recommendations for a digital camera that excels at closeups?

I often want to shoot a picture of some detail just to post it as an adjunct to a discussion, as "a picture is worth a thousand words". I have terrible trouble
shooting closeups with digital cameras. I have finally found the method that yields the best results:
use minimum aperture for max depth of field (f2.8) no flash macro mode manually adjust exposure autofocus takes a long time, wait until macro focus lights shoot multiple images - bracket exposures use LCD display to adjust exposure, focus
but it's still pretty miserable. I want to know if there exist any digital cameras in the under $200 price range which can actually shoot closeups. I don't care about much else, as the cameras we have now can handle other jobs.
I'm looking for precise model suggestions from actual owners, NOT general suggestions like "nikon rocks" or "have you tried sony" or "google on reviews". There are about a trillion review sites but it's a whole boatload of work to sort through them all and I'm hoping one of you has a camera, knows what I'm talking about, likes their camera, knows it's still currently available, and is willing to post the exact model number.
Thanks!
GWE
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I take great close-ups ( about 9" away) with my 3 year-old Olympus C4000Z. Not a $200 camera, but you may find used ones on ebay.
Ed
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I have had pretty fair success with the Kodak 3.2 MP I bought several years ago. It isn't the best model I am sure but I am happy with my experience with it. I think they are about $175 now for a comparable model. It has a dial setting for close-ups that doesn't use the flash. Since I bought a tripod most of the problems I was having are solved. The C330 is the closest to the model I have. http://www.kodak.com/eknec/PageQuerier.jhtml?pq-path=9/19/32/6721&pq-locale=en_US

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its me wrote:

http://www.kodak.com/eknec/PageQuerier.jhtml?pq-path=9/19/32/6721&pq-locale=en_US
Grant, I, too have a Sony Mavica and it's served me well for several years with NO problems or glitches. Macro shots are quite simple to make and I've never had to use external additional light sources for shooting. The Mavicas are now selling in the $100-150 range on ebay now and well worth the money if they are in decent condition. Gimme an email and I can send a few .jpg pix made in macro for your perusal.....
Cheers!! Bill in Phx.
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Bill:
Perhaps you could post some pics to the Dropbox (www.metalworking.com) so the rest of us could see you work.
Just a thought.
Errol Groff
Errol Groff
Instructor, Manufacturing Technology H.H. Ellis Technical High School 613 Upper Maple Street Danielson, CT 06239
New England Model Engineering Society www.neme-s.org
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What model are you using?
Can you post some URLs so we can see what your results are?
I was a film photographer and when I started selling on ebay and I bought the cheapest P&S that had a macro setting and pruduced some fine shots.
Have you played with the lighting? a couple standard 100w bulbs in aluminum reflectors can do lots.
I now know that *lots* of the nice things about digital photography happen in the computer and I am a decent Photoshop driver. I'm not recommending it (big $$$) but Adobe Elements is cheap and can do a great job. Even the older version (PSE 2) which you can probably find real cheap.
What software came with the camera. When you get a shot you want to these steps in this order. Most cameras come with software that can do this;
- crop - resize to pixel size depending on where the shot is to be used (ie web is very different from print) - set upper and lower levels - color balance - "sharpen" (last step and something specific to digital photography.) - save jpg with appropriate compression for what the shot is to be used for.
If you want to come up to speed on digitial photography you might want to tune into rec.photo.digital.
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a d y k e s @ p a n i x . c o m

Don't blame me. I voted for Gore.
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On Mon, 19 Dec 2005 09:24:16 -0800, Grant Erwin

