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Frustrated with trade off's in choosing a camera

Discussion in 'Help Team' started by gordonramsey, Aug 1, 2010.

  1. gordonramsey

    gordonramsey Active Member

    I posted a few months ago and debated if there were any better compact's to replace my Panasonic Lumix TZ5 without going to an SLR. I love the TZ5 because it makes a novice like myself capture very good photos. HOWEVER... I meet many enthusiasts who say the compacts results cannot be compared to that of an SLR and if this is true I could be pursuaded to go to something much bigger, even an SLR if the results actually were streets ahead.

    I made the heinous mistake of taking advice from an in-store Nikon agent and purchased a bridge in-between...
    the CoolPix P100 which I was informed was the best model without going to an SLR. I have to admit I got carried away with comparing each models features and the a**hole in me was pursuaded by it's amazing X26 zoom which as you all will know and now I know having used it is utterly useless without a tripod to keep steady. The image quality is also very average. So being prepared to consider a much bulkier camera to produce better image quality I started looking into various cameras like the Panasonic LX3, GF1, Nikon D90 and D3000 and in playing around with functions I was amazed at the standard lens zoom capacity. Ok X26/ 678mm zoom of the P100 isn't necessary but I didn't expect a standard SLR lens to have reached it's zoom limit at 23.6mm and require spending another $XXX on another lens and perhaps a third. I am open to the accusation that perhaps I'm missing the trick and my lack of knowledge is to blame here (hence my appeal) and there might be a universal lens available for the SLR's which solves my dilemma?!

    Another annoyance was that one of the Nikon's required the use of the view finder which is not my preferred technique when lining up a shot and I prefer to use the LCD screen (yes I am a caveman who found a camera)! I just found it to be a frustrating experience all round and hence I post here for those better informed to advise.

    Ok My requirements/ criteria as follows:

    Price not an issue but I don't want be carrying several lenses along with a body the size of an SLR. I have limitations of space as I travel for a living.

    I am not interested in manual controls. The Automatic mode on my TZ5 produces magnificent images and my experience of playing with the manual functions of the P100 I just find to be very time consuming and I to coin a phrase I want to do the blasphomous 'point and shoot!'

    Most of my images are still tourist shots however I'm going to the US Open Tennis in September and would like to have a camera to capture some shots however if there is a trade off to be had in the camera I buy or the one lens I'm advised to buy then I am happy to take the hit here and choose every day use over a one off event. My TZ5 again captures amazing action shots.

    Most shooting is done in daylight.

    Macro feature is also preferred.

    Video function not a consideration.

    According to the specs on the TZ5 the X10 zoom which is what I expect the lens I buy to be capable of is the equivelant of 35mm.

    So which is the best camera with one lens which would meet my requirements. From the several Sony's, Canon's and Nikon's which is the best at shooting in automatic mode?

    Finally, it's often discussed on forum's like this that the obsession with Mega Pixels is over hyped and all too often is touted as the be all and end when it isn't a factor unless images are being blown up in size for printing. Why then did 'Photography Monthly' Place the Sony Alpha 900 in it's list of the top 50 cameras of all time which to quote:'includes a massive 24.6 MP full frame CMOS sensor which makes it an obvious inclusion in our list for that reason alone?' I'm one confused caveman...
  2. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry I can't offer any solution to the main points of your post. I have no experience of those types of camera.

    The pixel density on a Sony a900 is actually not very different to that on a 12mp APS-C camera - it has a much bigger sensor to contain all those pixels. The "Mega Pixel" problem is cramming too many on a small sensor - not of having a lot of pixels on a large sensor.
  3. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    A 10x zoom on an SLR will be huge! The only reason compact cameras can get away with such long zoom ranges is that the focal length range is from something like 2 to 20 mm due to the small sensor.

    Macro is not a camera feature in the SLR world, it is a lens feature and most serious macro shooters prefer a specialised lens for macro.

    From what you say I get the impression that an SLR is not what you need. Your requirements suggest that you need a Leatherman of a camera, an SLR is more like a technicians tool box with different tools for each different job.

    I have never owned a camera that combines all those functions into a single unit so I too am unable to advise further. What I can say is that the P100 can be used with the rear LCD active for framing, you don't have to use the finder. Though I feel bound to point out that you won't use an SLR that way and get acceptable results.
  4. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    I think that you are probably asking the impossible.

    The 26x zoom that you bought is almost certainly partly an interpolation algorithm and not an optical zoom and so will never deliver the quality.

    You have discovered that long lenses need a tripod or some sort of support - although you can get help through in body or in lens stabilisation but it's not a complete solution.

