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Thread: A newbie needs some help - compact camera purchase decisions

  1. #1
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    A newbie needs some help - compact camera purchase decisions

    Hello,

    I'm a brand new member of CiC and it would be great to get some advice from some other compact/bridge camera users. I've just spent the last couple of hours reading the incredibly helpful tutorials on this site and I'm already embarrassed about my ignorance so please forgive any bloopers!

    I've had a Panasonic TZ3 for about 3 years now and it has done stirling work, at least as far as my needs are concerned. I'm an architecture student and much to the annoyance of friends and relations I spend most of my time taking photographs of buildings, inside and out. Equipped with a 'zip-shot' tripod I can set the shutter speed to 8 seconds and get some pretty good photographs in pretty dark churches. Its 28mm lens also means I can get things in that I otherwise wouldn't be able to, large piazzas, the height of a gothic cathedral etc.

    In the last month or so, however, I've been getting an itch, started by a display of photographs by other students in my class. Granted it didn't help that one of them had a Hasselblad and most were using dSLRs, I got distinct camera envy!

    Since then I have looked at so many cameras I have become totally indecisive. I stuck with Panasonic to begin with, looking at the newer TZ8 and 10, the LX3 and 5, contemplating the FZ series and even considering taking a big leap into the micro four-thirds system. In the last couple of days however my eyes have been diverted by Fuji's S200EXR, particularly its system of boosting dynamic range. The narrower lense (30mm) and the great size and weight stand against it though.

    While I've heard great things about the LX cameras I have become rather attached to my zoom, 10x on the TZ3. It's very useful for details on buildings a great distance away, and also for minimising distortion in images of elevations by standing back and zooming in.

    So, what I'd like is a camera with decent super zoom (10x plus), manual operation so that I can begin to get the hang of being a photographer, a minimum of 10 megapixels, a nice wide lens, preferably a 3inch LCD screen, excellent low-light performance and overall a high-quality image and a good amount of creative control. That dynamic range boost would also be nice but I can't find anyone else doing this apar from Fuji.

    I started by thinking that I wanted something that gave some high f-stops (the LX5 can get down to f2.0) but I'm no longer sure about this. I've got myself rather confused about its benefits and I figure I can open the shutter for longer if necessary, the buildings aren't going anywhere!

    Size and weight are also key as I'm usually walking around carrying a camera for many hours at a time. This is one reason that I don't fancy moving towards a system camera. it also counts against bridge cameras that take on the SLR shape and I'm yet to uncover the real benefits of say an FZ series over a TZ other than greater zoom. I'd be very grateful if anyone can explain this to me!

    One thing I don't need is video recording so I'm very happy to do without this in the hope that money might also be saved.

    Apologies for making this so long but it would be great if anyone could share their experiences, good or bad with the cameras I've mentioned above, or others if you think I'm missing out on something key. I've stuck in three photos from a recent trip to Pitzhanger Manor taken with my TZ3 as a bit of relief from all my words. I have of course fiddled with them quite a bit!

    many thanks for any help in advance,
    David

    A newbie needs some help - compact camera purchase decisions
    A newbie needs some help - compact camera purchase decisions
    A newbie needs some help - compact camera purchase decisions

  2. #2
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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    Dear David,

    I'm a Panasonic FZ28 FZ35 (current) fan and you can see some of my pictures - most recent on the show your "Bridge Pictures here" thread - also on my "home page" here in Cambridge Fora.

    Planning to get the latest x24 zoom Panasonic - am quite happy with their performance for what i want - an elderly bush walker who doesn't want to lug 20 kg of lenses around with a DSLR. Also, I want 'instantaneous" ability to catch what suddenly appears in front of me in the bush, whether it be a fantastic view or a teeny-tiny bit of life - no need to screw off, screw on, or screw up in missing the opportunity because of all the screwing. For example (see latest) - flaming wallaby appears in back-yard - out with the trusty - onto maximum zoom and bingo!

