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Old Dec 4, 2004, 12:29 AM   #1
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Hi!

I'm new to the forums but not new to the Steves-Digicams site nor to
digital photography. I've been doing digital concert photography for
years with my Minolta DiMAGE S304. With that camera, I got the best
results with ISO 800, f/3.5, no flash, and shutter speeds around 1/25. I
had some digital noise, but it was okay because the musicians came out
looking fairly well-lit and sharp. I've had better luck in blue lights
than red ones and I sometimes got better results with B&W. I always shoot
hand-held and often at full 4x zoom right from the front of the stage.
My Minolta DiMAGE S304 never got anything right when set on automatic so I
always used manual aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity. I
experimented with different white balance settings but I think I mostly
used Tungsten. The color was decent but my digital concert shots were
always a little underexposed in exchange for clearer pictures.

After 3 years of using the Minolta DiMAGE S304, I felt it was time for an
upgrade. Since I already had a 3.2MP camera with a 4x f/3.6 lens, I
wanted to get more MegaPixels, more optical zoom and a brighter lens. I
was also interested in image stabilization options. I wanted a camera
that would be good in all situations but especially in low-light concert
photography. Some photographer friends of mine have been trying to
convince me to at least step up to the Canon Digital Rebel D-SLR but the
body alone would pretty much exceed my $600 price range. And then to get
a powerful bright zoom lens would cost several thousand dollars more from
what I can tell. So my goal was to find a digital prosumer camera that
would at least come close to the quality of a D-SLR for low-light concert
photography. The other reason I wanted to get a "prosumer" camera rather
than a D-SLR is that a number of larger concert venues and festivals seem
to allow you to bring in any camera that does NOT have a detachable lens
without a press pass.

After a lot or research, especially on Steves-Digicams.com, I chose the
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20K because everything I read indicated it would be
excellent for concert photography. I wanted a camera with a powerful
zoom, a great lens with a wide aperture, and at least 4-5MP. I paid $470
for this camera. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20K is a 5.3MP camera with a
Leica f/2.8 12x zoom image stabilizing lens. It's the only prosumer
camera I've seen with as much zoom, as wide an aperture, and image
stabilization. 12x optical zoom is equivalent to 36-432mm and should be
awesome when I'm trying to shoot a band like Radiohead or the Pixies or
something and I can't get close to the stage.


The cameras I considered are:

$290 - Nikon Coolpix 5700, 5MP, 8x optical, f/2.8-f/4.2, ISO100-800
$337 - HP PhotoSmart 945 5MP, 8x optical, f/2.8-f/3.1, ISO100-400
$369 - Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi, 5MP, 7x optical, f/2.8-f/3.5, ISO100-800
$439 - Minolta DiMAGE A1, 5MP, 7x optical, f/2.8-f/3.5, ISO100-800
$445 - Fuji FinePix S7000, 6MP, 6x optical, f/2.8-f/3.1, ISO200-800
$470 - Panasonic DMC-FZ20, 5MP, 12x optical, f/2.8-f/2.8, ISO100-400
$510 - Canon PowerShot G6 7MP, 4x optical, f/2.0-f/3.0, ISO50-400
$550 - Sony DSC-F717, 5MP, 5x optical, f/2.0-f/2.4, ISO100-800
$555 - Nikon Coolpix 8700, 8MP, 8x optical, f/2.8-f/4.2, ISO50-400
$579 - Minolta DiMAGE A2, 8MP, 7x optical, f/2.8-f/3.5, ISO50-400
$609 - Canon Powershot Pro1, 8MP, 7x optical, f/2.4-f/3.5, ISO50-400
$648 - Minolta DiMAGE 7, 5MP, 7x optical, f/2.8-f/3.5, ISO100-800
$740 - Nikon Coolpix 8800, 8MP, 10x optical, f/2.8-f/5.2, ISO50-400
$788 - Sony DSC-F828, 8MP, 7x optical, f/2.0-f/2.8, ISO100-800
$699 - Canon Digital Rebel D-SLR (comes with an f/3.5-f/5.6 lens)

So...Wednesday night I took the Panasonic DMC-FZ20K out on it's maiden
voyage and shot pictures of a band called "The Hurt" at the "Local 506"
club in Chapel Hill. I'm VERY disappointed in the photos I got. It could
be technique, lighting, or maybe just the new camera. I feel like there's
a LOT of digital noise and the images aren't nearly as clear or as bright
as I was expecting. I started with ISO100, but the pictures were way too
dark and blurry, even at f/2.8 and 1/10 shutter speed. I tried some of
the automatic settings like the "fireworks" scene setting, but I couldn't
find anything that worked for concert photography. I switched to full
manual and set the ISO to 400. I also enabled the high Noise Reduction
feature. Was that a mistake? I realize that the stage lighting is very
difficult for digital photography, especially without a flash.
Unfortunately the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 only goes as high as ISO400 so
I couldn't try with ISO800. On the other hand, the digital noise at
ISO400 was completely unacceptable and much worse than my old Minolta
DiMAGE S304 (even at ISO800! and f/3.6). I could try not using the zoom
so much but I'm worried that this camera doesn't do well at ALL in
low-light conditions.

Most of the shots I took were at ISO 400 with f/2.8 aperture and 1/10 or
1/13 shutter speed. My new camera won't do ISO 800. If I decrease the
ISO sensitivity, that makes pictures darker and more blurry but it
decreases digital noise. If I use a faster shutter speed, that makes
pictures darker but sharper. I'm not sure what I need, but I want my
pictures to be more clear than this. With my old camera (Minolta DiMAGE
S304), I shoot concert shots without flash at ISO 800, f/3.5 and about
1/25 shutter speed. The ISO 800 is a bit noisy but it gets clearer,
brighter pictures and allows me to use a faster shutter speed.
So, what am I doing wrong? Shouldn't I be able to get awesome concert
shots with this new camera? Is anyone familiar with it and know some of
the automatic settings or other features that should be appropriate for
concert shots? Or what manual settings should I be using? I can't stand
the amount of digital noise in the pictures. Also, despite the settings I
used and the image stabilization, I didn't get any clear edges and I got a
lot of blurry shots. Should I have gotten one of the Minolta, Nikon, or
Canon cameras instead?

If you'd like to look at my results, go to http://www.dotphoto.com and
login as "jesse_safir" with password "furr" and then go into the 2004
album and go to the subalbum called "2004-12 - The Hurt".

Here is the direct URL, but you still need to login:

http://www.dotphoto.com/GuestViewAlbum.asp?AID=2001855

User Name: jesse_safir
Password: furr


Please let me know what I need to do. The last two are flash pix and I
guess flash would be fine except that the lighting is unnatural for
concert photography. I think concert photography is VERY tricky because
the musicians are jumping around, the lighting is terrible, and sometimes
you can't get close. I guess in that case an IS lens doesn't help because
it's not an issue with an unsteady hand; it's an issue with unsteady
people

I've seen other people get awesome concert photos even in poor lighting
and with hand-held cameras. I guess mostly they're using D-SLR cameras
with good lenses. One friend uses a Canon G5, I think and she gets pretty
good results for such a small unprofessional-looking camera. I thought
the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20K with an f/2.8 image stabilized lens would be
just as good. I don't get it...


With my old Minolta I did shoot at ISO 400 sometimes but it was harder to
get a clear shot. I did most of the concert stuff at ISO 800. I was
really hoping that the new camera would give me much clearer pictures. I
think I have a pretty steady hand too and I'm usually able to get some
fairly clear shots. It's not too late for me to return this camera and
get something else. But I've read a bunch of websites that say this
camera is awesome so I'm thinking I must be doing something wrong. I've
read that the image stabilization probably won't help when shooting moving
subjects. Is there any way for me to use a faster shutter speed and still
get enough light for a decent exposure? I thought the f/2.8 aperture
would have given me an edge in that regard but it doesn't seem so.

I got the 12x zoom because I wanted to be able to get in really close,
even if I'm far away. But perhaps I would be okay with a 5x, 6x, 7x, or
8x zoom. I'm usually right up at the stage anyway, but I want to be able
to get the drummer or the bassist on the other side of the stage.

Do you think I should consider the Minolta DiMAGE A1 or A2? I just looked
at the A2 and it's an 8MP 7x optical with a super fine EVF, a fast 3D
autofocusing system with 3D Predictive Focus Control and Movement
Tracking, a sharp f/2.8 lens with manual zoom and focus rings, anti-shake
function (image stabilization, I guess) and VGA movies, CxProcess II image
processing and can shoot 7 frames/second (at 640x480). According to
Steve's, the AF speed is best in its class!


The Minolta DiMAGE A1 is $439 shipped and the DiMAGE A2 is $579 shipped,
so they're about the price I paid for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 ($470,
but $550 with shipping and a case and a UV filter). As far as D-SLRs, I
could get the Digital Rebel body only for $649 or with the EF-S lens for
$699, but I don't think that lens would be adequate for low-light concert
photography. The Pentax istDS is $895. The Nikon D70 is $814. The
problems with getting a true D-SLR are that 1) a lot of concert venues
won't allow you to bring it in without a press pass and 2) the cost is
MUCH more if I wanted a pair of decent lenses.

