Digital Camera for Metalsmiths

Since the discussion of “Budget Photographers” got going I’ve been
reviewing the available point & shoot digital cameras out there and
for anyone interested in photographing their own work without
breaking the bank I can recommend the Canon PowerShot A620. I have
actually road tested this camera.

This camera has the following features to recommmend it:

Decent macro capabilities although the closest focus is at the
wide end of the zoom range. It focuses as close as 1cm. Very
user friendly with an easy to use menu system. 7MP resolution. A
swing out/rotating LCD screen which makes shooting in tight,
tabletop setups far easier. Remote control from a computer which
gives you a bit of a larger viewing screen for focus and
composition (not full screen, but noticably larger). You do
lose a couple of metering features in this mode. It also
downloads the images directly to the computer which is handy.
The lens is all glass, similar in design to a more advanced
Canon model. It uses 4 AA or NiMH rechargable batteries. Comes
with a good software package for image organization and basic
editing. Current pricing starts at $197 according to

More info and reviews can be found at and


Les Brown
L.F.Brown Goldwork
17 2nd St. East, Ste. 101
Kalispell, MT 59901

I have tried several digital cameras to photograph my work. I now
have a Sony Mavica and a Nikon Colorpix 5600. I enjoy taking
pictures of everything I make. The Sony takes slightly better
pictures plus having pictures stored on mini discs provided permanent
storage without having to download to my computer. The Nikon photos
are stored on a chip which I can plug directly into my computer. At
some point the chip stored pictures have to be deleted to clear up
space for future photos.

The biggest problem with taking lots of pictures is describing them
and defining where they are stored.

I strongly recommend each artist buy some digital camera and take
pictures of all your work. If you create for many years you will
wish you had recorded your work from the beginning.

You will find that even with a less expensive camera you will get
pretty good pictures of your creations for your scrapbook and to
show customers…

I take all my photographs on my patio in the shade. I use a large
piece of cardboard to dampen the reflection on the silver. I set the
work up on a piece of leather. Snap a few shots and its back to
work. I must remember to wear a head band in the 112 degree summer
heat to prevent perspiration from falling on the camera or the work.

All the pictures in my papers listed on Orchid’s Tips From the
Jewelers Bench were taken with my Sony camera. The photos in
Lapidary Journal Articles (Dec 2002 through Mar 2003) on how I create
my pottery were taken with my Sony camera,

Being semi retired now I love to photograph my work in progress and
write a paper on the creation of a piece. Anyone interested in
seeing how I create any of my work is welcome to contact me.

Lee Epperson


I’ll have to second what you said about the Powershot. I se the
Canon Digital Rebel XT myself, but my sister-in-law has a Powershot
and it’s a great little camera. I might pick one up someday just for
a pocket camera to keep with me, veteran and incurable shutterbug
that I am.

Brian Corll
Vassar Jewelers

In addition to the features that Les Brown describes for his digital
camera, the Canon PowerShot A620, two other features that my Nikon
Coolpix 995 has that I find indispensable for shooting images of my
jewelry are:

Continuous Shooting

With bracketing, you shoot one shot at what you have decided the
optimum exposure is, and then shoot additional exposures at one
f-stop up and one f-stop down, creating additional shots that are
darker and lighter, then you decide from among them which one is the
best shot.

Manual bracketing requires the camera to be operated in manual mode,
and you physically change the f-stop for each shot.

Automatic bracketing is done in the automatic mode. First, the
camera decides what the optimum settings are, then it automatically
changes the settings for each subsequent shot. With my camera, the
options are three (one optimum, one f-stop up, one f-stop down) or
seven exposures (one optimum, three at three different f-stops
lighter than optimum, and three at three different f-stops darker
than optimum). Letting the camera do this automatically saves me tons
of time.

What saves even more time is setting the camera to continuous
shooting. In that mode, you press the shutter button a little longer,
and the camera takes all of the shots with one press of the button.
Without continuous shooting, you have to press the shutter button for
each of the bracketed exposures.

I was doing bracketing manually before I discovered that my camera
could do it for me, and always putting off taking the pictures
because it was such a pain.

On a completely different subject, there is something else that you
can do with bracketed exposures that I have been enjoying
experimenting with. It’s called High Dynamic Range, or HDR
[alternately called Dynamic Range Increase or DRI]. You use a tool
called Photomatix, which is $99 if you purchase it, or free if you
don’t mind the Photomatix watermark appearing in the photos. It’s
available heRe: and there is a great example
on that page.

I have been experimenting with it for my jewelry photography. I did
one quick experiment that you can view here, along with one
architectural experiment:


Some time ago the 3.34 megapixel Nikon Coolpix 995 was recommended
to me, I found one to serve my needs on Ebay, and often enough they
are avaialble, usually in the low $200 range. It is what I would
suggest as it offers what you need without the price tag of new ‘on
the shelf’ models.

