Photogfilter: I've done my small amt. of due dil on photography, so I want to buy this rig: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50.
April 30, 2007 2:27 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to buy a rig w/as many features to help me learn the intermediates of photography to supplement a class I plan on taking after becoming more familiar.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50:

I assume I'll be up on the excellent termage you all share after using it for a week. No really. In a week... lol. I just hope it won't bore me after intense usage/study...

I learn quickly, but is there any other reason I shouldn't buy this cam? This cam _seems_ to fit my learning scenario and pseudo-casual usage. Maybe a true D next cam if this goes well. I'm also into video editing a bit.
posted by prodevel to Shopping (19 answers total)
That's a very interesting camera; it's almost an SLR, but has a fixed lens. I was going to suggest you get a Canon Digital Rebel XT (350XT), the entry level DSLR. But this Panasonic camera has many of the same control advantages of a DSLR at a very nice price. You'd pay about the same for just the 350XT body, plus another $400 or so for a comparable lens.

The biggest drawback of this camera vs. the usual DSLR is you're stuck with the one lens. It seems to be a fairly good lens, with a significant zoom, but the wide angle end at 35mm is kind of limited. And you won't have the joy of playing with high quality primes like the Canon 50/1.4 or any specialty lenses like fisheye or tilt/shift. Then again, you're not dropping hundreds of dollars on lenses!

I'd sure like to try one of these cameras. I don't think it'd replace my Canon Rebel, but it looks like an interesting compromise between price and quality.
posted by Nelson at 2:54 AM on April 30, 2007

Best answer: That camera costs almost as much as a Nikon D40, which is a real DSLR, with all kinds of future expansion options and compatibility. Just go for the real thing.
posted by designbot at 4:14 AM on April 30, 2007

Best answer: Here's the difference between "almost an SLR" and "really an SLR":

Sensor Size

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50: 1/1.8 " (7.18 x 5.32 mm)
Nikon D40: 23.7 x 15.5 mm (Nikon DX)
posted by designbot at 4:16 AM on April 30, 2007

Best answer: I faced a similar situation a few years ago when I got my Nikon Coolpix 5700; I really wanted a DSLR but at the time they were much more expensive. A week later Canon announced the D-Rebel which was just within my price range. Since then I have graduated to D-SLRs and after seeing the difference I would strongly encourage you to look at them before buying. I am partial to Canon, but Nikon also makes excellent cameras/lenses and other manufacturers are coming out with some nice D-SLRs as well. In addition to the sensor size factor mentioned by designbot, the number of lenses (I have lenses from 10 to 400 mm and 1.6 and full-frame cameras, so my zoom factor is over 60 as compared to the 12x zoom on the camera you are looking at), SLRs give you much more manual control which is important in difficult lighting as well as an important learning tool. Finally, I have yet to see a non-SLR digicam that has the absence of perceptible shutter lag that you will see on an SLR; this is very important for action shots and candid photography. The price you pay for this is both greater expense (although lenses if chosen well will outlast several camera bodies) and more bulk/complexity with less portability. If you are looking for a small, all in one package the camera you are looking at looks pretty nice; there are a number of other advanced point and shoots out there that would also be good. Put your hands on as many as you can before you buy to see which model feels best in your hands and has the best control layout for you. This goes for SLRs as well.
posted by TedW at 5:29 AM on April 30, 2007

I've got an FZ7, which is kind of an entry level FZ50. Lovely cameras, easy to use, nice lens (made by Leica), lots of manual controls, and they produce great images, but a) Panasonics are known to have image noise issues (anything over ISO 200 is going to look a bit rubbish), mine certainly does, and b) Panasonic accessories are like hen's teeth but rarer. And, as others have said, you can spend not much more and get a dSLR and all the associated benefits. I'm glad I got my FZ7 because it wasn't too much initial outlay and it's helping me learn about how to use aperture, shutter speed, etc, but I also sort of wish I'd saved up for a dSLR instead, even though it would have taken me AGES.
posted by terrynutkins at 5:29 AM on April 30, 2007

Best answer: I started on a similar camera, with a fixed lens - it was a great way for me to learn all the ins and outs of photography at a lower price. Then, once I knew what I wanted and was more comfortable with photography in general, I went out and got my full dSLR (2 years later).

Things I learned:

1. I found it HUGELY helpful to stay within the same brand. This way, a lot of the features, techniques, design and overall feel of the camera were very similar. The memory cards and card reader I picked up also worked for both, since the brand (Canon, in my case) used the same tech throughout their line. If you want to go Nikon eventually, you might consider a Nikon hybrid for now rather than the Panasonic.

2. Grain is almost always going to be higher in a hybrid than in a dSLR. It used to be that my indoor, no flash shots on the hybrid - even when well lit - were just riddled with grain at ISO 400. But my dSLR, even at ISO 1600, hasn't got one TENTH of the grain.
posted by twiki at 6:11 AM on April 30, 2007

I've got a Canon PowerShot G7. It's another good choice for somebody who doesn't want to buy a DSLR, for whatever reason.
posted by box at 6:17 AM on April 30, 2007

The DMC-FZ50 is slow to auto focus and has noise issues in anything below optimal light. I found that the focus sensors often made incorrect choices and that the flip-out LCD was annoying because you have to both flip and rotate it to fit to the back of the camera, plus it is very small compared to other modern digital cameras. Lastly, the pop-up flash must be manually released from the folded-down position, even if the camera wants to fire it it will remain stuck down, unlike many other modern cameras with fold-down flashes.

