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Old Nov 20, 2004, 4:46 PM   #1
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I have been using a Sony cybershot DSC-P5 3.2 MP, 3x optical zoom camera for about 3 years. Since my son has started school, I seem to be taking a lot of shots in the school auditorium. My current camera is not sufficient. The photos are too dark, not clear, and I am unable to zoom in close enough. I like the portability of the Sony I have, but I am more than willing to give this up to get better shots. What suggestions do you have? I am willing to spend up to about $1000, but not just looking to throw money away.....
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Old Nov 20, 2004, 4:57 PM   #2
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Panasonic FZ-20 might be worth a good look. It has a very good zoom with a constant wide aperature. There are several threads discussing that camera - take a look at them as it sounds like a good fit.
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Old Nov 20, 2004, 6:21 PM   #3
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Yeah, the Panasonic FZ20 is the best ultra-zoom. It will definitely give you the close-ups you want...it also has image stabilization, which you may find handy... BUT...

Nearly all ultra-zooms have problems with low-light situations. In fact, any time you zoom a camera (ultra-zoom or not), the cameras generally have problems with low light and focusing problems. Usually, the AF-assist lamp found in some cameras will help with indoors but I think the pictures you are talking about are too far for the AF-assist lamp to help.

Don't get me wrong... I'm not saying the pics are going to be worse than what you are getting now. All I'm saying is... don't expect any miracles. Low-light is always hard, especially when you zoom...

The Panasonic FZ20 is probably your best bet... you can also go for the cheaper FZ3 (3 megapixels) and FZ15 (4 MP)... (other competitors in the ultra-zoom category include the Konica Minolta Z2 and the Canon S1 IS (I would stay away from the S1 because it doesn't even have an AF-assist lamp))...
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Old Nov 21, 2004, 8:18 AM   #4
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I agree with Sivaram regarding the ineffectiveness of AF assist when used for distance shots. Some cameras use laser AF assists, but I would go for a camera with good manual focus. You may also want to play with ISO-settings, so I would go for a camera with manual ISO. Best would be to get a camera with full manual options.

The Canon S1 is a decent camera, but Canon goofed by forgetting the AF assist. It's successor (if there will be one) had better have it, coz otherwise there will almost definately be something wrong somewhere.
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Old Nov 21, 2004, 10:21 AM   #5
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Since I don't know the exact conditions you are trying to shoot in, the type of camera you want (how much manual control), how big a camera, etc., the best I can do is give general recommendations.

For the most part, the long zoom cameras do a pretty good job for regular photography. In lower light situations, I would look at a camera with image stabilization (IS), unless you want to shoot using a monopod/tripod. The Panasonic FZ3/FZ15/FZ20, Canon S1 IS, Konica-Minolta Z10/Z2/Z3 would be good choices here.

If the subject is dark but within flash range, can you use a flash? If you can, then I would look at a camera with a flash shoe. This would give you the option of using an external flash to get better shots. This would also make IS less important as the flash would freeze any movement. The Panasonic FZ20, Olympus C770, K-M Z3 all have flash shoes.

I just checked the specs on your Sony and at full zoom the aperature is very "dark" at F5.6, but at wide angle is good at F2.8, which is the same as the Panasonics at full zoom. Here is a simple test you could try: Take a shot in the auditorium in the conditions you described, only this time shoot at full wide angle. If the shot is not too dark, then the long zoom Panasonic would probably be a good choice as it has the brighter lens.

If you are too far away for a flash to reasonably work (or not allowed to use a flash), or the subjects are very dark, then you are left with having to go further upscale to a DSLR.
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