Be well and good luck,
K. David Woolley
Fredericton, NB
Diversiform Metal Art & Jewellery

I need some digital camera advise.

I’m looking for a very compact camera, small enough to slip into a
shirt pocket or even smaller.

The camera is not intended to take pix that would be printed. I need
a graphic note pad. My purpose is to take notes for myself and then
upload them to my iMac.

I often see things that I find interesting for one reason or other
and a very compact digital camera seems like it would be very useful
for visual notes.

Thanks for any help with suggestions.

Kevin Kelly

Hello Kevin,

Have you thought of using a camera phone? The quality is not very
high, but you’d be getting your graphic note pad and cell phone in
one unit.

Judy in Kansas


I have a SONY DSC-T7. It’s about the size of a credit card (but
slightly thicker). You can definitely put it in a shirt pocket. I
have it with me at all times and use it all the time in all different
kind of situations. It has 5 Mega pixels and an astonishingly good
optic quality. It’s certainly worth the price. Couldn’t live without
it any more!

If I had the choice and the money (!!!) I would buy this one + a
high end digital reflex camera for more artistic, creative (big
zoom,…) photography.

Hope this helps,
Linda Savineau


I'm looking for a very compact camera, small enough to slip into a
shirt pocket or even smaller. 

Check out the Casio Exilim - EX-S500. My husband has one and it’s
great. I think it was around $300. Takes really great pics.

On the other hand, if you really just need it like a sketchbook,
what about a camera cell phone?

Nan Lewis Jewelry
Artisan-made fine jewelry ~ ~ different!

I have to agree with Les’s recommendation of the Canon A620. I
upgraded from an older Nikon CoolPix and have been, shall we say,
blown away by what this extemely versatile and feature packed camera
can do. The macros have been marvelous, with virtually microscopic
detail. A huge range of settings, controls, including fully manual
(which I use for jewelry work). I chose this camera as an “all
round” camera for both work and play, art photography, etc. No need
for an AC adaptor–this camera has very quick start-up time and is
rated at some 500 shots with the LCD and approximately 1500
without–remarkable battery life. I keep a second set of batteries
around. For transfer, I just pop the tiny SD card into my HP laptop
(which takes all media). Saves a variety of settings, and I also use
the grid display on the LCD to help align pieces. I could have
bought anything, but am thrilled with the images of the A620…a
pleasure to use.


I own a Canon Rebel EOS digital. I originally purchased a Canon SLR
and was happy to find that the lenses worked on both. Although this
is a bulkier camera, I also take it everywhere. The photographs in my
flex-shaft book were all taken with this camera. The best feature on
this camera is that it is all automatic if you need it to be. Canon
did a nice job of making it simple.


I have two cameras. a Cannon,Powerershot G5, which has excellent
macro cababilities, which I use with the cloud dome for pictures to
be sent to juries. I got this camera after reviewing the writeup on
Steve’s Digicams–an excellent site with complete on all
cameras. I have been able to take professional quality pictures with
it, which have gotten me into several shows and galleries…

However, as it is too large to lug around comfortably, I got an
inexpensive little Olympus Stylus 410 to carry around. I believe it
was around $200, including lithium batteries, recharger, USB cable,
memory card and software.

It is the same size as a small cell phone, and slips into my
pocket… I chose it over several others in the same price range
because it has a metal cover which slides over the lens to protect it
when not in use, and is waterproof. (important in the wet and rainy
Northwest, however, it is not made for underwater photography, but
great for protection agains sudden showers). The cover is attached to
the body of the camera and cannot get lost. When one turns the camera
on, it automatically retracts from the lens, and when one turns the
camera off, it moves to cover the lens. Good protection.

The little Olympus fits in my pocket, and is always handy. I took
some quick shots of some of my jewelry prior to a show, just to have
a recordof them, and was amazed at how well the pictures came out.
even with bad lighting, and no tripod.

As I mentioned, both cameras have lithium batteries and rechargers.
The Cannon is noted for the long life of its batteries before they
need recharging. So far I have had absolutely no problems with either



What lens(es) are you using for your close-ups and how close can you
get? Do you know what the image to object size ratio is? 1:1, 1:2?


