Question about Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1 Digital Camera

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If you zoom to less than 12x

I am used to macros on my SLR zoom lens which allowed me to get the focal length and get the image that I wanted. I realize that digital is a whole new game.... If you zoom to less than 12x with the FZ1/FZ10 and use the macro, will you be able to adjust the focal length and adjust the image or will it just be out of focus?

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The macro setting on the fz series allows you to get within a couple of centimeters of the subject and obtain focus. That is pretty close. That is too close. The camera will throw a shadow. You need some room. Most high zoom cameras (notably Olympus) have macro capabilty throughout the zoom which not only increases the magnification but also allows you (requires you) to put some distance between the lens and the subject. The panasonic fz series is different. They do not have macroability at zooms greater than 2x-3x. Beyond that there is no increase in magnification. Why? I dont know. Maybe this feature was designed on a Monday. Fortunately this can all be rectified with the use of a closeup lens. Now the fz series will react like most other high zoom cameras and do it well. The Olympus b-macro is such a lens. There are many others.

Posted on Sep 06, 2005

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Sorry you're having such a problem with the fz1 w/b-macro. Here is a shot of the stock fz1 w/b-macro at full 12x zoom - resized only. Try practicing on still objects such as coins or jewlery. If you are beyond 10-12 inches you are probably too far away.

Posted on Sep 06, 2005

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Use a shorter lens (or zoom out) and get closer. Remember that, according to the reciprocal rule of photography, reducing your focal length will give you less camera shake at any given shutter speed. Additionally, when you're using a variable-aperture zoom, you can often use a larger aperture with shorter focal lengths. Furthermore, getting closer might force you to be more creative when framing the picture.Use a tripod or a monopod If you're using an SLR and find yourself with so little light that you have no choice but to use long exposures, you might want to invest in a remote release cable. If your camera has a mirror lock-up (also called exposure delay mode), use it; this will stop the vibration from the mirror from affecting your images. Check your camera's manual to see what it's called. Mirror lock-up has two definitions; the other definition refers to when the mirrors and shutters move out of the way after you click the shutter button so that you can clean the image sensor without the sensor being active. If your camera doesn't have mirror lock-up, you can use the self timer.

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Hello. Hope you can help. I have a CX 4 digital camera. I would like to know if there is a way to set this camera up so as to take picture with a much more narrow focal length. I am trying to compete my a...


I presume you mean the Ricoh CX4? if so, I'm puzzled by your question, in particular the term "narrow focal length". It's also difficult to answer without knowing which lens your friend is using to compare it against.

You have an available focal length range of 28-300mm (in 35mm film equivalent terms), so a full range from wide angle to super telephoto. Clearly, you don't mean "narrow focal length range". If you mean that you want a narrower angle of view then 300mm is pretty narrow to start with and you have a 10MP camera which gives you plenty of excess pixels to dump if you want to crop the images further with no discernible loss of quality. At 300mm equivalent though, you will always have some user-induced camera shake (movement blur) unless you use a tripod or similar and additionally a remote shutter release (or use self-timer), and the effects of movement blur will be increased when you crop the image. Image stabilisation (I.S.) helps, but is no substitute for good technique and I.S. is a battery *******. If you're after a wider angle of view, then your camera is simply incapable of it without adding additional screw on lenses, and they ALWAYS reduce sharpness, contrast and add distortions.

The lens on your camera is good but is not known to be especially sharp even at the centre where all lenses perform best, regardless of cost. But most users wouldn't be able to tell the difference unless they were given large print selective enlargements to compare with the same images from a better lens. Your lens is what it is: there is no way it can out-perform what it's designed to achieve and it will never match higher-priced, higher quality SLR lenses.

