Sunday, April 10, 2005

[Photography] What camera do you use?

For my food photos I am currently using an older digital camera that I originally bought "for the fun of it". I am now trying to learn all of it's features as I work on improving the quality of my photos. While I still have tons to learn about the camera, photo composition, lighting, etc. I am fairly certain that in the next month or so I will want to upgrade my camera.

I'm torn between getting something small and compact that's easy to keep with me at all times or getting something with more features and controls that would allow taking better photos under a variety of conditions.

I'm interested in knowing what cameras people are using and what they like or dislike about them. What do you use? Would you recommend it? What are you thinking of purchasing and why?

31 comments:

Suebob said...

I use an Olympus that is about 3 years old and has some terribly annoying features. It isn't good for close-up work, which makes food photography difficult.

The real problem with it is its major delay time between when you push the button and when the photo is taken - about half to a full second, I would say, which is an eternity when someone is smiling or a dolphin is jumping...

And the other thing is this genius lens cover. You push it to one side and then the lens slowwwwwly comes out and then you can take a photo. To view the photo you took, you have to shut the cover, wait for the lens to retract, then turn on the screen...annoying.

The on-screen menu is also incomprehensible.

Yeesh. I am going to Best Buy right now!

Culinary Fool said...

Okay, I thought I was unhappy with my camera but you've got me beat! :-)

Barbara said...

Well done Sam - I think the food blog school is an excellent idea. Cameras: Last year I bought a Pentax Optio S4 for a trip we were doing walking across Spain (complete with backpack). I wanted something small and light and this camera was perfect. I don't know how I ever lived without it now. It takes great landscape photos and also has settings for close ups of food, wine bottles, flowers etc. The recorded pixel level has 4 settings with a special one for photos you wish to email. It is small enough to fit in your handbag and ideal if you are taking it to restaurants to photograph the meals. My only complaint is sometimes I'd like more depth of field. Since I started blogging I have developed an interest in food photography which is why I'm thinking of upgrading to a Canon SLR digital I have seen in the shops.

The Pentax camera also records sound and about 8 seconds of video. The battery is small and I bought two so one is always charged, and the largest capacity memory stick available (256) which on the highest recording level gives me 85 shots and on the lowest level 900 shots.

Lulu said...

Great idea for a blog and I can't wait to learn from it. My camera is not even worth talking about. I have my eye on a Canon.

BBQ Junkie said...

If you are interested in becoming food blog photographer, I would recommend going with a small camera that shoots great in low-light situations especially if you are going to be shooting in many restaurants. There are also small tripods available that aid in getting that perfect shot off without having to steady your hand by holding your breath. How small? Small enough to fit in your pocket or purse. I keep one in my backpack at all times, along with an extra battery. If you are more interested in shooting your own creations in a controlled environment and you have some extra cheddar in your wallet, get a digital SLR. Much more control and better quality images.

As for me, I have been shooting with my Nikon Coolpix 880 for almost five years now and it has never let me down. It is a bit large by today’s standards but shoots at 3.2 Megapixels, which is still comparable to newer models. I really do wish that it were smaller. The newer Nikons are very small but not as small as the Canon Powershot series. You should check out www.dpreview.com for non-biased digital camera reviews.

Alice said...

I have two cameras. One 'spy cam', which is smaller than my cell phone (Sony Cuber-shot U), and one digital SLR (Canon EOS Rebel). The Rebel is nice because all of my lenses from my non-digital EOS transfer directly. I've been using my Rebel more and more for my food photos, since the spy cam just can't match the performance (i.e., no ability to change depth of field), but the spy cam is very nice for on-the-fly photos. Did you know that the Rebel is called the Kiss in Japan? I'd match rather prefer a Kiss over a Rebel, but maybe that's just me.

Jennifer said...

As another poster said, the Nikon Coolpix is a great little camera. It is a great value for the money too and very easy to use. I think that the quality of low light pictures is really suberb.

Sam said...

We have two cameras. The good thing about them is that they both have a macro setting/lens which I think is the most important for shooting food.

