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Old Jan 19, 2006, 8:57 PM   #1
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I'm looking for advice regarding buying a super zoom camera for wildlife photography, particularly for taking photos of wild otters in the field.I have checked many reviews and user opinions but am still undecided. I would like a max zoom of between 300 and 500 mm and possibilities of using a 2X converter.Some photos may be taken in lower light conditions (not night) i.e. dusk or dawn or in the shade.I'd like to produce some prints at 8.5 X 11 or larger.My price range is between 400 - 600 dollars although I could spend up to 900 dollars if there is a really exceptional super zoom camera not in my list below.

I have reduced my final choice to the following cameras:

Canon S2 IS (seems to get best reviews) Panasonic FZ 30, Panasonic FZ 20, Sony DSC-H1

The Panasonic FZ 30 has an excellent zoom lens but I am worried about the noise as many reviews / users have made negative comments on this issue.

Is the noise as bad as some people have expressed? There are some conflicting opinions, for example, against the majority of opinions shutterbug.com comments

"the high-grade lens enables the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30 to produce superb image quality at all ISO settings".

" the Lumix FZ30 produces surprisingly fine image quality at ISO 400"


Would the noise on the Panasonic FZ 30 affect the quality of my larger prints?

Is there less noise in the Canon S2 IS , Sony DSC-H1 or FZ 20 cameras?

Which of the cameras have reasonably priced good 2X converters?


Thanks for taking time in reading and helping out with my questions!

Julian Flavell
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Old Jan 20, 2006, 2:45 AM   #2
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Hey Julian

I have the S2 and FZ5 and would recommend both as good cams but i do like the S2 better.I use a Tcon17(1.7X) converter and it's great for wildlife.

I have a couple of pics on my gallery(click my name for link)using the Tcon17 and S2 and here is a link for some S2 wildlife pics.

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/re...ssage=15223610

As to using a 2X converter - they are very limited as in usefull range and vignetting. 1.7X is about as big as you want to go - will still let you use from 3X up without vignetting.and give you 20X plus optical zoom.

There is noise on the Pana's but from reading and seeing what owners produce with their FZ30's i don't see it as a big problem - even with bigger prints.Most of them run their pics thru a noise removal program without much degradation.The FZ30 is a BIG camera.

It sounds like you are leaning towards the FZ30 more but are worried about the noise issue?Best thing to do is go straight to the source and ask them about quality and print size.

http://www.dpreview.com/

http://www.dcresource.com/forums/

Cheers Dom


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Old Jan 20, 2006, 8:14 AM   #3
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roxydog, very good shots, nicely done
I enjoy it very much
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Old Jan 20, 2006, 9:39 AM   #4
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Great Photos, Roxy Dog!

Concerning long zoom P&S digital cameras - I have the Panasonic FZ-10 (the other FZ's seem to be to noisy), the Canon S-2, and the Sony H-1. I tend to use theCanon S-2the most, just like a lot of folks do.

I also have long zoom dSLR cameras, but you have to be able to justify the added (and it is quite a bit) expense of going to a dSLR when you can do almost as well with a P&S ultrazoom.

MT
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Old Jan 20, 2006, 7:15 PM   #5
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Julian, I don't think you stated how you intend to use these photographs. Will you print them? If so, how large? Or will you display them on the web? Or something else?

Now, I don't expect you to answer me, but it'll be helpful if you keep in mind your intended use. Then visit the galleries and check the reviews here at Steve's and at the sites Roxydog recommended. Another one I like in Imaging Resource:

http://www.imaging-resource.com/

You'll find some low light sample photos at these sites. I suggest you do the same things with some of those photos that you plan to do with your own: print them, resize them for web viewing, or whatever.

And then you will have a much clearer idea of how these cameras might meet your needs. Best of all, it'll be YOUR idea, not someone else's!

For what it's worth, I think these cameras will meet your needs in most situations, but you will have to accept some compromises in low light situations. If you decide those compromises are unacceptable, then you may need to consider a dSLR, which will cost more than your current budget allows.
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Old Jan 21, 2006, 6:47 AM   #6
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Hey Armadillo and Mtclimber -you do know the safari photos aren't mine?? - i wish.

Did you read his thoughts on the viewfinder and such?? - what a hoot LOL.

Great idea Robb about downloading various photos in various light and printing - no better way to get what you want.

Cheers Dom
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Old Jan 21, 2006, 8:14 AM   #7
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There are nearly five thousand FZ30 photos up on pbase. Find some that are displayed full size and go back to that person's galleries. You will find quite a few low light and higher ISO images displayed 100%: http://www.pbase.com/cameras/panasonic/lumix_dmc_fz30 You might want to set IE to not resize the images so you can see which ones are the full 8Mp on display.

Noise is a relative thing. An 8Mp image displayed 100% where you have to scroll around the page to see the entire image is effectively blown up compared to a 5Mp image. You have to compare them at the same display or print size to get an honest real-world idea of the noise. I could certainly live with the noise from the FZ30.

You might be more specific about what you consider "larger prints". If you want to have a 16 X 20 blown up for your wall and took the shot over ISO 100 you would likely want to apply noise reduction. Neat Image has a demo that is considered freeware for non-commercial users and doesn't expire. You would definitely get a better 16 X 20 from the FZ30 than from any of the 5Mp cameras you list. The best 13 X 19 I can get for my wide format printer from a 5Mp image is around 135 PPI. Print quality for large prints goes up dramatically with more pixels. And keep in mind that most shots don't require a boost in ISO with stabilization.

One feature that draws me to the FZ30 is its ability to use raw. It is one of the few cameras that cycles raw shots fast enough to be practical for normal use. Raw has many advantages ā€“ especially for processing large prints. But if you don't have Photoshop CS2 you would likely have to buy some software as the converter that comes with the camera isn't too good.

This review has some good demonstrations using Neat Image on FZ30 images. Keep in mind there isn't a reason to use ISO over 100 for the night shots he shows. You should use a tripod for those shots and you might as well set the lowest ISO. The indoor shots at high ISO are more realistic for normal use. http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/pa...ew/index.shtml

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Old Jan 21, 2006, 8:24 AM   #8
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slipe wrote:
Quote:
One feature that draws me to the FZ30 is its ability to use raw. It is one of the few cameras that cycles raw shots fast enough to be practical for normal use. Raw has many advantages ā€“ especially for processing large prints. But if you don't have Photoshop CS2 you would likely have to buy some software as the converter that comes with the camera isn't too good.
David Coffin's dcraw.c supports it.

Scroll down to the "Other Raw Converters" section and take a look at those products, too (some of them are free).

Chances are, some of the browsers and converters that use some of David's raw conversion code also support this camera. One example is UFRaw


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