Another puzzling point in your question is the phrase "I would like to get my subjects in crisp focus but the surroundings are out". If you're trying to get the subject and surroundings in focus all at once, then use a smaller aperture and a longer exposure in conjunction with a longer focal length (look up aperture and depth of field). Longer exposures risk movement blur though. The words you use afterwards regarding a blur mask suggest the opposite though, that you want a sharp subject in relief against blurry surroundings. If so, use the widest possible aperture and the shortest acceptable focal length (depth of field varies with focal length), but with wide angles you increase image distortion due to exaggerated perspective. Your options are limited though as your lens is very much a compromise to keep size, weight and costs down. The widest possible aperture is a modest f/3.5 at the widest angle (shortest focal length) setting, and a very modest f/5.6 at the super-telephoto setting (longest focal length), although the aperture range is normal in comparison with most other similar compact camera models and with some basic "kit" zoom lenses supplied with cheaper SLRs..

Wider apertures than you have available are just not possible on your lens and there are no adaptors or anything else which will change that. Even if your lens absolutely matched the aperture range available to SLR users then you still wouldn't achieve the out of focus surroundings which I suspect you're after. That's because although your camera has an equivalent angle of view range to a 35mm film lens of 28-300mm, it has a much smaller image sensor so uses a real focal length range of 4.9mm to 52.5mm. As I said earlier, depth of field varies with focal length. The shorter the focal length, the larger the depth of field, and there's no way to avoid the physics of that.

You only have one fix for the problems you describe and that's to work creatively within the limitations of your camera. Note that I didn't say "spend four times more"; if you do that you have a more expensive, bulkier, camera, have to carry around more lenses, and are far less likely to use the equipment in adverse conditions as you won't want to risk ruining it or having it stolen. You also won't get some of the candid point and shoot images you can capture with a compact model, partially due to easier and quicker handling but also due to the fact that folks tend to notice and react when they see a dirty great SLR aimed at them.

Cameras and lenses are just tools for a job and you just pick the right ones for the task at hand. An "impressive" camera does not make anyone a better photographer. The cheapest and best way to improve your photos is to take as many as you can and study the image file EXIF data to see what the settings were for each image. Also, buy or borrow books and look at websites which explain photographic technique regarding aperture, focal length, shutter speeds, reciprocity, image noise, sensor sizes and megapixel counts. Joining a local club or even an online forum will also help. Learning more will help you understand why your assertion, "I know that is is possible" is completely incorrect and also will ensure that when you do eventually replace your camera that you buy wisely.

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This is not an exhaustive answer, as there are entire books on the subject, but hopefully it's been of help to you.

Please take a moment to rate my answer or to add a comment if my answer has left you with unanswered questions which need to be resolved before you can rate my reply.

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But usually the important thing is that it's not how close the camera can focus, but how large the image is, so you'll often find that a longer focal length (i.e. not wide angle) will produce a larger image of the object even though the camera has to further away to achieve focus. This also results in less distortion as extreme close-ups in wide angle produce extreme perspective distortion. It's why a wide angle close up of a face results in an exaggerated nose and mouth.

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First, to answer your lens question, 400mm is unlikely to be adequate. On a digital camera this is going to give only 6x magnification. Some nature subjects will require much more than that.

Also, do not need a fully featured 'pro' camera. These have features which you may not want. Look at lenses first, and let that dictate the camera.

It rather depends on your intended subject matter, but in general for nature photography (I presume you are thinking of vertebrate animals, rather than plants or insects.) you require very long focal length lenses. This is because wild animals are very difficult to approach, and many are comparatively small as well. As an example, you may only be able to get within 30ft of a heron however well you are hidden, and for a bird that size at that distance a 400mm lens will just be big enough. Just.

As a rule you want to fill the frame. So to work out what focal length you need you need to work out the size of the image in the camera. This is not difficult to work out, as the magnification is only the ratio of the subject to lens distance to the (Thoeretical) film/sensor to lens distance. (Most long lenses are physically shorter than their theoretical focal length. That's the true origin of the word 'telephoto', the lens is optically 'telescoped' into a shorter package.)

