Camera for E-Commerce Product Photography

HOOT

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Hello Everyone,

After years of trusty service my old point & shoot camera (Sony DSC P200) quit on me for good, albeit to no fault of its own since I dropped it, therefore I find myself having to look for a replacement. The one and only purpose I have for the new camera is to shoot great indoors product photography for my eBay store. I sell modern military surplus items of all sizes, both used and new, ranging from uniforms to personal field gear such as helmets, backpacks, pouches and so on. This is not my primary source of income, its something I do on the side mostly for fun, therefore hiring a professional photographer, as I've seen suggested in other threads, unfortunately is not an option.

I have a maximum budget of €400/$450 for the camera+lens and I'm looking to take my photography up a notch (both in skills as well as equipment) in order to shoot photos that result in a white seamless background. I'm aware that most of it comes down to lighting so I'll have to invest money on the proper studio equipment as well, hence the limited budget for the camera to start with.

Given the good experience I've had with my previous Sony camera I'd like to stick with them and as such have selected a few cameras which I think could do the job within my budget:

- Sony RX100 MkI
- Sony A5100 with kit lens
- Sony A6000 (used)
- Sony A58 with kit lens

With that said I'll be glad to hear any other suggestions including cameras from different brands.

Thank you for reading through all this!
 

tirediron

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My suggestion based on absolutely no experience whatsoever would be the A58, and if you go for a used version, you should have enough left over for a couple of inexpensive speedlights and a radio trigger, which will allow you to really improve your results.
 
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HOOT

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I already budgeted the additional expense of the studio equipment, that said any extra savings are always welcome.

Why would you recommend the A58 specifically? One thing to keep in mind is that I have to stick with the kit lens due to the budget constraint.
 

tirediron

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Based on a quick read of the specs it seems like a decent overall camera for the price.
 

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Find the best lens you can afford....then borrow the money to buy the next one better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
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HOOT

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Do you guys think it would be worth investing in a macro lens? I'm not taking photos of small items so I don't have the necessity to shoot very close to the subject but I've read that they offer the sharpest image quality, which is what I'm looking for when taking photos of my items.
 

Dao

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In my opinion, camera is not my primary concern for "ebay product photography". I will just pick one that has a hotshoe. Lighting and setup is more important.

Even a old Canon G series camera such as G11, 12, 15 or a refurbished G16 will do the job.

With the hotshoe, you can get a radio trigger to trigger off camera flashes/strobes so that you can control the light(s).
 
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HOOT

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So sensor size, say a 1" on a compact camera compared to APS-C on a mirrorless or entry level DSLR, would make no difference when shooting products since there is plenty of lighting available? If that's the case I could simply go with something like the Sony RX-100 series.

Also talking about lighting, would you guys recommend going with speedlights/studio strobes or constant lighting for a beginner? I don't shoot video and the products I shoot are static and non-perishable.
 
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HOOT

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Anybody that can answer my question? Especially the first one regarding sensor size.
 
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HOOT

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Thanks for the reply. So even with something as small as a 1/2.3inch sensor I wouldn't see any noticeable difference, right?
 

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HOOT7 said:
Anybody that can answer my question? Especially the first one regarding sensor size.

The lighting equipment manufacturer Photoflex has for several years, had some free on-line lighting lessons, including some that deal with photographing small products. As far as sensor size goes: small sensor digital cameras have pretty decent image quality as long as the light levels are adequate, and as long as exposures are adequate, and not severely under-exposed. ANd, because small sensor cameras like digital compacts, use short focal length lenses on small image sensors, there is a lot of depth of field for every angle of view: the compact, small-sensor cameras give DEEP depth of field on wide-angle, normal-angle, and telephoto-angle shots; at close distances, there's actually a pretty substantial benefit to using a SMALLER sensor capture device INSTEAD OF using a large-sensor device.

I've actually seen some remarkably good on-line product images shot with smartphones! With good, bright continuous lighting, and decent light modifiers, an iPhone can make pretty good product shots, with deep DOF and everything nicely in-focus--al in one, single click, with no need to do the kind of focus-stacking needed with a large-sensor camera. We had a TPF poster inquire about this a couple years ago...(s)he was making really GOOD product shots with an iPhone.

I really do not think you'll see much of a difference between sensor sizes in compacts with the 1/2.3 versus the so-called "1-inch" sensor, which is nowhere NEAR an inch in any possible way.
 

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Thanks for the reply. So even with something as small as a 1/2.3inch sensor I wouldn't see any noticeable difference, right?
Not for what you are doing.
 

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HOOT said:
Also talking about lighting, would you guys recommend going with speedlights/studio strobes or constant lighting for a beginner? I don't shoot video and the products I shoot are static and non-perishable.

I think being able to literally SEE what the lights are doing, where the shadows are falling, and how bright the backdrop is means that either continuous lighting OR monolights with decently bright modeling lights in them makes it easier to see, easier to work, easier to focus, easier to evaluate your light by a visual WYSIWYG method.

With the camera on a tripod and aimed at the shooting table, you can literally see what the lights are doing. With a digicam or other camera that has a working Live View system, you can maker adjustments to the lights and see if there are problem reflections and so on; if the camera has a flippy screen...you can even angle the screen toward the light you're moving, and see what's going on.

You can easily use continuous lights and do "slowish" timed exposures of 1 to 1.6 seconds at f/8 and low ISO value on any digicam, using timer release to avoid jiggling the camera; depends on how bright the lights are. The advantage monolights have is that the 100- to 125-Pounds Sterling class monolights offer an easy way to attach barn doors, a reflector that can hold a 20- or 30-degree honeycomb grid, and then a mylar diffusing filter about 8x8 inches square in a metal filter holder that slides into the barn doors OR gaffer-taped to the front of the honeycomb grid. This creates a nice rim-light that accents the outline of anything that is lighted by a big wash of SOFT LIGHT from the top-front angle range.

It's not so much what kind of light source you have; the key is--do you have easy, simple-to-use, traditional light modifying tools to help you aim, control, and modify the raw light beam that your lights put out? Good monolights with bright modeling lamps can double as both continuous light AND flash.
 

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I'm certainly no expert,AT ALL,but my main game with photography is exactly what you're doing.
And what I've learned over the past few years is that learning light is the single most important thing.
I went from a couple of modified (put linear potentiometers in the for control)vivitar 283's with optical slaves,to SB-80dx's to SB-800's and 900's with shootthroughs,reflectors,scrims home made gobos to finally a full set of Speedotrons with with plenty more modifiers.
I honestly believe that if you learn how to light product,any modern DSLR will work.
The lenses are what will change the game a bit,and although I have my preferences,I won't recommend any because I don't really know what you're shooting.
I also do not like light boxes as I feel I have more control with seamless paper on my own made shooting table which varies a bit depending on where I'm doing the work..
Another thing I often do is hang the subject with monofilament fishing line and shoot against a lit seamless background.
My photoshop skills absolutely suck,but even I can clone out the line.

edit: Just saw that you're shooting military stuff. I'll assume you're using mannequins as well? I do a bunch of foul weather tops,wetsuits and drysuits,and I can promise you that there is no such thing as too much light.
 
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