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Old Sep 14, 2002, 8:19 AM   #1
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Default So now my employer wants me to recommend a digital camera...

It's been both a blessing and a curse owning a Coolpix 5700. It's a perfect camera for me to learn everything I need to know before I invest in a digital SLR down the road, yet easy enough to get some really impressive shots for a person just fartin' around. I've had alot of fun with it, and to date, shot about 1000 shots (I've only had the camera for 2 months!)

But, since I work with archives and special collections at a university library and have had several opportunities to use my personal camera for work (stitching images together to make maps from plat books too fragile to scan on a flatbed, little Quicktime movies to show 360 degree views of historical artifacts, and such). I've advocated for about a year now that my library needs to invest in a digital camera, and after two months of "Hey Lynn, did ya bring yer camera in today? We need...", they announced that they got a grant to purchase one.

And they want me to spend the money. Money that's not mine to waste. In a camera that has to do archival quality images (TIFs, not JPEGs) . This camera has to serve us for *many* years. And here's the catch: nobody in my archival department knows anything about f-stops, shutter speeds, etc., except me, and I'm really new to all this manual photo settings stuff.

So, let the discussion/argument begin: Which camera should Cleveland State University Library invest in?

Oh, to see just a bit of what we're doing, you can go see our online exhibit "Cleveland Memory" at http://www.clevelandmemory.org , through which we're scanning and archiving half a million photos donated from THe Cleveland Press newspaper . None of my work that I shot with the camera is up (yet) but another online exhibit will be up in a year.

Thanks everyone!
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Old Sep 14, 2002, 9:43 AM   #2
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I'd suggest starting by trying to get rid of the "TIFF is archival and JPEG isn't" mindset. The problems with JPEGs is in repeated load/save cycles, not in the orginal image. Since you are going to save the orginal with no alterations, there really isn't any reason to go to TIFFs from the camera. RAW could be a different issue since that allows better adjustments of things like color balance and (generally) allows a greater color depth.

The next thing to get them to think about is that *ANY* camera bought today will be obsolete in a couple of years. They should think of it in the same way as PCs - how many of them are still working with the same PC they had several years ago?

So I'd suggest a good part of your budget (I'm assuming it is less than $3,000) be used for a good tripod and lighting. Those will be usefull with any future camera. Then get a good camera that has external flash capability and a good remote shutter release. Figure on counting the cost of that camera as tuition and that you will get another camera within a few years.

If your buget is high (several tens of thousand) take a look at cameras like those found at http://www.betterlight.com/index.html and get some profesional, on site advice.
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Old Sep 14, 2002, 11:06 AM   #3
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Well, you didn't give us a ballpark on the budget, so we're only guessing with any suggestions. I can't help you with the high dollar DSLRs. I can tell you that the Minolta Dimage 7i or 7Hi will do a great job at archiving using existing light--no need for fancy lighting. And it will give you a TIFF output straight out of the camera. Being second generation, the camera has had most of the bugs resolved. Also, there's no guessing about exposure. Look through the Electronic Viewfinder, dial in the exposure that looks right, and what you see is what you get. And Minolta has demonstrated a most unusual (in the digital world) tendency to provide continued support for the camera through firmware upgrades.

It's certainly not the only choice, but definitely one that should be on your list.

As Bill said, put some serious bucks into a good tripod. Also make sure you get a camera that has provisions for a cable release or remote release of some kind.

p.s. Althoug Bill's comments about JPEG are true, there are excellent reasons to archive in TIFF format and getting TIFF straight out of the camera will save you from having to make a conversion later.
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Old Sep 14, 2002, 12:10 PM   #4
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Archiving digital stuff is different than paper/stone/pottery/paintings/.... in one key way: there is almost certain to be problems reading anything produced today sometime in the future. For that reason, there will have to be updates of the archive - from CD to DVD to ...., from JPEG/TIFF to JHEG (Joint Holographic Experts Group) format. Temperature, humidity, and light level are still important for keeping CDs/DVDs/..., but there is an additional issue. The archive isn't static - it will need to be updated/rewritten from time-to-time. As long as you are copying, there is no degredation of a JPEG image.

