Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

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seej
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Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

Unread post by seej »

Hi guys I was just wondering if you could please help me decide on a new digital camera. I've done quite a bit of research and have come up with three cameras in my price range;
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS.
I've particularly got my eye on the Canon as it has a 50x zoom and amazing picture quality of the moon especially, more so than the Sony and it also has RAW. I'm just not sure about lightning. What should I be looking out for in a camera, anything in particular? F-stops, ISO? etc. I'm a bit clueless. Thanks in advance for any help you might be able to give :)
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Re: Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

Unread post by Tornado Tim »

Quite a few photographers I know have this saying "A camera body will loose value over time, a good lens on the other hand will hold value".
For proper Lightning photography youd be looking to go into the DSLR end of the Camera market.
The 1000D and the 60D are good starter DSLR Cameras. Some shops are offering dual lens kits and I think those are the deals to go for....
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Re: Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

Unread post by Lacertae »

I have a DMC-FZ200 and previously owned a Powershot SX1. The reason why I switched to Panasonic for my compact camera needs is the F2.8 across the range on the Pana, as opposed to the F3.4-F6.3 of the SX50, as light is something you always need ! Yes it has less zoom than the Canon, 600mm instead of 1200mm, but it has a really funky high speed video (100fps in 720p, 200fps in VGA) which I will find way more useful on both wildlife and stormchasing than an extra leg of zoom. Everybody needs a certain combination of specs, I can't tell you what you need, the FZ200 works for me. :smile:
I do not know anything about the Sony cameras except that they have the highest continuous burst speed if I remember correctly (14fps or something like that) ?

Anyway I have been out stormchasing many times with my SX1 and the only reliable way to bring back lightning shot was through still frames from a 1080p video ... which obviously doesn't offer the full resolution of your sensor (12MPx for both FZ200 and SX50). I did capture lightnings a few times, but it wasn't satisfying quality-wise. I never had the opportunity to chase at night, the SX1 was pretty bad in low light but with long exposures I could have captured some CC/CG without using the video mode, I don't know ...
Now that I also own a DLSR (Nikon D800E, full frame 36MPx) I have 2 options : lightning detector (some fellow stormchasers here do use them), or long exposures (via ND filter for me). I personally prefer the latter as it means I also capture all the leaders and branches instead of "just" the main branch of say a CG, but the way of shooting is less flexible and requires a bit more practice than the detector.

Last thing : I don't know what price you'd pay for a FZ200, I paid $815 for a brand new one and that money could get you an entry-level DSLR (second hand or old stock). Obviously you need to think about a budget for a lens after that, as well as tripod (needed for compact camera anyway), filters (a polariser works great on clouds), detector, may be a remote trigger/intervalometer, etc ... Kit lenses are sufficient and would allow you to see how you like to shoot, and if you're half as mad as I am you could end up working 2 jobs 7 days/week for most of a year to pay for good quality optics. :mrgreen:
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Re: Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

Unread post by Lacertae »

seej wrote:What should I be looking out for in a camera, anything in particular? F-stops, ISO? etc.
F-stops of course, always important but not vital depending on what you shoot.
How "noisy" a sensor is at low or high ISO is pretty important too, as I mentioned above the SX1 was quite bad and it often bugged me (but then I'm picky) ...
If you find reviews detailing how the AF performs, compare speed and accuracy. The SX1's AF was fast but would easily loose its marbles on blue or grey skies ... freaking annoying while shooting birds in flight or thunderstorms !
I personally check whether a compact camera's lens is threaded or not, as I like to use filters.
Beside the zoom, I usually keep an eye on the wide angle capabilities. The SX1 was sold as a 20x zoom but could only do 28mm at wide angle ... not quite enough when stormchasing. The SX50 offers 24mm and the FZ200 25mm, which starts to be OK-ish.
Ergonomy-wise, the rotating dial on the SX1 was a piece of utter digital crap ! It was a lot less responsive than the sorta step-by-step dial on the SX100, it worked on changes in rotation speed rather than rotation alone (a constant rotation speed would not do anything). That's one thing I checked when I tried a FZ200.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

Unread post by seej »

