I'm buying my first digital camera - looking for advice on make & model

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Robert, Aug 28, 2005.

  1. Robert

    Robert Guest

    Hello everyone.

    I am in the market for my first digital camera. I would very much appreciate
    some advice on what is a good make and model. I am not looking for anything
    cheap, nor something over the top. Today at my local electronics store, the
    salesman showed my this camera: The Panasonic DMC-FZ5K-S seen here
    http://www.panasonic.ca/english/audiovideo/camerascamcorders/digitalstill/dmcfz5sk.asp. I
    almost bought it on the spot but then thought it might be a good idea to
    check some reviews and get user opinion. My research came up with mixed
    results. And quite a few of the raving reviews were clearly written by the
    Panasonic marketing people... it was really sad and quite obvious. So I'm
    here to get some opinions on what camera is good overall for performance and
    price. My budget is about $700 CDN (to you US folks that's about $525 USD) I
    really don't know too much about digital camera technologies or features,
    but I plan to learn. I'm looking for something GOOD in that price range.
    Here are my minimum specs:

    10-12x optical zoom
    5 megapixels
    Motion video - decent quality
    Built in flash
    High quality LCD screen

    The Panasonic noted above can only do 320x240 movies ... and many reviews
    said the quality was bad. Yes I know, you don't buy a digital camera to
    shoot movies ... but I'd still like it to be as good as possible. I have a
    high resolution printer so alot of my shots will be at the higher image size
    settings. Here are some things that I have been told to watch out for in
    digital cameras (I don't know anything about these):

    Picture "noise" when shooting high resolution images?
    "Barrel" effect or something ... something to do with poor quality lenses?
    Bad picture quality when shooting indoors ... either from bad flash or
    unsteady operation
    No autofocus or bad autofocus
    Difficult to operate menus

    Again, I don't know too much above the issues above, that's why I'm here ...
    to find a model that has "minimal" effects of the above or none at all.

    Please, I encourage as many people as possible to voice their opinion on
    great cameras and if you like, your experiences with them. Not asking for an
    essay or anything, even just a make and model and nothing else will be
    valuable. Thanx much to everyone.


    P.S. If there is a non SLR camera out there that is beyond my budget but you
    really believe in it, I would be open to knowing about them too. If worth it
    I would increase my budget ... just bear in mind im an amateur photographer.
    Robert, Aug 28, 2005
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  2. Robert,

    I have a Panasonic FZ5 and my wife has its bigger brother - the Panasonic
    FZ20. We have both been delighted with the cameras and the quality of the
    images we get from them.

    In my view, there is only one camera competing in the same price range and
    that's the Canon S2 IS. Whilst the image quality isn't quite as good as
    the Panasonic, it does have a better movie mode and a swivel LCD
    viewfinder which might influence your decision. On the other hand it's
    heavier, and uses AA batteries which may not be supplied with the camera
    (so you'll have to buy AA NiMH cells and a recharger) and which are more
    of a nuisance to change in the field (compared to the single LiIon battery
    of the Panasonic models).

    I would suggest you compare the handling of both cameras as well - one may
    suit you better than the other.

    Both are excellent cameras, and good value for money - you won't regret
    buying either.

    By the way, there is a newsgroup for this class of camera (the ZLR) at:


    where you will find many discussions about the relative merits of these
    two cameras.

    David J Taylor, Aug 28, 2005
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  3. Robert

    SleeperMan Guest

    I agree with David...Canon S2 IS is excellent camera, and you should
    seriousely consider it. Check out a few reviews, like at dbreview.com, then
    dcresource.com etc...
    S2 has movie mode in 640x480 at 30 fps and some tell it's comparable with
    Some bad stuff you wrote were somewhat present inS1 and are corrected in
    S2 - like indoor shoting (S2 now has AF assist lamp), then fast focusing
    Regarding batteries - when you get 2600 mAh NiMH pack, you can make way
    over 500 shots with one charge, lot among them with flash. Also using AA can
    be only good, since they are cheap and in an emergency you can buy
    alkaline's in every shop and make some shots with them...
    SleeperMan, Aug 28, 2005
  4. David J Taylor
    : On the other hand it's heavier, and uses AA batteries which may not be
    : supplied with the camera (so you'll have to buy AA NiMH cells and a
    : recharger) and which are more of a nuisance to change in the field
    : (compared to the single LiIon battery of the Panasonic models).

