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Digital Cameras for Food Photography


Rachel Perlow
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We've noticed the prices on digital cameras have really come down lately -- if you're considering purchasing a digital camera to post pictures on eGullet, have a look at these offerings from Amazon:

Digital Camera home page on Amazon

4MP Cameras in the $300 range with 4+ star rating:

B00008OE6I.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpg Canon PowerShot S400 4MP Digital Camera w/ 3x Optical Zoom for $318
B0000DIWOQ.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpg Olympus D-565 Zoom 4MP Digital Camera w/ 3x Optical Zoom for $260
B00008I8OP.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpg Minolta Dimage S414 4MP Digital Camera w/ 4x Optical Zoom for $300

5MP Cameras in the $300 range with 4+ star rating*:

B0000APONO.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpg Kodak EasyShare DX4530 5MP Digital Camera w/ 3x Optical Zoom for $289
B0001G6UFW.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpg Samsung Digimax 530 5MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Zoom for $280
* No star rating as this camera is too new.
B00008O35Y.01-A1921S276TP630.MZZZZZZZ.jpg Sony DSCP92 Cybershot 5MP Digital Camera w/ 3x Optical Zoom for $340

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Thanks for the heads up, Rachel. I'm in the market for a digital. It would be wonderful if people who are already using some of these would comment on their experience.

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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I have the predecessor to that Canon PowerShot S series camera and I'm quite happy with it. The next series up in cameras, which my dad has (A80 I believe), has many more features if you want to play around with the manual features a lot. But the PowerShot S series is small, it's reliable, the compact flash cards it uses are easy to find and the readers for them are cheap. (I recommend a 128 or 256 MB card...I have one of each and a reader for those cards instead of plugging your camera into the computer--much much better uploading, especially on a Mac.)

SML

"When I grow up, I'm going to Bovine University!" --Ralph Wiggum

"I don't support the black arts: magic, fortune telling and oriental cookery." --Flanders

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I based these links on megapixel size, star rating, and price, as frankly I don't know enough about the other specs to make spec-based recommendations. Here is the camera we actually own and use to make all the pictures Jason and I share here on eGullet:

B000069092.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpg Nikon Coolpix 5700 5MP Digital Camera w/ 8x Optical Zoom

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I did a lot of research before I purchased and ended up with a Nikon. Nikon and Canon really seem to be consistently the best. My low-end Nikon can take a good quality picture from about an inch away. Also the Nikons have lots of pre-sets which is nice and a very intuitive design that can be all done with one hand. The Canons, however, have many more manual features, which can be nice, but ultimately intimidating for many.

Here are some excellent places to get reviews:

http://www.steves-digicams.com/

http://www.imaging-resource.com/

http://www.dcresource.com/

http://www.digitalcamera-hq.com/

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I based these links on megapixel size, star rating, and price, as frankly I don't know enough about the other specs to make spec-based recommendations. Here is the camera we actually own and use to make all the pictures Jason and I share here on eGullet:

B000069092.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpg  Nikon Coolpix 5700 5MP Digital Camera w/ 8x Optical Zoom

The price on this camera has dropped considerably since we bought it about a year ago -- its now in the $550-$650 range because its been replaced by a nearly identical camera with an 8 Megapixel CCD instead of a 5 Megapixel CCD. In both cases, the cameras are total overkill for the type of food photography done on eGullet.

The $600 Nikon 5700 has a gigantic max image size, in excess of 2500 pixels wide in "Fine" resolution which is the MEDIUM setting on that camera. We only allow images 640 pixels wide on eGullet, which is less than 1 Megapixel. So you're scaling your images down tremendously to post them on the site (and pretty much anywhere else on the web if you expect anyone to download them) anyways. The high resolution is primarily beneficial if you want to crop out high resolution peices of the picture that are 1 or 2 megapixels in size and still retain detail.

Basically in the $300-$350 range for a newish model (as opposed to one of the proven cameras that is a year old) you're going to get a 4 Megapixel camera (Minimum) and you want at least a 3x optical zoom. From the review sites ExtraMSG listed, you want to make sure that it can handle closeup modes (macro) well and that it does reasonably well in low light (no flash) situations, because for the most part you don't want to use flash when doing food photography. There are still some good 2 and 3 Megapixel buys in the $200 range if you look carefully enough, but these days I wouldnt buy anything smaller than a 4 megapixel. You can always reduce the size of the picture (and a bigger CCD is good because it captures more detail) but you can't blow the image up because you get pixelation and distortion. Also portability of the camera is a factor, if you want to be able to carry it with you to a restaurant without causing much of a fuss and being inconspicuous. The Nikon 5700 is not a particularly good camera for this application because its the size of an SLR. However, it does support external attachments such as ringlight assemblies if you really want to take pro-quality pictures.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I had the Canon S240. It's only 3 MP, but I thought it was a nice camera for the price. I forget what I paid, but it was less than the S400. I took it on a trip and then gave it to our son-in-law which was it's ultimate destination when I bought it. I just wanted to play with it before our grandson was born.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I highly recommend the minolta dimage e323. You should be able to find it at around $200. It's 3.2 megapixel with a 1-2.8 optical zoom. Its seems to go through batteries fairly quickly, but I don't have that much experience to base on. Other than that, I can't fault it.

