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Post  Cal on Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:04 pm

G'day all. Does anyone have any recommendations on what models of digital camera are good for photographing gold nuggets. I don't want to go up to the SLR range (i.e. I want to stay in the 'compact camera' price range). Eight or nine years ago I had a terrific model with a macro lens (either a Ricoh or Canon, can't remember now) and paid about $300 for it at the time (I regretfully sold this a couple of years after purchase).

In a camera shop today (same one I purchased my earlier camera) I was told I would need to pay about $450 for one that will produce images comparable to my old one (apparently needs a 1cm field with true macro lens), and that the earlier cameras (mine included) required higher quality lenses because back then 'smart imaging technology' had not advanced to where it has today (this technology now used is supposed to 'compensate' for the use of poorer quality lenses in these more recent models - yeah right -pigs fly to the moon on a daily basis too). This seems to be an example of where improving technology does not necessarily lead to lower prices.

Any help appreciated. Nero, the quality of your photos has always been exceptional (you seem to be able to capture the various yellows found in gold across different locations, do you mind me asking whether you use an SLR, or a cheaper compact? I know some crystal gold I have will present a challenge with its very high reflectivity.

Cheers, Cal
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Post  nero_design on Thu Mar 31, 2011 4:06 pm

Hi Cal, a detailed reply is on the way... will try to get it posted later this evening for you.

Cheers!

M
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Post  tricky 1 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 4:26 pm

cal. i have just bought a pentax optio rz10 for $289 from complete photographics. it has 1 cm macro and works very well , i will post a photo of some crystaline gold as soon as i work out how. regards. tricky.
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Post  nero_design on Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:20 am

Cal wrote:
....Any help appreciated. Nero, the quality of your photos has always been exceptional (you seem to be able to capture the various yellows found in gold across different locations, do you mind me asking whether you use an SLR, or a cheaper compact? I know some crystal gold I have will present a challenge with its very high reflectivity....


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These are the three cameras I've been using most often. I recently sold the larger one on eBay. It looks big in this picture but was dwarfed by a DSLR if you held them side by side. The G11 and the S95 are the main two cameras that I use today.

Hi Cal,
I don't use DSLR although they usually take a good photograph on their own. My wife likes to use them and the benefit of a DSLR is that they can take a good quality image with very little noise in low light. But DSLRs are heavy, cumbersome and expensive if you want to use a decent lens. I always use a compact digital and they've come a long way in the last few years alone. Megapixel count means nothing as long as it's over 4MP (should you wish to print the image). I wear a compact camera in a pouch on my hip every single day, wherever I am out.

I worked as a professional film maker for almost 20 years and even spent a small amount of time (2 years) simultaneously helping an acquaintance who ran a camera store. Statistically, you've probably got a few of my movies on your DVD video shelf at home. I earn a small portion of my taxable income selling autographs and signing merchandise for films I have worked on. When i purchased my first digital compact camera in around 2001, I was immediately able to use it to capture textures and backgrounds for use in my work projects. I took pictures everywhere and anywhere and found it to be great fun to try and capture something interesting to the eye... even if I was the only one to appreciate it. Eventually, the textures and Images photographed were used in backgrounds and to create visual effects in film. The froth from my morning cup of coffee became clouds over the planet Earth that I was creating for a movie ...and trees and rockfaces shot from a moving car on a drive up to the central coast assisted me in creating artificial backgrounds for a television show. Pictures I took of lighthouses, cats and ocean waves etc even ended up on Bookcovers from time to time. So digital cameras have been very useful to me and I certainly enjoy capturing images of gold when the opportunity arises and it's not always easy to do if the lighting is poor.

During my time as a film designer, I purchased one of the earliest all-metal compact digital cameras put out by Canon... the first 'IXUS' to be precise. It was fairly primitive with a meager 2.1x optical zoom and just 2 megapixels in resolution (and it was VERY noisy in terms of picture grain) but I got a few 'Keepers' out of it. As better models were released every few years, I bought newer cameras if they met my requirements which are as follows:

* Must have a 28mm wide capability.
* Must have at least 3x optical zoom.
* Must have a good macro capability.
* Must be over 4MP (they all are these days).
* Must be capable of producing natural colors.
* Should take good shots in low light.
* Should have good 'Dynamic Range' if possible.


If you want to take action pictures or sport related photography, then a DSLR would be better.

