LF Camera great in lowlight and rapid movements

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by twintoe, Oct 31, 2017.

  1. twintoe

    twintoe TPF Noob!

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    Hey

    Hope you guys can help me out

    I recently started working on a project which takes photos of cargo when being loaded by forklifts onto trucks.

    The problem is that my current camera dont meet my expectations and im looking for some advice.
    The requirements are that it needs to function in low light (Inside the trucks cargo area) and have to take good pictures while the forklift is backing away from the cargo (They drive fast, so I guess shutter speed have to be high?)

    The hard part is I need to be able to analyse the printlabels on the cargo. They aren't insanly small, but thats why I need the high resolution pictures.
    Also the camera have to be rather small. Im thinking action camera size'ish.
    Oh, and also have someway to communicate via USB or GPIO pins.


    I know im asking alot, and I have spent days researching.. Are there any cameras meting my criteria?
    Im a completly new in the whole "Camera world" so all help is much appricated!


     
  2. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    All cameras are subject to the same laws of physics so they all have the same limitations. Be sure what you buy has a fast lens and decent performance at high ISO setting.
     
  3. astroNikon

    astroNikon 'ya all Bananas I tell 'ya Supporting Member

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    What's your budget?

    SONY makes some nice security cameras that might work but I think they're above $10,000 USD.
    But the smaller the camera the closer you kinda have to be for detail, which worries me for safety if the forklifts/cargo are moving fast.

    Truthfully, having been in automotive, it sounds like if the originators went to RFID tags you'd be better off in the long run in the logistics side of things.
     
  4. bratkinson

    bratkinson No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    From your description, it sounds like you are between a rock and a hard place.

    I'd like to say there's some magical compact camera that would solve all your problems. Unfortunately, I think you're into DSLR territory for several reasons:

    The first issue is low light. Low light photography can be easily solved by use of a flash. Since you will have to 'light up' the front end of a 53' trailer, you'll need a pretty good sized external flash. But then the use of a flash may startle or surprise the fork lift drivers, or even temporarily blind them. So I would definitely consider the 'safety' issue to the fork lift drivers if using a flash. You won't need as fancy, high priced camera if adding an external flash to it can solve your problems. Going without a flash, you've just stepped off into the higher end, high ISO capable-with-minimal-noise DSLR. Many DSLRs will advertise ISO 25,600 and even higher. The trick is to find one that can do that and not produce too much noise (multi-color dots on the image, especially in darker areas, giving a sandpaper type of appearance). Some noise can be removed in post processing...that's a whole 'nuther can of worms you'll need to deal with. Given that you are presumably standing somewhere safe while doing your photography, such as off to the side away from the fork lift 'route(s)' in and out of the trailer, it can get really dark at the front of a 53' trailer, perhaps 58-60' away. Some have a 'milky' plastic roof that lets sunlight through. But those are not very common and the sunlit trailer interior is dark at night like all others. So, if possible, have permanently mounted lights shining into the trailer from some location. Unfortunately, my experience with permanent lights on some kind of 'light bar' or mounting from above light the first 20-30' OK, and then the light fall off is dramatic. So, you'll need a lens that can do f1.8 - f2.0 or so...a wide open aperture to allow the most light possible. They're not cheap. While a prime lens (fixed focal length) of about 135mm would fill the bill for shooting into the trailer, it has its drawbacks for closer work. Note that if the front of the trailer is too dark to read the headlines of a newspaper, the auto focus system of your camera will not be able to achieve focus. So it's still possible you may require auxiliary, stationary lights.

    A real problem is getting a picture of the shipping label. Trying to focus into a darker area always difficult, and being able to read an 8" x 8" label for example, is an extreme challenge. Considering the first pallet loaded in, at the front of the trailer, even trying to see the label with your eyes is dubious, and taking a picture of them that far away even more difficult as you'll need a high-quality zoom lens, typically 70-200 mm f2.8. Ideally, I think it would be better to photograph the labels before they are palletized as there may be multiple boxes with labels you're interested in and there's no guarantee they will be facing the rear of the trailer once loaded! Shipping companies like Fedex and UPS scan each label in their automatic sorting systems before the package gets to the outbound trailer. I think you should consider doing the same. Even if you're looking only to photograph a 'pallet label' to get it's serial number that can be linked to the contents of that pallet, it's far easier to take its picture in brighter areas than the front of a trailer.

    My very limited experience working around/near fork lifts is they drive like maniacs and have many close calls hitting something. I'll assume that for any outbound trailer, there's probably 3-4 active fork lifts assigned to that task. That means there's one going in and out every 20-30 seconds or so. Safety for the photographer as well as for any lighting fixtures such as lights on a stand are all a major concern, in my opinion.

    The question on my mind is if this project is temporary, say one or two days worth, even a week, that could be handled by a professional photographer? I envision numerous photographic challenges that are best solved by someone that routinely deals with the issues of lighting, image quality (for labels), depth of field (plane of focus), etc.

    The other possibility I'm thinking of is 'damage control' of fragile equipment. Photographing the pallets as they are loaded, showing they are loaded, and properly blocked and braced to prevent damage in transit is an ongoing process, ie, permanent? Or, at least as long as some product(s) are produced? Proving that 10 pallets of XYZ were loaded into trailer ABC 123456 should the consignee claim shortage or damage is probably best done with a movie camera. Note that for movies, a tripod is highly recommended but that adds to the likelihood of a fork lift taking out a camera tripod.

    In short, if the photography and label recording is to be a permanent operation, the best solution is not one that will be the first attempt. It will be a series of tests and refinements to achieve the best result. Perhaps an continuous recording, on-board front-facing camera on the fork lifts to show the label, and the pallet(s) placed into the trailer(s). It wouldn't show that pallet 123 is in trailer 456, but it would show each of the pallets loaded by that fork lift. Oh...and the pallet label with tracking number would always have to be facing the fork lift driver for that to work.
     
  5. petrochemist

    petrochemist No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    If normal flash is an issue for the forklift drivers, then it seems to me the ideal solution might be an infra red sensitive camera (full spectrum converted would be best) with either IR or red filtered flash.
    IR flash will not bother the forklift drivers - you have to be looking directly at it to see it fire at all. :)

    What sort of size are the labels you need to read?
    How close will you be?

    With cooperation from the forklift drivers you might be able to shoot the label just before it enters the truck, with no more than 1-2 seconds delay. Even a mobile phone might be sufficient for that as many have quite good cameras now. :)
     

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