DSLR or Superzoom?

Centennial, CO(Zone 5a)

Once upon a time I was an avid 35mm SLR user, but I have gone digital (and gotten lazy) and I have been using digital point & shoot cameras for several years now. My current Nikon P3 has a lot of miles on it, so I am looking to replace it before a planned trip to Japan in June.

I have sorely missed having a viewfinder, and the ability to carefully frame a composition that I had with an SLR. I've also been wanting better wide angle and telephoto capabilities. But as I said, I have gotten lazy and I really don't miss lugging around a big bag with multiple lenses.

So, I have looked at the Nikon D60, but I am leaning towards keeping it compact (and less expensive) and going with one of the new Superzooms instead. I like the Nikon P90 with it's 24x zoom, but I'm also considering the Canon Powershot SX10 IS and the Olympus 590UZ.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the title question, or on any of these camera models in particular :0).

Clinton, CT(Zone 6b)

You might want to take a look at the Panasonic FZ28. Bought my sister one for Christmas and she loves it. She takes a lot of indoor photos of people and while any camera in this class isn't as good as a DSLR for this work, the FZ28 is good enough for the prints she needs.

Because she had always used film Nikons, had worked as a news photographer and had done some studio work I spend over a month investigating all the ulra-zoom bridge cameras. I had a discerning customer in my sister. My fear was it wouldn't do the job, she would use it now and then but go out and buy the Nikon DSLR she had been talking about getting. From what she's said, the FZ28 will fill her needs for some time.

The finalists were the Canon Powershot SX10 IS and the Panasonic Lumix FZ28.

The Panny won out for for the following reasons:

It supports RAW and the Canon does not.

Battery life is better.

Less shutter lag (this I'm still not sure about...there may not be a discernable difference).

Price. Two days in early December, for a day each, , the FZ28 dropped to $239 at B&H and Amazon.. Usually it was around $280---still about $50 less than the Canon.

To make the learning curve easier for my sister, I put up a blog with reviews, photos and video taken with the FZ-28 and other information about her new camera as well as competing brands.

It is here:


There are several links on it which compare the FZ28 to the Canon

Celaya, Mexico(Zone 10a)

lisabees, there is no easy answer on which one to choose. It comes down to personal preference, budget and intended use of the camera.

Superzooms are compact, lower cost and have a good 35mm equivalent focal length range in a single package but image quality deteriorates in less than ideal lighting conditions, have limited f-stop range and have no through the lens optical viewfinder.

DSLRs have through the lens optical viewfinders to help framing, got a much better high ISO image quality, have more easy access on camera controls and you have the ability to use high quality special purpose lenses. Cons are that with a DSLR you not only buy a camera body but buy into a camera system so cost is very high and the camera more bulky than P&S superzooms.

Centennial, CO(Zone 5a)

Thank you both for your replies!

Panamon, yes, cost & compactness are definitely the biggest positives for the superzoom! Could you elaborate on what you said about image quality deterioration? The Nikon P3 has 12 MP, how does that come into the equation? Also, is there really that much of an advantage of a TTL viewfinder over a digital one for framing the shot?

David P, thanks for adding another camera for me to consider :0). I'm curious why the Nikon was not one of your contenders? Also I have heard of RAW but don't really know what that means, care to explain?

Just for discussion's sake, most of my photography is outdoors, primarily scenic & nature related, from closeups to wide panoramas and some family stuff.

Clinton, CT(Zone 6b)

Lisabees...I wanted to buy Nikon because the name would have comforted my sister. She's had Nikons since the 1960s. If there were only a marginal difference, I would have gone with the Nikon simply because she would be more confident using it (and I wouldn't have had to explain that Panasonic which was making cheap transistor radios when she bought her first Nikon is on the cutting edge of prosumer digital photography today).

But, when I looked at sample photos and reviews of ultra-zooms the Nikon P80, isn't in the top three. Comparison reviews of the top five ultrazooms are here:


Note the Nikon has problems focusing at full zoom and heavy handed noise reduction even at low ISO.

I didn't just go by that review however but read forums to see who liked what and why. Canon and Panasonic over and over came out ahead.

Digital Photography Review on RAW files:

"Unlike JPEG and TIFF, RAW is not an abbreviation but literally means "raw" as in "unprocessed". A RAW file contains the original image information as it comes off the sensor before in-camera processing so you can do that processing afterwards on your PC with special software."

As my sister uses Photoshop and Quark I thought she would use RAW files. But she isn't. The JPEGs the FZ28 are good enough for a Rotary club magazine and bulletin. Might be she is too busy to climb the learning curve right now. But she has the option should she ever need it.

Celaya, Mexico(Zone 10a)

lisabees quoted:
Could you elaborate on what you said about image quality deterioration?

the compactness and high focal length range come at a price
1. Optically designing a zoom lens is challenging in that it is difficult to maintain a constant quality throughout the zoom range. The greater the zoom range the more difficult it is to maintain a good image quality throughout.
2. The large zoom range with a compact camera is only possible by using very small image sensors with a very high pixel density. The high pixel density results in a rather high image noise at higher ISO settings and/or long exposure time.

