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Aug 11th, 2005, 11:57 PM
  #1
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To all the photo experts on this forum

In September I will go on honeymoon to Tanzania and Pemba and I would like to know what photo gear you would suggest.

At the moment, I have a very simple digital camera and a nice camera would be a nice present for the wedding!

I do not know anything of taking photos and I would prefer not to take a whole case of lenses with me or have to switch lenses while on safari.

But I would like to be able to have some nice pictures of our honeymoon and the wildlife we see on our trip. I think that the latter would be difficult with a very basic camera (due to the distance).

Thanks in advance for the help!

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Aug 12th, 2005, 01:57 AM
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Hello,

There are some wonderful 'prosumer' digital cameras which bridge the gap between point and shoot and SLR -- a great option for people who want more than a point-and-shoot has to offer but don't want the weight, expense, or hassle of carting around lots of lenses for an SLR. Prosumer cameras generally come with a full set of automatic modes, plus the ability to manually adjust things if you become more interested in the technical aspects of photography.

There are a couple of issues you need to consider. How large do you want to be able to print your photos? The more megapixels you have, the larger images you can print without losing image resolution. As a measuring stick, 5MP is usually good up to about 9x12 if printed at a professional lab. This is usually big enough for most people. The flip side of this is that more megapixels = more space taken up on your memory card, so the fewer photos you can fit per card.

For wildlife photography, you will need a camera with a zoom lens -- at minimum 10x (300mm) for wildlife photography. A 12x (420mm) zoom will enable you to get a bit closer. For bird photography, you really need at least 500mm, which isn't available on a prosumer camera. However, you can buy a teleconverter which will add some 'length' to your existing lens.

I would highly recommmend using a camera with an image stabiliser. Long zoom lenses magnify camera shake, both from your hands and from the vehicle. An internal stabiliser can make the difference between sharp photos and blurry ones.

If you really want to maximise your kit, you should invest in a couple of filters. A polarising filter will help cut glare and can make a big difference on days when the light is not ideal. A UV filter is a basic accessory which will protect your lens while allowing you to keep your camera ready (unlike a lens cap). Most good camera kits come with a lens hood to reduce glare.

I use the Panasonic FZ-20, a 5MP digital camera with a 12x Leica zoom lens. It has an internal image stabiliser to combat camera shake -- I've even managed to get good pictures of animals from safari vehicles as we raced alongside them. It's about $599 from Circuit City.

Hope this helps!

Cheers,
Julian Asher
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Aug 12th, 2005, 01:58 AM
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Marynus
I'm not an expert but I am a keen amateur! Does that count?
I would recommend that you investigate some of the excellent SLR-like cameras currently on the market. These do not offer interchangeable lenses but do offer most of the features on standard SLRs including an excellent zoom range, full control of aperture and shutter speed settings, automatic and manual focus and through the lens viewfinders.

dpreview.com is a good site to use to compare different models and to search for models that fit your criteria.

A lot will depend on your budget and whether you want a tiny compact or are willing to have a slightly larger camera?

The Fujipix Finepix range is well-considered. So too is the Canon Powershot range. The Panasonic FZ models are also very well thought of and offer excellent zoom range and quality integrated lenses.

Hope this is a start.
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Aug 12th, 2005, 06:14 AM
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If you're in Pemba, chances are that you'll be snorkeling or diving? Throw in a couple of those little disposable underwater cameras - they aren't expensive, you can't take them very deep, but they might catch some memories of the amazing reef life.
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Aug 12th, 2005, 06:43 AM
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Hi Marynus,

Add a digital SLR and a zoom lens to the [wedding] registry and you might get lucky!

I recently purchased my first DSLR Canon D300 (Rebel) with kit lens and a 75-300 IS USM lens for less than CDN$1600. I'm a complete amateur, but so far so good; I'm really enjoying learning and experimenting with the features.

