camera and binocular recommendations for the amateur

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Jun 18th, 2010, 03:41 PM
  #21
 
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Here is the camera I own - The Panasonic DMC-TZ5:
http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-DMC-.../dp/B0011Z8CCG

I have had it for over 2 years and it's still better than any other P&S I've seen. I believe the one I linked to above is a slightly newer model. The pictures are extremely vibrant and the "auto" feature is fantastic. The Leica lens takes fantastic photos and you also have the ability to take "widescreen" (not sure of the correct term) and "fullscreen" pictures at the same time. There is no view finder but the screen is so good that I've never once had a problem with it, even in bright sunlight.

Having said all of that, I've only used it for one major trip - to China. It was perfect for that. I've not used it for a safari though! I am trying to decide right now whether or not to buy a Canon Rebel XS. I'm not sure if it's worth lugging that thing around the whole time.
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Jun 18th, 2010, 03:42 PM
  #22
 
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oh one more thing about that camera...it takes HD video. The video quality can be really good but the microphone is awful. Basically nice for good little clips if a picture doesn't quite capture what you want.
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Jun 19th, 2010, 12:02 PM
  #23
 
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For the point and shoot, I need a viewfinder if shooting outdoors in sunlight (can't really see the image on the back screen). We have a Sony Cybershot, which has worked very well for us.
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Jun 20th, 2010, 12:49 PM
  #24
 
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elizabethj-

I am also in the middle of planning my September trip to South Africa and I have been agonizing over the camera thing for the past two weeks- literally- I have lost sleep over it! I finally decided yesterday to go with my gut and get my first choice- the Panasonic DMC FZ35. It is the bigger 'bridge' point and shoot model that looks like an SLR. Hands down- it got the best ratings across the board. Unlike the Canon SX10/20 IS, it is not nearly as heavy or cumbersome- it uses a rechargeable battery as opposed to the AAs that the Canons use and end up weighing it down. Some people see the need to buy specialized batteries as a con, but I have a backpack with solar panels and a power source for charging it to get me through the day (which I also suggest that you look into- I have gotten my money's worth over the years and on the plane, I will still be typing away on my netbook long after everyone else's batteries have died (no power source in economy). The best of the camera part was the price. You really have to hunt, but I was able to get mine for about $295 (from buydig.com with a coupon code that I googled and BCB- something I very strongly suggest you look into if you make a lot of online purchases- it stands for Bing Cash Back and it is NO hassle!) the $295 is compared to the SX10/20 at $350- $399 when not on sale. You can view actual video of the Panasomic as well as its still shots at youtube.com. The video is another 'pro' to this camera as it is able to use its optical zoom when filming. I am going to take a $50 photography course at a local camera store to learn the basics, and maybe some of the more advanced features. I just learned all this in the past week, so I am glad that I am able to share it with someone in the same boat as me Also, I apologize if I am repeating anything from previous posts.

Now, binoculars. They were not as important to me. At first, I was going to go with the brand Consumer Reports recommended- Olympus 8x21 RCI, which are reasonable at $44 from Amazon. But because I splurged on the camera (I am currently getting my Master's degree and don't have much extra money as a result; the $295 was a HUGE splurge to me! So, I wound up getting a pair from Best Buy- the Bushnell 8X21 compact binoculars 13- 2514C for less that $17, I opted to pick them up at my local Best Buy to save on shipping. I figured viewing the bush through binoculars would be too akin to being in a zoo- I want to focus more on what I can see, and if there is something worth looking at, then I have the cheap pair to assist me with that (not to mention the amazing zoom on he camera! in video mode!)

So, sorry for my ramblings. I hope I was able to help!!
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Jun 20th, 2010, 12:59 PM
  #25
 
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Sorry, I couple more things. The zoom on the FZ35 is 18X optical; which is very good. Now that I have read the previous posts, I will say, that I agree that you shouldn't go with the DSLRs, to much of a hassle.

Sony P&S are good but require a special memory card- an added expense. The Panasonic TZ5 that bluesphee mentioned is a great alternative, but not much cheaper than the FZ35. However, it is noticeably smaller than the FZ35. That also means that the zoom is less, I believe at 12X.

