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Railfan Technology > What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??


Date: 11/26/08 19:17
What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: nickrgeorge

I'm going to buy a new camera soon, and I am split over two important features. My main question is easy; when railfanning, what is most important: more megapixels or more optical zoom?? I am looking for a high-end point-and-shoot, and I do not want an SLR or a DSLR. Here's my choices that I have narrowed it down to:

-Sony DSC-H50 (9.1 MP, 15x Optical Zoom)
-Canon Powershot G10 (14.7 MP, 5x Optical Zoom)
-Sony DSC-W300 (13.6 MP, 3x Optical Zoom)

So... as you can see, the high MP models (the G10 and W300) have low zooms, and the high zoom model (the H50) has lower MP. What would you choose? Low-Light performance is pretty important to me, too. I'd like to at least have some pics accepted to RailPictures.net LOL!

Thanks!



Date: 11/26/08 19:45
Re: What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: chuchubobnv

9.1 ought to be plenty of MPs. I think that you will appreciate the higher zoom in the long run. For night shots it's hard to beat a DSLR shooting RAW files but the Sony should still do pretty good.

Bob



Date: 11/26/08 20:32
Re: What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: alex14ramos

Why don't you want an SLR or DSLR?

Take Care,
Alex Ramos



Date: 11/26/08 21:07
Re: What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: trainjunkie

Yeah, what Alex said.

If you're not completely sold on the point-and-shoot idea, here's something that may tip the scales in favor of a D-SLR. Factory refurb Nikon D40s with the 18-55 kit lens for $375.00!!!

http://www.adorama.com/INKD40KR.html



Date: 11/26/08 21:25
Re: What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: nickrgeorge

alex14ramos Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Why don't you want an SLR or DSLR?

Well, mainly because I have no experience at all with photography, and I need something easy to start out with. I'm also not keen on the idea of carrying a massive camera around with me, since I'm the kind of person who brings my camera everywhere. I've also seen what some people can do with high-end P&S cameras, so I'm satisfied. Right now, I have an old (just over 3yrs) Sony Cybershot P&S, with a mere 6MP and 3X Zoom, but I love it. Back then, I didn't have the intent of railfanning with it though.



Date: 11/26/08 21:31
Re: What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: TheOssman

trainjunkie Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Yeah, what Alex said.
>
> If you're not completely sold on the
> point-and-shoot idea, here's something that may
> tip the scales in favor of a D-SLR. Factory refurb
> Nikon D40s with the 18-55 kit lens for $375.00!!!
>
> http://www.adorama.com/INKD40KR.html

Just buy the new one of the D40 for $409 from Adorama like I did last week :-D. Worth every penny already and I'm only 8 shots in.

That said, optical zoom is much more important than megapixels in the point and shoots. Sensor size is the real determining factor instead of megapixels, since almost any number of megapixels can be shoved onto the same size sensor (see Canon A710/A720, Rebel XT/XTi/XSi etc., same sensors different MPs). Higher megapixels on the same size sensor equals worse image quality, they look slightly better since more MPs go onto newer models with better noise reduction and things like that. I shot the Canon A710 for the last year and a half and that was a really good camera for what I paid for it. Good low light performance for a P&S (sort of like good track speed out of a Toyota Camry but it was still useable as long as you knew its limits) and a 6x 35-210mm equivalent zoom. Especially with railfanning, where I think a long zoom is very important, buying the higher optical zoom is a much better idea. Look into the Canon S or now SX series (SX10) or the Sony DSC-H50 as you mentioned. I've played with the H50 at work a little bit and it seems it would be a good choice, but I also always recommend the Canon of anything when it comes to P&S cameras.



Date: 11/26/08 21:49
Re: What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: fbe

The next stop should be at www.dpreview.com and read the camera reviews there. The Canon G10 is freshly out of the pits. You can read what they say about 14.7 mpix on the smaller sensors. There is really no substitute to a good sharp lens. When you get out to a 200mm equivalent you are going to need a reliable anti vibration system or a good monopod.

Here is the next read for you. http://www.bythom.com/compactchallenge.htm There is lots of relevant information to digest in this article. Check out the descriptions in the sidebars for other cameras as well. This is from a working pro who does lots of outdoor types of photography.



