Friday, October 30, 2009

Cameras and photography

When I return to Ukenzagapia I am planning to bring a digital camera for each of my field assistants and spend a few days teaching them the basics of how to use their cameras and how to take good photos. One of them used to have a film camera so he's got some experience with photography and one has a simple camera phone. I think it will benefit them as individuals, the other scientists they work with, and my research if they know how to take good photographs and have the equipment to do so.

There are several considerations involved in getting cameras for them.
  1. Durability. If it breaks, they aren't going to bring it somewhere to get it repaired. If they can do it themselves, great. If not, they might as well not have a camera.
  2. Batteries. I'm leaning towards one that uses AAs, even though I don't prefer that myself. If they use AAs, I can also give them some rechargables and hopefully a solar charger. The AAs can be used for other things if needed. One assistant doesn't have electricity at home. Giving them a camera that eats alkaline batteries will not help them because batteries are expensive.
  3. Screen size. Bigger is better. It would be wonderful to get them newer cameras with larger screens so they can more easily assess the quality of their photographs and share them with someone else without downloading them.
  4. Memory card size. They need as much memory as I can get them because neither one has a computer and they also have very limited computer access. They're primarily going to be looking at photos on the camera. I'll probably need to print photos for them occasionally.
  5. Quality. I don't mean megapixels. 4 megapixels would be more than enough. I just want it to take good pictures under low light conditions with at least one macro setting and some optical zoom.
My original plan was to try to find used cameras, but now I'm leaning more towards buying each of them a new/refurbished but inexpensive camera if it meets the above considerations. Then they could have the same camera, which would help them teach each other to use the different features.

Do any of my readers have a suggestion for a camera that meets most or all of these criteria? An older digital camera model that you loved, perhaps?

I'd also like to give them each a book about displaying (more than explaining) basic concepts of good composition and techniques in photography. A lot of text will be useless to them, but illustrations priceless. Does anyone have any recommendations? It can be tiny, like 12 pages or something. Perhaps I could even print out some pages from the internet. Ideally I'd just like to avoid reinventing the wheel and create my own photography teaching materials.


penn said...

Kodak has some old but really awesome books that really explain photography. I know there's a pamphlet style one . . . somewhere in my house. I'm not at home right now (won't be until after Thanksgiving) as I'm living in Maine doing environmental ed. But I can look for it if you don't find something by then, and I can scan in the pages for you. It's really small but truly excellent.

Also, the joy of photography is a great book, but it's more than you need. Maybe you can scan in/copy just one chapter or two?

I keep meaning to post a basic, comprehensive approach to photography on my own blog, but I haven't gotten around to it. Maybe once I'm done with my EE commitment? I anticipate having more time when I'm not working from 8 am to 9 pm M-F.

Eugenie said...

Olympus makes the Stylus SW series. They're waterproof and shock proof. Mine has taken hits to pavement more then I care to remember. And by waterproof, I mean I was taking it into the water with me in the Galapagos.

They don't take AA. But they are ridiculously durable.

Mine is a Stylus 720SW... I bet you could find used ones pretty cheap.

If you want to get macro shots, you're probably better off getting a dSLR. If you're going that route, make sure you get a model that has the autofocus in the lens, not the body- it'll be easier to fix (swap out for another lens) then if it breaks in the body. There are companies that make cases if you were concerned about accidents.

My D60 is pretty good for a wide-range of shots. The price for the body has dropped ~$400 and it's more camera then you would probably need.

I could talk about cameras all day... send me an email if you want to chat more....

Karina said...

Any of those things would be awesome, penn! I'll check out the joy of photography and see if I can use some of that.

Karina said...

Thanks Eugenie! I have a Stylus 850 SW that has served me well. The waterproofness has really come in handy. I love that I don't have to worry about it getting wet. For non-wet purposes, I don't like it as much as the Canon PowerShot series (we had one that we loved until the screen suddenly broke after we lent it to a friend...).

My Olyumpus Stylus 850 has 3 different macro settings that work well enough. A dSLR is more than necessary for my field assistants. I'm hoping to spend $100 max per camera so I'll definitely check out used Styluses. Thanks!