The argument between JPEG and TIFF can (and does) go on and on with no clear resolution. I was not trying to say that JPEG is better than TIFF, only that it shouldn't be a key issue.

Another place to put some of your budget is to purchase PhotoShop and training.

You should do some reading about product photography. I think you will find the issues are very similar to what you will want to do.

In general, I suggest that you spend your time thinking less about the camera than about all the other stuff you will need.
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Old Sep 14, 2002, 2:41 PM   #5
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Check out the Fuji and Nikon DSLR forums at dpreview.

As a Fuji S2 Pro owner I'm advocating the Fuji for use. Variety of lenses, low to high noise free ISO, ease of camera use and very high resolution! Ask your same question there and get more information.

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/forum.asp?forum=1020
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Old Sep 15, 2002, 2:30 PM   #6
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"archival" in this case means more than "permananent"

JPEG images simplify the information. A TIFF image is as accurate as a negative. So, if they need museaum-quality, that means TIFF.
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Old Sep 15, 2002, 2:34 PM   #7
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Assuming that she goes TIFF, this narrows the chouces a lot. It means he needs to go dSLR or prosumer.

Next issue may be lenses for the needed type of copying. This sort of photgraphy, e.g. large flat field with minimal barrel distortion will obvioulsy do better with a lens chosen for the purpose.

So I suspect the ideal choice is a prosumer camera.

This creates a crisis ... lenses of the sort we are discussing are carefully designed for full frame. If possible, she should wait until photkina to see if the rumors are true of the Canon.

Otherwise, the Nikon D100 >>MAY<< be OK, remembering that she will loose a large part of the quality of the lens.

Finally, there are issues of price!
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Old Sep 15, 2002, 3:37 PM   #8
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Default Let's not go overboard...

Has anyone seen the DESC military archive drawings for military parts... It makes anyone with a Kodak P/S proud. You guys are suggesting professional gears to librarians that can't tell f-stop from shutter speed! It'll take how long to process all thoses maps (once they get at least one right)?

BTW They'll need another grant for the SAN to store all thoses Tiff files !!!

[Edited on 9-15-2002 by NHL]
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Old Sep 15, 2002, 5:36 PM   #9
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first you should ask your people what level of quality image they require for the archiving process. those details are the starting point. remember that the archiving of objects is overall and detail images. if you say TIFF is what they want thats one point of reference. depending on their other needs a 5700 type camera would suffice. lighting and accessories such as object table and support for the camera.
if you wish i can speak to my friend at the national park service on ellis island. he is involved in archiving both verbal and image history of families who entered through the island. i'm fairly familiar with most of the gear he uses. there are other people there i can speak to also in your behalf. personally i love to do his job if it weren't for the $.

[Edited on 9-15-2002 by sjms]
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Old Sep 16, 2002, 8:40 AM   #10
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Everyone,

Thanks for your comments/ideas/suggestions. I haven't been given a budget to work from, but I know that I can price above $500 and I'd get tarred & feathered if I submit $10,000!

The funding would come from a grant, and the grantors haven't determined the dollar amount they're going to give us. My boss, when asked to pull a number out of her tuckus for a possible dollar estimate suggested $1,200 to $1,400 (based on my overall cost for my 5700 and accessories). We may be given $2000. Or we may be given $25. Who knows at this point. But I need to begin putting together a proposal.

TIF is a must. Steves is correct in his statement about "museum quality negatives" requiring TIF. RAW is also a possibility, but not cross hardware/software viable for us .

Actual setup dollars for tripod, lights, and such are important as well. Right now, we have an old (euphamism for "ancient") copy stand that has a camera mount, but it needs an upgrade.
Right now everything is being stored on CD (we dream of having our own servers for pure storage purposes). And, while we currently have Photoshop 6, I'm dreaming of upgrading to 7.

I'm thinking that probably a prosumer model is the ticket, one with a killer macro.

Guess I'll just have to pour over Steve's digicam reviews....

Thanks, everyone!
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