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Old Jan 9, 2012, 10:16 PM   #1
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Default Looking for a (mostly) product photo camera w/ HD video (but more parameters inside!)

Hi there,
I've been assigned the task of shooting product photos and little product videos for my company…which gives me a great opportunity to buy a nice new camera and learn photography!

What I need (bare-minimum) is a camera that can shoot good, large product photos. The biggest product is the size of a large hat and they get smaller from there, so I'm planning to pick out one of those tent/lightbox contraptions or something similar, to get a nice white background, along with some other things to create a little "mini studio". I don't think I'll be taking these photos any more than a couple of times within a 6 month period, and not more than a few dozen products at any time, so this doesn't need to be a serious photographer's setup, just needs to get the job done.

Anyway, my basic needs:
I need to shoot good product photos. These will primarily be on a website and I would like to have the large version product photo be relatively large and well-detailed on a big monitor. We will also feature a short video showing the product from multiple angles (either moving the camera or moving the product, haven't decided). My goal is also to have the photos be print-material-worthy, since we'll likely want to create ads and marketing materials for some of the products I'm shooting.

The most difficult product I need to shoot is a construction hat…meaning hard plastic, very reflective, and comes in a rainbow of colors (including white, bright yellow, red, blue, black, etc.) I can learn how to set up my mini-studio to minimize the bad reflections and things, and I'd like to

In an ideal world, it might also have something that will shoot moderately low-light scenes (think slightly dim auditorium lighting, not candlelight), and might also be suitable for print material shots of people in a studio setup. But for this purpose, just a nice non-flash shot in a tent and a good-quality (possibly 1080p HD or more?) video is really all I technically need.

If this can be something I can have fun with and do things like take nice macro shots, high-zoom nature shots, food photography, etc. that would be great, too! (I'm sanctioned to use this for personal use as long as it's available in the future whenever I need to do more product photos.)

More parameters:
  • I've been told two things by someone I know who does a bit of photography: 1) wait until the CES tradeshow is over, so that I could potentially get a new product or at least wait for prices to take a bit of a "old product stigma" hit, I guess…and 2) to look more towards a Canon, Fuji, or Nikon and less towards Kodak and Olympia (who are both having money troubles) or a lesser-known brand.
  • I use a Mac, and I know this can be a bit of an issue. I'll do some research when I have specific products in mind.
  • I like the idea of full-body cameras, though I have small hands. (I think that's because I'd like to have something to hold on to when I'm moving products. Plus I hate taking photos with my iPhone…I always feel like I'm about ready to drop it. But that might just be because I never remember the new button-shutter feature and try to hit the on-screen button every darn time!)
  • Battery -- would like a battery that has the option to charge by ejecting the battery pack OR charging via USB, if possible. I'd like to be able to swap out dying batteries with new ones, but also not risk leaving my only battery behind after charging it overnight. I prefer a battery pack to rechargeable batteries. Not a deal-breaker though.
  • Flash -- I'm not concerned with flash at all for work. I would like a decent flash or the opportunity to buy an add-on flash later if possible, for personal use.

In the $200-ish range, I think. I'm guessing my boss would like to spend no more than $250 or $300 with the other accessories I'll need as well. Although if I can back myself up, I might be able to get a little more money. (Since it's a business expense that I could use for at least the next few years and get a decent range of uses out of it, it's possible I could get up to $400 for everything. I'll pay for a few things out of pocket, if necessary.)
I doubt a DSLR is in the budget, even a cheap one.

Other things I'm buying:
  • I'm looking at photo tents, or other solutions. I would like something that can change to a green screen or something easy to edit out, but a white background is perfectly fine. (My Photoshop skills are good.) I'm a little interested in coming up with a slightly smaller version of this stand+clamp+string setup that was featured on Tuts+ … I don't quite have the room for that, but I've been meaning to clear out part of my office anyway, so I potentially could have room for it. But I think that ultimately I'd like a desktop or tabletop setup that I can move out of the way until in use.
  • I know I'll need a tripod. I've seen the ones with the horizontal arm and I think that might be useful. Will likely go for a tabletop size. I have access to tall ones and a gorilla arm if I need to borrow them.
  • Some white-balancing or color-balancing stuff. Haven't looked into this yet, but I'm guessing I'll at least want a white-grey-black card. Complete color accuracy isn't a big priority, though it should be relatively good. (Personally though, I would love to be able to do nearly color-true photos, if I can get something that good.)
  • Lamps. Possibly a diffuser/reflector kit. Though I think we're getting in the studio realm with this one. May just buy some lights from the hardware store or something.
  • One of those rotating stands (like the plate in a microwave?), to test out turning the products instead of walking around them.