What I want is really clear images in concert settings. I'd like to do
that for less than $600 if possible. I just don't know if the Fuji,
Canon, Nikon, or Minolta offerings would be any better than the Panasonic
I got. What characteristics would I need in a prosumer digicam to get
shots that approach the brightness and clarity of D-SLR shots? That's my
ultimate goal.

So should I dump the Panasonic quick if my primary purpose for a new
digital camera is concert photography? And if so, what would be better
and still in the $600 or less price range? The Minolta DiMAGE A1 or A2?
The Canon PowerShot G6? The Sony DSC-F717? Something else? What's wrong
with this Panasonic DMC-FZ20 that it has SO much digital noise in low
light conditions?


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Old Dec 4, 2004, 1:45 AM   #2
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The FZ20 sensors are tightly packed in a relatively small CCD. That causes noise problems if you try to shoot at high ISO.

The ultimate route is DSLR as you have been told. The sensors are large and the density much lower than any prosumer camera. You can really crank up the ISO. But if you can't get into the concerts with one and that seems to be your main photographic goal I guess you will have to make do.

For the FZ20 use burst mode to try to hit a moment when action is frozen. You can also stabilize it better with your left hand under the lens and your elbows in your body. It isn't too steady with a normal hold with your hands on both ends. Wider angles let you shoot at lower shutter speeds, and the burst mode helps too as hand movement varies and there are times when motion is zero.

The FZ20 probably isn't the best camera for getting motion in low light. The Sony 717 has the best zoom aperture of the cameras you listed, but not by a lot. The G6 is f2 at wide but goes to f3 at telephoto – not as good as the FZ20 and the pixel density is still high. You might look on Ebay for an older G3. With 4Mp on the same sized sensor and f2.0 at wide you might do better. The Minolta A1 has a lower pixel density than the A2. The 717, G3&5 and Minolta A1 all have lower densities than the FZ20 so you should be able to shoot at a higher ISO. The G3 is probably your best bet if you can find one.

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Old Dec 4, 2004, 3:44 PM   #3
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What about settings on the DMC-FZ20? What should I be using for low-light concert photography? And should I have the high noise reduction turned on or just use normal mode?

I don't understand about the sensor density thing. How does that work? What do I look for in Steve's reviews to tell if a camera has a good CCD density for low-light photography?

Would the Minolta DiMAGE A1 be as good as the Sony DSC-F717? Why are the Canon PowerShot G3 and G5 better than the newer G6? I'd rather get the newer model unless there's a big reason to get an older one. The G3 and G5 appear hard to find.

This is what I found out about the Canon PowerShot series:

$500 - PowerShot G3, 4MP, 4x optical, f/2.0-f/3.0, ISO50-400
$565- PowerShot G5, 5MP, 4x optical, f/2.0-f/3.0, ISO50-400
$509 - PowerShot G6, 7MP, 4x optical, f/2.0-f/3.0, ISO50-400

Suppose I did get a Digital Rebel body only...what's the least expensive lens that would serve my purposes? Are there not ANY "prosumer" digicams that come even close to a true D-SLR in being able to do low-light photography? Why can't they make a camera with an attached lens that does as good as a true D-SLR?


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Old Dec 4, 2004, 6:20 PM   #4
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Here's the problem...

The Ultra Zoom models use very tiny sensors (for example, the CCD in the DMC-FZ20 is 1/2.5" (.40") type. Using smaller sensors allows you to use a much shorter focal length lens to get any 35mm equivalent focal length.

Otherwise, the lenses would need to be much larger and heavier.

As a result, the smaller sensors have much smaller photosites for each pixel. These smaller photosites require more light to generate a signal. So, they require more amplification of their signal for equivalent ISO sensitivity.

You have the same problem with more pixels in the same size CCD. For example, your model uses a 3 Megapixel 1/1.8" (.556") CCD. When you put 4 Megapixels in to the same size sensor, the photosites for each pixel will be smaller (and not able to gather as much light). When you put 5 Million Pixels in the same size CCD, the photosites become even smaller for each pixel. For example, the Canon G5 uses a Sony 5 Megapixel 1/1.8" CCD.

So, when you increase ISO speed (which is only amplifying the weaker signal from each photosite), you're also amplifying the noise (which is like turning up the volume on your stereo when tuned to a weak radio station, only you'll get image noise versus hiss and static).

Now, CCD Design does impact noise levels, too. For example, the noise on you DMC-FZ20 is actually quite low (considering how small the CCD is for the number of photosites it contains). This is because Panasonic is using a relatively advanced microlens design to amplify the light hitting each photosite on the CCD.

What you really need is a DSLR. These can shoot at much higher ISO speeds with lower noise (they have much larger sensors compared to the non-DSLR models).

Of course, that means that the lenses must be much larger and heavier, too (in order to get the same 35mm equivalent focal range and brightness).

If you wanted to pursue this route, and didn't really need the zoom for your close in shots, you could get by for under $1,000.00 by using a 50mm f/1.8 lens with a Digital Rebel. This lens isunder $100.00. Now, you must multiply the actual focal length of the lens by 1.6 to get the 35mm equivalent focal length on the Digital Rebel (because it's sensor is still smaller than 35mm film). So, a 50mm lens would have a 35mm equivalent focal length of 80mm on this model.

If you need zoom, that's another story. A Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 lens would run you around $430 discounted. This would give you a 35m equivalent focal range of around 38-112mm at f/2.8. To cover the long end, you could get a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 lens that would give you a 35mm equivalent focal range of 112-300mm. This one sells for around $800.00 discounted. Note that this is a relatively large and heavy solution, and you'd need to be shooting at high ISO speeds to help keep blur from camera shake down at focal lengths this long.

If you went with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 with IS (Image Stabilization), the lens cost would double (this lens is about $1,600.00 discounted after the current $50.00 rebate).

If you went with stabilization to reduce motion blur from camera shake at longer focal lengths, it would probably just as well to look at a model like the new Konica-Minolta Dynax 7 Digital, and use non-stabilized lenses (it's got anti-shake built into the body). This new camera is selling for around $1599 now (without a lens).The noise tests look pretty good with it (even ISO 3200 is usable, although it will have some noise there).

But, with a DSLR solution, you're back to not being able to bring a removable lens model in to some events.

I dunno guy... shooting concerts with non-DSLRdigital cameras is going to be difficult. But, the lighting was probably lower than you'll findatlarger events. Had you shot in this venue before? Only being able to get shutter speeds of around 1/10 second at ISO 400 and f/2.8 tells me that the light levels must have been pretty darn low.

As far as noise reduction, I'd probably leave it disabled and use better tools later to reduce it. Sometimes Noise Reduction tends to soften detail in camera. Keep in mind that you're using a tiny processor in a camera trying to reduce it in a fraction of a second, versus using a more powerful PC laterwith a faster CPU, more RAM, and sophisticated software.

I'd recommend you try Noiseware (they have a community edition that's free). I've been quite impressed with it. Start out with the default settings, then slide the sharpness setting up a couple of notches and see what you think. You can download it from http://www.imagenomic.com

If you really think you can get by with less zoom, then you may want to try a model like the DiMAGE A1. It's about 2/3 stop more sensitive than it's rated ISO speed, and has built in anti-shake to reduce motion blur from camera shake (and often times, the motion blur from camera shake is worse than the blur from subject movement at longer focal lengths).

On the noise graphs, it's got lower noise than a model like the Sony DSC-F717, once you adjust it for it's true ISO sensitivity. On the other hand, the DSC-F717 has a lens that's a stop brighter, and it's lens is very sharp. However, given the anti-shake advantage of the A1, I'd probably consider giving it a try. But, I'd make sure to buy it from a vendor with a no restocking fee policy, in case your not satisified with the results.

The A1 would also let you shoot in RAW (unprocessed data, directly from the CCD). This gives you much more flexiblity to bring out detail later with software, bypassing the internal processing of the CCD data that the camera performs shooting JPEG images. Basically, you're running software on a PC to process the image captured by the sensor, versus the camera trying to do it in a fraction of a second.

I saw some test shots recently comparing noise levels using several techniques from an Ax series model, and was surprised at how much better the images processed from RAW were from a noise perspective. Interestingly, a free RAW Conversion software productcalled RAW Deal seemed to provide the best results.

Shooting RAW will require more storage space on the cards though (and after a burst of 5 frames you'd need to wait a while for the internal buffer to flush to media).

Slipe has a DiMAGE 7 series model if I'm not mistaken. Perhaps he can offer his opinion on going this route.

Both the Sony DSC-F717 and the DiMAGE A1 use a Sony 2/3" CCD (larger than the 5 Megapixel 1/1.8"CCD used in a camera like the G5, andlarger than the 1/2.5"CCD used in the DMC-FZ20). But, it's still very small compared to the sensor in a model like the Digital Rebel.

Unfortunately, the 3MP 1/1.8" CCD is going to be pretty hard to top in the non-DSLR models (it's CCD density is better than the current models, with larger photosites for each pixel). On more than one occasion in the past, when users needed better existing light ability on a budget, I've suggested hitting Ebay and looking for a model using this sensor. For example, the Olympus C-3040z is a good choice for low light (it's using the same sensor as your model, with a bright f/1.8-2.6 lens).