    Same camera (could be 5 mins later, but wasn't - but it could have been), macro close-ups of dew-drops on spiders webs which print up to 76x52cm.

    Generally don't shoot in anything over 200ASA where I find noise level is acceptable.

    The DMC FZ's take in Raw - latest will do fast burst shots in RAW!!!.

    Like the electronic vew-finder for bright sunlight.

    Also on FZ 28/35 "joy-stick" is a joy to use - "instant" access to changing: white balance; focus mode; film speed; aperture/shutter speed when in any of the priority modes....etc.

    That's why I love my FZ28/35.

    Only problem is, one can't stick the thing in one's pocket like the Panasonic littleys like wot you've got.


    Cheers

    Len Martin
    Last edited by Len Martin; 8th November 2010 at 08:10 AM.

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    Hi Len,
    I don't know if you already have DMC FZ 100 (24X), but I bought one nearly 1.5 month ago.
    It seemed to me a favorable camera too (it is indeed, up to some extent), but I disappointed from the view points of picture IQ at ISO's -including and higher than 400. Behind the noisy problems, I had expected better resolution, since it was a 14 MP camera.
    So far, I have not to much shoots with it, but I am planning to replace its firmware with the new version "DMC FZ100 V1.1" as announced recently and recommended..

    If you have past experiences with this camera, could you please kindly to comment and advise me what you have come up with so far!

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    Hi Len,

    thanks for your suggestion, I've been in Naples for the last week and a bit on a course trip. I made a snap decision beforehand to get my mits on an FZ45 and took it with, along with my tried and trusted TZ3. I only really used the new camera on two occasions, once on a bright sunny day when it did very well (of course!) and once on a much duller day, inside a number of churches. Having read in reviews that noise was a problem at ISO400 I sat it on a tripod and set the ISO to 100. Even then I have to say I was slightly disappointed by the noise on the image, though to be honest it might be because I'm looking for it and viewing the image at 100% on the screen. Another annoyance was that on the TZ series the 3:2 and 16:9 ratios allow you to see more (because the sensor is 'cropped' at 4:3 while on the FZ45 these higher ratios just seem to be cropped from 4:3 so I end up seeing less. In addition, particularly in Naples, I did have the feeling that walking around with this relatively large piece of equipment was going to get it pinched! It didn't help that a friend had brought his brand new LX5.

    What I'v ended up doing through pure indecision is getting hold of a Canon G11 (arrived) and an LX3 (should get here in a couple of days). I will take them into some dark spaces in Cambridge and see how the three cameras compare. It is dark churches that are probably the most challenging pictures I take. Having fiddled a little bit with the Canon I do like the live view as you change shutter speed and aperture in the manual settings but it does produce some rather concerning barreling, not great at all for architectural photos. The only thing I didn't like about my friend's LX5 was the rather green white balance (my TZ3 was much more faithful colourwise) but it seems this can be altered manually so wouldn't stop me settling for it.

    I thought actually buying a camera would bring the indecision to an end but apparently not!

    Thanks again Len, and to aydo, looks like the FZ100 has similar noise issues as the '45.
    I'll let you know what I decide!
    David

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    David,

    Is it possible for you to share a few of the church photos and also which setting you were using?

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    Good idea Shadowman!
    Here are two photos of the Filmarino Altar in Santi Apostoli designed by Borromini (in case anyone is counting!) and one general one of the crossing. All were taken from one end of the transept. All were I think taken in shutter priority mode with a shutter speed of 4 seconds with ISO set at 100.

    The first is a long zoom of a detail:
    A newbie needs some help - compact camera purchase decisions

    the next looking up one of the altars with little zoom:
    A newbie needs some help - compact camera purchase decisions

    the last a general view of the crossing and dome with no zoom:
    A newbie needs some help - compact camera purchase decisions

    at 100% all three display the noise I was talking about in the previous post. Perhaps I'm just being picky though, I imagine with my TZ3 and no control over ISO it would have been worse.

