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DavidVC04

Selecting a Camera

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It's time for a new digital camera, but I want to buy one that will do a better job photographing up close. What do you people use? Has anybody out there researched it?

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Shortly there will be more posts on this subject than you can possibly imagine. Right now I'm still using my handy Olympus C-2100 that does excellent work even though its showing its age. I can't quite afford the macro lens I want for my Nikon DSLR right now.

 

There are a couple of things you want to look for though:

1) Good optical zoom 10x or better is nice. Digital zoom has little value when taking pictures of miniatures

2) Macro mode, the good ones should let you select this so you can get in tight on your subject.

3) Ability to play with your white balance is always nice but not always necessary

4) Ergonomics are a factor. I have big hands and fingers and some of these teeny tiny cameras just don't sit well in my hands, so go out to one of the box stores like Best Buy or Circuit City and actually handle them, even if you end up buying one online.

5) Quite frankly the more manual you can make the camera the better.

6) Be vary wary of online camera dealers, it can be a pretty shady industry, if you think you are getting an incrediable deal you may well be getting ripped off. Many folks here can make recommendations so you can avoid some of those sharks.

7) Don't be over impressed with megapixels its not always a good measure of how good the camera is.

 

Since I'm not currently in the market for a digital camera I'm not really sure what's out there right now.

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Heisler hit the bigger points. Do what you can to get a camera in-hand and play with it before throwing the money down. Once I decided on my model, I researched local and online sources. I finally went online since it was $150.00 cheaper for the same model... but I researched the company and went with one that was also brick & mortar so I'd have a few alternative dispute options.

 

Memory card. Make sure you know what it looks like and whether or not you've already got something to transfer the images to your PC.

 

The one thing that I *didn't* get as a feature that I will if/when there is a next time? The ability to hook the camera to the PC for direct Camera to PC photography. With all the macros I'm taking, taking out the card, connecting it to my reader, copying the images -> that adds alot of time to my sessions. YMMV and that may not be as important if you aren't taking batches of 10 - 20 figures at a time.

 

My camera path to date:

Sony Mavica 85 - ugh

Nikon Coolpix 995 - good stuff, I outgrew it

Canon A720 IS (just a slightly later model than the Reaper A610/620)

 

I've got a hankering for a DSLR, but have so many other things that take priority over that

 

Finally, understanding your lighting is a HUGE HUGE benefit to any piccies that you take. It can make up for a cameras deficiencies or magnify them.

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The one thing that I *didn't* get as a feature that I will if/when there is a next time? The ability to hook the camera to the PC for direct Camera to PC photography. With all the macros I'm taking, taking out the card, connecting it to my reader, copying the images -> that adds alot of time to my sessions. YMMV and that may not be as important if you aren't taking batches of 10 - 20 figures at a time.

 

Definitely. While I use my cameras for other things a lot - when I am shooting stuff like minis and models, I use the remote shooting feature of the camera. My PC monitor effectively becomes the view finder and I can see what the picture will actually look like without much trial and error.

 

I just recently picked up a Canon SX100, and it is a pleasure to use. Everything is pretty straight forward and easy to use (some cameras have a lot of features - but they are hard to find in the menus and what not). I also have a couple of the older Powershots too - and they also work quite well for small stuff like minis, though the oldest one only has a 5x optical zoom (more than enough for most things IMO).

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I use a canon powershot A70. It has a decent macro mode, timed shots, a good variety of light settings, aperture, lens speed, and is pretty customizable for mini photography. Not sure on the price, but I'd advise checking it out. No problems so far.

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Canon's low-end cameras are the only ones I know that offer f-stop & shutter speed settings, the ones you need to do mini photography well.

 

I bought 2 broken A70s from Ebay that Canon fixed under warranty. Total cost: $42 for both cameras.

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Thanks for all tips, people. It's much appreciated. :)

 

I ended up getting a canon powershot 570 IS. It fit the budget and is a step up from what I'm using. Thanks again for helping me make a decision.

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I realise that you've already got a camera, but I thought I'd add a couple of things that no-one has mentioned yet. (incase someone else needs this information in the future).

 

1. Zoom doesn't matter ... but the ability to get a nice, close macro shot does. - I get far better pictures by just moving the camera closer to the mini, than by trying to use the Zoom.

2. Check that the colours come out ok. Some things you can fix by changing the white balance on the camera, or messing round in an editing program .. but one of my cameras (a Panasonic FZ7) oversaturates the blue, and I find it impossible to fix. It's wonderful for taking photos of other stuff (particularly of scenery, or the beach), but terrible for minis that need to look the right colour. From reading a bunch of digital camera review sites, the Canon cameras do best at getting colours right (I have an A710, and it's wonderful :wub: ).

3. It might be worth buying from a camera shop ... where you can say "I need this camera for taking photos of miniatures (like this one), it's important that the colours are accurate" ... They'll probably let you try a few in the shop (or try them for you) ... but, also, if you get it home, and find it's not right, they'll probably let you bring it back and swap it for something else.

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Things I always point out:

 

 

Macro does not mean better. It means you can get in close, but Macro settings on automatic cameras almost always mean a shallow depth of field. They think you want to take pictures of bugs and flowers, not 3-D portraits of little army men.