    I do not dispute David's comments but for another view of battery type I
    would like to comment. Cameras that take AA batteries (and in some cases
    Lithium cells that fit the same battery case such as a CR-V3) have one
    advantage over cameras that take a brand specific battery. AA,
    rechargeable and CR-V3 batteries are much easier to find. And since they
    are manufactured and sold by many different companies the competition
    tends to keep the price down. A camera that takes a proprietary battery
    has you over a barrel with respect to price and who you can buy from.

    For example if you are using a camera that takes camera brand specific
    batteries and you are on vacation, when your batteries are empty (and
    assuming they are rechargeable) you have to give up shooting for the day
    until you can recharge. While a AA style battery powered camera will allow
    you to purchase a package of duracells (or similar) to get you by until
    you can charge your primary batteries. True, these temporary batteries
    will not give you the number of images as a good lithium, and won't be as
    economical as a rechargeable battery(s), but you are not limited to just
    the number of batteries you have in advance.

    Just my take on the question.


    Randy Berbaum
    Champaign, IL
    Randy Berbaum, Aug 28, 2005
  5. Randy,

    Whilst I agree with much you say, there are plenty of 3rd-party
    alternatives to the manufacturer's own brand of Li-Ion batteries at quite
    reasonable prices. This is certainly true of the Panasonic range where
    the battery is in common across many cameras and other items.

    During the period I used AA cells with earlier digital cameras, I only
    once needed to buy spares on the spot. However, I would certainly
    recommend taking a spare battery or two (or four or eight in the case of
    AA cells!) so that you don't run out during the day. With the FZ5, I've
    never needed a third battery during the day, although I did with the Nikon

    What I would like to see is a limited set of standard Li-Ion batteries
    which could be used across a whole range of camera brands, rather than
    each manufacturer having their own shape and size. Much as we have AAA,
    AA etc. cells today. Perhaps capacities of 700mAh, 1000mAh and 1500mAh.

    David J Taylor, Aug 28, 2005
  6. Robert

    Bob Williams Guest

    I have owned 4 digicams (2 Canon, 1 Pentax and a PanasoniC DMC FZ15)
    The Panasonic is the best by far. The Leica, 12X Optical Zoom with Image
    Stabilization is a dream come true. I love the EVF because it allows you
    to handle the camera like a DSLR. I chose the 4MP over the 5MP FZ20
    because they both use the same size small sensor and I was concerned
    about more noise in the 5 MP images.
    The newest FZ series Flagship is the 8MP FZ30. It has a larger sensor
    than other FZ model, so noise should not be a serious problem.
    It will be available in September. If you can afford a few more bucks
    than $700 Can. This should be a hands down winner.
    Nothing else is comparable at the present time.
    It is reviewed in Phil Askeys site, http://www.dpreview.com
    It ia real stunner......Bob Williams
    Bob Williams, Aug 28, 2005
  7. Robert

    grumpy Guest

    The swivel LCD is rather nifty. One thing I don't like on the Canon is the Macro mode. Compared to
    my old Fuji S602Z, it sucks bigtime.
    I turned away from the Panasonic and purchased the Canon S2 IS solely because the Panasonic didn't
    use AA batteries. I feel comforted knowing that I can chuck a set of Alkalines in my camera should
    I run short of charged NiMH batteries. This has swayed my digital camera purchases since 1998.
    This is true.
    grumpy, Aug 28, 2005
  8. Robert

    SleeperMan Guest

    That strongly depends on type of camera. On my very old Olympus C300 i did
    just about 170 shots with one charge, and here i definitely had to have a
    spare set with me, while this is really not needed with Canon's since they
    can make over 600 shots, and without flash even more - all with one charge.
    Note that NiMH have capacity of 2600 mAh, while i don't think this is the
    case with Lithium, since they are put where there's no room or need to keep
    camera light enough. In this case camera's are usually made to have as
    little consumption as possible, so since some developing goes into this,
    rest of the stuff is kept of less quality.
    You're acting like Lithium doesn't go empty... all what Randy (an I)
    explained is meant that ...assuming you have a set of Lithiums in a camera
    for a while and you forget to recharge it (don't tell you're perfect and
    can't happen to you), go to some trip and they go empty...so you're fu**ed,
    roughly speaking, while with AA set, you go into nearest store, buy a pack
    of Duracell's and happily continue to shoot. Number of shots made with NiMH
    or Lithium doesn't really differ any...all you said is true to either of
    them if you DON'T forget to recharge...
    But, come on, buying a camera shouldn't in any way depend on type of
    batteries used, but rather on other functions, quality etc...
    SleeperMan, Aug 28, 2005
  9. Robert

