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Cheap/Budget Superzoom Options? (1 Viewer)

jremmons

Wildlife Biologist
Hey all, I have been trying to find good comparative reviews of some superzooms but am not having luck. I am looking to get a Superzoom to replace my now AWOL Fujifilm Finepix HS1 (old, budget model). I've been looking primarily for options under $400, including used/refurbished (though new would be preferred of course) as that is the money I have left from the budget I gave myself for new binoculars.

Models I've considered are the Canon SX50/60, Nikon Coolpix P610/900, and Panasonic FZ82. Is there anything really separating these models performance wise, or should I just get through one on the best deal? I know the Panasonic lacks a couple of the features of the others, such as bird mode.

My primary purpose for this will be as a pseudo scope replacement to assist with identification, and secondary will be posting to online blogs. So image quality doesn't have to be 'print quality'.

Thanks for any advice!
Justin
 

poledark

Well-known member
Well, if you want it for use as a scope (sometimes) then the P900 will be the best, you can even use it in digital mode for more reach, quite a few for sale second hand from people who upgraded to the P1000.

Den
 

jremmons

Wildlife Biologist
Den/CH,
When I mentioned the pseudo scope I mostly mean to replace the mediocre 16-45x65mm scope I will not be using any longer. I don't think I'll necessarily need the reach of a P900, but I will keep it in mind as mentioned. Presently I'm thinking the B700, but I don't know if I'll jump on it or not.
 

Peter Audrain

Consummate Indoorsman
I did lots of research, until I was practically tired of the whole subject, and ended up getting an Adorama Demo 'Like New' Panasonic Lumix ZS70 (TZ90) for about $265. I think it's $350 new. It has the best autofocus this side of phase detection, and I'm very happy with it, for whatever that's worth. The FZ1000 and FZ300 also seem very well worth considering in a larger form factor.

The only thing I don't like about Lumixes is that the user interface is barbaric, redundant, confusing, and genuinely all but unusable for the new photographer—you have to learn it recipe-fashion, bit by bit—but I think the only Japanese cameras for which that is not currently the case are (possibly) Canons.
 

etudiant

Registered User
Supporter
I did lots of research, until I was practically tired of the whole subject, and ended up getting an Adorama Demo 'Like New' Panasonic Lumix ZS70 (TZ90) for about $265. I think it's $350 new. It has the best autofocus this side of phase detection, and I'm very happy with it, for whatever that's worth. The FZ1000 and FZ300 also seem very well worth considering in a larger form factor.

The only thing I don't like about Lumixes is that the user interface is barbaric, redundant, confusing, and genuinely all but unusable for the new photographer—you have to learn it recipe-fashion, bit by bit—but I think the only Japanese cameras for which that is not currently the case are (possibly) Canons.

The ZS series are excellent travel cameras, much more compact and convenient than the big glass superzoom bridge cameras. They are also surprisingly robust and give decent results.
Major shortcoming is the very inadequate user manual, it does not do justice to the impressive capabilities built into these little powerhouses.
That appears to be a common concern, the manual of the much more expensive Sony RX100VI is even less informative.
While that is supported by a 584 page RX100VI 'Help Guide', that document is unfortunately formatted for cell phone reading and is correspondingly comprehensible.
Imho, the 'Missing Manual' series of guides are probably the best bet to supplement the instructions provided.
 

nikonmike

Well-known member
I liked the P610,

some samples
 

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jremmons

Wildlife Biologist
The P610/B700 and the Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 are my current two top options... The Lumix is a bit cheaper and apparently has a quicker autofocus, but a worse image quality (according to a few reviews I've read online); has anyone on the forums directly compared the Nikon and the Lumix? Most of the reviews I find online are more for generalized use, not necessarily specific to birder needs.

Thanks,
Justin
 
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nikonmike

Well-known member
I tried the fz80 but didnt find it as good as the p610, didnt know the b700 didnt have af-c this would rule it out for me.
 

nmason

Well-known member
I did lots of research, until I was practically tired of the whole subject, and ended up getting an Adorama Demo 'Like New' Panasonic Lumix ZS70 (TZ90) for about $265. I think it's $350 new. It has the best autofocus this side of phase detection, and I'm very happy with it, for whatever that's worth.

Have you found the ZS70 workable as a birding camera? Is 720mm equivalent enough zoom reach? I can see the appeal of having a small, coat-pocketable camera for ID shots.
 

etudiant

Registered User
Supporter
Have you found the ZS70 workable as a birding camera? Is 720mm equivalent enough zoom reach? I can see the appeal of having a small, coat-pocketable camera for ID shots.