    Any lens with the zoom range that you apparently would like will be a compromise and will not deliver the optical quality of lower range (or even prime) lenses.

    The tone of your post (wanting auto etc) indicates to me that you don't have the inclination to put in the effort required to use a DSLR to its utmost - in which case I'd stick with what you have. You say it takes great pictures so be satisfied because it's unlikely that you will get noticeably better pictures unless you not only buy the proper kit but be prepared to carry ti and learn how to use it properly.

  5. Roy5051

    Roy5051 Well-Known Member

    I think that what you really want is a TZ10, which has a 12x zoom lens (35mm equivalent 25-300mm). It is obvious to me that you are delighted with your TZ5 so why not just upgrade to the latest model? If the P100 is anything like its predecessors (P80, P90) image quality has been shown in tests to be very poor. Unfortunately, Nikon do not seem to make good compact cameras!
  6. Fen

    Fen Well-Known Member

    You'll find that most photographers would actually prefer to use a viewfinder, so in that sense I would say that they are the cavemen, not wanting to go to new technology ;)
  7. Dorset_Mike

    Dorset_Mike Grumpy Old Fart

    To use a screen instead of a viewfinder means holding the camera some distance from the eye, the further out you hold your arms the more you increase the chance of camera shake.
  8. ermintrude

    ermintrude Hinkypuff

    Unfortunately using the long end of the zoom AND holding it at arms length to take the shot is a recipe for disaster, you simply can't have your cake and eat it. Just try using the viewfinder a bit, it'll get easier with practice and make a big difference to the shake in your camera. Theres no way round the problem of you wanting the zoom and not wanting camera shake (except having image stabilisation, but it cant save everything). Unless you put the effort in to learn how to avoid the pitfalls you're not going to get perfect pics unfortunately, you cant just buy a camera that defies the laws of physics.

    You seem happy with your TZ5 and I dont think a DSLR is what youre after if even a bridge is too much for you. Don't buy something just because others say your pics arent good enough, as long as youre hapy with them theyre fine.
  9. P_Stoddart

    P_Stoddart Well-Known Member

    First have you tried searching on www.flickr.com for images taken on the Nikon P100? Just type in nikon p100 and the images will be there for you to browse.

    I use this site on occasions to look at different camera of all shapes and sizes


    I does not have the P100 but it does have the P90 which is the previous model.

    The zoom on the P100 is true optical zoom of 26x. It can do this because when the sensor is small the optics are small.

    As you increase the size of the sensor the optics have to get bigger as well. So on dSLR which might be full frame. That is a sensor of 36mm x 24mm to get 678mm would be quite a big lens and heavy. You cheat by having a 300mm lens and a 2x converter but that does affect the quality and can cause problems of exposure.

    This is why in the last couple of years a new in between systems has appeared which is call four thirds. The sensor is smaller than 36mm x 24mm but not as small as bridge cameras like the P100. But the lenses are smaller and lighter. As is the camera. One downside to dSLR at things like tennis is they can be noisy when the shutter fires. Therefore could upset people. Four thirds and system that remove the optical view finder like the Sony NEX can be set up to run totally silent. There are also rangefinder style cameras like the PEN. Again look at Flickr.

    This might help with your understanding as well


    I suspect that most of the photographers on here only use shutter or aperture priority mode. They may even use full manual. Because the trick to some photography is balance the shutter speed against the f stops to get different affects while exposuring the image correctly.

    Finally what are you doing with your images. Are you printing them say 10x8 or A4? Are you just posting them online? If you zoom in on a computer to look at detail bear in mind that this is like enlarging the image. You might be doing the same as say having your image the size of a wall.

    Hope this helps :)
  10. gordonramsey

    gordonramsey Active Member

    It is true that I do not have the time to thoroughly learn about photography and this is because I have many other interests which already require tough decisions regarding time and financial commitments of the modern day working man! Some of the replies were focused on the technique I was using (using the LCD screen instead of the view finder) and these are examples of small changes I can make to get better results.

    However this being said I was amazed that many of the replies seemed to suggest that SLR's or dSLR's in auto mode perform no better than a much smaller compact in auto mode. Surely the better and bigger sensors and other kit in an SLR produce better results in auto mode?

    If I have understood correctly that the answer could be to consider a micro four thirds like the GF1 which I tried and initially I was put off that the standard lens which came with it also was limited in zoom range. If you could reply with more information about:

    1) which lens for the micro four thirds models I should look into to have the capacity to zoom to 35mm as I notice you say about dSLR's that the lenses are big and heavy and a x2 converter would compromise quality which I do not want and immediately rules out a dSLR due to me having restrictions on how much kit I can carry with travelling.

