What do you want to spend on your next camera? What sort of camera will it be?
If like me you are in the market for a new or replacement camera, and like me you would prefer the extra versatility you get from a bridge style camera, then what would be your choice?
I wont go into the details of each camera as that would take to long. Instead we will focus on two or three units.
We have a number of things to consider, but the best way as far as I’m concerned is to decide on a budget. Do a preferred budget cost and a “maybe I can stretch to this” budget as well. Why do I say this? Simply that I have often found that the camera that truly suits my needs at the time may in fact be a few dollars more than I had planned for. For this discussion I will set the upper limit budget at $700.00 NZD. And a preferred budget at $625.00NZD
Now lets look at what’s on offer. To make it easy for those that don’t live here in New Zealand, I generally use pricespy as my starting point for looking at costs of equipment.
The models I am interested in as a HS20 replacement are,
- Fuji HS30EXR
- Panasonic FZ200
- Pentax X-5.
There are obviously other models out there but I have narrowed it down to these three for now. The prices for these units are as follows
- Fuji = $514.00
- Panasonic = $782.00
- Pentax = $580.00
On price alone the Fuji wins this round, however do I really want a camera which is only marginally better than the HS20 I already own, and the answer to that is no.
Do I want a motorised or manual zoom? I prefer manual zoom, its greater degree of control and flexibility is excellent, however I do own and use motorised focussing Fuji cameras as well. My grab and go camera is still the Fuji s5700, a excellent all-round snapper, that has the added quality of being able to have an aperture range that includes f13 for a bit of extra sharpness. So at a pinch and providing its fast enough I could perhaps settle for a motorised focus unit, but in reality I really wouldn’t wont to.
The alternative super, superzooms.
Just in case you thought I hadn’t thought about other brands, lets briefly look at three more alternatives, Sony’s HX200v , Nikon’s P510 and the SX50 from Canon are all we priced for our budget. All offer some amazing zoom, coupled with motorised auto focus.
All offer significantly more zoom than the three camera above, and that’s part of the problem. Huge zoom is all well and good, but no matter how good the lens and tiny sensor these cameras sport the image quality for larger images and prints isn’t going to be there. The main reason for this is that at extreme telephoto lengths you really do need to be tripod mounted and that’s the problem with these cameras. Not to many of us are able to stand still enough even with image stabilisation to truly get a crisp image at these sorts of focal length. Is there such a thing as too much zoom. I would have to say that there is and not for the reason you may think.
With my HS20 I have taken images of the wind-farm that is visible from our home area. The distance in a straight line is approx 15kms. I have also taken images of the areas between us and the wind-farm In all but about 5% of these shots I wasn’t able to obtain critical focus. This is in part due to the nature of telephoto lenses getting softer with longer focal lengths. The most important inhibitor to this process is atmospheric distortion, worse in summer than winter as the heating of the ground makes a huge difference to visual acuity. I would contend that at about 200 yards on any given day this is likely to be the maximum distance you would expect to get clean shots and even then that’s rarer than you may think. At 600mm plus focal length my HS20 almost never returns a truly clean image at this sort of distance and nor will any of the other cameras listed above. What you will get is reasonably usable images at these sorts of distances but don’t try to crop or blow up these images too much as you will quickly lose resolution and detail.
Continued in part 2.