Looking to buy a digital camera

Discussion in 'Photos & Videos' started by CAS, Mar 29, 2007.

  1. CAS

    CAS Member

    I am starting to look into buy a digital camera. I have very little knowledge of them. i have been doing some research on them. I did a search here for digital camera's.
    But i still have a few questions.

    My main purpose for the camera is:
    To take indoor shots of my layout, during construction phases, to completion.
    Take pictures outside of my weathered rolling stock.( better lighting, i guess).
    Main purpose will be on my layout. So i really don't want to spend a arm and a leg for it.

    Here are some of my questions.
    What is the most important thing to look for?
    Will it be, how many mb's it has?
    How many megapixel?
    How many Optical/Digital zoom?
    Or will a basic digital camera work for my purpose ?

    Thanks for all your help,
  2. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    I own the 10mp version of this camera. I can tell you that it takes some phenominal pictures!!

    The 6mp version (the one in the link) is essentially the same camera, just a slightly lower resolution, as the one that took these pictures:

    Low resolution version:
    Hi resolution version here: http://www.skyersfamily.com/gallery/v/Trains/Layout1/IMG_0012.jpg.html?g2_imageViewsIndex=1


    As far as some of the quesitons you've asked:

    1) MP is not always the best selector of camera photo quality but 6mp minimum is a great place to start in my opinion becuase you can take pictures at a high resolution adn get great detail and then reduce the size if you don't want the detail.

    2)You can purchase your own memory card w/ up to 4gb (2gb cost me 35$ and i can store 700 photos in medium mode)

    3) don't use digital zoom, 3x optical zoom is a great medium spot, more is better but don't pay extra for more. The greater your optical zoom the steadier you have to hold your camera!!! :)

    4) Any basic digital camera will "work" but i've found that they won't give you grat quality. I took the plung and upgraded from an HP photosmart (5mp ~175$) and the difference in image quality between the canon and the hp is night and day. The canon is head and shoulders better. Browse around my website where i have my photos. I have pleanty of photos w/ both cameras so you can see the difference for youself. You may decide that you don't need higher quality and a basic digicam is fine :). Oh and macro photo ... the cannon takes great pictures up close the hp did not.... at all hahahaha

    On my website to see an image full size click in the upper right hand corner where there is a "size" drop down, you can choose hi resolution (native from the camera) or the lower resolution like you see above.
  3. Torpedo

    Torpedo Member

    What is the most important thing to look for?

    The quality of the lens, which is completely unevaluated and unreported by virtually every consumer so-called review that is done by self appointed experts, most of whom think that they are qualified to review a camera just because it has a microprocessor in it.

    Check the photography magazines for real reviews.

    How many Optical/Digital zoom?

    Digital zoom is mostly a marketing gimmick (I almost wrote fraud) that is completely useless. You can do almost exactly the same thing after you have taken the picture with almost any photo software, even the most basic free stuff. Digital zoom is nothing more than cropping and then enlarging the image while it is still in the camera. Anytime you enlarge a digital image, you lose resolution.

    More than 2X or 3X optical zoom requires a more expensive lens and electronic image stabilization, which will drive the price up. If a camera has a cheap lens and no stabilization, the image quality will suffer, especially at higher zoom ratios.
  4. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    It really depends largely on your budget. You could blow the better part of a grand on a super DSLR outfit, but if all you're looking for is shots to print in 4x6 or post to the web, it's money out the window. And if you're not a photographer to begin with, you'd be paying for a lot of features you're never going to use. From what you describe, you are looking for a small point-and-shoot camera.

    Ken Rockwell is a professional photographer with an attitude, and he leans towards common sense. His Digtal Camera page might be a good place to start. I especially like his "A $150 versus a $5,000 camera" comparison. It really points up how easy it is to get caught up in photo gear, and thinking bigger/more is better, and why it's not necessarily so.

    Having gone through all this recently, I decided that while I'd really like a DSLR (since I have a ton of lenses I could use on one), I can't really justify the price of a body compared to the results I'd get from a smaller all-in-one. Right now, about the only advantage that DSLRs have for me is that in lower light they perform better because they have a larger sensor (CCD), that produces crisp images with less noise than the smaller CCD's used in the point-and-shoots, and for the shooting I'm doing, that's not a big enough issue to justify the extra $$$.

    If you're impressed with DoctorWayne's pics, note that he shoots them with a Kodak point-and-shoot, and I don't think anyone will argue that his results look very good. He describes his technique in this post.

    Look for something with at least 3x optical zoom, a macro mode, and 4-6 megapixels should do you fine. I was shooting a Fuji FinePix S3100 that I picked up for $125 - 4 megapixels, 6x optical zoom a decent macro mode, and some manual control over exposure. These pics were shot with it.

    I wanted a bit more (ok, a lot more! ;) ) manual control, so I waited until I found a Fuji S9000 factory refurb at the price I wanted. I shot these pics with it.

