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If you don't need a long zoom range, or the performance of a CMOS sensor or DSLR, Canon G12 image quality is outstanding for a relatively cheap camera with a relatively small sensor, and the ACR camera calibration profiles for them are quite good. I know this from experience.
I've also got good results from a Canon S5 running the CHDK firmware hack - but there's no profile support so you have to roll your own.
If I were buying a superzoom with raw today, I'd try the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 - maybe somebody else will say how they are in ACR.
For cheap DSLR, maybe a used Nikon D40 with a zoom lens or two.
thanks very much rob - much appriciated - I have heard the Nikons are good sturdy cameras which work well with photoshop - is this true?
I'm not the best person to compare different model results raw processing with ACR - I've only tried a few.
I'm sure you are aware Nikon's have a reputation for being good cameras but there are lots of other brands that are as good in many ways, and better in some.
I primarily use a Nikon D300 which works great in ACR now, but a year or so ago the camera calibration profiles were iffy (highlight rendering was problematic, especially when using recovery). I also use the Canon G12 some, and Canon S5 only a little so far (CHDK firmware + with home-brewed profiles).
Bottom-line: I can only tell you what I know, and offer some speculation:
What I know:
- Canon G12 & Nikon D300 work well with ACR.
- How well a camera does *in ACR* depends primarily on the camera calibration profiles.
What I speculate:
- Adobe is willing to put more energy into the camera calibration profiles for cameras that are more mainstream with their target market.
Whether or not that matters depends on the camera/sensor/model and any idiosyncracies it may have.
So, there are two things:
1 - How good is the camera and how well does it suit your style.
2 - How well are the raws processed by ACR.
The first one I can't help with.
The second: What I said above, *and* if you don't know any better, go with mainstream. Odd brands *may* receive *odd* support in ACR.
Maybe somebody else will chime in, but it might serve to post a couple of your choices so people can just say yey or ney to the model in ACR.
Rob's points are good ones.
But aren't the thoughts of buying a relatively cheap camera then shooting raw images with it just a bit at odds?
- People usually buy cheap cameras because they're portable and easy to use, not requiring a lot of effort or creativity to capture sharp snapshots.
- People shoot raw for additional quality and creative control over the image creation process.
I understand you want to get the most you can out of your images, but in that vein maybe considering saving up a bit longer and going a little higher with the camera budget might be worthwhile.
Both Canon and Nikon make some very nice entry-level consumer dSLRs, and with even the kit lenses you'll have REALLY nice photo capture capability that you can grow into and add to in the future (e.g., with more lenses/accessories/better bodies/etc.). Pros would have died for the capabilities of these cameras just 10 years ago.
Just some idle thoughts.
You can get better results post-processing in ACR than letting your camera do it, regardless of which camera you start with, if you are willing to spend the time...
Still, I think its worth taking Noels points into consideration too...