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Old Jul 22, 2008, 5:06 PM   #1
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I am looking to buy a camera and have rather specific and unusual needs: I am currently writing a master's dissertation, and need to do archival research about UK government policy 1910-1920. I am only allowed to bring pen, pencil, and a digital camera (UK National Archives at Kew) and hence need a camera that

1. can accurately take pictures of pages of text that is not always printed perfectly (adequate resolution and lens quality)
2. can operate at low lighting levels (cannot use flash in sometimes dimly-lit archives)
3. has an anti-shake feature (have to hold camera manually, no tripod etc available)
4. operates silently or almost silently so as not to disturb other users
5. should have good battery life for several hours of work
6. be light enough to be held manually for several hours (for best results in manual text photography, camera should be held right above the surface on which a sheet has been placed pointing down)
7. as a bonus, it would be nice if it could also be used for holiday photos and more informal uses

I am a bit pressed for time, and would really appreciate the advice of someone more knowledgeable in this area as this is equipment will be an important part of doing my dissertation research

Thanks!


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Old Jul 22, 2008, 6:55 PM   #2
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I recommend the Fuji F50fd and F100fd. Both are good in low light. You could take pictures at 6 megapixels instead of the native 12 in order to cut down on file size. The F50fd has a battery life of a couple of hundred pictures. However, you can buy a spare battery cheaply on Ebay and thenring it along with you to the library. I think both of them have "Text" scene modes.
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Old Jul 23, 2008, 1:09 AM   #3
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There was another poster who was taking images of old archieves records in the midwest of the US several months ago. One item to consider is the potential depth of field in that the object being photograph may not be completely flat. With some depth of field, you should still have a very readable image.

A Point and Shoot, although the lightest in weight and probably the easiest would have the smallest depth of field, and probably be the worst for low light imaging. Just about all the camera brands have image stablization.

A Superzoom would be a bit more in bulk and and possibly be found with a faster lens. Moderate in weight and bulk. Again just about all the camera brands have image stablization.

A dSLR would have the best low light lens and provide the best depth of field, but would have the largest bulk and weight. Going with one of the entry level cameras with a fast f1.4 or f1.7 say 50mm lens would probably be the lightest (the bodies are usually plastic) and smallest for dSLRs. Image stablization comes in two types - body or lenses. IS in bodies are Pentax, Sony and there is another one. Nikon and Canon has IS in the lens, and this would drive the cost up quite a bit.

Batteries across all the types should last several hours and be food for several hundred images.

One could probably find a wire frame tripod (either 3 or 4 leg) that would point the camera directly down and be very light weight and small in size and possibly allowed.

Others have better specifics on the camera types and brands....

Good luck!
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Old Jul 23, 2008, 10:48 AM   #4
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Maybe I am wrong, but I think a DSLR with a fast lens at f1.4 or f1.7 is going to have a very narrow depth of field, which might be a problem if the text being copied isn't flat. For that reason, I recommend a point and shoot.

Correct me if I am mistaken, other forum members.
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Old Jul 23, 2008, 12:03 PM   #5
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robbo wrote:
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Maybe I am wrong, but I think a DSLR with a fast lens at f1.4 or f1.7 is going to have a very narrow depth of field, which might be a problem if the text being copied isn't flat. For that reason, I recommend a point and shoot.

Correct me if I am mistaken, other forum members.
You are correct. A larger aperture would provide a smaller depth of field.

But I think the most important issue that the OP will have is vignetting and the corner softness. That's why I recommended in similar prior posts, and will say again here that the OP should not zoom in on just the document, because the corners will be dimmer and less sharp. And I disagree with the suggestion to reduce the resolution, especially when the document will not fill the image.

I think a dSLR with a good sharp lens will work well, but it will be heavy, and using itwithout a tripod or copy stand might be tedious.

Another consideration is that the use of an LCD display for 'Live View' will greatly reduce the battery life, and so should be avoided, in favor of a good optical viewfinder.
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Old Jul 23, 2008, 6:11 PM   #6
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minimum focusing distance is going to be an issue. Some cameras (P&S or kit lens with dSLR) need minimum 1.5' which is going to be a pain in the butt to stand with a camera that distance above the table and frame the shot. This is especially true if the book etc must be viewed on awork counter. Other cameras only require 1' or less.

Considereing the quality of a dSLR as well as ease of use in low light conditions, I would still suggest a P&S for general ease of "handling".


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Old Jul 23, 2008, 6:35 PM   #7
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With a dSLR, you can use a right angle viewer, like this, but you'll have to be close to the camera to use it, so you'll also probably block a lot of your own light.

I think what you need is a light, >=10MPP&S digicam with a good lens and good low light performance and an articulating 'Live View' LCD display and a lot of batteries.
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Old Jul 24, 2008, 5:49 AM   #8
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Hey, thanks for your help everybody!

The consensus seems to be that a P&S would be best, seeing that a dSLR will probably be too heavy and bulky for longer use, as StevieDgpt and TCav have pointed out (even taking into account the longer minimum distance and smaller depth of field of P&S cameras generally).

Now looking at specific P&S models suited to my specific needs, the Fuji f100fd suggested by robbo seems like a good choice - some internet research tells me that it works well in low-light conditions and has a dual stabilization system that employs a CCD-shift mechanical system along with ISO sensitivity adjustment. Moreover, it has a "text" scence preset mode, though I wonder whether I should actually use this? Any opinions?

I would be curious to hear (especially from StevieDgpt and TCav) whether you think that the Fuji f100fd is indeed the best choice for my needs, or whether you would recommend a different camera in the P&S segment?

Thanks again,


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Old Jul 24, 2008, 10:21 AM   #9
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archiver wrote:
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... and smaller depth of field of P&S cameras generally). ...
Because of the generally smaller maximum aperture, and especially thesmaller image sensors of P&S cameras, they actually have larger depths of field, not smaller. In your application, that's a good thing.

And I'll defer to those more familiar with P&S digicams than myself, though I've heard good things about the low light performance of Fujis.
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Old Jul 25, 2008, 6:57 PM   #10
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The Fuji is a good camera, but I would look for a simpler P & S. The Fuji weighs 325grams. A lighter weight (175-250 gram) camera would be a friendly camera to shoot dozens or even hundreds of times in an afternoon.

But if you are only shooting a page here, a page there and could benefit from the big zoom of the Fuji, then by all means grab theFuji. And theFuji would be a great camera for family etc photos.



BTW, the Fujihas a minimum focus distance under18". Sounds pretty good to me.
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