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Old Dec 3, 2004, 5:18 PM   #1
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I am looking for a Ultra-Zoom digicam that is well suited for both indoor and outdoor sports photography and under $350 on-line. Based on reviews I have read here and at DP Review, and Imaging Resouce ...I have narrowe my selection to:

Panasonic DMC-FZ3
Canon S1 IS
Olympus C-740
Fuji S5100

What functional and picture quality differences are there other than Image Stabilization? Is the 3.0 mp sufficient for mostly 4x6 & 5x7prints, e-mail files, etc. or should I be considering 4.0 mp? Is one camera easier to use for a novice digicam owner? I been using a Sony DSC-P30 for several years and my major complaints have been poor low light results and insufficient zoom length.

What is the product reliability record for the Panasonic FZ cameras? I could not find any Consumers Reports and I have never been a big fan of buying extended warrantees. Should I reconsider extended warranty for this type of purchase?

Thanks,

JB




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Old Dec 3, 2004, 6:39 PM   #2
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jbselig wrote:
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I am looking for a Ultra-Zoom digicam that is well suited for both indoor and outdoor sports photography and under $350 on-line.
None of the Ultra Zoom models are really ideal for indoor sports photography. For one thing, the lower light levels require the use of higher ISO speeds to help reduce motion blur, which will result in higher noise levels. Even with a bright lens (i.e., f/2.8 at higher zoom settings like the Panasonic's), using higher ISO speeds, shutter speeds won't be fast enough to stop all motion in rapidly moving subjects in indoor lighting.

So, you'll need to take a lot of photos to get many "keepers" (due to motion blur and/or higher noise).

It will also take practice catching shots due to Autofocus Delay.

Image Stabilization can help to reduce motion blur from camera shake (which is greatly magnified as more zoom is used). But, this can't help for subject movement. So, you can expect a relatively high percentage of your photos to have some motion blur for rapidly moving subjects.

If I had to pick one of these, I'd probably go with the DMC-FZ3 (stabilized lens, more detail than some 4MP models, lens that maintains a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout it's zoom range, reasonably fast autofocus times for a non-DSLR model).

Then, I'd use some of the available software tools to help reduce the noise in the "keepers". Noiseware is pretty good, and they have a free version you can download from http://www.imagenomic.com

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What functional and picture quality differences are there other than Image Stabiliation?

I'd read the reviews here for exact differences. Off the top of my head, the Panasonic and Fuji models you're looking at have Autofocus Assist Lamps, and the others don't (but this won't help at further ranges). The others probably have a better movie mode compared to the Pansonic (this is something that I wouldn't use anyway), with the exception of the C-740UZ (which doesn't have sound).

There are also differences between Autofocus speed, burst rates, etc. Pay close attention to the conclusion section in the reviews here. This is where you'll see things like Autofocus speed/reliability, cycle times between photos, image quality, etc., discussed.

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Is the 3.0 mp sufficient for mostly 4x6 & 5x7 prints, e-mail files, etc. or should I be considering 4.0 mp?
IMO, 3 Megapixels is fine for prints up to 8x10". But, for indoor sports photos, you may find you'll want to limit your print sizes for some of them (motion blur and noise are more noticeable at larger viewing sizes).

You also need to look at the amount of detail captured by a camera. For example, the Panasonic's lens is so sharp that it can resolve more detail on resolution charts compared to some 4 Megapixel Models.

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Is one camera easier to use for a novice digicam owner? I been using a Sony DSC-P30 for several years and my major complaints have been poor low light results and insufficient zoom length.
Well, the 1.3MP sensor in your DSC-P30 is likely to have lower noise as ISO speeds are increased, compared to the sensors used in the models you're looking at (because it's 1.3MP CCD is not as dense, and the photosites for each pixel are larger and able to gather more light). But, it does have a "slow" lens (losing it's light gathering ability as more zoom is used). So, it's not ideal for low light.

So, from a motion blur perspective, the models you're looking at would be better at any given focal length at higher ISO speeds.

Any camera will require some practice using it, so that you'll learn it's behavior. Then, you simply take advantage of it's strengths, and work around it's limitations.
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Old Dec 3, 2004, 11:13 PM   #3
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Nice explanation JimC, like you I lean towards the FZ3.
And for Indoor shots maybe any of the Canon G line could work fine, since any of those cameras (G3,G5,G6) have bright lenses (f2.0) but as you pointed out, it's necessary to learn how to take the best of any camera...


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Old Dec 4, 2004, 12:33 PM   #4
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Thanks for the detailed explanations....it helped in making my final selection. I went out to Circuit City and Best Buy last night to actually hold and play with the cameras I was considering. The choice really came down to the Panasonic F3 and the Canon S1 since both offered image stabilization. Based on all the reviews and comments I had read, the F3 seemed to be the clear choice. When playing with the cameras, I noticed a considerable difference in focus lag between the Canon and Panasonic...the Cannon being much slower. However I did like the flip & rotate LCD offerred by the Canon, but in the end, it always becomes a matter compromise and choices.

I ordered the FZ3 from Amazon for $318, using their $30 discount for Amazon credit. This was as cheap as any price offerred on PriceGrabber.com, and I knew I wouldn't be hassled by aggressive sale tactics frequently mentioned on Epinions:-)

Thanks again for the help...

JB
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