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Nikon P950 vs Canon SX70; also, 'International'?


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I'll open with the easier question. I often see a camera marked 'International version' priced 15% or more less than the same model that isn't specifically marked as 'International', on the same web site. What's an 'International version' and should I care?

Okay, here's the harder one. I want to replace my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70. The autofocus is too slow at max zoom, and the manual focus is too cumbersome. I want something with comparable reach but is an improvement in these two areas.

I use a camera to A) take photos of what I couldn't identify in the field so I can research them at home, B) keep a record of what I've seen, C) use the zoom capabilities for birds outside the range of my binos. I'm after functional photos more than artistic ones. The images will be viewed exclusively on large computer monitors, and uploaded to eBird / Macauley. They won't be printed.

So, Nikon CoolPix P950 or Canon PowerShot SX70? I have to keep reminding myself of my two big complaints with the FZ70: the autofocus is slow and the manual focus is cumbersome. Any thoughts regarding the P950 and SX70 in terms of autofocus speed and ease of manual focus?

Thanks in advance!

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I don't have much to say because I've never used either, but with both cameras you have to use the dial or up and down buttons to adjust manual focus, so both will be cumbersome.  I'm sure there's a point-and-shoot or two with a focus ring, but most don't.  I'd like to know what you consider slow autofocus.  Is it slow for everything at max zoom or does it hunt for birds in flight?

Edited by The Bird Nuts
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@The Bird Nuts, the FZ70 is slow at max zoom.  Understandable, but I don't have an opportunity to test drive the other two and compare them to it or each other.  I don't know about BIF because I don't try them much.  I don't know the techniques stay on the bird and keep it in focus.

As to focusing mechanism, the FZ70 has a dial.  In my opinion, its position on back, upper right corner was a poor design choice.  I have to position my right thumb in between the dial and my cheek.  This moves my right eye away from the viewfinder some, and turning the dial left or right shifts the camera off target.  The P950 has a dial but it's on the left side, accessible without disrupting my sighting.  I haven't checked the focusing mechanism on the SX70 yet; I think it's buttons, which I'd prefer over a dial.

The only superzoom I've found with a ring is the monstrous P1000 (125X / 3000mm !!!).  I'd love to have it because of the range and ring but it weighs in over 3 pounds!  I can't talk myself into lugging that around for three or four hours.

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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Ah, I didn't notice the wheel on the left side of the P950.  If that is the focus wheel, then that should be very helpful!  My SX50 has the dial in the same place as the FZ70, but it wasn't in my way because I hardly ever used the viewfinder.

Is your FZ70 always slower at max zoom no matter how much light there is?

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1 minute ago, AlexHenry said:

For “International Version” be careful that you aren’t getting a gray market camera as it will not be covered by manufacturer warranty

Okay, I'm not familiar with the term 'gray market'.  Do I understand that the manufacturer doesn't warrant the item depending on who I bought it from?

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@lonestranger, I'd already found that but thanks anyway.

It didn't answer my questions regarding speed of auto or ease of manual focus, but I wouldn't expect  that from a list of specs anyway.  What it did tell me is that the battery in the SX70 is built-in, implying you plug in the entire camera to recharge it.  The inability to swap out batteries in the field is a total deal-breaker.

Unfortunately, accompanying articles led me to discover the Sony RX-10 IV.  It's only 25X but it has a 1" sensor, vs the P950's 83X with 1/2.3".  I set my FX-70 to 25X and wasn't pleased with the reach at all, but it has the same size sensor as the P950.  It may be that sensor size has no effect on final image size anyway, and I'm asking an ignorant question, but I've asked it over on DPR anyway.

(Still trying to figure out if I'm dumb enough to lug the P1000 around :classic_ohmy:.  Focusing with a ring is a feature that may be more attractive than the zoom!  I should get a 3 lb. dumbbell and carry that around for a couple of hours to see how it feels.  Or just get a small trailer and let the dog pull it?)

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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I have limited experience but suspect manual focus on any "electronic" camera will be laggy, but still better than auto focus for those darn birds lurking in the bushes.

I noticed this thread that might have some useful feedback on choices.

