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Old Feb 16, 2013, 8:25 AM   #31
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It sounds like you've got a significant problem, and I don't think a bigger, heavier camera will help much. There are inexpensive ways to get light where you need it, and certanly less cumbersome ways to position a camera for longer exposures.

You could probaly make good use of one or two devices like the Flashpoint VL-35, Camera & Video 35 LED Light ($20) for supplimental light and a Joby Gorillapod Mini Tripod / Grip for Point & Shoot Cameras ($14) for support. A setup like that would probably let you get what you want with a longer exposure time without having to resort to higher ISO settings.

And with a USB or HDMI cable, you can use a smartphone, tablet, or small HDTV to help with composition.
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Old Feb 16, 2013, 9:22 PM   #32
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You could probaly make good use of one or two devices like the Flashpoint VL-35, Camera & Video 35 LED Light ($20) for supplimental light and a Joby Gorillapod Mini Tripod / Grip for Point & Shoot Cameras ($14) for support. A setup like that would probably let you get what you want with a longer exposure time without having to resort to higher ISO settings.
I don't think a GorillaPod helps. I own already several normal mini-tripods and a big upright one, but small ones it need a place to mount. When I photograph from the top and have a chair nearby, I rest the camera on its backrest anyway. Without chair (as a floorsitter I live in a chairfree home with only 1 foldable in the kitchen) there is no place to attach a GorillaPod.

The VL-35 thingy seems to be something mounted on top of a camera strobe socket. Beside that I own no such camera, it wouldn't help me at all because spotlight from the front (same like LED headlamp) causes extreme reflections on the green metallic PCB material. My 2 gooseneck desk lamps (head contains row of 8 coldwhite LEDs powered by 3 NiMH AAA cells) are more than bright enough for this. I even installed a diode to reduce voltage because they ran warm, drained batteries badly and overexposed bright areas.

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I would rather need something like 2 small cloth lampshades with suction cup mount and integrated clear plastic pipe or hose filled with LEDs for non-directional side light. (I need simple battery powered lamps those neither smash things nor start a fire if they tip over.)
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And with a USB or HDMI cable, you can use a smartphone, tablet, or small HDTV to help with composition.
To avoid brain destroying radiation and being spyed out, I *NEVER* use pocket chernobyls like smartphones or tablet PCs. I mainly need the sufficiently big screen to look back during repair to check component placement for putting things back together. (I think the 3 inch screen of newer than 1st generation DSLRs would be sufficient.)

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Old Feb 17, 2013, 5:57 AM   #33
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If you use two auxilliary light sources off-camera, you won't get the shadows and reflections. And while those particular devices can be used with a hot shoe, they don't have to be. And those aren't the only devices that can do the job. My point was that there are lots of ways to get more light on your subject, and there are more practical ways to keep the camera steady while you use longer shutter speeds.
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Old Feb 17, 2013, 11:53 PM   #34
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I understand that indirect side lights would certainly help most. My initial question was if a cheap used DSLR would improve the picture quality compared with average compact cameras.


Below is an example of which things I photogtaph (taken with the Jenoptik). Only very small PCBs (like from a digicam or calculator) are easy to capture without light problems.



This picture is very compressed, but you can estimate the reflection problem. It was taken in daylight.

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When using lamps, there is typically a bright reflection somewhere in the middle of a large PCB while the sides turn dark. This one (from early 1980th TV) was shot with ceiling lamp (small arts nouveau bowl) only.

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Dark PCBs like this are next to impossible to capture well with normal lamps. Now imagine how to illuminate this when inside a device (i.e. not removed). I can only imagine something like warmwhite LED strips covered with paper. A headlamp or anything camera-mounted (not to say strobe) won't help at all.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 12:15 AM   #35
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Here is a most extreme example showing how a larger dark PCB behaves. It is almost like the anti-photocopy shiny-on-opaque printed copy protection sheets those came with Commodore C64 games.

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Old Feb 18, 2013, 2:56 AM   #36
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I would suggest that a "cheap" DSLR would be better- or maybe something with a flash hotshoe for decent results(something like a Canon "G" series...)- even if just for the superior control they offer.
One idea would be to move away quite a bit and use a external flash with diffuser to balance the flash out (on a DSLR you can adjust flash output even on the small built in flash).
Also moving away a bit and cropping the image later would avoid barrel distortion shown on your images.

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Old Feb 18, 2013, 6:15 AM   #37
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You need a diffuser over your lights. You can buy an inexpensive one or you can make one out of an empty plastic milk jug.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 6:16 PM   #38
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I think the light needs to be at the sides only, not front (the yellow one is the ceiling lamp because the PCB was flat on the floor). Anything in or on top of a camera would worsen it.

The barrel distortion (and bluish chromatic aberration/ lens fringe) is because the Jenoptik has no software corrected lens (don't really care). Moving farer away darkens the image (due to optical zoom) and thus increases snow and shake blur.

I never use the flash (drains camera battery badly, needs 12s to recharge and tends to burn out or crash the camera electronics) and in Germany there are no "plastic milk jugs" (they sell milk in aluminized cardboard boxes called "Tetrapack"). I think I will try to build something of paper or cloth over an LED strip.
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Old Feb 20, 2013, 8:31 AM   #39
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You need either or both of two things:
  • More light on the subject
  • Something to stabilize the camera while you use long exposure times.
... and, btw, using low-ball cameras doesn't help. The barrel distortion and CA are not because you don't have software to correct it; it's caused by the cheap lens, and only persists because you can't correct it. Plus, software that attempts to correct distortion softens the corners where the image isn't likely to be very sharp anyway.

If you want to use your bathtub? Fine. Put something across the tub, something like a 1x6 board, attach the camera to it using a Gorillapod and take a long exposure.

A big, heavy camera with a big, heavy lens will actually make what you're trying to do harder.
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Old Feb 20, 2013, 7:43 PM   #40
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Isn't barrel distortion normal when the object is too close? With the WB210 the software correction isn't too great anyway (it does cause softened corners and makes sine waves instead of compensating perfectly, and its fringe residue is purple/green (because the blue/yellow part has been removed?)). Visually the WB210 isn't that much sharper than my old Jenoptik (at least when well focussed) despite 14 versus 4.1 megapixel. So I think they are already close to what is physically possible with that lens size and amount of light. The rest is software and the engineers can only choose between snow, softening or mosaic artefacts unless you get a bigger lens.

When taking photos of a large open music keyboard, I often do that in front of the bath tub (standing with my feet in the tub). Sometimes I rest my elbows on the tub rim to reduce shake. There is stuff stored in the tub and I think mounting a camera stand on the tub would be as awkward as taking my fullsize tripod out and adjusting the thing. (I yet only used that for video.) There isn't much space to place a tripod or lamps (i.e. no umbrella reflectors) and a large aperture would make trouble with depth of field when there is not enough space or construction prevents to lay the open keyboard flat down. Here is a typical shot (Jenoptik with ceiling lamp light) taken in this position.

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