    Apart from the better exposure (which I also learned how to control with the S3100), I doubt you'll see much difference between these and the other pics. The reason is that you have to shrink your pics to a fraction of their original size for posting on the web, and so a lot of detail in higher megapixel images gets lost anyways.

    For what you're looking to do, invest in a decent tripod, and a 4-6 MP camera with a decent lens (3-6x optical zoom and macro capability of less than a foot to ~3'). In the $200 price range there's lots to choose from, and most of them are pretty decent.

    There's a ton of info on the web, and it's easy to get overwhelmed, especially if you go to someplace like dpreview.com , where they review hundreds of cameras.
    Rather than get caught up in all the technical mumbo-jumbo, cut to the end, look to see if the pro's outweigh the con's, and check the overall rating.
  5. hminky

    hminky Member

    I use a Konica Minolta Z20 and have had good success with it. I got it two years ago off e-bay for under $200 refurbished.

    It will do closeup work


    HO scale

    Does layout pictures


    Wagon Road Creek on the On30 Pacific Coast Air Line Railway

    I really like the camera, and have used it for several magazine articles published in Railroad Model Craftsman, even with its 5 mp. Also look into Helicon Focus for better Depth of Field with a less expensive camera.


    and it takes railfan shots

  6. Fluesheet

    Fluesheet Member

    I use the 4mp version of the camera above - the SD300. As noted, max megapixels isn't the only thing to base your decision on - I very rarely use max resolution as in most cases you end up having to resize to something smaller. Personally, I wanted something that was small enough to fit ina pocket and had some manual control. I've been VERY happy with this camera. I previously owned the 3mp SD200 - the only reason I "upgraded" was because I saw fit to put in in my swimsuit pocket, then take a swim :oops: . Point being, even that lower resolution did everything I needed it to.
  7. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    I would start looking at what "pro field guys are using in the point and shot cat."

  8. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    I could go into great detail but then someone that has a brand loyalty would stand on a hill saying why there’s is better. What you might be interested in is a simple point and shoot digital camera. For what you explained was your need anything over a 6MP isn’t needed, unless you are going to print out a ton of 8x10’s or larger.

    The models change each year and the MP count goes up monthly but is never the correct decision to base your camera purchase on. In addition you will need to become proficient in some post processing software to bring out the most in your photograph.

    Take a look through the link I am giving you and ask a few questions on the forum. If you can’t find your answer there I doubt you will find any better information on another forum.

  9. hminky

    hminky Member

    I have no brand loyalty. Before I had the Konica Minolta I had a Fujifilm S602, a 3.2 mp camera. I dropped it and the repair bill was more then the Konica Minolta cost so I bought one. The S602 took good pictures, also.



    I have had pictures in magazine articles published from the S602. I just really like the Konica Minolta for the money. They can be found for under $200 refurbished. The advantage of more pixels is the ability to crop a better picture.

  10. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I think that a decent point-and-shoot camera is adequate for what most of us are doing, unless you've got money to burn. It's also a good idea to get a decent tripod, as most of your indoor shots are going to be relatively long exposures, unless you're planning on spending money on extra lighting for photography. I got an AC adapter for my camera, as most of the times that I'm shooting photos, I'm at it for several hours. The cord is not usually a problem, unless I'm shooting with the camera right on the layout in a confined area. While I am looking for a converter that I can plug into my truck, I'll probably spring for a charger and some batteries, as I hope to have time to get out and do some railfanning this summer.

  11. IandOFan71

    IandOFan71 Member

    IMHO, if you want a really good camera that won't break the bank you cannot beat a Canon Power Shot. Mine is a Power Shot A540 6 megapixels. My father has been in the photography and printing business as long as I can remember and Canon has been his brand of choice.

  12. rekline

    rekline Member

    Here is my $0.02. I bought a Kodak camera and love it. I thought it was the easiest to use and least expensive when I was comparing with the Cannon and Nikon. This is the mid level version and about 3 years old and has never given me any problems. Check them all out and good luck figuring out what works best for you and your budget
  13. CAS

    CAS Member

    thanks everyone for your replys.

    I thought maybe 1 function on the camera would be most important to look into. Wasn't sure, thats why i asked.

    Probably run over to Best Buy, check out what have. If im interested in any they have, come home and search, and do some research on the internet on that model of digital camera.

    Thanks again,
  14. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    With any good camera you need a very good helper. :)

    Attached Files:

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  15. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    One question I do not see listed here (forgiveme if it is) but that's = "What are you doing with the pictures?".

    If all you want to do is post them to The Gauge ;), or a blog, or email them to your friends for viewing on screen, then you don't need a high MP count. In fact, if you can still find it, a decnt quality 2 or 3 MP camera would work. On the other hand, if you want to produce super quality poster sized prints, then you will need quality optics, and 7 or 8 MP minimum.

    Hope that helps.

  16. CAS

    CAS Member

    The pics are just for posting on the forums. And for future refference, for what to do, and what not to do.

  17. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    If you will only be looking at them on screen, higher resolution is not really needed, and a "less than cutting edge" camera will do.