In reality this varies a little as the lens moves in and out to focus it, but in practice you just use the focal length of the lens. So for out Heron which is about 10,000mm away with a 400mm lens the magnification is 400/10,000 = 4/100 =.04. A heron is about .5m tall (18inches roughly), and 500mm x 0.05 = 20mm. The hieght of a digital sensor is about 16mm, so that's full height, but a heron is a tall bird, so portrait mode might be better, and that will be closer to 24mm.

So in our example, a 400mm lens will do but only for an animal half a meter in size, if you can get thirty feet away. And that's pushing your luck. (The nearest I ever got to a heron without sitting all day in a hide hoping for it to show was twice that distance!)

Most subjects will be smaller, or further away. Getting within 150ft of a deer in clear view is quite a challenge even for an expert stalker. At 1.5m tall with a 400mm lens, the image will be 12mm high. If the subject is a grizzly bear, then I doubt you would want to be that close.

Of course if you are wanting to photograph smaller animals, then the problem is compounded. Especially if they are easily spooked.

In essence you want as long a lens as you can manage, so you can photograph from a comfortable (for the amimal) and safe (grizzly bear) distance. However, as in many instances you won't be able to control that, and the range of animals you want to photograph will vary in size, you really want either more than one lens, or a really good zoom.

Really good zooms of long focal length are very expensive, so two lenses might be a better option, or a long lens with a factory matched multiplier would be almost as good. (Zoom lenses cannot perform at optimum over all the focal lengths available, so really good ones are difficult to design and make.)

So you first need to decide what focal lengths you need.

Then you have to consider camera shake. As a rule of thumb you need an absolute minumum shutter speed of 1/(focal length in mm) for hand-held shots. As you will be using long lenses, with small apertures, you won't be able to take shots hand held.

One (partial) solution is to use an image stabilized or shake reduced system.

Image stabilization is built into the lens, and works by moving optical elements to compensate for vibrations. This makes the lenses much more expensive, and will eat batteries. This has the advantage that it is always optimal for the lens.

Shake reduction moves the sensor in the camera, to achieve the same effect. It makes the camera a little more expensive, but the lenses are a lot cheaper, and that's where most of your money will go!

(Note, that digital image shake compensation is not the same thing, and reduces the image sharpness.)

Of course the traditional solution is a really sturdy tripod. Most tripods are simply not up to the job, so you need to check out as many reviews as you can. But be aware a really good tripod will not be cheap.

The camera mount must be really rigid if the camera is not to move during exposure (A camera with a mirror-up function can help. The mirror is the Major source of vibration in a camera, this allows the mirror to flip well before the shutter fires allowing time for vibration to die away.) and the tripod itself must not flex or twist.

A tripod with the means of suspending a weight underneath is useful, extra weight will make sure the tripod feet are firmly placed and help pre-stress the tripod so any residual 'slack' is taken up. (A simple hook that you can hang a kit-bag on will suffice!)

A good tripod and head could cost £200 or more alone!

As for selecting the lenses....

Canon do some very long focal length lenses but they are also very expensive (£2000+) These include a zoom with image stabilization, and a dedicated multiplier to double the range. A good used example will cost over £1000.

However, you should be aware that Canon are generally quite expensive, and other manufacturers produce similar systems, at various prices. I would look at Nikon, and Pentax, these brands are still well regarded.

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1 Answer

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BTW I wasn't aware Pentax had a zoom that long. Are you sure it's not 75-150?

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1 Answer

If you zoom to less than 12x


The macro setting on the fz series allows you to get within a couple of centimeters of the subject and obtain focus. That is pretty close. That is too close. The camera will throw a shadow. You need some room. Most high zoom cameras (notably Olympus) have macro capabilty throughout the zoom which not only increases the magnification but also allows you (requires you) to put some distance between the lens and the subject. The panasonic fz series is different. They do not have macroability at zooms greater than 2x-3x. Beyond that there is no increase in magnification. Why? I dont know. Maybe this feature was designed on a Monday. Fortunately this can all be rectified with the use of a closeup lens. Now the fz series will react like most other high zoom cameras and do it well. The Olympus b-macro is such a lens. There are many others

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