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Old Aug 23, 2002, 1:57 AM   #1
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Default Photographing documents

I'm planning to buy my first digital camera. I do a lot of work with historic preservation groups and I need a camera (under $1,000) which can photograph documents (primarily in 18th century handwriting) which are too fragile to be photocopied. The plan is to end up with a readable photograph.

It may be that no camera in my price range exists that can do the job I want it to do, but if there is such a camera out there I'm clueless about which one to buy.

I *think*, from what I've read, that I need a camera which can record in TIFF format and I understand that this format needs a lot of memory. Is this correct?

Any advice recommending a particular camera would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
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Old Aug 23, 2002, 5:24 AM   #2
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There's actually a lot of excellent cameras in your price range, but I would narrow the choice down to the ones that accept CompactFlash (CF) cards AND rechargeable NiMh AA batteries (it will solve you a lot of aggravation later...)

You might also need manual focus overide which some cameras are more apt to than others... and also the filter thread for the required polarizer to shoot through glass if any.

Most cameras in this price range will output both native raw and tiff as well as regular jpegs. Shooting in raw is more efficient since it preserves the camera's details while minimizing memories use, and you can always get tiff files from the raw output back at the PC. However most people shoot in jpeg and I don't see why you'll have a problem with this format since it's the most efficient and the quality only degrades the more one save, but the 1st generation jpeg should be fine for most use, including copying documents. Actually if you don't need the output to be larger than 8x10 then you'll only need to spend 1/2 as much!

[Edited on 8-23-2002 by NHL]
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Old Aug 23, 2002, 9:14 AM   #3
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I would go with something like the Minolta D7i or maybe Olympus E20... their zooms will be useless to you but both have nice clear lenses- support RAW and TIFF- the d7i supports IBM microdrives for mass storage.

You have to consider the expense though of a tripod that can shoot straight down, maybe even a stationary light set so you don't have to rely on the camera flash-- I'm thinking you would want to lay the documents flat on a table at a set distance. Not sure how you envisioned shooting them. Maybe contact the library of congress- I think they just did an entire gutenberg bible at 1200dpi somehow.
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Old Aug 23, 2002, 1:48 PM   #4
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I bought my Coolpix 5700 for personal use, but find myself bringing it in over and over to work with me. I work in the Special Collections department at Cleveland State University, where I've had alot of success in using manual macro settings with the 5700 to photograph 19th century plat book sections to stitch maps together. This weekend, I'll be experimenting making copies of a 19th century songbook. I'll post an update of that project for you once I have something to show.
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Old Aug 23, 2002, 9:50 PM   #5
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I'm sure there are a lot of cameras that will do a good job with this, so I'm certainly not recommending against any.

I CAN highly recommend the Minolta Dimage 7 or 7i for this work. With a tripod and remote cable, this camera will do a great job on documents in existing light or even very low light situations. The camera will autofocus in very low light or you can focus manually with great accuracy. Plus, the Electronic viewfinder will show you the exposure BEFORE you take the photo. No guessing about whether you did it right or not. There's also a text mode if you want a black and white photocopy type of print.
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Old Aug 26, 2002, 8:21 AM   #6
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Ok, I've uploaded a couple of sample shots from my 5700. These were shot in 72 dpi, with manual settings, and the macro. No copy stand/camera stand, just me holding my breath, braced on my own elbows. The images are straight from the camera, with no tweaking. The source is an old atlas of Cleveland, Ohio, from 1892 -- it's too fragile to scan on a flatbed. The original section of the atlas is roughly 3.5x2.5 inches.

A reduced size sample (and cropped for a project)...

http://yama.clearlight.com/~crowmama...ownBend-sm.jpg

... and the big kahuna (3 megs)

http://yama.clearlight.com/~crowmama...end-Master.jpg
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Old Sep 19, 2002, 3:03 PM   #7
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I recently bought my first digicam Cannon Powershot A40. After reading this forum thought I can digitize all my important documents. Most of the documents are 'A4' or 'Letter' size (approx 8"x11" ). I tried to take a snap using Macro mode but the Macro mode does not cover full paper size 8"x11". I haven't tried without Macro mode. I think without Macro mode it will not be readable. Is there any setting which will cover full paper size and still be readable ?

Thanks
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Old Sep 19, 2002, 3:58 PM   #8
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I have done photo reproductions from old family photos with my Olympus C4040. I made a black border template to insert my photos. I used halogen lamps to light up the template ( I know that there must be better lighting methods). Throught trial and error, I was able to create excellent reproductions for our family. The use of a tripod, manual adjustment, and template were the key to reproduction success. A 5 megapixel DSLR camera by Olympus, Nikon, Dimage or Fuiji would proably be even better. I would recommend going to Circuit City, Best Buy or Digital Camera Reseller and test a camera. Take a book that has similar paper qualities to the books you want to photograph. Let us know how you succeed.
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