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Old Dec 18, 2004, 8:50 AM   #1
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Hi, i'm a newbie to digital cameras and photography.

Here are my choices:

Nikon 3100- good all around camera

Main pro: small size

Price: $180

Panasonic FZ3:

Main pros: 12X zoom, high quality lenses

Main cons: no video in 640 x 480

Can you attach other lenses to this camera

Price $306

Canon S1

Main pros: 10X zoom, excellent video capability, zoom during video shooting

Main cons: none (except price)

Price $350



I can understand that the two more expensive camera probably have higher image quality. But how much higher is the image quality? How would you tend to rate the 3 cameras on a 1-10 scale?

Is it the difference between a crappy 19 inch tv and a $1000 35 inch tv with all the options? If you took modelling or fashionphotographs or landscape photos with the cameras, how would they be different.

This is of course excepting the zoom function, although that is of course qute useful.



every time i see suggestions for a camera, the panasonic fz3 comes up. Why? Is the image quality a 8.7 compared to a 7.0 for the Nikon?



Thank you very much for your help!!
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Old Dec 18, 2004, 10:39 AM   #2
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echo99 wrote:
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Canon S1

Main pros: 10X zoom, excellent video capability, zoom during video shooting

Main cons: none (except price)

Price $350
S1's cons would be poor pics in low-light (especially since it doesn't have an AF-assist lamp) and slow focusing/focusing problems...


Quote:
I can understand that the two more expensive camera probably have higher image quality. But how much higher is the image quality? How would you tend to rate the 3 cameras on a 1-10 scale?
Cameras are far more diverse than tvs. So it isn't really image quality that makes a difference between them; instead, it is all the other capabilities. For example, the more expensive ones you listed have high zoom so you'll be able to take pics of far away objects, whereas with the low zoom ones you can't.

In terms of pic quality, I think all these cameras are sufficient. Most people probably won't be able to tell the difference in pics in good conditions (outdoor sunlight, or indoor with flash). Where they will differ is in the conditions they can take pics in, as well as their capabilities. It's hard to compare an ultra-zoom (like the FZ3 or S1 IS) to a compact (like the Nikon you listed). You cannot zoom into a bird sitting on a tree with an ultra-compact so how do you evaluate that? But on the other hand, you will not be carrying around a somewhat large camera like the S1 IS everywehre so you will miss all those candid and spontaneous shots that you might have taken with an ultra-compact--how do you compare that?

I think what you should do is to concentrate on the type of pics that you want to take and then decide. For example, if you want to take far away objects (eg. sports athletes in a stadium, animals wandering around, etc) you want zoom; if you want to take landscapes or group pictures in narrow space, you want wide-angle (the lowest zoom should be wide); if you want to carry the camera at all times, to restaurants, nightclubs, going out, etc, you want ultra-compact or compact (eg. you really can't carry, say, the FZ3 in your pocket); if you are going to take mostly indoor pics then you want a bright flash (or at least an add-on flash), and/or AF-assist lamp, and/or low ISO noise (basically you want good low-light performance); etc.

So try to come up with a few key things that you want... you'll take pics of everything but what are the key things? Where will you spend most of the time?

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Is it the difference between a crappy 19 inch tv and a $1000 35 inch tv with all the options? If you took modelling or fashion photographs or landscape photos with the cameras, how would they be different.
It's sort of like the tv example, except there are many more KEY factors.

Ultra-zooms are generally not good for landscape pics or close-up pics. Sure, you can take them but that is not what they are designed for. For landscapes, you want a low-zoom wide-angle camera. And so on... I think it depends on what you are trying to take. Someone might say a high-end ultra-zoom like Panasonic FZ20 is best (since they like hte zoom) while another might say a low-zoom high-end camera like Canon G6 is best (since they don't use the zoom)...

Quote:
This is of course excepting the zoom function, although that is of course qute useful.
Zoom is not simply something useful; instead, it is THE KEY feature of those ultra-zooms. If zoom isn't important, these cameras may not be best for you...

Quote:
every time i see suggestions for a camera, the panasonic fz3 comes up. Why? Is the image quality a 8.7 compared to a 7.0 for the Nikon?
It's not really the image quality per se. The Panasonic FZ3 is mentioned a lot for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is the best low-end ultra-zoom in terms of picture quality (if you ignore video and other stuff). A lot of amateur photographers tend to like zoom so there is a bias towards ultra-zooms, and since FZ3 is the best, it gets mentioned a lot.

