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05-11-2013, 11:34 PM   #1
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Work is buying me a camera... for a specific task

Well, I've been given a budget to go out and purchase a compact camera for work. Mostly because I'm gripping about our ancient Canon point and shoot that's been the store's workhorse for a few years, it's not yet busted, but it's having issues. Seriously... our cell phone cameras have been doing a better job, but the process of getting images off the phone can be irritating.

I work at an automotive shop, and the camera is often used for taking photos of defects, anything from small imperfections in the paint, could be just a bump or stray drop of paint that wasn't caught at the factory, to bent piston. Usually I'm the one that's asked to take the pictures. This thing never focus's, even on macro, and the iso capabilities are so pathetic that most shots come out too grainy or blury to use. So it's time to update the technology.

Essentially, we need a compact that has a fairly smart auto mode, but can still be used in manual modes or at least Av when needed. It's got to be able to macro focus on the smallest changes in contrast, or have a manual focus over ride thats easy to use. I built in zoom of 5x should be more than enough. There is also a need for good higher iso capabilities, able to take clear pictures at a minimum of iso 400, but preferably 800-1600. I'm not expecting K5 quality in noise, but usable to see small details. An in camera ability to crop wouldn't be too bad either.

The best part about this is that I will be in sole possession of the camera, and have been told the camera leaves with me if I decided to leave. Essentially they are scared of the fact that my K5 and Tammy 90 macro will disappear eventually if I keep bringing it to work, and they are afraid to replace it. So they would rather just buy a compact I can lock in my desk.

I have no idea what cameras to be looking at, but I haven't really gone out and played with any either.

The top one on my list is the WG3. It's durable so I won't have to worry about a tech dropping it or it getting smashed to bits. Granted... the old Canon hasn't suffered ill fate, so this is not really a huge concern, and since this camera will be locked in my desk when not in use I shouldn't have to worry much about the techs. But the one thing I do love about this camera for the job, and really its the only reason it is at the top, is the macro lights. The shop is not very well lit, neither are most vehicle interiors with all the black leather. Have you ever tried to take a photograph the of manufactures logo on the inner edge of a sunroof? It's incredibly dark, and a flash just kills it, I usually have to get out a flashlight and try to illuminate it enough while taking a photo.

The second one on my list is the MX-1. I bought this camera a while ago, but returned it, and long story short, I think it could do well here. The tilting screen, manual controls, and fast lens are very positive forces. It's a bit large, but hey, maybe it will get some more of that brassing quicker.

The third one on my list... the Sony RX-1000. The ability to manual focus using the barrel and the compact nature of the camera is very compelling. I normally strongly dislike Sony products, but this does seem to be the compact to beat when it comes to compact cameras. It is very compact, meaning that it could fill the role my Q has failed out, being my pocket camera when I go on training sessions and would like to bring a camera along that is not a K5 with a 16-50 f2.8 mounted on it. (it's been known to happen) Going back to the manual focus, that could make or break an image for a warranty claim if the camera decides it just can't figure out what to focus on.

something the MX-1 and RX-1000 miss, but would be very nice to have, is a hot shoe so one could mount macro LED lights. I think this could end up becoming a major reason why I would look at the Rioch GR. The GR's biggest disadvantage is the zoom lens, and really, this could be fairly important if one is taking photos of items in the engine bay and you can't physically get close enough. One could "crop in", and really for our needs the picture does not usually need to be bigger than 4mp, so that option is fine. There is no image stabilization however, which could make or break a shot while shooting in the low light under the suspension arms of an SUV.

Are there other cameras I should be looking at? Are there notes about the ones I've selected that may swing one ahead of the other in terms of abilities? The biggest thing of all though, how strong is the cameras ability to focus on something as small as a dust particle caught underneath the top coat of a glossy white automotive finish? Yes... we have to do that more often than you think.

05-11-2013, 11:42 PM   #2
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Two auto shops here in town are using the Pentax WG compacts because of their excellent close-up performance. I would go with the latest WG-3.

Jack
05-12-2013, 04:07 AM   #3
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WG-3..
Coz ultimately, when you hand over the rein, i bet the next guy will need autofocus, good macro capability and uber durable..