    2) If I buy a miro four thirds with a lens which zooms to 35mm is there still a compromise to be had in image quality when shooting at closer targets. Is this why there is no jack of all trades lens because each lens is designed to perform to it's optimum at different ranges?
  11. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    The answer, as always, is that it depends. ;)

    I guess, crudely, that any DSLR is capable of outperforming any compact whether it actually does outperform said compact depends upon whose hand it is in.

    Put me in a 'supercar' and, assuming that I didn't kill myself, I probably wouldn't get it round a circuit any faster than a proper driver would get my family saloon around the same circuit.

    I think that folk (including me) were tactfully telling you that if you can't or won't put in the effort to learn how to use the camera properly then you are wasting your time. I was also telling you that there are certain laws of physics that mean that 'superzoom lenses' are compromises and don't match the quality of shorter zooms or primes.

    It also depends on the ultimate use of the photo. If you just view them on a screen then there's little point (in my opinion) in spending loads. If you print to small size then there's little point in spending loads.

    Back to the car analogy - if all you do is tootle to Tesco then there's little point in buying a Bentley.

    Hope that this helps. I think that maybe you read too much into what folk were saying.

  12. Overread

    Overread Well-Known Member

    The other thing to consider is that DSLRs have very few auto modes - full auto, portrait, macro, no flash, landscape are all that my 400D and similar camera bodies have.
    For the eager learner this is no limit as they will eventually end up using the manual and semimanual controls to achive the shots they want - however for those that are going to be sitting in auto you might miss the fact that you don't have more creative auto mode options that point and shoot and bridge cameras tend to come with.
  13. gordonramsey

    gordonramsey Active Member

    On the contrary Mike and with respect: I think in your haste to say 'well if you can't be bothered then what can you expect' view and mentioning putting novices in sports cars you missed my crucial point of me mentioning AUTO MODE. I never mentioned I wanted to get an SLR and expected it to perform without me learning the functions I asked which camera gives the best results in Auto mode and asked if an SLR for all it's kit performs better in Auto than a compact. If you have anything positive to contribute like answering the 2 questions I posed or suggestions like those from 'Overread' and 'P_Stoddart' then I'd appreciate your reply.
  14. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    1. I'm not Mike - he's much wiser and more expert than I am.
    2. I didn't miss 'auto' - but it's irrelevant to the point that I was trying to make. It's irrelevant because most cameras don't perform differently in auto than they do in any other mode.
    3. With equal respect I didn't say the can't be bothered statement. I was trying to get over the strong feeling I have that due to limitations you put on your carrying capacity, available time and so on then maybe a DSLR is not for you.
    4. Maybe folk do tootle to the shops in inappropriate cars - but that's the point. For certain cars that use is inappropriate. They are not intended for that purpose. In any event it's possible to read too much into a simple analogy.
    5. Finally here's something constructive. I repeat that by reading your posts I believe that a DSLR is not the right camera for you.

    Now I'll bow out and save myself the time spent in trying to help you.

  15. ermintrude

    ermintrude Hinkypuff

    Well, you said:

    and there's nothing wrong with that at all, nobody's saying there's anything wrong with using Auto, we all have busy lives and can't choose to spend our time learning the ins and outs of absolutely everything.

    Whether a DSLR performs 'better' than a compact on Auto does depend on what you're intending to do with your pics, like other people have suggested above. If you are only going to look at them online or on small prints eg 6x4 or 5x7 then I would say generally no, most DSLRs arent any 'better' than a compact.

    Also even on Auto the camera will make 'mistakes' if it's not used in the 'right' way and you do need a very basic knowledge of the do's and do not's to avoid fooling it by accident, so in that way yes it does matter 'who is using it', that's not meant to be insulting in any way, just that you will always get 'better' results if you understand some basics.

    It's also not entirely clear what it is you're after as you keep mentioning the long zoom but at the same time saying 35mm, which is actually a fairly wide angle lens, so it would help a bit if you gave some idea what you want to use it for generally. You mention tennis which you could want both a wide angle and a long lens for depending on whether you're shooting the whole scene or zooming in on a player etc. Another thing in tennis is whether you're expecting to freeze frame the ball which tbh you are very unlikely to be able to do with anything at all on Auto, compact or DSLR as it requires knowledge of technique.

    If you could give u a little more information we might be able to help more.
  16. gordonramsey

    gordonramsey Active Member

    MickLL the debate had progressed to micro four thirds possibilities and the 2 questions I asked which you didn't answer...

