Three Models Tempt Me: One Wins
August 13, 2006 9:55 PM   Subscribe

Digital camera afficianados: if you had to pick between the three, would you pick the Sony DSC-H5, Konica Minolta Dimage A2, or the Panasonic DMC-FZ30?
posted by moonbird to Technology (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I used the Panasonic DMC-FZ30 for a few weeks this past Feb. and it was awesome. Great burst mode, supurb clairity of all images and awesome image stabilization system, which is a must. I'd go for that model a heartbeat.
posted by thebarron at 10:13 PM on August 13, 2006

Get the Panasonic.
Great camera, totally underrated.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 10:29 PM on August 13, 2006

Personally I'd go for the Minolta as it's the only one with a 28mm (equivalent) wide end. I like wide angle shots and I'd never buy a fixed-lens camera with a 35m wide end.

I had a SOny F717 for a while until I sold it for a Canon 10D. The tele-and-wide converters for it were expensive, heavy, awkward, reduced the aperture of the lens, slowed autofocus, added chromatic abberation, I wouldn't go down that route.

As an aside, I'd highly recommend a DSLR if you can afford it. They're cheaper and cheaper now and if you get serious about photography these mid-range cameras will get sorely lacking in a number of very important ways - depth of field, speed of operation (AF speed, shutter lag), noise and lens choices being big ones.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:01 PM on August 13, 2006

K-M has stopped making cameras and have sold support to Sony.
posted by Mitheral at 11:18 PM on August 13, 2006

3rd for the Panasonic. That's what I have and I can't say enough great things about it.

Simply put: I fell madly, deeply in love with photography because of what the Panasonic has allowed me to do.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:26 AM on August 14, 2006

Panasonic. But you should mention how you want to use it.
posted by planetkyoto at 1:03 AM on August 14, 2006

I've had the FZ30 for about 9 months now. I love it. It just has a feel to it... it feels like a camera should. The kinesthetics are perfect... using the camera manually is a breeze.

I brought it with me to China and this was absolutely the right camera.

My only gripe is image noise in long exposures and higher ISO. Panasonic tried to put too many megapixels into too small a space. If you look at a Canon EOS CCD, for instance, it's 6mp and the CCD is almost three times as large as the 8mp FZ30's.

The marketers wanted a high pixel count, so they got it... Because of that, you're limited to an ISO of 400. That's ridiculous for a camera this quality.

btw, is the best place to compare camera's, IMHO.

Here's a sample Flickr photoset if you want to look through my FZ30 shots. DPreview also has good hi-res samples.
posted by trinarian at 1:41 AM on August 14, 2006

Digital Camera Resource is another good site for reviews, etc.

BTW, I've haven't read about that specific Panasonic model, but I see noise showing up in the "cons" list of the few I have read.
posted by pmurray63 at 4:49 AM on August 14, 2006

I've got an FZ7, which is similar to (though cheaper than) the FZ30, and I have to echo the complaints about image noise. It's pretty much impossible to take pictures at night without huge amounts of noise, particularly in the blue channel, which seems to be more of a pain in the arse than perhaps red or green might have been. Even with neatimage low-light shots are mostly unusable.

You know, for not much more you could get a nikon DSLR. Is that an option?
posted by claudius at 4:53 AM on August 14, 2006

My sister has one of the Panasonic FZ cameras, and I thought it was very nice. It's medium-sized, but very light, and highly functional. Had a really great zoom. I didn't care for the viewfinder that much, but in all other respects I thought it was excellent.

You'd probably get better replies if you said what you intend to use the camera for, by the way.
posted by Malor at 5:16 AM on August 14, 2006

Thanks for the replies, everyone. I'm actually surprised that the Panasonic has gotten so much attention versus the Sony. The noise could be an issue- I do a lot of long exposure night shots. I also do a fair amount of nature photog, macros, and urban. I basically put a camera through its paces in all environments and take an ungodly amount of pix, lots unplanned and in the moment. I have a trip coming up to Big Sur and am looking for a cam with higher res than my present and much beloved Minolta Dimage Z1.
posted by moonbird at 7:20 AM on August 14, 2006

Here's another vote for the A2. It's got a wider wide end, which is important. It has a larger sensor than the FZ30 therefore lower noise and (incidentally) better colour rendition. The zoom ratio is not as long but the quality of lens is higher, e.g. less coma and spherical aberration, particularly in the corners... a fundamental issue with ultra long zooms.