Second, FZ3 is a very good all-around camera. Even if you don't care about the zoom, it still competes well against other camera classes. The key features of the FZ3 IMO are:

* image stabilization
* low aperature of F2.8 throughout zoom (most cameras decrease the aperature size as you zoom but not this line of cameras)
* good pic quality that rivals other camera classes (mainly due to very good lens)
* good bang for the buck (relatively cheap when you consider the fact that it pretty much offers all the manual features you might want (its manual focus is weak but its higher-end sibling, the FZ20, is ok)

Here is a good list, courtesy dcresource:

http://dcresource.com/specials/holid...04/index.shtml

Check out the list to get a rough idea of the best... Steve also has his list (although I think he puts too many cameras on that list) so check that out as well...
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Old Dec 18, 2004, 4:21 PM   #3
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Thanks for the informative information.

Here's my question: If the panasonic didn't have the ultra zoom feature, how would it compare with the Canon SD300, A95 and the S60?



Does it take better quality images, the same or worse?



I've now realized that it's basically between the Canon sd300 (small size) vs the Panasonic fz3.



I do figure that if i had the zoom, i'd use it at some point though.
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Old Dec 18, 2004, 4:27 PM   #4
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also, according to the review in dpreview.com, it sounds like the entire level of camera is simply superior (the fz3) over the canon sd300 or the a95.

Is this true?
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Old Dec 18, 2004, 8:38 PM   #5
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also, according to the review in dpreview.com, it sounds like the entire level of camera is simply superior (the fz3) over the canon sd300 or the a95.

Is this true?
Usually the larger the camera is, the more features it has for a given price, the more control it offers, and the better the pic quality (I'm being very rough and this is only within an year i.e. a 2 year old large camera may be far worse than a smaller modern camera). For example, you can pretty much say that an ultra-compact (like the Canon SD300) is worse than a compact (like Canon A95), which is worse than an ultra-zoom (like S1 IS). The ultra-zooms (like S1 IS, FZ3, Konica Minolta Z3, Olympus S5000(?), etc) definitely offer more than the A95 or the SD300.

Ultra-compacts generally offer the least features (eg. no aperature/shutter priority modes, no custom/manual shooting modes, etc) and have the worse pic quality (eg. weak flash, red-eye problems). BUT the thing is that the ultra-compacts (eg. Canon SD300) are VERY SMALL. You can carry it in your pocket or purse, while the ultra-zooms (eg. Panasonic FZ3) or low-zoom prosumers (eg. Canon G6) are larger and inconvenient without a bag.

You can see the difference between an ultra-compact and an ultra-zoom or a mid-end prosumer simply by comparing the basic stats. HEre is a side by side comparison between the major Canons, SD300 (ultra-compact), A95 (compact), S1 IS (mid-end ultra-zoom), G6 (mid-end low-zoom), Pro1 (high-end prosumer):

comparison

Scroll to the middle of the page and look at stuff like manual focus, aperature priority, and stuff like that. You'll find that they are either lacking with the ultra-compacts or they really oops.

Also check out Steve's reviews of different cameras and look at the pictures. Steve usually has a bunch of identical pictures at the end that you can compare between cameras to get a rough idea.

If you care about amateur photography, you should really stay away from ultra-compacts and some of the smaller ones IMO. These are basically portable point&shoot cameras with very little control of any sort.

Also, ultra-compacts cost more for a given feature than the larger ones. If you just look at the features, all ultra-compacts would seem to be overpriced for what they offer--but they have compactness and a more stylish design and is rugged (often metal case)...

Quote:
Here's my question: If the panasonic didn't have the ultra zoom feature, how would it compare with the Canon SD300, A95 and the S60?
There is actually a Panasonic model like that. It's called the Panasonic DMC-FX7. It is a key competitor to the Canon SD300. The FX7 has Leica-branded F2.8 lens, same processor (I think?), and all the other stuff in the FZ3 (but without the zoom and some of the manual controls found in the FZ3 I think). The FX7 is an ultra-compact so check that out and see how that is.

