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Need Advice for new Digital Camera

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Geoff S, Oct 12, 2005.

  1. Geoff S

    Geoff S Well-Known Member

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    Wow, been forever since I posted, but I had this question and there's no better place for advice then the HTF.

    Anyhow, I'm looking for a new digital camera, having not bought one since 1998 I need education, bad...

    What I'm looking for is as many megapixels as I can afford (few hundred bux, $500 max), 7 or 8 would be nice, but if i'm limited to like 4 or 5 I wont complain.

    Also the criteria for what I'm looking for is a very compact design (pocket size basically), with an LCD, and great night and low light conditions capability such as taking pictures of the city skyline after dark etc etc.

    I'm open to all suggestions and any advice given. Thanks!
     
  2. Thomas Newton

    Thomas Newton Well-Known Member

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    For "night and low light capability", the best digital cameras are digital SLRs. Digital SLRs have larger sensors than just about all digital point-and-shoots. (This translates to less noise and higher usable ISO.) They also have the option to use faster lenses. But they are not pocket-sized, or below $500 yet.

    Among point-and-shoot cameras, you might try looking at ones with "fast" lenses, e.g. Canon S1 IS, Canon S2 IS, Canon PowerShot G6, Panasonic FZ20, or Panasonic FZ30. Typical point-and-shoots have aperture specifications on the order of f/3.5-4.9 (bigger numbers = less ability to gather light). The cameras with faster lenses can offer specs like f/2.8 (constant), f/2.8-3.1, or f/2.8-3.5.

    A good site for camera reviews is dpreview.com.
     
  3. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Well-Known Member

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    You can't really get the performance you're looking for in a compact size - especially at under $500.

    As Thomas said, for good low light performance with the least noise, you need to look at an SLR. Those are outside your price range and are anything but compact.

    Slightly less in performance, price and size would be something like the Canon S2. Excellent camera, good performance for its size, but it is not a "pocket" camera, and has less flexibility and quality than an SLR. It does hit your price range, though.

    7 or 8 MP is overkill for most people. A 5MP camera will allow you to get excellent 8x10 prints - and you can certainly go larger. Unless you're going to be making posters, you don't need more than 5MP. Some might say that the higher resolution (8MP) gives you "crop-ability", enabling you to get "closer" to your subject. While true, the optics and small sensor size offset any gain you might find by introducing optical artifacting and digital noise into the picture, especially at the long end of the zoom.

    I also recommend dpreview.com. They have a great buying guide - enter the specs you're looking for and it gives you a side-by-side view of the cameras that fit the bill.

    -Scott
     
  4. Ed B

    Ed B Well-Known Member

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    I agree with Scott.

    Low light photography is a very hard subject to achieve with most digitals (minus DSLRs). Light is the essence of photography so anytime you reduce the amount of light your going to run into problems and you'll need work arounds.

    What really kills you is the ISO ratings (film speed). Going back to those good old film days you might recall using ISO400 film was the ideal indoor film in that it allowed light to react quicker to the film, hence faster film. The downside to the faster film was grainy photos, a pleasant effect when shooting black and white but in color photos its not a welcome side effect. This phenomena carries over to the digital world but in most cases ISO400 with the small sensors of the point and shoot and even pro-sumer cameras its worse than film.

    There are a couple newer cameras that have better noise performance at higher ISOs like the Fuji F10/F11 or the Sony H1.

    To reduce the ISO noise you will need to shoot at a slower speed like ISO 50/100 this also means that your shutter will need to open for a much longer period of time and you will need a tripod. Image stabilization which is offered on the Sony H1, Canon S1/S2, Panosonics and a limited number of other cameras will provide you with some assistance against camear shake but it has its limitations.

    Another aspect of digitals that are vexed by low light is auto focus. Non-DSLRs use a different type of autofocus which is not as reliable in low light. In some cases your camera will "hunt" to focus, meaning it will try and retry to find something to focus on. Work arounds for this is to use a Center Weighted Auto-focus setting vs other modes and or focus on a object with good contrast. Of course you can use manual focus as well.

    I dont want to scare you away from digital photography its lots of fun. The thing to keep in mind is there is no perfect camera. You might find one camera has better performance in one aspect but falls short in another.

    My personal preference is Canon. I'm currently shooting with a Canon A95 but I'm planning on replacing it with the new Canon A620. Its at the larger pocket-able size camera, it has a swivel LCD, 4X optical zoom (digital zoom is useless), 7MP and its has some other enhancements to the A95.

    There is also a A610 which is a 5MP version of the camera which is more than enough for standard size to 8x10 prints.

    The A620 runs about $340-$400.

    As always the best digital photography site on the web is www.dpreview.com

    My A95 photos can be seen at www.pbase.com/eddyb/a95 I'd expect the same results from the A610/620.

