2.21.2017

I was consulting for a client this month and I recommended a camera to them. I'm sure the camera I recommended will surprise you.

Shooting by the shores of Lake Ontario. Warm as toast. Photo: Courtesy ODL-Design.
4K video for a project, courtesy Sony RX10iii. 

I'm a big fan of mirrorless cameras and an even bigger fan of cameras like the RX10iii which seem to be able to handle just about everything. But when a good client came to me and asked me to consult for their company about equipping a warehouse with an imaging system I made what might seem to be a contrary recommendation.

Here's the backstory: The client is a medical device manufacturer with offices on several continents. They have a wide range of products and an even wider range of replacement parts. Their warehouse needed a photographic solution that would allow them to shoot small to medium (smaller than a shoe box) products and parts on a shadowless, white background. The images would be uploaded and used on websites, and they wanted a solution that would not require post processing.

I researched and sourced a self contained light box. It's a box that's 30 x30 x30 inches in size, black on the outside and silver on the inside. There are two stripes of (quite good) LEDs across the top of the interior of the box and one can insert a white, plastic material as a cyc. There is a round opening in the front of the box that allows you to poke a lens through and shoot. It's a bigger and better version of the pop-up white light tents that some people use to shoot products destined for sale on Ebay.

The box is pretty much fool proof. We tested it today and the light, softened by a diffuser, is even and bright.

We also sourced a very inexpensive, Manfrotto tripod with a two axis head. It's not a big, carbon fiber Gitzo but it's adequate to hold the camera steady and, if handled with care, should last for a while.

Finally we come to the camera. Since we were working within a tight budget, and we needed a camera that was easy to operate and has straightforward menu, I opted to recommend the Canon T6. It's an inexpensive choice which, along with the 18-55mm kit lens, sells on Amazon for around $425-$450, depending on which sales and rebates are on offer. 

The camera is decidedly unsexy. But....it has an extremely uncomplicated menu system. It features 18 megapixels of resolution. It has a decent live view implementation. The kit lens is very decent and focuses down fairly close. It's very easy to train someone to use. And it's cheap.

Sometimes we forget that not every imaging situation demands an elegant and state-of-the-art solution. My client will dedicated this camera to the backroom of a warehouse in a city in a different state. We'll make a step-by-step chart for its use. It won't be seeing kids' soccer games, fast breaking Olympic sprint finals or fashion locations that feature Stygian darkness. It will spend it's life looking down on Flugal Joints and Bristom Arches; as well as mounting screws and radiation deflectors. Sitting happily on top of it's companion tripod, peeking furtively through the round window, onto the small white stage.

When someone calls and there is confusion about a product someone else will be able to put it into the box, turn on the camera and take an 8 or 4 megapixel Jpeg, and send a reasonably good and detailed photograph to the original someone to confirm that the part is or isn't what said someone requested.

My client spent about $700 for a complete imaging solution, carefully selected for ease of use, image quality and budget constraints. In this case the Canon camera was the wise choice. It is reliable, a good imager and has about 1/8th the number of menu items found in the typical Olympus or Sony camera. It's not difficult to see why people on tight budgets gravitate toward these cameras. They fill a need without the added encumbrance of pretentious spec-manship.

Would I own one? If my budget was under $500 for a good camera and lens system? You bet I would. And it would probably deliver images that would be fine for most work. Am I planning on minimizing my photo footprint to this distilled level of gear? Not on your life.

14 comments:

Nigel said...

Seems a pretty sensible choice.
I'd probably go for one of the cheaper Panasonics personally, with either the kit lens on a short extension tube or the cheap Olympus 30mm macro if budget allowed. M4/3 is excellent for small product photography.

Alex said...

Its the sign of a good sales Person to find the perfect solution for The customer, not to recommend what one thinks is best. That mich I learned in 25 yeats pf working retail.

Wally said...

As Ansel Adams said “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it!”

Anonymous said...

I think the T6 lacks auto sensor cleaning. Probably not a big deal if they don't change lenses. I had an SL1 with the kit STM lens that I've since replaced with a Panasonic GX85 for travel. But that SL1 was a great camera and the images were just fine.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a really useful review. Can you give the name of the source/company of the 30x30x30 light box? That would be appreciated - - as my Google search so far has yielded no such tent? Thank you. rs

Kirk Tuck said...

I have added the light box to the end of the article.

Brigham Brown said...

"I have added the light box to the end of the article."

It is not showing on my screen even after a few refresh cycles and a re-boot of the computer.

Brigham Brown said...

"I have added the light box to the end of the article."

Can't get it to come up. Have refreshed a number of times as well as re-booted.

Kirk Tuck said...

BB, If you are using an RSS feed to read the blog it may be blocking the amazon info at the bottom. Suggest you try coming to the blog directly and selecting the post and reading it on the blog. Most people who have difficulties seeing appended ads are coming from readers which blog the ads since they don't get revenue from any click throughs.

Brigham Brown said...

Kirk, can you just name it? I don't know what an RSS is. I am on a computer hooked up to the Internet with a very slow connection and no alternative method of seeing the page. I have it bookmarked and open it up every day and check what you have published. Beyond that - I'm lost.

Russ Goddard said...

I see the Amazon ad - but the largest size appears to be 24x24.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi BB, on Amazon it is called: Fovitec StudioPRO - 24 Inch LED Product Photo Light Tent Kit - [24"x24"x24"][65W][6500 Lumens][Backdrops, Diffisuer, and Power Adapter Included] Here is a link: https://www.amazon.com/Fovitec-StudioPRO-Backdrops-Diffisuer-Included/dp/B01M8JAXNM/ref=as_sl_pc_as_ss_li_til?tag=thev0c1-20&linkCode=w00&linkId=2e52534a9e02a0ddffd4054b3280e27c&creativeASIN=B01M8JAXNM

And, I stand corrected. It's is a 24 inch by 24 inch size, not 30 by 30. Sorry about that.

Brigham Brown said...

Kirk,

Thank you for putting the information here. Went to a neighbors farm and the information does not show below the article on his computer either. He has satellite internet and I have a phone line. His isn't much faster than mine and costs 3 times as much and loses contact in the rain, snow and heavy cloud cover.

Anthony Collins said...

I think a smaller sensor wins for product shots due to greater depth of focus. For stuff I ebay I hung on to a Canon G12