Quote:

I've now realized that it's basically between the Canon sd300 (small size) vs the Panasonic fz3.
It's goign to come down to portability. How portable and accessible must your camera be? If you don't care about carrying your camera in a pocket everywhere the FZ3 is much better; if you care about portability, the ultra-zooms and some the of hte larger ones may not be best. For example, I have the Canon S1 IS (which I got a few months ago) and I really have to carry an external bag and this basically means that I can't carry this to a restaurant or something. I can only take pics with this camera if I decide ahead of time to take it (candid pics are out of hte question with this camera)...

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I do figure that if i had the zoom, i'd use it at some point though.
High zoom (10x+) makes a HUGE difference. However, there are a couple of caveats. First of all, most ultra-zooms have smaller sensors and have more noise. Secondly, it's hard to take pics at max zoom (with reasonable shutter speed) due to camera shake (even with image stabilization). I really can't handhold the camera and take 10x zoom shots in the night (I really have to go with a fast shutter speed in order to get a decent pic). Daytime is generally ok though (I can handhold and get good 10x pics)...
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Old Dec 18, 2004, 8:41 PM   #6
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Sivaram Velauthapillai wrote:
Quote:
Quote:
also, according to the review in dpreview.com, it sounds like the entire level of camera is simply superior (the fz3) over the canon sd300 or the a95.

Is this true?
Usually the larger the camera is, the more features it has for a given price, the more control it offers, and the better the pic quality (I'm being very rough and this is only within an year i.e. a 2 year old large camera may be far worse than a smaller modern camera). For example, you can pretty much say that an ultra-compact (like the Canon SD300) is worse than a compact (like Canon A95), which is worse than an ultra-zoom (like S1 IS). The ultra-zooms (like S1 IS, FZ3, Konica Minolta Z3, Olympus S5000(?), etc) definitely offer more than the A95 or the SD300.

Ultra-compacts generally offer the least features (eg. no aperature/shutter priority modes, no custom/manual shooting modes, etc) and have the worse pic quality (eg. weak flash, red-eye problems). BUT the thing is that the ultra-compacts (eg. Canon SD300) are VERY SMALL. You can carry it in your pocket or purse, while the ultra-zooms (eg. Panasonic FZ3) or low-zoom prosumers (eg. Canon G6) are larger and inconvenient without a bag.

You can see the difference between an ultra-compact and an ultra-zoom or a mid-end prosumer simply by comparing the basic stats. HEre is a side by side comparison between the major Canons, SD300 (ultra-compact), A95 (compact), S1 IS (mid-end ultra-zoom), G6 (mid-end low-zoom), Pro1 (high-end prosumer):

comparison

Scroll to the middle of the page and look at stuff like manual focus, aperature priority, and stuff like that. You'll find that they are either lacking with the ultra-compacts or they really oops.

Also check out Steve's reviews of different cameras and look at the pictures. Steve usually has a bunch of identical pictures at the end that you can compare between cameras to get a rough idea.

If you care about amateur photography, you should really stay away from ultra-compacts and some of the smaller ones IMO. These are basically portable point&shoot cameras with very little control of any sort.

Also, ultra-compacts cost more for a given feature than the larger ones. If you just look at the features, all ultra-compacts would seem to be overpriced for what they offer--but they have compactness and a more stylish design and is rugged (often metal case)...

Quote:
Here's my question: If the panasonic didn't have the ultra zoom feature, how would it compare with the Canon SD300, A95 and the S60?
There is actually a Panasonic model like that. It's called the Panasonic DMC-FX7. It is a key competitor to the Canon SD300. The FX7 has Leica-branded F2.8 lens, same processor (I think?), and all the other stuff in the FZ3 (but without the zoom and some of the manual controls found in the FZ3 I think). The FX7 is an ultra-compact so check that out and see how that is.

Quote:

I've now realized that it's basically between the Canon sd300 (small size) vs the Panasonic fz3.
It's goign to come down to portability. How portable and accessible must your camera be? If you don't care about carrying your camera in a pocket everywhere the FZ3 is much better; if you care about portability, the ultra-zooms and some the of hte larger ones may not be best. For example, I have the Canon S1 IS (which I got a few months ago) and I really have to carry an external bag and this basically means that I can't carry this to a restaurant or something. I can only take pics with this camera if I decide ahead of time to take it (candid pics are out of hte question with this camera)...

