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[again] Digital camera recommendation


#1

Hello to all- Happy Summer!!! So, with all of this talk about slowing
economy and pinching pennies, I am finally looking into taking my own
photos of my jewelry (spurred by my excellent but unreliable
photographer). I have eagerly been eating up all that has been posted
here regarding taking your own photos, and I am so grateful for all
of the tips and tricks suggested, so THANK YOU to you all. One
important point that I have not seen covered is camera selections. I
am prepared to pay up to $500 for a good digital camera (although I’d
like to be somewhere around $300), but there are so many out there,
and I am all too aware that I really have no idea what the
differences between them are. I know that I need Macromode, but
that’s about it. Can anyone provide some good recommendations for
cameras that are good quality and in my budget?

Thank you so much!
Nisa


#2

I use a Kodak Z710 that is absolutely fine for closeup and distant
pictures.

John


#3

Hi Nisa,

I am going to post an excerpt from my CD “Jewelry Photography Made
Easy” which addresses your question. I hope it is of some value to
all.

When the subject of jewelry photography comes up, the most
frequently asked question is always the same: "What's the best
camera?".

There is no right or wrong answer to that question, but I
suggest it is the wrong question, and here's why....

There are many ways to light an object; some ways will emphasize
form, other perhaps color, or texture. Creating the image that
YOU want is about creating the correct lighting environment.
Once that is done, the camera is used simply as a recording tool
to capture the scene as it existed. If you get the lighting
right, you'll have a good image. If the lighting is done poorly,
the finest camera on Earth is of no help.

The goal of this guide is to help you create images of your
jewelry that you can be proud of, whether for simple record
keeping purposes, for appraisal work or for advertising locally
or on the Internet. Buried in here is a guide to a simple setup
that works, and it works every time. It's buried because I want
you to read a little to uncover it; you'll be learning on the
way.

I also hope to help you in your camera choices. I firmly believe
that good tools are a joy in life, and you should not scrimp.
Investment in a functional and efficient tool will pay you back
many times, not just in results, but in ease of use. Not only do
we get a better end product, but we get it more quickly. Good
tools make difficult work easy and time is money! As jewelers,
we invest in expensive inventory and equipment all the time with
the expectation of profit. I can guarantee you that a nominal
investment in good photographic equipment and the education to
use them well will pay you back handsomely.

The choice of camera is not trivial, but I want to emphasize it
is not the camera that makes a "good" or "poor" image, it is the
lighting environment. Just like a setting bur, torch tip or
polishing buff, a camera should be chosen for the task at hand.
A camera well suited to the task is a joy to use. It makes the
job easy and the results predictable. Often, the camera that is
fine for everyday snapshots may be the one you wish to press
into service here, but for the demanding tasks we are engaging,
it may disappoint, frustrate and not produce the desired
results. Get the right tool, it's worth it.

Camera Considerations 

For photographing jewelry and other small objects, here are the
options a camera should have:

1. The camera must have the ability to focus close enough so
that the image in the viewfinder screen is at least one-half of
the screen height. Additionally, it must do so without getting
so close to the object that light from the camera direction is
blocked. Generally, we will need to be at least 6-8 inches away
from the subject to avoid serious lighting problems.

2. The camera must have the ability to function in a fully
manual mode, i.e., you should be able to independently adjust
the aperture and the shutter speed. Many digital cameras in the
less expensive range lack this feature, although many also
include it.

3. The camera must allow a choice of white balance options or
have the ability to take images in RAW mode. White balancing is
one of those necessary chores we often avoid, with unhappy
result. A camera capable of recording images in RAW format makes
worrying about white balance a thing of the past. White
balancing is not necessary in RAW mode; we can use any light
source and not have to concern ourselves with setting white
balance. In addition, use of RAW mode opens up the possibility
of much nicer processed images. RAW capture is becoming a common
feature, look for it. It's not necessary, but nice.

4. The camera should have either a self-timer for delayed
exposure or be able to accept a manual or remote shutter release
device. Any of those features are a real help when it comes to
vibration-free images. No matter how gentle you may think you
are, it is nearly impossible to use your finger to release the
shutter without introducing some form of camera movement. This
slight movement may not be noticeable in informal snapshots, but
in close-up or macro photography it is painfully obvious. Using
the self-timer to release the shutter is often the best and
easiest choice.

