Beginner needs some advice on what camera to buy to get a certain level of quality

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Champenois, May 22, 2009.

  1. Champenois

    Champenois TPF Noob!

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    Hello everyone,

    I am a new member here, and basically a beginner.

    I have to post pictures to a show website (not even made yet) of products where there's a good level of detail and color reproduction. My Sony Cybershot T100 goes nowhere towards doing the job, no matter how much I have experimented with settings and flash/no flash.

    I would greatly appreciate some help from anyone if they could look at the image quality of the pen photo, top center of the screen on this site (Sailor Professional Gear Red Mosaic with Gold Trim Fountain Pen) and tell me what level of camera/equipment/environment I would need to buy and use to achieve the general quality of that single, bigger pen photo.

    I am able to cut out the item (pen) from the background, but I have no idea of how to go about achieving that level of reproduction quality.

    I do not have unlimited money, but somehow I have to go a good way towards that level of image quality :)

    I would be grateful if someone would give some pointers.

    Thank you, John
     
  2. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Firstly a lot of that shot is not about the camera, but more about the control of lighting on the pen. Look into lighttents/boxes as I am sure one was used for that pen shot. That lets you get nice soft lighting and a clean white background (with no cutting) into the shot.
    Also a good soild tripod, remote release or timer can also improve image quality by removing and shake from the camera end and also letting you make a longer exposure - thus you don't have to use flash but can instead use the ambient lighting (coming through the white of the light tent/box) for the shot.

    As for the level of gear I would look to a good solid macro lens for a subject of that size and a good camera body if the DSLR rout is one you are able to afford. There is a variety of cameras on the market and for the interent and an image of around that size even the entry level DSLRs should be more than enough especailly if you then use a good quality macro lens.

    Canon or Nikon - or even Olympus would work well and a shorter macro lens (avoid the 50mm ones go for something like a 60mm macro (canon or nikon depending on which body you go for), or a 70mm sigma (made in different mounts for different brands), or a Tamron 90mm macro.
    You could also look at each brands own 100mm macro lens (105mm for Nikon).
     
  3. Dao

    Dao No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I believe the cheapest way to do product photography is a entry level DSLR with the light box. Of course, you may want to try just the DIY light box first and see if that work for you since it is very cheap to make.

    Take a look at this

    Strobist: How To: DIY $10 Macro Photo Studio

    Now, I use a softbox with a remote triggered flash. And it works pretty well.
     
  4. itznfb

    itznfb TPF Noob!

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    you should be able to produce images like that with a P&S that has some manual control and a cheap lightbox. i've taken and seen others take great product photography with a desk lamp and a cardboard box.
     
  5. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    All the comments have given good advice.

    Basically, the knowledge and skill of the photographer produces an image like the one you refered us to. The equipment used is secondary.

    If you will need to do this type of photography frequently I would recommend you get the book: Light: Science and Magic by Hunter, Biver and Faqua. It will show how to use light in a way to minimize reflections and other problems inherent to product photography.
     
  6. Champenois

    Champenois TPF Noob!

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    Thank you everyone for taking the time to reply. Apologies for the delay in answering, our internet provider is having another round of saving money by chopping off access for up to 24 hours at a time.

    First to give a bit more background. I am on location in the South of mainland China. Any camera/lense purchases have to be made in Hong Kong, which luckily is only a couple of hours driving distance (reason being that it is common for warranties not to be honored on the Chinese mainland, no matter what the brand, no matter whether the manufacturer is directly represented here or not)

    Secondly, many sites are blocked, not by the Govt., but by greedy local ISP's saving traffic costs, thus links to look at light boxes etc., are not necessarily viewable for me - (things were ok until they started blocking TOR)

    Thirdly, the main subjects at the moment are jewelry and pens, but could extend to anything, of any size !

    I only mention the above things because my requests below will sound a bit strange otherwise :)

    1/ To "Overread" - thanks again for that detail, could you or the other helpers recommend an actual model and specific lense that I can go for, perhaps with a backup option or two? A buying trip to Hong Kong has to be accomplished in a day, so my newbie status is going to severely knock my available amount of time, if I don't have definite brands/models/lense to buy. Also is there anything else I need apart from the tripod.