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Canon G11 alongside an iPod Touch for scale.
This series of PowerShot camera from Canon is as good as it gets for me. It's one of the best Compact Digitals at the moment. The current model is the G12. It's a little larger than a Subcompact Digital though it takes a better shot in my opinion due to the larger HQ lens and imaging sensor. The internal DiGiC! processor inside these cameras does quite a bit of work to produce a decent image and the camera is still half the size of a small DSLR and a third the size of a larger one.

Photographing gold - Nero Large
Taken with the G11, this picture of my wife with the GPX-5000 utilized sunlight that was reflecting off the wood of the Cabin in front of her. It was necessary to use a light reflector as well... or she'd would have ended up as a silhouette with the sun behind her. Light reflectors are a folding metallic fabric that can be used just in instances like this one. I may have set the bounce-flash on LOW for this shot (or not at all)... I can't remember. We were still pretty excited because we dug a LOT of gold on a friends property that morning.

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For both shots above, I used an external flash (mounted on the camera) which was directed at the ceiling. The use of a flash in this manner reduces the chance of a harshly lit subject and heavy shadows. Again, the macro setting was very important here. The camera that you can see in this picture is the Canon IXUS 870is and the same camera took the following picture of the lizard below. This camera has AMAZING closeup abilities of 1cm Macro distances - HOWEVER it took a soft and lousy picture when using the zoom and it often washed out images in bright light (Poor Dynamic Range) and created chromatic aberrations (in this case a sort of 'glow' effect) where there were areas of high contrast.... see the picture that made me put this camera down (and buy the s95 to use instead) HERE.

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Another benefit of a camera with a decent Macro is that you can capture great shots of wildlife up close.

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Shooting with the wrong White Balance setting may produce less color in the subject. In this case, I left the camera's WB set to "Cloudy" and the results were not ideal. This is the smaller of two nuggets that I found near Pyramul with the GPX-4500 in the same week.


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Here's a nice little nugget from Sofala that I photographed in the car whilst waiting at a set of traffic lights. Some of the reflected color is from the red shirt I was wearing at the time.

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When shooting under controlled conditions (usually indoors), you can always pop the camera on a tripod and use a longer shutter speed whilst lighting the subject manually. These Gold Doubloons from the 1700s were shot on my desk against black cardboard with a bounce-flash (turning the flash upwards so it bounces the light off the ceiling).

Photographing gold - Nero Large
This modern US Silver Dollar was shot in the same manner, but the frosted glass table was lit from below with a tube of blue neon light. The bounce-flash allowed for light on the ceiling to be reflected off the top of the coin. Shots like these require a low ISO setting on the camera and benefit greatly if you have a tripod at hand. In this case, I used a tripod and shot the coil close to the edge of the table so I could get the camera lens in close.

Photographing gold - Nero Large
Shooting against a white background will allow for nice contrast. In this case, I placed a sheet of thin paper in front of the flash to act as a diffuser. This had the result of eliminating all heavy shadows from the shot.


Photographing gold - Nero Large
The picture above shows the relative scale of a DSLR (the picture shows an SLR) next to my most recent camera (Canon s95). This shows how far digital compact cameras have come - the same features on the large camera are now on the little one! The Canon s95 is a fairly fully featured camera for it's size and you may not use all the manual settings that it offers. Any small compact camera from the Canon or Nikon family will probably suit your needs but note that the less you pay, the less quality you seem to get from a camera, no matter what the brand. Sony is good but I noticed a high rate of repairs for this brand plus a tendency for the Sony cameras to be 'cyan & magenta biased' - which means that the Sony cameras usually produced too much intensity when photographing blue colors etc. They may have changed in recent years though and some Canon cameras actually use Sony sensors.

In the end, you'll want to be able to take a sharp, clear picture with accurate color. The camera's today all have an Automatic White Balance built into them but if you are outside on a cloudy day or inside with white neon lights, you can often end up with strange colors. By manually resetting the White Balance you can capture the correct colors of the gold. I find white neon to be the least flattering to photograph gold or even skin tones in. Sunlight is usually the most flattering but don't shoot the nugget in direct sunlight - try holding in the shade with your hand and put your back to the sun. This is how professionals shoot opals too... with the sun over their shoulder, behind them.