 

Look for something with a small Focal Length. My Canon A610 has a focal length of 1 cm. That means my lens can be 1cm away from the subject and still focus. Any closer, and besides the mini touching the lens, it won't be able to focus. Some cameras have a focal length of 1", 1 foot, and I've even seen some with 3 feet. That means you can't get any closer than that in order for the camera to focus. The smaller distance, the closer to your subject you can get. Keep in mind that this also means in macro mode, which you may not want to shoot in.

 

Aperture Priority is a must. This allows you to adjust the depth of field. For some models, like lunging swordsmen, this is a must to get everything in focus.

 

The ability to turn your flash on and off.

 

Setting the white balance is almost a standard option, now.

 

Megapixels are not a big thing if you're posting on the web only. If, however, you will be using the camera for something other than just taking pictures of minis, then you'll have to consider the kinds of prints and output you will want.

 

When shopping, take a mini with you to a brick and mortar store. The good ones will let you play with the camera and make certain it will do what you need it to. If they won't, walk out. Why bother dealing with someone if you may end up taking the thing back?

Best website I've found for reviewing and comparing digital cameras. I still go here on occassion to drool over the latest and greatest of the SLRs coming to market. They often get to review the cameras before they hit the market, and they've been around for a long time.

 

 

*puts on professor hat*

 

Note: You can buy the biggest, baddest, most expensive and versatile camera with all the bells and whistles out there, but if you don't know how to use it, your pictures will still suck. READ YOUR MANUAL. Cover to cover, front to back, sideways, upside-down, backwards, and then read it again for good measure. Sometimes I'll keep mine in the bathroom for reading material so I can brush up on what my cameras can do (I have several). It's never as easy as just pushing the button, and you might find some interesting and creative things your camera is capable of that you never thought of before.

 

*takes off professor hat*

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Aryanin, good tips. I agree with all except for one. I disagree that aperture priority is a must. Yes, it will automatically balace shutter speed when you set f-stop, but I do that manually and think my photos look fine.

 

Since effective low end cameras for mini photography are limited to the Canons (at least to my knowledge), people with a small budget will already be stretching to find a match.

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I can only speak from personal experience regarding DOF (depth of field). Before I was schooled in camera use (Time, Many folks suggestions, Ary's tutorial, several cameras later) I really thought I was handling my DOF well. Now that I go back to some of the earlier pictures I see that was not the case.

 

In some pictures it was a subtle shift; careful comparison of the foreground with the background revealed the shift in focus. In other pictures, you could see the tip of the sword in the background severely out of focus but everything else was balanced.

 

I'll even accept that, overall, DOF is a preference. However, from a mercantile perspective, the better the overall focus, the more likely my mini will sell for a good fee vs. an acceptable fee. Even more important, to me: The better the overall focus, the sooner the Reaper freelance painters give their "thumbs-up" to a picture I took for the gallery.

 

My 2 cents...

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Aryanin, good tips. I agree with all except for one. I disagree that aperture priority is a must. Yes, it will automatically balace shutter speed when you set f-stop, but I do that manually and think my photos look fine.

 

Since effective low end cameras for mini photography are limited to the Canons (at least to my knowledge), people with a small budget will already be stretching to find a match.

 

 

Most low-end digital cameras do not allow you to adjust your F-stop or your shutter speed as it is all set automatically based on the readings the camera takes of the surrounding conditions. That is what Aperture Priority is. It allows you some control over your F-stop, which is your aperture. By setting the aperture you can then adjust the shutter speed because the camera will compensate so you get a good exposure. I didn't want to get into the technical details for those who are not camera savvy.

 

Personally, I prefer a camera that is totally manual so I have to set the shutter speed and F-stop myself. However, a digital camera that will allow you to do that will cost at least $800+.

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OK, yes, if you don't have control of aperture & shutter speed, you aperture priority will help (although I say you really need a new camera)

 

Personally, I prefer a camera that is totally manual so I have to set the shutter speed and F-stop myself. However, a digital camera that will allow you to do that will cost at least $800+.

 

Not so. You can buy Canons at Best Buy for $300-ish that have those settings.

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Yes, but they aren't completely manual nor do they have complete versitality. Those are the ones with Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority.

 

For a true, full range of most apertures and shutter speeds and a full manual mode, you need an SLR. Bodies alone for those run $800+ and go beyond the normal scope of requirements for people here. Adding a lens will often pop the price to well over $1K. I've done my shopping and research because I've considered getting one. I just can't justify it when the film cameras I own suit my needs much better than the digitals with what I want my end product to be.

 

Some low-end digital cameras give you some lee-way in aperture and shutter control, but it's limited (most apertures being limited from around 2.6-5.9). Even my A610 only has an aperture range of 2.8-4.1.

 

And when I say completely manual, in my mind I'm thinking Pentax K1000 manual. Yes, it's an ancient film camera and is still one of the best cameras ever made.

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I have a K1000! But, I can also set my Nikon D50 DSLR to full manual, aperature, shutter or full auto mode. It falls under the $800 barrier. However, I think it may have already been replaced with some lesser model that may not have those features.

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