Please, don't hesitate to ask if you have further questions!!
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Jun 20th, 2010, 04:56 PM
  #26
 
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As I mentioned earlier, I myself am planning and shopping for a trip to Kenya in August so I am soaking up all your binocular and camera advice. I wanted to comment on TC's binocular shopping. We went shopping in a Dick's Sporting Goods for binoculars. We tested out at least ten different pairs. The binocular "expert" told us that he personally thought the Leupold brand were far brighter than many others. We tried them and found there to be a noticeable difference. I think we tried the Leupold Yosemite 8x30 ($129). I was hoping to get that second number a little higher but they sure seemed brighter. I also found that the "autofocus" ones didn't seem to auto focus very well. We also don't want to spend a lot due to needing to replace our big (good zoom) and small (pocket) cameras as well as all the other stuff we need to get before this trip. On a side note, if you do happen to shop at a Dick's Sporting Goods you can almost always get a 15-20% off printable coupon online. Just Google it.
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Jun 20th, 2010, 05:19 PM
  #27
 
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stamiya on Jun 19, 10 at 3:02pm
For the point and shoot, I need a viewfinder if shooting outdoors in sunlight (can't really see the image on the back screen). We have a Sony Cybershot, which has worked very well for us.

I agree. VIEWFINDER VIEWFINDER VIEWFINDER!

Whatever the brand, VIEWFINDER!
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Jun 20th, 2010, 06:38 PM
  #28
 
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long2travel-

Thanks for the heads up with Dick's. That's good advice- the costs can add up so quickly when planning such a trip; we don't want to feel as though we are 'skimping' on anything. I have chosen research and online coupons to help stay on budget and I have found that no matter what- you should always check for a coupon first! In my normal day to day I do not usually operate that way, I have always been a compulsive shopper. Needless to say, this experience is teaching me a lot.

atravelynn-

I couldn't agree more, viewfinders can come in very handy when your batteries are running low and you need to conserve by turning off the LCD. The Lumix TZ5, TZ5, and TZ7 are without viewfinders.

One more note- one thing that I have found is that it is the few nuances between the 'compact ultra zooms' that really make the difference to some people, including myself. The devil is in the details, or so they say. For a novice, one is just as good as the next. When it comes down to it, Axel2DP made a good point. The rankings of the highest rated cameras are only 9 points or so from the lower bunch. To the untrained eye- the differences are negligible, at best. If you have a $300 budget, let's say, that you HAVE to stick to, get the camera that is $50 less and invest the last $50 into a photography class. Through all of my research I have revisited my smaller P&S cameras and actually read the manual, lol. I understand know why they include those with purchase! I have really been misusing my old camera and the shots reflect that. Understanding the functions of your camera and what it is capable of- whether $50 or $5000 is what will make the difference between a missed opportunity and an amazing photo. At least we have a 17 hour flight to dedicate to mastering our technology! I know this is for another forum... but I dread that part of the trip!
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Jun 21st, 2010, 07:18 AM
  #29
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long2travel; You said just the right thing about the Leupold binoculars -- they are brighter. During our pre-safari search, we looked at everything available at Cabela's - including the $1000+ binoculars. I can honestly say that I found the Leupold to be as good. They are very bright and easy to focus. I really liked the ability to foucus on near objects as well as far, which some don't do too well. For birds - whether in Africa or your backyard - the near focus is something you'll want and most people don't really give it much consideration. If you go to Cabela's Bargain Cave, remember that items are half off the "marked price", which is already 25-50% off the retail price. If you find something you like, ask if there's additional stock, too. We found our Leupold's but the one on display didn't have a case. Not such a big deal, but the salesman found another pair in the back room that had all the extras. We got it for the same price.
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Jun 22nd, 2010, 04:29 AM
  #30
 
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TC- Thanks for the clue about Cabelas. They still have them and that IS a good deal. We don't have a store near us but I could get them online. I think we will getting Leupolds for sure. I just can't decide which ones. The 8x30s which I can find for around $95 and weigh only 18 ounces or the 8x42s, which will be a little bigger and heavier, for $129. I'm leaning toward the 8x30s and hoping that the 30 is big enough.
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Jun 22nd, 2010, 08:20 AM
  #31
 
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That should read: ...will BE getting Luepolds..
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Jun 25th, 2010, 12:43 PM
  #32
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http://www.optics4birding.com/basics2.aspx

Here's an article that talks through the differences between 8x30 and 8x42, etc. Might help with your decision. I strongly suggest going to a sporting store and having a look through all the different sizes even if you purchase on-line. Its impossible to know what works for you without giving them a try. Good luck.
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Jun 26th, 2010, 11:29 AM
  #33
 
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Was I just really lucky on my last safari to Tanzania? I bought binoculars and didn't use them ONCE. All of the animals were incredibly close - even the birds. In fact, I had to take the 400mm zoom off my camera and use the 18-200 in order to get the animals in the photos!

However, they are nice binoculars and I can recommend them since I have used them at home for bird watching (and spying on the neighbors - only kidding!). They are Meade Kestrel 8x42 waterproof/fogproof.

