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 Posted:   Aug 17, 2014 - 9:54 AM   
 By:   Olivier   (Member)

Hi everyone!

In preparation for a possible trip to the USA in a few months, I'm thinking of buying a new camera.
The last one (a SONY compact) was purchased in 2004 and has been acting funny for some time, and I have been using my phone's camera (Samsung Galaxy S4) for a while; it's very good for a everyday, but a special occasion (a trip abroad) deserved something special.

I'm a total layman and am struggling through the technical characterstics in my search for information & reviews online, but I don't want something too basic either: not an expensive, luxurious, hyper professional device, but not something that would only be a slight improvement upon my phone.

Some criteria:
- really good picture quality (as stated above, the difference with the phone has to be significant)
- ability to handle low light very well (ex: concert hall, Disney park ride, night scene)
- a powerful zoom would be nice

In a store, I was advised to pick a bridge camera or a high end compact (I can't remember the exact name of that category-- expert compact? it might even just be the French name), and was shown
- the SONY DSC-HX400V
- the OLYMPUS Stylus 1
- three high end SONY compacts (RX100 models)
- and the CANON Powershot SX50.

"Shown" is to be taken very literally, like "pointed"; they were not powered, so i could not try any of
them.

I have been reading reviews and have found some other models, like the PANASONIC Lumix DMC-FZ200.

It's very complicated, confusing, so that chosing a camera is very tough: when I think I've narrowed it down to 1 or 2 models, a new review contradicts the previous ones.
For instance, the SONY DSC-HX400V is said to be overall excellent, but to have mediocre picture quality and a much too small viewfinder, or to be near perfect with no mention of picture quality or viewfinder flaws; the PANASONIC Lumix DMC-FZ200 is said to be great, but I've also read several times the autofocus was not always reliable.
I was told the SONYs were good, possibly the best, at handling low light conditions.

I should have taken notes, but most of it was hard to understand at first.
What I have gathered is that
- a constant f/2.8 aperture (which a few models have) is an excellent thing (the SONY can do this and f/1.6 as well: isn't it a good thing?) (correction: writing this from memory after reading lots of pages about different models, I made a mistake; the SONY DSC-HX400V has an aperture that varies from 2.8 at large angle to 6.3 at maximum zoom)
- 24mm is the minimum for
- it's not merely a matter of pixel density; the sensor should be as large as possible (so that a 16mp camera will produce better pictures than a 20mp one if it has a larger sensor); a backlit CMOS sensor seems to be (among?) the best.
- it's hard to find both good picture quality and a powerful zoom (yet what few examples I've seen of the SONY DSC-HX400V's abilities were impressive; the autofocus worked well while shooting a video and zooming to the maximum).

I'll keep reading, read over some of what I've already read, go to more stores.

Do you have any advice and suggestions, please?

 
 
 Posted:   Aug 17, 2014 - 5:45 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Like most things, there is no perfect camera at the perfect price. Everything is a compromise regarding megapixels, picture quality, zoom length, flash, weight, display size, battery life, and cost. Decide upon the factors that are most important to you and choose accordingly. And then don't worry that some other camera has yours beat on any given factor, since yours will beat that other camera in some other aspect.

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/digital-cameras/buying-guide.htm#flash

 
 Posted:   Aug 17, 2014 - 6:51 PM   
 By:   solium   (Member)

Good advice from Bob DiMucci. It seems to break down into four factors.

(1) Indoor shooting (low light)
(2) Outdoor shooting (bright light)
(3) Zoom (Digital vs Optical)
(4) Macro (Photographing tiny objects)

There's no perfect camera for all instances at an affordable consumer price.

 
 Posted:   Aug 17, 2014 - 6:55 PM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

You sound like you are getting into a lot more technical area than I have expertise to give you suggestions. But I would say that you are not going to have just some minimal improvement even if you were to get a much cheaper Panasonic Lumix camera than the one you are considering.

From my perspective, as someone who started taking photos on an android phone and then slowly migrated to a basic point-and-shoot camera to take over there are a few benefits that come from stand-alone cameras. These benefits exist in many cheaper options as well as the ones you are looking at.

1. The existence of optical zoom is not likely to be gotten close by any phone manufacturer in the near future.

2. The ability to control the shutter speed and aperture is not likely to be able to be done on a phone anytime soon.

Beyond those, it all depends on the features that are most important to you. The quality of the photos I take on the Panasonic Lumix I have is largely great though it was half as expensive as the one you link and is not nearly as fat. But it also is horrible in low light because the flash is pretty bad. So if you care about low light make sure you get something with a good flash. Also, the ability to take raw photos, assuming you are interested in learning how to correct problems with a photo you took could make it much easier for you to correct any problems with the resulting photos you take.

