Main purpose for camera will be to take pictures of machinists tools and storage boxes that I have for sale. What do I need to spend for a quality camera with good zoom capabilities? I'm not a photographer and have no desire to be one. I'd like something that is easy and reliable.
I guess 5X optical is well. 5X is common now. The older L18 is 4X and I'm happy with that.
I've had two cameras that suffered early deaths. A 4 MegaPixel Canon died of motorized lens failure. That used to be a common issue with Canon. And a chunky old 3 MP Nikon started shutting itself off within a few seconds of being turned on.
Answering only in rec.crafts.metalworking -- I'm not sure that it belongs in either newsgroup (other than the subject matter), but certainly not in *both*.
You're in my killfile, so I did not see the original question, and will likely not see your replies either, unless someone quotes you as they did here.
A question occurs. Does this include shots of the tools in individual drawers? If so, a lens with good macro capability is called for.
My preference (well out of the price range you are probably looking at) is currently the Nikon D300s (actually, one without the 's' suffix would suffice for what you want). For the lens -- skip the ones which are often sold with that body, and go for the 28-105mm zoom (f:3.5 to f:4.5 depending on where in the zoom range you are). It has a switch which allows you to go to a good macro mode, and the zoom range is plenty for most things unless you are caught against a wall and can't back away far enough for a larger tool). But it is going to add up to well over $1000.00.
If you look at the somewhat lower priced ones in the two-digit series (I had a D70 which I liked and which is now obsolete) -- be careful to look at what lenses it will work with. Some of them may not work with the lens I suggested.
That lens is the one I carry on my camera most of the time, and in the macro mode it can take good shots a bit larger than your thumbnail.
The D70, the D300s, and others in those series use a special Li-Ion battery which has a good charge life (and because it uses a true eye-level viewfinder instead of using the display as a viewfinder, it does not pull the battery down nearly as fast. Also, not that it matters for your stated needs, you get quick response to a shutter press, unlike the ones which use the display as a viewfinder, because they need to jump through more hoops to do it properly.
Granted, I've been using interchangeable lens SLRs (film, and then digital) since about 1964, and I like the way they feel.
For zoom / macro / macro zoom, one of the highest-recommended cameras at the moment is the Canon PowerShot SX50 H, mid-$400's. I've been told by a friend that macro was easier to use on this camera than on all his other cameras.
Link 1: Fairly complete and detailed review Links 2 & 3: Macro video with zoom Link 4: Another review, with some macro photos & comments in it. Link 5: Amazon sales page Link 6: 58mm add-on lens sets for even more magnification Link 7: A page from another review, with some macro photos & comments
Or a couple color corrected studio halogen lamps to get rid of all shadows. That's how we did it at TV stations. Even if the camera does auto balance, a too narrow spectrum lamp will cause false color registration. Not that most people would notice, because they aren't looking for it. It's really critical for 'Chroma Key' applications, so that you don't reduce the spectrum to a few narrow bands. you need at least a few degrees separation, if you don't want a partial overlay.
This is sort of like asking, "What is a good car to drive around town?" Everyone will give you different answers based on what they assume you want to pay and what they assume your tastes and quality expectations to be.
I think the first thing you should do is educate yourself at this site by looking at their articles and buying guides, and browse the current models:
As others have noted, lighting is almost more important than the camera for photographing objects. It all depends how fancy you want to get. Relying on the camera flash usually does not give a great picture of metallic objects.
Personally, I use a 6-year-old Canon A710 which is fine for a smaller camera but not made anymore.
My guess is the modern equivalent would work for you, although the larger cameras with larger sensors do work better in low light and they usually have better lenses. You also have to decide if you want interchangeable lenses. Avoid any camera decorated in bright colors.
A Tripod. Doesn't need to be fancy/expensive... but if not really solid, use it along with the camera's self timer to absolutely eliminate camera movement. A Tripod will allow sharp shots in much lower light conditions.
Read up on how light meters work, and their 18% gray 'fetish', and when to compensate for it with your camera's exposure compensation control when shooting unusually light or dark subjects. This alone can make a dramatic difference. (An example...ever notice how most all point & shoot snow shots come out with the snow looking grey & dreary? But in magazines and the like it's brilliant white as in real life?) Most camera's, even low end point & shoot's usually have exposure compensation controls... if the camera your considering doesn't, or if it's buried and hard to access, I suggest looking at another. (Note, I'm not suggesting you buy a separate light meter.) It's going to sound 'wrong', but basically you tell the camera to override the light meter and increase the exposure in shooting light/bright subjects, and decrease it for dark subjects.
Also a basic copy of Photoshop? they used to call it Photoshop Elements, but I'm not sure about that anymore. Learn about using it to crop and set the 'levels'. It's also great for dealing with file size management. (Look for the 'Save For Web' item in the File menu.) You don't need the full blown $$$ version of PS, and their are other applications that'll do all the same things...
This site has a pretty good write up on basic image corrections:
(Yea yea, it's a scanning site I know, but this part pertains to most, if not all digital images.)
In particular note the Simple Way To Get Better Scans under Scanning
201. It goes on for 10 or 12 pages, and'll take a few hours to absorb... but you'll forever be rewarded with remarkably better results... no matter what camera you get; fancy megabuck DSLR to bottom end point & shoot.
I'v got a Lumix ZS7(?) and a very similar Nikon S8100. Over a year old, so probably both unavailable now. Both were $200-300 range, and much more convenient than a real DSLR. The Nikon is 10x optical, IIRC the Lumix is a more. The Lumix is a bit better in some ways (built-in GPS, more sturdy access flaps), but they're both quite good (big irritation with the Lumix is that it won't charge from the USB cord.. maybe they've changed that on newer units). Don't overlook the possiblity of doing video clips to demo stuff. You can stick it up on Flickr or Youtube.
Easiest way to take good photos is to take the stuff outside on an overcast day and use a decent tripod and set the camera to use the timer or remote shutter release to keep the photo razor-sharp. You get lots of diffuse light under those conditions. Inside it's harder- you need light boxes or umbrellas, and diffusers on flashes if you must use them (and key lights if you want to be an artiste). Don't forget to set the color temperature to match the light if colors are at all important. B&H sells a pocket color/gray card and software for color correction for < $100.
Jon, My Canon ELPH 310 has served me well. Easy point and shoot, 8X zoom, and you can make movies with sound with the push of a single button. The body is metal, while many cameras like this have a plastic body.
I bought this after I thought we had lost our older Canon, which also served me well.
Panasonic Lumix, or Sony DSCH*. Sony has 13/16" focal length in macro mode, and I have taken some fantastic insect and flower parts pictures in that mode. Either a good camera.
I have a Sony DSCH1, and had it so long I had to send it in for rebuild after tens of thousands of real estate pictures. Wife dropped her Olympus, and needed another. Got a like new DSCH1 on ebay for $60. No, not like new, looked like first time out of box. Box, papers, and all. Panasonic Lumix good, too.
Go to Steve's Digicams for reviews of him plus users. Don't know what Lumix would be on ebay, but probably similar. My friend has one, and has some fantastic pictures with fantastic depth of field focus of horse racing. Lead horse in perfect focus, as well as through the pack, and dirt and flying turds all in focus, too.
Read a bit and learn about depth of focus, and use it, and UNDERSTAND it. Then put the camera in manual mode, or speed or aperture priority, and take professional quality pictures in a very short time, and with repetitive reliability.