Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
Home Artist Blog About Me Life in Alaska Purchase Site Index Speak
Home » Archives » December 2004 » Best Digital Camera for Shooting Artwork?

[Previous entry: "Rescuing Paint Brushes"] [Next entry: "Paying for an Art Consultation"]

12/08/2004: "Best Digital Camera for Shooting Artwork?"

I thought I already knew which digital camera I wanted (the Sony Mavica CD500) but then I started shopping around and reading reviews and now I'm more confused than ever. Basically I want something in the 500-600 dollar range, 5mp or higher, with more than a 3x optical zoom and some kind of image stabalization.

I need to be able to take good, high resolution images of my artwork that can be converted to slides if necessary. The place I found that will do the conversion requires the following for either a 4k or and 8k resolution slide:

4k = 4096 x 2730 pixels = 32MB RGB
8k = 8192 x 5460 pixels = 128MB RGB

In other words:
2MP = 1600x1200 pixels or 5.49MB (slides will look a bit soft but usable)
3MP = 2048x1536 pixels or 9MB (slides will look ok. Good enough for most purposes)
4MP = 2272x1704 pixels or 11.1MB (slides will look better. Again, good for most purposes)
5MP = 2592x1944 pixels or 14.4MB (Slides will look good.)
Above 5MP = Professional (slides will look great)

BUT, I also want to be able to use this camera outdoors a lot, to take photos that I'll use as source material for my paintings and I want a good optical zoom. From all the research I've done. I found this camera Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 that seems to meet all of my requirements except it's only 5mp. Which means it would take good slides, but not professional looking slides.

I'm not even sure how important that is anymore anyway. From what I hear Kodak is going to quit making and processing film and they already stopped making slide projectors. Everyone is moving to digital in record numbers, maybe traditional slides will become obsolete as well? Do I really need to base this decision on the slide issue when everything else is great (color, zoom, price, user reviews on ease of use, etc.)?

The only other issue I have with this camera is that there is a slight barrel distortion, meaning bowed edges, which is annoying when you're shooting objects with straight edges. Still, it was very slight.

The more I look into this the more confused I get. Has anyone recently done research on the best digital camera (consumer grade) for taking photos of artwork?

Replies: 12 Comments

on Wednesday, December 8th, holly said

Elise, the slide library uses a digital to take pictures of art in the museum and of pictures in survey texts and other art books because everyone except the old guard faculty is switching over to digital presentation of media for classes and studio critique at IU. We have a couple Nikons, but I can't recall the model numbers off the top of my head. I'll find out for you, if you're interested. They're stellar cameras, but pretty pricey. But then, you get what you pay for.

on Wednesday, December 8th, Elise said

Thanks Holly, that's good to know. If you could find out the model numbers that would help a lot. And, I'm willing to go higher is necessary, but I don't want to get in the 2-3 thousand dollar range because I'm reserving that for my next video camera.
(not that I have any money for the video camera, but hypothetically speaking)

