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SLR-like Camera Buying Advice?
I am looking to buy an SLR-like camera for under $400. I will be using my camera for very specific types of photos:.

-low-light indoor photographs of interiors (architecture, frescoes, sculptures, e.g. European churches)-outdoor photographs of architecture/buildings.

I am particularly concerned with being able to capture details at a distance, .e.g details of a fresco from 40 feet below, in uneven (and unalterable) lighting conditions. SLRs are out because I often have to take pictures quickly (no time for elaborate setting adjustments) and the camera can't look too professional or the proprietors of the various art historical sites where I take photos will get worried that I'm going to sell them (which I'm not...I'm an art historian and I need the photos for my work). I also need the images to be stable without a tripod or monopod, as they are typically not allowed in the places where I photograph..

I'm considering the Panasonic Lumix FZ18 and the Canon S5 IS...but I'm worried about the 18x or 12x zoom causing noise in interior settings with such a small sensor. Also the Canon doesn't have a raw format and I need to be able to manipulate/crop/edit my images with minimal quality loss..

Any help would be appreciated!..

Comments (15)

I'm in a similar boat and would love if someone can give an opinion for a good buy..

In addition to the panasonic fz18 and canon s5 is I am considering the sony dsc-h9 and the fuji s8000fd..

Someone please suggest..

Thanks...

Comment #1

Point and shoot cameras will always suffer in low light - nikon has an entry level slr the d40 which is very cheap and easy to useread the review here on dpreview..

Comment #2

Along with the Nikon D40 recommendation, you may want to also consider Pentax K100D/K100D super, Olympus E-410/510 series DSLR's. These are all entry level, smaller profile DSLR's. With larger sensors than other types of P&S or bridge cameras, they will offer better performance in low light conditions..

When selecting a camera, you must make trade offs. What is most important to you? Low light performance or physical appearance/size of the camera? If small sensor cameras offered the same performance as DSLR's, everyone would have switched to them already. So far small sensor cameras do not offer the best low light performance, but what is "good enough" is different for everyone. So you may want to search for some samples of low light shots taken by the candidate cameras or try them out to see for yourself if store has good return policy..

I made the switch to DSLR because I just don't want to risk taking pictures on special occasions and have them turn out poorly due to camera limitations. Entry-level DSLR's can perform under most conditions, I personally like having usable pictures at ISO 800 or 1600+ for indoor/no-flash situations. DSLR's are really not very difficult to use. When possible, I set the ISO setting appropriate for the lighting condition, then use AUTO mode so the camera takes care of the shutter speed and aperture. That gets me through 70% of my shooting. For the rest, if I want to tweak some exposure value, I just quickly adjust EV setting, and the camera will automatically adjust either shutter speed and/or aperture to achieve the desired exposure...

Comment #3

FZ18 is your best bet. Its lens has minimal distortion or fringing problems. It has wide angle as well as good tele zoom. Raw mode will help in capturing maximum possible details. You can later clean the noise up during PP using noise-reduction softwares like Neatimage etc for getting good enough results..

S5IS suffers from excessive chromatic aberrations. It does not have Raw mode too. Not good for your applications..

Capranico wrote:.

I'm considering the Panasonic Lumix FZ18 and the Canon S5 IS...butI'm worried about the 18x or 12x zoom causing noise in interiorsettings with such a small sensor. Also the Canon doesn't have a rawformat and I need to be able to manipulate/crop/edit my images withminimal quality loss..

Any help would be appreciated!.

Best Wishes, Ajayhttp://picasaweb.google.com/ajay0612..

Comment #4

Hmmm not so sure bur check out the link and decide for yourselfhttp://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicfz18/..

Comment #5

If you really need a high quality P&S look at the Canon G9 which has an excellent RAW mode. May not have enough zoom for your needs, but if this is not good enought then you may need to go for an entry level DSLR and such as the Nikon D40 or the Olympus (which has image stabaliser) and find a fast lens to keen your ISO levels (and therefor noise) low..