    Ed
     
  5. Geoff S

    Geoff S Well-Known Member

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    Thanks everyone for the advice, and the education on low light photography. Looks like I wont be getting a Digital SLR camera anytime soon, so its down to the point and shoot mainstream.

    Definatly going to go with something from the 5-7 megapixel range. My main concern is top notch image quality... zoom, bells and whistles and such are the weak point in what I'm looking for.

    As for the physcial size, i usually wear jeans or shorts with rather large pockets, so as long as its compact it'll work, which many of them are. Don't want anything that I can refer to as "being lugged around".

    Thanks Thomas and Scott for the info, and I'm looking at dpreview.com closely. Ed, the image quality I saw from the A95 are very good, quite stunning to say the least. The new A620 looks like a great buy, I'm also looking at the Sony DSC-P200 which looks good too, but I'm also just starting with my comparisons, so nothing decided as of yet.

    Getting a better idea here, gonna come a long way from my old Sony Mavica FD-91 (haha, don't laugh, sucky images, but it was an awesome gadget back in 1998... a very expensive one too).

    Any more recomendations on particular models, and examples of photos taken by them are always welcome.
     
  6. Dan Mercier

    Dan Mercier Well-Known Member

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  7. Thomas Newton

    Thomas Newton Well-Known Member

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  8. PerryD

    PerryD Well-Known Member

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    I was in the same situation earlier this year, I made the mistake of choosing portability over picture quality. I picked up the Nikon Coolpix 5200, a tiny 3x 5 megapixel camera. I was never completely sastified with the picture quality of the Nikon, especially in low light.

    Recently, I picked up the Canon S2 IS from Dell on sale for around $365. It completely solved the low light issue, and the 12x image stabilized zoom is fantastic. The Nikon 5200 is now the kids camera.

    Here are some of the pictures I took recently with the Canon S2 at a U2 concert. No touch ups were done, other than sizing them down. Similar pictures taken with the Nikon 5200 were completely dark and unusable.

    http://www.wowway.com/~pdenton/2005_0920_224955.JPG
    http://www.wowway.com/~pdenton/2005_0920_211956.JPG
    http://www.wowway.com/~pdenton/2005_0920_215117.JPG
    http://www.wowway.com/~pdenton/2005_0920_222714.JPG

    As you can see, the 12x zoom of the Canon S2 IS came in real handy for the close-ups.
     
  9. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Well-Known Member

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    While interesting, the Firingsquad review (from post #6) is a bit uneven.

    It was the author's intention to show the limitations of the two technologies - though he made inconsistent choices with the 20D, and didn't use it to its proper limits.

    In his shot of the sihouetted palm tree in front of the sunrise, he used a 110mm lens, and shot at f8, claiming that to stop down further risks optical aberrations. While it's true that you may risk optical aberrations at smaller apertures, if it means not getting the shot otherwise, you do what you must and fix it in post. There's a really good chance that there will be no artifacting, or that it will be mild enough that the shot would best the other camera without correction. Besides that, he used the wrong lens for the depth he was looking for. He should have used a focal length of around 40 or less (repositioning himself as needed), and an f-stop at around 11 (maybe even 16) - it would have solved his problems.

    Then, shortly after, he talks of stopping down his lens all the way to f32 to achieve a different shot - no mention of the problems one might experience at such an f-stop, there. Granted, the light was different, but he was still a bit inconsistent.

    I'm sure the Panasonic is a fine camera, but when you use a tool like the 20D, with all the accessories he had, he didn't seem to push the camera very hard to achieve the best shot in every situation.

    For snapshots and general vacation pictures, I prefer to travel light and bring a small digicam. But there really is no contest if you want top quality and the most flexibility - you have to go with the SLR every time. It demands more money and luggage, and it demands more of the photographer to push the camera to its limits. The SLRs also benefit tremendously from post processing - which the author did at least touch on.

    -Scott
     
  10. Dennis*G

    Dennis*G Well-Known Member

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    there is also the canon s50, s60, s70, s80. can easily fit in shorts pocket, has manual controls and an ok optical zoom (at least 3x)

    the s50 is a few years old, so can probably find a used one for in the $150-$200 range, the s80 is the latest and can be had in the $500 range.
     
  11. Tyler DJW

    Tyler DJW Well-Known Member

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    Wow, haven't posted in ages...

    Geoff, I was looking for basically the same thing. ~$400-$500, >4 or 5 MP, good in low light.

    I ended up with (surprisingly) a FujiFilm F10.

    I read a great review of it here:
    http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/fu...ix_f10-review/

    And this website I found to be really helpful overall, with practical tests and comparisons. It's performed exactly as it was described in the review... both the good and the bad. I bought mine for $400 and have been extremely happy with it.[​IMG]
     

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