Need Pocket Camera for Macro

Discussion in 'What Camera Should I Buy?' started by mgo737, Aug 20, 2010.

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  1. mgo737

    mgo737 New Member

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    I am a dermatologist looking to upgrade my camera that I use to take pictures of skin lesions. I currently have a "Canon PowerShot SD1100IS 8MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom" that I purchased 2 years ago. It is an ok camera but I often struggle to get crisp macro pics of skin lesions in the often poor indoor lighting of the clinic rooms.

    Ultimately, I am looking for a camera that fits in my white coat pocket (excludes an SLR but camera certainly does not have to be an ultra compact) and takes precise macro pics in indoor hospital lighting without use of flash (in my experience with my camera flash makes skin lesions look artificial). I plan to use this camera exclusively for my clinic...

    I was thinking of getting the Canon PowerShot S90 simply because it seems to get exceptional reviews and would easily fit in my pocket though I am starting to wonder if 3.8X zoom is enough.

    Budget
    -<$500

    Size
    -Fit in pocket of my white coat
    -Does not have to be ultracompact, but SLR is too big

    Features
    How many megapixels will suffice for you?
    -Not sure

    * What optical zoom will you need? (None, Standard = 3x-4x, Ultrazoom = 10x-12x)
    -Not sure. Do I need >4X zoom to take macro pics of skin lesions?

    * How important is “image quality” to you? (Rate using a scale of 1-10)
    -***10***
    -I will be using pictures for presentations and medical journals

    Do you care for manual exposure modes (shutter priority, aperture priority, manual)?
    -Not familiar with.

    General Usage
    * What will you generally use the camera for?
    -Taking pictures of skin lesions in a clinic room with often poor indoor lighting.

    * Will you be making big prints of your photos or not?
    -Will be using in powerpoint presentations, but not printing

    Will you be shooting a lot of indoor photos or low light photos?
    -Indoor photos with often poor and low light hospital lighting

    Will you be shooting sports and/or action photos?
    -no

    Miscellaneous
    Are there particular brands you like or hate?
    -no
    Are there particular models you already have in mind?
    -Canon S90?
    (If applicable) Do you need any of the following special features? (Wide Angle, Image Stabilization, Weatherproof, Hotshoe, Rotating LCD)
    -Image stabilization?
     
  2. Andy Stanton

    Andy Stanton Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    As you know from using your sd1100IS, the ability to take closeup macro photos requires that your camera be in its extreme wide angle position. So having more optical zoom will not help you take better macro shots.

    The S90 does work better in low light than the SD1100IS, because its sensor is larger and it has a wider aperture at the extreme wide angle position. But I'm not sure the S90 would meet your needs as the closest it can focus is 5cm, compared to 3cm for your SD1100IS. Other small cameras that are superior in low light ability are the Fuji F80EXR and the Sony HX5, but they have the same 5cm focus limit of the S90.

    There are two small cameras that are good in low light and can focus as close as 1cm - the Canon G11 and the Panasonic LX3. They are close to the upper limit of your budget but they are more likely to give you the results you want than any other small camera.

    Here are some sample macro images:
    g11 macro - Flickr: Search
    lx3 macro - Flickr: Search
     
  3. mgo737

    mgo737 New Member

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    Thank you for your helpful reply. Truth be told, I am an absolute idiot when it comes to cameras so I have no idea what this means "As you know from using your sd1100IS, the ability to take closeup macro photos requires that your camera be in its extreme wide angle position." i.e. Am I supposed to be doing something to my camera to put it in its extreme wide angle position or just selecting the macro function?

    I am also really surprised by your advice that "having more optical zoom will not help you take better macro shots." It seems counterintuitive that having more optical zoom will not help take better macro, or close up shots. And people complain about confusing medical jargon =D.

    Also, how do you determine what the closest a camera can focus at? I do not see that listed in product details. Is there some sort of calculation you use?

    Thanks again! Right now I am planning on going with the Panasonic LX3, though I will wait a bit longer to see if price drops further with the new LX5.

     
  4. Andy Stanton

    Andy Stanton Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    When I refer to "extreme wide angle" that means that no zoom is used. Once you use zoom you have to move the camera further away from the subject to be able to obtain focus. You can still try to focus in on the subject from further away, using your zoom, but the resulting closeup may not be as good for a couple of reasons.
    1. When you use zoom the amount of light coming into the camera is less, so the image is going to be darker (or if in auto mode the camera will boost the ISO, resulting in a noisier (degraded) image).
    2. Colors tend to get washed out when you use a lot of zoom.

    The LX3 would be a good choice for you. Amazon currently has it for $367 and free shipping, which is a great price.
     
  5. Andy Stanton

    Andy Stanton Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    The camera's specifications usually list the close focusing limit.
     
  6. mgo737

    mgo737 New Member

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    Dumb question. So to get the best macro pic of a skin lesion should I keep the zoom at 1X and put the camera physically as close to the skin lesion as possible while still in focus? Yes, I know, dumb question...

     
  7. Andy Stanton

    Andy Stanton Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    Yes. But with older cameras, like the sd1100IS, you have to put the camera into macro mode. Newer cameras go into macro mode automatically when the camera is in "smart auto" or "intelligent auto" mode. Also, depending on the lighting, your camera may cast a shadow on the skin when you bring the camera very close. You can usually fix this problem by adjusting the lighting. One thing you should never do, when taking a macro shot, is to use the flash.

    Here's a closeup photo of skin using the Panasonic LX3 in macro mode at extreme wide angle with no flash.
    Drop (macro series) | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    Here's a closeup photo of a tattoo using the Canon SD1100is in macro mode at extreme wide angle with no flash.
    IMG_1994 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
     
  8. mgo737

    mgo737 New Member

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    Again, thank you for your pointers! Any other info or resources to help improve my macro pics of skin lesions using a point and shoot such as the LX3?

     
  9. Andy Stanton

    Andy Stanton Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    To make sure you get the best possible image quality, make sure the camera's ISO is as low as possible. This may mean putting your LX3 into manual mode to make sure the ISO is low (200 or less), the aperture is very wide (f/2.0) and the shutter speed is as low as it needs to be to get a properly exposed image (making the shutter speed too low, below 1/25 second, will probably result in a blurry image).
     
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