Again, in a club environment if they'll let you bring it in, using your "feet" for zoom (or cropping the images later for web viewing), a model like the Canon Digital Rebel, using a 50mmf/1.8 lens (under $100.00), would probably be your best bet on a budget. This would be like having your zoom set to around 2x or so with your existing Minolta (a 50mm lens has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 80mm on the Rebel, and your Minolta has a 35mm equivalent focal range of 35-140mm).

Added:

These were taken with a Konica Minolta A2, manual exposure, ISO 800, 1/50 second at f/3.5. JPEG versus RAW, no flash. Noiseware (the free community edition) was used to remove noise and sharpen (set to strong noise removal with sharpening at +5). The photographer posted the links to this album a while back on another forum (which really started users looking at Noiseware). ;-)

Chances are, in the same lighting , the A1 with it's less dense sensor would dobetter. But, it sounds like the lighting wasn'tthis good at the venue you shot at with the Panasonic.

http://www.pbase.com/dimasato1967/inbox


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Old Dec 4, 2004, 7:50 PM   #5
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Very long post

Others have pretty much explained why you are getting what you are getting. All I can say is the following...

Since you seem to be visiting small clubs, and since you are close to the performers, I don't think you need the zoom. Drop the zoom and go with a low-zoom (like Canon G6) or a high-end prosumer like Canon Pro1 or Sony F828 or Konica Minolta A2 or whatever. The high-end prosumer costs a lot more so I don't know if you want to spend a ton of money on that. If you can't spend that much, I woudl go with something like a Canon G6.

I think what you need is a FAST LENS with as LARGE of a SENSOR as possible. The ultra-zooms (10x+ zoom) have the smallest sensor of any camera class--even the ultra-compacts have the same size or larger sensor than the ultra-zooms The FZ20 is the best ultra-zoom IMO but like all ultra-zooms, it is not good in low-light. Of course, DSLRs are the best but it seems it is cost prohibitive and inconvenient for you (which I agree with--I mean who wants to carry around a large DSLR to a club?)

I think you are better off going with a Canon G6 or something like that...
--------

You asked about noise and JimC, who is really amazing when it comes to photography knowledge , has answered your question. To summarize, there are two factors that impact noise: the size of the sensor and the number of detectors on the sensor. For a given size sensor, the more megapixels the camera has, the worse the noise is. For example, the Panasonic FZ20 actually has MORE noise than its smaller and less expensive relative, the FZ3!!! This is because the FZ20 has more megapixels crammed into a given space, compared to the lower megapixel FZ3.

Cameras will indicate their sensor size. Usually it is marked as something like 2/3", 1/2.5", or whatever. A quick way to check is to go to dpreview.com, which a camera review site, and look at the specs (it's usually the near the top of the screen in the specifications section). You can also do a side-by-side comparison under the 'Buying Guide' menu on the left. For example, here is a comparison between the follwing,

Panasonic FZ20 ("best" ultra-zoom)
Panasonic FZ3 (mid-end ultra-zoom)
Canon Pro1 (high-end prosumer)
Canon G6 (high-end low-zoom general prosumer)
Canon 300D Digital Rebel (low-end DSLR)
Nikon D70 (mid-end/entry-level DSLR)
Sony T1 (high-end ultra-compact)
Konica Minolta S304 (your present one)

Here is the URL for the above comparison:

Comparisons

You'll notice that the ultra-zooms such as the FZ20 have a smaller sensor size (ALTHOUGH you should also take the megapixels into consideration so it's hard to say outright which is best). Note that the FZ20 has a smaller sensor than your present KM camera (1/2.5" vs 1/1.8" (these are fractions so the bigger the denominator, the smaller the sensor))...

You'll notice that the DSLRs have MASSIVE sensors compared to the prosumers, even compared to the high-end Pro1 (you need to convert all to metric). What this means is that DSLRs can take pics with far less noise. This essentially means that something like the Rebel can take pics at ISO800 whereas the prosumer and lower level cameras will have problems even at ISO200. In fact, the noise of the DSLRs are so low that they are even better than film cameras (and their film grain problem)!!! The DSLRs are simply light-years ahead of the prosumer and consumer cameras when it comes to noise (and low-light situations).

Quote:
Are there not ANY "prosumer" digicams that come even close to a true D-SLR in being able to do low-light photography?
No! The sensors in the prosumers and consumers are too small compared to the DSLRs. Even the high-end prosumers like Canon Pro1, Sony F828, Konica Minolata A2, and others, are way behind.

Quote:
Why can't they make a camera with an attached lens that does as good as a true D-SLR?
The high-end prosumers (like Canon Pro1, Sony F828, etc) are actually pretty decent for general photography. You or me, as amateurs, would be hard-pressed to notice the difference in bright light for relatively small (say, less than 8"x10") pics. The problem, of course, is that these oops in low-light, where you need big sensors that are very sensitive. As long as you stay away low-light and fast-moving objects, the prosumers/consumers are ok.

----------

I think you should consider something like the Canon G6 or one of its competitors. This has a fast lens (F2.0 at wide-angle) and pretty decent sensor size. You will likely get better pics out of the G6 but I don't know if they will be good enough to satisfy you because even the G6 will have more noise than your present camera (since they both have the same size sensors and the G6 has 7 megpixels)...
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Old Dec 5, 2004, 5:55 AM   #6
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I hadn't shot at the Local 506 before actually. I have shot at the Cat's Cradle and Go Studios, and the Cave, which are similar clubs. The other series of shots of "The Hurt" was from their recent show at the Cave with my Minolta. They're better but I used flash because the lighting was so terrible.

I think my Panasonic can shoot in TIFF or maybe RAW. I would be willing to try those to see if I got less noise, but my concern would be the amount of time it takes to write the images. It would seem I would have to be very choosy about when to shoot pictures even though I had a GB of storage because each shot takes time to save to flash memory, right?

I'm still not clear how to read the CCD size thing...because some are in metric dimensions and others are fractions in inches. How do you compare 22.7 x 15.1mm to 2/3"? Is 22.7mm x 15.1mm the same as 5.8/3.8"?

It's interesting that you guys seem to be telling me that more MegaPixels is actually bad for low-light photography. I thought with more MP, I would get photos with more information and I could zoom in more without pixelation. Why doesn't more MP cause noise problems for D-SLR cameras? The Digital Rebel is 6MP, right? So why isn't it a problem to have that many MP on that CCD? Does that make a D-SLR with more MP more noisy in low light? Do people shoot at lower resolutions like 3MP in low light even if their cameras do more? Would I get better low-light shots on the DMC-FZ20 if I shot at 3MP instead of 5MP? Or does it not matter what picture size you choose on the camera because the CCD has the same number of pixels whether you want full resolution or not?

Is that 1.6x multiplier times focal distance to get 35mm equivalent dependent on the CCD size? Is it larger or smaller for smaller CCDs?

I looked at the shots from the A2 on that website. They're not bad but you can tell they are pixelated and have been fixed with Noiseware; they look just a little unnatural. I mean...I'd be lucky to get results that good myself but it's still not up to the level I'd desire, which is crisp, clear, bright pictures that look to me about the way things looked with my human eyes.

I tried the free Community Edition of Noiseware yesterday. I just used the defaults and I was pleased with the results for the most part. If I were going to be using this or a similar software regularly, I guess I'd have to spring for one of the versions that allows batch processing and profiles for each camera. What's the deal with 16-bit processing or whatever?

IWhy dothe big "prosumer" cameras that are about the same size as a D-SLRnot have nearly the same size CCD as the D-SLRs? I wanted to have a great all-around camera that would be awesome for concert photography and not too bulky to carry around. It sounds like that's not a product that exists and that either I have to settle for more noise than I get now with the Minolta or I have to stop screwing around with "prosumer" cameras and get serious and get a D-SLR. Is the Digital Rebel still the best buy in a D-SLR? Is there anything "wrong" with it?

If I were to get a "prosumer" camera, do you agree that the Sony DSC-F717 would probably perform the best of the current models (DSC-F717, A1, and G6)?

You've really got me thinking I might need to take the plunge and get a D-SLR even if I can't afford it I wonder if there's a big 15% restocking fee if I try to return the Panasonic this week. Is it worth an extra $50 to get the EF-S lens with the Digital Rebel or would I just get the body only and then get that 50mm f/1.8 lens?

$63 - Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens:
http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/p...;c=us&l=en

$504 - Canon Digital Rebel (body only):
http://geniuscameras.com/cart/prodet...sp?prodid=8845

I'm thinking maybe I could use the Digital Rebel for local small clubs and if I got to a larger venue or a festival that doesn't allow SLR cameras, I can just use my old Minolta. Ideally, I think maybe the Canon PowerShot G6 would be best for the venues that won't allow SLRs without a press pass. Don't you agree?

I'd have to wait to get the 24-70mm f/2.8:
$350 - http://www.adorama.com/SG247028SG.html

I'd REALLY have to wait to get the 200mm f/2.8:
$619 - http://www.17photo.com/product.asp?i...amp;l=Shopping

If I did jump into the D-SLR world, I guess the most I could afford at this time would be the Canon EOS 300D Digital Rebel ($504) plus the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 auto focus lens ($70). Would I be able to do macro stuff (flowers, etc) or would I need a special macro lens for that? This combination would give no zoom whatsoever, right? Perhaps I should get the model with the 18-55mm f/3.5-f/5.6 EF-S lens for $50-100 more? If I needed a separate lens to shoot pictures of flowers, what's the least expensive option?

The Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D / Dynax 7D sounds awesome but I REALLY don't have $1500 to spend on a camera body alone! I'm surprised that they're the only ones to have a D-SLR with built-in image stabilization/anti-shake technology. In those kinds of technologies, it seems like the "prosumer" cameras are ahead. How is the auto-focus on the Digital Rebel under low light conditions? Does it have an AF assist lamp?

From what you guys are saying it sounds like though the DiMAGE A1, Sony DSC-F717 and Canon G6 would all be better than the Panasonic DMC-FZ20 for my purposes, they'll all have more noise than my Minolta DiMAGE S304 because of higher MP in about the same size CCD, right? That's basically unacceptable because I wanted my "upgrade" camera to have LESS noise than the Minolta.

The other problem is that I've bought the accessories for my Panasonic and I may not be able to return them (2 680mAh NiMH batteries, 1GB SanDisk UltraII SD, SanDisk USB 2.0 SD reader, Bonzai USB 2.0 reader, Tamrak case). BTW, what's the fastest reasonably-priced 1GB CF card available for the Digital Rebel?

Thank you all SO much for all your wisdom and help!



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Old Dec 5, 2004, 8:52 AM   #7
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YourFace wrote:
Quote:
I hadn't shot at the Local 506 before actually. I have shot at the Cat's Cradle and Go Studios, and the Cave, which are similar clubs. The other series of shots of "The Hurt" was from their recent show at the Cave with my Minolta. They're better but I used flash because the lighting was so terrible.
I'd try it in another club to see if results are better. 1/10 second at ISO 400 and f/2.8 sounds like the lighting was pretty low. Don't underexpose the images unless you must to prevent motion blur. Use OIS mode 2. Then,run themthroughNoiseware with it's sharpening settings bumped up to around +2 or 3.

Quote:
I think my Panasonic can shoot in TIFF or maybe RAW. I would be willing to try those to see if I got less noise, but my concern would be the amount of time it takes to write the images. It would seem I would have to be very choosy about when to shoot pictures even though I had a GB of storage because each shot takes time to save to flash memory, right?
Your Panasonic has TIFF but not RAW. TIFF images are processed by the camera, just like JPEG images. The only difference is that TIFF images are not compressed (and JPEG is a "lossy" compression method).You can try TIFF, but I doubt you'd see much improvement. These will be around 14mb in size, and the camera also writes a JPEG image at the same time. Write times are very fast with the FZ20, even in TIFF. But, I think you'd probably be just as well off using the highest quality JPEG setting, shooting at the best resolultion. I would probably try turning off noise reduction.

Quote:
I'm still not clear how to read the CCD size thing...because some are in metric dimensions and others are fractions in inches. How do you compare 22.7 x 15.1mm to 2/3"? Is 22.7mm x 15.1mm the same as 5.8/3.8"?
1/2.5" (.4"), 1/1.8" (.556") and 2/3" are type designations. The CCD size is actually smaller than this. The type designation came from an old system for video tube sensors, taking measurements of the outside diameter of the tube.

The 22.7 x 15.1mm is an actual CCD size for an image sensor in a DSLR model. The CCD size in your Panasonic is only about 5.7 x 4.3mm. So, the photosites for each pixel are going to be dramatically larger in the DSLR sensor, and able to gather more light.

When comparing these two sensors by surface area, the DSLR sensor has an area of approx. 343mm (22.7 x 15.1), and the Panasonic's sensor has a surface area of approx. 24mm (5.7 x 4.3).

Quote:
It's interesting that you guys seem to be telling me that more MegaPixels is actually bad for low-light photography. I thought with more MP, I would get photos with more information and I could zoom in more without pixelation.
You shouldn't be getting pixelation, unless you need very large prints. 3 Megapixels is fine for prints up to around 8x10" (and if interpolated, can be printed even larger without pixelation).

Also, keep in mind that it takes 4 times the resolution to double the print size, while still maintaining the same subject detail in pixels per inch. Remember, resolution is computed by multiplying width x height, so it's more like computing area. So, you need 4 times the resolution for a 16x20 inch print verus an 8x10 inch print to maintain the same amount of detail in pixels per inch.

What you're seeing is noise. This is caused because the smaller photosites aren't being struck by enough photons to generate a signal that is above the noise floor of the sensor's electronics.

Quote:
Why doesn't more MP cause noise problems for D-SLR cameras?
The sensors are dramatically larger, so the photosites for each pixel are dramatically larger, and each photosite gets struck by more light, generating a stronger signal.

Quote:
The Digital Rebel is 6MP, right? So why isn't it a problem to have that many MP on that CCD? Does that make a D-SLR with more MP more noisy in low light?
Again, it's the size of the photosites for each pixel. Look, it's not "noise free". But, it's dramatically better than a model like the DMC-FZ20. It's ISO 1600 will be better than ISO 400 on a non-DSLR model.

Quote:
Do people shoot at lower resolutions like 3MP in low light even if their cameras do more? Would I get better low-light shots on the DMC-FZ20 if I shot at 3MP instead of 5MP? Or does it not matter what picture size you choose on the camera because the CCD has the same number of pixels whether you want full resolution or not?
All of the pixels are being used by the camera, even if you shoot in lower resolution. It's only downsizing the image after it's taken if you shoot in anything other than the highest resolution setting.

Smaller viewing sizes can make the noise blend in some (as I'm sure you've noticed when viewing reduced size images on screen, versus viewing the full size images). This is because most (but not all) downsizing algorithms are averaging the values of adjacent pixels when downsizing to get the reduced number of pixels, and not all pixels are noisy at the same time -- it's more random in nature.

But, you want to shoot in the highest resolution possible, at the highest quality setting. Then, use a tool like Noiseware to reduce to noise later. It's using more sophisticated techniques than you get from a simple downsizing algorithm. Then, downsize for viewing.

Quote:
Is that 1.6x multiplier times focal distance to get 35mm equivalent dependent on the CCD size? Is it larger or smaller for smaller CCDs?
Yes, it's dependent on CCD size. You'll have a larger crop factor for smaller sensors. To put this in perspective, the lens on your Panasonic DMC-FZ20 is only 6-72mm to give it a 35mm equivalent focal range of 36-432mm. You'll see the actual focal length marked on the front of it's lens. So, it has a crop factor (a.k.a., focal length multiplier) of approxiimately 6x (36mm / 6mm = 6; 432mm / 72mm = 6).

That's why the camera can be so small for it's focal range and lens brightness, and why a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for a model like the Digital Rebel is very large and heavy.

In comparison, your Minolta has a slightly larger CCD compared to the Panasonic. The actual focal length of it's lens is 7.15-28.6mm, to give it a 35mm equivalent focal range of 35-140mm. It's multiplier is approximately 4.89x. Because it's CCD only has 3 Megapixels (or 3 Million Photosites) in a larger sensor, it's photosites are also larger (even when compared to 4 and 5 Megapixel 1/1.8" CCD sensors.

However, they are still MUCH smaller than the photosites in a sensor like you'll find in a DSLR model.

Quote:
I looked at the shots from the A2 on that website. They're not bad but you can tell they are pixelated and have been fixed with Noiseware; they look just a little unnatural. I mean...I'd be lucky to get results that good myself but it's still not up to the level I'd desire, which is crisp, clear, bright pictures that look to me about the way things looked with my human eyes.
Well, the 8MP 2/3" CCD is pretty noisy (worse than the 5MP 2/3" CCD, since the photosites in the 8MP CCD are smaller). So, ISO 800 is very noisy. He also used +5 sharpening in Noiseware, which is really too strong. But, considering he shot at ISO 800, I thought the results were pretty impressive from a CCD with photosites this small.

Quote:
I tried the free Community Edition of Noiseware yesterday. I just used the defaults and I was pleased with the results for the most part. If I were going to be using this or a similar software regularly, I guess I'd have to spring for one of the versions that allows batch processing and profiles for each camera. What's the deal with 16-bit processing or whatever?
JPEG files are considered to be 8 bit files (8 bits of information for each color channel). You sometimes see them referred to as 24 bit files (8 bits each for Red, Green and Blue). RAW files are sometimes converted to 16 bit formats (non JPEG), sometimes referred to as 48 bit files (16 bits each for Red, Green, and Blue). So, you have better dynamic range with 16 bits per color channel with RAW. Editing images in 16 bits helps to preserve dynamic range before converting to 8 bit JPEG files.

Quote:
Why do the big "prosumer" cameras that are about the same size as a D-SLR not have nearly the same size CCD as the D-SLRs?
It's not practical to have a single lens with the focal range you see in prosumer models in a camera with a sensor size you have in a DSLR. You'd have a huge and heavy lens, with poor optical quality.

That's why a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is quite large and heavy, compared to the lens on your Panasonic.