05-12-2013, 04:22 AM   #4
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In our last conversation with Jim Malcolm he told us about how the WG2 had become a popular cam at dentists offices due to the close up capabilities and built in led ring.

The WG3 may be the ticket here.

05-12-2013, 05:23 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wired Quote
something the MX-1 and RX-1000 miss, but would be very nice to have, is a hot shoe so one could mount macro LED lights.
For attaching some LED lights, you really only need a tripod mount: see this package here (I have one, it's small & bright).

I'd go with the WG3. Photo quality is improved over previous WR compacts, and it looks like something made for a shop:
05-12-2013, 05:44 AM   #6
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how compact does it have to be? how about an Olympus e-pm1, along with the inexpensive macro light adapter and Olympus macro lens adapter? a refurbished one at cameta camera is only $200 and the other accessories are another $100 or so. that'll get you significantly better low light capability and in body stabilization as well.
05-12-2013, 05:53 AM   #7
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Panasonic LX7 would be perfect for the job and can be found for less than $300. 1cm macro, usable ISO800, RAW, good manual focus, handy switch for picture format (4:3, 3:2, 1:1, 16:9), image stabilization, and best of all a really good lens that's 24mm f1.4 EQ on the wide end and 90mm f2.3 EQ on the long end. It's prone to flare in bright sun, but that doesn't sound like an issue for your application.

Add the Olympus macro light (2 LEDs on articulating arms, mounted on hot shoe) and you'd be good to go.








05-12-2013, 06:05 AM   #8
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I have the Sony RX100 (not RX1000) for work use in a K-12 educational Institution - I had been using my K20 but that is not always practical for the reasons you have listed.
It is small as you say but too much on the flimsy side for workshop use I think, I am gentle with my gear but have had some near issues with the transformer style pop up flash and it is going to catch on an overalls pocket lip for sure.. The high ISO capabilities more than compensate for the lack of macro lights.

For your situation I would go with the WG3 or the Panny or Olympus equivalent versions of it. Several years ago we had a construction course in our institution and I purchased the Olympus waterproof and shock proof camera - it was often passed around the students and many of the pictures had biggy blurry areas on them due to grubby fingers on the clear lens cover. Did the job well enough however. Robustness is definitely an important attribute.

This :


or this:


05-12-2013, 07:52 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by johnmflores Quote
Panasonic LX7 would be perfect for the job and can be found for less than $300. 1cm macro, usable ISO800, RAW, good manual focus, handy switch for picture format (4:3, 3:2, 1:1, 16:9), image stabilization, and best of all a really good lens that's 24mm f1.4 EQ on the wide end and 90mm f2.3 EQ on the long end. It's prone to flare in bright sun, but that doesn't sound like an issue for your application.

Add the Olympus macro light (2 LEDs on articulating arms, mounted on hot shoe) and you'd be good to go.








That is a good recommendation - I think any camera with a hotshoe will benefit from using that olympus macro light - it is just 2 leds on bendable arms, which is a nice feature being able to move them around for proper lighting.

Edit - forgot that the light uses the power port found on olympus micro 4/3 cameras (possibly panasonic too?), so would only be good on olympus micro 4/3 cameras (all except the original e-p1).
05-12-2013, 10:08 AM   #10
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I'd go for the WG-3 as well.

If it was a different environment than a shop where things would get destroyed, I'd almost suggest the Samsung WiFi camera I just gave away. The image quality is decidedly average, but you can just hit a switch and upload it to your PC or whatever without needing to screw with any wires. I'm not sure what other brands out there may offer something like that.
05-12-2013, 01:26 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by pxpaulx Quote
That is a good recommendation - I think any camera with a hotshoe will benefit from using that olympus macro light - it is just 2 leds on bendable arms, which is a nice feature being able to move them around for proper lighting.

Edit - forgot that the light uses the power port found on olympus micro 4/3 cameras (possibly panasonic too?), so would only be good on olympus micro 4/3 cameras (all except the original e-p1).
Good point about the Olympus lights. I just saw a similar one from Promaster that runs on batteries.
05-13-2013, 09:13 PM   #12
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WG3 it is. I'll pick one up when I get back from holiday. The boss things seems to think it would probably be the best one too, if only for the ruggedness of it.
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