Might be worth investing in a small, table top tripod to allow you to get a longer exposure and keep the quality up. Also will not look too 'professional'..

You will find it difficult to get the DSLR and good lens within your budget, all depends on the quality that you are prepared to accept.Pixcellence Wedding Photographer Londonhttp://www.pixcellence.co.uk..

Comment #6

I was in the same boat, spend $200 extra and get a DSLR. the SLR like cameras are ok for outdoor bright photos, but most are noisy as heck indoors..

Capranico wrote:.

I am looking to buy an SLR-like camera for under $400. I will beusing my camera for very specific types of photos:-low-light indoor photographs of interiors (architecture, frescoes,sculptures, e.g. European churches)-outdoor photographs of architecture/buildings.

I am particularly concerned with being able to capture details at adistance, .e.g details of a fresco from 40 feet below, in uneven (andunalterable) lighting conditions. SLRs are out because I often haveto take pictures quickly (no time for elaborate setting adjustments)and the camera can't look too professional or the proprietors of thevarious art historical sites where I take photos will get worriedthat I'm going to sell them (which I'm not...I'm an art historian andI need the photos for my work). I also need the images to be stablewithout a tripod or monopod, as they are typically not allowed in theplaces where I photograph..

I'm considering the Panasonic Lumix FZ18 and the Canon S5 IS...butI'm worried about the 18x or 12x zoom causing noise in interiorsettings with such a small sensor. Also the Canon doesn't have a rawformat and I need to be able to manipulate/crop/edit my images withminimal quality loss..

Any help would be appreciated!..

Comment #7

Capranico wrote:.

I am looking to buy an SLR-like camera for under $400. I will beusing my camera for very specific types of photos:-low-light indoor photographs of interiors (architecture, frescoes,sculptures, e.g. European churches)-outdoor photographs of architecture/buildings.

For architecture and indoor you will need a wide-angle. Most Superzooms start at 35 or even 38mm that won't be enough for you. 28mm is the minimum to begin with (There are wide-angle-adapters for some cameras, too)..

I am particularly concerned with being able to capture details at adistance, .e.g details of a fresco from 40 feet below, in uneven (andunalterable) lighting conditions..

Sounds like you need a tele for this. But I don't see any chance to get an acceptable picture in a dimly lit church from 40 feet away. No Image stabilization will help you there, except one: Tripod..

SLRs are out because I often have.

To take pictures quickly (no time for elaborate setting adjustments).

All entry-level DSLRs have auto-mode. You switch the camera on and press the button. No need for any adjustments..

And the camera can't look too professional or the proprietors of thevarious art historical sites where I take photos will get worriedthat I'm going to sell them (which I'm not...I'm an art historian andI need the photos for my work)..

There are lots of people using DSLRs who do not sell any pictures! Where is the problem in telling someone what and why you are doing, IF someone should ask you?.

I also need the images to be stable.

Without a tripod or monopod, as they are typically not allowed in theplaces where I photograph..

That will for sure be difficult in low-light-conditions. Is there really no chance of talking to people and asking them, if you could take some pictures, because you need them for your research/teaching, ....

I'm considering the Panasonic Lumix FZ18 and the Canon S5 IS...butI'm worried about the 18x or 12x zoom causing noise in interiorsettings with such a small sensor. Also the Canon doesn't have a rawformat and I need to be able to manipulate/crop/edit my images withminimal quality loss..

A big zoom-range always produces an optical compromise..

Here are some numbers, I think I don't have to explain the consequences in terms of nois: Sensor-size of Superzooms (1/2.5") ~23mm; Bridge-Cameras (1/1.7") ~43mm; DSLR (APS) ~370mm.

I would strongly recommend taking a DSLR (and a tripod). For your purposes it will be really difficult with a P&S. (I would call the cameras you mentioned superzooms, DSLR-likes would be Fuji S6x00/S9x00 or Panasonic FZ-50).

As your budget is not too high, take a used DSLR, you don't need the fastest AF, ... You can also take used lenses (in fact you even don't need lenses with AF, as your objects do not move)..

