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  • Digital camera recommendations ? OT

    We bought our last digital camera in 2003. It is better than the ones in our new cell phones but I would like something that I could use easier. I would like to be able to take shop and project pictures that are post able without having to doctor them up in Photo shop. Would you guys share your thoughts and recommendations for a new camera? The wife who is into Genealogy got a new HP L7590 (Scanner / Printer / Copier in one) and is very pleased with it. It was on sale at Office Depot for $200. The old Photos that she has been scanning and printing are absolutely great. The old scanner was also good but she has been unsuccesfull in getting a new driver for Windows Vista that came on her new computer. Nothing but empty promises since last Ausust.
    Byron Boucher
    Burnet, TX

  • #2
    Hey Bryan,

    I bought a Cannon Digital Rebel 850XT a few years ago. At the time it was new and kind of "high end" as consumer cameras go. I have bought a few accessories for it (lenses, hot shoe flash etc.) and they are readily available. It has served me well taking photos in my shop and around my job sites. I have been able to use some of the images for advertising my business (which is what I bought it for). I don't know what kind of money you are wanting to spend, but this camera is very versatile and I have been very pleased with it. Also it is fairly simple to use a digital SLR's go.



    • #3
      Byron -

      As far as I can tell, most new digital cameras are pretty good these days, and have great resolution compared to just a few years ago. Rather than expecting to find the "best" camera, I think the most important thing is to pull the trigger lots of times and become experienced at judging light, shadow, and all that stuff. I take a LOT of shop photos, averaging about 30 a day for the last ten years.

      I'm currently using two SLR Digitals (Canon 5D and D60) - one at home and one at work, and two pocket ones, Canon G7 and Powershot 950 (I think). For sure, I get best results with the SLRS, but the biggest issue is the through-the-lens focus. Most of the time I'm shooting with the 28-125, image stabilized lens. Having a lot invested in lenses, I'll be sticking with Canon SLRs, of course.

      But even the modest Powershot gives me really good pictures, if I use it often enough to remember its controls, etc. There's a tripod in my shop all the time - I just fold it up and jam it in the corner when it's not in use. I virtually always shoot without flash e because flash tends to flatten the image and make it lifeless. That's why I like the image stabilization, which is now available on the Canon Powershot cameras, which are very reasonably priced.
      Last edited by Frank Ford; 01-05-2009, 07:30 PM.

      Frank Ford


      • #4
        Canon 5d Mark II


        • #5
          Originally posted by Boucher
          I would like to be able to take shop and project pictures that are post able without having to doctor them up in Photo shop.

          By doctoring, do you mean tweaking brightness & contrast etc, or do you mean just resizing?
          -Dan S.


          • #6
            Assorted ramblings

            1. Have a look at

            2. As a general rule of thumb the digital single lens reflex cameras (dslr) use a physically larger image sensor (do not mistake this for "megapixel count" as two image sensors of different physical size can have a comparable number of pixels). As a result, the images will - all else being equal - potentially better. Great for enlarging or manipulating: after all, while Photoshop & its kin can do many things they cannot insert what isn't there. Lenses are generally faster (admit more light) and allow easier framing & better autofocus response. That said, you also need a selection of lenses that ups the cost. Lens/camera combos are decidedly not compact.

            3. The shirt pocket cameras have come a long way. Some offer extreme zoom ranges (up to 20x or a 500 mm+ telephoto equivalent) that would cost big bucks to duplicate for a dslr.

            4. All that said, I think you should place some emphasis on close-up capabilities for shooting machinery, etc. Most (compact or dslr) have a dedicated macro mode that enables close-focusing with great results.

            5. Have used shirt pocket (aka compact) Nikon & Canon. Impressed by the results from both. Personally, I would buy on the basis of price (not limited to those brands alone).

