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dptolemy

Tech upgrade advice, please.

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Hi Brian,

My wife is a artist, and together we are launching a website that will include photos of her acrylic-on-canvas paintings and videos as well. We will sell prints of her paintings online. 

Thing is, all I have at the moment is a Lumix 16.1 mp pocket camera and an iPhone 7. 

I am taking Damien’s wonderful  class and learning to use Bridge. I have a 27” 2013 iMac on Catalina and have purchased Adobe Elements 2020. 

These photos and prints need to look terrific and I know I know we need some serious equipment to get on with it. 
And yes we are on a budget. 

Can you please recommend a camera that will serve our needs?  AlsoI hope my iMac will suffice for now for editing (32 GB memory, NVIDIA Geforce GTX 775M 2 GB card, 3.4 GHz quad-core i5 processor). A new iMac will have to wait, unless this turns out to be unusable. 
 

i am using my iPad as another monitor to take Damien’s class, and plan to buy a laptop in the future (a MacBook Pro 13” should be OK?)
 

Thanks for taking time to answer, Brian. I really appreciate your teaming up with Damien to provide such a valuable resource. 
 

David

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Well, taking still photos of acrylic paintings won't cost you much in terms of camera, you can do it even with a used body. The more important factor with product photography is actually a lighting system and background / backdrop that works for you. Now of course, good glass is still good glass, but you shouldn't have to fork out major $$$$ to get the results that you are looking for. I'm assuming something better than what a iPhone could take.

The tricky part is video. That complicates things. Not only for stills, but for whatever video that you are trying to accomplish. Need more info on this. Plus, don't forget, editing video can be taxing on a computer when you edit, so we will need to keep things in perspective.

Also, before I start rambling on, what kind of budget are we working with?

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Thanks Brian,


My foremost concern with the camera is the ability to blow up a photo of Nicole’s art to make a large print, without negatively affecting the quality of the painting. I think I need a lot of ppi, no?

Can you please recommend a good camera and lens that will perform this simple task?  I will pay whatever I have to in order to get professional quality prints.

As you can tell, I am a complete noob with regard to photography but I am a fast learner. 

Regarding the video, I think I will be able to make do with the iPhone, as that will involve simple recorded conversations to be pasted into the website.  

Thanks again!

David
 

 

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10 minutes ago, dptolemy said:

My foremost concern with the camera is the ability to blow up a photo of Nicole’s art to make a large print, without negatively affecting the quality of the painting. I think I need a lot of ppi, no?

I'll answer this part.  No.  You only ever need your resolution to be such that the pixels are small enough to reproduce the smallest detail of your wife's brush work.  And on canvas, this is not very small at all.

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Thanks Damen!

Edited by dptolemy
Wrong person!

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I agree with Damien. Honestly? Any camera that's 12MP or higher will suffice. So any of today's modern cameras will do. 24MP will be more than enough, and you could go as low as 16MP.

Speaking of Megapixels, the more your camera body has, the better the lenses you will need to buy. Those don't come cheap. In addition, you will also need a tripod and tripod head, with a remote trigger, to take the sharpest photos due to camera shake. Yes, the higher the MP, the more camera shake becomes noticeable. So if you do use the camera hand-held, I usually recommend a shutter speed of 2-3 over the focal length of the lens. For example say you are at 200mm. Back in the film days or when camera sensors had less MP, you could get away with a shutter speed of 1/200th or 1/250th of a second. Now with a camera sensor that's 45MP or higher, I'd say that number needs to be at least 1/500th of a second, or use a lens that has Vibration Reduction / Image Stabilization to cover this issue.

So let's talk cameras bodies first...
 

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Since you haven't specified an actual budget and are will pay "whatever it takes" that opens up a lot to interpretation. Bear in mind, when you purchase a certain brand, not only are you buying a camera body, you are also buying into a system of lenses. Both Nikon and Canon rule the roost in this regard, with Sony slowly catching up as time goes on.

When someone asks this question, my 2nd answer is, try to find a local camera store to give a few bodies a test drive. Hold them. See what feels better in your hands. It doesn't have to be the exact camera model you will ultimately end-up buying, unless you have a camera store nearby that has pro-grade bodies on display. If all you have access to is a local big-box store that has consumer grade stuff, that will have to suffice. Normally, the pro-grade models just have more features and external controls, along with better weather sealing than their consumer-level counterparts. The pro-grade bodies also tend to be a bit heavier because the camera's frame is more robust. But the overall operation between consumer / pro worlds is similar; though you know when you are shooting with pro-grade stuff...and it's REALLY hard to go from using a Pro Body to a Consumer Body, as it feels like you are shooting with a toy when you do this. Anyway...

