Friday, October 12, 2012

Choosing a new camera? Steve's recommendation

There are so many cameras available today: compacts, superzooms, and SLRs, ranging from under $100 to over $6000.  The choices are complicated because it is so difficult to sort through all the marketing hype, with every camera company making up different terms for the same functions.  I am writing a fairly complete article to help people decide which camera is best for them but in researching the newest cameras, I came across one I just had to share.

I know a lot of us have bought compacts that easily fit in your pocket. These were great, but they are being replaced with the rapidly improving cameras on cell phones.  Personally, I don't see any reason to carry both.

The question is what to get for more serious photo opportunities. You're going on a vacation.  Your kid is playing soccer or acting in a play. You scored tickets to a big sporting event.  In these cases, you want something that can:
  • Work well in low light
  • Zoom in on distant subjects and still give a clean picture
  • Take a rapid series of photos
  • Record movies in HD
To accomplish this, some people go buy an entry level Digital SLR. They quickly learn that these cameras, with their requisite lenses, are big, heavy and expensive.  When I travel, more than half my carry-on baggage is always camera gear.

A possible solution:  the Superzoom.  Canon, Sony, Panasonic, and Nikon all make decent cameras in this category, but I was just blown away by Panasonic's newest: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. It does everything well in a nice, tight package.  Some people will get caught up in the fact that it "only" does 12M pixels. The mega-pixel war is one of the biggest mistakes of "more = better" that I have seen.  The DSLR I have been using for the past few years (Nikon D300s) is a 12MP camera and is completely sufficient for printing pictures up to 18 inches.

I won't duplicate all the marketing detail, but here are the things I care most about:
  • 24x optical zoom
  • f/2.8 lens throughout the entire zoom range.  This is extremely unusual and very valuable for both low light (school play) and portraits (soft, faded background)
  • Up to 12 frames per second
  • Shoots both RAW and JPG format pictures.  RAW is what advanced photographers use to capture more color depth and detail from each photo.This is normally only found on DSLRs.
  • Excellent movie capabilites
At the time I am writing this, it costs $550.  Not your cheap $150 compact, but a great deal compared to an expensive DSLR and lenses.

You can read the details about the FZ200 (and even order it) from here.

I you want to compare some of the better competitors, you can check out the  Canon PowerShot SX50 and the Sony DSC-HX200V. I think the Panasonic is the hands down winner, with the Sony in second place.

I like to pass along good solutions when I find them. Feel free to post questions if you have them.

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