere near the zoom of the ultra-zooms. Or even if they did, image stabilization is not exactly something they push.

I was in a similar situation as you. I am new to photography but I think I'm interested in it--but I wasn't sure. I had a tighter budget than you, although it must be said that I can "afford" a $1000 camera if I wanted to. It's just that I wasn't sure if I was into photography, and the way I look at it, by the time I learn the basics and am ready to move onto a DSLR in 1 or 2 years, I could buy a new camera with better features for the same price. My plan right now is to get the Canon Powershot S1 IS to play around with it and learn the basics, and then give it to my parents or just keep it but go for a DSLR or a high-end prosumer camera like Pro1 (this is only if the high-end prosumer cameras reach the level of present DSLRs in 2 years--this may happen eg. 10MP+ with no noise up to ISO600, 3fps or 4fps, raw images, large sensor, bigger built-in buffer, etc) in 2 years. In 2 years, when I learn the basics, I can get a better DSLR for the same price (or get a cheaper DSLR). In 2 years, the high-end prosumers will have some of hte key features only found on DSLRs. So why buy a DSLR now if you can't afford anything except the basic lens?

Based on what you are saying, it seems that you are further along than me. I think you need to spend around US$500 to get anything that is decent for you. If you like ultra-zooms, I think the Panasonic DMC-FZ20 is best for you. If you want the general photography category (with low-zoom), look at cameras like Canon G6 (and its competitors from Sony, Fuji, etc). I think something like the Panasonic FZ20 (ultra-zoom) or the Canon G6 (normal) is where you should be aiming for. If you are short on cash or want to save it up for the future, you can go down a few megapixels but that's about it (for example, you can get the Panasonic DMC-FZ3 or FZ15 and save $100 for hte future). I think you should stay away from the general point&shoot cameras or the compacts.

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Old Nov 4, 2004, 8:26 AM   #5
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Wannabe wrote:
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Thanks a ton for your response.* Believe it or not, I tried to pare down my original post because I know the effect a long initial post like that can have with respect to getting replies.* I do really appreciate you taking the time to respond.

I'm really all over the place and I'm getting real antsy (lol).* I've looked at the Pro1 and it looks like a great camera, but man once I start thinking about spending that much money I can't help to fall into the notion of getting a dSLR.* I read your response about comparing dSLRs to prosumers (and have seen the same point made by others), but for me it isn't so much a comparison as it is an alternative.* I really think I'm eventually headed to a dSLR and, if so, spending $800-$1000 now on a prosumer is really going to hurt if I decide before long I really want to step up to the dSLR.* My budget is far from unlimited, and while I might be able to come up with enough to buy dslr kit now (and therefore the money to alternatively buy a top end prosumer cam), it very well could be the case that if I do decide to step up any time soon I'd be stuck with just one lense for quite some time.

From what I can tell, the Panasonic DSC-FX20*is probably a really good alternative.* I'm far more comfortable with the price, love the immediate options the 12x zoom provides, and think I can probably learn as quickly with it as I could with the dSLR alternatives.* I could see myself eeking out a rebel kit with lense, but I'm not sure when I'd be ready to add another lense so I'd end up spending a great deal more money now and end up without near the zoom capabilities not only now, but in the foreseeable future.

What to do, what to do....

Anyway, thanks again so much for your response.*

*
An advice I saw many many times before for those who want the best for their money is to go dSLR.

The only way I can see for you to go dSLR with your limited budget is to hunt around (on eBay???) for a used/reconditioned dSLR. You never know what gems you might find. And dSLRs even the older generation ones take much much better photos. It would help if you already have some old lenses available (just stick to cameras with the same lens mounts).

I own an Oly C-770UZ myself for very similar reasons as you, to learn more, though I might not go dSLR. Love the little fellow, great photos and I find that the lack of IS actually helps me to explore my limits and train my hands as well. Who knows.
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