BTW: Did TSA get back to you regarding your safari, and have they allayed your initial concerns?
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Aug 12th, 2005, 06:51 AM
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Another vote for the FZ20. But there's a thread on a new model FZ30, that sounds awesome.
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Aug 12th, 2005, 11:52 AM
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Marynus:

Since you say you are beginner, I would strongly second Julian's suggestion to invest a prosumer digital camera with a very long image stabilized telephoto zoom lens. Unless you are very skilled, it is very hard to make crisp clean shots at 400mm and up with a non-stabilized lens unless you are shooting from a tripod, and that is the last thing you would want to take with you on your honeymoon!

If you choose to buy a digital single lens reflex camera, you will find that image stabilized lenses are enormously expensive and very heavy. But if you buy a prosumer (also known as "advanced compact digital cameras"), you can get image stabilization as part of a very lightweight and much less expensive package.

I teach photography, and use the same camera that Julian uses, the 5 Megapixel Panasonic Lumix FZ-20. It does a remarkable job of making crisp, clean images at over 400mm. The only problem is your timing. This camera has just been discontinued because Panasonic is coming out with its successor, the 8 Megapixel FZ-30 some time next month. Unfortunately, it will probably too late for you to get one, since you taking your honeymoon trip to Africa next month.

So try to see if you can find any FZ-20s still on dealers shelves. If you are located here in the US, Circuit City seems to be still selling them on their web site, for $579. See details at:

http://www.circuitcity.com/ccd/produ...&cm_keycode=66

I would happy to answer any questions you might have about this particular camera, various alternatives, and taking pictures in general. Just contact me be email, and fire away. You can also check my instructional website at http://www.pbase.com/pnd1 for ideas about expressive travel photography.

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding.

Phil Douglis
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Aug 12th, 2005, 12:05 PM
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Marynus:

I just noticed that Amazon.com seems to be offering the FZ20 for $485.00.

See:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...797261-5583947
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Aug 13th, 2005, 06:21 AM
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Thanks a lot for your help.

I wanted to post a message yesterday, but just when I was writing, my friends picked me up for my bachelor party!!

I think I'll go for the Panasonic FZ-20 then. I sounds like a perfect fit. The Rebel is a bit out of my league and budget. I am also going to throw in a bunch of those water proof discartable cameras for our stay at Pemba.

I did not change my itinerary for the honeymoon, although I regret not putting in some days in Kenya to see the big migration.
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Aug 13th, 2005, 07:19 AM
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Difficult decision! I would like to buy the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30K, but it will only be available on September 25 (when we come back from our honeymoon).

It does not make sense to buy the older model, unless it is offered at a nice discount, because it will be replaced.

Too much thinking for my hungover head!
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Aug 13th, 2005, 07:52 AM
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Marynus,

I am no expert, but I do think the Nikon 8800 would be equivalent to the Panasonic FZ-30.

It is also an 8 MP point and shoot and features a 35mm - 350mm zoom.

The FZ-30 will go up to 420mm, but the Nikon 8800 offers a nice alternative to the FZ-20, which although goes to 432mm is only 5 MP.
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Aug 13th, 2005, 08:39 AM
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Unfortunately, we are in the same situation between the FZ30 and the FZ20. We leave on 9/30 for our safari & time in Pemba as well and were hoping to get the fz30 in time for our trip but it is looking very unlikely that we will be able to get it in time.

Does anyone know for sure that the FZ20 is being discontinued? I've seen prices continue to decline on the camera over recent weeks. I am kind of bummed that we won't be able to get the 8mp camera - but all of the reviews of the fz20 are great, especially for people not wanting simplicity and not all of the lenses and such with a DSLR.

We will probably purchase ours in the next couple of weeks so that we have time to play with it ahead of our trip (which is in less than 7 weeks now!!).
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Aug 13th, 2005, 09:59 AM
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Hi, Lorib1,

Yes, it seems that the FZ20 has been discontinued -- which simply means that it is no longer being manufactured now that the FZ30 is about to replace it. But there still be enough of them out there if you want one. Here in the US, Amazon.com seems to offer the lowest price from a trustworthy vendor.

