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Making the jump: pocket vs. prosumer vs. dSLR


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#1 of 63 Aaron Silverman

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Posted June 28 2004 - 07:25 AM

Hi gang,

It's time for me to enter the digital photo world. My Canon A-1 has served me well for about 15 years, but I'm thinking of moving on. Any advice is appreciated!

My needs: Mainly travel and some sports photography.

One issue that I have is that there have been times when I would have liked to bring the A-1 on a trip, but decided against it due to having to lug the whole kit around. For this reason, I am leaning more towards a pocket or prosumer model.

I've used Canon all my life, and my dad's used Canon a lot longer than that. Posted Image So I've mainly been looking at Canons; however I am open to other quality brands.

I guess my main question is this: What are the pros and cons of getting, say, an S500 vs. a G5 vs. a Pro 1 vs. a D Rebel? What will I get for spending $900 on a Pro 1 instead of $500 on a G5?

I haven't yet decided how much I want to spend, other than it'll be under $1000. It depends on what features are available at each price point.

Thanks!
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#2 of 63 Thomas Newton

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Posted June 28 2004 - 08:50 AM

Quote:
I guess my main question is this: What are the pros and cons of getting, say, an S500 vs. a G5 vs. a Pro 1 vs. a D Rebel? What will I get for spending $900 on a Pro 1 instead of $500 on a G5?

There are several things to look at:
  • Interchangeable lenses. Found only on DSLRs, although some prosumer and compact digicams have threads for auxillary wide-angle or tele-converters.
  • Ability to use external TTL bounce/tilt flash. Found on DSLRs and prosumer cameras; missing from most compacts. Lets you take indoor flash pictures that don't have redeye.
  • Portability. Compact and EVF cameras have the advantage here (with the possible exception of the Sony EVF camera.)
  • Image quality. DSLRs have an edge in the noise area due to their larger sensor sizes. Check dpreview.com and other such sites for in-depth reviews of specific cameras.
  • Optical zoom range. A prosumer camera can offer you a 7 to 10 times zoom in a small, lightweight package. SLR and DSLR zoom lenses usually don't offer more than about 7x zoom range (e.g., 28 to 210mm, and that with a heavy lens), due to the need to have the light cover a larger film or sensor area.
  • Lens speed. The smaller the minimum f-stop, the better. f/1.4 to f/1.8 are normal for 50mm lenses, but for a zoom, anything that's f/2.8 or faster is great. It's easier to get fast zooms on a prosumer model than on a DSLR (that image area again), and more important, for the reason that you can't buy a cheap, fast, high-quality 50mm auxillary lens.


#3 of 63 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted June 28 2004 - 08:58 AM

Aaron,

Your criteria make this really difficult since they clash against each other quite a bit given the options available. Could you list them in order of importance/priority?

One thing you might want to consider (and have not yet) is going w/ 2 cameras, not 1, if you can afford it. Get a reasonably portable one that still yields good enough quality for when you need to travel lite. This could be any one of the smaller Canon's, even a cheap A70 or A80, depending your exact needs. Then for the "real" camera, go for a DSLR. But do know that a DSLR will actually cost you more than just the body (and a cheap kit lens) since you will inevitably need more and/or better lenses to make full use of it. Even if you have some existing lenses, you will likely want some upgrades/replacements since entry level DSLRs have significant crop factors that alter the uses and usefulness of your lenses. At the very least, you will find a new wideangle lens is needed -- although both Canon and Nikon offer such in their kit lenses.

_Man_

Just another amateur learning to paint w/ "the light of the world".

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#4 of 63 Thomas Newton

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Posted June 28 2004 - 09:02 AM

Other factors to consider:
  • Lag times. Digital cameras often have startup delays, shutter release delays, and time-until-ready-to-shoot-again delays. This is not universally true, but if you are accustomed to the nearly-instant availability of a film SLR, you might want to look for digital cameras that have good reviews in this department.
  • Battery type -- Some people don't mind proprietary rechargeable batteries; others prefer standard sizes (e.g., "AAs"), which let you use alkalines in a pinch.


