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I’m looking for information on what factors to consider in deciding between a camera with a large sensor and low light sensitivity (for example, the Canon S95) and a camera with a good zoom (for example, the Lumx ZS7). My main uses are for family events and vacations, so I am interested in a mix of indoor and outdoor events. Sporting events aren’t an important use for me, but indoor occasions such as graduations and plays in the school auditorium are important. For that type of use, low light capability is important, but an optical zoom to pick out my kid on the stage is also critical. What factors should I be considering to decide?

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3 Answers 3

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You say that you want reach "to pick up my kid on the stage". Now, indoors the light is typically poor to say the least. This situation calls for a camera with good high ISO performance and/or a large lens aperture.

While a camera with worse ISO performance and a slower lens, but with more zoom, will let you "pick up the kid" and get good tight framing at a distance, I submit that this will not help you at all if it forces you to use such a long shutter time that your hands will shake, or your kid move, during the exposure. I assume that you do not want a blurry photo? The built-in flash will not help, by the way, it is designed for use at very close range, two-three meters or so.

Also keep in mind that a zoom lens usually has a larger max aperture at the wide end of the zoom than at the long end, a very useful f/2.8 wide end helps you very little if the long end is a more marginal f/5.6, which lets in only 1/4 the light of f/2.8. This bites you twice in fact, because you already need a faster shutter speed at max zoom than at max wide-angle because zoom magnifies the camera shake as well as the subject.

If you give up some reach at the long end for a faster lens/better sensor, it is always possible to crop the photo tighter on the computer afterwards. A blurry photo on the other hand cannot be fixed.

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Honestly, I think you answered your own question :)

Large sensor and low light sensitivity are best for indoor use and events in a school auditorium are most important to you.

Note that when it comes to large-sensors, you 98% get the ability to use interchangeable lenses, in which case you can buy any focal-length you want eventually. It will cost you over time but just because you get something with a large sensor doesn't mean you can't get a long zoom.

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Thanks. Convenience issues more than cost rule out interchangeable lenses. Yes, I've pitched the low light issue, but I hate to give up the zoom for outdoor vacation shots. (Has mock tantrum - why can't I have both!) –  Will M Jan 24 '11 at 0:51
    
@Will - I can play devil's advocate and tell you that I find it inconvenient to miss and get crappy shots ;) But, since cost is less of an issue, you can consider to get both. I own more cameras than I will admit :) but I usually travel with 2 or 3 and not always the some ones. I choose the cameras (and lenses when taking a DSLR) depending on circumstances, subjects and convenience. –  Itai Jan 24 '11 at 1:05

Hey Will, There are a lot of other differences between those two cameras to consider, top among them are:

  • S95 shoots in RAW
  • S95 has a minimum aperture of f2 (Lumix is 3.3)
  • S95 can be set to ISO up to 3200 (Lumix can be set to 1600 but auto up to 6400)
  • Lumix zooms to 300mm, S95 to 105mm
  • Lumix has GPS
  • Lumix has a faster drive mode
  • Lumix's wide end is 25mm (S95 is 28mm)

Lots of differences: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/compare_post.asp?method=sidebyside&cameras=canon_s95%2Cpanasonic_dmczs7&show=all

In general, it sounds like for what you're shooting you don't care about long zoom (105mm is pretty tight), you care more about low light performance AND higher shutter speeds at low light (larger apertures). Look at some other cameras that go down to f2 and have good low light performance too.

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Another good comparison site is snapsort.com/compare/… –  Eruditass Jan 24 '11 at 4:03

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