View Full Version : Panasonic FZ30 vs. Starter DSLR

06-19-2006, 08:22 AM
Hello all,

I'm an entering college student with a growing interest in photography that my point-and-shoot is simply unable to satisfy. I've looked at the reviews on this site and others and my buying decision boils down to 2 models that are in the same price range: the Panasonic FZ30 and the Nikon D50.

I'm not yet acquainted with very many concepts of digital photography although I do intend to take lessons; I tried out my cousin's D70 a few months ago and was boggled by the fact that the pictures it took came out DRAMATICALLY different (over- or under-exposed) than I had seen on the viewfinder. I did know that I wanted an SLR's manual controls - not just the freedom to change aperture, ISO and all that, but the existence of actual PHYSICAL knobs to turn to change these settings. I didn't know how to use them yet but I knew I would need controls like these eventually.

All these factors led me to look very closely at the Panasonic FZ30; it has a big zoom, image stablization, an electronic viewfinder with "what you see is what you get" functionality (which no SLR can claim) and, most importantly to me, the aforementioned physical controls (which its prosumer competitors lacked). However, the sample pictures on this site and others showed that its pictures were SCARILY noisy. Though this site seemed to love the camera enough to present workarounds, the FZ30's noise problem put me off on the camera regardless. Indeed, picture quality is the main reason I'm considering an entry-level DSLR like the D50, even though I would lose the big zoom and IS, and even though my last experience with them was quite... intimidating. Price is a bit of an issue for me as well as the FZ30 (and similarly-priced D50) represents the upper limit of which I am willing to pay for a camera, and telephoto lenses to match the FZ30's zoom are definitely out of the question due to price!

As to what I intend to use these cameras for... I'm leaning towards taking pictures of nature, buildings, sunsets and other scenery. I also would love to play with focus and blurs (one of my biggest reasons for upgrading from a point-and-shoot). I figure the ability to take pictures in low light definitely could not hurt as well; the same goes for the ability to capture fast-moving objects. I'm probably not going to go pro anytime soon, but I may be doing quite a bit of photo editing, and understand that high noise levels in pictures can get in the way of this.

With all this in mind, any thoughts on either of these cameras, or on the prosumer-vs-DSLR debate, would be greatly appreciated!

06-19-2006, 09:06 AM
A prosumer camera will never give the same quality as a DSLR (though the Sony R1 comes close) - it's down to the sensor size. That said, the FZ30 can certainly produce some excellent pictures - check out some of John Reed's shots on the Panasonic forum.

However, the prosumer ultrazooms can be a great compromise, if that's what you want. Some of them have slightly larger sensors than the compact cameras, and the all-in-one zoom range is a lot more convenient to lug around than a DSLR and a bagfull of lenses. The smaller sensors work in your favour here, requiring fairly short real focal lengths to give the equivalent field of view to a very long 35mm format lens.

As you say, it appears that the FZ30 has some issues with noise at higher sensitivities, and although post-processing software such as NoiseNinja can help, it's not a complete solution.

As a Fuji S9500 (called S9000 in some countries) user, I may be biased, but I would suggest you at least look at this camera. I finally chose it after looking closely at the FZ30, Canon S3IS, Samsung Pro815 and others, and I'm interested in similar types of shots to what you mention. It doesn't have image stabilisation, but does have higher sensitivity, which allows faster shutter speeds to compensate for the lack of IS, and also help freeze motion blur of a moving subject. This does help a lot with static low-light shots as well! For architectural and lanscape shots, you may find the Fuji's 28mm equiv wide angle useful - I know I find I'm using it more that I thought I would! To be fair, I would say that I have found the Fuji autofocus doesn't seem to be able to keep up with birds in flight, which John Reed does seem to be able to do with his FZ30 (or maybe it's my relative lack of experience!)

As regards playing with focus effects, any prosumer is going to have a far greater depth of field than 35mm film (that small sensor thing again). Also, although it has a manual focus control, the Fuji is not very good at this. There is no focus distance display, only an enlarged centre section of the viewfinder. Unfortunately, the FZ30 seems to have a very similar system. I believe the Canon S3IS does at least tell you what distance it's focused to.