I prefer the ergonomics of the A2 over the others - practically everything is a physical dial you can twiddle for instant effect... no digging through menus to change simple stuff. The A2 is aimed at someone who knows what they're doing with a camera and lays it all out for experimentation and/or easier access. The other two hide all the "frightening" stuff away.

The A2 connects to the excellent Minolta flashes and will also work with the new Sony ones since they've decided to be compatible, what with buying Minolta. The FZ30 has a flash shoe but I don't know what format.

The A2 takes CF, which is cheap and common. The FZ30 does not.

The A2 is discontinued along with the rest of Minolta so it might be hard to get it serviced. The LCD on the FZ30 is larger and higher resolution. The FZ30 takes better and longer videos.

Still, if you're serious I would strongly suggest you get a DSLR - that way you can always get better optics. Though you can pay as much (or 10x as much!) for one good lens as you will for any of these three cameras, you don't have to pay that much to experiment with a collection of interesting lenses.

I'd disregard the H5 - it has the same lens issues as the FZ30 (insufficiently wide wide end, poor performance - it looks like it's maybe the same OEM lens), small sensor and it doesn't even support an external flash. Slow max shutter and the storage for it (Memory Stick) is extortionate.

Disclaimer: I have Minolta cameras... but for good technical reasons, e.g. as stated above.
posted by polyglot at 7:20 AM on August 14, 2006

Though a relative of mine owns the FZ30, I can't tell you how it does with long-exposure night shots, but my instinct tells me that's a different situation than what everyone else is talking about re: noise in low-light situations. Long exposures are usually done at low ISO, so unless the FZ30 is also prone to hot pixels (which I doubt, as that appears to be a problem only with the older digital cameras) I'd cautiously say don't worry about the high-ISO noise.

In case you get your hands on a camera to test, hot pixels are easy to spot; if you take a long exposure and the resulting photo has unexplained bright spots, the camera is prone to hot pixels.

The reason why no one has suggested you buy the Sony is probably twofold. Memory Sticks are incredibly expensive when compared to other storage media like xD or CompactFlash, and generally Sony has a reputation nowadays for overpriced, underperforming technology.
posted by chrominance at 8:26 AM on August 14, 2006

About the noise-at-night issue with the FZ cameras: the problem is really with high ISOs (and by high I mean >200). IF you were taking eg. architectural pictures at night and could use long exposures (eg. ISO 100) the noise is not a problem.

Like I said before though, a DSLR (like the Nikon D50) is not much more than the cameras you're talking about.
posted by claudius at 8:28 AM on August 14, 2006

I own a camera from Panasonic FZ line. I love it.
posted by grabbingsand at 10:10 AM on August 14, 2006

Let me clarify about the FZ30 long exposure issue:

I had experienced the noise issue in lower light situations (high ISO) and had read so much about it I extrapolated and assumed it extended to the only other place I've had noise issues before in digital photography: long exposures with a 3mp Olympus years ok. I haven't even tried long exposures with the FZ30 because I was concerned the noise issues would be amplified.

Also... to clearify the noise issues even more; if you turn the internal noise-reduction engine off the images look far better. Most of the damage is being done candy-coating the problem. Reduce them manually later with NeatImage. Furthermore, the only time noise has been a problem big enough to really throw off a photo was an indoor shot of two gangsta rappers wearing lots gold with horrible indoor 40w bulb lighting.

Apologies for the confusion. I still hold that the FZ30 is an excellent camera.
posted by trinarian at 6:18 PM on August 14, 2006

Decision update: after trying out all three cameras in person, perousing review websites, sifting through ebay, and carefully considering the reviews, I've landed on a DSLR (Sony DSC-F828) in lieu of the original three models. The Panasonic was the next runner up, but the feel and functionality of the F828 was really impressive. I will have a hard time letting go of my Z1, and I actually went into this kinda hoping that the A2 would come out ahead as I've had such great luck with Minolta.

Thanks to everyone for your input. It's been a gadgety roller coaster!
posted by moonbird at 6:07 PM on August 15, 2006

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