Go thru the menu system. Poke around. Some people have no problems shooting with Canon bodies, or Sony models. For me, I'm a Nikon shooter as I can not stand Canon's Menu System of Symbols, I'd rather read text and menus. Sony's are a little more like Nikon bodies, but their menus are a bit more confusing. They really need to simplify things. So in terms of a camera body that has great resolution, can do video and would be great for product photography, I'd say a Nikon D850. Or if you are looking for something lighter, even a Nikon Z6 would work. Especially if you really want to shoot video. Even though my D850 does decent video, I honestly can say if I had to do it all over again, I would have bought a Z6. But my needs for travel and landscape photography are different than for your product photography. So please take that into consideration. For the Canon side, I'd have to recommend a Canon 5D Mark IV, which is a D850 equivalent.

Believe it or not, your life will be much easier if you shoot video with your phone. You can edit video with Apps and won't have to use software to convert the video Raw files for something that can be posted on YouTube or FB. So if all  you are looking is to provide Highlight and Items for Sale clips, a Smart Phone works really well. 

Next up, Lenses...

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It's no secret...if you want to make your images look better and be sharper when first exporting into ACR, you need better lenses than what you get with kit lenses. Yes, there is a difference between a pro-grade $1800-$2000 lens and one that is only a couple hundred dollars. For your situation, I'm having a bit of trouble deciding if you should buy a zoom lens or not. Zoom adds flexibility to be able to adjust for different size artwork. That said, a prime lens will always be sharper and since this is going to be in a studio-type of environment, you can control things by just adjusting where your camera is placed. Here are the lenses I would purchase if you did buy a D850:

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Lens - This lens is the latest version for traditional Nikon DSLR bodies. I was forced to purchase this lens due to my D850. The reason is two things. One, it has VR which helps counteract the camera shake when hand-holding a D850, the other is around the edges and corners, the image is sharper overall. With the older 24-70G, that lens was fine in the center, but complete crap along the edges with the D850. I had to always bump up my shutter speed to keep images sharp. So for cameras that are 24MP or less, you technically do not need lenses that have VR / IS for the shorter focal lengths, 14mm - 70mm, but once you go above 40MP, you really need them to have this feature. (40MP-60MP+) Especially if you want to use silly shutter speeds such as 1/60th or 1/100th of a second. (/end sarcasm.)

Edit: One quick thought, if you do purchase a Nikon Z6 or Z7, please purchase a NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Lens to go with either of those Nikon Mirrorless bodies. That Z version of the 24-70 was designed for the Mirrorless bodies and is A LOT sharper than the classic 24-70 f/2.8G / 24-70 f/2.8 VR E lens. It's Nikon's sharpest 24-70 lens to date.

For a Nikon Prime Lens, and one I think you will end up buying, is the new Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED Lens. That lens is Super Sharp and the compression from that focal length is very good for product photography.

For the Canon equivalent, I'd pick the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. Please be sure to purchase the VERSION II of this lens if you decide to go  the Canon route. The orignal version was plagued with problems and I know several photographers both online and IRL that couldn't trust their version one 24-70 lenses on a gig. They just suck. Version II however, is the "fixed version" and is quite reliable. 

The other Canon lens I'd buy for your situation, as far as a prime goes, would be the Canon 135mm f2 L lens. Both the 100/105 & 135mm focal lengths are good for product photography and the Canon 135 is a sharp lens. I wish Nikon would update their super-sharp 135mm lens, but they seem to be more focused on Mirrorless now.

Up next: Tripods.

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There is an old saying, you can buy a Tripod that has three things...

  1. Study
  2. Cheap
  3. Lightweight

...Pick Two.

Meaning, you can have one that is study and lightweight, but it won't be cheap. Or you can have a cheap and lightweight model, but it won't be sturdy. For your situation, I'd recommend a set of Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 Aluminum Tripod legs and Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ballhead You could go with a Manfrotto XPRO Magnesium Ball Head with 200PL-14 Quick Release Plate to save some cash, but my vote is for the RRS BH-40.

The cool part with the 055X Tripod Legs is the center column you can pop it all the way up and then set it to a horizontal mode, which would be great for shooting things on a table, or when you need to set your camera to shoot downward / horizontally. Plus, it's really sturdy and holds a decent amount of weight. The only part I do not like is the quick-release plate as I've owned both a RRS BH-40 Head and several Manfrotto Ball Heads. The Manfrotto quick release plate works decently enough, but there is a difference using a Arca-Type Plate System. So instead of changing your mind down the road and having to re-purchase a couple of quick-release mounting plates, my vote goes for the RRS BH-40 and pickup something like a ProMediaGear PBND850 Bracket Plate or better yet, a ProMediaGear L-Bracket for Nikon D850. Those two plates also have Canon equivalents and really mount to the camera body without twisting at all.