Tornado Tim wrote:Quite a few photographers I know have this saying "A camera body will loose value over time, a good lens on the other hand will hold value".
For proper Lightning photography youd be looking to go into the DSLR end of the Camera market.
The 1000D and the 60D are good starter DSLR Cameras. Some shops are offering dual lens kits and I think those are the deals to go for....
Thanks so much for this information! :) I will have to look into these cameras further, though so far it looks as though they are a little out of my budget. I guess I can always upgrade to one of these in the future when I have more funds I suppose if I need to :)
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Re: Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

Unread post by 03Stormchaser »

Whats your budget?
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Re: Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

Unread post by seej »

Lacertae wrote:
seej wrote:What should I be looking out for in a camera, anything in particular? F-stops, ISO? etc.
F-stops of course, always important but not vital depending on what you shoot.
How "noisy" a sensor is at low or high ISO is pretty important too, as I mentioned above the SX1 was quite bad and it often bugged me (but then I'm picky) ...
If you find reviews detailing how the AF performs, compare speed and accuracy. The SX1's AF was fast but would easily loose its marbles on blue or grey skies ... freaking annoying while shooting birds in flight or thunderstorms !
I personally check whether a compact camera's lens is threaded or not, as I like to use filters.
Beside the zoom, I usually keep an eye on the wide angle capabilities. The SX1 was sold as a 20x zoom but could only do 28mm at wide angle ... not quite enough when stormchasing. The SX50 offers 24mm and the FZ200 25mm, which starts to be OK-ish.
Ergonomy-wise, the rotating dial on the SX1 was a piece of utter digital crap ! It was a lot less responsive than the sorta step-by-step dial on the SX100, it worked on changes in rotation speed rather than rotation alone (a constant rotation speed would not do anything). That's one thing I checked when I tried a FZ200.

Hope this helps.
This is fantastic information! Thank you so much!!! :) At the moment it's looking likely that I will get the Panasonic...though there are a few negatives online. One being that apparently it is hard to focus on small objects in low light and you have to move around a bit to focus though not sure I believe that review. I may also do a lot of wildlife shots. The reason I liked the Canon so much is that it seems to create more crystal clear and detailed shots (when looking through google) than the pana, and the Canon created the most fantastic shots of the moon when zoomed, whereas the 'black' surrounding the moon with the Pana was sort of bluey/washed out and pixelated and the moon wasn't as clear which makes me a little nervous about low light pictures.

Also on this video, I'm not sure what part of it is the FZ200 (it is a mix of iphone 5, Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ28 and fz200), there is major pixelation at 4:00 or so with the flashes. I would be terrified if my photos turned out this way!?...Is there are way to fix this, bearing in mind that it is a video as opposed to a still. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVU2F4MRsl4.

The vid here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sx1Zxu9EFDg shows the canon with lightning. It might be better with the forked lightning but looks terribly pixelated with the sheet lightning. Again would this be an issue when taking exposed stills of the forks? Or is it just a movie issue?

Here are the review sites I have looked at:
Canon wins this review
http://snapsort.com/compare/Canon-Power ... -DMC-FZ200

FZ200 wins this one!
http://www.cameradebate.com/2012/panaso ... n-sx50-hs/


It's really difficult to choose!! I'm pulling my hair out as it's such a big investment for me. Bearing in mind I want to use this camera when I go to America with a music group for touristy snaps etc, but also when I get back for night shots, of the moon specifically, though may do moon light pictures and maybe stars, I'll have a tripod, my budget is approx $600, I want to take pics of birds, bugs and wildlife, people and clouds and night time forked lightning if possible. I'm not sure I care for the huge zoom, but then again I'm not really sure what it is good for anyway as all the zooms I've ever used in the past are wobbly and end up pixelated. I haven't even considered whether they can fit filters etc. I hope all this makes sense...
Thanks so much for helping out such a novice!!!
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Re: Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

Unread post by seej »

03Stormchaser wrote:Whats your budget?
Hi, it's around $600. Thanks!
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Re: Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

Unread post by NZstorm »

For daytime lightning photos you can by a sensor. I don't have one but am looking at buying one.
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Re: Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

Unread post by Lacertae »

seej wrote:Also on this video, I'm not sure what part of it is the FZ200 (it is a mix of iphone 5, Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ28 and fz200), there is major pixelation at 4:00 or so with the flashes. I would be terrified if my photos turned out this way!?...Is there are way to fix this, bearing in mind that it is a video as opposed to a still. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVU2F4MRsl4.
The vid here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sx1Zxu9EFDg shows the canon with lightning. It might be better with the forked lightning but looks terribly pixelated with the sheet lightning. Again would this be an issue when taking exposed stills of the forks? Or is it just a movie issue?
Hard to compare the 2 videos without more informations about the settings, look up on Flickr instead as you can access the EXIF file if users allowed it. It would show you whether they are shooting in manual mode or not, with auto white balance or not (no camera really does too great on night storms), compensated colors/contrats or not, etc ... But the first video is actually pretty good whether shot with an iPhone, FZ28 or FZ200 ! Bear in mind YouTube does process videos before putting them online, I don't know how that affects their quality.