Right now, I'm currently writing an article on 'photographing and selling gold' for a publication. I'm yet to finish some of the illustrations but I will be including some shots that show the lighting setups I like to use. You are right when you say that highly reflective gold like Crystal Gold may be hard to photograph so perhaps you should try using different types of environments and try shooting the specimen in different locations until you find the results you're looking for. You may find that a shady area on a sunny day offers the best lighting or that opening your curtains to splash a sliver of light on the area you are working on will do the trick. If your camera accepts an external flash, try to get one that has a swivel head so you can use the bounce-flash effect. If you use the built-in flash, try putting a piece of white paper over the flash... but reset your white-balance after you try a test shot or the color in your pictures will have a blue tinge to them.

Dynamic Range is where the camera captures detail in bright areas or shadowy areas in certain lighting conditions. For example, if it's a bright day, few compact cameras can capture detail in the shadows. A DSLR can often do this which is why they are popular - but cameras like the G11/G12 and the s95 from Canon have unusually good Dynamic Range which allows you to capture images closer to what the human eye sees.

Hope this is of some use to you. I was going to simply PM this directly to you but some other members might find it useful.
If you would like to compare cameras, read opinions, look at new models before they are released etc or simply peruse the personal reviews or simply look at what other people are choosing to buy, take a look here: http://www.dpreview.com ... I post under the same name of the Canon forums there (nero_design) and have been a member since 2003. I also like Nikon cameras and some Olympus cameras are very capable as well.

Even today, there's no perfect camera out there that does everything. But compact cameras have certainly come a long way these days and usually have image stabilization built in. I choose Canon products simply because I have found them to be good cameras with good image quality. You'll appreciate the difference in quality between a $300 camera and a $700 camera. Try to read as many reviews as you can for a particular model before you buy. In my experience it's the Negative issues raised in reviews that will reveal the limitations of any camera. The top camera for image quality in a compact digital is probably the Canon PowerShot G12 and the best quality for a subcompact could be any one of a number of current models. I am using the new Canon PowerShot s95 for my portable camera (it's a subcompact) and the ONLY thing I would have liked it to have is a closer-than-5cm macro. However, it takes EXCELLENT pictures and was listed as one of the 'ten most innovative electronic devices for 2010'. Its ability to shoot in low light means I should be able to capture the shots I need when prospecting in the bush.

I wrote a very long reply to another member here who asked me about buying a camera late last year and it would appear that I recommended him the s95 before I bought one myself. Seems I took recently my own advice for a change! If you are willing to spend a little bit of time with your compact camera, learning how to use it and how to play with the light, you can end up capturing shots like this one without an expensive DSLR.


Regards,

Marco


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Post  xenon on Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:49 am

Once again Nero....Excellent write up
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Post  kon61 on Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:14 am



G'day Nero.

Ahh Marco,you've outdone yourself once again.I'm glad that you didn't pm it.Excellent insight,Brilliant photography,superb write up.Once again thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us.

Cheers kon61.
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Post  Jonathan Porter on Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:55 am

Brilliant post Marco and absolutely first class photography. Cool Thank you very much for sharing what is obviously hard won knowledge, it is appreciated.

Jonathan
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Post  kiwijw on Fri Apr 01, 2011 3:02 pm

Yes....and your wifes almost as beautiful as the gold....LOL Laughing Laughing

Happy hunting

JW Cool
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Post  geof_junk on Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:08 pm

Nero you have demonstrated that a camera and a detector both can do amazing things when they have a good operator. Well done
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Post  Billsymo on Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:43 pm

Most digital cameras are actually crap at photographing gold because, of the fact the auto focus keeps adjusting making the photos blurry.
Jaycar have the ideal instrument and it takes beaut photos, however it is not a camera that can be used in the field.
it is an electronic microscope and not very expensive as compared to cameras.
It uses a usb port on your computer to take photos and is very good for viewing very small items and finding prickles in fingers.
It is Ideal if you wish to sell gold on Ebay because it makes the nuggets look real beaut.[img][/img][img][/img]
it is a Digitech model No. Qc3247 and has another number on it N287.
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Post  davsgold on Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:59 pm

Yeah Bill we got one awhile back, works quite well, a bit flimsy but for $25.00 on special at Aldi you can hardly complain. Also got one of their Ultra Sonic cleaners at the same time and it was about the same price, sure knocks the dirt out of the nuggies.

cheers dave
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Post  Cal on Sat Apr 02, 2011 5:31 pm

Nero, what can I say, wow, what a feast of great, easily understood, relevant information! You have provided insight into what has until now been lots of intimidating technical jargon. I haven’t posted sooner due to my spare time getting away while researching over the net armed with this new understanding. Thanks also for sharing with other members, I’m sure many will glean some gems of information as I have.