My favorite saying when I recommend things is "Buy it Right - Buy it Once" for both Computers / Laptops AND Camera gear. The phrase of, "...it's just as good as..." really kills your wallet eventually. Believe me, I have the receipts to prove it.

So before I start rambling on about lighting systems, I think the next thing you should do is make a camera purchase and let me know when you do. Then we can tackle lights. :)

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Brian, you are awesome.  Thank you so much for all your recommendations.  I will be buying a Nikon with the appropriate lenses and take all of your advice...as soon as I can!

In the meantime, notwithstanding your favorite saying, I am forced to do what I can to get our website up ASAP. 

That means buying a (relative) toy to get me started, in this case a Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR with an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS ll and a EF75/300 lll lens.

I hope you can tell me it will take decent enough pics for our endeavor until we start making enough $$ to buy the Right Stuff.  I will wait to hear from you.

Your gracious care and attention to my questions do not go unappreciated.  You have made me very excited about this  field, and I look forward to a whole new world of experience.

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Well, see that's why I was asking about a budget. This Sh*t is expensive, especially for the pro-grade stuff, which will run you thousands. I wouldn't buy the Canon T7 DSLR kit, if you are going to go the Canon route, I would get a T7 and a Canon 24-105mm f/4 L II lens. Remember, for high-quality & sharp photographs, it's all about the lens, and a 18-55 kit lens just isn't going to cut it. That said, if money is an issue, and that's all you can afford, so be it. More than likely you are going to be shooting at f/5.6 anyway. 

Remember, it's about the system you are buying into. If you are a Canon shooter, that's fine. Just don't buy a Nikon system because I said that's what I shoot with. So really think about what Camera will fit the best in your hands and which menu system your brain clicks with. I'm a Nikon shooter.

So before getting the tripod, which should be your second main purchase drop a note so we can get you the right quick-release plate.

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I like the Nikon D3500. Will the Canon 24-105 fit on that body, or what would be the comparable lens?
Thank you. 

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Yeah, I was going to say, if you are ultimately going to purchase a D850, you might as well start out with a lower end Nikon body, so the menus and controls will be familiar. No, the Canon 24-105 will not work on a Nikon body. The equivalent lens, is the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR Lens. The good news is the 24-120 VR is a "Full Frame Lens," so you will be able to use it on a D850, which makes it more of an investment or a lens that could be sold for something better and more expensive. But in reality, if you are selling paintings and canvases, chances are you do not need to spend thousands on a lens the 24-120 VR might just do the trick. Especially if you are just selling on FB or other social media platforms.

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I just thought of this: Nikon D5600 DSLR Camera (Body Only). So instead of buying a model that has multiple lenses that you may not use, why not get the next model up and a 24-120 VR? Granted, it increases your budget but it is something to take into consideration.

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Thanks Brian. I will visit the camera shop and see which brand works for me. Then I will purchase the Canon glass you recommend, or its Nikon equivalent. Got to have those sharp photos!

I will let you know. Thanks again. 

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Yes!  I live in Olympia WA. Do you recommend ordering from B&H?

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Already ordered from B&H. 
Thanks again Brian. 

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2 hours ago, dptolemy said:

Do you recommend ordering from B&H?

That's where I buy all my stuff. The Pros do too. ;)

Which Brand did you choose?

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Thanks Brian. I will visit the camera shop and see which brand works for me. Then I will purchase the Canon glass you recommend, or its Nikon equivalent. Got to have those sharp photos!

I will let you know. Thanks again. 

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Got the D5600 (body only) and the 24-120 f/4g ED VR lens. 

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I’m ready to order the tripod and ball mount and plate. I assume I will need a different L-bracket for the D5600 from the one you recommended for the D850?
Really appreciate your help Brian. 

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Hi Brian, I’m back!  And ready for your lighting recommendations.  I tried being creative at home and wound up with horrible results.  
Can you please tell me what I need in the way of lighting to get the crisp, focused results I need?  I know I’ll have to spend an arm, but maybe save my leg?

Thanks Brian.

 

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So really, where did we leave off? I looked over this thread and we first were talking about lenses, then lighting. Your main subject matter was paintings of some kind, yes? So bring me up to speed, WHAT did you attempt that made "Horrible Results." What camera / lens combo were you shooting with and did you use a tripod at all? Lighting will be one portion of the whole thing, but we need to make sure the other components are also good.

Simply put, WHAT did you do? An inquiring mind wants to know. :)

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