5. Although not an absolute prerequisite, a mirror lock-up
feature is very useful. This feature eliminates the possibility
of vibration from "mirror-slap" causing blurring in your images
at certain slow shutter speeds. Vibration from mirror-slap can
be a problem at shtter speeds in the range of 1/15th to BD
second.

A camera capable of producing a 3-4megapixel image is more than
adequate for full frame prints up to 8x10 inches or for images
that will be used on the web. More pixels help if you are
cropping the image substantially or need very high quality
prints. The standard today seems to be about 6-10 megapixels,
easily sufficient for our needs.

There are many fine camera choices at any given time. Complete
non-biased reviews of almost all cameras and related equipment
can be found at www.steves-digicams.com or www.dpreview.com.
Just about every digital camera ever available is fully
described at those sites. In addition, you will find discussion
groups and a great number of links to other photography-related
sites, both equipment and technique related.

I very strongly recommend that you consider purchasing a D-SLR,
which is a digital camera with interchangeable lenses. The
ability to use a true macro lens or extension tubes with a
normal or zoom lens is a tremendous aid to getting better
images. Not only are the lenses optically excellent, but these
cameras allow a comfortable working distance between the lens
and the subject, something that can make like much easier in
close-up photography. Also, the digital sensors used in the SLR
style of camera are considerably larger than the sensors in the
smaller, fixed lens models. The larger sensor provides a finer
image although the difference may not always be noticeable until
we get to the printing stage.

The field is always changing, but cameras from Canon, Nikon,
Sony, Pentax, Samsung, Fuji, and Olympus are all solid pieces of
equipment.

D-SLR's operate very similarly to 35 mm cameras, and even the
simplest ones today offer a very impressive range of features
for the money. If you are considering creating finer images for
magazine advertising, or glossy brochures or flyers, the range
of features of the D-SLR's should really be considered. A camera
like the excellent and top-selling Canon Rebel xTi with a very
fine Sigma 105 mm macro lens, ideal for jewelry (and portrait)
work is available for about $1100 as of this writing (January,
2008). 

Hope there’s some help there!
Wayne Emery


#4

Nikon Coolpix 995 Digital Camera

ebay links removed. sorry no ebay links on orchid

was recommended here a couple of years ago.
http://tinyurl.com/68ymgf

Best of luck and let us know what you ending up getting and how you
like it.

K. David Woolley
Fredericton, NB
Diversiform Metal Art & Jewellery


#5

Nisa,

If you find a good Canon Rebel EOS, used, this should be an
excellent camera in your price range for your needs. They can be
pricey, but a used one is a still a good camera. There is a macro
lens which you can buy, which I used to shoot most of the photos for
my Flex Shaft book.

I just checked on Amazon.com.

Canon EOS 6.3MP Digital Rebel Camera with 18-55mm Lens: Used $350 6.3
mega pixels are plenty

For your macro:

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Zoom Telephoto Lens & Filters & 6
Year Warranty for Canon EOS Used: $135

Now, before you chuck your jewelry photographer quite yet, perhaps
what you need is another reliable and excellent jewelry photographer.

Here are my picks:

Robert Diamante

He does all the photographs for Tim McCreight’s book and his images
have graced many a juror’s pick and in major magazines.

Hap Sakawa

George Post
http://www.gpostphoto.com

If you decide to take your own photos, or have a professional do
them for you, then talk to Charles Prather at discountdigitalart.com
who can help you clean your photos up and ready them for jurying.
This does not fall under the area of “photoshoping” which is against
the rules. Discount Digital Art will not remove scratches from your
metal, but will color correct where your photography skills are not
professional enough to understand crucial lighting.

For my opinion, even though expensive, I would use a professional
photographer. They have a understanding of lighting, arrangement and
depth of field that you do not. They have the ability to lift your
work and make it pop, plus the added bonus of your work being
photographed by professionals while you are doing more of your own
work.

Taking your own photos can be very frustrating and has a learning
curve. I’ve learned a lot taking even more of my own photos and have
two cameras that I work with. One is the Canon Rebel which I use for
my fire spinning photography. The other is a Canon Powershot 800 SD
which is a tiny thing, has amazing software and is great for my all
around work.

Lastly, and this is the most important of all. The work has to be
good and the craftmsanship perfect and tight. I as a juror can excuse
a poorly photographed work than the best photographer’s shot on
poorly executed work.

I use Robert Diamante. He is reliable, his work is excellent and he
is well known. I would also use the other two without hesitation.
It’s my work and I don’t understand jewelry photography which is a
whole n’other beastie than photographing your friends at a party.

