Best travel-friendly ultrazoom for wildlife-photo.
There’s a lot of good reading at this forum about ultrazoom-cameras. After going through all discussions about Image Stabilisation, ISO’s, Noise, Purple Fringing and so on I know quite well which cameras are good or bad at this or that.
But I don’t know so well which combination of characteristics that are the best for my special needs. What would be most useful when one wants to take a picture of a bird in the canopy of a high tree or a hawk gliding above in the air or a deer standing on the opposite side of a field in dusk or dawn.
In getting to these special places I’ve probably walked or travelled a long way and wouldn’t have taken any big or heavy equipment with me. I believe there must be one (or few) of the ultrazooms on the market that could be more useful then the others.
Thankful to anyone who can help me find the right mix of (or compromise between) characteristics, or perhaps the “right” camera!
* What budget have you allocated for buying this camera? Please be as specific as possible.
* What size camera are you looking for? Or does size not matter at all to you?
Not too big and heavy. I’m also carrying a binocular and a light spotting scope with tripod when nature-walking.
How many megapixels will suffice for you?
* What optical zoom will you need? (None, Standard = 3x-4x, Ultrazoom = 10x-12x, Other - Specify)
Extra plus if the camera also could be used for digiscoping.
* How important is “image quality” to you? (Rate using a scale of 1-10)
Do you care for manual controls?
* What will you generally use the camera for?
Nature/wildlife-photo, especially birds and also family photo.
* Will you be making big prints of your photos or not?
Not bigger than A4.
Will you be shooting a lot of indoor photos or low light photos?
Will you be shooting sports and/or action photos?
Sometimes flying birds.
Are there particular brands you like or hate?
Like Panasonic and Canon and perhaps Nikon, Pentax, Fuji and Sony.
Don’t like Olympus and Kodak so much.
Are there particular models you already have in mind?
Canon Powershot S3
Panasonic Lumix FZ7 and TZ1
Fuji Finepix S6000fd
Sony Cybershot DSC-H2o
open for other suggestions…
(If applicable) Do you need any of the following special features? (Wide Angle, Image Stabilization, Weatherproof, Hotshoe, Rotating LCD)
Quite wide angle – focal range starting at max 36 mm.
Image Stabilization would be nice.
"But I don’t know so well which combination of characteristics that are the best for my special needs. What would be most useful when one wants to take a picture of a bird in the canopy of a high tree or a hawk gliding above in the air or a deer standing on the opposite side of a field in dusk or dawn."
I don't see those as special needs. Sounds like typical wildlife photography. Your list has what I would call the best group of ultrazooms:
Canon Powershot S3
Panasonic Lumix FZ7 and TZ1
Fuji Finepix S6000fd
Sony Cybershot DSC-H2 (not H2o)
Unfortunately, you face the typical dilemna: the better ones are big and heavy (Canon, Fuji, Sony). The Pan's are lighter but would need a card reader, have more noise at higher ISO's, and have shorter batt life. The TZ1 has no VF and few manual controls.
The S6000 has the highest ISO but has no IS and is the biggest.
Here, more questions: Why does the Pan's need a card reader? Is they less good then the bigger ones because of the lens size? In reviews i've read they've got the best auto focus speed among the ultrazooms. Wouldn't that help to take sharp pictures of flying birds?
Originally Posted by bascom
I think only the S6000fd is too big and heavy for me. The choice is now between:
1. Canon S3, seems to be quite good in everything. Still a bit too expensive.
2. Sony H2, also good and cheaper then S3. Memorysticks not so cheap.
3. Pana FZ7, easy to carry and use. How can one deal with the noise?
4. Pana TZ1, could this one also be used with spotting scope (digiscoping)?
5. Canon A710, becomes an ultrazoom together with tele conversion lens?
Thankful for more inputs!
Pan's have slow download speed so you need to use a card reader for higher speed. The other brands listed have high speed download, which is 40 times faster than the pans. What would take a minute with Canon/Fuji/Sony would take 40mins with Pan unless you use a high speed reader.
A tele on the A710 would increase the zoom. But it would increase the price, size, and weight also. I don't know the answers to your other questions. If nobody answers here you could ask your Pan questions in the Pan forum.
Last edited by bascom; 11-10-2006 at 07:45 AM.
Pan Forum responder...
Hey, this is a "one-stop shopping" forum; posting the same question on the "Pan Forum" would amount to double posting, which is against the forum rules! Tsk Tsk!
Originally Posted by Luscinia
Re: FZ7 noise, if you leave your ISO set at "Auto" and most of your photos are in daylight, nearly all of your photos will be shot at the lowest ISO anyway. If they go higher in some instances, up to ISO 200 is allowed by the camera without flash, still very little noise that would show up in a print, and if it's objectionable, a little pass of Neat Image will totally cure it.
Re: TZ1 and digiscoping? I've never done this, but a spotting scope and digiscoping adapter would be quite an appendage for someone who's looking for something "small and light?" I'm pretty sure it could be done, though. I use my TZ1 with a 1.5X teleconverter on occasion, and also with a wideangle (.68X) adapter as well.