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/64525998

A larger sensor can certainly compensate for lack of telephoto reach (ability to crop more without degrading the image due to the larger pixels) and also provides better images for other more general uses, including shooting in low light.

Like most things it's a compromise.

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15 minutes ago, RobinHood said:

A larger sensor can certainly compensate for lack of telephoto reach (ability to crop more without degrading the image due to the larger pixels)

I may not understand how we're using the word 'crop' (or how they use it on DPR either).  I only know it as selecting a portion of the image and eliminating everything around that.  I don't understand how that would affect improve or degrade the image; wouldn't the bird itself in the cropped area still occupy the same number of pixels and dimensions as before I cut around it?

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Quick answer - take one of your photos that has a bird which is just a distant blob in the far distance and crop it so the bird fills the image. The trick is to try to retain as many pixels as possible

The more pixels (higher resolution) you retain when you crop a photo the better the quality will be.

However not all pixels are equal. Two cameras with 24MP sensors but one with a 1 inch sensor and the other a 1/2.3" will produce significantly different results.

This means you can typically crop more with a larger sensor camera which can compensate for the lack of lens reach.

 

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7 minutes ago, RobinHood said:

Quick answer - take one of your photos that has a bird which is just a distant blob in the far distance and crop it so the bird fills the image. The trick is to try to retain as many pixels as possible

I'm afraid I may still not be following you.  I don't normally crop (or do any other post processing).  I display the image 'full-size' on the screen, not 'shrink to fit'.  I center the bird on the screen, and let the portions others may crop just fall outside the monitor's edges.  Once I've identified the bird, I close the image unaltered.  Does this accomplish the same goal?

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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I'm hoping not to confuse the issue, famous last words.

If you are viewing an image on the screen and not chopping off any of the image then ignore everything I said.

If you are viewing an image and zooming in a little so some of the original image is no longer showing then you are effectively cropping it and not seeing all the pixels. This degrades the original image and the larger the sensor the less degradation.

Hope this helps. I have to leave now so hopefully someone else can clarify if required.

Dpreview has some excellent intro articles on this type of topic.

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49 minutes ago, Chris Clem said:

I would consider renting the one you think might fit your needs best. You can only tell so much from reading about them. The auto focus will likely be pretty bad on all super zooms, so pay close attention to the manual focus and how easy or hard it is to work. 

Renting?  I didn't know that was a thing.  I assume that would require a camera store, something we no longer have in the Columbia, SC, Greater Metropolitan Statistical Area.  Charlotte, maybe, but that's two hours one way.

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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29 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

Renting?  I didn't know that was a thing.  I assume that would require a camera store, something we no longer have in the Columbia, SC, Greater Metropolitan Statistical Area.  Charlotte, maybe, but that's two hours one way.

Rentals are available online, here's two links to check out. Both websites rent point and shoot superzooms, as well as DSLRs and lenses. 

https://www.borrowlenses.com/

https://www.lensrentals.com

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43 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

Renting?  I didn't know that was a thing.  I assume that would require a camera store, something we no longer have in the Columbia, SC, Greater Metropolitan Statistical Area.  Charlotte, maybe, but that's two hours one way.

Agreed, outside of very major metropolitan areas there's likely not going to be stores which offer rental services. However, cameras can be rented online, a service which I've used before (I'm a wedding videographer).

But from my knowledge, those services are more aimed at semi-pros, and I don't think they'd have bridge cameras, which are the type of cameras that have these enormous zoom lenses.

Edit: actually, wow. I did not realize that major camera rental companies also offered point-and-shoots.

Edited by Benjamin
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11 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

And who would be the major companies?  Do you have experience with any of them?

I used lensrentals once before and rented a Canon 80d a couple of years ago. Other than that, as lonestranger pointed out there's lensrentals.

The whole process was really easy, I paid around $80 for around 4-5 days with the 80d plus a lens, don't remember which one.

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33 minutes ago, lonestranger said:

Rentals are available online, here's two links to check out. Both websites rent point and shoot superzooms, as well as DSLRs and lenses. 

https://www.borrowlenses.com/

https://www.lensrentals.com

 

31 minutes ago, Benjamin said:

Agreed, outside of very major metropolitan areas there's likely not going to be stores which offer rental services. However, cameras can be rented online, a service which I've used before (I'm a wedding videographer).