on Wednesday, December 8th, Dave from Nebraska said

You have done your homework I must say. The first thing you want to consider when buying a digital camera is how much $$ do you want to spend. I would think you could find a good camera for less than $500. But as the lovely and sagacious Holly writes, "You get what you pay for."
One other consideration for any camera used to copy art work or for close up photography is how the camera in question deals with parallax. That is the discrepancy between the view presented to the eye through a camera's sighting device and that recorded by the camera lens. Sound complicated? I'll try to break it down. With some of the less expensive cameras you may be looking thru a little window above and to one side of the camera lens to make your composition and not thru the actual lens that captures the image. The closer you get to your subject using this sort of viewing arrangement the more your careful composition will suffer. That's why the 35mm SLR camera's are so good for close up photography. You are actually looking thru the lens of the camera as you frame and compose your subject. What you see is what you get with a SLR, Single Lens Reflex camera.
And there are digital SLR cameras. I bought my first digital camera a Olympus C-2500L four years ago for around $1200. It's a 2.5 mega pixel. That was pretty high for the price range then and I still get very good results with it. I carry it everywhere and I can make nice looking 8X10's with it and larger given the right circumstances. It's a SLR.
Looking at the latest B&H catalog is see a Olympus C-765 Ultra Zoom kit and a Fuji FinePix S5100 kit both are 4 MegaPixel, both come with a 512 Memory card both look to be SLRs and both are $429.
As far as the specs you have on making 35mm slides my experiance here in Omaha was a file size of 11" X 7.33"@300dpi gave optimal results with the local but now closed photo lab.
In conclusion. Buy the best you can afford. Name brand with a good piece of glass on the front and a media card of sufficent size. I would look at cameras that accept Compact Flash cards as they are rugged and have greater capacity than Smart Media cards at the present time. I'd also stay away from Sony cameras that use Memory Sticks or other propriatary medias.
Hope I didn't drone on too long or muddy the issues here. Good luck!

on Wednesday, December 8th,">SB said

Since the wonderfully knowledgable Leo Laporte used a Nikon D-70 (a SLR), so would I. So does a wealthy media host who shall go unnamed. Of course, these people are not artists, but....

on Wednesday, December 8th,">SB said

Elise, I'm so sorry, that camera is way over price, and I'm way past my bedtime and shouldn't be allowed near email and such in this tired condition. Please excuse me.

on Wednesday, December 8th, Elise said

Wow, thanks for all the info Dave, I forgot that you're a photographer so you should know? Do you have an opinion looking at the specs on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20? I'd be interested in what you think of it.

And SB, I just checked the reviews for the Nikon D70 and it does look like an excellent, highly recommended camera. But you're right too, a little out of my price range. I really wish I could afford it because it is 6mp and an SLR. Oh well, thanks a lot anyway!

on Thursday, December 9th, Dave from Nebraska said

Good morning. I should of looked at your link to the Panasonic camera before throwing my opinions around. Panasonic is just not one of the brands I think of when it comes to cameras. However after a brief look at user reveiws and specs, it sound like a nice camera for the $$. It has some features I've never heard of in a still camera and a nice piece of glass on the front with optional attachments. I wouldn't worry about the barrel distortion as the test I saw was shot in the wide angle mode. Any lens would probably distort that much. Again it looks good. Get a big card for it and shoot away!

on Thursday, December 9th, Elise said

Yeah! Good news!

I don't know why I've kindof got my heart set on the Panasonic, I think it's that 12x optical zoom...I just didn't want to get it if it wouldn't work for the slides of art etc. Thanks so much for taking a look at it for me, I feel *much* better about going ahead and getting this camera now.

on Thursday, December 9th, Dave from Nebraska said

Here's some links I found while reading a Mac World magazine when I was supposed to be working this afternoon.
The article I read used some superlative to discribe the FZ20. I can't remember exactly. I think it was responsive or amazing ... I dunno but they liked it.
I will refrain from acting like I know anything for a couple of days.

on Thursday, December 9th, Elise said

Thanks for the links, i checked them out and still looks really good. is where I looked when I originally decided on this camera, but it's nice to see that there seems to be a concensus that it's a good camera for a good price.

on Friday, December 10th, holly said

Prolly too late for you now, but the slide library uses a Nikon 995 (the "loaner" camera that we let studio people use - takes great photos of artwork)- fairly low price, 3.2 MP.
The "good" camera that never leaves the library is the Nikon D100, an SLR which is considerably more expensive for 6.1 MP ($800-1000 for the body). If I were a decent photographer, I'd love to have this camera. It's incredibly easy to use.

on Friday, December 10th, Elise said

Thanks for the followup Holly, I haven't actually purchased a camera yet, and while that Nikon D100 sounds like a dream, it's a bit out of my price range. Damn.

I'll put it in my wish list for when my dad wins the lottery.