Quote:
I do figure that if i had the zoom, i'd use it at some point though.
High zoom (10x+) makes a HUGE difference. However, there are a couple of caveats. First of all, most ultra-zooms have smaller sensors and have more noise. Secondly, it's hard to take pics at max zoom (with reasonable shutter speed) due to camera shake (even with image stabilization). I really can't handhold the camera and take 10x zoom shots in the night (I really have to go with a fast shutter speed in order to get a decent pic). Daytime is generally ok though (I can handhold and get good 10x pics)...
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Old Dec 19, 2004, 7:25 AM   #7
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Again, thanks for your information.

I researched the other cameras and for me it boils down to the Canon SD200 and the Panasonic FZ3. I also read that the Nikon 3200has basically unacceptable prints in many situations.

For the most part it boils down to image quality and size vs mega-zoom.

how many megapixels would i need to make high-res full size wallpaper prints of landscape for my computer (high quality, i'd hope)? Which would be better or would both be insufficient?

I also read in another thread that you posted in about the FZ3 having problems at night or indoors. But would the Canon have a small sensor and have the same problem too?

How much superior is the image quality between the 2 cameras. i thought about it and in the case of compactness, it would most likely be pictures of people that would be taken the most ( and likely indoor) with a super compact.

My guess is that it would not make much difference in people pics, but would make a noticeable one for outdoor/wildlife/beach pics (not considering the zoom)

I also like to travel and go hiking, so landscape, cityscape, street scenesand wildlife pics i think would be greatly favoring the FZ3.

How bad woulf it be to buy a $150 3 megapixel camera (yes i know a real piece of ****) for just people pics (like an olympus)?



It's a tough call. What are your experiences of when it's nice to have a smaller camera and when you felt lucky you had a nicer high zoom camera?

I may want to take an interest in (very) amateur photography later on and don't want to but 2 cameras.



Thanks a lot, btw!!
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Old Dec 19, 2004, 1:12 PM   #8
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echo99 wrote:
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Again, thanks for your information.
You are welcome

Quote:
I researched the other cameras and for me it boils down to the Canon SD200 and the Panasonic FZ3. I also read that the Nikon 3200 has basically unacceptable prints in many situations.

For the most part it boils down to image quality and size vs mega-zoom.
SD200 or SD300? Anyway...

How about size? Size is a huge factor with digicams. If size doesn't matter, I would say the FZ3 is better for the most part. FZ3 clearly offers more features for its given price...

Quote:
how many megapixels would i need to make high-res full size wallpaper prints of landscape for my computer (high quality, i'd hope)? Which would be better or would both be insufficient?
The size that you can print is dependent on the megapixels. A 3 megapixel camera (like the FZ3) can print average (not great but not horrible either) quality 8"x10" prints. If you want excellent 8x10 or larger, you would need more megapixels. This is just a rough guide and depends on the quality of the print (for example, some print pics at 300 dots per inch, which is very high and will produce sharp results, while others go to lower dpi (say 220dpi), which will allow you to print larger pics that may not be as sharp).

Here is a brief overview of megapixels and printing:

http://www.megapixel.net/cgi-bin/fs_...egapixels.html

The chart in the middle of the page shows that a 3 megapixel camera can print a 6.8"x5" pic @ 300dpi. I would say that 300dpi is near the top for typical photos. Most people print at lower dpi and it not noticeable (for example, if you go to a major photo printer or a general photo printing place (like Wal-mart or something), they generally recommend something lower than 300dpi). So it all depends on the quality you are looking for.

If you want to print large pics I would try going for a camera with around 5 megapixels. Latest ultra-compacts and compacts start out at 5 megapixels but if you want 5 MP ultra-zooms then you have to pay more and go for the higher-end Panasonic FZ20 (or something).

I think you should figure out what size print you want and can afford (the cost of printing goes up almost exponetially eg. 4x6 costs less than $0.50 but 8x10 costs several dollars, and 11"x14" costs quite a bit). I think you already have the size (wallpaper size--whatever that is), and then figure out what quality you need (i.e. dpi required). Is this something that people are going to go very close and look at it closely (centimeters away) or will most people just look at it from far way (meters away)?