The reviews have been enthusiastic, but the value of any camera can only be established in day to day usage. I have used mine since its introduction, and now make most of my images, except for my wideangle work, with it. A lightweight 5MP camera with an image stabilized Leica lens capable of zooming to 432mm at an f/2.8 aperture for under $500 makes a wonderful tool for wildlife photography. True, the FZ-30 will be an even better one, but it is not here yet, and it will cost several hundred dollars more.

Phil
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Aug 13th, 2005, 10:01 AM
  #14
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Maybe it is an option to go to a smaller store and explain the situation.

It would be great if you could buy the TZ-30, but lend a TZ-20 for the trip. You could even consider hiring one.

If I understood well, the camera will hopefully arrive in time for your trip.

If the discounts on the TZ-20 are good, I might go for that one.
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Aug 13th, 2005, 10:03 AM
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Sorry: TZ must be FZ in the previous message.
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Aug 13th, 2005, 10:37 AM
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Roccco,

Here is some more info on the comparison you suggested between Nikon's 8800 and Panasonic's FZ-20 and upcoming FZ-30 cameras.

The Nikon 8800 is a remarkable image stabilized camera -- among the most highly regarded in the 8MP class of advanced digital compacts. However as you say, it only zooms to 350mm, and although it offers three more megapixels worth of cropping leeway to play with than the Panasonic Lumix FZ-20, it can't match either the focal lengths or the lens speeds of either the FZ-20's or its upcoming replacement, the 8MP FZ-30's image stabilized Leica lenses.

The Nikon 8800 zooms to 350mm, but when it is zoomed all the way out, its largest f/stop is only f/5.2, which admits far less light than the Panasonic FZ-20, which zooms out to 432mm and stays at f/2.8 throughout its range. (The new FZ-30 will offer even more zoom if you choose to use it at 5MP instead of 8MP to zoom out to 535mm, at an aperture as large as f/3.7.)

The bottom line: the Nikon 8800 works well in bright light, but will not perform as well in lower light situations as either of the Panasonics when zoomed out to a full telephoto focal length. And as you say, the Nikon 8800 offers three more megapixels than the FZ-20, (but it will be equal to those offered by the upcoming FZ-30.) The main advantage of more megapixels is the ability to crop without losing detail. Five MP offers a lot of cropping leeway. Eight MP offers even more. More megapixels make sharper prints, too -- but the difference only shows up at huge sizes. For 8x10 prints, and for email or web use, we see no differences in pictures made with 5MP and 8MP cameras.

A good friend shoots with the Nikon 8800 and loves it for its Macro capabilities. It focuses down to about an inch from the subject. The FZ-20 and 30 will focus down to about two inches.

The Nikon 8800 now sells for under $700. The new FZ-30 will sell for about the same. The discontinued FZ-20 is now selling for $200 less than either of them.

Hope this will be useful to anyone comparing these options in advanced compact digital cameras.

Phil
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Aug 13th, 2005, 10:56 AM
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Phil,

Thanks for the additional insight.

Now what can you tell me about my Sigma 70-200mm lens vs. my Sigma 80-400mm lens? I haven't been using the smaller of the two for awhile, but in the last couple days I have really acquainted myself with it, and although the zoom is half the distance, it just seems so much more user friendly...plus, when people talk about the speed of a lens, I can really feel the difference while using the f/2.8 70-200mm lens vs. the f/4.5-5.6 lens. Seems to be about 1/3 less weight, as well.

Now, if I attach the 1.4x teleconvertor to the 70-200mm lens, it will slow it down a stop, is that correct? How is one stop measured?

Would the f/2.8 become f/3.8?