Date: 11/26/08 23:32
Re: What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: nickrgeorge

OK, thanks guys for all of the help, I actually found a Panasonic/Lumix model that had awesome reviews, the DMC-FZ28K. It has 10.1 MP and 18x Optical Zoom, so it looks like I got both of the best! I bought it on Fry's.com for $400, and have an in-store pickup set for Friday. I'll post photos ASAP, maybe if the Santa Cruz Local runs Friday...

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Date: 11/27/08 04:00
Re: What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: KV1guy

What about the Nikon P80?



Date: 11/27/08 04:12
Re: What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: Edwardjb

DO NOT FAIL to check out the Fuji FinePix S1000fd. 10 megapix, 12x zoom, $190.00.

Ed



Date: 11/27/08 05:43
Re: What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: norm1153

Well, I'd also suggest getting a dSLR, maybe one of the lower end ones for starters, as others already have.

Barring a dSLR, and while it looks like it is too late now, let me still throw in the Canon Powershot SX10 IS, 10 MP, 28mm-560mm zoom, plus Image Stabilization. Also seems to be selling for slightly less than the Panasonic. It uses AA batteries, which makes availability easy, as opposed to the dedicated Panasonic battery.



Date: 11/27/08 06:45
Re: What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: gdvrrer

Just just received my Canon SX10 yesterday. $335 from Buydig.com. That 20X zoom capability is going to come in handy out there on the Seligman Sub.

Gary



Date: 11/27/08 10:34
Re: What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: fbe

Nick,

Good luck with your Panasonic. I think it will be a very capable railfanning tool. Forget all of the program modes. Find the shutter speed priority mode and set the speed for 1/500 or faster. There is a shutter lag between the time you start the release actuation and when the photo is made. Minimize this by prefocusing on the point in the track you want to locomotive to be. You do this by centering the viewfinder on the rail there and depressing the shutter release about 1/2 way down until you get the focus confirmation light and beep. While holding the release in that position, recompose the image and when the train gets to the point you have selected and fully depress the shutter release to make the photo.

Don't forget to post the results.

Alan



Date: 11/27/08 13:12
Re: What's More Important: Mega pixels or Optical Zoom?
Author: wa4umr

I suggest the dslr also but getting back to the original question, let me offer this to the conversation. Basically, a 2x digital zoom just uses 1/4 of the pixels. Your 10mp becomes 2.5 (1/2 as wide and 1/2 as tall.) Even 2.5 MP is more than enough for 4x6 or even 5x7 prints and it's plenty for posting photos on the Internet. Look at the limits here on TO.com. All of the photos are 300k files or less and most of them look pretty good.

That said, I prefer the optical zoom. The only thing bad about them is that some of the lens are not really up to the task of matching with the detail you can get from a 10MP or greater sensor. They are getting better but the manufacturers are really pushing the limits.

It all boils down to what you think you can live with. Modern P&S cameras often offer a combination of both, so you can usually have the best of both worlds.

John



Date: 11/27/08 14:36
Re: What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: nickrgeorge

fbe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Nick,
>
> Good luck with your Panasonic. I think it will be
> a very capable railfanning tool. Forget all of
> the program modes. Find the shutter speed
> priority mode and set the speed for 1/500 or
> faster. There is a shutter lag between the time
> you start the release actuation and when the photo
> is made. Minimize this by prefocusing on the
> point in the track you want to locomotive to be.
> You do this by centering the viewfinder on the
> rail there and depressing the shutter release
> about 1/2 way down until you get the focus
> confirmation light and beep. While holding the
> release in that position, recompose the image and
> when the train gets to the point you have selected
> and fully depress the shutter release to make the
> photo.
>
> Don't forget to post the results.
>
> Alan

Thanks Alan! I'll write this down, that'll be a lot of help, since I just use the Auto mode on my current camera and let it do all of the guessing...



Date: 11/27/08 16:35
Re: What's More Important: Megapixels or Optical Zoom??
Author: fbe

If you feel the need to use an auto mode chose on with the guy jumping over the hurdle for action photography. That at least will keep the shutter speed high while the aperture is opened up. It is not really any harder to choose the shutter for 1/500 sec for moving trains and then the camera will chose everything else. Once you get comfortable there you can start "tuning" the rest of the parameters to meet your needs.



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