Good luck!

Karen Christians
Waltham, MA
http://www.cleverwerx.com


#6

Karen et al,

 Here are my picks: Robert Diamante http://www.robertdiamante.com 

Robert Diamante accepted a position with John Hardy over two years
ago in BALI and is still there. He returned for only a few days over
the 2008 New Year holidays and says he will return but no date set at
this time.

Mary A.
Jewelry for the Journey


#7

Re used digitals slr cameras: keh.com or bhphotovideo.com are the
only two sites I would buy a used digital camera from. The quality
listed is pretty much dead on and you’ve got a two week trial with
full return priveleges.

For your macro: Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Zoom Tele 

Re the Sigma 70-300 noted above: this has a maximum magnification of
1:2, meaning the image size can, at maximum macro, only be 1/2 the
size of the original. With APX SLR’s this is just barely adequate
for rings which can cause depth of field problems if you’re maxed out
on your focus range. The dedicated macros with a 1:1 are far more
versatile and you’ll be getting one sooner or later.

Les Brown


#8
Robert Diamante accepted a position with John Hardy over two years
ago in BALI and is still there. He returned for only a few days
over the 2008 New Year holidays and says he will return but no date
set at this time. 

I just looked at Diamente’s website. He posted a letter announcing
that he will return to the US on August 8, 2008, and will be
accepting work at that date.


#9

Nisa,

I have the Olympus Camedia. Love it, love it, love it. In the “point
& shoot” price range, but very versatile and able to do things
manually. Good macro, and able to adjust depth of field, two things
I found very important in shooting my work. I first got a Camedia in
’99 or so, and when it seemed to be getting a bit out of date last
year (or was it the year before?) I decided to get a new one for my
birthday. I bought the Nikon because I liked the lack of lens cap
(which I’d lost years prior on my Olympus, although of course found
again a year or so after I bought a new camera) and I have always
trusted Nikon (have had a wonderful Nikon 35mm camera for forever).
Not a good one for this job! Too many darn pre-set “modes”. They
want you to think that makes it easier, but it really gets quite
complicated. Am I in the dark? Am I inside? Am I shooting people or
landscapes? Am I shooting people in the dark inside? I just want to
take a #$%& picture! I also had NO manual control of the thing, the
depth of field was super shallow in macro mode. Even with a small
ring, the back of the band wasn’t in focus. Fine for some shots, not
for most. I took it back within a week and got the new Camedia
afterall. Been blissfully happy ever since. :slight_smile: Now, that’s not to
say if I ever saved up for a digital SLR, which I’d love to have, I
wouldn’t look at a Nikon. BUT, in the point-and-shoot price range of
$500 or less, the Olympus is a real treat.

Lisa
Designs by Lisa Gallagher
www.lisagallagher.com


#10
but, in the point-and-shoot price range of $500 or less, the
Olympus is a real treat. 

For $469, Lisa, you can buy the Nikon D40 DSLR with a very
serviceable 28- 55mm zoom lens from Amazon. These lenses have a
remarkable close up range but aren’t quite enough to make it over
the top for ring shots. You can, however, purchase what are known a
"close-up filters" which screw onto the filter threads of your lens
and bring you into the range you want. For 25 bucks or so you can
get a Sunpak set of three which would cover all your needs. For $70 -
$100 you could buy a single Nikon close-up filter that would
probably also be all you would need.

Back in the days of 35mm film cameras these close-up filters were
much disdained due their tendency to introduce a lot of spherical
distortion into the photo, mostly around the edges.

However, since you’ll be shooting at very high apertures the image
forming rays will mostly be coming through the center of the
lens/close-up filter and will present very little distortion.

Bottom line, while not the solution a DSLR with dedicated macro lens
would offer, the outfit described above would still run rings around
any point and shoot for image quality and have you more than half way
there to a truly decent photography outfit.

The D40, by the way,is really a better camera than its replacements
the D40A or D60. It is 6Mb’s, but the sensor is a higher quality,
exhibiting less noise, than the 10Mb sensors in the other two
cameras.

The D40 is also faster by 1 stop having a minimum ISO of 200 instead
of the 100 on the D40 and the D60. Which means you get a stop more
speed out it. This is especially important when shooting close-ups
that require high F stops. Unless you have a billboard advertising
program you’ll never notice the 4MB difference.

Les Brown
goldwork.com