The first is the every where we go camera - the Casio Exilm which is tiny and great for carrying around. We have the one which has an optical zoom. If you get the digital zoom only this camera is almost as small as a wafer. Ours is an old model (2 years) but they still make this camera and the new models look even better. I mainly use this camera in restaurants. It is discreet. But it is not so good for shooting very low light levels without a flash. But apart from that it is highly recommended by me.

Secondly we have the Canon Eos 20D which is truly wonderfuly but not exactly cheap. You can buy different lenses for it hence we have a macro. I use this for all my home food shots.

Joy said...

I, shamefully, do not post pics. But my husband did recently get a Canon Eos Digital SLR that takes great pictures, so I think I'm going to have to start using that soon.

The problem I usually find is that food doesn't photograph so well -- I have a picture of me eating a bowl of risotto with white truffles and it looks awful in the pics we have.

Sarah said...

Ahhhh, cameras...I don't know a whole lot about them, but I did throw caution to the wind a few weeks ago and bought a relatively inexpensive digital camera. Mostly so that I could post pictures with my recipes. Not a justifiable reason, I know, but there you are. It's a Kodak CX7330 and I still have to learn about it and about lighting, etc.
However, I think that it's just fine for an amateur like me. The Close-Up feature is fantastic for taking pictures of food.

Culinary Fool said...

Thanks for the ideas! I'm going to be doing some research based on your comments.

I think, as Sam mentioned, that it would be great to have two - one spycam and then a "real" camera!

I hadn't seen that paricular Pentax before, Barbara. I like that it has a super-macro setting!

It's great to hear that people like their Coolpix - those models seem to have offer quite a bit of control over flash mode, which is something I like. And I'll need to look more closely at the Canon EOS, too.

This is a great start but I'd love to hear anyone else's ideas/views!

kitchenmage said...

I am getting increasingly fond of a Nikon D70... I was considering the Canon Digital Rebel EOS but then read a bit on the EF-S (is that the right acronym?) lenses and it looks like a hack of a standard 35m lens with a shortened form factor; judging by the photos this matters on edges and purple flaring... plus the D70 has dropped a bit in price recently (the place I am looking has it for $575...

now if i can just figure out how to start a new topic so i can talk about blogging software... my blog's not up yet because i haven't decided on what I am using for it...

Sigrid said...

I use a HP Photosmart, not really tiny but it does a good job! Just look at the pics on the site (and the nice thing is... I only use 1 of the 5 millions of pixels)

Culinary Fool said...

Great photos, Cenzina! I think that may have more to do with you than the camera! :-) The composition and your styling is wonderful.

Kitchenmage - you need to join the school to start a topic. Software was actually going to be my next topic, too, as I'm thinking of moving my blog! :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm going to learn Italian, just so I can read Cenzina's blog.

My Nikon 885 is great for in-kitchen photography, Manual settings and an available wired remote let me do what I want with light and focus.

It does have serious problems in dark restaurants, as the autofocus is pretty blind. I could overcome this with the manual focus, measuring the distance from the lens with the lens cap strap, and fiddling with the menu, but I don't usually bother, both because I'm a little self-conscious of looking like a complete dork, and I'm too hungry to care about having a picture later.

I'm saving for a D70, for other photography, but I doubt I'll ever walk into a restaurant with one.

Anonymous said...

I'm not anonymous, I'm Paul, from Kiplog.com/food

keiko said...

Just wanted to say that this site is brilliant...!

As for cameras, I'm jealous that Sam has Canon 20D and am really tempted by what kitchenmage said about the price of Nikon D70... I use Minolta A2 and that's the only one I've got - I'm quite happy with it
(tilting view finder is handy) but would like to try SLR sometime.

Alice, I'm from Japan and when Canon started the Kiss range (film ones) long time ago, they targeted young couples who just had children - implying that they should be taking better pictures of them - hence this name (like kissing babies!) I don't think they are going to sell very well with that name here in the UK though...

Culinary Fool said...

Anonymous Paul - I know what you mean about trying to take shots in restaurants. Not only am I self-conscious but I think it's distracting for other diners and I want to be thoughtful of their dining experience. That's why right now I'm leaning towards first getting a "spy cam" and then moving up to a better overall camera later on.

It seems several of you are pretty happy with your coolpix.

