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Old Aug 21, 2006, 11:42 AM   #1
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Hi there. I'd like to get an easy to use camera that I can grow with as my abilities get better. There are three particular picture types that I'd like for the camera. 1. I'm a realtor, so the ability to have decent low light shots of home interiors (and exteriors!), with or without a flash, would be good. 2. We have a craft business, and I need to be able to take good pictures of our furniture for our website. 3. I collect old spoons, and would like to be able to take pictures that would show the details. My budget is up to $300 or so, though I'd like to spend less if possible. I was looking at the Canon A620 but am open to ideas. Thanks, Frannie
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Old Aug 21, 2006, 8:49 PM   #2
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In all honesty, Frannie-

You probably cannot do everthing with a single camera, unless you wanted to go to a DSLR camera, there are just too many requirements that you have rolled out, all in a single requirements package. Take a look at the Pentax K100D DSLR camera, it can do the job for you, but I'm not sure it is within your budget requirements.

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Old Aug 22, 2006, 9:08 AM   #3
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I agree with MT - you asked for a jack of all trades, but it sounds more like one situation in most cases - indoor with natural lighting. for interior shots, you'll want a wide angle view to capture as much of the room as possible. the kit lens on most dslrs start at 18mm, which is 27mm equivalent and will capture a large amount of space in a confined area. the K100D was mentioned above, but you can still get it's predecessor for under $450 with the kit lens I mentioned above. If you can stretch your budget upto $500, and are willing to learn alittle about photography, the Pentax *ist DL will take you well beyond the situations you described. Good luck!
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Old Aug 22, 2006, 12:01 PM   #4
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Thanks for your replies.

So - the compromise would be for pictures in natural light? I could rig up some lights for the pictures of the furniture for the website. Certainly a wide angle for the house pics would be great, but not essential.

Would the A620 be good for the close ups of spoons? I know that in that case, a macro would be needed.

Frannie
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Old Aug 22, 2006, 6:22 PM   #5
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Hi Frannie,

Most inexpensive digital cameras do a good job with near shots (for your furniture) and macro shots (for your spoon collection). In general, the wider the lens, the closer you can get for macro shots, with higher magnification. The only special requirement of yours would be the real estate shots.

If you want to produce the best quality picture of the interior of your clients' houses, you should avoid using the camera's flash, because most of the time it is not strong enough for the distance and field of your shots. You should also avoid using high ISO (sensitivity) settings to avoid the flash, because even in cameras with the best high ISO performance, like the Fuji F10 and F30, the quality of the highest ISOs (800 and 1600) shots is mediocre at best. You may consider doing this:

Manually turn the flash off!!

Set the ISO to the lowest (or at least < 200) for the best picture quality - most digital cameras begin to run into problem with noise at ISO 200 or more.

Use the aperture priority (or manual) mode to set the aperture to a middle value, say f 4 or 5.6, if the camera allows - setting the aperture too small (eg. f 11) makes the shutter speed slow, maybe too slow for some automatic cameras; setting the aperture too large (eg. f 2.8 ) compromise the depth of field and may make things closer to the camera blurry. If your camera doesn't allow this or has very few aperture settings, you can forget this.

Mount the camera on a tripod - a sturdy mini-tripod easily cost <$30. They are small enough to keep in a handbag or a small camera bag. You can set it up on the dining room table or a chair.

Use the self-timer to fire off the shot - this is why most modern digital cameras have short-delay (like 2 seconds) options on the self timer!

You are shooting still scenes without people or movement, this should work out fine. You should use existing light - good sunlight or bright uniform indoor light. You can try using the flash to supplement the lighting ("filling in"), but it can really only illuminate close objects (say about 10 ft.), and very often making the distant scene completely dark because the light meter is fooled by the flash shot thinking it is taking pictures of close objects.

Another thing: if you are only posting these real estate pictures on websites and not for printing, you don't need to take them at high megapixels (MP) - for an average website, a picture < 2 MP (640 X 480 pixel size is only 0.3 MP) is perfectly adequate. Uploading and downloading huge 5 or 6 MP pictures takes a long time (less of a problem with broadband internet nowadays) and wastes website storage space. Many cameras have "web" quality settings which make eg. 640 X 480 pixel shots. In these smaller picture settings, there is less picture detail, and digital noise may not show as much. Therefore you may even get away with using a higher ISO setting.