Les Brown
L.F.Brown Goldwork
17 2nd St. East, Ste. 101
Kalispell, MT 59901

There seem to be two “camps” of photographers (Ginger or MaryAnn?
LOL). Three, probably: Canon people, Nikon people, and everything
else people (Hasselblad, even) I’m (we’re) Canon people. We have an
A80, which is now the A510 -520 -610 -620 series. We just love it.
It’s reasonably small and light, has many features, takes GREAT pics,
etc. The Canon interface is easy to learn, and pretty much standard
across their cameras. It does not have the means to use a remote
shutter, though (reviews tell me the newer ones, like A620, still
don’t, I gather). You can take remote shots by connecting the camera
to the computer, and there is a remote shooting routine that works
pretty well. On our website there are several shots like this - the
turquoise bracelet comes to mind. I would say one thing, though. Even
though it’s a great camera, it’s not a PRO camera. It’s still what
they call “point and shoot”. It doesn’t save RAW or even TIFF images,
the end resolution is limited, it doesn’t do EXIF, on and on - no
remote shutter is very bad, no lens expansion. It does have a tripod
mount. If you want those things, you need to go to the $1000 plus
range - the Digital Rebel is great, and I know someone with a
comparable Nikon (like, $3,000) that is in a whole different league.
But for a general use camera that does OK for jewelry, too (just not
catalog shots), I’d add a vote for the Canon A-series, too.

they call "point and shoot". It doesn't save RAW or even TIFF
images, the end resolution is limited, it doesn't do EXIF, on and
on - no remote shutter is very bad, no lens expansion. It does have
a tripod mount. If you want those things, you need to go to the
$1000 plus     

Maybe that’s why the Coolpix 995 was so popular… tripod mounting
screw, uses a digital remote shutter, lens expansion (wide angel and
telescopic are what I have), tiff format (sure it’s a 3.34
megapixel, but they’re still 9meg file). I bought my used on ebay
last year, they still crop up ($335 Canadian). <snip - sorry, no ebay
links on Orchid> ebay store seems to have a number of them currently
(about $250 plys $39 s/h USD … I don’t know the store so use
standard caution)

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

For shooting pics of my jewelry, I don’t do it myself. I use a
professional photographer and let them do the work. Why? A
professional jewelry photographer who understands the nuances of
light, depth of field, perspective and background is trained in this
area. If I want to sell my jewelry, I want the best possible image to
capture the attention of my clients. He is a professional
photographer; he is not a professional goldsmith.

It’s harder than you think to procure decent photos for my
workshops, because some goldsmiths think they can take a photo on
their own and save money. It shows too. If you are selling your
creations, especially on the web, it is very important to make sure
the images are outstanding.

These are shots I took for some friends using my Canon Rebel.

This is of my work when I was unaware of using Photoshop and to
extract the best possible image for the web.

BTW I visited your website. Just wanted you to know that the
"charms" are beautifully crafted, but the photo of the dime
overwhelms the lovely and delicate work. If you just list the
dimensions instead, then your nice work can be enlarged to see more
of the detail.


Karen Christians
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph. 781/891-3854 Fax 3857
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio

What lens(es) are you using for your close-ups and how close can you
get? Do you know what the image to object size ratio is? 1:1, 1:2?

I use a Sigma macro 28 - 135, and a 50mm Canon. I just bought a wide
angle from Tokina on Amazon for shooting at Burning Man.

For the Macro, I can get pretty durn close. Photographing little
burs in the middle of the night, oy, but it worked out OK. I wish I
was more of a geek that can tell you exactly what my camera is doing,
but I shoot rather organically and quickly. I can futz with the ASA
pretty well and get the shots I need. The digital gives it to me
quickly, so I can adjust on the fly if I need to.

Photography is about having the “eye.” I was just lucky that I
inherited my father’s ability to see.

If you want to develop your photographic eye, there are a couple of
little studies that work.

  1. Shoot 35 photos of an egg in black and white.

  2. Shoot 35 photos of only the shadows of objects.

  3. Fill the frame with your subject.

  4. Shoot photos from another perspective, like from the view of a

You’ll be amazed what you come up with.


Karen Christians
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph. 781/891-3854 Fax 3857
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio


Excellent advice on photography! I would also recommend Freeman
Patterson’s book, “Photography and the Art of Seeing.” You are
absolutely right about having the “eye”. Without it, all the
expensive equipment in the world won’t make you a better

BK in AK

Speaking of books - years ago, when I needed to figure all this out
(somewhat - I’m no pro) I bought “John Shaw’s Closeups in Nature” -

I’ve seen it in bookstores much more recently, still. He very
carefully and clearly explains depth of field, the relationships
between light, lenses, aperture, shutter speed, ISO values. It’s not a
huge book, and it’s not definitive or “College Level”, but it’s very
enlightening. Spectacular macro photography, too.

I know I’m getting old and crotchity, but I think it’s important to
use our language as precisely as possible. “Macro photography” means
making very large photographs, just as “micro photography” means
making very tiny photographs. Photo-macrography is making close-up
photographs (with moderate magnification) and photo-micrography is
making very, very close-up photographs (with high magnification).
Ultramicrography is commonly used to refer to the use of the electron

There, I feel better!
Dr. Mac