#5 of 63 Aaron Silverman

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Posted June 28 2004 - 09:18 AM

Quote:
One thing you might want to consider (and have not yet) is going w/ 2 cameras, not 1, if you can afford it.


Thanks for the tips! One thing I am considering is getting a small digital for travel (although I'll still want advanced features) and keeping the A-1 kit for sports photography.

Note that when I say "travel" I am not talking about snapshots of my girlfriend standing in front of landmarks, but more serious travelogue photography.

If there is one thing that is most important to me, it's picture quality. I want to be able to print an 8x10 and not think "geez, that looks lousy compared to my film prints".
"How wonderful it will be to have a leader unburdened by the twin horrors of knowledge and experience." -- Mr. Wick

#6 of 63 Michael Harris

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Posted June 28 2004 - 11:25 AM

I just retired my Canon A-1 in favor of a Nikon D-70 and I am glad I did. Don't get me wrong I had an A-1 since 1984 but it finally failed me at the 2003 Tour de France when Lance Armstrong was starting the Prologue. The camera's autowinder advanced the film and the mirror tripped but the shutter did not open. I was time to retire it. I am going to get another one as a back-up camera and the prices I've seen for good used bodies should be competitive with repairing it.

Biggest reason I went with the D-70 was its price/performance ratio and its speed. It also felt good in my hand compared with the Canon digitals I looked at. I've had the D-70 for only a short time and I'll know in a few months if I made the right choice but I think I did. I have to pass on this year's Tour but will be there next year.

#7 of 63 Max Leung

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Posted June 28 2004 - 05:24 PM

Speaking of lag time...any non-DSLR cameras that are pocket-size with very fast focus times?

I hate how it takes a G3 3 seconds to lock focus on a subject. Grrrr. I missed way too many shots (kids and pets) because of that. Which is why I got a Digital Rebel - but it's pretty bulky for casual use.
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him...a super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Gamesh....

#8 of 63 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted June 29 2004 - 04:26 AM

Yes, I love the responsiveness of the D70 also though I don't have any prior SLR experience for comparison. My previous camera was the Canon G3 -- yes, w/ the very slow start-up time and slow AF (but similar to most non-SLR digicams) -- and I still have it so far though I haven't touched it since getting the D70 ~2.5 months ago.

As for faster non-SLR digicam than the G3, seems like Sony and Minolta make faster digicams in general although they are not w/out their own flaws. Not sure about Olympus although Phil Askey (of dpreview) rates their 8MP prosumer as best in class (based on his criteria/biases of course).

Personally, I found the G3 quite useable for shooting kids in many instances. Indeed, in some ways, it's actually easier than my D70. You do need to learn to take good advantage of the large DoF and the poorly implemented (but still useful in its own way) manual focus feature. And for indoor shots, definitely use it w/ an external flash (bounced) although I have made a few such photos w/ just available light -- the flip-out LCD helps a lot w/ getting steady shots. And in all cases, anticipation is very important.

Still, I don't believe Aaron plans to use this digicam for shooting kids, but for shooting landscapes, architecture and the like for the most part. And he's considering keeping the old A1 for action.

Given all that, maybe the Oly 8080 or Canon Pro1 would be the way to go although the Minolta A2 looks attractive also. Still, if 5MP is good enough (for ~250PPI 8x10's), then the G5 should be a good way to go (and save you some $$$ too). Read Phil Askey's reviews at dpreview.com as a start. If you plan to shoot RAW, then you should note that Phil Askey tends to favor cameras that give best straight-from-camera JPEGs, instead of delving all that deeply into RAW-converted, postprocessed results. He does touch on RAW issues, but not nearly as much as one would like. Still, he seems to be the best reviewer around by a fair margin. Just make sure you realize his biases, whatever flaws in his testing methodology, and whatever issues and criteria you have that he does not address. And in the end, you'll also want to check out the cameras personally.

