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Need suggestions for a camera

by manatee128 / March 21, 2007 10:03 AM PDT

I'm in the market for a new digital camera and I've been trying to do a lot of research and am narrowing down my choices. Hope some of the experts on here can help me. My big question is whether or not to go with a DSLR.

Here's a brief description of what my situation is. I have a 19 month old dd and a very active labrador. I currently use a Nikon point & shoot (Coolpix p1, I think). The problem I have with the camera is that there is a shutter lag of about 1.5 seconds (feels longer) and the next shot delay is at least 3 seconds, sometimes longer when the battery is lower. The problem with this is that I can't capture the shot of the moment and it takes too long before I can take another picture (especially with the flash). Also, the picture quality is not great.

I'm looking for a camera that will shoot nice pictures of my dd and dog with a better optical zoom and the possibility to shoot wide-angle (not a must). It sounds like I need a DSLR but I know I'm never going to use more than the pre-set modes. I don't have the time to take photography classes and I don't know if DSLR is the right camera for me.

Right now, I'm looking at the Cannon Digital Rebel XTi or the Sony A-100 DSLR. I've also been looking at the Sony DSC-H2 or DSC-H5. Open to all suggestions on brands.

Any advice or suggestions? Help!

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ultrazoom
by Alexjhp / March 21, 2007 1:54 PM PDT

To me it seems like you need an ultra-zoom. The Olympus SP series is an example of an ultrazoom. Ultrazooms are a compromise between a compact and a SLR. They have big zoom. are medium sized(bigger than compact but smaller than SLR), have an in between set of manual controls along with scene modes and also have an in between price. What sets them apart is that they cant change lenses but their lenses have a zoom range that would otherwise be available only on SLRs for a very high price. As for the wide angle and zoom combo, there arent many options. I read that wide angle zoom lenses are very hard to make. The only camera I can think of that has that combo is the Olympus SP-550 which I own. Its on the more expensive side of the ultrazooms($500) but it has outstanding range. It does 1cm macro and can still go to 18x zoom. Mind you thats optical. It also has IS(image stabilization) which I have found to work at soeeds as slow as 4 seconds. On the down side it uses xD instead of SD but its worth looking into. Olympus fits you out pretty well with accesories. If you dont want to spend so much money get any other ultra-zoom just make sure it has IS(CCD shift or optical, NOT DIGITAL) or the zoom will pretty much be worthless. The older Olympus SPs dont have this so I wouldnt recommend it. Do some research though the Lumix are cheaper and I hear good but they dont have as much zoom(they have 10-12x).

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extra details on ultra-zooms
by Alexjhp / March 21, 2007 1:59 PM PDT
In reply to: ultrazoom

If you get any SLR or ultrazoom at lest know what th ISO is. Unless you want noisy photos from horrible auto modes you will have to fiddle around with the ISO. If you plan to use flash a lot though you shouldnt have to change the ISO that much. Ultra zooms(at least mine) also have burst modes so you can take fast shots. They sometimes have to drop the resolution by a bit though and you will have to wait a while after for the buffer to empty.

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sony Hs
by Alexjhp / March 21, 2007 2:07 PM PDT
In reply to: ultrazoom

The two Sony H series cameras you mentioned are ultrazooms. I know Sony makes good compacts but Ive never tried there other cameras. One thing you should know is that Sony is extremely proprietary. They only use ProStickDuo cards that only Sony makes. Olympus also uses special cards(xD) but many companies make them and Olympus supports third party accesories(four-thirds lenses for example). If you havent bought any expensive 2-gig card for a different format it shouldnt really matter but if you have to buy a new card its WAY cheaper to buy it online from srores like Adorama and J&R.

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Another... plug?
by fionndruinne / March 21, 2007 5:58 PM PDT

Not that I mean to go around plugging the Nikon D40, but I do like to recommend it for the features it does have, which in my opinion may be pretty close to ideal for some people. Whether or not you'd be such a person, well, only you can tell. But SLRs tend to be better as far as shutter lag (yes, there's a whole other feature - the viewfinder mirror flipping out of the way - to lag in a SLR, but their robust mechanisms compensate for this quite well), and the D40's power-on to first shot time is said to be under a half second! That's a biggie for me, a P&S owner with an old camera. It's a very compact but sturdy camera with fast focus times, and the ISO performance is very good for its class, better than you'd ever get with a glorified P&S/SLR-like camera. In-lens auto-focus systems are very fast as well. And the price ain't anything to complain about - $550.

Go with what seems good to you. The XTi is a very nice camera, but not truly oriented for beginners. Also 10.1 MP is huge, and since major cropping doesn't seem to be high on your list, it may be more of an inconvenience.

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ultra zoom
by sandy109 / March 23, 2007 4:20 AM PDT

I suggest looking into the Canon Powershot S3. it has an 12x optical zoom and it's even better with the teleconverter lens. It's not a point and shoot. hope this helps.

