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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 4:57 am 
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Hi,
For 8 years I have used a Panasonic FZ-30 and Tcon-17 for bird photography. Obviously an upgrade is long overdue, but I am totally confused as to which way to go. I've been considering everything from superzooms to micro 4/3s to DSLRs.

The most important improvements I want to see are more feather detail and overall better IQ, the ability to shoot at higher ISO's with less noise, and increased reach. I don't shoot RAW and don't use a tripod. I like the feel of a bigger camera and a VF is a must.

Given my requirements a DSLR is without a doubt the best choice, but I find the weight very prohibitive. I've also been considering the Panasonic FZ-200 or the Panasonic G5 with the 100-300mm lens. Neither of these cameras will give me DSLR quality, but will I see a significant enough improvement over what I have with either of these options? Considering how outdated my FZ-30 is, will any new system be a big step up?

Any advice you can give is very much appreciated.
Linda


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 7:43 am 
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Yes, there have been significant advances over the last eight years, so most newer cameras will be a step up, and I think you've narrowed your choices down to two selections that will probably give you the most noticeable improvement given all of your criteria (no DSLR, viewfinder, etc.).

So if it comes down to a comparison between the FZ200 and G5 + 100-300mm, I would recommend you take a look at Gordon's reviews, particularly the high ISO noise tests:

http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/Panas ... oise.shtml

http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/Panas ... oise.shtml

To my eye, it looks like the larger 4/3 sensor in G5 has at least a 1-stop advantage, and the sensor's higher resolution (16MP in the G5 vs 12MP in the FZ200) should add a bit more to that. So f5.6 on the G5 (with the lens at 300mm, which is 600mm full frame equiv.) should be very close to f2.8 on the FZ200 (with the lens at 108mm, which is also 600mm full frame equiv.). And keep in mind that, as you zoom out from 300mm, the maximum aperture of the 100-300mm lens gets faster/brighter, while the FZ200 does not.

On the other hand, the FZ200 costs around the same as either the G5 or the 100-300mm lens separately. And the G5 + 100-300mm won't be able to zoom out as far as the FZ200. (Specifically, you'll be missing the 25-200mm range in full frame equiv.)

So it seems to me to come down to whether or not you think the slight increase in IQ you'll get with the G5 + 100-300mm is worth paying nearly twice as much and not being able to cover anything wider than 200mm (in full frame equiv.). (Although, you could get the G5 with the 14-42mm kit lens for a slight increase in cost, which would only leave a gap from 42-100mm (84-200mm full frame).)

Mark


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 9:13 am 
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Location: NW England
Hi Linda & welcome.

tbh, if birds are your MAIN interest/subject and as you said `The most important improvements I want to see are more feather detail and overall better IQ....` you really can't beat dslr.

I guess being used to a smaller camera for quite a long time, the extra size/weight might be a concern, but providing you don't have a physical reason which would prohibit use, I think it would be something that you'd quickly get used to & the detail gained would more than make up for carrying the extra weight. All imho though. :wink:

Also I guess it depends what and where you shoot, small finches etc in (mainly) the dull UK? or ....... larger birds in sunny Florida :lol:

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:46 am 
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With all due respect, the Canon 100-400mm lens alone weighs about as much as an FZ200 and G5 and 100-300mm lens combined.

Similarly, the lens alone costs about as much as an FZ200 and G5 and 100-300mm lens combined.

Add the weight and cost of DSLR body on top of that, and I can understand why someone would be disinclined to go with that option.

Mark


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:38 pm 
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I'm not disagreeing with you, Mark, I actually do agree, but if Linda wants the best detail & possibly faster AF, for birds imo a dslr is the best option. Budget & which lens are another story. :lol:

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Nikon D800E & D700 bodies + Nikon 200-400mm F4 VR1, 50mm F1.4G, 16-35mm f/4G VR, 105 F2.8 VR macro, 70-300mm lenses. A couple of filters, Giotto tripod & ballhead. Lowepro Slingshot 302 AW
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 3:11 pm 
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First, thank you for your quick replies.