Personally, I would go w/ the Canon G5, instead of the new 8MP prosumers. I don't think the 8MP prosumers are worth the price diff, but that's just me. Somethings that the G5 has over the 8MP prosumers are:

* "Faster" lens at f/2-3.
* No significant vignetting issue in the lens (although internal flash has some corner shading) like the Pro1 has.
* Built-in 3-stop ND filter that only the Pro1 has in the 8MP category.
* Allows wideangle converter for ~24.5mm FOV that some of the 8MP cams do not, including the Pro1, although most of them do start at 28mm (35-mm equiv) w/out needing converter.
* Optical viewfinder (although non-TTL) while all the 8MP cams have gone to EVF of varying quality -- this may or may not be important to you although EVF quality probably should matter some if you choose an 8MP cam.
* More portable and can certainly fit in a coat pocket unless you use a lens adapter for protection like many of us G-series users.

_Man_

Just another amateur learning to paint w/ "the light of the world".

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things..." (St. Paul)

#9 of 63 Aaron Silverman

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Posted June 29 2004 - 09:26 AM

Thanks for all the info, guys! That DPReview site is pretty amazing, and has a lot of stuff to read. Posted Image It's tough for me to pick out Phil Askey's personal biases though, as I have basically zero experience with digicams at this point.

For example, he recommends the G3 over the G5 due to picture quality issues, saying that the lens works better with the 4MP sensor than with the 5MP sensor. Any experience with that?
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#10 of 63 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted June 29 2004 - 09:54 AM

Aaron,

I find it good to read all of Phil Askey's reviews for all the digicams I'd consider and then draw some conclusions. If you read enough of them, you'll be able to decipher some of his biases as well as learn a good deal about digicams in general.

Still, there are quite a bit that he doesn't cover in good detail, particularly workarounds for certain flaws in each camera. Every camera has flaws, and I guess Phil can't realistically provide such workarounds since he wouldn't have spent enough time w/ each camera to flesh them out. That's why forums are still very valuable to supplement reviews (besides providing other opinions/perspectives).

RE: the specifics of G3 vs G5, he is mostly talking about the purple fringing issue (which is often labeled as chromatic aberration although not necessarily the same thing) as well as noise level. The G5 does have significantly more PF and noise than G3. However, many G5 owners find that the PF issue is ok w/ a little PS work in post when needed -- but still not the same result though. Noise level is worse at pixel level, but not quite as bad when compared at full image view (because pixels and noise are smaller units at 5MP vs 4MP). Basically, there are some tradeoffs for the modestly increased resolution. You should note that the G5 cost $200-300 more than the G3 when Phil made his review, and he took that into account in his conclusions -- and in general, one should certainly read his reviews w/in the context of the available technology and competition.

_Man_

Just another amateur learning to paint w/ "the light of the world".

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#11 of 63 Aaron Silverman

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Posted June 30 2004 - 04:47 AM

I think I'm leaning towards the G5 at this point (I'd consider the G3, but it seems to be tough to find, and the S60 may be out due to lack of a hot shoe), although the Olympus C5060 sounds like it might be worth a look. How are the Nikons in that range?

I'm hearing good things about the S1 IS as well, but it's only 3.2 MP. What is the minimum pixel count I should be considering if I want to be able to print high-quality 8x10s?
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#12 of 63 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted June 30 2004 - 09:17 AM

I would suggest staying away from Nikon non-SLR digicams if you do much indoor shooting w/out tripod whether available light or flash. Nikon's digicams seem to excel at macro close-up, and you may or may not also prefer Nikon's color, which many do find more natural and true-to-life than Canon (or Sony), but as one who likes to shoot in less ideal light, particularly low light, I prefer Canon as the "lesser evil" for this category of cameras.

