Panasonic TZ5 or Canon G10?
December 9, 2008 12:30 PM   Subscribe

For getting shots of far-away animals, is it better to have a 9MP camera with a 10X zoom or a 14MP camera with a 5X zoom?

On business trips I like to take a small digicam with me. Recently I was in a hotel by the ocean with some birds flying around, and unfortunately, with my camera's weak zoom was not able to capture them very well. (Some attempts are here and here.) I am considering purchasing a camera to take along for those occasions when I unexpectedly see some wildlife I'd like to photograph. I am torn between the Panasonic TZ5 (9MP with 10X zoom), because it is almost as pocketable as my current camera and has a 10X zoom, and the Canon G10 (14.7MP with 5X zoom), which is still small enough to take on trips though not quite as compact, and was highly recommended by a photographer friend. The Canon G10 is a better camera and has more manual controls, which would be fun to use. For capturing far-away birds like I tried to do here, could I blow up an image from a 14.7MP camera with a 5X zoom to get the equivalent of a 10X zoom?

I know megapixels do not equal image quality! And I do have a DSLR with some nice lenses, which I use for photographic excursions. I am basically looking for a camera that I could use for those "unexpected" photographic opportunities.
posted by bchaplin to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
With a clear lens, I'd go with optical zoom over blowing up photos (which is digital zoom, and some cameras will even call it that). Lecia lenses are great if you can get 'em.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:36 PM on December 9, 2008

Take the longer zoom capability, as long as it's 10X optical zoom. If the image is too far away, no amount of megapixels will save you when you're blowing up/cropping the image.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 12:46 PM on December 9, 2008

Best answer: The "10X" or "5X" moniker isn't necessarily relevant here as that number just indicates the factor between the highest and lowest focal lengths, though in this particular case they have the same focal length at the wide end. What you want to compare is the actual focal length of each camera (adjusting for sensor size, i.e. 35mm equivalent). DPReview (link goes to comparison) shows the TZ5 as having a 280mm 35mm equivalent far end as compared to the G10's 140mm.

But in this case, the TZ5 achieves most of that extra reach by having a smaller sensor with roughly the same pixel density. The TZ5 probably has worse optics to accommodate its larger zoom ratio and worse sensor tech due to being older, so it's not at all unlikely that a crop from the G10 will be almost as good (or maybe even better!) than an original from the TZ5.
posted by 0xFCAF at 12:46 PM on December 9, 2008

Best answer: The problem with a longer lens, if you're taking "unexpected" photos, is that they also magnify camera movement. Learn to hold a camera steady, and/or get a lens with image stability, and/or use the optical viewfinder rather than the LCD screen, and/or use a tripod, fencepost, or something to physically stabilize the camera.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:48 PM on December 9, 2008

Response by poster: Both cameras have image stabilization, by the way.
posted by bchaplin at 12:53 PM on December 9, 2008

Beyond the zoom range, you will also want a camera with a short shutter lag, so you can snap a shot quickly.

I'm not sure a P&S camera is going to get you very far here, but lugging around an SLR can be a pain in the ass.
posted by chunking express at 12:58 PM on December 9, 2008

The Canon's image quality is far better than the Panasonic's. Go with the G10. Focal length means nothing if all of your photos have artifacts due to a lesser sensor.
posted by seymour.skinner at 1:28 PM on December 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice!
posted by bchaplin at 4:49 PM on December 9, 2008

you might be interested in this very inexpensive and portable way to stabilize your camera.
posted by Frasermoo at 5:36 PM on December 10, 2008

Response by poster: Hi - I thought I'd follow up with this thread. For my compact camera, I decided to go a totally different way and bought the Panasonic LX3. It is the opposite of a high-zoom camera, but it has a very wide angle and a lot of creative controls (shoots RAW, allows fixed aperture or shutter speed, does three different aspect ratios, great in low light). I really like it and have been carrying it every day, which I never did with my last camera. It's not super-compact but not quite as big as the G10. If I need the zoom I guess I'll be out of luck... but for actual vacations or hikes in the woods I'll take my DSLR.
posted by bchaplin at 3:05 PM on January 11, 2009

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