The Canon A620 is an excellent choice - 35 mm lens is an average wide angle, wider than many point & shoot camera lenses. Macro for closeup shot is good. It has AP/SP/manual modes. Canon picture quality is excellent. It uses popular SD memory card and AA batteries, not proprietary lithium battery packs.

There are a few other point & shoots with wider ( 28 mm or less) wide angle lenses. You may find this link useful:

http://www.photoxels.com/article_wide-angle.html

Just considering the less expensive point & shoot class cameras with WA lenses, the Panasonic Lumix has excellent Leica lens and picture quality, but the images tend to be a bit noisier (even at low ISO) than Canon and other cameras. They have optical image stabilization, so that you can take hand-held pictures at slower shutter speed in dim light without blurring from shakey hands, a big plus! LX1 is more expensive and it has AP/SP/manual control. FX01 is 6 MP and within your budget. It has full automatic exposure, but you can use one of its scene modes called "night scene mode" to force a low ISO setting and no flash. You can also do the same by manually setting the ISO and flash (off). You cannot control the aperture setting, but provided you keep everything distant and there is enough light, nothing should go out of focus. The Lumix uses SD memory card and proprietary battery pack.

The new series of Kodak dual-lens cameras have ultra-wide 23 mm lens, and they are true compact pocket-size cameras. Their optical quality is much less than the Canon and Panasonic, limitation of their internal "folded lens" design. For small pixel size pictures they are probably adequate, but picture quality will suffer when you try to make large prints of high megapixel pictures. The V570 "night landscape" mode does not force the ISO to the lowest, it may actually bring it up to boost the light pickup, therefore increasing noise level. The Kodak also uses SD cards and proprietary battery.

I suggest you go to a camera store and try out the cameras of your choice - take shots with full auto setting and AP setting (see how many aperture settings are given); take shots with the flash switched on and off; take shots of the interior of the store (as close to the interior shots you will be taking). If possible, ask if they have a laptop or PC to download the pictures for viewing - pictures always look great on the little camera LCD, don't be fooled!


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Old Aug 24, 2006, 7:18 AM   #6
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Check out the Canon Powershot A710 with optical OIS now>>> (fantastic camera that looks to be)

http://www.dpreview.com/news/0608/06...anona710is.asp

And the Canon Powershot A630& A640 prosumers (Surely with great image qualities)>>>

http://www.dpreview.com/news/0608/06...nona630640.asp

Enjoy!!






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Old Aug 28, 2006, 7:07 AM   #7
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Do the cameras that you all have been suggesting do well with closeups that have supplemental lighting? I'm thinking that having "true" colors would be important when taking pics of available fabrics.

Frannie


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Old Aug 28, 2006, 7:37 AM   #8
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try to find a used Fuji s7000
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Old Aug 28, 2006, 11:12 AM   #9
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If you are concerned about getting "true" colors in pictures of fabrics, you may wan to at least make sure you have an ability to automatically set the white balance. Alot of out of camera color inaccuracies are caused by an inaccurate white balance. Nearly all will be able to adjust between presets for indoor and outdoor light, but these presets will often not match up exactly with actual lighting conditions, especially when you have situations with mixed lighting, such as outdoor light from a window combined with indoor light from a lamp.

I think blindsight gave you some good advice about the best way to get the results you want. If you are shooting off of a tripod, the A620 will give you fine results, even in natural light. Since you are shooting still subjects you can simply use a longer shutter speed to let more light in. And the Cannon A series does have a very good macro mode.

As far as the trade off with a more expensive DSLR, there are anumber of ways in which it is better. But one big one is better high ISO performance, which lets you take those low light pitcures without slower shutter speeds. ISO is a measure of the "sensitivity" of the sensor, which determines how long the shutter needs to be open to get a proper exposure. This can be useful in two areas. One is in getting handheld pictures with low light, where normally the shutter speed would become too slow to hold without blur. Another is in getting high shutter speeds, such as needed in photographing a movng subject. Sports photographers usually find a DSLR is a requirement.

But there are other tradeoffs; in addition to a broader range of useable ISO settings, with the DSLR you would get a larger range of apertures, shutter speeds, a range of available lenses (including wider angle as well as telephoto), more responsiveness, and a larger sensor which would normally produce more detail and often a bit more accurate color as well. It would also be more expensive, and larger and less convenient than a compact. And, you would need a stronger more expenive tripod to properly handle the weight of the bigger camera and lens as well.