Quote:
I also read in another thread that you posted in about the FZ3 having problems at night or indoors. But would the Canon have a small sensor and have the same problem too?
I think I was making that comment in the context of a comparison against other mid-end/high-end low-zoom prosumers (like Canon G6). The Panasonic FZ3 actually is ok indoors from what I understand, at least within the ultra-zoom category. Overall it is ok but since ultra-zooms have small sensors (compared to other low-zoom similarly priced cameras), they produce noise and aren't so good in low-light. However, the ultra-compacts generally aren't any better either. In fact, ultra-compacts are even worse most of the time because of red-eye problems and weak flash (ultra-zooms generally have stronger flash). So I don't think I can say that either of these cameras is significantly better in low-light.

As a side note, if you are shooting with a flash then it doesn't really matter. Flash night pics are ok for almost all cameras (you just need to stay within the flash range, which is usually a few meters).

Quote:
How much superior is the image quality between the 2 cameras. i thought about it and in the case of compactness, it would most likely be pictures of people that would be taken the most ( and likely indoor) with a super compact.
I think you should get some opinions from others on this. My personal opinion is that the pic quality is almost the same (I don't have either of these cameras so I'm just giving you my impression). I really don't see much of a difference and neither do any of my friends who have looked at printed pics between my camera vs theirs (not the cameras you mentioned).

For example, I was looking at some pics between the Sony T1 (high-end ultra-compact; almost no control) and my Canon S1 IS (mid-end ultra-zoom) in an office party that I attended recently. All pics were indoor during the night (so they were all with flash). We didn't print the pics yet but looking at it on the computer (at max resolution-zoomed in), I really didn't notice any huge difference in pic quality (with exceptions I will list below). So I would say the pic quality between cameras is almost the same as long as the camera has good lens and sensors (Canon and Sony are definitely good with their lens; so is Panasonic and its Leica-branded lens).

The only key negatives that I saw with the ultra-compact (vs my ultra-zoom) are the following:

* weak flash: My S1 IS had much stronger flash and could bring out the details of the whole room but the T1 pretty much just illuminated nearby objects. But do note that the T1 has a weaker flash than most ultra-compacts.
* red-eye problems: T1 is known for red-eye problems so I don't want to say all ultra-compacts are like that but this was definitely more visible with T1 (whereas S1 had almost none)
* noise: Some of the T1 pics had a ton of noise (but I think the auto mode may have been messed up or wasn't set properly??). The T1 seemed to take some pics at higher ISO, hence producing more noise, vs mine which didn't.

Here are some positives of the T1 over S1 IS:

* portability: Since the T1 is an ultra-compact, it was almost as if the camera wasn't there. In contrast, it was very noticeable that I had a camera and almost looked like a photographer lol You wouldn't even know that someone had a T1 while it is pretty obvious that I had a camera. Some people may like this but I prefer to stay in the shadows and don't like attention :|
* bigger LCD: Ultra-compacts generally have larger LCDs than the mid-end ultra-zooms. This was clearly the case with the T1 (2.5" LCD I think) vs the S1 IS (1.5" LCD). This really doesn't matter to me much because I mainly look at the histogram to review an image, but others (casual people you asked to take your pic) were able to get a better idea of whether they took a good pic with the T1 than the S1.

Quote:
My guess is that it would not make much difference in people pics, but would make a noticeable one for outdoor/wildlife/beach pics (not considering the zoom)
Even that, I'm not sure. Maybe someone else who has multiple cameras or has reviewed them might be able to shed more light, but I really don't think you will see much difference there either. The small cameras have advanced so much, and are at the point where they use the same technology (or at least very close) as the larger ones. For example, I really don't know if the Canon S70, which is a high-end ultra-compact, is any worse than the Canon S1 IS or even the Canon G6 for TYPICAL pics.

So pic quality is probably similar in all these cameras IMO... where these cameras differ is in their manual features and control. For example, most ultra-compacts may not give you much control over shutter speeds, or allow you to attach add-on lenses, and so on.

I think you should get some second opinion on this though. I'm not too familiar with ultra-compacts (other than testing what my friends have/had).

Quote:
I also like to travel and go hiking, so landscape, cityscape, street scenes and wildlife pics i think would be greatly favoring the FZ3.
The FZ3 is better for that than the SD300 because it will offer more flexibility.

