OT: What Features Should I be Looking for in an "eBay Digital Camera"?



#2

I'm wanting a relatively inexpensive digital camera for close-ups on typical eBay items (including, from time to time, calculators).

Does anyone have any recommendations?

(I'm sure there's a better forum for this kind of discussion -- I'll follow that recommendation as well.)

Thanks,

Paul B.


#3

... there's a better forum ...

By "better", I meant, of course, "more appropriate" . . .

I don't know of any "better" forum or more helpful group of participants!


#4

Hey Paul-

First a half-serious/half-joking answer: Do you have scanner? Have you considered buying one? They are pretty cheap nowadays, and one can set something on the bed and it'll do a great job of capturing a not-too-large item. The beauty is that the "environment" is more "controlled" that way then what you can do with a digital camera, and you can use it for other purposes too.
And you might have difficulty getting a camera that can do as well for the same price; often less than $50.00 with these Staples or Office Max rebates!

I have a higher-end SONY digital camera, but I still resort to the scanner for easy, quick-setup-shots!

Just a thought...

Good luck! Perhaps someone will have a much better suggestion...

-Mike


#5

For E-bay selling, you do not need a lot of pixels - the image files will just be too big (in fact, you will almost certainly want to crop your images in software). I have used an HP210 (I think the HP 215 is the same, except for added USB direct connectivity - a VERY nice feature) for E-bay pictures and it works fine. It is a "1.3 megapixel" camera and makes 1280 by 960 images. All cameras (when they are new!) come with some kind of image processing software. Try to have the software come with the camera.

I'd guess one of these HP models, or other similar 1 to 1.3 megapixel cameras should be available on E-bay for (well?) under $100. Don't get a 640x480 model - I had one of those (an Agfa) and it was not very satisfying. The compression algorithms to store the images left you with pretty fuzzy results when you tried to blow up an image.

Also, you will want to be taking close-ups, so make sure the camera will focus at short range. Most of them do; most have autofocus of some kind.

Also, try to get one with a power supply adapter - these babies can go through batteries like nobody's business. (VERY unlike your HP 11 or 41 which will run for years on a few little batteries.) Better yet, invest in rechargable NiMH batteries, and use them. I did that after about the fourth set of AA cells (4 at a blow). The current requirement, at least for these HPs, is rather high: an amp or more, and a lot of the cheap "vampire" supplies won't supply enough current to run them - I know 'cause my Dad tried, and eventually he had to get the real HP PS. i.e. your HP calculator wall charger won't cut it!

Then, have fun playing with it.


#6

I got a demo HP 210 camera with no accessories - not even a memory card. I got the serial cable, literature and strap with memory card tool from HP Parts (I ordered 4 items priced $6, $1, $0.50, and $0.11, each came in a separate bag by FedEx with no additional shipping charge!) I've never used the serial cable because I got a "USB Enabled" compact flash card made by Lexar Media which comes with a USB cable to connect the card directly to the computer like a disk drive. Here is Lexar's page about USB enable compact flash cards: http://www.digitalfilm.com/digfilm/index.html

Also, I got the CD-ROM for the camera from HP for free, not from the parts organization, but by calling (or writing)customer service. As I recall, they gave me an 800 number to call to ask for the CD.

The user's guide for the camera says NOT to use rechargable batteries. It seems to say that the camera circuits don't have any current limiting and NiCads could put out too much. I eats up AA cells but I have been using some I got for free at an Interstate Batteries store grand opening! I am eventually going to build a power supply for the camera with careful current limiting because I am too cheap to pay $25 for a generic camera power supply or $50 for the exact replacement from HP. I am also going to build an external battery pack with current limiting so I can use some larger rechargable batteries for portable use.

I wanted a close-up lens for the camera and ended up ordering a package including close-up and telephoto lenses, a polarizing filter, a lens adapter for the camera, and a pouch for compact flash cards from dcprodirect.com. First several items were backordered, then I had to return the close-up lens because it had several mechanical defects, and the telephoto lens is still on backorder sinch March!

I hope to take pictures with the close-up lens, the power supply (since I need to use the LCD display with the close-up lens) and a tripod.


#7

Ellis, et al.,

I HAVE been using rechargable NiMH AA cells in my HP210 camera, with no ill consequences so far (certainly, no "nuclear explosion"! I almost fell of my chair while reading that one!). Either I didn't see the warning in the manual or decided to ignore it. I did worry that the NiMH voltage would be a bit low (1.2 V/cell versus 1.5 V/cell for standard batteries) but that doesn't seem to be a problem. In fact, as you noted, this camera really pulls the amps from the batteries, and if anything, the NiMH (and NiCad for that matter) are pretty good at supplying hefty currents.

I, too, discovered and now use the Lexar "USB enabled" compact flash card, and that really is the way to get images out of the camera. You can get more generic CF (and other memory card type) readers, as well - check E-bay listings for better prices than you'll find at either your local CompUSA or camera store. These card+reader systems also serve nicely for file transport between computers - you can think of them as 16/32/64/etc MB solid state disk drives. They are much faster than ZIP drives or CD writing for modest file sizes (10-ish megabytes) that are too big for floppies.

