Heavy duty camera for photographing "ebay stuff"

Within my ebay business, I have a role of a "photographer", which is a person who takes pictures of stuff for sale, without necessarily
knowing what those items are.
The job of a photographer is to sort and clean items, assign inventory IDs, and photograph them, and download pictures from the camera to the computer in the photo department, under the given inventory ID.
Due to occasional high volume of business, I may need to sometimes employ two photographers for taking pictures of ebay stuff for sale. I have one currently, he does photographing as well as many other duties.
I will need, therefore, to buy a second camera. I am looking for something heavy duty, as in:
1) Something that would not fall apart from taking up to 500 pictures per day 2) A camera that does not take a long time to recharge flash 3) A relatively sturdy camera 4) Camera that is good for photographing "things", like lathe chucks and electrical fuses, for example. 5) Camera that does a good job with minimum fuss in the hands of non-professional photographers.
I would like to hear some suggestions for specific camera.
Right now I have a Nikon D80 and it works well, but I want to find a current model that fits the above requirements. Thanks
i
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On 3/31/2012 11:47 PM, Ignoramus20530 wrote:

The Fuji FinePix series are great little cameras for the bucks, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. I have two - an early one (5100?) and an 8100. The thing I like about them is the optical zoom is smooth and shoots very clear. 18:1 on the 8100. I've shot threads on a bolt, and a lunar eclipse with the same camera.
Don't fall for "digital zoom" claims. If you go that route you might as well use your cell phone.
And - compared to Nikon prices, it's disposable if it should come to that. Figure $300 to $400 (with inflation)
Word - cameras generally don't "bounce" well.
Recharge rate depends entirely on the battery condition. HI current NIGH (2+ amps) rechargeable seemed to last forever. Regular alkaline last a week or so in heavy use (for me) and might only last a couple of days if used all day long. But they are AA cells - nothing special.
As for "works well"? That also depends - on the eye and hand of the photographer. There ain't no magic but that.
That model is discontinued now, but I'm sure there is something in the same performance/price range.
http://www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/manuals/pdf/index/s/finepix_s8100fd_manual_01.pdf
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Richard wrote:

http://www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/manuals/pdf/index/s/finepix_s8100fd_manual_01.pdf
I have a FinePix S5200. The photos on my Flikr page were shot with it. There are links in the 'Organization' line of this message.
I have taken crystal clear photos less than 3" from the lens, in Macro mode.
Something to keep in mind. For small items an old flat bed scanner gives incredible quality photos, within its depth of field. Some of the photos on my website (listed above) were done that way. They are often available for free, and there is a $49 program called 'Universal Scanner Driver' that works with over 1500 different scanners. I'm down to about 20 USB scanners. I use them till they are too scrached up or die, and dig out another. Lay a clean piece of white cloth over the items to get good contrast, or a dark color on light colored items. I use a ring light about 18" above the scanner to reduce shadows. I'll take some photos the next time I have it set up.
Tiny items? Use a USB microscope.
--
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I'll third the recommendation for the fuji finepix cameras. I've an older model & it takes both upclose & distance pictures well. The contrast & colour is superior to much more expensive cameras I've compared it with.
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For taking good pictures of machinery, the lighting is perhaps even more important than the camera. I would avoid using the built-in flash; it casts harsh shadows and creates washed out highlights on bright metal. In addition, for close-ups the built-in flash is almost useless. If you do use a flash, get one that mounts on the hot shoe and use a diffuser or bounce attachment. What would be even better for a photography station would be bright halogen lights reflected off a diffuse white screen. Professionals use those reflective umbrellas. The external flash unit might still be useful for large machines where the camera moves rather than the object.
Its been a few years since I bought a digital camera so I can not give exact model recommendations, but I think you can not go wrong with Canon in each catagory whereas Nikon has been know to create some duds now and then. www.dpreview.com has some very complete reviews.
For this application, you do not need a really long zoom lens, but some zoom is good to frame the object. Make sure it has good close-up capability. avoid cheap cameras that take a long time to save each picture to memory. Number of megapixels is not that important as you will probably reduce the resolution anyway when posting. A larger format sensor will do better in low light and for bringing up detail in badly-lit lowlights.
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I bought a Canon A540 for its fully-manual mode: https://picasaweb.google.com/KB1DAL/Tools#5726420861185879138 The other photos were taken in full auto, mostly with the flash turned off. They aren't beaters; dirt can jam the built-in lens cover.
Good lighting helps. I've usually been asked to take publicity and industrial shots on very short notice and had to use whatever was available on site, so as you can see I never acquired proper lighting equipment.
Umbrellas make pretty good light diffusers that stay in place better than white cardboard and fold up small. http://www.brighthub.com/multimedia/photography/articles/36308.aspx http://www.brighthub.com/multimedia/photography/articles/38603.aspx
jsw
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On 4/1/2012 12:47 AM, Ignoramus20530 wrote:

