Thinking about telephoto coverage -- superzoom vs. DSLR

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Jock Elliott, Oct 20, 2013.

  1. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    I had a “God likes me” moment the other day.

    My wife and I like to walk on Peebles Island in search of birds and other wildlife. She carries the FZ150 and I shoot with the FZ200. Because of the geography – water, cliffs, and the like – it is often not possible to “zoom with our feet,” so we are constantly shooting at the optical and digital zoom limits of our two cameras. Very often, our subjects are 100-200 yards away.

    We are pleased with the performance of the two FZ cameras – they are light, convenient, offer 24-600 (equivalent) focal range (and up to 1,200mm with digital zoom) and deliver astonishing images for such a small package. Still, when we pop the resultant images up on the computer screen, we are always yearning for just a bit more reach, a little more detail and resolution.

    It’s hard to get that reach and resolution in a package that I would want to carry all the time. A micro 4/3 with a 100-300 would offer the equivalent of 600mm and more with digital zoom, but would the resultant images be a significant improvement over what we have? An APS-C DSLR with an XX-300mm lens would offer 450mm equivalent, and digital zoom on top of that might offer more. . .

    I was speculating on this with my wife as we walked on Peebles Island when – very fortuitously -- we ran into a couple taking pictures. He had a Nikon 3100 with a Nikon 55-300 lens. . . the exact setup I had been speculating about. We walked together for a while, and we both shot pictures of a Great Blue Heron about 75 yards away. When we compared images on our camera screens – his zoomed in to give comparable size – he said “Yours is sharper!” I looked, and sure enough it was.

    This got me to thinking (always dangerous!). My FZ200 offers 24-600mm equivalent, but the lens is actually 4.5-108mm. The conventional wisdom on telephotos is that you should shoot at a shutter speed that is at least the reciprocal of the focal length. So, if you are shooting a 100mm, you should shoot at least 1/100 second; if you’re shooting a 200mm, you should shoot 1/200 sec., and so forth. So theoretically, I could get away with shooting at 1/100 second or thereabouts.

    But the gentleman shooting the Nikon had a lens that was 55-300mm actual (not equivalent). Theoretically, at top zoom, he should be shooting at 1/300 second.

    So here’s the question: does the shorter actual focal length of the superzoom give me an advantage in shooting steadier handheld shots at equivalent focal length over a DSLR? If I am thinking about this correctly, it does.

    But maybe there are other considerations that need to be factored in.

    What do you think?

    Cheers, Jock
     
  2. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    The theoretical limit for handholding a lens is based on the rule of 1/focal length expressed in 35mm equivalent terms. 1/focal length is a very easy rule to remember but the ability to handhold a lens relates specifically to the angle-of-view, which means you need to calculate the equivalent focal length of a lens that is mounted on a crop sensor.
     
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  3. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 12, 2010
    bart
    ^yup, it's about equivalent focal length. That makes sense, because if the equivalent focal length is the same, then the same amount of camera shake will result in the same amount of image blur.

    The FZ200 has an excellent lens. When I borrowed my dad's FZ200 to shoot some images at the Le Mans 24 Hour race, I was surprised to find that even at full tele, the pixel-level sharpness isn't all that much worse than my Fuji X100; sure, there's a difference, but the FZ200's images still look very decent at 100%. So it makes sense that even a slight amount of digital zoom on a DSLR would take away any sharpness / detail advantage it holds over the FZ200. Then the only things that remain are superior high ISO performance, dynamic range, colour gradations and shallower depth of field - all of which are advantages that can easily be reduced or even undone by the FZ200's f/2.8 lens. In short, it's an incredible piece of kit and you'd have to spend a LOT of money to get significantly better performance from an interchangeable lens camera.
     