            6. Batteries are another area to think through. Many of the smaller units use dedicated (camera manufacturer is sole supplier) units. While they have great capacities (hundreds of shots depending on how much you use the lcd screen) you need the battery/charger and maybe a spare battery (charged!). On that basis cameras that accept the "lowly" AA rechargeables have a plus.

            7. Memory cards? What do you use now? Got a whole load of them? Saves a few bucks if they can be ported.



            • #7
              OK, I gotta chime in here since the Canon guys are in abundance.
              I do not know how deep you want to get into getting a digital camera, but for the purpose you said you are going to use it for I really believe you need to get a DSLR rather than a point and shoot model.

              Since I am a Nikon user, my choice is a Nikon of course. I have a D200 which can do anything I need to do. OK, this camera is a bit expensive but worth every penny in my view.
              Since I am a long time user of Nikon I have a good many manual lenses from my film days. These manual lens will fit the D200 body and function perfectly using manual focus.
              This makes the Nikon DSLR a very workable camera. Nikon has kept the same F flange since 1959 on their cameras.
              I still sorely remember buying a new Canon AE1 way back when and then shortly thereafter Canon changed the lens design. Old lens would not work on newer Canons. That is the point I sold the AE1 and jumped ship to Nikon.
              Never regret doing it either.

              With the Nikon Capture program ($149) you will have a very inexpensive darkroom sitting there at your computer for the times you want to quickly crop or adjust the light before you post a detail shot of


              • #8
                I’ve just retired after 30 years of teaching photography full time. Here’s what I tell my students: Asking what camera to buy is like asking “what car should I buy?” (Or on this forum: Dodge Cummins, Ford Powerstroke, or Chevy Duramax) It all depends.

                Based on what you’ve asked for – shooting pix in your shop to post on the net – most anything will do if it has a close-focus capability.

                First, let’s dispense with the pixel count issue. I compare it to the speaker frequency games of the component stereo days. Who needs speakers that resolve frequencies beyond the range of human hearing while the stereo will usually be playing in an environment where kids are yelling or folks are partying? Almost every camera on the market today has plenty of resolution for the photos the average person will take. If you plan on making 16 x 20 inch prints, then it might be an issue, but anything 8 x 10 or less will be fine with the resolution levels of cameras you would consider. I have taken photos with a 3.3 megapixel camera that have appeared in national magazine ads and they look just fine. You said you wanted something simple for posting shots to the net. So don’t worry about pixel count.

                We could break your choices down to two categories, point-and-shoot cameras and SLRs.

                -Relatively inexpensive
                -Light weight
                -Fits in a pocket

                -Shutter lag (the time lapse between when you push the button and the photo is taken)
                -Small buffer (where the image is stored before it’s written to the memory card. This means a delay before the camera is ready for the next shot.)
                -Many models lack an optical viewfinder
                -Slow auto-focus
                -Difficult or impossible to bypass auto controls for exposure and focus

                Many point-and-shoots will also capture short bits of video.

                The big advantage to a point-and-shoot is the cost. If you buy one in the $100 - $200 price range, you’ll not lose much if you break it or leave it at the beach. This would be a good choice for something to keep in your toolbox. Two things to consider are the availability of an optical viewfinder and the battery type. IMHO, the optical viewfinder is vital. The LCD screen is frequently impossible to see in sunlight, and you really can’t judge facial expressions or other details on such a screen, even a big one. And as you get older, you will have to hold the camera farther away from your eyes to be able to see what’s there. Also, the screen is the big battery eater, and being able to shut it off and just use the optical finder will save those batteries and keep you going for a long time. Battery type is important if you travel beyond power sources. Dedicated batteries will need charging, but you can almost always find, or take with you, AA batteries if you’re far afield.

                I have an old Nikon Coolpix 990 that I like a lot. I use it for all my shop and project photos. It will close-focus down to .8 inch, has an optical viewfinder, runs off AA batteries, and the body swivels so you can aim the lens one way and see the screen from another angle. This is great for those unusual angle shots. It also has a number of manual controls that can be pre-set and switched on easily.

