Cameras: looking for comments & recommendations

NHBabs(4b-5aNH)August 15, 2014

There are so many really gorgeous photos posted to the threads on critters and garden photos! I really need to do more than talk about getting a decent camera and actually bite the bullet and make a choice.

I know I've asked about cameras before, but it was a couple of years ago, and I hadn't yet gotten frustrated enough with my cell phone's poor range and inability to focus on what I want it to focus on. While having the camera in my cell is really convenient and reasonable quality for midrange shots, I want to be able to do closeups and telephoto, and our more than 10-year-old digital camera just isn't worth using. Currently I see but can't photograph most birds that visit my gardens, ranging from hummers to flycatchers to small hawks. I can do landscapes just fine, but if I want to capture critters from turkeys to moose that are out in the cornfield, I mostly get small brown smears. Forget about trying to get a photo of a hawk or eagle in flight or a closeup of a flower in my garden. Also, I want the option of choosing where the focus is in a picture.

So a few questions:
Do you use a point-and-shoot with a built in telephoto?I've been eyeing the Cannon Powershot SX50 HS, but don't know if it will be a reasonable choice for what I want to be able to do.

Do you have an SLR with changeable lenses? Our last SLR was stolen, but that was long enough ago that it used film. Do I need a digital SLR to do what I want?

What do you use?
What do you like or dislike about your camera?
Will it do what I want?

For now I'd just as soon not consider cost, but look at the various merits and problems of different options.

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corunum z6 CT(6)

What do you use?
Camera #1 is a DSLR Canon Rebel, T2i with a 70-300mm IS USM lens. Newest Rebel model is a T5i, I think . I bought the lens separately. This is my favourite camera and lens and I mostly use the manual settings - especially for birds in flight and perched. This camera does what I tell it to do. All screws ups are totally mine. And, some of the best macros I have were taken with the telephoto lens - it just depends on where you stand in relation to the subject.

Camera#2 is a Canon SX40 - Point and Shoot - fixed telephoto lens with a range up to 840mm. Newer model, SX50, goes up to about 1200mm, I think. I find the manual ability is not easy to use on this camera. When the auto focus decides it will focus clearly, often my subject has moved. To walk around static objects like gardens or for landscape shots, it's wonderful and lighter to carry than the Rebel with a larger lens. If you look at Molie's river bird shots, she has the SX50. It's a great telephoto range in a smaller body.

Will it do what I want? As stated above, the point & shoots are great, cost less, but many times that auto focus will not do what I want it to do. Just about impossible for me to get birds in flight with the P&S, which is why I bought the dslr and the best lens I was willing to pay for.

I'm still saying the same thing I said last time you thought about buying a new camera, and that is, go hold it in your hand. See how the grip feels, does the layout on the back of the body seem okay to you? The Canon SX models have the articulated LED screen, newer models of the Rebel have a touchscreen instead of dials - something I wouldn't want. Others may love it. Touchscreen is great on my iPad, but I don't want to look through bi-focals to see what adjustment I'm touching in a 3" rectangle when trying to focus.

IMO, the technology is wonderful in just about every brand of camera. I can't and won't pitch one brand over another because we all see colors a little differently and the feel of the camera body has to be comfortable in your hand and just make sense to you. My older Olympus still takes great macros with vivid color and a pocket Minolta takes nice landscapes. No brand loyalty here.

I can tell you that it continues to take a lot of time shooting to get what I call a good shot. For every 100 shots, I maybe keep 5. Both cameras are very capable of many, many photo opportunities. There's a learning curve to all of them. Glad you're deciding to take the plunge, because I'm still waiting for a New Hampshire moose picture!


    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 3:44PM
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Thanks, Jane! For now, here's a NH moose photo, pretty much the view I see looking out the kitchen window toward the river bank, before I planted the Kousa that's there now, taken with the old digital.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 4:14PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Jane has given a very very comprehensive description of the capabilities and faults of her cameras, and I won't (and can't) add on that level.

I'll just say that I'm currently using a Canon Powershot SX30 IS which has been superseded by the SX40 and SX50 models. It's a point-and-shoot with a built in telephoto (35x I think) and also has macro capabilities with all sorts of built in programs I don't use.

I'm not really interested in getting deeply into digital camera technology - I just want to see something, grab the camera and get a decent photo. This camera does that for me, and when it falters I'll probably buy whatever is the latest Canon Powershot SX version.

I haven't really mastered the bird in flight photos, but I think the camera can handle it, I just have to try a little harder (I may be too optimistic here). Auto focus can be tricky, sometimes I'll focus on something a little to the side of the subject and then count on editing to center the result. Like Jane, I take a lot of photos and delete many of them. I also edit extensively using the Canon Image Browser.

And also like Jane, I'll sometimes use the telephoto to take a macro shot.

An example of editing:

I was sitting on the deck and a green insect landed on the table so I grabbed the camera and took a macro shot. I just got one shot because the insect didn't care for the camera getting closer and it flew off. If you look very closely there's a tiny green speck in the middle of the picture.

Editing gave me this long-legged fly (I posted the pic on the Birds... thread):

It's not a high-quality photograph but it should give you an idea of what you could do with your NH moose shot if you didn't get the telephoto closeup. Telephoto is better, but so long as the focus is good you can edit and get a clear picture.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 5:29PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

OT, Claire, are you sure those flies aren't from Texas? Wow.

