Cameras: controls and settings

  Written By Cameraman Jim: http://www.sigma-2.com/camerajim/index.htm  
    Selecting a Camera for Clothing Photography  
  At the right, I've listed current compact models that meet basic requirements as eBay cameras. Each will focus to 4 inches or less. Also each includes a manual white-balance option, useful for achieving accurate color. Finally, every one of these models offers both automatic and manual exposure control. The links will take you to pages with more details, reviews and price information.

For eBay use, you don't need a high-resolution digital camera. Almost any digital camera will produce a 640x480 pixel image at its lowest resolution setting, which is a big enough photo to fill a standard VGA computer monitor or about 2/3 of a 17" monitor. A 640x480 image is only equal to 1/3 of a megapixel. At 1 megapixel, you have a huge image with enough room to crop out unwanted image areas.

If you also want to make prints of family photos or for other purposes, you'll want more resolution. Every camera on this current list offers at least 9 megapixel images which is more than enough for large prints and much more than enough for eBay use.

For an "eBay camera," you want...

  • Good macro (close focus) capability Limit your search to cameras that focus to within 4 inches or less.
  • Manual control options Manual white-balance control is available on many compact models and is very useful to achieve accurate color. A manual exposure option (or at least a way to override full auto exposure) is helpful for difficult situations and repeatable results.
  • Ease of use For some, this means just leaving the camera in "auto" and pushing the button. For me, ease of use means the camera controls are logical, and it's easy to access all important functions.
  • Comfortable handling All the best reviews in the world won't help if the camera feels awkward in YOUR hands. Get a chance to handle a camera before buying it.

Of the two inexpensive models on the current list, I particularly like the Fujifilm FinePix S1500 since it combines good close-up performance, manual focus (very useful for eBay work) and the wide zoom range most people like in a personal camera. What you trade off with such inexpensive cameras is speed. While they are more than suitable for eBay product shots, their slow response times may be frustrating if you want to capture active subjects.

You really can't go wrong with any of the cameras in the crowded mid-range group, but the Canon PowerShot SX20IS and the Olympus SP-590UZ stand out for me because they have flash hot shoes. This feature, typically available only on more expensive models, allows you to access the most powerful lighting options as your skills increase. Other notable models in this group are the Canon PowerShot SX120IS (a lot of camera for the money), the Fujifilm Finepix F70EXR and Nikon Coolpix P90.

At the very top, you're dealing with "enthusiast" cameras, designed to meet the needs of serious photographers. Prices for these start at $400 and go up to nearly $1,000 for the Leica V-LUX 1. All but the Pentax and Sony models have hot shoes for external flash. I think the Canon PowerShot G11 and Canon PowerShot SX1IS, plus the Panasonic DMC-LX3K are the best in this class.

If you're looking for a bargain camera, a used model can be a good choice. In fact, since camera manufacturers have been eliminating some useful features from their cheapest models, a used camera can often offer more for less.

Among recently discontinued models I would recommend are Canon A570 IS and Canon PowerShot A590IS, Fujifilm Finepix S1000fd, Nikon Coolpix P5100, and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8K. Since you actually need very little in the way of image size, even older models can be great buys at under $50. In fact, as manufacturers remove useful features from their cheaper models and add things you don't need for eBay, like face detection, the earlier versions are often preferable.

Any camera I've listed here would do a good job on eBay photos. The choice depends on how much you value a larger image size, a bigger LCD screen or a longer zoom lens. None of these are necessary for eBay work, but they can be handy features for your other photography.

Subcompacts, while capable of good results, sacrifice for their size some features needed on an eBay camera; therefore, they're not included in my list.

Also not included in my list are digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras. While these can do a good job on product photography, they cost more than a compact model and require a special macro lens to focus at very close range. However, an SLR can be a great investment if you're serious about photography or want the ultimate in image quality. If this describes you, you might start by looking at the Nikon D3000 or Canon Rebel XS which sell for under $500 with a basic kit lens.