Digital Camera Newbie

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Dec 30th, 2005, 08:09 PM
  #1
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Digital Camera Newbie

I'm planning to travel to South Africa this coming March for the first time and will take a few safari tours. The more research I do on what digital camera to buy, the more confused I become. I'm looking to spend about $500. Would a telephoto lens be a good idea? I would greatly appreciate suggestions from someone who has already taken this type of tour. Please keep in mind that I'm one step below a novice when it comes to digital cameras!
Thanks!!!
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Dec 31st, 2005, 01:55 AM
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There is a whole thread on this topic. But yes, telephoto good idea. up to 300mm equivalent is a good idea. I like the flexability of a digital slr if you can afford a few more $
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Dec 31st, 2005, 05:58 AM
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Hi Marnah:

The following thread has some info on digital cameras:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34689483.

If you type in “digital cameras” in the search field, you’ll get more.

Based on what I read on various threads here and elsewhere, I opted for the Panasonic FX30 for our upcoming February safari. I bought it from buydig.com for $530 +/-. I went for this camera because of the 12x optical zoom, and because of the 8mp. I hope to be able to get some good pictures that I can enlarge up to 20 by whatever, so I wanted the high megapx. Like you, I am a COMPLETE novice when it comes to digital photography, and I have definatley found it to be a challenge getting used to the way the camera works. The way it looks through the viewfinder is very different from my slr, and I am a novice with that one too, so –lots to learn. Get your camera as soon as you can so you can practice. If you want to see some pics from one who has just started using the new Panasonic, the following links are some (non-safari) pictures I have taken. I have gotten some really good criticism/advice about different settings and things to try from Phil (Author: pnd1 ([email protected])who is currently in Africa, the lucky duck!) and from Julian (jasher, who I haven’t seen post in a while). wjsonl & gardyloo seem knowledgeable about digital too, so you could try clicking on their screen names to find some advice from them.

Testing FX
http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slidesho...Uy=l48v9t&Ux=0

Practice Practice Practice:
http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...&h=1&y=-hp746l

ICE
http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...i&x=0&y=levn20

Good luck!

Cyn
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Dec 31st, 2005, 06:05 PM
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Thanks Pumbavu and Cyn for tips! I went camera testing today and I think found the one for me. I really liked the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30. I'm new to Fodor's so I will definitely be checking other posts for more good suggestions for my upcoming safari. Thanks again, and happy travels!
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Jan 1st, 2006, 07:56 AM
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You won't go wrong with the Fz30.
Love mine and I'm a photo novice.
Good luck;
Sherry
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Jan 1st, 2006, 11:03 AM
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Hello,

Glad to hear you've made up your mind -- the FZ series are great cameras. However, as I'm sure you've found, the purchasing has only just begun...in terms of other camera kit, I'd highly recommend the following:

1. A circular polarising filter to cut glare from the bright African sun -- also very useful at home.

2. At least 2 extra batteries -- you will take a lot of pictures on your first trip, and can easily run through two batteries on a 3-hour game drive. I took a total of four batteries and found that I was well-covered. You can charge them overnight or during the afternoon siesta. In SA you shouldn't have any problems with finding outlets -- but make sure you have the SA 3-prong adaptors!

3. Lots of memory cards OR a portable storage device -- the iPod photo works well with SD cards like those used in the FZ30. The reports of the iPod being slow and battery-draining are from users of CF cards.

4. Lens cleaning kit (no matter how careful you are, the African dust will accumulate on your lens). A lens pen, blower brush, and lens tissues are useful. In one camp I was the only person with a lens-cleaning kit and became very, very popular.

5. Good camera bag to protect your investment (Crumpler makes very nice bags with plenty of padding and convenient pockets -- plus they come in funky colours and don't really look like camera bags). Make sure it has a nice, wide (ideally padded) strap. I prefer shoulder bags for ease of access, rather than backpacks.

6. Photoshop Elements 4.0 to make the most of your pictures.

OPTIONAL
1. UV filter. Some people don't like them, some do; they are usually used to protect your expensive lens from damage. If you get one, get a good one -- no use putting a cheap piece of glass in front of that lovely lens. I own one but don't use it that often as I'm often using the polariser instead.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 1st, 2006, 01:35 PM
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Sorry to butt in.
I'm not liking the panosonic editing system that came with the Fz30 (as mentioned in another thread) or Photoshop ltd.

Julian, Can you tell me why you like the Photoshop element softw.?

Most appreciative;
Sherry
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Jan 1st, 2006, 01:52 PM
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Hi Sherry,

Photoshop Elements has a lot more editing power than the Panasonic software (though less than Photoshop CS2). Since Elements is designed primarily for use by non-professionals, it has a number of automatic features for those who would like to make a few quick fixes, with manual options for people who want to spend more time (a bit like the FZ cameras, actually). Even the quick fixes can result in a lot of improvement, and learning the use the more advanced features opens up lots of new possibilities.

Because PS is the industry standard, there is plenty of help available on-line and off-line if you run into a sticky problem. There are also books available if you prefer a hard-copy solution.