 
 Posted:   Aug 18, 2014 - 3:02 AM   
 By:   Olivier   (Member)

Thanks for your replies and thoughts!

Regarding low light abilities, I should have specified "without flash", since in some places you cannot use one.

It does seem necessary for one to make a compromise.

 
 
 Posted:   Aug 18, 2014 - 4:24 AM   
 By:   Tall Guy   (Member)

Thanks for your replies and thoughts!

Regarding low light abilities, I should have specified "without flash", since in some places you cannot use one.

It does seem necessary for one to make a compromise.



"a constant f/2.8 aperture (which a few models have) is an excellent thing (the SONY can do this and f/1.6 as well: isn't it a good thing?)"

My comments come from many years of using a 35mm SLR, and don't necessarily hold up in the digital age, but I hope they help...

Every photo is a compromise between shutter speed and aperture. To photograph a moving object, for example, you need as short a shutter speed as possible, up to for example 1/2000 of a second. This obviously requires more light to enter the camera, so the aperture needs to be as wide as possible - a wide aperture equals a low f stop number, so the lower the camera lens can handle, the better. BUT, if the aperture is really wide (say f/1.6 - but I had a lens on my old Pentax that would go to f/1.4) then you'll lose depth of field, so the auto focus has to be really on the ball.

On the other hand, for static objects, you can have a longer shutter speed, such as 1/60 or 1/125 of a second, and can use a smaller aperture, such as f/22, and get a really wide depth of field.

As far as the focal length of lenses is concerned, I used to keep a 55mm to 250mm zoom lens on the camera 90% of the time. The longer lengths were great for portraits as well as far away objects. I also had a series of wider angle lenses from time to time, down to 24mm which I think is the widest practicable lens. Any wider, you tend to get fish-eye effects, and it'd be no good for portraits unless you want your subject to have a huge nose. For most purposes, 28mm would be perfectly usable.

Like anything else, you want to get the best lenses you can afford if you go down the DSLR route. A bridge is a good compromise but you'll inevitably end up wishing that it did SOMETHING better than it does. Me, I can't afford the camera I want so I stick to my mobile's camera and BlackBerry Playbook until I can.

Ultimately, the best camera is the one you've got with you when a picture presents itself. A good eye for a photo can result in a good shot from any old bit of kit.

TG

 
 Posted:   Aug 18, 2014 - 9:39 AM   
 By:   Olivier   (Member)

Thanks, Tall Guy; this does clear up the issue of focal length.

For the same reason as you, I didn't decide to buy a new camera until now: it's so costly you need good opportunities to warrant it; the phone's camera is a good thing for everyday uses, fortunately; you can take some really good pictures.

I visited four stores this afternoon; some cameras can not be tested because they don't power them for some reason or other (the store is not equipped to do that, or the camera would then be considered as second-hand rather than a demonstration model if they sold it-- odd), so that I couldn't see what the SONYs' screens, menus, viewfinder look like (even a more luxurious model like the RX10, just out of curiosity).
That is quite a handicap.

Roughly the same advice and models as before.
Sony's RX100, but only the Mark III has a viewfinder, which is very useful when there's too much light to see the screen; it is quite expensive, however (900 euros, if I remember correctly razz ); out of my range.
The SONY 400V has a smaller sensor, but a greater zoom, can handle low light well too, and is about half the price.

 
 Posted:   Aug 18, 2014 - 10:53 AM   
 By:   gone   (Member)

The last 'point and shoot' camera I bought was a PANASONIC Lumix which I found new at Best Buy for $125 back in 2012. It takes excellent stills and good movies, and I like the general handling of the camera. The good news is that there is a lot to choose from in quality products for relatively low price.

I do like to have a decent optical zoom, and at least 720p for movies (preferably 1080p).

Also, there are a number of products out there that are water proof/resistant, which I like for underwater use ... but also helps if you get stuck in a rain storm. In other words you can pretty much forget about babying the camera with respect to rain, snow, fog, pool splash, whatever. Fuji has good products in this line. I've also found that Fuji has good capability for maintaining excellent dynamic range with jpeg photos (not blowing out the highlights).

The best single place for reviews is...

http://www.dpreview.com/camerareviews?category=compacts

You can find test shots, movie samples, pros & cons spelled out, you name it.