I haven't tried extreme close-ups with the '210, but it works fine for distances of a foot or more, and I have used it to image mice and other small devices for sale on Ebay. The resolution is enough that you can crop the image substantially and still see enough detail. Remember, you don't want megapixel images for your E-bay sales - it ticks off potential buyers if they have to wait a minute for the image to come through.

There is significant parallax between what you see in the viewfinder and what gets imaged when you are working up close with the HP210 (and, I suspect, most other digital cameras which non-imaging viewfinders). A little practice, though, will allow you to center the image (and "film" is cheap - just push "delete" if you don't like what you see!).

#8

Sadly, the scanner idea doesn't work well. Scanner's depth of focus is a millimeter or less. Things not directly on the glass won't resolve well-- I've actually tried scanning one of my HPs.

Let's just say the key tops came out great! Everything else was pretty fuzzy.


#9

David brings up a good point: Maybe not all scanners can do the job. My Visioneer 4400 (which was quite cheap) does GREAT! I've scanned my HP16, 48 and 49 with EXCELLENT results! It must be that my Visioneer has a larger depth-of-focus than what David's scanner has. It also cost me about $30.00 new when I bought it as Staples with one of their rebate programs.

You will have better results for larger items with a digital camera. I find that it is nice to be able to control the exposure settings and be able to turn off the flash, because sometimes pictures taken without the flash come out better (if something reflects, etc.). Perhaps all digital cameras allow you to "force-disable" the flash.

Good luck!

-Mike

#10

The things I would look for:

1) Macro setting -- This can actually be either a setting on the camera or a seperate attachment or lens, depending on the amount of money you're spending. This is very important if you want to take close-ups.

2) USB connectivity -- Very handy, though not absolutely vital.

3) Built-in flash that can be turned off -- It is becoming increasingly difficult to find a camera that doesn't have a flash these days, despite the fact that they're almost useless for close-up work (they're placed too close to the lens). I would look for a camera with a flash that can be turned off (not difficult, since almost all allow this) and would try to use environmental light to illuminate the subject.

4) Standard batteries -- Most run on AAs, but not all...

Another option you might consider, if you've got a good film camera with a macro lens, is to take the pictures on standard film and take them to a processor who can put them on PhotoCD for you. A cheaper way to go if you'll only be using the camera once or twice.

#11

Some time ago my passion was photography. I worked as student job in entertainment parks and worked for 6 months after my studies as a school photographer.

I bought last year a Minolta dimage digital camera. Nice stuff actually, 1.3 M Pixelsw ith a Minolta aspherical lens, macro, built-in flash disabling, ...

To be very honest I find that making pictures with this camera is easy when it is about casual snapshots and very difficult when it is about taking a picture of an item you want to list.

Not that astonishing actually as the encountered difficulties are the same as for argentic images. Taking a closeup picture needs a good control of the light everywhere. Remember Daves's explanations about his recent snapshots : even done with common material, the light was thouroughly "moulded", and this gave the fantastic pictures we saw.


But the classic SLR wins at least 2 majors battles : first of all the picture is taken (almost) when you press the shutter and secondly on most classic SLR's you can select the shutter time.

With a digital camera most of the time cloesup pictures are not focused because the camera computes focus even after you press the shutter and the small focus depth does not compensate a slight movement of your hands or because the shutter time is too short.

The only solution would be to mount the digital camera on a tripod but few of them accept distance shooting, though the timer function could do it.

So, to answer your question, I think John K's remarks are pretty wise !

Enjoy it !

#12

Thanks to everyone for chiming in. (And do feel free to continue!)

Re: film cameras -- I do have two older manual 35MM SLRs, and have used them in the past. Lighting for acceptable closeups is a real skill, and I've not yet come close to mastering it, I confess. It sounds like I'll be working on that either way. Dave's latest beautiful shots are indeed an inspiration -- and it never occurred to me to simply go outside and use sunlight!

But the film-to-processor-to-prints part of the cycle is what I'd like to cut out, and it sounds like USB is the way to go. I suspect that, to the extent the lighting issues are indeed similar, one might use a digital to refine technique, then use film for a quality image. (Until, that is, one simply invests in a multi-megapixel solution?)

Re: Scanners -- I did, in fact, use my Visioneer scanner for my last three calculator auctions, and it worked o.k. I modified and cropped the images, but there was certainly enough detail for eBay's photo features. However, for anything other than "flat stuff", that won't work. I've got fishing reels, etc. that will need more depth of field. I also want to get some extreme close-ups to show scratches (or the absence thereof) to good effect.

Re: Digital Cameras -- Thanks for the recommendations -- I'll look at those models and compare features.

I appreciate the generous support afforded by contributors to this forum!


#13

Paul,
I would recommend any 1.3 megapixel digital camera with a macro setting. When you take the picture use the flash, but attenuate it with something, such as a thick piece of white (translucent) plexiglas. By experimenting with differnet thicknesses and other arrangements you should be able to come up with something that maintains the advantage of even lighting while eliminating most of the problems of the flash going off 6 inches from the subject. Maybe if you paint a black dot on the part of the plexiglas that is directly over the bulb, etc. Have fun!

#14

I bought a Sony DSC-F55 Cyber-shot about 3 years ago for $700. It is a 2 megapixel camera with no optical zoom but with a macro feature. It also has a 180 degree rotating lens. I just love this compact camera. Check E-bay and you'll see it from time to time going for about $200.


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