Thread: camera advice

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    Default camera advice

    I am looking for a digital camera for fire investigation. Is there a preferred brand and/or model by anyone here? Any brands perform better in the dark than others?

    Thanks in advance.....

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    There are many choices. Check out http://www.photo.net for information on cameras.

    A lot depends on your needs and how much you want to spend. A low end camera in the hands of a skilled photographer will give better results than a high end camera in the hands of some one who does not know how to use it properly.

    We use digital and film for investigations. Currently the Chief and I use a Canon IS-2S http://www.canon.co.jp/imaging/pss2is/spec-e.html. The FMO also has a Pentax K-1000 (one of the classics) for film. Any camera will work in low light with the proper flash.
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    I am currently using an Olympus E-Volt 500 and have shot about 10-15000 images with it so far. It failed once when it inadvertently got soaked. Other than that, I love it.

    I used a Pentax K-1000 for years. I still have one. It is simply impossoble to break that camera. The only thing is that the camera is totally manual. There are no automatic settings. You have to know a little about photography in order to use the camera effectively.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    Keep the Canon G7/G9 and Nikon Coolpix 5000/5100 in mind if the budget allows ($300-$500 range). Each is 10+ megapixel, and can take an external flash and wide-angle/zoom lens accessories if the stock zoom won't do. Since they have auto and manual modes, they are a great option without jumping into a full-on SLR.

    http://www.usa.canon.com/consumer/co...&modelid=15669

    http://www.nikon.ca/en/Product.aspx?m=16659

    The toughest thing about investigation shots are the dark conditions and low contrast surfaces. Built in flashes are OK for this in-close, but useless over 15-20 feet. An accessory flash will allow you to shoot out to 60 feet with decent illumination, and far better coverage when trying to shoot wide angle up close. If you want to get really fancy, you can buy a remote flash and illuminate from two angles for best results.

    But if you don't need exceptional performance, any little brand name point and shoot will do, but a water resistant case and high resolution is desirable.

    I currently have a Canon 10D SLR for my personal camera, and you can't beat the quality, but I plan to pick up a G9 this year for the dept. Smaller, lighter, and cheaper if it does get ruined, with 80% of the photographic capability.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcaldwell View Post
    Keep the Canon G7/G9 and Nikon Coolpix 5000/5100 in mind if the budget allows ($300-$500 range). Each is 10+ megapixel, and can take an external flash and wide-angle/zoom lens accessories if the stock zoom won't do. Since they have auto and manual modes, they are a great option without jumping into a full-on SLR.

    http://www.usa.canon.com/consumer/co...&modelid=15669

    http://www.nikon.ca/en/Product.aspx?m=16659

    The toughest thing about investigation shots are the dark conditions and low contrast surfaces. Built in flashes are OK for this in-close, but useless over 15-20 feet. An accessory flash will allow you to shoot out to 60 feet with decent illumination, and far better coverage when trying to shoot wide angle up close. If you want to get really fancy, you can buy a remote flash and illuminate from two angles for best results.

    But if you don't need exceptional performance, any little brand name point and shoot will do, but a water resistant case and high resolution is desirable.

    I currently have a Canon 10D SLR for my personal camera, and you can't beat the quality, but I plan to pick up a G9 this year for the dept. Smaller, lighter, and cheaper if it does get ruined, with 80% of the photographic capability.
    Good point about the flash. The need for an accesory flash knocks out the point and shoot cameras, no matter how smart.

    Another type of flash you may want to consider is a ring flash. I don't have one, but I have seen them used effectively while shooting macro shots of evidence. The main advantage is even lighting with no shadows. They cost a decent buck, though.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    The best camera is the one you feel most comfortable with. I would recommend going to a camera store and looking at a number of different cameras. Are you looking for something simple like a "point and shoot" or are you looking for a camera with interchangeable lens (an SLR). You want it to feel comfortable in your hands and well balanced and light, especially if you are going to be holding it for a long time. You also want to look at how the controls are laid out. Are they easy to understand and easy to see, especially in low light conditions. And once you have your camera, practice using it. Take photos in dark conditions, take close up (macro) photos, get a feeling for the camera so that when it comes time to use it in an investigation you won't have to go to the instruction manual each time.

    My department issued me a Canon "point and shoot" which I hate. My preference in Nikon but I am not close minded to other manufacturers because I keep my mind open and take into consideration not only the things I've mentioned but also what my other colleagues have mentioned above.

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    More good points. Practicing with the camera not only lets you get used to how it works, but it also will give you a good idea of what it will do and what it won't do.

    There is a definite place in fire investigation for point and shoot cameras. Let's face it, for 90% of the jobs we do, we do not need any special effects or super lighting. The point and shoot will work great. However, when it comes to the 10% where a SLR with detachable flash and special settings is required, that point and shoot will not cut it.

    For a good primer on fire scene documentation and digitial photogrpahy, go to the IAAI sponsored http://www.cfitrainer.net/ CFI Trainer. Unlike many of the websites touted on fh.com, there is absolutely no fee for any of the programs on this site. Register and complete the Digital Photography program and you will have a much better understanding of the ins and outs of the use of digital imaging in fire investigation.