All the best, -Greg-

PS : here's where I keep my photos online

http://www.pbase.com/coraltown/root&page=all

 
 Posted:   Aug 18, 2014 - 1:43 PM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

Glad to see your inputs Gone. This is the Lumix I have, as reviewed on that site you linked to.
http://www.dpreview.com/products/panasonic/compacts/panasonic_dmczs25/overview

Works great for my needs because something like the larger Lumix the OP is considering just wouldn't work for me. I want something light. I still take some quite nice photos with it. For example:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sirusjrwolfie/14304279081/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sirusjrwolfie/13474810043/in/photostream/

But truthfully the low light photos are not so good.

 
 Posted:   Aug 18, 2014 - 3:05 PM   
 By:   Olivier   (Member)

Thanks for the links and opinions, Greg and Sirusjr!

dpreview is a really good site.

Sirus, where was that in Asia?
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sirusjrwolfie/13474810043/in/photostream/?rb=1
I'd love to visit China and Japan.

 
 Posted:   Aug 18, 2014 - 3:39 PM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

That one is in Shinjuku area of Tokyo, one of the big Electronics districts. Tokyo is CRAZY to visit though and very confusing.

 
 Posted:   Aug 21, 2014 - 10:27 AM   
 By:   Olivier   (Member)

Still burning up neurones thinking about this.

I have seen a few SAMSUNG models, as well, compact & hybrid:
NX3000 (hybrid)
NXmini (compact, using SONY's 1" receptor)
Smart Camera 2

I have corrected a mistake in my original message: the aperture of SONY's DSC-HX400V varies from 2.8 to 6.3; I mixed it up with something else (but what?).

Oh, and I've been able to see the SONY models in action (so to speak) (for French people, it was at Cobra): they were powered!
The HX400V's viewfinder is not so small as I had read; there may very well be larger ones, but it's not a terrible small viewfinder as I had read; I found it pretty good.

From what I have read and have been told, the order, starting from the best, would be:
SONY RX10 (1" sensor)
SONY RX100 III (1" sensor, viewfinder)
SONY RX100 II (1" sensor, no viewfinder, tiltable screen)
SONY RX100 (1" sensor-- no tiltable screen, no viewfinder)
SONY DSC-HX400V (powerful zoom)
CANON HS-50 (powerful zoom)
PANASONIC Lumix FZ200
(unsure about the order of the last two)
(I have to read more about the SAMSUNG models)

The first one is too pricey.
The RX100 has the same excellent large sensor, is small, but is about as expensive as the RX10 if you want a viewfinder, which is safer so as not to be bothered by glares on the screen.
The choice is narrowing down.

The last clerk I discussed with an hour ago was OK, but a bit too "Reflex is the best, or a hybrid at the least"-- in other words, anything else is worthless, but he was not too condescending; still, that was basically the message.
Everyone else, when I explained my needs and criteria, ruled out hybrids and mentioned the exact same bridge models.

Now, of course, I know that reflex cameras are the best, and that some makers build the best lenses, ...
But then, it's not for professional use and it's way too expensive.

Besides, one has to be reasonable.
Of course, most everyone would love to own a Rolls Royce, or a Jaguar, or a Ferrari, ..., but, besides the price, owning one does not make much sense if you don't have the opportunity to use a luxury car, if you only use it once in a while or to go to the supermarket, or if you don't have a safe, enclosed space to park it, ...

I'll have to print out a couple of pictures to see exactly what I have (the compact acting funny, and the smartphone); A4 format, A3 maximum if I find something really nice worth printing that size.

 
 Posted:   Aug 21, 2014 - 10:27 AM   
 By:   Olivier   (Member)

(Ooops)
Do you speak Japanese, Siriusjr?

 
 Posted:   Aug 21, 2014 - 1:13 PM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

I studied a little Japanese and speak a little never really got to the point where I felt comfortable speaking and generally didn't understand a lot of what I was hearing when trying to speak to someone. Then after spending a few days in Tokyo I decided to stop studying and switch to Spanish, which is progressing much faster.

 
 Posted:   Aug 21, 2014 - 2:15 PM   
 By:   Olivier   (Member)

I knew this site but had not visited it yet:
http://m.techradar.com/
Finally one that features the same scenes (not all, but a few) photographed with different cameras for easy comparison!
For instance:
http://techradar.com/reviews/cameras-and-camcorders/cameras/compact-cameras/sony-hx400v-1221175/review
http://techradar.com/reviews/cameras-and-camcorders/cameras/compact-cameras/canon-powershot-sx50-hs-1098217/review
http://www.techradar.com/reviews/cameras-and-camcorders/cameras/compact-cameras/panasonic-lumix-fz200-1101049/review

 
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