    2/ Whilst originally experimenting with my little everyday camera, I bought a tent off the internet which helped control the many competing light sources, but I had no light source like this tutorial uses : How to Make An Inexpensive Light Tent - DIY
    so the result was dull with grey shadows (made worse by short exposure?).
    Here's the url of the light tent seller (I bought the 60cmcube with a closable entry (comes with 4 different colored interior sheet liners)
    ÉãÓ°Åï-°®ÃÀÀöÉãÓ°Æ÷²Ä-ÌÔ±¦Íø
    Here's a light, which I can also buy (I guess there will be different diameters but the interpreter is on the mandatory 2 hour eat and sleep lunch now, so I cannot ask)
    רҵÉãÓ°»·ÐεÆNG-28C-ÌÔ±¦Íø
    Apart from the circular light in that link, I will have to purchase a light if I should use the example that the further above tutorial link uses.

    3/ I will investigate to see if Amazon stock the book KmH has recommended, and if so, order it.

    In summary, I have to come up with photos which are super clear, reflect actual colors accurately, and control the background to be as light as possible, or I will have to cut them out. Melpens.com - fountain pens, ballpoints, rollerballs, mechanical pencils and more! quality was my aim, but I'm not sure whether stainless pens with complex surface angles as well as intricate, multi-faceted stone jewelry complexes are going to complicate things.

    I know I'm asking a lot here, but if anyone could give me some more recommendations for purchase and practical use so I can get this project moving, I again, would be very grateful.

    As far as money goes, I think that the bean counters will approve the cost of a good entry-level DSLR and lense along with any ancillary stuff.

    Thank you, John

    ps - Dao's link was blocked
     
  7. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    For shiny things like jewelry you really need a working lighttent/box setup - a flash based lighting will give you a lot of harsh reflections on the surface that you really don't want.
    Also from what I have read of lighttent/boxes the lightsource does not have to be anything more specail and a few desklamps. Its going to depend on your budget and how much control over things you want - but with simple desklights you can control the lighting - moving the lamps closer and further away will affect the intensity of light from that side (close stronger - furthe weaker). If you want you can use camera flashes for this but I think that might be getting a little complicated and certainly more expensive.
    I don't think a circular light is essential for lightbox setups since the sides should diffuse the light evenly - though I am far from an expert in this area.

    As for gear I would say go for a Canon or Nikon DSLR, you really won't go wrong with either - as well as a good strong short focal length macro lens (a nikon or canon 60mm macro, Tamron 90mm macro, Sigma 70mm macro) you could even go for longer options, but I don't see that you have a need for them for this sort of work. (ps there is a new tamron 60mm macro but I don't think its on the market yet at all)

    As for tripods I would recomend that you look into manfrotto gear; a good set of legs is your first need, 055XPROB are a good solid set of legs
    After that you need a tripod head - I recomend a manfrotto junior geared head, its expensive (more than the tripod) and not light, but its very solid and allows for precise positioning of a camera, ideal for landscape and macro setups. If you can't afford this then go for the best 3 way head you can afford - don't go for ballheads since they are not good for macro work (they tend to droop just after being locked - that is not noticable for normal work but in macro its very noticable).

    Then you need a focusing rail, I would avoid the manfrotto make (I find it wabbles and is less than ideal) and instead go for a cheaper hongkong brand (ebay has loads of them so I am sure hongkong must ;)) or if you have the budget a Novaflex focusing rail.

    With rail, tripod head and tripod you are good to go - a lighttent and some lights along with a DSLR and a macro lens and you should have all you need. You might need a flash for the DSLR and I am going to stop here - its not an area I have done work in so I really can't say if you will or will not need one for certain setups - I expect the lighttent to be able to do all the lighting you should need.
     
  8. Champenois

    Champenois TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for all the info Overread, I was writing you a PM, but your quota has been exceeded ! :( , so I'll fill it out for a post here.

    Overread
    So grateful for the info and time you've spent. Unfortunately, I'm really light on general knowledge.

    Would you mind specifying an actual model to go for? - i've been to the Canon site, here's the lower end listing going up in price. I can only guess these are "ëntry level DSLR's"
    EOS Rebel XS EF-S 18-55IS Kit $599.99
    EOS Digital Rebel XTi EF-S 18-55IS Kit $699.99
    EOS Rebel XSi EF-S 18-55IS Kit $749.99
    EOS Rebel T1i EF-S 18-55IS Kit $899.99

    I'm not sure whether these are up to date models even, there's so much info all over the net

    Lenses -
    Would any of the top 3 left lenses on this page be ok?
    Canon Macro EF Lenses
    The "EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM " sounds like what you were recommending

    Or have you got any other personal preferences regarding actual make and model of camera and lense that I can buy.