It's really difficult to choose!! I'm pulling my hair out as it's such a big investment for me. Bearing in mind I want to use this camera when I go to America with a music group for touristy snaps etc, but also when I get back for night shots, of the moon specifically, though may do moon light pictures and maybe stars, I'll have a tripod, my budget is approx $600, I want to take pics of birds, bugs and wildlife, people and clouds and night time forked lightning if possible. I'm not sure I care for the huge zoom, but then again I'm not really sure what it is good for anyway as all the zooms I've ever used in the past are wobbly and end up pixelated.
Lol, welcome to the wonderful world of photography ! Imagine how many hours of thinking and reading and browsing on the net I needed to decide how I would invest nearly $15k in my DSLR gear and subsequently plan my life to earn that much money ... it did involve a few headaches, trust me ! :lol:

First thing first, by choosing a compact you are immediately limited on quality and possibilities. Nothing is impossible, you can shoot everything you mentioned above, but it may not meet your expectations quality-wise. You have to compromise somewhere, and I would suggest you narrow down what you reaaaaaally want to shoot and buy in consequence. The SX1 couldn't do anything interesting in astrophotography, so I put that on hold and waited to have a better camera. I haven't seen what the SX50 is capable of on the Moon, but bear in mind that the diameter of your lens' front element is what brings resolution/sharpness, and compact cameras have small optics. No matter what magic their internal firmware can do (the SX50 is better than the FZ200 on that !) it will never match what bigger lenses can do on enthusiasts/pro DSLRs ... if you're OK with that then you're sorted, get yourself a SX50 and have fun. You will find out whether you want more or not, and might have been wise not to spend on a DSLR.
Now if you want to skip the point'n'shoots, Tim mentioned the 1000D and it's indeed a good entry-level camera (the 60D is out of reach for $600), and I see there's a brand new (?) one for sale on TradeMe for $625, and there's a second hand one for $300. There are also second hand Nikon D90 + lens for $500, Canon 500D + twin lens kit for the same sort of price, etc ... so you could get yourself a DSLR if you want to, though the lens(es) you'll get will limit what you can do as opposed to the massive range of the SX50 ... compromises, once again. ;)
Back to the point'n'shoots I see Photo & Video International has a second hand SX30 for $295, and on TradeMe there's one too for $410 (with a 16GB memory card).
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Re: Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

Unread post by Lacertae »

NZstorm wrote:For daytime lightning photos you can by a sensor. I don't have one but am looking at buying one.
But they are only available for SLRs, right ?
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Re: Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

Unread post by iomkiwi »

Might pay to check out the SDK for canon cameras - might have motion detection (that includes lightning) as part of that. It is available for most canon models, added loads more features to my SX10.

Edit - should mention it is not the official Canon SDK but it does no harm or change to the camera, loads a new firmware off SD card.
Info can be found here http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK
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Re: Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

Unread post by tgsnoopy »

Hmm, the CHDK firmware has my interest. Need time to look into the practicality of setting up a version with appropriate motion detection scripts for the old SX-1IS I've started carrying in my car when the possibility of a storm is around and I remember to throw it in there. Need more hours in the day though.
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Re: Good Camera for Lightning, Cloud and Moon Photography

Unread post by MarinPitton »

I had Canon sx130is and it was great compact camera..it had 15 sec exposure for lightnings (bad thing was the in camera noise reduction that you couldnt turn off and had to wait for more 15 sec to reduce noise) and then switch to Nikon D5100 with Tamron 17-50 2.8 lens wich is great lens..sharp..and fact that you have constant f2.8 aperture is great thing..so it imoprtant to have good body but more important to have even better lens wich allows you to stop aperture at 2.8 at all focal lenght...
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