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Old Dec 3, 2004, 2:52 AM   #1
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HI there! I need HELP on deciding which digital camera fits my needs best. I have a Sony Mavica which has been a great beginner camera and has been very easy to use but now I'd like to move up to a better quality. I don't know anything about all the features listed and which ones I really need to have. I mainly photograph my children everywhere. I'd like to stay within $300-400 price range if possible. My priorities are quality, zoom - the ability to get as close as I would like to, date on/off, ease of downloading to computer, the delay between pictures, ease of use, a bit of creative control (I've played with the depth of field and have liked how they turned out) and battery life. I had been looking at film SLRs but recently decided digital would suit me best. The inner photographer in me wants to come out but not knowing all the terminology and techniques, it's hard for me to know what I need and don't need. Classes are in the future, when I have time! I like uploading them to sites and being able to order the prints I want and making albums for family members to see. ANY help anyone could provide would be greatly appreciated! I'd love to be able to purchase one in the next week or so!!! THANKS so much!
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Old Dec 3, 2004, 12:28 PM   #2
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Nice photo.

What model Mavica do you have now? That would give users a better idea of how much zoom you have, and what features your current model has.

BTW, I moved thisthread to the "What Camera Should I Buy" forum.
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Old Dec 3, 2004, 12:46 PM   #3
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Thanks so much for putting me where I belong! I'm new to the forum arena and wasn't sure where to put myself! My Sony is a FD Mavica with a 10x optical zoom. I did not use it to take this photo of the children. I used a film camera... just a point and shoot. I bought this Sony a few years back to move into the digital area and also because I liked the floppy disk as it was very easy to transfer the pictures to my computer and email them to family. I also mailed floppys to family so they could have them as well. I love this camera for that purpose but the quality isn't very clear as I'm sure the resolution isn't top notch. I will get my manual out and see what exactly it is. I just want to move up to a better quality camera that will give me the quality and crispness of my film cameras. I also have a manual SLR camera with a zoom lens, etc. but I'm not too good at focusing it, holding it still to not get a blurry picture, etc. I think I need a more automatic camera but the ability to control a little bit that I can do and understand such as the depth of field. Thanks again for any help anyone may offer me!!!
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Old Dec 3, 2004, 1:11 PM   #4
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First of all, never assume that more megapixels = higher quality. Unless you need larger print sizes, most users won't take advantage of the highest resolution models (because the extra detail captured by higher resolution models won't be visible at smaller print sizes anyway).

How the images are being processed by the camera is usually of much greater importance (saturation, color accuracy, contrast, sharpening algorithms, etc.).

Your Mavica probably had a stabilized 10x Optical Zoom (a rare feature a few years back, but some Sony Mavica models incorporated this feature). There are now more choices with image stabilization.

Let us know what model you had. Sony made models using floppy discs with 10x Optical Zoom lenses in resolutions ranging from 640x480 (which is a little low forprints), through 1600x1200 resolution (which is plenty for smaller print sizes, and can be pushed to 8x10" easily - although 3 Megapixels is better for 8x10"s).

I'd also let users know what conditions you use the camera in more often, how much zoom you normally use, as well as the largest print sizes you'll likely make. I'd also let users know if you need the ability to use an external flash (i.e., the camera has a hot shoe). If you're using one now, you may need one on models you look at (depending on the flash range you need).

If you need the amount of optical zoom your old Mavica had, you'llneed to go with one of the "Ultra Zoom" models. For example, the Pansonic DMC-FZ3 (3 Megapixel Model with no hotshoe) or the Panasonic DMC-FZ20 (5 Megapixel Model with ahotshoe -- with a more powerful built in flash, too).

P.S. -- I wouldn't worry too much aboutthe ability to date stamp the photos. There are software tools available that can do this after the fact.The settings a camera used to take a photo are included inthe EXIF (a header that is part of your images).This header includes the date and time an image was taken. You can get free software that can read the date the photo was taken, and stamp your images with the date if desired.

One example is EXIFER (it's watermark feature can read the date information, and place it on the photos in batch mode):

http://www.friedemann-schmidt.com/software/exifer/

Using this technique (instead of a camera's date stamp feature), insures that you always have originals without the date stamp (in case it's unsightly for some uses, as in larger prints). Simply work with copies of your originals so you'll have versions with and without a date stamp.