But from my knowledge, those services are more aimed at semi-pros, and I don't think they'd have bridge cameras, which are the type of cameras that have these enormous zoom lenses.

Edit: actually, wow. I did not realize that major camera rental companies also offered point-and-shoots.

@lonestrangersomehow I missed your post.

@Benjaminthanks for mentioning it

And both of you, thanks for the info.  I have three 4-day holidays coming up and these will be perfect times to test the models I'm interested in!

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On 11/8/2020 at 8:41 AM, Charlie Spencer said:

  I don't normally crop (or do any other post processing).

Do you use the digital zoom on your camera, @Charlie Spencer? If not you may want to give it a try. I don't usually recommend using the digital zoom on point and shoot cameras because I always thought it just digitally cropped the image in the camera where you have less control and poorer results than doing the cropping on the computer in post processing, but that might be ideal for you. The image quality might drop in the digital zoom range but it might also help fill the frame with your subject which might actually help the camera get a better exposure metering. Remember, the more you can fill the screen with your subject, the better the odds of the camera getting the exposure right. You also have to remember that the longer you zoom out, the harder it will be to keep the camera steady and locked on your subject, this is where practice and good technique comes into play. 

I didn't take a wide angle shot this morning, but here's one from a few days ago that shows the tree and where I was shooting from.

DSCN1171.thumb.JPG.309bf58a61096a710c669ff822aca0c2.JPG

 

I took a few sample shots with and without digital zoom to show how the exposure is more accurate when your subject fills the frame. My subject is right in the middle of the frame, and in the shadows, a challenging shot for any auto or semi auto setting on most cameras because the rest of the tree being in direct sun with the bright sky in the background.DSCN1215.thumb.JPG.9abb68480182a5ab1e4995c3a5e16702.JPG

 

This is max optical zoom, notice the better exposure that allows us to see what the subject actually is. 

DSCN1214.thumb.JPG.92f089cdbc6629a709fc6dfe422f7d81.JPG

 

This is max digital zoom, 8000mm. While it's not a pretty picture, it is definitely suitable for IDing purposes, if you're IDing trees. :classic_laugh:

DSCN1220.thumb.JPG.ad8dfba77aaa96d9dc811bead207fa89.JPG

 

Getting closer is one of the simplest things we can do to improve our bird photos, while digital zoom probably isn't the best way to get closer, it might be better than not getting closer. Something to consider if you haven't already tried and dismissed the idea of digital zoom.

Edited by lonestranger
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2 hours ago, lonestranger said:

Do you use the digital zoom on your camera, @Charlie Spencer?

I'll use it in those cases where I'm using the camera to pull in stuff beyond the reach of my binos.  As to whether it results in identifiable images, that depends on the range and the bird; it's not worth much on shorebirds or gulls, semi-identifiable with ducks.  But I'm not one of those who's philosophically opposed to using it, although I do leave it as a last resort.

On 11/8/2020 at 6:27 AM, Charlie Spencer said:

Unfortunately, accompanying articles led me to discover the Sony RX-10 IV.  It's only 25X but it has a 1" sensor, vs the P950's 83X with 1/2.3".  I set my FX-70 to 25X and wasn't pleased with the reach at all, but it has the same size sensor as the P950.  It may be that sensor size has no effect on final image size anyway, and I'm asking an ignorant question, but I've asked it over on DPR anyway.

Fortunately, I found -TWO- people at DPReview who have used both P950 and RX-10.   Their comments and photos (some of the same subject at each camera's uncropped max zoom) convince me that for my purposes, the longer reach of the P950 trumps the larger sensor of the RX-10.  

Thanks to everyone who responded!

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Be careful of comparing 25x zoom on one camera to 25x zoom on a different camera, @Charlie Spencer. If one starts out with a 10mm lens and the other starts out with a 20mm lens, your 25x zoom will be 250mm and 500mm. When comparing lens magnification, it's best to compare the 25mm equivalent. As my example points out, 25x zoom can be significantly different from one camera to another.

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