But for your current needs, the main tradeoffs would be the need to shoot those natural light shots off a tripod, as opposed to possibly having an option to shoot them handheld, and the lack of a wider lens than 35mm. For those real estate shots, a 28mm lens can capture alot more of a room in one shot.

The other drawback I see with the A620 is that it has a plastic tripod mount, which might be of concern since you sould need to use a tripod quite a bit for the type of shots you want to take. Though I don't really know that the plastic won't hold up, I'd at least be concerned that it might strip more easily.

Otherwise the A620 is a good budget choice, as it has good image quality, a good macro mode, and good manual controls, which you will want to learn to use to get the most out of the camera (and which you will need to know how to use if you are to eventually upgrade to a DSLR as well).

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Old Aug 28, 2006, 8:42 PM   #10
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I guess when you say "supplemental lighting" you mean using the camera's flash, correct? I presume you probably want to show the color and patterns on the fabric in close range, not in magnification (ie. "macro", showing individual fibers!) - which means 1- 2 feet away. At this range, the built-in flash of most if not all cameras will completely and uniformly illuminate the field (most P&S digital cameras have flash range, quote, "up to about 10 feet", but the illumination fades quickly after about 4 or 5 feet) - uniform illumination is what you want for your pictures.

Yes different cameras have different flash photography performance - "blow-outs" (over-exposure in brighter areas), inaccurate color (white balance, described above), uneven illumination (though I doubt at a close range like this).

The other concern I have is that, if the material has any type of reflectiveness (eg. varnish), light reflection and color wash-out will occur.

I still believe that you should not rely on the camera's flash to produce the best quality of pictures, especially when you are particularly concerned about color reproduction.

As for actual flash performance, sorry I don't have any personal experience with any of the suggested wide angle cameras. Maybe you should do some research on other camera review sites other than Steve's, eg.

http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/

http://www.dpreview.com/

http://www.imaging-resource.com/

http://www.megapixel.net/

Professional review sites always report the performance of the camera's flash photography, this is the area you should pay attention to.

Regarding "natural color", just to expand upon what kendalbari explained about white balance: if you find that flash photography does not give you the ideal result, you can always use indoor lamps - they don't have to be professional studio lights, any light source that is uniform and bright enough (only bright light brings out good color!) will suffice. Apart from not as "harsh" as the flash of the camera, you can also control the direction and intensity (by moving the light closer/ further away) of the light source, which helps to reduce shadows etc.

If you find that the automatic setting of the camera does not produce the color result you want, most modern digital cameras have exposure settings to adjust for the nature of the light source - since most indoor lights use bulbs, you have to set the camera to "incandescent"; if you use light tubes, you set it to "fluorescent". Some cameras also have a "manual" or "custom" setting, when you hold a piece of white paper in front of the camera under the specific light source, so that the camera can determine the white balance. This would be the ideal white balance control.

If everything else fail, you can always try to adjust the color with computer software like Photoshop afterwards.

Different cameras also have different color reproduction characteristics - many consumer P&S digital cameras deliberately highlight some colors (eg. blue - "blue sky", red - "red lips" in portraits) to make pictures more appealing to human eyes. They may not represent the true color of the items in the picture, but they may give you the advantage of highlighting some color characteristics. Many newer cameras also let you adjust the "vividness" of the color, this is another characteristic you may want to look at when you read the professional reviews of these cameras from other websites. Digitalcamerainfo and dpreview have a good technical section about color reproduction in their reviews.

My opinion is that, especially for a beginner, an point & shoot camera with some advanced features and controls is adequate for producing good quality, non-professional pictures. You should start with totally relying on the automatic functions of the camera, testing with various combination of lighting (sunlight, indoor light, camera flash) to see if you get good results (or to detect the weakness of your camera - every camera has its own weaknesses!). If the results are not perfect, you can then try to manipulate the manual controls and adjust the parameters which have been described in this thread - simple things like ISO, aperture, white balance, flash (as supplement or not), tripod shooting - one by one, until you find the best combination that suits your need. There is always a learning curve, and you shall realize there is much more you can do to improve on the quality of your pictures instead of blaming it all on the camera for not performing to your expectation.


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