Quote:
I wanted to have a great all-around camera that would be awesome for concert photography and not too bulky to carry around. It sounds like that's not a product that exists and that either I have to settle for more noise than I get now with the Minolta or I have to stop screwing around with "prosumer" cameras and get serious and get a D-SLR. Is the Digital Rebel still the best buy in a D-SLR? Is there anything "wrong" with it?
Well, there are pros and cons with any choice. Canon did "dumb down" the Digital Rebel, removing some features that are available on it's more expensive models. For example, you can't choose AI Servo (Tracking Focus) in anything other than Sports Mode, and Sports Mode won't let you select an ISO speed over 400. It's also missing mirror lockup, and doesn't have Flash Exposure Compensation (and many users say that their flash photos are underexposed without it).

You also can't set ISO 3200, and there are a few other differences, too (for example, it's buffer size is smaller than more expensive models, not allowing as many repeat shots before it slows down for the buffer to flush to media).

But, there is a hacked version of the firmware available for it to enable some of these features (but this may void your warranty). Basically a Russian Hacker figured out that the firmware actually contained these features (that were on the more expensive EOS-10D), but did not enable them in the Digital Rebel. So, by flipping a few bits in the firmware file, he was able to turn them back on again. He also figured out how to map the turned on features to buttons. AI Servo still doesn't work right, and you can increase the RAM buffer in hardware, but many users are using the hacked firmware and like it.

See the discussion in this recent thread:

http://www.stevesforums.com/forums/v...mp;forum_id=37

Quote:
If I were to get a "prosumer" camera, do you agree that the Sony DSC-F717 would probably perform the best of the current models (DSC-F717, A1, and G6)?
That's a tough call. The A1 has lower noise at any given ISOspeed compared to the DSC-F717, once you adjust the tests for the A1's true ISO sensitivity (it's about 2/3 stop more sensitive than it's stated ISO speed). The A1 can shoot in RAW, the Sony cannot. Both use a 5MP 2/3" CCD. The A1 has anti-shake, the Sony does not. The Sony has the advantage of a brighter lens. However,I'd be inclined to believe that the benefits of anti-shake would outweigh the benefits of a brighter lens in low light without a tripod -- especially at longer focal lengths where camera shake is magnified greatly. The Sony only has about a 1 stop advantage in lens brightness, and anit-shake gives you a 2-3 stop advantage as far as reducing blur from camera shake.

But, at shorter focal lengths, the Sony may work better to reduce blur from subject movementfrom it's brighter lens -- again, it's a tough call. I'd probably go with the A1 if I had to choose. It would give me RAW, and I'd spend time post processing the images later to get the best results.

[/quote]
Quote:
You've really got me thinking I might need to take the plunge and get a D-SLR even if I can't afford it I wonder if there's a big 15% restocking fee if I try to return the Panasonic this week. Is it worth an extra $50 to get the EF-S lens with the Digital Rebel or would I just get the body only and then get that 50mm f/1.8 lens?
Well, depending on your vendor, you probably will get hit with a restocking fee. I'd suggest B&H Photo and Video (http://www.bhphotovideo.com ) for purchases. They allow 7 days with no restocking fees on digital cameras, and 14 days on other photographic equipment.

I'd probably still get the kit lens. At $50.00, it's a steal (even if it's not bright enough for concert use). You could still use it for taking photos in better light, or when using a flash (and the 50mm wouldn't give you the flexibility of a zoom lens).

Quote:
$504 - Canon Digital Rebel (body only):
http://geniuscameras.com/cart/prodetails.asp?prodid=8845
CHECK OUT YOUR VENDORS (sorry for shouting, I didn't want you to miss this section). Read the customer reviews for this one:

http://www.resellerratings.com/seller8203.html

See my recent post in this thread on how the scam artists work:

http://www.stevesforums.com/forums/v...mp;forum_id=87


Quote:
I'm thinking maybe I could use the Digital Rebel for local small clubs and if I got to a larger venue or a festival that doesn't allow SLR cameras, I can just use my old Minolta. Ideally, I think maybe the Canon PowerShot G6 would be best for the venues that won't allow SLRs without a press pass. Don't you agree?
Well, I've got mixed feelings on this model. It does have lower noise than the G5 (which was pretty noisy, as the 5MP 1/1.8" CCD is not the best) even though it's packing 7MP into the same size 1/1.8" CCD. However, from what I'm seeing, this may be a combination of improvements to the CCD, and more aggresive in camera noise reduction, resulting in some loss of detail in low light. The lowlight Autofocus speed is not the best on the G series either (even though the G6 is improved over the earlier G series models).

But, it is an improvement over the G5, and like the DiMAGE A1, it's about 2/3 stop more sensitive than it's rated ISO speed.

Quote:
I'd have to wait to get the 24-70mm f/2.8:
$350 - http://www.adorama.com/SG247028SG.html

I'd REALLY have to wait to get the 200mm f/2.8:
$619 - http://www.17photo.com/product.asp?id=2529A004i&l=Shopping
These are reputable vendors (17th street photo, adorama). But, you're not looking at the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom I mentioned . You're looking at a Canon 200mm prime (non zoom lens). This is fine, if you're going to be further away and don't need the flexibility of a zoom lens. This Canon lens is very high quality.

Personally, I'd go with the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX HSM Zoom lens for more flexbility from a focal range perspective. It's very high quality for a zoom lens.

BTW, Canon has a triple rebate offer going on now. Basically, it encourages you to buy more items. For example, if you buy the Rebel with two lenses, you get triple therebates (because you're buying 3 items). The 50mm f/1.8 is not on there (the 50mm f/1.4 is, and the 200mm f/2.8 is).

http://consumer.usa.canon.com/app/pd...CIWC101504.pdf

My assumption is that you'd need to buy them at the same time from the same vendor (but I'm not positive on this). Also, make darn sure you don't buy grey market items that were intended for sale in other countries (many vendors, even reputable ones, sell both grey market and U.S. versions of Canon products). B&H clearly marks which way you're buying their products (you'll see U.S. and Grey Market on their web site at http://www.bhphotovideo.com) . You'll need to UPC codes to get the rebates.

BTW, don't forget that there is a used market, too. You may be able to find good dealer on used Canon lenses. KEH in Atlanta is one source. You'll see4 product pages for lenses to fit Canon models (Canon prime, Canon zoom, 3rd party prime, 3rd party zoom):

http://www.keh.com/shop/class.cfm?bi...p;crid=9328965

Other vendors also have used products (for example, check out the used section at B&H). They have a large selection of used Canon lenses:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...Q=&ci=3018

You've also got localcamera shops, Ebay, newspapers, pawn shops, etc.

You'll find a lot of EF mount lenses on the used market that will work with this model.

Visit the Canon Lenses forum here if you have questions about the pros and cons of any given lens choice.

Quote:
The Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D / Dynax 7D sounds awesome but I REALLY don't have $1500 to spend on a camera body alone! I'm surprised that they're the only ones to have a D-SLR with built-in image stabilization/anti-shake technology.
Yes, this is a great idea. So, you'd have anti-shake with any lens. This gives you 2 to 3 stops in low light for preventing motion blur from camera shake. With longer focal length lenses, it's more important, since motion blur from camera shake is greatly magnified as more zoom is used (you want to have shutter speeds of 1/focal length or faster to prevent motion blur from camera shake), but being able to use it with shorter lenses in low light is pretty nice, too.

Quote:
How is the auto-focus on the Digital Rebel under low light conditions? Does it have an AF assist lamp?
Well, it will be better than most non-DSLR models. It uses a preflash for AF assist (which can be annoying) when you pop up the flash (but you don't have to use it).

The Nikon D70 has a dedicated AF Assist Lamp (but this is a more expensive camera, and an AF Assist Lamp has a limited range anyway).

Of course, you can always use manual focus if light gets too low.

Quote:
From what you guys are saying it sounds like though the DiMAGE A1, Sony DSC-F717 and Canon G6 would all be better than the Panasonic DMC-FZ20 for my purposes, they'll all have more noise than my Minolta DiMAGE S304 because of higher MP in about the same size CCD, right? That's basically unacceptable because I wanted my "upgrade" camera to have LESS noise than the Minolta.
Never assume that more megapixels = higher quality. This is a common misconception. You only need more megapixels for larger prints. 3 Megapixels is fine for prints up to 8x10", and even larger if interpolated using software.

For onscreen viewing, 3 Megapixels is fine for even heavily cropped images.

Now, the Panasonic is a very good camera for what it does (lens focal range in a manageable package). It's anti-shake can give you a 2 to 3 stop advantage. Camera shake is greatly magnified as more zoom is used. As a general rule of thumb, you want shutter speeds of 1/focal length or faster to prevent motion blur from camera shake. So, if you are at a 35mm equivalent focal length of 50mm, you really want shutter speeds to be around 1/50 second without a tripod. Or, if you're at a 35mm equivalent focal length of 400mm, you really want shutter speeds of 1/400 second to prevent motion blur from camera shake.

This is only a rule of thumb (some people can hold a camera steadier than others), but anti-shake has a huge advantage in low light, since it allows you to take photos with less blur at slower shutter speeds.

I'd make sure to use OIS mode 2 on the Panasonic when testing it.