                I bought my wife a little Olympus for about $130 or so that will focus down to several inches and also runs off AA batteries. (We often go out to the desert away from battery charging sources, although perhaps you could charge from the vehicle’s system.) Unfortunately, it does not have an optical viewfinder and the screen is almost impossible to see in daylight. Another that I’m impressed with is the Olympus SW series, although I haven’t tried one. They’re shock proof, waterproof (I suppose they’d also be cutting oil proof), freeze proof, and can be operated with gloves on. They’re thin enough to be stashed in a shirt pocket. Unfortunately, they don’t have optical viewfinders but they also focus down to a couple of inches.

                Something else to consider is optical zoom vs. digital zoom. The former zooms the lens in while using the full sensor area. The latter just crops in on the image on the sensor, which results in a loss of resolution.

                Be sure you can shut off the flash. Built-in flash creates harsh, unnatural light and will bounce back from the shiny metal stuff in your shop creating flare and lots of other uglies. Shoot with available light, presuming you have good general lighting, and you’ll like the results.

                Digital SLRs offer more features at higher prices.

                -Little or no shutter lag
                -Large buffer allows rapid shooting
                -Many more control options for focus, exposure, image format and so on
                -Optical viewfinder through the lens
                -Interchangeable lenses
                -Flash connection for separate flash unit or studio flash systems
                -Viewfinders often have diopter adjustment

                -Relatively expensive
                -Heavier and bulkier than point-and-shoots

                The SLR will give you much more flexibility than a point-and-shoot, but of course, at a higher price. Shutter lag is practically non-existent, and if you avoid using the LCD screen, you can shoot all day and more on a single battery charge. Close focusing is dependent on the lens and there are hundreds of lenses available to fit most every camera.

                We bought some Canon 30Ds for student use and they have worked out well. These are often offered with a plastic zoom lens that has a 3.5 to 5.6 maximum aperture. I recommend buying just the body and spending some extra bucks on a 2.8 zoom. The former limits you when shooting in low available light. Some of my students have the Canon Rebel SLR and are happy with it. I am personally partial to Canon. They seem to be a little ahead of the others in innovation and customer service, but there is nothing wrong with Nikon, Olympus and other major brands; the competition keeps all of them on their toes and the differences are usually minor. Customer service may be an issue – before you buy, you might try calling the customer service hotline of any manufacturer you are considering just to see how fast they answer the phone.

                And there is nothing wrong with buying used. You can save quite a bit, and unless the camera shows signs of abuse, it is probably OK. In over 40 years of professional involvement in photography, I’ve only bought one new camera (not counting the personal point-and-shoots). The used stuff has worked out just fine. I have bought used from KEH Camera online with success.

                I generally recommend either an interchangeable lens SLR or a low-price p&s. I don’t think that the higher priced p&s cameras are that wise a buy. If you need advanced features, go all the way and buy an interchangeable lens SLR. If you don’t need them, don’t waste the money on an in-between device. It’s sort of like getting the all-in-one mill/drill/lathe thing. It’s a compromise that, in the end, may not be such a good deal.

                In the end, for shooting in your shop, most anything with a close-up feature should do just fine. Go to a brick and mortar store and try some out. Pick the one that seems the easiest to operate and don’t look back. You’ll be just fine. You said you wanted to avoid Photoshop, but you will probably have to do something to reduce the file size as images for posting usually must be a smaller file size than a camera will make even at it’s lowest quality setting. I really like the Nikon Coolpix swivel body cameras although I don’t see them on their current web page.


                • #9
                  In college, I minored in Photography and did some professional photography until I realized that I hate taking pictures for other people's benefits.
                  Anyhow, the Canon 5d Mark II I suggested costs around 2300$ without a lense. It will also take 1080P hi def video and takes better pictures than Canons older Professional 1ds Mark II.(Or is it the 1d?).