For these reasons and more, I would suggest getting an entry-level DSLR. Personally I would avoid the D40 because of the inability to auto-focus some Nikkor lenses and look at the D50 which can be found for about the same price or less.
posted by bcnarc at 6:32 AM on April 30, 2007

It's really a nice camera. Wide aperture can do decent available light work, macro focus is very close, giant max focal length, etc. But cramming all of this into one lens is going to show at some point.

Getting a DSLR will give you alot of confidence if you're at all serious about photography: that you're working with excellent gear, have unlimited upgrade potential, and still know that you're getting a great deal.

The XT, XTi, and Nikon equivalents have really let alot of people (myself included) break into the hobby with low prices and pro-level gear. An XT body and 50mm lens will set you back only $580.
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:54 AM on April 30, 2007

Best answer: I had the FZ30. For likely the same reasons you want it. Don't make the same mistake I did.

See here.

The people telling you to get a dSLR aren't just being snobs. You're saying that you're taking a class and hoping to learn. The FZ50 will be a great camera limited by a small sensor and fixed glass. You will outgrow it if you have any ambition at all. I outgrew the FZ30 in a matter of months just like everyone said I would. Even after getting an external flash, a wide angle converter lens and filters. All total I spent a nice chunk of cash on that set up. I should have saved the money and taken the dSLR plunge a month later.

I eventually chose the Nikon D80. If I were in the market right now and on a budget I'd look into the D40x which has a sensor comparable to the D80, similar resolution, etc., but it cheaper and smaller.
posted by FlamingBore at 6:58 AM on April 30, 2007

Best answer: I have a fuji finepix S9100. It's about as SLR like as you can get for a point and shoot. You zoom in by rotating the barrel on the lens. I shoot most of the time with a dSLR, and I bought the fuji as a travel camera. I've found it great to shoot with it. I love to be able to shoot video and stills with one camera. I can switch between still and video without taking my eye from the viewfinder.

One of the biggest differences between the Fuji and that panasonic you're looking at is the wide angle. The fuji goes to 28mm, while the panasonic goes to 35mm. This was a big deal to me because with my dSLR, I shoot with my wide angle lens a lot. 28 to 35 is a big deal. Pick up a camera that goes to 28 and then take some photos at both 28 and 35 to see the difference.

I find the photos pretty clean up to iso 400, and worth shooting at up to 800. It's not nearly as good as a dSLR, but you get a compact package, and a wide range of focal langths to work with with one lens. The fuji still isn't a small camera, but it's very portable. It also uses compact flash memory cards, which most dSLR's use, and AA bateries. No paying a fortune for a second battery like many point and shoots. Justbuy a second couple of sets of rechargeable NiMH batteries and you're all set.

Getting a dSLR isn't an easy decision. Don't just price out the body, but also lenses that roughly cover the focal langths you'd get with the fiji or panasonic. It's a lot more money. Of course, if you're going to really get into photography, you will buy a dSLR evenutally, and you won't be able to sell the smaller camera for much.

Good luck!
posted by thenormshow at 7:12 AM on April 30, 2007

Everything on Ken Rockwell's site is great, but this might be particularly helpful: The Two Classes of Digital Cameras.

If you just want to mess around with aperture and shutter settings, you can do that on almost any point-and-shoot. There's no particular advantage to getting something that looks like an SLR but really isn't.
posted by designbot at 7:36 AM on April 30, 2007

Best answer: stop.

this camera has a fixed lens. you wrote you want to learn and grow. you will tire of that really fast. get yourself the canon rebel xti. (dpreview link) we're talking a $250 difference here and you will get years more out of a real SLR that allows you to try out tons of different lenses. being around other photographers will make you want to use each others lenses anyway.
posted by krautland at 9:21 AM on April 30, 2007

(I got an XTi and haven't looked back. Not to push a brand or anything, but it's wildly popular now for good reasons)
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:03 AM on April 30, 2007

If you decide to take the dSLR plunge, do go and try out the two leading brands "hands on". I was all set to go with the Canon until I went into a store and actually handled them both. I hated the way the Canon felt in my hands and was happy with the Nikon. In the end, that was the reason that I went with the Nikon.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:12 AM on April 30, 2007

Do not get this. It's the worst of both worlds for every reason listed above. Nthing. I carry a cell phone w/ camera for the everyday stuff and a huge bag o' DSLR for everything else. I tried the Powershot G2/G3 route and I couldn't do anything I wanted to with focus, aperture, and so on.

(Why is "digital" not capitalized in "dSLR" if "Single," "Lens," and "Reflex" are? That just looks silly.)
posted by kcm at 11:28 AM on April 30, 2007

Best answer: Practical, no-nonsense reviews of the current entry-level DSLRs:
Nikon D40
Canon Rebel XTi
posted by designbot at 11:58 AM on April 30, 2007

nthing a DSLR ... I love my canon digital rebel EOS 300d ... even if it is only 6 megapixels.
posted by jannw at 12:13 PM on May 1, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all the input, all.

I hope the Nikon D40 will help capture my new adventure from the SF-Bay Area to NH nicely! I love the reviews I seen from your links and from ritz, amazon, et al. I'm excited to learn as much as I can so that I can upgrade and maybe use this as my 'point-and-shoot', lol j/k. I'm glad amazon had relevant mem-cards at the ready, though. It'd be nice if I could learn enough to justify a nice $2-3g version, incl. lenses/accessories to boot, though.

It almost gets me guessing how the professional photography world works. I assume there's not much interning, etc. Must be a world based on books/credentials/names.

Thanks again,

posted by prodevel at 2:05 AM on May 3, 2007

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