alternatives to Panasonic FZ3/FZ15?

Discussion in 'Panasonic Lumix' started by Pierre Jelenc, Jan 22, 2005.

  1. I've done a fair amount of homework through dpreview.com, epinions.com,
    and steves-digicams.com and have come to what a physicist would call a
    "local minimum": the Panasonic FZ3 or FZ15. However there are things I
    don't like about them, and I wonder if I'm overlooking a better solution
    because I am stuck in this metastable solution.

    What I like are the Leica f2.8 image-stabilized zoom, the manual focus of
    the FZ15, the powerful built-in flash, and the reasonably good AF in the
    dark.

    What I don't like are the proprietary battery, the EVF viewfinder that
    does not "boost up" in very dark conditions (most of my photos are
    musicians on stage, often very dark), and the lack of superfine JPEG mode
    (say 0-2% lossiness, as in the Canon Powershot series). They do offer TIFF
    raw images, but the size difference between a TIFF and a 100% JPEG is huge
    (something like 14 to 1) with very little benefit.

    So, is there something else I should be looking at?

    Thanks,

    Pierre
     
    Pierre Jelenc, Jan 22, 2005
    #1
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  2. Pierre Jelenc

    Harvey Guest

    Look at the Panasonic FZ-20. Ninety seven percent of buyers are happy with
    that camera. No other camera comes close.
     
    Harvey, Jan 22, 2005
    #2
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  3. As far as I can tell, the only difference with the FZ15 is the larger
    image (5 Mpx vs 4Mpx), which is not significant for my purposes and adds
    $100 to the price.

    Pierre
     
    Pierre Jelenc, Jan 22, 2005
    #3
  4. But they suffer from the same drawbacks as the other Panasonics. Are there
    NON-Panasonic equivalents that solve my problems with battery (I really
    would like AA), viewfinder (either dark-adaptable EVF or optical), and
    image quality (superfine JPEG, ideally 0% loss, but 1 or 2% OK), while
    keeping the stabilized zoom and good autofocus in the dark?

    Pierre
     
    Pierre Jelenc, Jan 22, 2005
    #4
  5. The only image-stabilised zoom I would recommend that takes AA batteries
    in the Canon S1 IS. Batteries for the FZ20 (and I presume the FZ3/FZ15)
    are widely available.

    How are you quantifying the JPEG loss?

    You might also want to ask in rec.photo.digital.zlr

    David
     
    David J Taylor, Jan 22, 2005
    #5
  6. Pierre Jelenc

    Dirk Gently Guest

    And cheap too......I've got a couple of the Japanese made, China assembled
    FZ20 batteries and they're working just fine for me. Being that they're not that
    old, I can't comment on their expected life span. In any case, if I were doing
    work that required longer battery life I would get one of those external packs
    that uses AA and attaches to the camera's tripod socket.
     
    Dirk Gently, Jan 22, 2005
    #6
  7. Experimentally. I took several 1600x1200 JPEG images that were saved with
    zero lossiness, and saved them at 1%, 2&, 5%, 10% etc lossiness, and i
    compared the file sizes with that of the "superfine" images from Canon. I
    concluded that they are saved with about 1 or 2 % lossiness.

    Pierre
     
    Pierre Jelenc, Jan 23, 2005
    #7
  8. Thanks, I did not realise there were 3rd party batteries that fit the
    camera.
    Do they keep the charge well? Are they in some sort of protective, non-
    conducting case?

    One more question: What color is the light for the focusing aid? Is it
    obtrusive in semi-darkness?

    Thanks,

    Pierre
     
    Pierre Jelenc, Jan 23, 2005
    #8
  9. What program did you use to save the images at these loss percentages? I
    ask because there are no standard units. For example:

    - IJG JPEG library - near no loss: setting 100; some loss: 95, more
    loss: 80

    - Paint Shop Pro - near no loss: setting 0 or 1, some loss: 3; more loss:
    18

    And it isn't that PSP and IJG are just the complement of each other
    either. If you specify a JPEG loss percent, you need to specify the
    program which is causing that loss.

    To get a better measure of what you mean, could you see 1-2% loss on an 8
    x 10 inch print viewed at arm's length, for example?

    Cheers,
    David
     
    David J Taylor, Jan 23, 2005
    #9
  10. Specifically in that case, PMView, but all the OS/2 graphics programs that
    I use let me save JPEG with a continuously selectable "quality factor"
    from 0 to 100%, and the file sizes and visible artifacts at a given QF are
    quite similar for all the programs (PMview, Embellish, PhotoGraphics,
    Impos/2. Only PMView is available for Windows AFAIK: www.pmview.com )
    I did not print anything, only compared the images on screen. The 1-2%
    ones are totally indistinguishable to my eye from the original BMP
    (especially, no fringe artifacts along sharp boundaries) though if I test
    on an especially tough case that's not meant for JPEG anyway, a red strip
    next to a green strip, I do see intermediate colors along the boundary
    when I zoom in. Presumably the result of the mathematical rounding-off
    errors.