Quote:
The other problem is that I've bought the accessories for my Panasonic and I may not be able to return them (2 680mAh NiMH batteries, 1GB SanDisk UltraII SD, SanDisk USB 2.0 SD reader, Bonzai USB 2.0 reader, Tamrak case). BTW, what's the fastest reasonably-priced 1GB CF card available for the Digital Rebel?
I'd go with the Lexar 80x 1GB card for about $99.00 discounted at some online vendors. It really doesn't take advantage of the fastest cards like the new EOS-20D will, or the Nikon D70 will (for example, a Lexar 40x card tests almost as fast in the Digital Rebel). But, the price difference in the faster cards and the slower cards is really negligble nowadays. The Sandisk Ultra II would be another good choice.

In conclusion, I'd make sure to buy a camera from a vendor with a no restocking fee policy if you want to try a different model, and hold off before buying a lot of accessories that the vendor may not take back (i.e, memory cards, etc.), so you can test it first.

Good Luck, and let us know which way you go (and feel free to ask more questions)
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Old Dec 5, 2004, 8:23 PM   #8
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At this point, I expect to be seeing the Pixies tomorrow night (in Norfolk), Le Tigre Tuesday night (in Chapel Hill), and Young Idea Wednesday night (in Chapel Hill), so I think I'll have a few more opportunities to try your suggestions. However, I think I should go ahead and call for an RMA# tomorrow because it's pretty clear that though the Panasonic DMC-FZ20K is an excellent camera, it's really not appropriate for my needs. I can make sure to use OIS mode 2 (I think that's what I used before anyway) and run the images through Noiseware with +2 or +3. I could try shooting at a lower ISO sensitivity but I'm concerned at how dark everything was even at ISO400 with f/2.8 and 1/10 shutter speed. If I'm supposed to be shooting at 1/FD, I don't see how I can avoid underexposing as you can see how dark the images were even at a slow 1/10 shutter speed. I will also try NOT using the noise reduction in the camera.

Okay...so if I'm understand the CCD size right, it's all about area...more mm of area means more available light sensors as long as the MP isn't too high, right? So looking at the cameras we've discussed, it would break down as follows:

15.53mm - Panasonic DMC-FZ20
38.20mm - Minolta DiMAGE S304
38.20mm - Canon Powershot G6
58.08mm - Canon Powershot Pro1
58.08mm - Minolta DiMAGE A1
58.08mm - Minolta DiMAGE A2
58.08mm - Sony DSC-F717
58.08mm - Sony DSC-F828
342.77mm - Canon EOS-300D Digital Rebel
367.25mm - Nikon D70

If I'm looking at this correctly, then the Panasonic DMC-FZ20 clearly has the smallest CCD area (1/23 of the area of the D70!). It also has less than half the CCD area of my 3-year old Minolta, which explains why the pictures are actually far more noisy and look horrible. So I guess the problem with putting a 300+mm CCD into a "prosumer" camera is that it would have to have a huge lens?

As far as the D-SLRs, I was looking around and it seems the least expensive are:

$504 - Canon EOS-300D (digital rebel, body only)
$599 - Canon EOS-300D (digital rebel with EF-S 18-55mm zoom lens)
$599 - Nikon D70 (body only)
$689 - Nikon D100 (body only)
$729 - Canon EOS-10D (body only)
$749 - Nikon D70 (with 18-50mm f/3.5-5.6 and 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 lenses)
$799 - Nikon D70 (with 28-200mm f/3.5-6.3 lens)
$898 - Olympus E-1 (body only)
$904 - Canon EOS-20D (body only)

I guess the Canon EOS-300D Digital Rebel body is about $100 cheaper than the Nikon D70 body. With a lens kit, it appear that the 300D is about $150 cheaper than the D70. I also realize that the prices are from a very questionable retailer (GeniusCamera), so I'd probably have to pay $100 more to order from a vendor who would actually ship me the camera without jerking me around. I am a little concerned about the limitations of the 300D that you mentioned. It would be a REAL stretch for me to move up to the D70. Is it a much better camera? What affordable lenses would you recommend for my purposes with the D70? Realistically, I guess I'd be spending $800 on the D70 body alone. Ouch! Would the 300D be nearly as good at $675 with the EF-S lens kit?

Yeah, I was under the misconception that more MP was always better because you could enlarge the image with less pixelation. I can see now that I don't really want high MP unless i have a huge CCD or I'm shooting in good lighting conditions.

About the multiplier thing, is it true that there is no multiplier when we're talking about SLR lenses? In other words, is 200mm zoom lens for a 300D or D70 the same as a 200mm zoom on a 35mm film camera? No multiplier or conversion factor needed? If you wanted a "12x" 400+mm zoom on a D-SLR, you'd be spending several thousand dollars on the lens alone, right?

So in terms of batch processing of 16-bit RAW files, which of the noise reduction software packages is the best deal? If I did get a 300D or D70, I'd probably want to get one unless the pictures were extremely clear anyway.

I read the thing about the Russian firmware hack for the 300D. It sounds reasonable and I'd probably try it though I'm not sure which of the new features would be most useful to me. I like the idea that the 300D actually is lighter and focuses faster than the 10D.

At this point, I guess the Minolta DiMAGE A1 would cost about the same as the Canon Digital Rebel so I might as well get a real camera if I'm going to spend that much money

I'm familiar with the Internet scam artists, mostly in NYC somewere. When I tried to order the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20K, I first tried to order it from BigOnDigital for $419 and then from Stop4Camera for $445. In both cases, I called first on the phone and asked them to confirm that they had the camera in stock in black. They said yes, and then when they found out that I didn't want to buy any of their overpriced accessories, they said they had been mistaken and that the camera was out of stock and wouldn't be available until Christmas. One other company said that their low price was for the Japanese model and that it works fine except that the menu is in Japanese. When I asked about the USA model, it was more expensive than even reputable dealers. In the end, I had a successful purchase from BuyDigitalDirect.com. And I hope they won't give me a hard time about returning the camera.

I'm willing to take a chance on questionable online retailers for a deal as long as they've gotten a few good reviews. From ResellerRatings, it sounds like WellsDigital, BestPriceCameras, InfinityCameras, ExpressCameras, RoyalCamera, and A&M Photo World are all loser scam artists. GeniusCamera got mostly bad reviews but a few good ones. I could try them but I'd probably be sorry. I wonder if I bought a few cheap accessories if they would ship me what I want on time. DigitalMegastore, IBuyDigital, Dbuys, MPSuperstore and BuyDig all sound okay. Anyway, I know what you mean about these scam artists. I don't mind playing the game if I can get a good deal but sometimes maybe it's worth spending another $100 or $150 to get it from someone reliable.

I'm sorry to sound ignorant, but would you explain what it means to say that a camera is 2/3 stop more sensitive than it's rated ISO speed?

I guess this is the Sigma Zoom Telephoto 70-200mm f/2.8 EX APO IF HSM Autofocus Lens for Canon EOSyou mentioned?

http://www.digitalfotoclub.com/sc/fr...9911&rf=dt

Would those Sigma and Canon lenses you mentioned also work on the Nikon D70? Or if not, which ones would you recommend? And what do I need to take pictures of flowers (macro) with either the 300D or the D70? If I were to do that double or triple rebate offer from Canon, which one or two lenses would you recommend? The 50mm Canon f/1.4 appears to be about $300.

I could get the Canon EOS-300D Digital Rebel with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-f/5.6 lens kit at MPSuperStore for $774 and then get the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4.0-f/5.6 lens for $150. The total would be $924 but then I would get $230 in rebates so the final cost would be $694. Those two lense should be good for shooting in decent lighting, such as outdoor festivals and such, right? And then I'd need to spend $63.75 more to get that Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens for low-light concert photography. Total cost for the camera and three lenses would be $757. How does that sound?

$774 - Canon EOS 300D Digital Rebel with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-f/5.6 lens: ($200 rebate)
http://www.mpsuperstore.com/cgi-bin/...discr61655.htm

$150 - Canon EF 75-300mm f/4.0-f/5.6 lens: ($30 rebate)
http://www.mpsuperstore.com/cgi-bin/...5Cdiscr624.htm

$64 - Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens:
http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/p...;c=us&l=en

Or if I wanted to go the Nikon route, I'd get the Nikon D70, I'd get the D70 body only for $779. I could then get the Nikon 2136 28-100mm f/3.5-4.5 AF Zoom Nikkor lens for $89.99 ($20 rebate). I could get the Nikon 1922 28mm f/2.8 AF Nikkor lens for $225 ($70 rebate)

$779 - Nikon D70 body only:
http://www.mraccessory.com/prodetail...&display=3

I see this Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor lens for $99.95:
http://www.adorama.com/NK5018AFDU.html

$99 - Nikon 2136 28-100mm f/3.5-4.5 AF Zoom Nikkor lens ($20 rebate)
http://www2.buydig.com/shop/product....p;sku=NK28100G

So the total cost for the Nikon D70 plus those two lenses would be $978 but I would get $20 in rebates so the final cost would be $958.

Between the Canon and the Nikon, I feel like I'd be getting more for less with the Canon. Do you agree? I could add on a better bright f/2.8 70-200mm zoom lens later but I feel like the 50mm f/1.8 should be sufficient for my concert needs since I may only be able to bring the camera into smaller venues anyway.