Generally, I'd say Canon's colors are more pastel-like w/ warmer, yellow cast and are more prone to neon greens while Nikon's tend toward cooler, bluish cast w/ bluer greens. Of course, you can always adjust colors to taste in post (or use manual WB w/ possible bias like some do), but it's preferable to go w/ the one that needs less adjustments to suit you. Still, I think Canon's faster lens, extra sensitivity per ISO rating, much better external flash option, generally better feature set and ergonomics (though this is subjective), etc. outweigh Nikon's advantages for me in this category.

I guess if I were to use the camera mainly for outdoors w/ good light and don't care too much about low light (or would use a tripod or similar for such), I may prefer Nikon and probably go w/ the CP5400 (as competitor to the G5). The CP5400's 4x zoom lens starts at 28mm wideangle, which is nice, vs 35mm on the G5 although you can add a good wideangle lens converter for both.

Don't know much about the Oly 5060, but have heard good things about it. I would forget about the S1 IS if you want high quality 8x10's. It has a rather small CCD (even for 3MP), which probably means significantly noisier images than most of the digicams you're considering, and 3MP is rather borderline for 8x10's even if the noise level is better. The IS is very nice to have on top of the long zoom, but one has to wonder about the quality of the lens since it's a super zoom -- interestingly, the 10x zoom has almost constant max aperture throughout the range (f/2.8-3.1). For the kind of photography you're thinking, I'd think you want a better wideangle than 38mm though -- and not sure how well lens converters would work on top of the possibly mediocre super zoom lens.

As for resolution needed for 8x10 (or any other size print), the way I see it is it all depends on your intended viewing distance. Obviously, if you're only looking at the 8x10 from several feet away (say hanging on a wall), you won't need that much resolution -- probably 150ppi would be enough. But if it's going to sit just 2 feet in front of you on your desk, you'll want more -- maybe more like 250ppi, which means you'll need a ~5MP cam (factoring in needed cropping from 4x3 to 8x10 ratio). Also, having more resolution gives you more room to crop when needed. IIRC, 200-250ppi is roughly what you get from good photolab prints.

_Man_

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#13 of 63 Aaron Silverman

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Posted June 30 2004 - 10:34 AM

Thanks (AGAIN Posted Image )! Sounds like I'd better stick to the 5 MP+ cameras.

From what you said, I think the Canon's feature advantages and low-light ability rank it above the Nikon for me (and living in Florida, I guess pastel colors are appropriate! Posted Image ). I'll research the Olympus a bit more though. A wideangle lens adapter is a highly likely purchase in any case.
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#14 of 63 Aaron Silverman

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Posted July 15 2004 - 12:20 PM

Anyone have any experience with the Nikon CP 5700? I see it has an 8x optical zoom, which sounds great for some of what I like to shoot, but I've heard that the slow AF and low-light performance make it impractical for action photography.
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#15 of 63 Thomas Newton

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Posted July 15 2004 - 05:41 PM

Quote:
I would forget about the S1 IS if you want high quality 8x10's. It has a rather small CCD (even for 3MP), which probably means significantly noisier images than most of the digicams you're considering, and 3MP is rather borderline for 8x10's even if the noise level is better. The IS is very nice to have on top of the long zoom, but one has to wonder about the quality of the lens since it's a super zoom -- interestingly, the 10x zoom has almost constant max aperture throughout the range (f/2.8-3.1).

Speaking of super-zooms...

There's a 4 Mp Panasonic that has a 12x optical zoom with a constant speed of f/2.8 and an image stabilizer. The upper end of the zoom range is roughly equivalent to 420mm. That's the widest-ranging zoom that I have seen on a point-and-shoot (short of the 15x - 22x ones on certain Canon and Sony camcorders).

#16 of 63 Andrew Pratt

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Posted July 16 2004 - 03:34 AM

Quote:
I'm hearing good things about the S1 IS as well, but it's only 3.2 MP.