                  The Canon 5d Mark II as well as the older 5D, are FULL FRAME sensors, ie, 35mm. So there is no lens conversion factor. the Smaller sensors on the cheaper DSLR's are either 1.5 or 1.6 depending upon Nikon or Canon. In the commercial photography world, color replication is EXTREMELY important, and Canon beats Nikon in that department, why most commercial photographers are using Canons.
                  I have a Canon 20D. Now an old dinosaur. It has a lens conversion factor of 1.6. So if you get a cheaper non Full Frame sensored camera, you WILL need to buy a high quality WIDE Angle for any shop pictures, unless your shop is the size of Jay Leno's. I have a Canon 10-22 mm wide angle, equivelent to a 16mm on the wide side in terms of the 35mm world.
                  Oh and if you DO buy the 5d Mark II for 2300$, well your going to want to buy the nice L series lenses, 24-105, 16 to 35, and lets say a nice Telephoto, 100 to 400. That setup right there will cost you as much as.. Well... What do you want more, a really nice CNC mill or a camera?
                  OR you can buy a used Canon 30 or 40D, 10-22, and a nice zoom for everything else for around 1500$


                  • #10
                    Greg's post, above, was worth every word and I agree with him completely.

                    But that won't stop me from throwing in my two cents...

                    I would stick with pretty much any model from a CAMERA manufacturer... as opposed to manufacturers that make laptops, TV's and stereos. I bought an HP camera (admittedly, this was a few years ago) and it was a tremendous disappointment. Then I got a Toshiba for the wife. It was OK... until I compared it to Canons/Nikons etc...

                    I now have a Canon 40D and have been very pleased with it, though switching from (the since defunct) Konica Minolta was pretty expensive to get a decent range of lenses. This would be true of ANY dslr though.


                    • #11
                      I have a Canon 20D. Now an old dinosaur. It has a lens conversion factor of 1.6. So if you get a cheaper non Full Frame sensored camera, you WILL need to buy a high quality WIDE Angle for any shop pictures, unless your shop is the size of Jay Leno's. I have a Canon 10-22 mm wide angle, equivelent to a 16mm on the wide side in terms of the 35mm world.

                      Well I guess what may be important to one person may not be to the next.
                      I always considered the DSLR camera that uses the small sensor a very real blessing! Mainly because it made my Nikon 300mm F2.8 AFD lens into a 450mm F2.8 lens (in 35mm terms) without any light loss. Buddy......that is a blessing indeed in the world of photography!
                      The problem, as you say is at the other end of the lens sizes.
                      But then Nikon came along with their 10.5mm AF Fish Eye lens.
                      That is the equivalent of a 16mm lens for 35mm.
                      I looked at this lens long and hard, but decided I did not want to buy a lens that cost $550 and have pics that are nothing but curved lines due to the fish eye effect. The lens will focus from 2 inches to infinity.
                      But, at the time I was also unaware of Nikon's Capture NX program.
                      This program cost just $149 and has many features, but one stands out. You can take a pic with the 10.5 fish eye, load it into your computer and with a single click, make a rectangular pic out of it. Not only that, but the step is non-destructive. If you want the fish eye effect back, just click the pic again any time in the future.
                      Yes, I bought the Fish Eye lens. Here are a couple of examples of what you can do with this super wide angle digital lens.
                      In June of this year my wife and I took a cruise on the Holland American ship Westerdam in the North Pacific.

                      All shots was taken with the same lens (Nikon 10.5) This pic is taken standing on the fantail of the Westerdam, looking down from the 3rd deck above the main deck into the water.
                      You can see my feet and legs and most of the ships width. Now remember, the Westerdam is 150 feet wide! This what the 10.5 lens does. Shot is uncorrected.

                      This is the same shot after doing one click correction in NX with the mouse.

                      This is a pic of where the Westerdam just was as it is moving across the North Pacific at 25 knots. Uncorrected of course.