    If however, you want to make prints, or zoom right in on specific areas of the photo on your computer, then the more pixels, the better.

    Remember too that while a better camera will enable you to take better pictures, it will not do it for you... ;) :D

    Good luck in your search!

  18. CAS

    CAS Member

    I also have Photshop 7.0 which tend on useing to modify my pic's with.

  19. rsn48

    rsn48 Member

    I am writing this for other newbies to read as I realize you might have purchased your camera already.

    First, for model railroading purposes, what are the issues you need to know and plan for in photography, digital or otherwise? I will list them in point order so that you can see what you need to know and own in an otherwise complex field.

    1) Depth of Field - this concept is what is in focus in the camera and in the picture. The further from the front and back of the picture, the more depth of field you have. For layout shoots, depth of field is everything as ideally you want everything in focus. Grab an MR mag and check out the layout shots and you'll see everything is in focus.

    So depth of field is "the" issue in our hobby's photos of layouts. You control depth of field with "f" stops in your camera, larger f stops (which actually means a smaller hole the light comes through) is better than smaller f stops (which are larger holes). Everything being equal, the smaller the hole (larger f stop) needs more time for the same amount of light to expose the film negative or digital sensor as a larger hole (smaller f stop).

    Here is the analogy that I developed for me which you might find helpful. Imagine little tiny human artists with their paint palette and brush about one third the size of a flee. Now fill the film negative up with these little artists, these guys painting are what is going to complete your negative picture. So assume the 35 mil camera film negative (or sensor) can hold a thousand of these little artists all assigned one area of the picture to paint, so a thousand artists painting complete the whole picture, each one has his own area to paint.

    Now logic would say that if these little artists can have more time to paint, the more detail they can get into their painting. More detail means more in focus; more in focus means greater depth of field.

    So the very first issue with your camera purchase is not how many megapixels is it, or how long is the digital zoom lens (you don't need a zoom lens for model railroad photo's), it this: Can you adjust manually the f stops so that you can choose a larger f stop to get your shoot? You want a larger f stop, so how large does the f stop go on the camera (larger is better)?

    So write this sentence down and memorize it so that you can say it with confidence to the clerk at the camera shop (not at Kmart, or Target, etc):

    "Sir, I need a camera where I can manually adjust the f stop; I need a very deep depth of field." Even though you don't know what you're talking about, after you explain your taking shots on a layout and you need everything in focus, he'll understand.

    2) Sharpness is the next holy grail you must pursue. You can have everything in focus with a great depth of field but still get a bit of "fuzzy" picture. Now there are a number of factors that affect sharpness, quality of lens, quality of the receiving medium (print negative, slide, or digital sensor) but the one you want to be aware of and control is the "ISO;" this is how fast or slow the medium you are using to receive light and turn it into a detailed picture. So lets talk film for a minute. Film is slow, medium or fast; when you purchase it, you set your camera to that film's speed (the ISO).

    Now back to those little artists painting on the film negative, remember the more time they paint the more detail they can get in. A slow ISO is going to require more time to get the proper amount of light in and as you recall, the more time we can give those little artist guys, the better the detail in the picture.

    So sentence number two is this (write it down and be able to say it back to the sales clerk flawlessly so that he thinks you actually know what you are talking about):

    "Sir, not only is it important that I manually adjust my f stop, but I must be able to adjust the ISO as well, I need a camera with a slow (or lower) ISO to get the necessary detail in my shots."

    Now to the camera. You don't need digital, but I can certainly understand your desire for digital since that is what the planet is buying. I am going to talk about three models of Canon, all are the more expensive DSLR's you can buy (not the most expensive but not cheap either).

    I went into ebay to see what is available and I found this 1) A Canon Rebel (not digital) with lens and bag for $70 2) A Canon Digital Rebel with one lens for $340 (both of these two cameras are used) and 3) A new Canon Digital Rebel Xti for around a $1000. Trick question, of all three cameras which one of the three is best capable of capture the winners trophy cup for best depth of field and sharpness? The $70 used Canon Rebel (not digital) is the correct answer.

    With a non-digital camera you can have your print images burnt onto a CD buy a store and then you can use these images (with the right software - tons out there and cheap) to send to your friends via email, print them out on your new great printer that scans etc, and post on the net.

    I own the Digital Digital Rebel and it is a terrific camera even though its value has plunged because of the new Digital Rebel Xti that is out there. Many camera freaks ditch their cameras faster than a Donald Trump contest is fired on The Apprentice.

    All the above cameras can use all of the Canon lens, except the Canon Rebel, which can use all the "normal" lens from Canon, but can't use the "Digital" lens from Canon.

    Lastly get a good camera that can expand with you, kind of like saying get a better DCC system in case your tastes change and you want more. If I were advising you, I'd say either get a Rebel either non-digital or digital, but not the Xti.

    I left out the sharpness bit is also dependent on using a tripod for shots requiring longer times, but we'll leave that sermon for another day.
  20. CAS

    CAS Member

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