You can see that I'm clearly leaning toward getting a D-SLR because you've convinced me that it's a lost cause to try to get good low-light concert shots with a "prosumer" camera. I feel like I won't mind lugging around a DSLR too much. For the concert setting, I'd just have the f/1.8 50mm lens for now so I wouldn't need a big case. I would need a bigger case to carry the other two lenses for nature photography and such.

So, in conclusion is the Nikon D70 solution really $200 better than the Canon EOS-300D solution and if so, are there less expensive lens options that would meet my needs? I guess at minimum, I'd need a bright lens for the low-light concert stuff and another regular zoom lens for general use. Whatwould you recommend?

I see this Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 AF lens for $109:
http://www.abesofmaine.com/viewprodu...l=Pricegrabber

It appears that I'm looking at spending $200 more than the Panasonic DMC-FZ20 to get a Canon EOS-300D Digital Rebel solution (with lenses) and $400 more than the Panasonic DMC-FZ20 to get a Nikon D70 solution (with lenses).

Let me know what you think. Thanks again!
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Old Dec 5, 2004, 11:22 PM   #9
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Quote:
If I'm supposed to be shooting at 1/FD, I don't see how I can avoid underexposing as you can see how dark the images were even at a slow 1/10 shutter speed.
1/focal length is only a rule of thumb for shutter speeds. Some people can hold a camera steadier. A Stabilized lens will give you 2 or more stops worth of ability to reduce motion blur from camera shake. So, you'd need shutterspeeds 4 times as fast without a stabilized lens (which is whatthe the 1/focal length rule of thumb is for). In other words, you can get by with much slower shutter speeds with a stabilized lens. However, if you get too slow (i.e., the shutter speeds you were shooting at, you'll still get motion blur from subject movement).

Quote:
Okay...so if I'm understand the CCD size right, it's all about area.
Not really.I sometimes mention surface area so that you can get a better idea of the difference.You really don't see CCD Surface area discussed much.

The more important factor is the size of the photosites for each pixel. You have to look at how many photosites are in a given size sensor, looking at the size of the photosites for each pixel to see which one has the most potential. So, you can have two sensors with the same physical size, with one performing much worse than the other, since a higher resolution CCDin the same size may have more and smaller photosites.

But, you still need to take each CCD on a case by case basis. Advances are being made (better microlens design to amplify light, more advanced circuitry in the sensor, etc.).

Quote:
It would be a REAL stretch for me to move up to the D70. Is it a much better camera? What affordable lenses would you recommend for my purposes with the D70? Realistically, I guess I'd be spending $800 on the D70 body alone. Ouch! Would the 300D be nearly as good at $675 with the EF-S lens kit?
LOL -- well, that's up to you. Both are good cameras. The Nikon's faster and has some features the Digital Rebel doesn't. But, you may not need them.There's nothing wrong with the image quality on the Digital Rebel.

Quote:
About the multiplier thing, is it true that there is no multiplier when we're talking about SLR lenses? In other words, is 200mm zoom lens for a 300D or D70 the same as a 200mm zoom on a 35mm film camera? No multiplier or conversion factor needed?
Yes, you have a multiplier (crop factor). That's why I mentioned that a 50mm lens on the Digital Rebel would have a 35mm equivalent focal length of 80mm. It's got a 1.6x crop factor, since the sensor is smaller than 35mm film, and the entire image projected by the lens is not used.

The Nikon has a 1.5x crop factor (a 50mm lens would have a 35mm equivalent focal length of 75mm).

So, a lens like the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX HSM lens would have a 35mm equivalent focal range of 112-320mm on the Digital Rebel, or 105-300mm on the Nikon D70. This lens is availablefor both Canon or Nikon models.

Quote:
So in terms of batch processing of 16-bit RAW files, which of the noise reduction software packages is the best deal? If I did get a 300D or D70, I'd probably want to get one unless the pictures were extremely clear anyway.
You need to convert from RAW to another format (RAW is proprietary to a manufacturer). So, you'd use a RAW conversion tool of some type first. For example, Adobe Photoshop CS has Adobe Camera RAW included that will convert them, Paint Shop Pro has a RAW conversion feature now, the manufacturers include RAW conversion software as another option, and there are numerous other RAW conversion solutions.

Then, you'll need to select a Noise Reduction Tool. Neat Image, Noiseware and Noise Ninja are popular tools. These all have plugins designed to work in Photoshop (which will cost you if you go that route, since Photoshop CS isn't cheap). The Neatimage plugin supports any file format in Photoshop.

You also have standalone versions of popular products available.

If you go with RAW, you may want to explore the RAW converter that comes with the camera first, then decide what editor you want to use for RAW conversion if you're not satisified, before looking at Noise Reduction tools.

Most popular editors have trial versions, as do the Noise Reduction products like Neat Image.

You may also decide that you don't want to shoot in RAW due to the space requirements and camera performance issues. The Nikon would be better in this area (larger shot buffer, faster writes to media), but you may find the Canon to be all you need in this area. It depends on how much shooting you're doing.

Quote:
I'm willing to take a chance on questionable online retailers for a deal as long as they've gotten a few good reviews.
Not me.. Vendor have been known to pad their own ratings. I even saw one report of e-mails from a vendor giving customers credits for a 5 star rating, too.

I take the opposite approach... only buy from vendors with a very large number of good customer reviews, cross checking in multiple areas for signs of them being a scam artist.The tell tale signsare usually there if you look for them in the user reviews. Of course, a Brooklyn address is going to make me look much closer! ;-)

Quote:
GeniusCamera got mostly bad reviews but a few good ones. I could try them but I'd probably be sorry.
You did read the customer reviews right? Look, it's pretty competive right now. When a small site with bad reviews advertises a model at a price that's lower than everyone else, how do you think they can sell it that cheap?

Everyone wants to think they'll find a much better price. But, if the online resellers that don't even stock anything (simply taking orders andhaving the product drop shipped from a distributor as most of them do) don't havea low price, how can someone less well known sell it for much cheaper?

Look, I can't tell you what to do. But, I'd read the reviews, look for a pattern, and remember what I said about grey market. You do want your rebates and warranty, right?

See the mention of grey market cameras on this page. Do you really want to go through this kind of hassle?

http://www.resellerratings.com/seller1805-p4-s1-d1.html

You're playing with fire messing around with vendors that have bad customer reviews (especially with Brooklyn addresses), and you're playing with fire buying from vendors with a small number of reviews, good or bad.

Quote:
I could get the Canon EOS-300D Digital Rebel with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-f/5.6 lens kit at MPSuperStore for $774 and then get the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4.0-f/5.6 lens for $150. The total would be $924 but then I would get $230 in rebates so the final cost would be $694. Those two lense should be good for shooting in decent lighting, such as outdoor festivals and such, right? And then I'd need to spend $63.75 more to get that Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens for low-light concert photography. Total cost for the camera and three lenses would be $757. How does that sound?
I'd get some opinions in the Canon Lenses forum. You may not want to buy a 75-300mm lens now, and replace it with a faster and higher quality lens later. This is not a high quality lens. But, if you can get it for next to nothing, and don't want to spend the money on another lens choice in the rebatelist, then I guess it wouldn't hurt to take advantage of the rebate offer.

But, you'll probably want a little higher quality lens later.
Quote:
Or if I wanted to go the Nikon route, I'd get the Nikon D70, I'd get the D70 body only for $779. I could then get the Nikon 2136 28-100mm f/3.5-4.5 AF Zoom Nikkor lens for $89.99 ($20 rebate). I could get the Nikon 1922 28mm f/2.8 AF Nikkor lens for $225 ($70 rebate)
Don't forget the crop factor. That 28-100mm would have a 35mm equivalent focal range of 42-150mm on the Nikon.

The kit lens Nikon offers (18-70mm AF-S DX f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED) is a higher quality lens than this (and also focuses faster). TheAF-S lens types have an internal focus motor, which is similar to the USM (Ultrasonic Motor) lenses offered by Canon. Some Sigma lenses have HSM (Hypersonic Motor) that also use internal motors for fast and quiet focus.


Quote:
Between the Canon and the Nikon, I feel like I'd be getting more for less with the Canon. Do you agree? I could add on a better bright f/2.8 70-200mm zoom lens later but I feel like the 50mm f/1.8 should be sufficient for my concert needs since I may only be able to bring the camera into smaller venues anyway.
Well, that's up to you. There are pros and cons to any approach. If you aren't allowed to bring in the camera to venues requiring a longer lens, you may not need to buy something that long. You may want a better "walk around" lens instead later.

Quote:
You can see that I'm clearly leaning toward getting a D-SLR because you've convinced me that it's a lost cause to try to get good low-light concert shots with a "prosumer" camera. I feel like I won't mind lugging around a DSLR too much. For the concert setting, I'd just have the f/1.8 50mm lens for now so I wouldn't need a big case. I would need a bigger case to carry the other two lenses for nature photography and such.
Well, I wouldn't call it a lost cause -- just more challenging. ;-). There are also differences between Prosumer and DSLR models where you may prefer a Prosumer for some purposes. It's smaller and lighter, you can use the LCD for Framing (you can't do this with a DSLR, you must use the Optical Viewfinder), you have more focal range in one lens, you've got good macro ability built in, you've got much greater Depth of Field for any given 35mm equivalent focal length and aperture with a non-DSLR model, etc. So, there are pros and cons to either approach.