    Let me know what you think, thanks for any comments,
    David

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    David, as you're using a tripod, improving the noise performance isn't too hard in PP.

    The trick is to shoot several identical exposures and then combine them in Photoshop, or your preferred app. Paste them one onto the other so that they form layers. Then change the opacity as follows: Background 100%, layer 1 50%, layer 2 33%, layer 3 25%...you get the idea.

    Do you plan to photograph Cambridge churches? If so, it would be nice to see your work!

    HTH

    Peter

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    Quote Originally Posted by David Valinsky View Post
    Good idea Shadowman!
    Here are two photos of the Filmarino Altar in Santi Apostoli designed by Borromini (in case anyone is counting!) and one general one of the crossing. All were taken from one end of the transept. All were I think taken in shutter priority mode with a shutter speed of 4 seconds with ISO set at 100.

    The first is a long zoom of a detail:
    A newbie needs some help - compact camera purchase decisions

    the next looking up one of the altars with little zoom:
    A newbie needs some help - compact camera purchase decisions

    the last a general view of the crossing and dome with no zoom:
    A newbie needs some help - compact camera purchase decisions

    at 100% all three display the noise I was talking about in the previous post. Perhaps I'm just being picky though, I imagine with my TZ3 and no control over ISO it would have been worse.

    Let me know what you think, thanks for any comments,
    David
    David,

    A few observations.

    1. Images stored in jpeg format. Loss of detail as you edit, reopen images. Convert to tiff after downloading.
    2. Images have focal length of 5 to 27.3mm. The distance to subject is too far for your aperture settings to provide a sharply focused overall image.
    3. white balance on all are set to cloudy weather. See the link below.

    On your next outing try white balance in auto mode, then try to match the conditions you are shooting in. Don't be afraid to use the optical zoom to get more detail, if you want to capture a larger area, use a smaller aperture (f/8 or above). Take a notebook with you and record the settings you used for each particular set of photos.

    http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tut...te-balance.htm

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    John -

    Some bits I'll agree with, others not so much...the first is that the camera does support RAW, and that will produce better results than Jpeg. And yes, re-saving Jpeg does degrade the image quite fast. As to the white balance, yes, auto, and sort it out if need be in RAW. As to the aperture settings, then no, there I don't agree - diffraction will reduce res from c. 5.6 on a sensor this small...and this lens is regarded as sharper at wide apertures. DOF shouldn't be a problem - even from the telephoto, focussing at 15m will give a DOF from 9-40 m at the ap used.

    HTH

    Peter

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    2. Images have focal length of 5 to 27.3mm. The distance to subject is too far for your aperture settings to provide a sharply focused overall image.
    3. white balance on all are set to cloudy weather. See the link below.

    On your next outing try white balance in auto mode, then try to match the conditions you are shooting in. Don't be afraid to use the optical zoom to get more detail, if you want to capture a larger area, use a smaller aperture (f/8 or above). Take a notebook with you and record the settings you used for each particular set of photos.

    http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tut...te-balance.htm
    Hi John,

    Regarding your point 2); bear in mind that the FZ45 has a small sensor and (according to DPReview) is only capable of stopping down to f8 minimum, but that'll be ample given the 1/2.33" sensor.

    In terms of DoF, bear in mind that the crop factor (of almost 6) applies to the aperture in addition to focal length (as you know), so even wide open at f2.8 (on David's camera) is more like f16 on FF, or f11 on DX format. If unsharp, there will be other causes at work.

    David,

    Third party software may well be necessary to tame the noise and get good results, but it is possible, I use Neat Image, well worth the $30 or so.