What a pity the Canon S95 does not have 1cm Macro capability, as you say there's no perfect camera out there that does everything.

The $450 camera I mentioned in my initial post (and the model my local store was quite determined to convince me was what I needed) is the Ricoh CX4. One review on this model (http://www.photographyblog.com/reviews/ricoh_cx4_review/image_quality/ ) claims the main drawback in terms of image quality is noise (noticeable as low as ISO 400 and becoming worse with increasing ISO). Seems very low? However, one function of interest may be the Dynamic Range mode; “.......apparently a great choice if you want to retain both the highlight and shadow areas. The drawback however is that DR images have noticeably less saturated colours than the Normal version, which more accurately matches the scene”.

Why I mention this is that ideally I am after a camera that will not only provide accurate images in terms of clarity and colour of gold at close range (as the human eye sees it), but in the case of specimens or nuggets with small amounts of host rock remaining in their cavities, a realistic image of host material as well. I think it is such a pity that so many specimens are eaten out by acid, so in some cases examples of natural gold from a location are lost forever, but I accept that this is what the market often demands. In the case of the Ricoh CX4, first is it reasonable to assume that this is an 'extra DR function' above what its peers have, and if so, is it fair to say that although Dynamic Range is enhanced, it may not reproduce accurate colour; particularly as gold itself presents a challenge; let alone dealing with the contrast against its host rock?

I think I’ll spend the extra $100-150 and go for the Canon PowerShot G12; for a long time I’ve often thought I’d like to get into landscape photography, it appears to be a superb piece of equipment able to be used productively by a beginner such as myself with a little dedication.

Tricky, I look forward to seeing some pics of your crystalline, IMHO, gold of that type is the sweetest of eye candy. I’ll also be interested of course in the images themselves; I hope you are happy with them. The issue of White Balance Nero raises, with my old camera years ago, I found best results by taking photos only on a sunny day, and only under one of those white/cream canvas market umbrellas, and only for a limited time each day (can’t remember when, but it was a window of only a few hours); if it was the wrong time of day or a cloudy day the gold would have a blue or flat copper tone. At the right time of the day I could however get quite realistic pics. Another thing I used to experiment with was displaying the nugget on a mirror (the thick glassed ones out of old Victorian/Edwardian dressers etc). The thickness of the glass quite dramatically separated the two images in the photo, allowing a 3D perspective to the nugget. One important thing I forgot to mention (so will add in this edit) is to place a black board/card behind the nugget (relative to position of camera) at right angles to the mirror. This is to avoid any external reflections from the mirror entering the image, this may affect the White Balance, so a little experimenting with the positioning of everything may be required, but is well worth the effort as the result can sometimes be quite stunning.

Bill, thanks for the heads up on Digital Microscopes! I never knew such a thing existed. I have a little hand held microscope (Mag X40) powered by hearing aid batteries and love looking at finds with it; so much detail of nuggets including type of wear and host minerals, even 0.1 grammers take you into another world. I purchased mine from Cordell Kent (Ballarat Gold Shop) for $25. To get such detail on puter file will be bonza.

Thanks guys, I never cease to be blown away by the knowledge shared on this forum. Keep up the great spirit.

Cal


Last edited by Cal on Sat Apr 02, 2011 5:58 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Add more info)
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Post  horseshoe on Sat Apr 02, 2011 5:49 pm

I had this shot taken a few weeks back. I really liked it. Great post Nero and excellent shots.

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Post  tricky 1 on Sat Apr 09, 2011 10:13 am

1st was with a panasonic dmc-tz10 and 2nd was with a pentax optio rz10. we will get them better when we learn to use the cameras. tricky 1.
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Post  tricky 1 on Sat Apr 09, 2011 10:38 am

a piece of wire gold.
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Post  geof_junk on Sat Apr 09, 2011 7:40 pm

I like the last shot. Great golden snake.
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Post  picknshuffle on Tue Jun 14, 2011 7:21 pm


Bump

Just because this is a very informative post for taking great shots of ur Gold.

many thnx to Nero for Great info and awesome pics.

cheers picknshuffle.

study
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Post  Rwork on Sun Jan 29, 2012 10:25 am

I like your post Nero and will put a link to it on the Australian metal detecting and relic hunting forum. Well done.

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