I'm going on another safari in October (to South Africa and Botswana this time) and I wasn't planning on taking them, but now I'm worried that my experience was unusual and perhaps I should try and lug them back to Africa...

As far as cameras go, I've gotten some great photos with the Lumix brand...the little point and shoot cameras have come such a long way and I'm sure you'll be happy with any of the models recommended above (I agree that a viewfinder is a necessity).

Have fun shopping! There is lots of good advice here for sure!

Carrie
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Jun 26th, 2010, 01:31 PM
  #34
 
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Simply echo previous suggestions as to visiting a store such as Dick's or Cabela's where you will have access to a variety of binocs. Check them out using images far and near but in different lighting situations for your consideration. Also,for both cameras and binocs your particular interests (general use versus say birding) may play a large role in what you select. For general binoc needs 7x35 may be more than sufficient. As to cameras, lots of good pics are taken with point-n-shoot particular if image stabilizer is included. Maybe a bit outdated but our Canon S3 has served us well for general use. Sure, if we want to do more with birds we need more mag and just recently entered the DSLR area with a Rebel T1s with telephoto. But, need not break the bank, so to speak, to gear up for a basic safari unless again, you are into particular such as birds. Dick
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Jun 26th, 2010, 09:52 PM
  #35
 
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And make sure to get a spare battery!
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Jun 28th, 2010, 07:21 PM
  #36
 
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elizabethj-
Haven't seen any posts from you in this thread for a while so you may be on safari already.

I recommended the Kodak as possibly being a good "amateur" safari camera earlier in the thread. I now see an alternative to Kodak in the same price range (under $300). It's the Olympus SP-800 UZ. It has similar features to the Kodak, perhaps better, but is an Olympus which some may consider to be a better brand. It's 14MP, 30X optical, and lighter than my Canon and the Kodak I mentioned previously. It also does the "in camera stitch mode," as well as having a fast "burst" mode.No, it does not have an eye-level viewfinder which is a drawback but with enough other features I can't find elsewhere I may learn to adapt.

Just ran across it and thought about passing it along as an option.

Happy shopping!
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Jun 28th, 2010, 11:54 PM
  #37
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A huge THANK YOU to all who responded.

Nope, not on safari yet. Departure date is mid August---so close, yet so far away.

Just been so darn busy with life, then finally had a little time to respond and my computer gave me grief.

But! I'm back now and very appreciative to all who responded.

I haven't gone shopping yet (ugh, I hate shopping) but really think I'll do it this weekend. Got my list, thanks to all of you!

Yes, I definately agree with all of you about getting a camera with a viewfinder. Don't think I'll be getting a DSLR--don't even know what that is!! Oh boy, the camera store staff will roll their eyes with me.

jkiefer27---good luck with your master's (getting mine about did me in). But at least now I have a great job that allows me to travel to Africa!!!

Any more suggestions before my shopping adventure??

You guys are great.
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Jun 29th, 2010, 04:13 AM
  #38
 
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I agree that you certainly don't want a DSLR. I also like the viewfinder but 30x zoom is quite tempting.

We are also going in August, the second week. Every so often I think I'm shopping too early and then I think "OMG it's July! I better start shopping!" I'm anxious to hear what you buy since I'm looking for the same stuff and am on the same timetable. Good luck shopping!
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Jun 29th, 2010, 04:58 PM
  #39
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Advantages of NON-DSLR:
1. Macro photography! can focus at 1 cm !!! (to get such a lens for DSLR means doubling your budget and adding an extra lens)
2. video (even HD) such a feature in DSLR is again a budget issue
3. sound recording - can even record a comment e.g. place's name on stills!
4. X18 or X20 zoom - important for bird and wildlife pics
getting a 450-500mm lens for DSLR is again expensive

I recommend Lumix X18 with Leica superb lens
Lumix DMC-FZ35/FZ38 has HD video, fast shooting options etc

another option is Canon SX X20-zoom

binoculars
no limit to budget: Zeiss, Swarowsky, Leitz
on a budget: Nikon action 8X40 surprised me with its price, quality better than the others at that price tag
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Jun 29th, 2010, 05:12 PM
  #40
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as for Carrie T comment on not having to use binoculars:
I can say i cannot even imagine a safari without binoculars, and i'm talking about a sample of about 100 safaries...
not only for looking at a leopard on a tree, even for seeing the beautiful colours of birds' feathers. in some of the best observations i had, i wished i could carry even a scope which i rarely do...
so ir you're travelling as a family, IMHO personal binoculars for each family member is a must

aby
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