    Cheers,

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    Quote Originally Posted by proseak View Post
    John -

    Some bits I'll agree with, others not so much...the first is that the camera does support RAW, and that will produce better results than Jpeg. And yes, re-saving Jpeg does degrade the image quite fast. As to the white balance, yes, auto, and sort it out if need be in RAW. As to the aperture settings, then no, there I don't agree - diffraction will reduce res from c. 5.6 on a sensor this small...and this lens is regarded as sharper at wide apertures. DOF shouldn't be a problem - even from the telephoto, focussing at 15m will give a DOF from 9-40 m at the ap used.

    HTH

    Peter
    So are you saying that his lens is at a point where it can no longer focus at any aperture?

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Hi John,

    Regarding your point 2); bear in mind that the FZ45 has a small sensor and (according to DPReview) is only capable of stopping down to f8 minimum, but that'll be ample given the 1/2.33" sensor.

    In terms of DoF, bear in mind that the crop factor (of almost 6) applies to the aperture in addition to focal length (as you know), so even wide open at f2.8 (on David's camera) is more like f16 on FF, or f11 on DX format. If unsharp, there will be other causes at work.


    Cheers,
    It is a process of elimination.

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    "So are you saying that his lens is at a point where it can no longer focus at any aperture? "

    No, not at all - in fact with a sensor this small most things will be in focus most of the time, given that the AF is pretty good. Stopping down will merely increase the diffraction effect. At base iso, this camera is capable of some good results.

    HTH

    Peter

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    Dear Aydo,

    having read some of the reviews of the panasonic DMC FZ100 have decided against it because of noise issues at ISOs >400 - one reviewer reckoned its optical performance was actually worse than the FZ 35.

    Cheers

    len

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    Len Martin's Avatar
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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    Dear David,

    looks like the FZ 100 (45) is a bit of a bummer - having delayed my decision, and read the reviews and comments about noise have decided against getting one - will stick with my FZ35.

    Son has just turned up with a Canon eos 550d, and I have been seduced - now contemplating tossing my compact principles and actually going to a DSLR!

    Mind you, my business manager may well veto the idea.

    Cheers

    Len

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    I don't think you'd be unhappy with the 500D -- good luck with convincing your business manager!

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    Quote Originally Posted by Len Martin View Post
    Dear David,

    looks like the FZ 100 (45) is a bit of a bummer - having delayed my decision, and read the reviews and comments about noise have decided against getting one - will stick with my FZ35.

    Son has just turned up with a Canon eos 550d, and I have been seduced - now contemplating tossing my compact principles and actually going to a DSLR!

    Mind you, my business manager may well veto the idea.

    Cheers

    Len
    wouldn't it just raise your hackles if your business manager said "get the compact, noise doesn't matter".

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    Thanks for all your comments regarding the photos posted, it really is good to hear how I can improve things. I took the advice and spent a few hours in Cambridge today taking the same photos with my TZ3 (as a sort of control), the FZ45, the Canon S11 and the LX3. This is actually more of a teaser post as I haven't yet had time to analyzse or even look at the results as I was playing in a concert tonight. I do remember being shocked though at how easily a 24mm lens could fit in the side of King's College Chapel! Once I've uploaded I shall post photos here though I should say I'm not used to doing this sort of comparison so I do hope I haven't made any really stupid errors. More to come then, thanks again!
    David

  19. #19

    Re: A newbie needs some help - compact camera purchase decisions

    Hi - I went from a DSLR to a Canon SX1. It does RAW, several 'manual' things, has 20x optical and 80x digital zoom. Worth reading up on. Surprisingly good for a small bridge.

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    Re: A newbie needs some help...

    Quote Originally Posted by Len Martin View Post
    Dear David,

    looks like the FZ 100 (45) is a bit of a bummer - having delayed my decision, and read the reviews and comments about noise have decided against getting one - will stick with my FZ35.

    Son has just turned up with a Canon eos 550d, and I have been seduced - now contemplating tossing my compact principles and actually going to a DSLR!

    Mind you, my business manager may well veto the idea.

    Cheers

    Len
    Hi Len,

    This is what I have been thinking also.. What lenses you would stick with it?

    Cheers,

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