The little Lumix's 30x lens (24-720mm equivalent) has been around for several generations of the ZS series and gives good service.
I've been happy with the earlier ZS50, which produces quite adequate bird photographs. Obviously the results are not National Geographic level, but considering how conveniently compact the device is they are surprisingly good.
 

Peter Audrain

Consummate Indoorsman
Have you found the ZS70 workable as a birding camera? Is 720mm equivalent enough zoom reach? I can see the appeal of having a small, coat-pocketable camera for ID shots.

Yep! I got a little leather MegaGear snap-case for it, and I carry it in a pocket of my jacket. It's a bit thick—or bulgey—but neither large nor heavy, and it fits in my pocket fine.

(I am now thinking about getting an 'ever-ready' case, too, to carry it around my neck beside my binoculars. But I have noticed that after I take the camera out, I tend to get obsessed with taking pictures at the expense of close observing, so it may not be a bad thing to have to take it out and put it away.)

Anyway, 720mm is a whole lot of zoom. It can reach way out onto the water and across fields. The lens is not very fast at full extension, but I haven't noticed ill effects from this. I've had the best luck capturing birds in flight when alongshore, tracking birds flying from side to side. So far I generally can't find and stay with a bird in flight that is both high in the sky and distant, even with the EVF.

The autofocus enjoys having plenty of light, as does the sensor, but they both do a remarkably good job even shortly after sunset. It's certainly more than able to help with the identification of unfamiliar birds. I learned about aging and sexing various scoters and Long-tailed Ducks during the winter holidays by going out and taking pictures, then puzzling over them. It was like taking my telescope views and freezing and blowing them up.

It can shoot in RAW, and I have been using Adobe's DNG converter and Aperture to learn about editing RAW images. It can shoot fast bursts without seizing up, and the focusing is very fast.

Overall, I am sure one can tell it's a small sensor camera, and using it has made me curious about larger sensors. But until I can afford an RX10IV, it does seem to check every reasonable box.
 

nmason

Well-known member
Thanks to both of you for sharing your impressions. I've been thinking about this camera as a replacement for an old ZS3, but I wasn't sure about its usefulness for birding. The ZS3 was a great little camera, but only 300mm equivalent at max zoom, and it lacked a viewfinder, so getting even ID shots of most birds was challenging. But the ZS70 sounds like a good, pocketable option.
 

etudiant

Registered User
Supporter
Thanks to both of you for sharing your impressions. I've been thinking about this camera as a replacement for an old ZS3, but I wasn't sure about its usefulness for birding. The ZS3 was a great little camera, but only 300mm equivalent at max zoom, and it lacked a viewfinder, so getting even ID shots of most birds was challenging. But the ZS70 sounds like a good, pocketable option.

Just a cautionary note regarding the viewfinder..
I never had much luck with the view finder on my ZS50, usually picked up the target bird at a wider angle and then zoomed in, using only the screen. Birds in flight were hit or miss, mostly miss.
That said, missing shots is costless and many photogenic birds will circle or fly on a predictable path, so there are hits and they are decent.
 

Peter Audrain

Consummate Indoorsman
I've found the EVF helpful when photographing birds in flight that are flying over the water. However, when the target is just somewhere in the sky, 'unmoored' from anything visually obvious—like the surface of the sea, or a line of trees—and is flying more erratically, I expect a 'miss,' as Etudiant says.
 

jremmons

Wildlife Biologist
Well, right now the P610 and P900 are my two main targets and I'm just waiting on the best deal. I'd actually even consider and SX50 if the right deal came along as comparison shots between it and the P610 show it to still be a strong performer. My old HS10 had 30x optical zoom and that was good for a lot of shots, but sometimes not quite enough for waterfowl and shorebirds.
 

Neil G.

Well-known member
Hi there,
Have you checked out the Nikon section and "p900 images" thread......this will give you an idea of what the p900 is capable of.
 

jremmons

Wildlife Biologist
Hi Neil,
I've reviewed the thread mentioned and some of those images are quite good!
Right now I'm simply weighing whether or not the cost, anywhere from $170-300 depending upon quality and condition, is worth it to simply get extra reach.

Justin
 

jremmons

Wildlife Biologist
Doing some further reading on the Canon SX60, it appears it has a lower IQ than the P610/P900. Are there any qualities where it bests the these cameras, e.g. autofocus, image stabilization, etc? I've basically narrowed my choices down to these three options, but a new Canon SX60 is probably the best in terms of "value" as it is less pricy than a new P900, but offers full warranty coverage which a used P610 will not. The IQ isn't a huge deal necessarily as these will mostly be record/blog shots (as opposed to prints), but the two Nikon cameras seem quite good.

Justin
 

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