Some printing software can also place the date on a photo when printing (reading it from the header in the image file). Even the free software Canon includes with some of it's newer Pixma printers has this feature (and some third party printing software like QImage Pro can do this, too).
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Old Dec 3, 2004, 1:39 PM   #5
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The camera I would say comes closest is the Panasonic FZ3. Buydig.com has it for $318 with free shipping. A 256Mb SD card is more than enough memory and you can probably do fine with the included battery unless you spend a week in the woods. $41 for a fast Sandisk Ultra 256Mb card delivered and your are within your budget.

F2.8 throughout the zoom range gives you as good a depth of field as you can get within your budget. Digital cameras with small sensors aren't very good at blurring the background.

The stabilization lets you take handheld shots in a lot more lighting situations without a tripod.

The flash is reasonably strong and it has excellent low light focus ability with an assist light.

The camera is reasonably light and compact for a 12X zoom.

The fast burst mode helps capture just the right shot in dynamic situations.

Steve reported the performance as exceptional as far as shutter lag and shot to shot times. His reported shutter lag with autofocus and shot to shot times with flash are exceptional. Dave at Imaging Resource got completely different numbers that weren't nearly as impressive. Not sure why the discrepancy – maybe a firmware update.

You mentioned wanting date/time on or off. Few digital cameras put the date actually on the picture. It is in the EXIF for every shot so you can know the date by checking it on the computer, but if your Sony prints the date on the front of the picture it is a feature not found on many cameras.

3Mp will give excellent 8 X 10 prints. And 11 X 14s that aren't bad for many subjects. Panasonic has a FZ15 with 4Mp and FZ20 with 5Mp. But the price with memory are over your budget. Both cameras are large compared to the FZ3 as well. You might be able to fit the FZ3 in a large purse, but the FZ15 & 20 are a bit much to carry around.

A floppy holds 1.44Mb total and most decent modern digital cameras use that much space for a single high quality shot. Sony makes a camera that will write to CD, but it is bulky and pricey. With everything else you either use a card reader or download directly via USB from the camera to the computer. I don't think any camera has a special advantage in downloading. Some are faster than others if you don't have a card reader.

The FZ3 works fine in auto or program, but you have all of the advanced exposure modes if you want to use them. It doesn't have manual focus, but there is an interesting "preset AF" that gives very fast shutter lag.

You might want to look at some reviews, there could be something you don't like that hasn't been covered:
http://www.steves-digicams.com/2004_reviews/fz3.html
http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FZ3/FZ3A.HTM
http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/pa...ew/index.shtml

I always download the operating manual for any camera I am interested in. The FZ3 manual is on Panasonic's site.

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Old Dec 3, 2004, 1:58 PM   #6
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Hey Volfan... I'm also a mom (of 3) looking at a new digital (my 1st). I'm honing in on the Panasonic FZ3 too due to its picture quality, sharp lense (one of the best), quick speed and overall pretty compact size for a camera with its size lense - pretty light too, epsecially compared to the higher FZ models.



Good luck... and let us know what you decide!

By the way... we're in the heart of Vol Country here!



Maryanne
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Old Dec 3, 2004, 2:43 PM   #7
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Format