As for Kiss versus Rebel, Keiko and Alice - interesting how they decide what image to market in what country!

And now, Sam, I'm coveting the EOS 20D! :-)

sarah said...

i have a canon powershot s500. that's all i know, and i am such an amateur, i have no idea how to take pictures other than to point at the delicious stuff and shoot.

how on earth do i take pictures in dark restaurants WITHOUT the flash and still have them show up?

kitchenmage said...

okay so i gave in and bought the D70 (it's down another 30 bucks today, which paid for the two day shipping)... it should be here Friday, I'll play over the weekend and with any luck have something to report back here soon. :-)

Culinary Fool said...

Congrats! Looking forward to the report on Monday! :-)

Rachael said...

I was with a friend the other night who has an Olympus with the "Culinary" setting. We took about 15 pictures and frankly, they all looked the same as the 15 in the regular low-light mode. I personally have quit taking pics in restaurants, I just got too many nasty stares, but when I am home I use an old Canon Powershot and love it. Of course, using Picasa helps a LOT to glam things up (and the fact I put everything I can on a large roll of white paper for backround helps. Anyway, thats my two cents.

drbiggles said...

Hey,

I started my blog with a coolpix 950, loved it. There were a few reasons for this. The first one being it had full manual settings and my favorite, the Aperture Priority setting. Second the darned thing could get an inch away from my subject, I found this useful for food. The 3rd and most useful thing I enjoyed about the 950 was the ability to set my WB to an 18% grey card. One of the major problems with all digital cameras (film rigs too) is the ability to know what's white and what isn't. Light meters usually see things as 18% grey, which is why you'll see white plates as grey in some people's photographs. To get around this you set your WB to an 18% grey card and POW, whites are white. Read your camera's manual to learn more.
Then I bought a Canon G5, it was nice. But the dumb beast couldn't get closer than 18". Sure I could have bought extra lenses, but didn't want to. So I sold it.
Next up was and is the D70. I've had it for quite a few months. This camera was so far the most difficult to get decent photographs out of. Many many many settings to set and reset. I bought the kit lens (a decent zoom rig) and a 60mm f2.8 micro lens (sharp as a tack). This 60 gets me RIGHT in to whatever food I need. I chose the D70 because I have a gaggle of older Nikon Manual Focus lenses, some from the late 1960's. They mount right to the D70 and off I go.
There are two accessories I cannot do without. One of which being a decent flash unit. Why? Because photography is all about lighting. The flash enables you to put light where you normally wouldn't. It allows you to create effects that aren't available otherwise. I picked up a used Metz 45 CL-4, it's a handle-mount rig (potato masher). The second accessory I and YOU should not do without is a damned tripod. I'd say only 10% of my food shots are hand-held, maybe less. Not only will your photographs look sharper and cleaner, but you'll find yourself taking more time with each shot. You can stand there and think about it, move stuff around. Take your time and knock off 30 or 60 rounds, it's cheap. I don't plan on upgrading my camera, nope.

Xo Xo

Biggles

Culinary Fool said...

Thanks for all the info and your camera history, Dr. Biggles! You have some great points about the tripod and flash! I guess if you are going to invest in a great camera it really is smart to invest in the tools that let it shine - instead of wondering why you can't get as good of results as you expected. :-)

drbiggles said...

Hey C. Fool,

Ya know, oddly enough I've got some of my best prints from my old CP 950. Two of which are up on my living room wall at home. This isn't to say the D70 can't keep up. What I'm saying is, it ain't the equipment. As far as the basics are concerned or anyone who cares, get yourself a beginners photography book. I have a bunch from the 1940s & 1950s, still good information. Don't bullseye your subject, animals & children you have to kneel and get to their height, rule of thirds, look at your background to make sure you don't have something odd going on, don't put your horizon in the center. Things like that. Put your camera on a tripod, use a few flood lights and GET TO WORK. You'd be amazed what a few 250 watt UV balanced floods can do.
If you go look at the jam picture I took at meathenge.com, I used one flood light 45 degrees to the right and then 45 degrees down. This lit up the right and lower portions of the bread & jar. Then I used my flash by bouncing it off the ceiling to bathe everything else in light. That shot was taken at about f16, pretty small hole. That shot was the best out of nearly 30 I took the other night. Read your camera's manual and futz with everything to see what does what. Ya know?

