My first camera was a “110” (took “110 film”, almost undoubtedly a Kodak, maybe like the Kodak Ektra 100 – although I think I had a couple different ones over the years). After the 110s I had a few simple 35mm cameras, nothing to earth shaking.
In December 2000 I got my first digital camera, a Kodak DC280 Zoom – you can see my very first digital pictures here. The DC280 was a solid camera which served me nicely (and my brother-in-law after me). Toward the end of 2003 I was in the market for a new camera, something with better picture quality, more megapixels, etc. I had just seen the Panasonic DMC-FZ10 and loved it (and have been watching the Panasonic DMC-FZ cameras ever since), but wanted something that I could use with scuba diving, so I ended up getting the Canon A80. I’ve loved the A80 and never regretted the decision to get it- I have taken literally thousands of pictures with it, even a lot of great underwater pictures.
Since we moved east I have been taking more pictures than ever before and the A80 has started to feel just a little “dated”. I still feel that four megapixels is certainly enough for almost every situation – we rarely print our pictures and generally just view them on Flickr and usually the biggest is in the Flickr “Slideshow mode” — mostly I desired a camera that [a] started up faster [b] focused a lot faster (time from pressing the button to the time I can actually take the picture) [c] much faster from shot-to-shotÂ [d] had a much stronger optical zoom and [e] had image stabalization. Primarily because of the optical zoom, I decided to not put the same limits on physical size when I was making my selection – I plan to keep the A80 for underwater photography and use this one above the water. I was initially considering the Canon S5 IS but found a much better deal on the Panasonic DMC-FZ8 so decided on it.
The Panasonic DMC-FZ8 arrived on Saturday, I charged the battery, and on Sunday we took a trip with some friends to Tarrytown, NY to just walk around and check out the town. I took a bunch of pictures and and came to the following conclusions: I prefer the size of the A80, I prefer that the A80 takes AA batteries, and I prefer that the A80 has a “swivel out screen”, otherwise, the FZ8 is absolutely superior in every respect. The 12x optical zoom is amazing. The image stabilization seems to work great.Â The FZ8 is slightly larger (mostly because of the lens) but it is relatively light and comfortable in the hand. The “view finder” is LCD based so you see pretty much everything on it that you would see on the normal (large) LCD, which is really neat, especially in bright situations. The FZ8 user interface is verbose and very easy to use. The camera doesn’t suffer from “button overload” but has enough to get the job done. The Canon S5 would have addressed a couple of my complaints (AA batteries, “swivel out” LCD, but I am really pleased with the FZ8 and for a third less money it seems almost a no brainer – plus I’m not wasting a bunch of AA batteries. I’ll use the FZ8 for the next few weeks (road trip) and build a more complete impression, but so far I feel it was a great choice.