I just got my S1 and i'm really enjoying its long zoom lens with the stablizer. I never print 8*10 so I can't comment on how well those look but I've been impressed with its outdoor shooting and 5*7 prints etc. Indoors isn't its strong point though and macro shooting isn't nearly as good as my older A60 but for what i need it for the S1's a great little camera. Here's one of the more recent outdoor photo's I've taken with the S1 (note its a 1.6 meg image)

#17 of 63 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted July 16 2004 - 09:27 AM

Quote:
There's a 4 Mp Panasonic that has a 12x optical zoom with a constant speed of f/2.8 and an image stabilizer. The upper end of the zoom range is roughly equivalent to 420mm. That's the widest-ranging zoom that I have seen on a point-and-shoot (short of the 15x - 22x ones on certain Canon and Sony camcorders).

I've heard some good things about the Panny FZ10 also. However, just like the Canon S1 IS, it has a smallish sensor, and might actually be noisier than the S1 IS. I haven't looked into that camera much and have only seen a handful seriously resized pics from it -- and Phil Askey hasn't done a review for it either, so have no idea what it's really capable of. I'll say though that it certainly has a very intriguing lens as you pointed out -- and it's a Leica(!) too. I'm sure plenty of people have been interested in this digicam just because of the Leica name -- a photog friend of mine considered it for his first camera into digital although he probably should get a D70 instead. It's hard to find any camera w/ Leica lens that only costs ~$500 afterall. Heck, certainly made me think about selling my G3 for the FZ10 as backup cam *after* I had already settled on getting a DSLR. Posted Image

Other points of minor interest about the FZ10 include its use of Matsushita's own CCD -- forget whether this is 1st or 2nd gen, and the flash hotshoe -- what flash does this support?? Too bad it doesn't provide RAW support though, but then, the S1 IS doesn't do that either.

_Man_

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"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things..." (St. Paul)

#18 of 63 Thomas Newton

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Posted July 16 2004 - 05:53 PM

Quote:
Other points of minor interest about the FZ10 include ... the flash hotshoe -- what flash does this support??

I think I read somewhere that it is a "dumb" shoe.

#19 of 63 Dave_vega

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Posted July 16 2004 - 06:30 PM

I checked out numerous digital cameras today..I was going to purchase a canon powershot pro 1, but after trying it I was very dissapointed..the shutter lagged and would take the frame 1 second or so after the picture was actually taken..there were other features i did not enjoy about this camera..I fell in love with the sony dsc-f828, but after reading the reviews I know enough to stay way from this camera..never got the try the canon G5 or the sony dsc-f717 (which I heard is a much better camera than the 828)..I am pretty much in the same boat as you Aaron (not knowing what to buy)..I actually think i'll stick with my sony dsc-p52 for now because it takes pictures faster than any camera i've tried and the pic quality is superb for basically a point and shoot..8x10's are clear as day also..I don't know why it is so hard to find something that fits me perfectly.. Posted Image

#20 of 63 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted July 16 2004 - 06:40 PM

Dave,

I doubt the F717 is really better than F828. Yes, the F828 has noise and PF problem, but if you resize the pics to 5MP, it should compare well to the F717. Of course, that does make the 8MP capability almost a moot point. Then again, that's almost the same case w/ the Pro 1 vs the G5 and the G5 vs the G3.

Basically, don't buy the 8MP cams expecting significantly better image quality than their 5MP predecessors. Buy them for whatever extra features and/or better non-PQ-related performance, if you find them worthwhile.

And oh yes, one thing I forget to point out about the 8MP cams is that the Pro 1 (and Nikon offering) do not offer live preview histogram while the Oly 8080, Sony F828 and Minolta A2 do. It's not a big deal if you're shooting unchanging scenery and non-moving subjects, but could prove useful otherwise.

_Man_

Just another amateur learning to paint w/ "the light of the world".

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things..." (St. Paul)


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