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I highly recommend the minolta dimage e323. You should be able to find it at around $200. It's 3.2 megapixel with a 1-2.8 optical zoom. Its seems to go through batteries fairly quickly, but I don't have that much experience to base on. Other than that, I can't fault it.

Does it use rechargeable or "throw away"? From my experience, I'd recommend rechargeable, as batteries cost a lot in the long run.

SML

"When I grow up, I'm going to Bovine University!" --Ralph Wiggum

"I don't support the black arts: magic, fortune telling and oriental cookery." --Flanders

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I use an Olympus C740 which is 3.5 pixels. I bought cause it has the equivalent of a 35-380 zoom. Had it for a year and I really love it

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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I highly recommend the minolta dimage e323. You should be able to find it at around $200. It's 3.2 megapixel with a 1-2.8 optical zoom. Its seems to go through batteries fairly quickly, but I don't have that much experience to base on. Other than that, I can't fault it.

B0000BYOGD.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpg Minolta Dimage E323 3.2MP Digital Camera w/ 3x Optical Zoom

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I heartily second the list of digital camera review websites listed above. About 18 months ago, I bought an Olympus C4040 at 4.2 megapixels, powered by 4 AA batteries (can use rechargeables) and uses a SmartMedia card. I can get a 128 MB SM card (the largest size currently made) at Costco for $ 36.

I bought this camera because it was a highly rated 'prosumer' model with the capability of both automatic and manual functions. A great camera, and it prints out gorgeous 8x10" photos on my Canon S900.

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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I have bought and returned two digital cameras over the years, and have tried and discarded many more. I just bought a Canon Digital EOS Rebel, and I love it. It's a real camera: an autofocus SLR that takes real lenses and real flashes. And it has the one critical feature that is lacking in so many cameras: when you push the shutter, it takes the picture.

Bruce

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Some interesting digital pic talk on this thread. This recommendation sounded especially intriguing:

I just bought the new olympus stylus 410 digital camera,  is their all-weather digital camera.  When I opened it up to take to work with me to take pictures of the food, i noticed it had a 'cuisine' setting.  This camera has a automatic setting for taking pictures of food.  i almost dropped it  when i saw the word CUISINE on the screen of my camera.

Here is a link to this camera (currently priced at $359.94) on Amazon:

<iframe marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" width="120" height="240" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?o=1&l=as1&f=ifr&t=egulletcom-20&dev-t=D68HUNXKLHS4J&p=8&asins=B0001DKQXC&IS2=1&lt1=_blank"><MAP NAME="boxmap-p8"><AREA SHAPE="RECT" COORDS="14, 200, 103, 207" HREF="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm/privacy-policy.html?o=1" ><AREA COORDS="0,0,10000,10000" HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect-home/egulletcom-20" ></MAP><img src="http://rcm-images.amazon.com/images/G/01/rcm/120x240.gif" width="120" height="240" border="0" usemap="#boxmap-p8" alt="Shop at Amazon.com"></iframe>

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Some interesting digital pic talk on this thread. This recommendation sounded especially intriguing:
I just bought the new olympus stylus 410 digital camera,  is their all-weather digital camera.  When I opened it up to take to work with me to take pictures of the food, i noticed it had a 'cuisine' setting.  This camera has a automatic setting for taking pictures of food.  i almost dropped it  when i saw the word CUISINE on the screen of my camera.

Here is a link to this camera (currently priced at $359.94) on Amazon:

<iframe marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" width="120" height="240" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?o=1&l=as1&f=ifr&t=egulletcom-20&dev-t=D68HUNXKLHS4J&p=8&asins=B0001DKQXC&IS2=1&lt1=_blank"><MAP NAME="boxmap-p8"><AREA SHAPE="RECT" COORDS="14, 200, 103, 207" HREF="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm/privacy-policy.html?o=1" ><AREA COORDS="0,0,10000,10000" HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect-home/egulletcom-20" ></MAP><img src="http://rcm-images.amazon.com/images/G/01/rcm/120x240.gif" width="120" height="240" border="0" usemap="#boxmap-p8" alt="Shop at Amazon.com"></iframe>

Okay, a camera with a "Cuisine" setting is just plain cool. I have a similar, albeit bulkier, Olympus C-4000Zoom. Nice camera. Four megapixel, macro & super macro modes, 3x optical zoom (never, ever use digital zoom), several program modes and fully manual if you want it to be (I do). It takes exceptional pictures but is a bit large for unobtrusively shooting food in a restaurant. Looks like the Stylus 410 would be about perfect for that.

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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I have bought and returned two digital cameras over the years, and have tried and discarded many more.  I just bought a Canon Digital EOS Rebel, and I love it.  It's a real camera: an autofocus SLR that takes real lenses and real flashes.  And it has the one critical feature that is lacking in so many cameras: when you push the shutter, it takes the picture.