Nhbabs, thanks for the moose. The new camera will show his smile!
Hope to see a moose and seals in Maine next month.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 8:56AM
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Cameras have improved, some too much. I'm contemplating new, but want simple point n' shoot. Slightly larger to get a good zoom level. (not pocket size) And it MUST have a viewfinder! Hate trying to get a shot in those horrible LCD screens. Won't pay more than $200. Still happy with my cheapie Kodak. Not an expert by any means, but speaking of birds and in-flight, I did post my seagull efforts over at the Kitchen Table recently, if you can find me. I'll stick one pic in here.
Good luck shopping. It is hard to find one you like to hold and touch.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 9:25AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

nhbabs - the link below will either help or make things worse, but it's the most complete selection guide I've seen. Big deal - do you want an optical viewfinder or just use the LCD screen? That will cut the market search way down. I have to have the optical viewfinder and almost never use the LCD screen to focus because there's usually too much glare. Exception to that is having the articulated screen when taking pictures inside bushes or from a difficult, camera away from your body situation, which is rare.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 10:36AM
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I have the canon sx 50 hs.

Overall Quite happy with it. Can take close up pics of the birds in the trees out behind the pond - which is a couple hundred feet away - from my living room window And can even get close ups of individual flowers or tiny bugs on flowers. The image stabilization works well - as long as I keep reasonable still!

It's been a bit of a learning curve. Sometimes it's hard to get the autofocus to focus on what you want to focus on - the camera will focus on the flower instead of the butterfly. It can take some time for the camera to come into focus. And I've found that I have better luck stepping back and zooming in than getting too close to a subject - like when I want to take a photo of an individual flower petal.

The camera isn't too big. And it's lightweight for its size. It's also a point and shoot.

The camera has a million more features and I am unaware of how to use them and have no interest in learning. My criteria was point and shoot with a huge zoom and ability to take close ups.

One thing I found when looking for cameras - many have wifi now. And no cable. Which means you can upload your photos to a photo hosting site on the internet. But cannot upload the photos to the hard drive of your computer. Pay attention to that if this is an issue that concerns you.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 10:38AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

One small thing I didn't mention. My current digital camera uses lithium batteries, while my first one used alkaline. The lithium batteries last much longer - I hate it when there's a great photo op out the window and the camera goes dead! I keep a spare lithium battery charged and ready.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 10:47AM
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Thanks for the input Claire, Pixie Lou and Old Fixer and the resource, Jane.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 2:12PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I'm thinking of replacing my camera too. I have a Canon Point and Shoot Power Shot that was serving me well until I dropped it. It was a very small, low drop onto grass but ever since, I haven't been able to use my zoom and my photos just don't look as crisp as they did.

My daughter has been taking photos professionally for awhile and she has a Canon and I love the photos her camera takes. It's a DSLR but I forget the model. It's more camera than I need and more expensive too.

I used to think I would get more involved with a better camera, but I seem to have lost interest, so I don't know what I'm going to get next. Like Claire, I just want to grab the camera and shoot and end up with a quality photo. I have enjoyed the rotating viewfinder screen on my camera and not many other cameras have that feature.

I had a Minolta point and shoot before the Canon and I really liked that too.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 2:42PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Agree totally that editing software can work wonders.

A couple of years ago, a flotilla went up the Hudson from NYC to Albany. I went to watch with an old Canon Powershot, and took some pictures. After 'sharpening' the image with software, I ended up with this photograph of the Haalve Moon, a replica of Henry Hudson's ship.

This is what it looked like before.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 3:05PM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

First of all..... nice photos of the Haalve Moon, MadG, and of the seagull in flight, OldFixer!

As Jane said, my camera is a Cannon SX50 that my DH bought me as a gift. IâÂÂm in the category of those who have never read their cameraâÂÂs manual. I know my Cannon can do many âÂÂthingsâÂÂ, but I use it as a point and shoot camera.

To answer your concerns, what I like about this camera is the quality of the pictures. HereâÂÂs an unedited photo of the Supermoon that my DH took off our deck at 5:00 am on August 11. The picture quality is good enough for me. This camera works as well for flower close ups as it does for distances.

The one problem I have is that it's hard for me to hold the camera steady when I use the zoom (old age). I have to rest it against a surface to steady the shot. So IâÂÂve been thinking of getting a monopod.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 9:05PM
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Wow, that's an amazing moon photo, Molie!

Thanks, all. I think that I have good info now to go camera hunting next week.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 9:21AM
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homegrowninthe603 6a SE NH

Awesome moon pic, Molie.

I also recently purchased the Canon SX50. I've been happy with it for the most part but as some others have said, the autofocus can be frustrating. I missed a lot of good shots of the bluebirds a couple of nights ago while it tried in vain to focus. Ended up with so-so pics. I'm reading up on using some different settings, since auto doesn't seem to cut it sometimes. I think I just need to learn more ways to use this camera. It really does a good job most of the time.

It has a viewfinder. I really wanted that since it's all I ever used in the past and I didn't like the fixed screen on the back of the cameras. I was dissapointed in the viewfinder, but I was surprised that the screen is really nice since it folds out and can be angled to make it easier to see in different lights. I use it all the time now.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 1:06PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Molie: I've had good luck steadying the Canon camera by either resting my elbows on something (like the coffee maker) or by holding my arms so the elbows are pressed against my body. That eliminates, or at least lessens, the shakiness.

Susan: I don't like the Auto setting on my Canon SX30, so I mostly use the Program setting. You probably have something similar on the SX50. It allows me to choose daylight or cloudy for outdoors and tungsten or fluorescent lighting indoors, along with other settings I mostly don't use.

For normal use for outdoor shots, I just keep the camera on Program - Daylight and that usually works fine for plants and birds and whatever.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 3:15PM
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