Best camera for night rail survey

Discussion in 'Photography' started by google, May 24, 2006.

  1. google

    google Guest

    My company are carrying out some railway survey work which involves
    photographing overhead line structures (the masts that hold the power
    lines up). This work can only be carried out at night when trains are
    not running. The results with our bog-standard digital camera are
    unsurprisingly rubbish.

    Can anyone recommend a camera that will:

    - take sharp images of steelwork between 5 and 10 metres away
    - not need the use of a tripod (too slow)
    - be reasonably weatherproof (optional)
    - cost not unadjacent to £/$500

    TIA

    Garry
     
    google, May 24, 2006
    #1
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  2. google

    google Guest

    PS I should add that it must be a digital camera; sorry, halide fans -
    got to be able to move 'em about easily.
     
    google, May 24, 2006
    #2
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  3. google

    Stan Beck Guest

    My suggestion is any digital camera of 5 megapixels or greater with a long
    zoom lens and a hot shoe with external mounted flash.

    Actually, almost any of the digital cameras with the built in 10X or greater
    zoom lenses will give you plenty of room to compose a shot of what you need.
    I think the biggest problem that you have is not enough light. Built in
    flashes won't do the job. A powerful flash mounted on a hot shoe would do
    nicely.


    --
    Stan Beck
    From New Orleans to Brandon MS

    To reply, remove 101 from address.
    ***

    My company are carrying out some railway survey work which involves
    photographing overhead line structures (the masts that hold the power
    lines up). This work can only be carried out at night when trains are
    not running. The results with our bog-standard digital camera are
    unsurprisingly rubbish.

    Can anyone recommend a camera that will:

    - take sharp images of steelwork between 5 and 10 metres away
    - not need the use of a tripod (too slow)
    - be reasonably weatherproof (optional)
    - cost not unadjacent to £/$500

    TIA

    Garry
     
    Stan Beck, May 24, 2006
    #3
  4. google

    Whiskers Guest

    It might be useful to be able to set the exposure manually; the
    significant object here is going to be a tiny proportion of the whole
    image, and very different in brightness from the background, so automatic
    exposure systems will probably not do very well. For the same reason,
    manual focus would be more reliable too.

    Frankly, as a rail passenger, I would be a lot happier if I thought that a
    photographic survey of such importance were being carried out by a skilled
    photographer using 'professional' equipment.

    I'm not looking for the job, but if I were to be attempting anything like
    this I'd want a Leica M rangefinder (for quick accurate focussing in low
    light, fully manual control, ruggedness, reliability, and the freedom to
    use a big off-camera flash system), equipped with a 90 or 135mm lens and a
    monopod (to help support the weight during the exposure). Getting the
    images onto halide film would also make it a lot easier to examine fine
    detail - and be certain that what you are looking at is not a 'digital
    artefact' or some assumption made by a compression or 'enhancement'
    algorithm. Of course I'd require an assistant to handle the lighting,
    unless I had time to do it all myself, and the kit would cost a fair bit
    more than 500 quid - but we're talking 'life or death' here; remember
    Hatfield?

    There is a good case for arguing that 'medium format' would be even more
    suitable than 35mm.

    The best you can hope for with 'someone' using a point and shoot camera
    for this job, is evidence about whether or not the larger parts of the
    structure are actually present. You might as well just have a printed
    check-list and tick off 'seen and counted' as you go along.

    I do hope that a suitably qualified engineer with a good pair of
    binoculars is supplementing your snapshots.
     
    Whiskers, May 24, 2006
    #4
  5. google

    Richard H. Guest

    I agree with Stan - it's all about the flash in your application. You
    need a lot of light, maybe focused. At night, the flash burst controls
    the exposure time, so tripod won't be an issue with a strong flash. For
    lightweight weatherproofing, I'd just use a plastic bag as a rain slick
    (cutting/taping hole at the lens end). Your budget may be harder to meet.

    Even a point & shoot could do the job with a good external flash, but
    not many seem to have hotshoes; some have a PC jack for external flash
    (e.g., Casio's Exilim) and you'd need to add a bracket via the tripod
    mount to hold the flash.

    For longer distances, higher-end flashes have zoom lenses in them that
    narrow the light beam when they know the camera is zoomed, which gives
    better lighting range. This starts to blow your budget, as the flash
    alone would be $300. Maybe this will work with your current camera.

    E.g., Nikon's SB-800 does 24-105mm. You can bolt it to anything and run
    the zoom in manual mode and let it auto-expose. For an (expensive)
    "point & shoot" option, you can bolt it to a D70 or D50 in full-auto
    mode and let the camera & flash exchange all the info automatically.
    This gets you into the $1000-1500 range for a kit with memory card,
    flash, and short zoom.

    Cheers,
    Richard
     
    Richard H., May 24, 2006
    #5
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