    Apologies, I've read everything you've said closely, but without actual models I'm going to be in a sea of confusion when the HK hawkers hit me !!!

    The tripod, I understand better, and I'll definitely need a cheap focusing rail cause the money will be low by then.
    Then I'll have to figure out how to use all this gear !

    I go to HK on the 5th of June to be a witness at a wedding, so it'll be "D" day for this stuff.

    Thanks again for all the help !!

    John
    Dongguan, PRC
     
  9. musicaleCA

    musicaleCA TPF Noob!

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    You mentioned that you need to get accurate colour. Make sure you use a colour card. Having a colour card in one shot will give the printer (I mean the person, not the device) a point of reference for all the subsequent shots (with similar lighting conditions), and will allow you to set a custom white balance in post for 100%, or close to 100%, colour accuracy (as long as you shoot RAW, of course, but I doubt I need to say that). A custom white balance is really the only way to get absolutely accurate colour in printing. Oh, if you ever need to provide photos for printing, use the ProPhoto colour space the entire time through post-processing (it's the underpinning of Lightroom and I think Aperture too, so you shouldn't have to worry about it). And lastly, make sure that you've calibrated your monitor(s) just before doing any editing. The ColorMunki or Spyder are good for this.

    Edit: I should note that most printers will want sRGB to be the embedded colour space, but if you want the absolute best gamut of colours, ProPhoto is the way to go.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2009
  10. Dao

    Dao No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Any of the camera listed above will do what you need to do.
    XTi (it may called "400D" or "Kiss X" in HK) is the oldest model.
    XS (it may called "1000D" or "Kiss F" in HK) is the lowest end model.
    XSi (it may called "450D" or "Kiss X2" in HK) is suppose to replace the XTi
    T1i (it may called "500D" or "Kiss X3" in HK) is the newest model

    For what you want to do with the camera, you should not see any different.



    If cost is a concern, the EF 50mm F/1.8 II lens will do the job. At least for the pen. If you need to show the fine details of a diamond, a macro lens may needed.
    It is all about the lightning setup. I think you may need to spend more time on that.

    This photo was taken with a Canon XTi and EF 50mm lens about 1 year ago. That was just an experiment. And I haven't try it again after I learned more about lightning. ( I only have my camera for few months at that time) In fact, I do not like how the mirror reflect 2 images back. At least, it show what the camera and lens can do.

    [​IMG]


    Do you know how to read Chinese? You may want to check out some HK site for more reference as far as where and how much.
    i.e.
    DCHome.net ¼Æ½X¤Ñ¦a½×¾Â *»´ä²Ä¤@*ӼƽX¬Û¾÷ºô¯¸ - Powered by Discuz! or
    ³ø®Æ°Ï - DCHome.net ¼Æ½X¤Ñ¦a½×¾Â *»´ä²Ä¤@*ӼƽX¬Û¾÷ºô¯¸ - Powered by Discuz!
     
  11. jess28

    jess28 TPF Noob!

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    I'm new and clueless on most of the things you have been told, but one thing I would add is to hold and play with both a Canon and a Nikon before buying, if at all possible. I didn't believe it when I was told that one or the other would feel right, but it was true. Good luck!
     
  12. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I agree with the points above - also on the lens side;
    Look at the canon EFS 60mm macro, 100mm macro in the canon line
    Either lens will do what you need and do it well and since your not after insects I would say look at the 60mm.


    Don't go for the following:
    Canon MPE65mm macro - its way more than you need for product shots, this lens is made for eyes of insects and similar high magnifactions its a very specialist lens and the hardest to learn to use (let alone use well) Avoid.
    Canon 50mm macro - this lens is not a full macro lens and it needs the adaptor listed next to it (macro adaptor) to become one. AT which point you have spent more than you could have for the EFS 60mm macro, which is also a better build.
    Canon 180mm macro - great lens, but its long and that means in studio work its often going to be too long and force you to work far back - not bad, but its way overkill in length and its price is very high (the sigma 180mm macro is a cheaper and just as good alternative).
     

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