    Pierre
     
    Pierre Jelenc, Jan 24, 2005
    #10
  11. Red is good. My main use will be for musicians and other performers on
    stage; there's practically always a red spotlight already, so the extra
    red beam will not be very noticeable.

    Pierre
     
    Pierre Jelenc, Jan 24, 2005
    #11
  12. I'm looking most intently at the FZ15 (I don't need the extra 1Mpx, and
    the $100 would be better spent on batteries and memory cards...) and it
    appears to be identical to the FZ20 with respect to the focusing help
    light.
    My Pentax point & shoot has the same problem, so I'm used to that.
     
    Pierre Jelenc, Jan 24, 2005
    #12
  13. Thanks. I suggest you always quote the program when giving numerical JPEG
    compression factors.
    Thanks again - you seem to be saying that "JPEG fine" gives no noticeable
    degradation when viewed at "normal zoom", so perhaps that will also be
    true with a print held at "normal" viewing distance.

    The intermediate colours are possibly due to the fact that the colour
    (chrominance) information in many JPEGs is only sampled at half the
    spatial frequency which the brightness (luminance) information is. This
    is typically done because the eye is less sensitive to detail in colour
    information. If you take the same detailed picture and save it in a JPEG
    with equal luminance and chrominance resolution, these edge colour
    artefacts can disappear.

    Whether it's worth doing so for a typical Bayer sensor image is another
    question!

    Cheers,
    David
     
    David J Taylor, Jan 24, 2005
    #13
  14. Pierre Jelenc

    Bruce Graham Guest

    I think the focus assist light has a short range - not for concerts.
     
    Bruce Graham, Jan 24, 2005
    #14
  15. Pierre Jelenc

    Bruce Graham Guest

    but unless you spend a *lot* of money on lenses, you probably don't want
    to use faster than a f5.6 or preferably f8 aperture on your DLSR, yet the
    panasonics seem to allow good quality at f2.8, so 2-3 stops of the speed
    advantage of the DSLR disappears unless you use pro lenses (or at least a
    collection of primes like 85mm f1.8's). My daughter picks up her FZ20
    tonight and I look forward to checking it out to see if this promise is
    realised.
     
    Bruce Graham, Jan 24, 2005
    #15
  16. Pierre Jelenc

    Tony Guest

    I bought a Panasonic FZ3 recently and my friend bought a D300 at the same
    time. I lent my friend a Canon 75 - 300 mm lens from my 35 mm kit, to try
    out. There is no comparison between his pictures and mine, in resolution
    and noise. If you are after really good quality pictures, a DSLR has to be
    the way to go. If you want a long zoom with minimum size and weight, for
    home and family use, the FZ3 seems pretty good. By my reckoning, the
    Panasonic FZ20 falls between two stools: it's not really small and light but
    nor does it have the sensor size of a real DSLR.

    If you are comparing offerings from Minolta, Canon and Panasonic, either try
    them out beforehand, or if you can't do that look carefully at some of the
    detailed reviews that give direct comparison of similar pictures from
    different cameras. In my opinion there are significant differences in noise
    and resolution. Also the wide aperture at the long end of the zoom is a
    significant advantage of the FZ3, since you may find that you have to shoot
    at 100 ASA to get acceptable noise performance. Another also: the image
    stabilisation systems may not be equal. I've tried both the Minolta Z3 and
    Panasonic FZ3. Neither is completely consistent but the Minolta seemed more
    erratic in performance to me. YMMV!
     
    Tony, Jan 24, 2005
    #16
  17. Actually that's the "superfine" mode from Canon. "Fine" is more like
    85-90% but I did not do a precise comparison (and I don't have any longer
    the loaner A60 that I was using at the time) when I found that "superfine"
    was practically as good as lossless and I still had room for over 200
    shots on one memory card.

    Pierre
     
    Pierre Jelenc, Jan 24, 2005
    #17
  18. I don't do arenas, I tend to be on the front row in 50-200 seat rooms, so
    that's usually OK. Big rooms tend to have more brightly lit stages anyway,
    so there's less need for an auxilliary focus light.

    Pierre
     
    Pierre Jelenc, Jan 24, 2005
    #18
  19. ....

    Please note that the autofocus assist light is only effective at relatively
    short ranges. I doubt that it would be any use at all for performers on
    stage. That said, I've been able to get perfectly focused photos from
    my FZ20, even in almost total darkness. (Again, only with targets within
    about 6 feet.)

    Just for the record, I love my FZ20; its the most capable camera I've
    ever owned. }:)


    --
    Dan (Woj...) [dmaster](no space)[at](no space)[lucent](no space)[dot](no
    space)[com]
    ===============================
    "I see you coming / To the end of the day
    And was it worth it? / No one can say
    I see your face / It is ghostly pale
    Into the sunset / We are watching you sail"
     
    Dan Wojciechowski, Jan 28, 2005
    #19
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