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  4. rbelyell

    rbelyell SC Top Veteran

    820
    May 14, 2013
    NY Mtns
    it wouldnt cost you much to rent an m4/3 camera and zoom to try out.
     
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  5. Yeats

    Yeats SC All-Pro

    Jul 31, 2012
    New Jersey, USA
    Chris
    Hey Jock, I had learned in the Long Ago that for decently sharp images, ensure your shutter speed is at least 1/(focal length), but for really sharp images, your shutter should be at least 1/(focal length)x1.5.

    I've had the Canon SX50, Fuji SL1000 & HS50, Nikon P510, and have been able to shoot at maximum focal length at 1/100s without issue, provided I use proper technique.

    WRT the person with the Nikon D3100 + 55-300 combo, he should be able to shoot at 1/100s also, given that the lens has VR.

    Of course, all of this pertains only to static subjects, wildlife on the move will usually require faster shutter speeds.

    Comparing the photos that you & Mr. Nikon took, the D3100 has a far inferior LCD to your Panny - the D3100 has only half of the pixels of the Panny FZ200, so I don't think you could make a valid comparison regarding IQ based on LCD-viewing.

    My own very rough anecdotal experiences shooting wildlife with various superzooms and DSLR's with 300mm & 500mm lenses has led me to believe this: for detail, a DSLR with a consumer-grade zoom will have 50% more "reach" than a small-sensor superzoom. That is, an entry-level DSLR with a cheap 300mm lens (so, 450mm equiv) will, after cropping, show similar detail to a good superzoom @ 600mm or so. This is purely anecdotal, but I think it's because the good superzooms have sharper lenses than the $300-ish Pentax/Nikon/Canon models, and the handling advantages of the superzooms can really help out. All IMHO, of course!

    Anyhoo, WRT image stabilizaton and focal lengths and sharpness and such, here's a GBH (n the rain) shot @ 200mm (300mm equiv) 1/60s:

    [​IMG][/url][/IMG]
     
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  6. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Holy smokes! That is a stunning image! What was the camera and the approximate range to your "victim?"

    So, if I am interpreting what everyone is saying properly. I do NOT have a shake advantage.

    Further, it sounds like I would need to do a deluxe wallectomy to gain a significant image advantage.

    Cheers, Jock
     
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  7. Yeats

    Yeats SC All-Pro

    Jul 31, 2012
    New Jersey, USA
    Chris
    Thanks for the kind words, Jock.

    I used a Pentax K-01 (bought new earlier this year, $398 w/40mm lens) + ~50 yr old Takumar 200/5.6 lens ($90).

    I had the very good fortune of encountering the least-flighty GBH I had ever met. I was about 15 ft away, moving as quietly as I could, and I guess he was simply not concerned. I remember that I prayed, "dear God, thank you for this beautiful opportunity, please help me not to screw it up!"

    I'd say that the cheapest way to get the reach of your FZ200 with better IQ would be an m43 + VF + 300mm lens, which would be at least $800 new. A little birdie told me to expect a Panasonic 100-300mm lens for Christmas, to use with my Oly E-PM2, so I'll be able to provide better insight then.

    Actually, I think you do have a an advantage in terms of shake, if only because you have a 2 stops advantage in lens brightness, and maybe because (IMO) a superzoom is easier to handle. I was just looking thru my images, and I had forgotten how often I was able to shoot reliably at under 1/100s.

    Here's a frog I shot with the Fuji HS50, 1/50s.
    [​IMG][/url][/IMG]
     
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  8. staticantics

    staticantics SC Regular

    136
    Oct 15, 2013
    Central California
    Chris
    Not that one ever needs more reasons to think they need lenses, but the thread at mu-43 http://www.mu-43.com/showthread.php?t=7871&page=80. has some great examples of what can be done with the Panasonic 100-300.

    Likewise I am sure you can find similar quality images made with other cameras. The 100-300 is less than $500 at amazon now, which is a bargain compared to just a few months ago.
     
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  9. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    I been cruising through that thread . . . most of the images are really spectacular. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Cheers, Jock