Get a light tent! That will make all the difference for smaller items. http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_trksid=p5197.m570.l1311&_nkw=photo+light+tent&_sacat=0
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On 4/1/2012 4:51 AM, Tom Gardner wrote:

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_trksid=p5197.m570.l1311&_nkw=photo+light+tent&_sacat=0
Absolutely!
And, in a pinch, a kleenex over the strobe is sometimes handy for fill light.
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On 4/1/2012 12:47 AM, Ignoramus20530 wrote:

I use a Cannon 60D, which I like. I used to have a Cannon Rebel XT which also performed very well, but it had an accident while by grand daughter was using it! (oops...)
--
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Ig, I'd have to agree with Anorton about siting, lighting, and framing.
We did a lot of product photos in the fireworks biz, and ended up preparing a photo booth just for that purpose; floods, spots, a seamless backdrop, drapes and drape-able tables and stands -- and a good tripod!
All of that folderol allowed us to take really GOOD product pix with any digital camera you want to name. It wasn't the camera, after all.
LLoyd
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On 2012-04-01, Lloyd E. Sponenburgh <lloydspinsidemindspring.com> wrote:

Our photo table is in front of a window right now. The window is obscured by polyethylene film for security reasons, so the light is diffused. The result is pretty good.
I just want a camera that can stand up to heavy use (sorry, no Fuji FinePix), and one that can take photos rapidly.
i
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On Sun, 01 Apr 2012 07:42:29 -0500, the renowned Ignoramus10987

Strikes me that an older D70 D80 etc. might be what you want- the value drops pretty quickly as you get 2 or 3 generations behind and 6MP is still plenty for auction photos. Plus you can share software (camera control), batteries, chargers, remote trigger etc. etc.
Personally I use a little Lumix for a lot of documentation (12x optical zoom, built-in GPS tagging) but I don't like lending it- too small and easy to lose and probably easy to damage. I also have a small Nikon in the shop for documentation but I think I generally prefer the Panasonic.
--sp
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On Sat, 31 Mar 2012 23:47:43 -0500, Ignoramus20530 wrote:

Personally I would just get a cheap camera aimed at people looking to take a few snaps of their holidays. Spend $50 tops. It should meet all of your requirements.
Yes you could spend some money on proper lighting, special macro lenses and all that bollocks but you should consider whether any of your buyers will really give a shit about whether there's shadows cast because you used an in-built flash. They won't.
And do you want to spend serious money on something that will be used over and over by different people and more likely to get damaged?
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I am paying them by the hour. If they have to stand around and wait for the flash to recharge, pictures to get processed by slow CPU, etc, it will be expensive for me.
The quality of pictures does matter, not in the sense of photo art, but in the sense of conveying what is being sold and creating a good impression.
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wrote:

Not sure if they exist - what about a good quality webcam, could save a few steps in the process.
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<snip>
Along those lines, I was just playing with the software that came with my wife's Canon T3. It allows direct control of the camera from a computer, including capture to the hard drive. My application is mounting the camera back on my telescope for astrophotography, but would satisfy the good webcam idea.
Pete Keillor
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On 4/1/2012 8:57 AM, Pete Keillor wrote:

I envy that setup. My lunar eclipse photos were bare camera only. Out of 200 frames I finally got a half dozen that worked well. Tough job without a real telescope.
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Actually, even right now the process is quite efficient. They do not point, click, upload stuff, just insert the camera and type a command and the inventory number. Everything else is done automatically.
i
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Ignoramus10987 wrote:

If this is stuff that fits on a table. The easy solution would be a dedicated photo system. Basically you would grab a normal computer, a couple HD webcams and some lights. Now the process becomes, Set item for pictures on table. watch monitor while setting the item up for best angles. Hit the capture button a couple times. Move the item around and repeat. Remove the item and place next item. Repeat as needed.
For the table I would move it so ONLY the lights you control light it. That gives you more control. Either build a solid table out of heavy wood or steel so the table is stable. Paint it a medium FLAT gray. Make an easy to remove backdrop with the same color.
The cameras get mounted from a couple of flexible mounts so they can be adjusted easily.
--
Steve W.

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On Sun, 01 Apr 2012 07:44:03 -0500, Ignoramus10987

All the more reason to avoid using flash if possible.
Avoid $50 cameras because you do not have any control over the exposure. Get a camera with independent control of aperture and exposure time as well as exposure compensation so reflection off a white wall does not swamp the dark object in front of it
For small stuff macro mode is a must as well as tripping the shutter without touching the camera on a tripod (I do not have a cable so I use a 2-second timer).
A light box for small items is highly desirable. You don't need to spend a ton. I made mine for about $5:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/27683124@N07/sets/72157625011848457 /
I use a Cannon A720IS. My previous camera was also a Cannon. I like the option of both non-rechargeable and rechargeable batteries.
Pictures get edited in Irfanview.
Michael Koblic, Campbell River, BC
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