    SleeperMan Guest

    really? Cano you explain a bit more?
    Since in S2, macro mode is from ZERO ... you can shoot object as close as
    touching the lens...what's wrong in that?
    Well, solely because AA...that's a theme to discuss...decision is really
    hard here...but, i agree about use of AA's
    I second that!
    SleeperMan, Aug 28, 2005
  10. Robert

    SleeperMan Guest

    All of above is true for S2 also - IS, 12x zoom and EVF.

    I chose the 4MP over the
    I compared my old S1 (3M) with new S2 (5M) and noise is not by a bit more
    present on new S2, so here is not to be concerned anout.
    Price here is deciding factor...since if it goes any higher, than buying a
    SLR would be a real thing to consider. Note that for that money you can get
    a decent SLR, although without flash, but note that flash in compact is
    anyway only half usable, so if having even more quality sensor (and camera),
    it's a nuisance to have external anyway.
    SleeperMan, Aug 28, 2005
  11. There's a very handy telephoto macro mode on the FZ5 which gives you a
    working distance of about 1m (3 feet) with a field width of about 90mm,
    distortion-free, in addition to the regular macro mode (field width about

    David J Taylor, Aug 28, 2005
  12. SleeperMan wrote:
    Yes, the capacity is different, but so is the voltage. NiMH 2600mAh at
    4.8V versus (whatever) at 7.2V. You only need 2/3 of the capacity in
    Li-Ion for the same energy storage. Which has the best energy to weight
    ratio right now?
    Well, that's not the way I work in the field. At the end of each day's
    shooting I recharge both empty and partially depleted cells so I start the
    next day with fully charged cells. I've tended to do that more
    consistently with the single part Li-ion batteries than with groups of
    four AA cells.
    Given two exactly equal cameras, I agree, but inevitably cameras aren't
    equal so one's personal preferences on power sources will come into the
    buying decision. There's no single right answer, of course.

    David J Taylor, Aug 28, 2005
  13. I went through the same process that you are going through a few months
    ago. The two cameras I looked at were the FZ5 and the Canon S2IS.
    They're both very good, but have slightly different pluses and minuses:

    FZ5: + Small, light, fast focus, fast burst mode (for consumer cameras)
    - Low res movie mode

    S2IS: + high-res movies, tilt/swivel LCD
    - Heavier, somewhat slower focusing and burst mode.

    Which one is best depends on what you care more about. I didn't care
    about movie mode, and did care about weight, so that pushed me into the
    FZ5 camp; I've been very happy with it. There are other cameras in this
    general class ($500 superzoom), but these two are (for now) the best of
    the bunch.

    The list prices are the same, though for the Canon you'll want to budget
    for some decent NiMH AA batteries and a charger; the Panasonic comes
    with a Li rechargeable and a charger. For both cameras, you'll also need
    to budget for more memory; they both come with tiny cards, which you'll
    definitely want to replace by something usefully large. I'd recommend a
    512 MB card for starters, which will hold 200ish high-resolution JPGs on
    either camera. Get more memory as needed.

    Daniel Silevitch, Aug 28, 2005
  14. If you think movie mode might be important to you, the Canon S2 IS has
    probably the best movie mode going right now. I was just showing a movie
    from my S2 IS on my TV, and it is amazing. Actually much better than any
    VHS camcorder. Ths sound is surprisingly good too. Oh, and it does take
    good pictures too. ; )
    Psych-O-Delic Voodoo Thunder Pig, Aug 28, 2005
  15. Robert

    SleeperMan Guest

    I didn't say nothing about weight...sure, if you want light camera, Li is
    the way to go...
    well, if you use a camera daily for work ,that's different. But many people
    here have it for hobby and are tend to forget to recharge...
    SleeperMan, Aug 28, 2005
  16. Robert

    SleeperMan Guest

    S2 makes better movies than any VHS camera...that has been said in many
    reviews, and is definitely true. Since Digital camera resolution isn't much
    bigger (752x ??? somewhere here), movie is quite comparable or even better
    than many cheap digicams, especially now with stereo hi quality sound.
    SleeperMan, Aug 28, 2005
  17. Robert

    Frank ess Guest

    I agree with that last, and suggest that the way the world works is
    going to drive you to a camera with proprietary energy cells.

