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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Posts
    2

    Same old request for recommendations.

    I've spent a lot of time reading reviews of ultra-zooms, and now am suddenly wondering if I wouldn't be better off with a standard. I'm quite overwhelmed by the choices. I would be pathetically grateful for recommendations to narrow my choices down.

    Here's my questionnaire, filled out.

    ***Budget

    I would prefer not to spend a lot more than $300. However, if it's impossible for me to get something that's going to satisfy me for less than, say $350 max, I'll just go on saving for a while and come back to the search when I have more money to put in. So the relevant question is, if X is the right camera for me, can I buy it now, or do I need to wait?

    ***Size:

    Size is something I do consider, but not as primary importance. A smaller size (e.g., pocket size) would be a selling point to me, but only if the more important things were met first. Anything I can comfortably stick in a backpack will do, if need be. The only thing I think this really rules out is some of the SLRs, which I know I'm not looking at, anyhow.

    ***Features
    * How many megapixels will suffice for you?

    Well, that's one of the questions. I want to be able to make nice-looking 8.5" x 11" prints, on those rare occasions when I really get something right. I'd love to be able to go even larger, but can resist. I've had one review tell me that just meant I needed more than 4 mp, while other people say even 6 won't cut it. There's some discussion of 300 vs 200 dpi, but I don't have a good sense of what 200 dpi would look like and whether I'd find it satisfactory. I know 300 dpi is a publishing standard, but I don't know if I need it or not.

    I'm also concerned because the reviews I read suggest that higher resolution leads to more noise, in any camera which doesn't have a larger lens to go with it. I don't know if any cameras do have larger lenses to compensate for this (aside, again, from the SLRs). I also don't know under what circumstances the noise becomes a significant issue. Reviews say, "at high ISOs" but I haven't found an explanation of what ISOs are, so I don't know how much this would affect me. I don't want to discover that in getting a camera with a lot of megapixels I've simply traded the graininess of low resolution for the graininess of high noise.

    * What optical zoom will you need? (None, Standard = 3x-4x, Ultrazoom = 10x-12x, Other - Specify)

    I think I would enjoy an ultra-zoom, but I don't know how to judge whether it's worth the trade-off in portability because I've never had it before. Possibly the best solution would be a standard which has the option of adding a telephoto lens?

    * How important is “image quality” to you? (Rate using a scale of 1-10)

    10. Everything else is secondary.

    * Do you care for manual controls?

    I'd like to have some, because I'd like to learn how to use them. I figure that's an intermediary step which lets me assess whether at some later point I want to get an SLR. I do need some point-and-shoot options as well because I'm not very experienced.

    ***General Usage
    * What will you generally use the camera for?

    Nature photography - landscapes and close-ups. Other random stuff as well, but it's the nature photography that I'll be putting the most care into.

    * Will you be making big prints of your photos or not?

    As mentioned above, I'd like to.

    * Will you be shooting a lot of indoor photos or low light photos?

    I think I will mostly be shooting outdoors, but would like to be able to shoot under a wide variety of outdoor light conditions.

    * Will you be shooting sports and/or action photos?

    Very unlikely.

    ***Miscellaneous
    *Are there particular brands you like or hate?

    Nope. Except for hating obscure overseas products for which I can't get any of the documentation in English and there's no support.

    *Are there particular models you already have in mind?

    Nope.

    *(If applicable) Do you need any of the following special features? (Wide Angle, Image Stabilization, Weatherproof, Hotshoe, Rotating LCD)

    - Image stabilization - based on the faq here, optical image stabilization.
    - The ability to take a conversion lens, especially if not an ultra-zoom.
    - I'd enjoy a hotshoe or a rotating LCD, but they're really not required.
    - Macintosh compatibility with the bundled software.

    It's sort of like a minor miracle to me that it's possible to write in like this and find people to give me advice. I've been floundering in reviews for months. Thank you so much, in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    WI
    Posts
    1,965
    "I want to be able to make nice-looking 8.5" x 11" prints, on those rare occasions when I really get something right. I'd love to be able to go even larger, but can resist."

    How large? Most digicams now have at least 6 MP which can make very large prints. Here is a brief list of good ones under $400: http://dcresource.com/buyersguide/

    My favs for all around good shots and nature would be Canon A630 or A710. For more zoom Sony H2 or Canon S3.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    4,173
    If image quality is your most important feature, you will want manual controls. If you are going to spend the time to set up a good shot, manual controls and a tripod are essential.

