One of my hobbies is photography. Very much at the budget end of the spectrum. I bought a Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80, a supersoom bridge camera some years ago, which is very well priced (hundreds of dollars, not thousands) for being very versatile. Recently, I bought a second-hand Canon 1500D DSLR, which is considered entry-level. I also bought two lenses with it. For the combined price of a new Lumix (prices have come down with people switching to mirrorless).
In this blog post, I am going to compare some of the photos from each camera and also how I found them. I have cropped some of the photos slightly for a more pleasing composition, plus reduced the file sizes for internet. These pics are all taken handheld (no tripod or monopod).
bridge camera pics
Some of my pics with the Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80. The strengths of this camera are a huge zoom lens (20-1200mm or 60x optical zoom) in a reasonably compact camera for a very affordable price. Quick to zoom and focus, quiet and easy to use. The weaknesses are a small sensor, so may have more 'noise' (look grainy) in low light and be a little less sharp than a DSLR.
Zooming in to a swan's feathers in good lighting.
Trying out the apeture priority mode for a close-up, plus using the focus on the LED touchscreen.
Pretty good pics of small birds.
Versatile for scenery, birds (that aren't too far away) etc.
DSLR camera pics
Some pics with the Canon 1500D. I bought secondhand EF-S 18-55mm (suitable for landscapes and portraits) and EF-S 55-250 lens (an entry-level telephoto lens) to go with it. A telephoto lens brings things closer.
Just some hair scrunchies. Good detail.
Sunset. Would likely be sharper if had the camera on a tripod (I can't be bothered using one when out and about).
A swan when it was nearly dark. Turned out reasonably well. The bridge camera would have come out very grainy if I had tried to take a pic in poor lighting.
A heron dunking its head underwater.
The same heron walking away.
This was about as close as the lens could get on small, shy, fast-moving birds. Not nearly as zoomed in as the Lumix. The lens only have ranges where can zoom in. So, this is no good for bird reference pics.
I didn't manage to compose this duck very well, as I was having focussing issues. It was used to humans so came quite close to get a reasonable pic.
I am still getting used to the Canon but compared to the Lumix, it is loud, heavy and clunky. I think it takes slightly shaper pictures, when I could get it to focus. There was a problem with the autofocus stuttering (the buyer has instructed me to return it for testing). Seems that others online have had similar issues.
It has a larger sensor than the panasonic plus larger file size (I shot in JPEG rather than RAW for both). The Canon is 24 MP, the Lumix is 18MP. This means that more light can get to the sensor plus higher resolution which should result in a better quality image.
I read there is a trade off with the superzoom lens, as the optics will be affected slightly. So can never get supersharp. However, it is super versatile to quickly zoom into a bird or anything else of interest during a walk. I found it lighter and less bulky to carry.
My Lumix does tend to get 'stuck' at times when zooming (seems others have had this problem), so comes up with an error instruction to turn the camera off (which seems to reset it). It's a bit annoying, especially when about to take a pic of a bird.
The Canon autofocus issue was quite frustrating. It doesn't zoom in enough for small birds, although it seems okay for larger, slower birds like ducks and swans. It doesn't seem to have touchscreen focus. I also couldn't figure out how to use the exposure compensation (some things didn't seem intuitive).
The Canon is noisy and slower as it has a mirror inside that moves. The mechanical parts moving can shake the camera which can lead to less sharp pictures when hand-held. Using a timer can help reduce camera movement but that's not much good with birds on the move.
For my needs, I enjoy taking bird pics for a low outlay during my walks. The camera needs to be light enough to carry comfortably. Plus fast. The Lumix has a touchscreen LED screen that I am learning to use (I am only recently learning some of the settings, rather than mostly using auto).
I also want to take sharper and larger pics of my artworks. The D1500D would be suitable for this, as it produces sharp images at reasonably close distance, with still subjects. The autofocus is comparatively the pace of a snail for anything moving, so I don't think is good for birds.
For my walks and bird pics, I vote for the Lumix. It can zoom in quickly, even to small birds, with good enough pics as reference pics for painting. I can't justify paying several thousand dollars for the premium birding cameras and lenses, nor do I want to lug heavy gear around (bird and wildlife photographers typically use a 500mm lens, which is heavy and bulky and super expensive).
All my bird pics are spontaneous pics from my walks. Quickly whip out the camera and take some pics.
For sharper artwork pics, I will experiment but judging from the detail in the flower pics (such as the top pic), I think the DSLR will be better. Plus allow a larger file size if I wanted higher resolution prints. Entering an art calendar competition was actually my main motivation as the file size and detail with the bridge camera wasn't really good enough.
After comparing new and second-hand cameras, I decided on an option which I thought would overall be half the price with going up to 250mm. Now, I'm kind of regretting it, with the autofocus stutter issue. I need autofocus as I have eyesight issues.
Both can shoot in RAW but I don't have the software to process RAW files.
Each camera has strengths and weaknesses in different areas. My preferred camera is the Lumix for spontaneous shots in nature. It's not quite good enough though if I want more detail if I wanted to print my art.
I've also used a previous version of a Lumix for spontaneous pics of pets. I gifted the pics to clients when I was pet sitting and they said they were the best pics of their pets, ever. The Lumix is the most affordable all-rounder hobby camera I've seen on the market.
Let's hope I can get the autofocus issue sorted without too much extra hassle. I was a big disappointed with the purchase but the seller had a warranty. If it can't be rectified, I will ask for a refund and look at other options.
Disclaimer: the author of this blog is not an expert by profession and her opinions should not be taken as expert advice.