I need to buy something in the next week or so. Need to shoot the product photos and video before the end of the month.

Thanks a ton for any help or advice you can give! (Even if it's just which specs I should narrow down into, or which equipment/accessories sound best.)

P.S., Sorry for the novel! I'm both very particular and a little excited at the prospect of a new camera after my last one. I've been through high school and college since I bought my last camera. haha

(x-posted at photo.net, if you read both forums)
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Old Jan 10, 2012, 4:05 AM   #2
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I wonder if your boss could stretch to the Panasonic LX5...?
A nice wide 24mm lens- and fast at f/2.0(ideal for indoor/lower light work)- plus a hotshoe if you want to add a flash to increase power of inbuilt one. HD movie capture also,of course...
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Old Jan 10, 2012, 11:38 PM   #3
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Thanks Simon, initially I said no to something in that range (even though I adore the LX5 a little now...the white one matches my iPhone, the Leica lens, all the fun manual slides & options on the camera, etc.)
... But then support at BH Photo told me that I at bare minimum needed either a used DSLR or the Canon G12 and the photo quality on the G12 blows a lot of these cheaper cameras out of the water! I think they may have been misunderstanding that I won't be using this all that often and that I don't need a completely professional camera (just something a little bit better than the standard consumer camera) ... and they also want to sell me something expensive!

So now I'm definitely looking at slightly pricier cameras. Especially because the lower-end camera suggested to me at photo.net (the Panasonic ZS10) seems awful now! Uh oh, I'm ruined on cheap cameras...haha

I'm going to do some more research on the Lumix LX5 (and the pricier GF3), as well as the Canon G12, the Nikon P7100...and anything else I find along the way. Would love more suggestions, especially on the lower end. (In the $200-300-ish range is still probably my target.) Thanks!!

Revised list of needs
  • Something that can do fairly nice, relatively true-to-color photos (I'll buy a white balance card, but some of the cameras I've been looking at seem to run blue or washed out, which I'd like to avoid.)
  • RAW option if possible, but also a decent JPEG optimization engine
  • decent macro options (not anything crazy like 1cm, but enough to capture textures or other fine details in macro shots of products)
  • Fast shutter speed--been told my ideal is at most a minimum of f/3.2 if I can get it.
  • 720p or higher HD video with video autofocus and video zoom options
  • not an ultra-compact...I like the look of full-body cameras like DSLR's, plus I want to be able to hold on to it with one hand when I adjust the subject or a light. (Note that I am fairly petite with proportionate hands...so not the biggest, heaviest camera on the market, please!)
  • Some manual options, if possible (So that I can learn more about photography, mostly. Things like aperture, shutter speed, etc.)
  • Battery pack (vs. taking normal batteries)
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Old Jan 11, 2012, 11:10 AM   #4
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Carolyn, make sure you don't overlook the Nikon P7000. Yes, it's older than the P7100 and it doesn't have a flip out screen and maybe the IQ (image quality) is slightly worse than the P7100 (but still much better than classic compact cameras). BUT, the P7000 is currently US$ 229 at Amazon so it looks like a steal.
I think that's a camera that fulfills most of what you need while staying within your proposed budget.
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Old Jan 11, 2012, 12:09 PM   #5
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Hello again- the P7000 is worth considering- but be aware,when shooting RAW,this camera is very slow. You can also zoom in video mode(720p) but be aware that the focusing is not the best- and not the quickest focuser in still image mode also.
So-a decent camera- if you're not in a hurry...
The P7100 however,seems to have improved on all aspects of the 7000- though at a price...!
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Old Jan 11, 2012, 12:15 PM   #6
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The Olympus XZ-1 might be worth a look- with most the features you're looking for and a very fast f/1.8 lens- which is still fast- f/2.5- at full zoom... MUCH faster than most other cameras of this class...
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Old Jan 13, 2012, 1:24 AM   #7
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If you can open the budget a bit, in no particular order: LX5, G12, P7100 (or even the P7000), XS-1, and S95/S100. The LX5 would probably be my choice in this instance as Panasonic seems to offer a better macro mode than the competition. Heck, the macro on my ZS7 is 100x better than on my S95.
Disclaimer: I take photos of life rather than live to take photos and my opinions of cameras are reflected accordingly.
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