Bruce

Nice article today in today's NYTimes on digital SLR's, their benefits over non-SLR's, and how they have reached a price-point low enough for non-pros to consider buying one.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/25/technolo...stat.html?8hpib

Only four years ago, a six-megapixel digital S.L.R. made a $25,000 dent in your life savings. But last fall the air was filled with the sounds of Visa cards being slapped onto shop counters after Canon introduced the first digital S.L.R. for $1,000: the EOS 300D Digital Rebel. Next month it will be joined by a second $1,000 model, Nikon's new D70.
These semipro cameras wipe out three of the most common complaints about consumer digicams. First, battery life: each camera houses a big rechargeable battery whose life you measure in days of shooting, not hours. You can easily take 1,000 pictures before you need a recharge. The Nikon can also accommodate disposable CR2 batteries, which you can buy in some drugstores in a pinch.

Second, these cameras can throttle back the built-in flash automatically to avoid making your subjects look like they've been living underground.

Third, a digital S.L.R. wipes the floor with ordinary digicams when it comes to speed. Because its autofocus is much faster that what you get on a consumer camera, shutter lag - that annoying delay (on consumer models) between the press of your finger and the snapping of the shot - is a thing of the past. You even get something called continuous autofocus, in which the camera constantly adjusts in real time as your subject moves, so everything will be ready when you mash the shutter.

Think I need a new toy. :laugh:

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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No one has mentioned what they plan to use the camera for. I mostly use my camera for Ebay sales - anything over about 3 megapixels for Ebay is overkill - and my Kodak One Touch Easy Share DX6340 works fine for me. If I were talking about pictures for magazine covers - I'd probably need something entirely different. By the way - I've found the salespeople at Best Buy are very knowledgeable in terms of matching the consumer to the right camera. They'll talk with you all you want in terms of explaining the different items they sell. Robyn

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  • 2 months later...
Nice article today in today's NYTimes on digital SLR's, their benefits over non-SLR's, and how they have reached a price-point low enough for non-pros to consider buying one.

Think I need a new toy.  :laugh:

PJ

After holding off for a long, long time, I finally bought the Nikon D-70 SLR. I'd always wanted the convenience of a digital camera, but the manual control, image quality and depth-of-field capabilities of an SLR. I travel a lot and visit family all over the place so I like to take portraits and I love the fact that the SLR can give me that lovely blurred background. Plus you can easily change lenses, and the thing is ready to shoot as soon as you turn it on, and takes the pic as soon as you press the button -- great for not missing candid shots. Great for photographing kids and people at parties. The lighting and focus functions are really easy to use.

IMO, if you can swing the price and it is worth it to you, go for it. Mine has been practically welded to my hand ever since I got it.

Here is an example of recent goofing around with depth-of-field, I hope you can see this at 640 pixels:

i8130.jpg

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I have had several digitil cameras, since the first Canon and then the Apple 100.

As the new ones appeared on the market with significant advances I would spring for the ones that had what I needed.

When the Mavica CD 1000 came out I was first in line because I liked the idea of being able to record to mini CDs and be able to read from the CDs on any computer with a CD, rather than have various gadgets to connect to different computers.

It was fairly slow in writing to the disc, although the big advantage for me was the "Steady-Shot" feature since I have a tremor in my left hand.

I was still working as an artist at that time and could write off the cost.

Earlier this year I bought a Nikon Coolpix 8700, as a birthday present from me to me, and it is small enough to carry in my larger purses or tote bag and takes great photos. I have posted a few on various threads. And it is less than half the size of the Sony. The exposure is faster but it doesn't have Steady Shot.

Besides food pics I want it for taking pictures of pictographs in the desert, tiny flowers and other things that require extreme closeups. It can be set for full auto or set by the user like any convential SLR. (Of which I also have a large, now unused, collection.)

For someone who just wants to take "normal" photos, the smaller, pocket-sized Nikons are perfect. I gave a 2100 to a friend for Christmas and she takes it to dog shows, carries extra cards for it, took it to Brazil and other parts of So. America in April and brought back hundreds of photos. She is somewhat technically challenged and wanted a "point and shoot" camera that did not require fiddling. She is very happy with it and has taken some very impressive photos.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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To echo what andiesenji said... I now have a Sony Mavica and having that disc has been the most marvelous thing known to man. I have been able to continue clicking away (like over 300 high resolution pics at a botanical garden) without having to go download from a stick or card or other gadget. (I didn't have the laptop with me anyway.) I can also give them to friends when I have taken pics at a party and such. And at about 25 cents to store 150 high res pictures... well that is hard to beat. Granted, I don't do the kind of photography where the delay in writing to the disc bothers me all that much. The Nikon is starting to look really good, but I am going to be hard pressed to give up the little CDs. I actually prefer the larger cameras for more serious photography as I find I can hold them much steadier. Must be my 35mm SLR history. But I may get a relatively tiny, not too expensive camera for my purse for less serious occasions.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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