Camera Format (Compact, SLR) - Compact

Zoom
Zoom Lens - 10x

Other
Height - 10cm

Other
Width - 14cm

Other
Depth - 6cm

Other
Film Type (35mm, APS, Digital) - Digital

Other
Zoom Range (mm) - 40-400

Other
Manufacturers Guarantee Period - 1 year

Other


Other
Stores images on standard 3.5'' 2HD floppy disks using 2X quick access floppy disk drive. 1/4'' precision CCD image sensor with 350K pixels delivering 640 x 480 VGA maximum picture size. 10X optical zoom lens, High-speed auto focus, 4-mode program auto exposure, 4-mode auto white balance and Auto macro capability. 3-mode flash. 2.5'' LCD color monitor pixels. 4 picture effects. Supplied Accessories: InfoLithium® battery (NP-F330), Battery charger (BC-V615), Lens cap, Shoulder strap.WOW! I've gotten some great replies! All this information is overwhelming! Above is the information on my Sony. Like I stated, I have loved everything about the Sony except the quality of the prints. I always use the 4x6 size and unless it was a close up it was grainy. I never noticed just emailing pictures. It was when I started using the digital more than film and wanted to get prints made from the digital pictures. Most of them were fine but many were grainy. Reading the above information I don't know really what it is saying about the "pixels". I liked mostly the zoom range and the image stabilization as most of my close ups were clear. The2 pictures below I just took and maybe you can see what I'm talking about as far as the clarity. And I didn't know that the more megapixels didn't necessarily mean better quality! I have enjoyed the ultra zoom and have used it alot, however, upon reading lots of reviews of lots of digital cameras, they seem to say in the ultra zoom catergory that it's hard to use indoors as the flash isn't good enough? And I've seen this repeated which I don't know what it means... "No auto-focus assist lamp"? Is that important and what is it? When I go into a store and ask about the differences between cameras, I feel like I do when I take my car into a repair shop... that I don't know what they are telling me is the honest truth. Do I really need all those repairs and really need to spend $500?? If I narrow down what I want my camera to do, will that help me find my perfect match? I want an unbiased opinion and someone to tell me that I need XYZ brand camera as it is confusing to me!! My important features are: clarity of picture made into a 4x6 print, the ability to zoom - I like the 10x optical zoom I have, the ability to have an image stabilizer which I found it helps on the zoom pictures, ease of use in point & shoot mode and hopefully the ability to manually change it (depth of field), the battery life (mine now is a special camera battery that is rechargable and holds for 165 minutes), and memory storage (the floppy holds about 25 pictures on high resolution). You are all correct about the date/time stamp. I don't know what I was thinking!! I mostly take indoor pictures with some outdoor pictures of the children. I don't take hardly any action shots or use the specialized modes in my camera now - such as negative art or polarized. Ok, I think I'm done. I think I've included all the information you guys need to help me! Thanks soooo, soooo much! (Look below for the second picture)
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Old Dec 3, 2004, 2:46 PM   #8
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I didn't realize I could only attach one picture... here is the farther away one. Can you tell a difference? Thanks again!
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Old Dec 3, 2004, 2:49 PM   #9
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Hey fellow Vol fan! I too am a mom of 3!!I haveread about the Panasonic since I saw it mentioned here. What do you think? Are you looking at the same features as I am? Hopefully I can know what direction to go towards from all the useful and wonderful people here :-)
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Old Dec 3, 2004, 3:10 PM   #10
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Your camera sounds like it's *probably* either theMVC-FD73 or MVC-FD75 (you didn't give me the model number to look it up).

If so, then the lens is not stabilized, and it has a flash range ofaround 8.3 feet (low compared to a model like the DMC-FZ3, which is good to around 15 feet using Auto ISO). It's also a low resolution model (640x480), which is not really enough for good quality prints (although the images can look very nice from this model on screen). The amount of compression it's using in JPEG mode is probably what's making the images a tad soft from it, too (file sizes are pretty small).

It also doesn't have more advanced modes like Aperture Priority.

On the plus side, it's got a brighter lens than you'll find on any of the current models with a 10x Optical Zoom lens, but it's ISO speed is fixed to 100 (which is OK with your Mavica in many conditions, since it's lens is brighter than most). It also has good closeup ability.

To answer your question on indoor focusing, a model like the DMC-FZ3 has a focus assist lamp to help it in lower light (not all models do). If you likea longer zoom lens, then this Panasonic model is probably as good as it gets in your price range.

You'll find an in depth review of this model here, with sample photos at the end of the review section (click on a thumbnail to see a full resolution image). Make sure to read the conclusion section of it's reviews for comments on speed, image quality, etc.

http://www.steves-digicams.com/2004_reviews/fz3.html


Note that only one image from this model in it's highest quality mode uses as much space you had available on a floppy.So, it's capturing a lot more detail compared to your old Mavica ;-) It'll be fine for prints through 8x10" in size (and your Mavica's resolution is too low for even good quality 4x6" prints).

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