That being said, there is certainly a learning curve involved, but I've found that it's worth it.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 1st, 2006, 02:55 PM
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Will check it out Julian - thanks. I do like those things one can use as quick fix or do better with when time permits. One big reason I like the Fz30.
Sherry
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Jan 1st, 2006, 08:03 PM
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Thanks for the encouragement Cybor, I'm really getting excited now! Jasher you've read my mind! Now that I feel settled with my camera choice, I've started to think about going the extra step and get either a telephoto and/or wide angle lens. I'm a little afraid that with my limited skill, I might botch my photos trying to get "fancy" with the extra lenses, but this is a huge trip for me and I really want to get the best shots I can. I'll be ordering the camera tomorrow from Amazon.com. I can't believe that I almost bought it on Saturday for $699 from Ritz Camera when Amazon has the EXACT model, brand new for $544.95! Does it make sense to go with a telephoto AND a wide angle? What do you think about unipods? Are they even practical? Or just a waste of money? I also don't know much about memory cards. Is it good to take everything in high res mode? Will that make the pictures sharper or just eat up more space on the memory card? My sister is wondering about the Transcend 2 GB 150x Secure Digital Card. Is that a good one? I hope I'm not being annoying with all my questions, but I wasn't kidding when I called myself a newbie. Thanks in advance.
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Jan 2nd, 2006, 03:44 AM
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Hi Marnah,

TELE/WA LENSES: I honestly don't think you'll need more tele than you'll get with the camera on its own unless you're into bird photography. A WA would be useful if you'd like to do some landscape or cityscape photography.

UNIPODS: It's overkill for the FZ cameras -- I never needed one even when working at maximum tele, since the camera is not that heavy and the MEGA OIS takes care of all but the worst cases of camera shake.

FILE SIZE AND RESOLUTION: I always took all of my pics in the largest size and highest resolution, as it gives you a lot more to play with when you edit them later. You can do quite a bit of cropping and still have a file large enough to produce a nice large high-quality print. If the file is too small, you'll be limited to small prints as the photo will look blurry and pixellated at larger sizes, especially if you crop them as that reduces the file size.

MEMORY CARDS: I've always used Sandisk Ultra II and Extreme III cards and had a very good experience with them. The high-speed cards will reduce the amount of 'downtime' between pictures (while the file is being written to the card). Your camera manual will show how many pictures you can expect to fit on a particular size of memory card. Since this is your first trip, you'll be taking a lot of pictures, but since you're in SA there will be plenty of Internet cafes where you can download your images to CDs.

The one exception may be your safari camps -- not all camps have computer facilities (Londolozi does). On my first safari, I took enough memory cards for about 300 pictures. I usually ended up shooting around 150 pictures per day, though I didn't keep all of them. Of course, depending on how much you like wildlife photography, you may use more or less memory.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 2nd, 2006, 04:00 AM
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Hi Marnah,

It is interesting how different stores can sell the exact same product for vastly different proices. Glad safari travel companies don't do that.

I have an FZ5 and love it. One thing I wish was different, though, is that it uses memory cards up to 1GB. I even called Panasonic to be sure and was told that is so, because a higher capacity card slows down the recording too much (don't ask me to explain that, I'm just taking their word for it). So, before investing in 2GB cards, be sure it's OK to use them in your FZ30.

About Transcend cards, I've never used them, but I think they have a relatively short warranty period, like maybe 5 yrs or so. I've checked but can't remember (dang, another senior moment!). I usually use Sandisk Extreme cards which are very fast (133x) AND have a lifetime warranty. I've also used Kingston Ultimate cards, also very fast and with a lifetime warranty.

Sounds like you're having a blast getting a new camera and in general planning your safari. That's something I enjoy a lot, too. Kind of a rush! Guess it hightens the anticipation of what's to come.

Good luck and happy trails in 2006 (to everyone)!!!

Jack
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Jan 2nd, 2006, 04:38 AM
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Hello,

I was able to use 1GB cards in my FZ20, so the FZ30 should at least be able to use those. Given its higher MP count, I would be surprised if it didn't support 2GB and higher cards -- it should say in the manual.

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 2nd, 2006, 07:39 AM
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Hi Marnah,
The Fz30 will take cards 2g and higher but as advised by others I didn't get anything higher than 1g just incase of mal function. I got a mix of high speed and reg. cards to save$. I did get sand. and kingston elite HS - so far haven't had problems.

As for the lens - I've captured shots up to 1 mile away with nice clarity (when editing these cleaned up nicely for my purposes) - the built in IS helps alot.

Be aware that the Fz20 and earlier model cards can not be used in the Fz30 and not all companys are yet offering Fz30 supplies.
Sherry
p.s. the video feature is much better than I expected. The audio is so so but not horrible either.
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Jan 2nd, 2006, 12:24 PM
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Hello Cybor,

I'm not sure I understand the last comment about FZ20 cards not working in the FZ30 -- they both use SD cards, which are 'generic' in terms of device and should work the same way no matter what camera you have. I've even swapped mine between a camera and a Palm Pilot with no problems. Or do you mean the other accessories (lenses and such)?

Cheers,
Julian
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Jan 2nd, 2006, 01:52 PM
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Thanks Julian,
I guess I wasn't too clear - sorry.

What I meant was, the asses. including batteries etc. are not interchangable between cameras.

Sherry
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