To further complicate my decision:
FZ-200 - Although the camera gets very favorable reviews, a slightly noisy sensor is always mentioned. But again, is this only relative to the newer cameras? To my eye, anything shot above 100 ISO with my FZ-30 is unusable.
G-5 - The camera itself has earned pretty good reviews, but the 100-300mm lens is considered soft in the 200-300mm range. Obviously for birding, that's where I'll always be.
DSLR - I recently visited a local camera store and played around with the Nikon D5200 and 70-300mm f4-5.6 stabilized lens. I like the way the camera felt in my hands, but weight-wise it was definitely at the high end of what I could manage on long hikes. A faster or longer lens could not even be considered. I don't want missed opportunities because of the lack of reach.

Thanks again,
Linda


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 4:51 pm 
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Joined: Wed Nov 18, 2009 5:23 pm
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Location: Boca Raton, FL, USA
Just another idea you may consider...

If you decide to go with a mirrorless camera such as the micro-4:3 options or Sony NEX line, those cameras can get you pretty close to DSLR quality or even match DSLR quality, while the lenses will typically be of shorter reach...though much lighter and cheaper than the full-scale DSLR and birding prime or big zoom options. More importantly though, your existing TCon adapter can often be paired with a mirrorless camera's zoom lens, giving you more range in a still light and reasonable package...and due to the much larger sensor you should see significant improvements on feather detail and other fine details, and a shallower depth of field which can produce nicer subject isolation.

I currently shoot birds with both a DSLR and a mirrorless camera. The DSLR is indeed my main body, with one of two very large, heavy, and expensive lenses...but I wanted to have a lighter-weight option that could get me similar image quality, with much lighter weight and smaller size, allowing for some compromise in speed. I picked up a NEX-5N plus an EVF (I find viewfinders, whether electric or optical, to be very important for bird shooting, with better visibility and stability), and use the cheap 55-210mm stabilized eMount lens. By itself, that only gives me 320mm-equivalent reach - not enough for a lot of birding needs. But I also used to shoot with an H5 superzoom and a Sony DH1758 1.7x teleextender (very similar to your Tcon)...and decided to experiment to see if that converter would work with the 55-210mm zoom lens. I only needed a 49mm to 58mm step up ring, and voila! It attaches easily, it has no light loss, and it has no adverse effects on either autofocus or stabilization. It vignettes a bit at the wider end of the lens from 55mm to about 75mm, then vignetting ends. Most importantly, it extends the optical reach from 320mm-equivalent to 535mm-equivalent...and all in a package weighing less than 2.6Lbs (my DSLR birding rig runs over 6Lbs).

So whatever mirrorless option you consider, if you pick up a 200mm to 300mm lens to go with it, check the lens' filter diameter - if it's 55mm or smaller, you can attach your TCon and at least at the longer end of the zoom probably use it without vignetting - which will give you the additional reach.

I have used my NEX-5N and 1.7x extender for all kinds of birding...as noted above though, I do live in a sunny spot where I don't need to worry as much about dark rainy days! Still I can crank the ISO when I need to for shooting in low light, and even have used the rig for birds in flight - it's shockingly usable and can achieve excellent detail and sharpness.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 11:09 pm 
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Linda wrote:
FZ-200 - Although the camera gets very favorable reviews, a slightly noisy sensor is always mentioned. But again, is this only relative to the newer cameras?

Per Gordon's test shots (liked previously), I'd be comfortable using the FZ200 at up to ISO800, but again, you should really judge for yourself.

Quote:
G-5 - The camera itself has earned pretty good reviews, but the 100-300mm lens is considered soft in the 200-300mm range.

But like you asked above, what is this relative to? I'm sure it is soft compared to the aforementioned Canon 100-400mm, but for reasons previously noted, that lens is not an option for you. Relative to the FZ200, which is an option for you, I don't think the 100-300mm lens is soft at all.

Oh, and Justin raises a good point about your current TC. I would add that, unfortunately, the 100-300mm lens has a 67mm filter thread. However, the 45-200mm has a 52mm filter thread, and I believe the FZ200 also has a 52mm filter thread.

And Carlos, understood. Cheers! - Mark


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