Biggles

kitchenmage said...

hmmm, on further inspection of the site i ordered from (and after they delayed shipment and then avoided my mail asking why) i cancelled the order because they seem marginal... so back to the search, i can get a d70 locally for 1k w/100 rebate, which is really tempting... but i was talking with the owner about what i want to do and now i think i may have to wander in and take a few pictures... *sigh*

Culinary Fool said...

Bummer, kitchenmage! :-(

Totally agree with you, Biggles! You'll notice I owned up to that in the original post... :-) But sometimes you want to be improving on two fronts at the same time, if possible!

drbiggles said...

Welp, I was perusing my favorite online used/new camera store yesterday and found a used Sony DSC-W1 in like new condition (black version) for 275 delivered. It's a little 5mp rig with full manual and AE settings. A 2.5" tft screen, 2.2 second startup to first image taken time, some movie taking function and has a decent lens. I didn't check how close it gets, but the reviews were really good and it's really small and it was really cheap and it will easily fit in my pocket. I swore to myself, no more toys. I just had to stick my fingers back in to the whirling fan blades. I'll just sell another old film rig, that'll balance things out a bit.

Biggles

Culinary Fool said...

You're a bad boy, Biggles! But aren't toys fun? :-) Amazon has several customer shots for that camera - a few are macros.

drbiggles said...

Hey C. Fool,

Yeah, I'm pretty jacked. That little rig has an awful lot of good features for the price. The reviews have been very favorable. I bought it for several reasons. One of which, the obivious, the size of it. The Nikon D70 isn't a discreet rig no matter how you slice it. The second reason I bought it was because it does movies. The D70 does not. I'm interested in doing some little short movie snippits. The last reason I was interested, was to set that sucker up on tripod with some lights and take some nice shots with it. Ya know? Show people you don't necessarily have to have an 800 dollar camera to take nice photographs.
If you spend any time on photography forums, you'll see hundreds of poor souls torturing themselves over which camera to buy. How long to wait cause the new model is so much better or, if I wait for six months I'll save hundreds. That's a lot of time that could be spent doing something else. Such as actually USING a camera. Or resting with a cool beverage out in your pasture.

Culinary Fool said...

Don't know if anyone will be looking through these comments anymore, but I finally purchased a new little toy and thought I'd share my decision with you.

First, thanks to EVERYONE who took the time to respond. I looked at all your suggestions, the pros and cons you listed, your sites (for samples) and that really helped me focus on what I wanted.

I think somewhere in the comments I clarified that at this time I was looking for more of a "spy cam" something small that was easily schlepped around.

It finally came down to a choice of 2 - the Casio EXILM (EXZ750) and the Sony Cybershot (DSCP200).

These are both 7.2MP cameras and, although I didn't really feel I needed that much, the price was not that much greater than the lower MP cameras so I decided to go for it. They also both have more features than I thought I really needed but i have found in the past that I tend to "grow into" features. It will just be a matter of not tripping over them in the meantime.

I ended up with the Sony, although I actually liked the look and feel of the Casio a bit more. The reason I went with the Sony was that the Macro range is as close as 2.5" and the Casio's closest shot was 4". It seems to me that is one of the most important things for me, right now, so the Sony won on that feature.

Both of these cameras were available at my local Costco - they are not online at Costco - and were also on Amazon for about the same price. The Costco price was actually $20 more for the Sony but I got some extra things like the leather carrying case, etc.

I did a few test shots yesterday, pretty much leaving everything at default just to see what happens. Overall, I was pretty happy with the results although the file sizes were HUGE and so I reduced my default to 3MP this morning. (At 7.2MP file sizes are around 3MB each!)

I'll be continuing to experiment until I figure some things out but I think I'm going to be pretty happy with it. I even have the option of buying specialty lenses and filters if I ever desire!

The shots for IMBB were taken with the new camera and you can see I still have a few things to figure out but there not bad for just taking the thing out of the box and getting to it! :-)