    To explain this the TZ5 zoomed to 300mm and I have read that this is 35mm equivalent unless I have misunderstood how compact lenses equate.
  17. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    I'm with you on the frustration of compromises. I believe the conversion factor for micro 4/3 is x2, like regular 4/3, so the Panasonic 14-140 is going to give you the nearest you can get to what you want (28-280mm in old money). But I have not read a review.
    From all that has been said, my guess is that that might be your best compromise. I'd have to bet that at the thick end it will knock spots off a compact. My full 4/3 equivalent certainly will.
  18. P_Stoddart

    P_Stoddart Well-Known Member

    I would agree here. From your description this look likes something close to your brief. In addition like bridge cameras you can run the G2 totally silent with no shutter noise. I look like to me the G2 would even fit with the 14-140 lens in a jacket with zip pockets. It also offer you the option to see if a 45-200 lens (give you 90-400 in reality). It would be like being able to upgrading your 10x zoom on the TZ5 to 14x without losing pixels.

    It also has auto modes. Like bridges and compacts.

    But you can also consider the Sony NEX as I said before that give also 10x zoom if you get their 18-200 lens (27-300 on 35mm system) for it. Also silent as well.

    Find a independent store like Jessops to feel the cameras. They let you take test shots and print them on the spot so you can see if it does more than your TZ5.
  19. gordonramsey

    gordonramsey Active Member

    Ok this is all helpful! The running silent feature is not a massive consideration as the tennis is a one off event and getting the right all-round camera is more important.

    So we have the Panasonic G2 and Sony NEX any others which come to mind? Any reason why I ought to consider the G2 over the GF1 with my brief in mind?
  20. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    Sorry if I have missed the point but I think you are confused about zoom specifications. The "equivalent of 35mm" refers to a means of quoting the zoom range of a lens as if it were being used on a 35mm film camera. Such a camera, also known as full frame or FX, has a sensor 24mm high x 36mm wide. Thus your compact may have a lens of focal length 2mm to 20mm this would be quoted as, say, equivalent to 24mm-240mm on 35mm.

    So, if you want a lens that produces the same viewfinder image as a 600mm lens attached to a 35mm camera and you use a 4/3 system the actual focal length would be 300mm.

    A "jack of all trades" lens for a 35mm camera would, for me, have to cover a focal length range from 12mm to 600mm. Such a lens would be large, heavy and prohibitively expensive. It would also be too slow (too small an aperture) to be of any practical use. The norm for high quality zooms is a range of around 3:1 so 18-55, 70-200. Longer zoom ranges are available such as 18-70 and 70-300 but these are already compromising on maximum aperture. You can get 18-200 and 28-300 zooms too but there are more compromises made with the longer zoom range.

    Others will tell you that the, so called, super-zooms are fine and perfect for what they want. What they are actually saying is that the compromises are acceptable to them. You will have to decide for yourself if they are acceptable to you.

    Some research a while back suggested that most zooms are rarely used at focal lengths other than the extremes. Something else to think about in relation to a super-zoom.

    You also asked whether a DSLR, on auto, would produce a better image than a compact. Given the right technique the answer is yes, the larger pixels on a DSLR should deliver a higher quality image than the small pixels of a compact. Many people who switch to SLRs find that the images are not what they expect. The reason being that a larger sensor requires longer focal length lenses to produce the same image. With longer focal length comes shallower depth of field. With your compact camera the depth of field is very deep so almost everything is in-focus irrespective of the zoom setting. With an SLR this is not the case and for this reason new users are disappointed with their results. They frequently blame the camera but it is the laws of physics that are to blame. We don't have any means to alter those so it is something we have to put up with. Ultimately, a larger sensor allows greater creative control but you have to learn to use it.

    A compact camera does a lot of things reasonably well. An SLR camera can do a lot of things extremely well but you have to use dedicated equipment, beyond the basic camera, to achieve those results. For example your TZ5 is currently advertised at between £170 and £290 you already know that it has a zoom equivalent to 28mm to 280mm on 35mm. The top of the range standard zoom for a Nikon DX (smaller sensor than 35mm) camera is the 17-55, equivalent to 26-80 on 35mm, such a lens sells for £1000. It would be disappointing if the quality of the results from such a lens did not, in the right hands, exceed those from your TZ5.

    That doesn't mean that you have to spend that much, a Micro 4/3 camera with a 14-150 lens would be equivalent to your TZ3 in focal length terms and, with good technique, should deliver superior image quality. It will however be bigger and more expensive. I recall that you said price was not an issue so I suggest you go and have a look at something like that. The 14-150 lens I looked up was a Panasonic, no price quoted, so you might want to pair it with a Panasonic body.

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