See if you can find a Nikon Coolpix 950 or 990 on EBay or a camera store. They are excellent at macro work at distances as small as an inch or so. These are no longer in production. I recently saw one on EBay but quit bidding at $150; don't know what it went for.
The Olympus C-2500L single-lens reflex also does OK, but it's not as good as the Nikons mentioned. That's what I have. This one is also out of production, has been for a while. Good used cameras do turn up as folks want the latest and greatest with more megapixels.
Neither of these are high-res cameras by today's standards, but they get the job done. I think the Nikon 990 was 3.3 megapixels or so, the Oly is 2.5 megapixels. Guy Lautard does a lot of nice macro work for his books with the Nikon 990. Fitch says his works well with a microscope too.
I didn't like the Nikon when I was camera shopping because it looked fragile and flimsy -- not like a Nikon! But it was/is an excellent choice for macro work and was/is a pretty good camera in general.
Current production: very pricey, but those that use interchangable lenses would accept extension tubes like a 35mm camera. Extension tubes work very well. I've done a lot of macro work with a Canon A-1 (35mm film) , extension tubes and the standard 50mm lens.
Illumination for good macro work can be a challenge. Some hints:
1: wrap the flash head in a couple of thicknesses of white cloth, like a handkerchief. That'll reduce it's output some and diffuse it a bit.
2: Hold a piece of white paper above and slightly behind the work to reflect the flash and provide some top and back lighting to fill in shadows.
3: The best setup: use an aux flash meant for use with the camera, point it up at an aluminized umbrella -- available at photo stores for about $30. That really works well! That's how the pro's do a lot of macro work. Some, e.g. dentists, use a ring strobe that surrounds the lens. (Pricey)
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Dave, I use a Fuji FinePix camera (sorry, forgot the model, but can look up tonight) for my ebaying as well as family stuff. It is very good for both, it makes nice pictures of things, including small things, and okay pictures of people. I made probably thousands of pictures with it. It is out of the price range that you specified, as it cost us $550.
If you have seen any of the pictures that I posted, you'd get an idea of its performance.
I had a cheap camera before, and it was miserable.
That's my experience. It does not answer your question (name a decent camera for photographing small things for under $200), but I am not sure if such a camera exist. I hope that my reply has at least some value.
i
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Forgot to say. Your scanner can do fantastic close up work, much better than most cameras, at a fraction of the cost. Especially for coins.
i
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Go to a camera store, not a Walmart or a Target store with your list of requirements and talk to the sales clerk, they will find you a camera that will do what you want, probably with at least a couple of compromises as no consumer level camera will do everything that everyone wants.
One other tip, in your description you mentioned setting the minimum aperture to f2.8, you've got that backwards, the smaller the aperture number, the larger the aperture, less depth of field, harder to get everything in the field in focus. What you need to do to do macro or other close up photography well is to stop the lens down as far as possible, to the extent where you add additional light in order to maintain a workable shutter speed. You should also be using a tripod as any camera shake will only be increased as you get closer to your subject and if you're using a small shooting aperture with it's requisite slower shutter speed.
Sorry I can't give you a specific recomendation as I haven't kept up with the specs. of consumer digital cameras. I will say that Canon produces a good line of consumer digital cameras as does Olympus. I would think that you should be able to find something made by one of those companies that will satisfy your needs. I would seriously look at getting some additional lighting. You're also going to have to increase your budget if you truly want good quality equipment. Forget about megapixels and ask about lens resolution, it's far more important than how big a file the camera creates.
John Emmons

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Grant,
I am going to break your rule by suggesting a camera that is no longer made but can be had within your price range on Ebay. The camera is the Olympus C-2500L. It is a 2.5 megapixel camera, and in super macro mode will focus down to 0.8 in. Of course at extremely short distances the lens shades the flash so external lighting is required. It is a SLR so you look through the lens which I believe is better for close-ups. I own the camera and this is my 2 cents.
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Grant Erwin wrote:

Grant, I think you have your minimum aperture and depth of field reversed. You should be shooting at maximum aperture for greatest depth of field. Michael
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On Mon, 19 Dec 2005 12:00:01 -0600, the renowned MKnott

'e wants smaller aperture = higher f-stop, right?
Best regards, Spehro Pefhany
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HI,     Grant is correct that he wants a smaller aperture for greater depth of field. The point of confusion is that aperture size is actually given as f/ number. So large numbers give small apertures.
Thanks Roger
*********************************************** Spehro Pefhany wrote:

Snip
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Grant,
I am going to break your rule by suggesting a camera that is no longer made but can be had within your price range on Ebay. The camera is the Olympus C-2500L. It is a 2.5 megapixel camera, and in super macro mode will focus down to 0.8 in. Of course at extremely short distances the lens shades the flash so external lighting is required. It is a SLR so you look through the lens which I believe is better for close-ups. I own the camera and this is my 2 cents.
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Grant Erwin wrote:

I got a Kodak DX7590 which has 10 X optical zoom. It is the best I've seen in the lower-price range. There is no optcal finder at all, you have your choice of the outside LCD screen or a peep-hole electronic viewer. I'm still learning how to use the thing, I've seen some hints that it can do even better than what I usually get. On a couple of occasions I have seen it freeze an incredibly clear shot in a VERY dark room, WITHOUT the flash. I haven't yet figured out how to get it to store such a frame, however. But, it will take a great picture of items down to a couple inches across, filling the entire frame. There is an accessory lens for extreme macro work that should let it take pictures of a small screw, for instance, but I don't have it (yet).
It also has a custom Lithium battery that REALLY holds a lot of charge, and for a long time. With my earlier camera with AA Ni-MH batteries, if you let the camera sit for a week, the batteries were dead. With this one, you can let it sit for 3 months, and the battery is at 80%. I've let my kids play with it for an entire weekend, and it hardly depleted the battery at all. Amazing!
This is one of those darn things with the 1" thick manual with 25,000 modes of using it, and I don't want to read the whole thing! But, I am discovering how to use it, and it is awfully good. I got it as a "factory refurb" which I think means a customer return to a store. I couldn't tell the difference from new. There are a bunch of people selling these on eBay.
Here's a web page with a photo I'm sure was shot on this camera. http://jelinux.pico-systems.com/japservo.html
Jon
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Grant Erwin wrote:

I can't suggest a specific model camera, but I can say that I've had excellent results with my cheap 3.1MP Kodak DX4330. To a very large extent the issue is in technique, not equipment.
As a number of people have mentioned, good closeups require a good external lighting (not flash), a tripod and a little computer work afterwards.
A digital camera without a fancy macro mode like mine (does have a closeup setting) may not be able to fill the entire frame with the detail image you want, but the resolution is there to allow cropping to get the area you want and when viewed 1:1 has plenty of detail. A newer 5 or 6 MP camera has even more capability.
As Iggy mentioned for flat stuff a flatbed scanner does exceptionally well. I once tested a new flatbed scanner (<$100 model) by scanning a box from an Intel CPU that was nearby. The detail it captured from the hologram sticker was amazing.
Pete C.
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Grant Erwin wrote:

I think your issue may be that $200 is probably the point where super-macro features start to become available. I bought a used Nikon 990 for telescope work and also use it for macros but my other camera also has super macro and probably many or most over-$200 cameras now offer super macro features.
http://home.att.net/~galt_57/halfnuts02.jpg
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Grant Erwin wrote:

Grant I own a HP 315, which is a cheap consumer-grade 2.0 mp camera from a few years ago ($199 w/printer). I have been amazed at the quality of photos it takes, including closeups. The last couple of winters here have been very wet, producing an amazing variety of fungi on our property. I have been photographing them whenever I run across something new. Generally, I am about 1 foot from the subject. The results are almost magazine-quality. I'm going to buy a newer, fancier camera for general purpose and sports photography, but the HP goes to the shop.
YMMV etc
Rex
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Grant, An inexpensive alternative is to use a basic digital camera with diopter close-up lenses. I had good luck with this older model Agfa camera, http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/specs/Agfa/agfa_1280.asp , because it has a threaded lense hood where you can screw on filters or relatively inexpensive close-up lenses like these http://www.fwnp.com/article1010.htm . Many of the current crop of digital cameras don't have threaded lense hoods, but you might be able to come up with an adapter.
According to the expert at http://www.dpreview.com/learn/?/key=macro "Generation after generation, Nikon Coolpix digital cameras delivered the 'best in class' macro performance without add-on lenses."
I love my Canon PowerShot S2 ($500) because it will focus down to where the target is touching the front of the lense.
For best depth of field, you need a small aperture, which means a large f-stop number. I have a lense for an SLR that is nothing but a pin hole, no glass. Looking through the lense it is so dark that you can't see what you are doing, but with trial and error you can get neat effects with lighting and exposure time. They are used for taking close up shots with great depth of field, like these model HO trains at http://www.nmra.org/photo6.html .
An inexpensive alternative is to use a basic digital camera with diopter close-up lenses. I had good luck with this older model Agfa camera, http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/specs/Agfa/agfa_1280.asp , because it has a threaded lense hood where you can screw on filters or relatively inexpensive close-up lenses like these http://www.fwnp.com/article1010.htm . Many of the current crop of digital cameras don't have threaded lense hoods, but you might be able to come up with an adapter.
Carl Joplin
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