    Also, rumor has it that there is an intensely good-looking guy interviewed on the "Documenting the Scene" program.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI View Post
    I am currently using an Olympus E-Volt 500
    I just ordered the E-510 for my own use. The E series looks like a decent camera for a first time DSLR user like myself and all have high reviews from users and the photo magazines.

    We have found digital pictures invaluable for both incident reviews and in investigations. We often provide incident pictures to the insurance adjuster or investigator. I have gotten into the habit of snapping a couple of pictures of a fire as soon as I get on scene.
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    thanks to everyone for the advice, i knew i came to the right place!! i did complete the digital camera training on the iaai website and will be taking the rest of the courses in the near future, excellent FREE training, thanks for the tip.......

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    Default Camera advice

    Lots of good advice on the cameras. Looking for a durable digital camera with external flash that can handle the fire scene. Steam, water, ash and all of the ordinary elements that exsist immediately after the fire is knocked down. Suggestions...?

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    Quote Originally Posted by csfa451 View Post
    Lots of good advice on the cameras. Looking for a durable digital camera with external flash that can handle the fire scene. Steam, water, ash and all of the ordinary elements that exsist immediately after the fire is knocked down. Suggestions...?
    Yeah. None of them.

    You have to learn how to protect your digital camera from that stuf. All digital cameras are electronic devices that do not react well with those materials.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    Olympus makes (2) point and shoot digital cameras that are so-called waterproof and shock-proof. They are 7.1 mega pixel cameras....any opinion about those?

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    I have the Olympus 770 SW that is waterproof to 33 ft (1 atm) and shockproof and crush proof to 225 lbs. I bought this camera for its durability, and keep it in my bunker coat inside a case with relative reassurance that it will last me awhile and not succomb to damage due to fire scene activities. The image quality is on par with regular small point & shoot cameras, but nowhere near that of an SLR digital camera. Also, it has a limited optical zoom, and no external flash capabilities. These photographic traits do not lend themselves for it to be used as an investigative camera.

    For investigations my agency uses the Cannon Digital Rebel XT. Prior to converting to digital photography, the regular Rebel was used, making the transition easier for other investigators. This camera offers external flash, and changeable lenses characteristic of DSLR cameras. Also, the film Rebel's are still carried as a backup for use during investigations, and the interchangeability of parts is a nice issue.

    Basically any SLR will take minor abuse at a fire scene, key word minor. Don't drop it, place it in front of a hose stream, and try not to change lenses inside the scene itself and with dirty hands and you should be okay to get a decent lifespan out of your camera.

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    Default Cameras

    Very good discussion here, I prefer Canon, I use one I paid maybe $250 for and I love it, especially the quality of photos/prints and the rare need for extra flash. George brings up an excellent point about practice, I use mine frequently off the job to try new things and just try to improve. The biggest thing is to just be comfortable with what you are using and take care of it. The department paid big bucks for a new Nikon which I'm very uncomfortable with, and find it too big and cumbersome, but I'm trying to learn how to use it. The chief is fine with me using mine for now, as he said "whatever works best".

    One other good deal I worked out. The folks at WalMart pretty much give me instant printing service for photos, I can go there while the scene remains secured, get quick printing sometimes in five minutes or less, and go reshoot anything I'm not happy with. WalMart has been really decent to our department over the years. The only issue is if the pics involve a fatality or something sensitive, if I don't get one of a few specific techs, I'll take them to another place for printing. Had a bad experience a few years ago with a photo tech and some comments he made after I'd had photos developed in his establishment.

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    Great comments.

    I just picked up the Canon DSLR XTI. It is easy to use and takes excellent photos.

    thanks for the good info.

    mp
    Detective M. Porras, CFI-CFEI
    Glendale, California

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    I have heard a lot of great things about the Nikon P5100. It is not a DSLR but it does have a hot shoe for an addition flash, which you will want for about any fire scene. I believe it is around $350 and a nikon flash will cost about the same. Check out www.dpreview.com for anything you would want to know about a digital camera on the market.

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    We have a couple older Sony digital point-n-shoots. but are getting ready to buy a Sony A-100 DSLR with all the "toys". We are sticking with Sony as all of our older equipment (video & still) is Sony and it will save us having to buy new chargers, readers, batteries and cards.

    I like the idea of checking out different models/brands at a camera shop. But for me, the most important thing would be ease of use. Probably not a good idea to buy a top of the line DSLR unless you have some kind of photography background.
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    Old post but something to think about if you're in Private investigations or Public.

    For investigation I use the Canon SLR 40D, but it not really within the price range you might be looking for. With two lenses it's around $1500. Before in our company we're using the Canon Rebel XTi SLR and the pics were good, but once the Insurance adjusters saw our reports with pictures from the 40D camera they noticed the difference. The clarity of SLR cameras are on par with film cameras now, and in my area of investigation the point and shoot clarity just doesn't cut it. People say it's the photographer that makes the photo, but somethings a point and shoot doesn't pick up in a photo, a SLR will.

    Really, if you're in the private field of investigation I'd recommend picking up a good SLR digi camera and flash, but if you're within the Fire Service, there's not as big a push to get one and a good point and shoot digi will be fine. They are also easier to carry around in your gear and tougher than a SLR digi. I've had a few Canon's and am bias cause they take amazing photos, but the same goes for Nikon etc. It's just personal preferece.

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