Centennial, CO(Zone 5a)

Tremendous thanks again, both of you!

Anyone else want to jump in?

Santa Fe, NM

Hi, Lisabees. I am a Canon user and I love my Canon S5IS powershot. But, I would love it a lot more if it could take RAW photos. The Panasonic Lumix, whatever, has gotten very good reviews and I would go to a reputable camera shop and look at it. I would see how it felt to me. Remember you will be carrying it all the time. I'm in the market for a DSLR, now, partly because I want to take RAW images and because I'd like to have some different options for lenses. I still haven't decided on what I want. But, I will keep my current little camera because it is so easy to carry and generally takes good pictures. It's like having a monopod and a tripod. Which one I take depends on where I'm going, how quickly, etc. Have a great trip to Japan!

Clinton, CT(Zone 6b)

roybird...has Canon added RAW yet to its point and shoots? Think I read something about it. Panasonic is great to have around as, not being able to compete in the DSLR market, it forces Nikon and Canon to pay more attention to and upgrade their lower end. Believe it was Panasonic which forced optical image stabilization on the market.

(Olympus does a good job of keeping Nikon and Canon focused too)

Santa Fe, NM

I believe the new G-10 Canon point and shoot has RAW capability now. Not sure on the S series. I think the G-10 sounds like an excellent camera. I'm pretty much convinced I want a Canon DSLR, just undecided on which one. I'm thinking the XSi, but I need to follow my own advice and go in and actually look at one. To me, I want to like the way the camera feels. The XSi is fairly light weight, which sounds good. Like many people, I tend to be more comfortable with what I'm used to. I'm also looking for prices to go down later in the year.

Clinton, CT(Zone 6b)

roybird...Japan's trade surplus declined 99% last month. They almost do not have a surplus for the first time in decades. I would expect prices to drop. But then...I dunno...economics is funny. Prices went up after Christmas when I thought they would go down.

I'm looking at a Canon DSLR too. Had been using a three year old Olympus SP-310 point and shoot which does great macros. Got a Panasonic FX500 on sale a month ago (just $174). While the wide angle is breathtaking, there is still that problem with noise and focus. I saved a lot on the FX500 but what I did spend for it didn't give me a whole lot more than I already had. Less really when it comes to close ups.

Really want a digital that is more like the Miranda and Nikon film camera I once used.

Santa Fe, NM

Well, let me know what you think about the Canon DSLR's. If you hear of any big price drops let me know!

Clinton, CT(Zone 6b)

roybird...the two cameras I bought since December, I got by monitoring this blog:


The Lumix FZ28 dropped to $239 twice for one day each time and that blog had it as soon enough for me to grab one. Same for the FX500.

1001 Noisycameras.com also has some other blogs and feeds worth a look if you already haven't.

Santa Fe, NM

Thanks. I'll check it out.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Just so you all know, one of the advantages Canon cameras have over other cameras is hacker support. Most Canon cameras lack support for RAW files, but with hacker software, they do support it. In other words, the hardware is capable, Canon just chose to not use software allowing it. It is called CHDK and stands for Canon Hack Development kit. I suppose it's not really for the tech challenged.

For those who don't mind reading some documentation Canon owners can pretty much all shoot/save RAW photos, do AEB (auto exposure bracketing), have a real time battery life meter etc. Just google Canon chdk for more info.

Santa Fe, NM

Interesting. I will. I kept wondering why they didn't make my great little S5is camera shoot RAW. I think it would be a perfect camera if it did.

Clinton, CT(Zone 6b)

roybird....turns out my sister has not once used the RAW format which was a deciding factor when I bought her the FZ28 for Christmas. She doesn't even bother with scenes and manual controls much. She shot with Nikons for 4 decades and now she is content with "Intelligent Auto" for nearly everything. Not resistence to a tech thing either. She uses Quark to publish flyers, booklets, ads. The jpgs come out good enough for what she does. If she were doing larger prints, perhaps she would use it.

Think I understand why Canon doesn't have RAW on some point and shoots. While anyone can use it, those apt to use it most are those who need a DSLR for their work.

Santa Fe, NM

So far, I find myself using both my cameras. The S5IS, the little camera, more for close-ups and garden shots. The bigger camera, the XS, which is still a fairly small camera, for landscapes and people. I like the RAW images for the ease in editing and knowing the original picture won't get ruined by playing with it. I have been shooting in Program with it when I need the picture to be reasonably good and experimenting with the so-called Creative modes. The little camera I almost always shoot in manual. It is going to take me awhile to get comfortable with the new one. One camera salesperson, who said he is also a professional photographer, told me he always shoots in automatic. I found that rather disturbing, to tell you the truth.

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