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oops
by sandy109 / March 23, 2007 4:38 AM PDT
In reply to: ultra zoom

sorry I meant to say it's not a DSLR

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Fast action photos
by hjfok / March 23, 2007 2:23 PM PDT

You don't really need a superzoom for fast action unless you plan to stand at a great distance for some sports. Usually longer zooms have smaller aperture and slower autofocus due to less light reaching the sensor.
What you need is a camera with fast start up, fast autofocus (even in indoor and low light), good high ISO performance and fast burst. Image stabilization is a great plus (a must for the low light/indoor).
D-SLR no question can step up the task easily. Canon Rebel XTi is a very good entry level D-SLR with fast startup and has burst up to 3fps (mid level D-SLR can often do 5fps). Action tends to blur in low light and flash can help you freeze the action (but of course this will delay shot-to-shot time, and may miss the moment). The best performance will be a D-SLR with a "fast" lens (with wide aperture, f/2.8 for zoom lens) equipped with image stabilization, which will allow faster shutter speed in low light (along with high ISO) to capture those precious moments without flash. But this will cost quite a bit no matter which body or brand of D-SLR you buy because the lens costs more than the body! The Sony A100 will help you save money on image stabilization ($500-600) but you still have to spend a moderate amount for a wide aperture lens without IS.
If you want a lower cost solution, you should try different advanced compact and PS cameras that have good low light performance. Most cameras can do fast action in bright day light without much problem.

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fast action photos
by hjfok / March 24, 2007 2:31 AM PDT
In reply to: Fast action photos
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action photos
by hjfok / March 24, 2007 4:07 AM PDT
In reply to: Fast action photos

For regular action photos, a 70-200 mm range is usually good. The 70 mm is good for portrait whereas 200 mm gives you enough reach for most regular action. Image stabilization is very helpful especially in low light. For a PS camera, 8-10x zoom is adequate. Remember longer zoom doesn't mean better picture. Try not to zoom out to the max each time you take pictures, instead try to get closer. This will generally give you a better picture. You will need longer zoom for wild life at a distance, stadium/field sports and birds photography. If you like taking pics at long distance, then having more megapixels (8+) on your camera will help, since you will likely need to do cropping.
To capture action, you need shutter speed at least 1/250-1/500 (or you can use a technique called panning if you know the direction your subject is moving). The shutter speed will get slowed if there is not enough light. To get more light to you camera's sensor, you need wider aperture (opening) of your lens. Or you need to increase the sensitivity to light on your sensor, which is the ISO. So using a wide aperture lens and having good high ISO performance generally helps you to get better pictures in low light. Indoor is considered low light in most cases unless you have studio hot lights. Longer zoom lens usually have smaller aperture/opening and usually less light gets to the sensor, so it gets slowed and has poor picture quality when lighting condition is suboptimal. PS cameras have even smaller openings so their quality is generally lower. Some cameras like Fuji is making sensors with better high ISO performance, so faster shutter speed can be used. But having enough light still gives better pictures.
The Canon Rebel XTi or Nikon D40 with a 70-200 mm f/2.8 IS/VR lens will cost about $2600+. The Sony A100 with a Sigma 70-200 mm f/2.8 (no IS needed) will cost about $1800+. You may still need the kit lens to give you wide angle and normal perspective range for the family photos. But these combos will give you solid performance and you will hardly miss a moment, though you may miss some greens in the wallet.

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Not so pricey...
by fionndruinne / March 24, 2007 7:27 AM PDT
In reply to: action photos

If you are willing to sacrifice the admittedly nice f2.8 aperture, which may indeed not mean much save to a very experienced photographer, you can pick up a Nikon D40 with 18-55mm kit lens and a new 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED-IF AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor lens for... only $800! That's about the same price as an XTi with only the 18-55 lens, and should be a nice setup for all but extreme macro photos.

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cheap lens
by hjfok / March 24, 2007 8:52 PM PDT
In reply to: Not so pricey...

You get what you pay for. The lenses are made of cheap plastics and have poor build quality; however the image quality is quite good (for still photos). But since these lenses are "slow" lenses, you will need to stay in good day light to take good action photos. For indoors and low light, you will need a flash and AF is generally slower than the higher end ones. Image stabilization does not help image blurring from movement of the subject, IS only decreases blurring from the photographer's natural hand shakiness. There are other shortcomings including less flexibility in the depth of field and difficult to get the bokeh effect.
Getting back to the original posting, I believe the need is to capture fast actions. Is a D-SLR with "slow" lens a better choice than a good advanced compact/PS camera for fast action photos? I don't know the answer for sure. I know for sure that D-SLR with "fast" lens definitely outperforms any advanced compact/PS camera by a big margin for indoor and low light action photos. You don't need to be an expert to use the "fast" lens or D-SLR. They actually make taking photos easier and more enjoyable. A lot of amateurs, like myself, use them. The extra aperture adds more creativity, and that makes photography an art, not just merely recording images. When you can see and appreciate what those lenses can do, you will know that those extra dollars are money well spent. But of course you have to decide for yourself.

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