    Let me also mention a circumstance that opened my eyes, so to speak: I
    ran my CP5700's two Nikon-made cells down to nothing, and continued
    with a good supply of AAs.

    At night, tired and ready to sleep, plugged in the Nikon charger, and
    blinked: it was going to take two or more hours to charge one cell.
    What would I do, set the alarm and wake up to plug in the second

    Next time out I had two chargers and a DC adapter/charger. One battery
    charged on the trip to the hotel and overnight while I slept through
    the two charges in-room. Three full in the morning, and lasted all

    I sprung for the two-unit charger from Canon, and discovered it
    charges one and then the other. Eliminates the need to wake up and
    change batteries, but extends the length of time necessary to arrive
    at two-full-charged units.

    Just another bit of grist for the mill.
    Frank ess, Aug 28, 2005
  18. Robert

    ASAAR Guest

    You can get decent NiMH AA batteries and a charger for very little
    cost. No matter which type of battery is used, many or most people
    would get at least one backup battery (or set). In that case, for
    the cost of a second Panasonic Li battery you could probably buy the
    NiMH charger and 4 or more sets of AA batteries.

    Each battery type has advantages and disadvantages. Li-ion is
    lighter and more convenient. But it's initially more expensive than
    NiMH, and ultimate far more expensive if the camera is used for many
    years, since Li-ion batteries deteriorate whether used or not, and
    so will probably have to be replaced far sooner that NiMH. This
    adds up, especially if backup batteries are used. NiMH doesn't
    retain its charge nearly as well, so you can't expect the batteries
    to perform well if they haven't been charged in a month or more.
    But this is a trivial problem if "overnight" chargers are avoided.
    There are many good chargers available that can charge a set of
    batteries in an hour or less, several in as little as 15 minutes.
    And when several years later their capacity is reduced and you might
    want to replace them, the old NiMH AAs will continue to work very
    well in many other types of devices, such as radios, CD and MP3
    players, etc.
    ASAAR, Aug 28, 2005
  19. Robert

    SleeperMan Guest

    Hm...you're confusing two important facts---two types mean two completely
    different charging protocols.
    Lithium cells are VERY sensitive to over and undercharging...in fact, one
    SINGLE over or undercharge kills them beyond repair. That's why EVERY
    lithium cell has built-in charger and that mean quality precise charger.
    While NiMH aren't so sensitive and so there are many different (read
    non-quality) chargers out there. It is very important that you buy a QUALITY
    charger, not one of those cheap time-based ones. They only count time and
    then reduce charging current. Those computer-controlled ones charge each
    cell individually (not in pairs) and they observe temperature and voltage
    when it's time to cut off. You must always buy such charger and always one
    who can take as many cells as they are in your camera. Having two-slot
    charger while the camera takes 4 cells is stupid. As an exapmle GP's
    PowerBank Smart 2 is one hour smart charger, it takes 60 minutes tops to
    charge 4 AA cells, has temp and voltage protection and can compete with any
    lithium one. It has a possibility to charge in a car from 12 volts so i
    really don't see any fuzz here. Also i wouldn't exactly reccomend to buy
    camera brand one, since they are camera experts, not charger ones. Get
    charger from a factory who works batteries, as they know what they are
    doing. Also don't buy some no-name cells, as they are tend to die sooner
    (but note that this is the same when buying some no-name lithium
    SleeperMan, Aug 28, 2005
  20. Robert

    Frank ess Guest

    Hm...I guess I missed completely the question that resulted in this

    Hm...I guess it's important though, or you wouldn't have unleashed
    such a barrage of keystrokes, Ne?

    Frank ess
    "In this universe there are things that
    just don't yield to thinking
    —plain or fancy—
    —J. Spicoli, PolyPartyPerson
    Frank ess, Aug 28, 2005
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