The only reason I have not been using the f/2.8 more often is because it does not feature Optical Stabilization, but even without it, it seems to take crisper photos than the 80-400mm lens that does have the OS.

Still trying to get familiar with my lenses.

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Aug 13th, 2005, 12:39 PM
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Hi, Roccco,

Glad to help. As you say so well, each of those lenses has advantages and disadvantages. The longer one gives you more reach, but carries a penalty of weight and lens speed. But if you pop that 1.4x teleconverter device behind your lighter but shorter lens, it will become a 280mm telephoto -- which, when mounted on a digital SLR with a 1.6x "lens magnification factor," gets even longer, becoming a whopping 448mm lens. Why would you even need to bring that 400mm lens? To shoot at 640mm? For birds, perhaps. But not for most African wildlife.

So go with your lighter lens. So what if the teleconverter knocks you down by one stop, from f/2.8 to f/3.8? That's a very workable aperture. it will still let it much more light than your 400mm telephoto will at f/5.6, right?

The reason why your shorter lens seems to take crisper photos than the longer one, even though the latter is image stabilized, is that soft pictures due to magnification of camera shake are not really is not as much of an issue at 200mm, as at 400mm. The 200mm lens also lets in more light, which allows you to use a faster shutter speed, which in turn also minimizes the chance of soft pictures due to magnification of camera shake.

The bottom line is clear, Roccco. Use your lighter, shorter, brighter lens. It does have image stabilization but at f/3.8, you should have enough light entering your camera to use at least 1/500th of a second shutter speed --which will virtually guarantee crisp hand held shots at 448mm. The only problems will come in low light, and then just increase your ISO speed to equalize things. Your Canon 20D is noiseless at ISO 400 and 800, and virtually noiseless at 1600.

Any questions? Let me know.
Phil

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Aug 13th, 2005, 12:55 PM
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Phil,

Thanks for the excellent explanation!

That will be a tough decision...leave behind my 80-400mm lens or take it...and if I do leave it behind, do I take the 180mm Macro lens in its place? Probably not. While it is fun to play around with in the garden, I don't think I want to be getting too close to the insects in Africa. Last thing I need is to be focused on a millipede or dung beetle, only for some Puff Adder to come and bite me in the @$$.

I would be able to travel much more comfortably with a slightly smaller backpack and only the 17-85mm lens and the 70-200mm lens.

I imagine that I may even be able to get in a couple changes of clothes and a pair of shoes for the same weight as the 80-400mm lens! Still just a little worried about not having a backup lens and I do think that 640mm would be fun to play with from camp, although it will surely not be allowed to go on a walking safari with the 70-200mm and I.

Now I find myself wanting a faster lens of a shorter zoom to upgrade the Canon 17-85mm.
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Aug 13th, 2005, 02:34 PM
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Roccco,

Unless you are into bugs, flowers, small lizards or exotic textures, a Macro is not an essential safari tool.

Leave it home and take one more change of clothes. I would not take the heavy 80-400mm along as a back up lens or a camp toy, either. Use your 17-85mm as your backup. If disaster should strike and your 70-200mm goes belly up, just slap on the 17-85mm, using the 1.4x teleconverter. That makes it into a 24mm-119mm lens. Your 20D's 1.6x magnification factor then turns that into a 38mm-190mm lens. You can survive very well as a photographer in Africa with a 190mm focal length, particularly when you also have an 8MP camera which allows you to crop your image in half, if need be, to make the subject larger in the frame and still have 4MP to use to keep it from deteriorating. If you did crop a 190mm image in half, it would give you almost the equivalent of a 400mm frame! So you are really fine with the 17-85mm lens as backup. All you need is the arithmetic to go with it!

As for that upgrade you are fantasizing over, put it on hold until you feel you have thoroughly mastered the lenses you have already, learning through experience what they can or can't do for you in the field. That's the best way to find out if you have any big "holes" to fill with another kind of lens.

Good luck, Roccco.

Phil
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