Re: A710 with adapter becoming "ultra-zoom?" Well, according to the review, you can get a 1.75X adapter for the A710, which, when added to the conversion adapter you'd also need, would run your total zoom up to 368mm equivalent. (for about $125 total?) That's cool, though it's sometimes awkward to have to install and take off an adapter in tight situations. Just an example: Years ago, my wife and I were in Africa. I had a film camera with a zoom range from 35mm to 180mm (wooie! ) We watched this large herd of elephants marching along, and it was great to use the WA to get the whole herd. Then, when I wanted a closeup of a baby with mama, I just flicked the zoom to get there, didn't have to stop the action, add/change lenses, etc.
Regarding download speed, while it's true that the Panny cameras haven't upgraded to USB 2.0 high-speed as yet, and there is a big speed difference between the old and new USB protocols, I have yet to "crack the plastic" on the cable that came with my TZ1, because for ~$8, I bought a USB 2.0 high-speed SD card reader, that's all I use for downloading. Downloading outside the camera offers one important advantage of not using any precious battery juice to transfer photos, for one thing. And it's hassle-free; frankly I'm tired of hearing that listed as a huge drawback to these cameras that lack the intrinsic high-speed download interface. But I'm sure it's not the last time.
Pictures of flying birds? I can't show you any from an FZ7, since I don't have one, (I have an FZ30, that wouldn't be fair!) but here are a couple from the TZ1:
The first Egret was shot directly with the TZ1; the second one was shot using a "Red Dot Sight," and my 1.5X TC, appended to the TZ1. If you want to shoot birds in flight, the TZ1 would represent about the minimum "ultra-zoom" level you'd need, it's my experience. In fact, most often I'm shooting BIF shots with my FZ30/TC combination at ~900mm equivalent, which is more than double the TZ1's 350mm "reach" at 10X. Frankly, I haven't seen any BIF shots from Canon cameras (other than dSLRs, of course), though I'm sure there must be some available. The Panny cameras are what made me become interested in shooting birds, and later birds in flight, in the first place. Once you get the ultra-zoom power as a tool, along with the very sharp Leica lenses at the full zoom, there's no looking back!
Good luck, whatever you choose. I just wanted you to be able to make an informed choice.
be your umbrella!
What about Panasonic Lumix FZ7?
The decision process to find a good portable ultrazoom for wildlife photo is slowly going on. Today there are four candidates left: (ordered alfabetically)
Canon Powershot S3 IS
Panasonic Lumix FZ7
Panasonic Lumix TZ1
Sony Cybershot DSC H2
I've found out that the FZ7 has not as many supporters as the other three on this eminent website. It's a bit confusing for me because FZ7 was first on my list before I started to read user reviews. Is there anyone who can really speak up for this camera? If not, it may be the next to be picked out of the list.
Can't help you with the FZ7, but about the S3, have you tried looking at buying online? It is much cheaper than at "real" stores, and should definately fall below your price range. From what I have seen of the S3 it is a good camera (I have an S2), a bit bulky so it will not fit in your pocket, but it is certainly not to heavy for hiking as far as I'm concerned.
O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! ...When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him...
- Ps 8:1,3-4a NASB
Actually, when it comes to wildlife subjects at long zoom, the Pany FZ-series is probably recognized as the best all around. Peruse most all of the forums and note how many postings/current readers on any of the various branded forums -- most always, the Pany forum leads... And, the Pany owners are probably the most loyal users of the FZ-zooms taking and posting the most images of distant wildlife.
Originally Posted by Luscinia
The forerunner to the FZ7 -- the FZ5, was touted and commonly considered to be the best super zoom for wildlife when it first came out. I know as I did a LOT of due diligence reading comparing before I purchased my FZ5. The FZ7 improves on the FZ5 in a lot of areas. For me, the step up to the FZ30 was a better purchase than going to the FZ7 for its improved capabilities.
I can heartily recommend the FZ-30, and from what I've seen, the FZ5/7, as probably the best long zoom digis for wildlife. Keep in mind, though, the FZ-series (Z=Zoom) digis are great in good light but w-low light/indoors without flash is not their designed optimal circumstances. Outdoors, in good light and at the long end of the zoom, few, if any, can consistently match their capabilities...
While the FZ30 is a bit larger than the FZ5/7 units, its current price point is within your indicated budget. The following comparison might be of interest:
FZ5 Digiscoped Moon
Apple Valley, CA
D50+Nikkor 35 f/2; 18-70 DX; 70-300 VRii + BIGMA 50-500 EX HSM
Kenko Pro 1.4X TC
Sigma EX 1.4X TC
My Image Galleries
On what basis do you claim the FZ are best for wildlife? Because there are a lot of posts in the Pan forum? The Canon forum has more posts. That doesn't seem like a good measure anyway.
Originally Posted by Telecorder
The S3 and H2 have less noise than the FZ7, plus features like high speed download, zoom with video, long batt life, etc.
I'm partial to Canon, but the Leica on the Pany is supposed to be great, at least on a previous model.
I'd still choose the S3 as I like the flip out screen (though it's more useful with people shots perhaps) and it runs on cheap AA's.
Pentax K20D/K5/15/21/40/70/10-17/12-24, Sigma 17-70 2.8-4.5/150-500, Tamron 90 Macro/70-200 2.8, Canon SX20 IS/Elph 500HS
(formerly Pentax 50 1.4/50-200/55-300/K100D, Sigma 18-50 2.8/70-300 APO, Tamron 28-75, Viv 800, Tele-Tokina 800, Canon S3 IS, Samsung L210)
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