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Old Dec 13, 2004, 3:09 PM   #1
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Trying to decide upon which camera to give as a gift. I've never used a digital. I'm considering the Panasonic FZ-15. It's for my girlfriend whom I don't think would ever use the external flash that the FZ-15 lacks. But, since she has a young daughter who will likely be the subject of many of her photos, I'm concerned that she might miss the FZ-15's lack of sound on videos. This would only be a consideration, of course, if still digital cameras take movies that are worth worrying about. Are they of a decent screen size/quality/etc.? I know, as they're fond of saying on these sites, that mileage varies and all, but I'd appreciate any thoughts upon whether this should be an overriding consideration. Would I be better off going with the FZ-3?
Thanks.
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Old Dec 13, 2004, 3:50 PM   #2
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I suggest you go check out videos at www.dcresource.com, that way you will be able to see if its good enough for u.

For my part, I find that the video quality is amazing considering it comes from a digicam, its great to be able to have the option. But the quality is far from what you'd get from a normal camcorder.
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Old Dec 13, 2004, 3:50 PM   #3
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I've had for two yearsa digital camera with sound video (Canon A40) and I don't think video is a useful feature on a still camera, for the following reasons:
  • poor image quality [/*]
  • limited recording time, either through a built-in limitation or due to the amount of memory it requires: a 256 Mb card, which can hold 200 pictures at 5 Mpxl definition, will accept less than 12 minutes of video at the rather low definition of 320 x 240 pxl[/*]
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Old Dec 13, 2004, 4:01 PM   #4
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I've voiced this before (recently) but I think the video w/sound capability of my Olympus C770 UZ is great. Do not kid yourself-- I am a professional videographer. This ain't professional video. But it is full frame, 30 fps in a variety of quality settings (MPEG4, 2 resolutions of Quicktime) It's sure good enough for the occasional clip I might want to grab at, say, a graduation, or on vacation, or at my nephews wrestling tournament.

These cameras record as much as your card can hold, so my 512MB card could hold 15 minutes of video *and* 250 HQ photos. It's cool. A gigabyte card-- twice as much.

It would not be nearly as much without sound, though, and this camera has a good enough mic, or you can hook up an external one. Here's a short sample of the video, shot in terrible light, that I have compressed quite small to fit on the internet:

http://home.comcast.net/~scotious/Di...ngcattrick.mov
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Old Dec 13, 2004, 6:44 PM   #5
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I think if you are going for video, you have to go for one with GOOD video; otherwise it's not worth it. This basically means 640x480 resolution at 30 frames per second. The Panasonic FZ Lumix line doesn't have [email protected] so it isn't good enough IMO.

To give you some reference, [email protected] is very close to tv quality (not high definition tv though). If I remember correctly, NTSC television/DVD is something like 720x480. So if you have a camera at 640x480, it's almost the same. Thirty frames per second is also sufficient to avoid skipping (15 fps or less often looks as if the movie is skipping).

If you get a camera with lower frame rate, movie will seem like it is skipping; if you get a camera with lower resolution, the movie won't look as good on a tv (it will still look ok on a computer monitor, although it will be a smaller window than a higher resolution video). In addition, if you don't go for a good video mode in a digicam, it may be lacking certain things (eg. no sound, bad sound, limited length (few seconds), no zoom, etc). So if you are interested in video, you really have to pick a camera with GOOD video; all the other cameras with videos are just hype and totally useless.

I think a digicam with [email protected] (or better) is good enough for video with the following weaknesses (compared to camcorders/DVs):

* Most digicams use up A LOT of memory. My Canon S1 IS, which shoots at [email protected], takes up 1 GB for just 9 minutes of video! If it has MPEG4 compression (rare), like the Olympuses, then you can shoot much more video (usually around 2x to 3x more for a given amount of space). In contrast, a digital video recorder or a camcorder can shoot HOURS on one tape/DVD/whatever. So if your idea is to shoot hours upon hours of video (like you would with a DV/camcorder), the digicam would require a ton of memory (at least 5GB to 10GB I would say--this memory would cost more than most cameras). However, if your goal is to shoot 5 minutes here and there, or something, then a digicam may be ok. Since flash memory prices seem to be following something like Moore's "Law", you can probably pick up a 4 GB memory card in one year for $100 (not bad at all).

* Digicams provide very little control over the video mode. You literally can't do anything (except control white balance and possibly the metering mode, as well as a few other things). My Canon, for example, does not let you control the ISO and this causes massive problems in low-light because it is defaulting to very high ISO settings, which produces a ton of noise The editing functions (like clipping the movies or adjusting them or whatever) is also lacking compared to DVs/camcorders.

* Focusing is worse/slower/not as good/sucks compared to camcorders/DVs. I don't know how other cameras are but my Canon S1 IS has problems if you zoom too quickly or move the camera around too fast (note: this camera has this problem even with still pictures so maybe it is a lack of processing power and not necessarily a video issue)

* Horrible in low-light and weaker zoom. Videos in digicams are not very good in low-light (at least compared to camcorders), have worse zoom (most DVs have image stabilization, whereas only a few cameras have IS), etc

So to sum up, I don't think digicam video is sufficient for general use. I bought my Canon S1 IS (over the panasonic FZ3) mainly because of video and am satisfied with it, but I wasn't expecting a whole lot. I think the general masses will be dissapointed with the horrible video in low-light. Overall, I would say the best video digicams (Canon S1 IS, most of the Sonys, Olympuses, etc) are good enough for taking short videos in bright conditions with little movement. For general use, I think you have to wait around 2 more years before digicams can shoot "acceptable" video.
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Old Dec 13, 2004, 8:05 PM   #6
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I think Sivaram's comments are well put, but for these points:

1. No one should consider their digicam as a video camera for taking long format stuff. But for a few short clips--wow--what a convenience!

2. I am amazed at the Olympus' ability to focus in low light. If you move the camera or zoom there is some lag, but it's very reasonable. It certainly is much easier to take video in low light than a still. Wish it weren't so, but it is. I refer specifically to th clip I linked to above-- which was very low llight to grab a still but no problem for video mode. The S1 may not be as good in this regard.

3. The MPEG4 compression allows for a much smaller file at reasonable resolution-- a decent compromise.
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Old Dec 13, 2004, 8:26 PM   #7
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Thanks to all. I really appreciate all of the thoughtful comments. Although there's no real consensus, I have learned a great deal from the discussion (and got to watch an enjoyable cat video to boot). If the camera were for me, I suspect I could get along quite well without the video. But, given that digicams are capable of recording very passable video clips(considerably better than I thought they would be -- thanks very much for the examples), and that my girlfriend will mostly be using it to photograph her very active daughter, I think she will enjoy having the ability to shoot some video clips along with still shots. If I could afford to get her both a digicam and video cam I would, but on a grad student's income that's just not possible rigth now. So, I'm looking at the FZ3 (I think the long lens length will be appreciated when her daughter is singing onstage, etc.), but I'm feeling incrasingly moved to scrape together the cash for the FZ20. Whatever I end up doing, your comments have been a tremendous help. Thanks again, and Season's Best.
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Old Dec 14, 2004, 8:31 AM   #8
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There's a nice little discussion about the FZ3 on the Panasonic forum:

http://www.stevesforums.com/forums/v...mp;forum_id=23
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