Quote:
How bad woulf it be to buy a $150 3 megapixel camera (yes i know a real piece of ****) for just people pics (like an olympus)?
When you say people pics, you mean candid pics right? I don't know if it's worth spending US$150 right now on that. I think spending $150 now would be a waste. What you should do is get the camera that you want (based on your choices, ultra-compact or ultra-zoom) and then see what its limitations are. If you get the FZ3 and think it is too big or too complicated or whatever, then think about buying an ultra-compact in 1 year or 2 years or whatever; Conversely, if you get an ultra-compact (Canon SD300) and think it doesn't give you enough control, or you want to use add-on filters/lenses, or you want way more zoom, then consider buying an ultra-zoom (or a higher-end low-zoom prosumer in 1 or 2 years).

I'm also a newbie and I bought my S1 IS a few months ago. We (me & my parents) also have a Canon Rebel film SLR, and my brother has a couple of compact film cameras. After playing around with the S1 IS, my feeling is that I should probably consider purchasing an ultra-compact in an year or two. I love my camera for family events, for "serious" photography, and so on. But I can't really use it when I'm going out to a restaurant, or just driving to a friend's place or whatever. So I think I would like to have a really small camera and a much more serious camera. I have a feeling you are in a similar situation.


Quote:
It's a tough call. What are your experiences of when it's nice to have a smaller camera and when you felt lucky you had a nicer high zoom camera?
I think my description of a co-worker's Sony T1 (ultra-compact) vs my Canon S1 IS (ultra-zoom; larger) should sort of given an idea of what the difference is. I guess the key difference is that you can take the ultra-compact anywhere wihtout hinderence. For example, my friends, who have ultra-compacts and compacts, generally have their camera with them when I meet them or we go out or whatever. In contrast, I never take my Canon S1 with me unless it is pre-planned (eg. office party, family gathering, whatever). My camera is too big and I really don't want to be carrying it around without any purpose.

Oh before I forget, if you haven't already done so, go to a major retailer (Wal-mart, Best Buy, Future Shop (Canada), etc) and check out the cameras. Check out their size and feel how they are in your hand. See if you like the look of it, the size of it, and so on. The last thing you want to do is to buy a camera that you are not comfortable holding/carrying/etc.

Quote:
I may want to take an interest in (very) amateur photography later on and don't want to but 2 cameras.
How about a compact, which is a bit larger than the ultra-compact but not as big as SLR-like ultra-zooms/prosumers? An example of a compact is Canon A95. Compacts generally offer portability while having similar features as larger cameras.

You can also look at a slightly larger ultra-compact. For example, the high-end ultra-compact Canon S70 has a ton of manual features and seems to be very good. I don't know anyone who has it but it looks great on paper (it also has good reviews).


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Old Dec 19, 2004, 1:40 PM   #9
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Seems like I'm posting a ton on this thread but anyway...

I was just thinking about your requirements and the more I think, the more it seems that a compact like Canon S70 (or S60 or Sony P150 or something like that) seems best. You wanted to print large pics so you need high megapixels (these are all 7 megapixels), and it seems that you wanted to take landscapes, which will be very good with a very low wide-angle of the S60/S70 (although S60/S70 are not so good when you zoom), and these cameras offer a lot of manual control.

The only issue might be price since theese cost way more... Have you considered the Canon S70 or the Sony P150 and ruled them out?
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Old Dec 19, 2004, 4:35 PM   #10
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> how many megapixels would i need to make high-res full size wallpaper prints of landscape for my computer (high quality, i'd hope)? Which would be better or would both be insufficient?

I think there may be some terminology problems here confusing people. When you say "wallpaper prints", are you talking about putting them on your windows (or Mac) background, or using a printer to create poster-size (or larger) photos? The latter is already addressed by a couple of people, and is really a fantastically difficult question to answer. But if you just want to replace the MS Windows "Clouds" background with a picture of your dog, anything over 2Mpixels should suffice for most displays. Just look at the resolution of your monitor, and compare it to the max resolution of the camera you're looking for; if the camera is equal or bigger, you should be fine.

Between the sd200 and the fz3, both are pretty lightweight. But the fz3 is considerably bulkier in the "depth" dimension and doesn't fit into even a large pocket easily. Its more the type of camera that you're going to have to make a decision to bring a camera along, rather than something that happens to be riding around in your (wife's) purse. The fz3 will be harder to protect if you're planning on packing it into your hiking gear, but its probably doable.

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