                      After one click of the mouse, the same shot here corrected.

                      These are not great shots by any means but they do demonstrate what a Nikon 10.5 can do. I do not know if Canon has such a lens.
                      Capture NX does the fish eye correction for the 10.5 only. Any other super wide angle lens will not be corrected by the program.
                      A point and shoot cannot do this kind of


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by BillH
                        Canon 5d Mark II
                        Yeah, right Bill. I wish I had an extra $2800 for a camera body.

                        That camera does some nice video too:


                        Me Want!

                        But I ended up settling with a Pentax K10D 10.2M pixel DSLR. Came with a couple so-so tamron lenses and the Pentax 18-55 which has been rated about the best kit lens out there. It supports RAW as the open .DNG file format. Body is weather tight and dust tight with 72 seals. I have only had the camera about a week and I love it. Want to get a nice fast prime and then I should be happy. It uses all old K mount Pentax Glass and since it uses a sensor based anti-shake mechanism it works with most glass unlike Nikon. I paid $500 w shipping for the Camera, three lenses, spare battery, charger, two 1gb SD Cards, lens hoods, some filters.

                        I still have a Sony DSC-V3 which is a really highly rated point and shoot. I added an extra button to move the hot filter out of the way for doing infrared photography in any mode.
                        Last edited by macona; 01-06-2009, 01:25 AM.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by piniongear

                          The problem, as you say is at the other end of the lens sizes.
                          But then Nikon came along with their 10.5mm AF Fish Eye lens.
                          That is the equivalent of a 16mm lens for 35mm.
                          Canon does have a lens, the one I used tonight to take this picture, Damn thing cost me over 600$. It is 10-22mm, effectively 16 to 35mm. It is made specifically for the smaller sensors and has L series glass. Since it is for the smaller sensors however, Canon won't give it the L designation.
                          Anyhow, it is just like your fish eye, without the fisheye effect. Of course there is some distortion, this is uncorrected. I was maybe one foot away from my band saw in this picture, the garage door no more than 12 ft max away.
                          Forgive me for the small pictures, I am using facebook to store my images.

                          Come to think of it now, this is NOT at the widest setting. I use this lense to take pictures of myself and my students while inside a Cessna flying around, so it does go pretty darn wide.... Hmm, Let me find a better picture...

                          I am on the right, Zach, my flight training partner from ATP is on the left. This is inside a PA44 Seminole, basically a twin engine version of a piper warrior. He is now a first officer for American Eagle, I am still flight instructing by choice. I am holding the camera with my left hand to give you an idea of this lens.

                          Ferrying an airplane from Miami to Orlando to avoid a hurricane. Flew in the rainbands whole way up there. Loved the instrument time

                          And inside of a Level D 757 full motion simulator.
                          Last edited by ; 01-06-2009, 01:50 AM.


                          • #14
                            I have just bought a Panasonic Lumix TZ5 as a family shirt pocket camera. The OP doesn't state his budget or preferred camera type, this one cost about £200 including a spare battery memory card and case from an on-line seller.

                            I searched on-line reviews and it came out highly against the opposition. It has 9.1 M pixel resolution, a 10X optical zoom and 4 X digital zoom from a Leica branded lens + all the usual suspect extras such as face recognition, anti-shake and also plenty more bells and whistles than we will ever use. We also like the large (compared to our old finepix) screen as it often gets passed around to show others pics rather than printing them.

                            So far I have found it easy to use without RTFM. No feedback as yet on battery life, any other snags or suitability for picturing machinery.



                            • #15
                              Originally posted by gregl
                              I have an old Nikon Coolpix 990 that I like a lot. I use it for all my shop and project photos. It will close-focus down to .8 inch,...
                              So how do you tell how close a camera will focus down to? I would like
                              one to be able to take pictures of small items like clock parts, but the
                              specifications on these cameras never give that information.

                              Ed P