    If you want the zoom, buy the zoom. Add on lenses, while a great tool, are going to add complexity and sacrifice some image quality. If you are shooting wildlife, get the ultrazoom. It's not clear from your posting whether wildlife is your subject matter.

    The noise issue is not really related to lenses. What people are saying is that if you have two cameras with the same sensor chip and you make one 6MP and the other camera a 10MP, the latter will tend to have more noise in the final images. More MP doesn't make for a better image, just a bigger one. In many cases, trying to cram all those pixels into the same sized sensor causes noise. Lenses are important to image quality, but that isn't what this issue is about.

    For nature photography I wouldn't think a hotshoe would be that important. You won't be using flash very often, IMO. I would think wide angle is actually more important than zoom for landscapes.

    -dave-

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Posts
    2
    Quote Originally Posted by David Metsky View Post
    If image quality is your most important feature, you will want manual controls. If you are going to spend the time to set up a good shot, manual controls and a tripod are essential.

    If you want the zoom, buy the zoom. Add on lenses, while a great tool, are going to add complexity and sacrifice some image quality. If you are shooting wildlife, get the ultrazoom. It's not clear from your posting whether wildlife is your subject matter.

    The noise issue is not really related to lenses. What people are saying is that if you have two cameras with the same sensor chip and you make one 6MP and the other camera a 10MP, the latter will tend to have more noise in the final images. More MP doesn't make for a better image, just a bigger one. In many cases, trying to cram all those pixels into the same sized sensor causes noise. Lenses are important to image quality, but that isn't what this issue is about.

    For nature photography I wouldn't think a hotshoe would be that important. You won't be using flash very often, IMO. I would think wide angle is actually more important than zoom for landscapes.

    -dave-
    Thank you. In order -

    - Yeah, I was pretty much figuring on manual controls and a tripod. I just want to take into account my current novice status, and have some automatic features as training wheels, while I learn what to do manually, which is one of two reasons (the other being cost) that I'm not getting a DSLR this year.

    - I didn't know add-on lenses could/would reduce image quality. Thanks, that's very useful to know. Now I need to decide whether I want the zoom or not. That's not really something advice can help with, unfortunately. I wish I had a decent camera shop in my area so I could play with different levels of zoom and see what I thought of them. Doing everything on-line is bound to be distorting. I've never had the ability to take pictures of wildlife, before, so I don't know if that's something I really want to do. I don't have very fast reflexes, so I worry that I won't really be able to catch good shots unless something poses for me for a good long time. :) On the other hand, there are features of nature which don't move too fast - like trees - which it might be nice to be able to do close-ups of.

    - Thank you for clarifying that it's the sensor chip rather than the lens or the aperture size which can create problems with noise at high megapixels.

    - Are there wide-angle lenses which don't visibly distort the picture? 'Wide angle' makes me think of 'fish-eye' but possibly I'm wrong about that.

    Thanks for all your help.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    4,173
    Add-on lenses can make the image less sharp, but I think I overstated the problem. If you get a high quality add-on lens and you limit them to a reasonable amount of reach (additional zoom) then the image quality can still be excellent. Same with the wide angle end of the picture. You can get additional wide angle results without distorting the image.

    For close ups, since trees rarely run away when you approach you can usually walk right up to them. If you aren't taking wildlife shots I'd concentrate on getting close to your subject.

    If you don't want or need an ultrazoom then I agree that the Canon A630 would be an excellent choice. You can add quality lenses for a bit more reach at a later date. I don't know the Sony lineup very well so I can't comment on them.

    -dave-

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    756
    I think you should really start 1) getting in the mindset to buy a dSLR and 2) saving your pennies to do so in a year or so.

    In the meantime, I think I'd recommend the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX07. (Or, the FX50, which is almost identical goes over your price range simply to add a slightly better LCD.)

    Panasonic cameras are somewhat noisy at anything but ISO400, but since you're shooting outdoors this should be a dealbreaker for you.

    A choice feature on these cameras that's hard to find elsewhere is the 28mm wide end of the lens, which will give you an extra 12 degress over the typical compact camera for your landscape shots. (The other current option for this is the Canon SD800is, but that's pricier.)

    If I weren't making the "save your pennies" recommendation, Panasonic's LX2 also would be nice -- but it's almost $500.

    Also, unfortuantely, in your price range, you're not going to find useful manual controls on any camera.

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