A lot depends on your use for the photos, too.

Quote:
So, in conclusion is the Nikon D70 solution really $200 better than the Canon EOS-300D solution and if so, are there less expensive lens options that would meet my needs? I guess at minimum, I'd need a bright lens for the low-light concert stuff and another regular zoom lens for general use. Whatwould you recommend?
Each user will have different needs. Some users may prefer the Canon, and some users may prefer the Nikon.

I wouldn't rush out and buy cheap lenses. Remember, if you're trying to buy longer focal length lenses, and you don't have image stabilization, a slow lens will start giving up the advantage of shooting with a DSLR, too (not to mention that lenses with more focal range, tend to be of lower optical quality, and can be softer at either end of their available aperture settings (small or large). They may also be soft at either end of their focal range (wide or long).

I'd probably wait a litttle while if you go the DSLR route, so that you'll have a better idea of what you need first. You may want to save up a little longer and buy higher quality lenses. You may also want to go with a single lens solution to keep from hauling around a lot of glass (i.e., something like a Tokina 24-200mmf/3.5-5.6 AT-X 242AF). Or, you may want to buy something with less focal range, that's brighter, with even higher optical quality, with a different lens for the longer end.

I wouldn't spend a lot of money on lenses that you may end up wanting to replace, before you get a better feel for your needs if you go with a DSLR. Also, you can shop the used market for lenses if you go with a DSLR.

I'd also suggest buying any camera and lenses you choose from a reputable vendor with a no restocking fee policy. That way, you can make sure you're happy with it as a solution.

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Old Dec 6, 2004, 11:11 AM   #10
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I guess the IS lens on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 is what's allowing me to shoot at 1/10. I don't think I could do that on the Minolta DiMAGE S304. All I was saying is I don't think I can get the exposure up any more than I did with ISO400, f/2.8 and 1/10 speed. I could try ISO200 but it would probably be darker and more blurry, right?

So...the surface area of the CCD seems important but only relative to the number of MP. So a camera with a big CCD and low MP would be best for low-light situations, right? Are there any current prosumer models that match that description? The discussion of the surface area did show me the HUGE difference between most prosumer cameras and the two D-SLR's we've been discussing. The CCD on the Panasonic was 1/23 the size of the one on the Nikon D70!

I'm liking the single-lens startup solution that you mentioned...just get a D-SLR body and then get that Tokina 24-200mm AF f/3.5-5.6 AT-X 242AF lens for $270 (for either D-SLR camera)! If I did that, I'd only get the $100 rebate on the Canon, so the end cost would be $615 plus $270 for the Tokina lens...so $885. Or if I got the Nikon D70, it would be $780 for the body and $270 for the lens, so $1050 total.

The reason I was thinking of getting the 300D kit is that the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-f/5.6 lens only ends up costing $60. The reason I was thinking of getting the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4.0-f/5.6 lens is that it was the least expensive lens I could find that qualifies for the double rebate deal, so that lens is $150 with a $30 rebate ($120) but it also gets me another $100 off the 300D, so in the end, it's like getting that long zoom lens for $20! Why not, right? If I didn't get the 50mm EF f/1.8 lens, the total with the other three lenses would be $964. Or if I just got the EOS-300D body for $615 plus the EF 75-300mm f/4.0-f/5.6 lens and the Tokina lens, it would be $905.

So what does the Nikon D70 do that the Canon EOS-300D Digital Rebel won't? I could get the Nikon D70 with the single Tokina 24-200mm AF f/3.5-5.6 AT-X 242F lens for just about $100 more than the Canon EOS-300D Digital Rebel with an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-f/5.6, an EF 75-300mm f/4.0-f/5.6, and the Tokina 25-200mm AF f/3.5-5.6 AT-X 242F (3 lenses). This D70 package would give me anequivalent 36-300mm range with a single lens (1.5x crop factor). And the EOS-300D package would give me an equivalent 28.8-480mm range with three lenses (1.6x crop factor). I guess I'd only use that cheap $20 EF 75-300mm lens for wildlife photography or some other situation when I need a serious zoom.

The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX HSM lens that you mentioned looks nice, but I'm sure I couldn't afford it right now.

I thought the reason to shoot in RAW had something to do with better ability to do noise reduction on the computer? If you have to convert to another format first, aren't you missing out on that ability? What about that RAW Deal thing? Perhaps the noise reduction won't be necessary if I'm using a D-SLR anyway?

I guess you're right about those shady drop-shippers. It seems like I can trust most anyone listed on shopping.com or pricegrabber.com but not the ones listed on streetprices.com and pricescan.com. I'm sure it's not worth the hassle. I've done okay with BuyDigitalDirect.com and MPSuperStore.com. But I will heed your advice and not try to buy from someone who gets consistently bad ratings on resellerratings.com.

About the Canon EF 75-300, don't you agree that it's worth it when the rebate deal basically means I can get it for $20? Even if it's not a great lens, isn't it still worth $20 for the range? I figure for $20, it's a no-brainer.

The Nikon AF 18-70mm f/3.5-f/4.5 G-AFS ED-IF DX lens is $284. Wouldn't it be better to spend the $270 on the Tokina 25-200mm AF f/3.5-5.6 AT-X 242F you mentioned?

BTW, what's powering an internal motor inside one of these AF-S, USM, or HSM lenses? How does that work? And is it practical to try to change lenses in the middle of a concert in the dark?

About "prosumer" vs. D-SLR...are there any current "prosumer" cameras that will serve my needs for low-light concert photography? I do like to frame shots with the LCD. In fact, I do this for most of my shots now, so it would be a real adjustment for me to have to use the optical viewfinder only on a D-SLR. If we're talking about the Minolta DiMAGE A1 or the Sony DSC-F717, I wouldn't exactly say they're smaller and lighter. The Canon PowerShot G6 would be, however.

What's the deal with macro ability on a D-SLR? Do I have to get a special macro lens? Because I do like to take pictures of flowers a lot in the spring.

Please explain the thing about the greater depth of field for a non D-SLR. Does that have something to do with having both near and far subjects in focus at the same time? How is it different with a D-SLR?

I guess my main motivations for upgrading from my Minolta DiMAGE S304are that I want clearer (less noisy) pictures in poor lightingand more powerful optical zoom. In the "prosumer" world, it seems that those two goals are mutually-exclusive; more zoom means more noise, right? But in the D-SLR world, it seems that I have flexibility in which lens I use and I can achieve both longer focal distances and much less noise. To do both at the same time in poor lighting apparently requires a very expensive lens, but I could have a "compromise" solution that gets me a pretty decent range and I can still get much clearer pictures on the D-SLR than I could on a "prosumer" camera, even though I'm using a lens with a smaller aperture. I'm speculating on this based on what you're telling me.

The only reason I was thinking of getting the cheap lenses on the Canon was the nominal cost with the rebates. You mention that a cheap lens with a longer focal distance and no IS gives up the advantage of a D-SLR. What exactly do you mean by that? And what does it mean to say the lens is softer at either end of the aperture settings or focal range?

My dad has suggested using a monopod in concert settings and says there are some very clever designs that fold up small and that you get a few more stops when you use it. Would that be part of my solution too?

I'll tell you another trick I used with the Minolta...I'd set the aperture, ISO,focus, andshutter speed, aim at my subject and set the timer. That allowed me to take shots without the camera shake associated with pressing the shutter release button. It helped a lot, actually. The Panasonic has a 2-sec timer which I could use for this purpose too...

You suggest waiting a while if I go the D-SLR route so I can assess my needs. But the thing is, I'm about to send this Panasonic back and I'd like to get something else. This was my big b-day/x-mas present. I feel like you're helping me assess my needs here and nowand I'd like to make a decision and get going. I do realize that if I get a D-SLR, I can get better lenses later. I guess I could get a few el-cheapo lenses like I mentioned and maybe one decent one. The single-lens solution appeals to me a lot. And that would work for either the Canon EOS-300D or the Nikon D70.

I looked at those used market sites you mentioned but I wasn't sure what I was looking for and the prices didn't seem that much better than new lenses, unless I just didn't know what to look for.

So....now I'm looking at a solution from $757 to $1050.

The low-end deal would give me the Canon EOS-300D Digital Rebel with three lenses (EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-f/5.6, EF 75-300 f/4.0-f/5.6, and EF 50mm f/1.8 . ($757) Do you think the lack of zoom for low-light concert shots will be a problem if I'm almost always right in front of the band?

The high end deal would give me the Nikon D70 with the one versatile Tokina 24-200mm f/3.5-5.6 AT-X 242AF lens. ($1050)

And for about $100 less, I could get the Canon with the Tokina lens and those two other el-cheapos. ($964).

The low-end solution is about $250 more than the Panasonic. The mid-range is about $450 more. The high-end is about twice ($550 more).

I'd get another "prosumer" camera if I thought I could get more zoom and less noise, preferably a lot less. But that's not possible, right?

Thanks again!
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