If getting a new one, take something like D40 double-zoom-kit. I'd prefer this over a 18-200 superzoom. You'll get similar things for the other brands. One or two fast primes would be great, too, especially in low-light conditions (but you'll have to find a compromise with your budget).

I think there are lots of people using DSLRs who do not need them, but I think in your case it does really make sense...

Comment #8

I have seen K100D kits for $400 new. That would be by far the best package in the price range. AS and really good high ISO performance are hard to beat. Down the road, pick up a DA21 and possibly a DA40. Either of those lenses would allow it to fit in a large pocket...

Comment #9

Thanks for all the advice/replies. My husband has a D-40 and it's great, but a bit big for my purposes. It's really all about the best compromiseI recognize that I will not get the same low-light performance from a P & S or bridge camera, but if I am not allowed to take the photo to begin with, it's a moot point..

Explaining one's intentions or asking permission isn't feasible in the situations in which I photographthe best policy is to avoid the conversation to begin with by not looking conspicuous. (Anyone who has tried to take photographs in churches or other sites in Italy probably knows what I'm taking about).

I am replacing a Minolta Dimage Xt, so it's going to be a big improvement even if I don't go up to the SLR level. That camera has been pretty good for outdoor shots, but horrible (unsurprisingly) indoors...

Comment #10

The problem with P&S cameras is that they do not do well when the light gets dim or difficult. I have a really nice NV15, which is about 90% as good as my DSLR in good light. In darker conditions, my old *istDS beats it by a mile..

The K100D is still a good alternative because with a smaller prime, it looks like a film camera. With a pancake prime, it looks like a big P&S. My DS body is the same size as a D40 body but the typical lenses I use are usually a fraction the size of a kit lens. Hardly anyone notices me. With a "big" lens like a 17-70, people will stop me, even if it is just to ask me if I am a professional. Also, do not look at the LCD screen, otherwise, they will not know it is digital...

Comment #11

Have you researched the Fuji f30/f31 line of cameras? They are supposed to offer decent image quality at up to ISO 800. Just hard to find...

Comment #12

Almonds wrote:.

Hmmm not so sure bur check out the link and decide for yourselfhttp://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicfz18/.

There *are* other reviews than just dpreview!!!.

Take a look at Popular Photography's assessement of the FZ18! Not bad; not bad indeed:.

Http://www.popphoto.com/cameras/4836/shootout-18x-evf-superzooms.html.

I own the FZ18. It is top notch. If you don't think so, hop over to the Panasonic Talk Forum to read the comments of very satisfied owners. More importantly, take a look at their photos..

Gail ~ http://www.pbase.com/gailbMy digital camera BLOGs: Pany FZ18 & TZ3; Canon S2, SD700 & A570; Nikon 5400http://www.digicamhelp.com/camera-logs/index.php..

Comment #13

Well you get what you pay for ? 400? if your lucky a used sony dsc-r1.- wide angle 24mm and stealthy top eva ,works for me, top notch IQ..

Comment #14

Thanks again for the suggestions. The Fuji f30/31 cameras sound like they would have been good low-light choices (except they lack a RAW mode and zoom capabilities) but have become absurdly expensive ($400-$500 for a camera that retailed at half that). I'm not even sure they are available at those prices! People seem to be desperate to track them down. The Sony DSC-R1 looks great also, but is way too expensive, even used, and too big/heavy..

I think it's clear that they don't make the perfect camera for me, even with price as no object. I want the size of compact with the RAW format, flexibility, and IQ of an SLR...and that's asking way too much!.

So at the moment I'm leaning towards the Panasonic FZ8 rather than the FZ18. I don't need the extra zoom (or the wide angle) and I'm planning to shoot RAW so the issues with the NR on the in-camera processor don't concern me. Plus I think I'd prefer fewer megapixels with an identical sensor. I accept that it's not going to be very good at low-light, but I'll shoot RAW and try to make the best of it PP. It's got to be better than the Minolta xt! And, at $250, it's a bargain...

Comment #15

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