Looking for Digital recommendations for jungle work

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Keith, Aug 2, 2005.

  1. Keith

    Keith Guest

    I need to buy my wife a digital camera for use in the tropical rainforest.
    I don't know much about what is out there, especially which brands to
    consider/avoid based on her lightning conditions (noise factor). I welcome
    any and all recommendations.

    The camera will be used to take pictures of animals above her in the
    canopy, which means backlit subjects at a long distance (maybe a few
    hundred feet). It may also be used for pictures at ground level (shade) and
    some macro pictures as well.

    Must have:
    ------------
    * Use regular rechargable batteries (AA), not proprietary batteries
    * 5+ Megapixel
    * some form of auto-stabilization/anti-shake technology
    * 8+ optical zoom
    * /very/ reliable, there won't be an option to get this fixed if it breaks
    * fairly sturdy and at least a little moisture resistant (rainforest, after
    all)- I don't expect it to survive a tumble down a hill, or being dropped
    on a rock or in a river, but it should be able to withstand normal wear and
    tear without breaking.

    Almost a must:
    -------------
    * Use SD card, including the ability to use 2Gig and eventually the 4 Gig
    cards when they become available
    * Be able to capture 30fps video with audio at 640x480 or better (whatever
    compression technology, I don't know enough to know if it matters, but the
    videos will be used for conference presentations)
    * video capture only limited by the size of the memory available, not some
    arbitrary length
    * Prefer the ability to manually take several pictures in quick succession
    (quick refresh) so she can pick the best one.

    So far, the DiImage Z5 looks ok, but I'm not sure if there are better
    options, or anything about the Z5 when it comes to picture noise.

    My upper price limit is $900, but I would definitely prefer to get closer
    to $600 (or less) rather than splurging to get extra megapixels or
    something I don't necessarily need. Looks like the Z5 is under $400, which
    is also nice...the downside is my wife is left-handed, and the Z5 looks
    like it is built to be ergonomic but I don't know how well that would work
    for a lefty.

    I appreciate your advice,
    Keith
     
    Keith, Aug 2, 2005
    #1
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  2. Keith

    Mike Kohary Guest

    For all of this, she will need an SLR with a telephoto lens. That's the
    only camera that will handle those lighting and distance variables. Given
    that:
    There is no digital SLR (and to my knowledge, no digital camera of any kind)
    that will meet all of these criteria.

    First of all, you will almost certainly not find a digital camera with the
    other specifications you require that uses regular AA batteries.
    Proprietary batteries store more energy more efficiently and are commonly
    used in most digital cameras, and I believe virtually all high-end cameras
    and certainly all digital SLRs.

    Secondly, there are many point-and-shoots that will do video capture, but
    they won't have the other capabilities you're looking for. SLRs will have
    all the other capabilities, but none have video capture.

    You're going to have to make a couple of choices about what you're willing
    to give up. Personally, I think you bring a dedicated video camcorder for
    video work, since no digital camera captures very acceptable video anyway,
    and no camera that takes the kind of pictures you'll want to take will
    capture video in the first place. A camcorder will give you excellent video
    quality. Also, why the criteria about the batteries? You indicated that
    rechargables were ok, which I assume means she'll have access to electrical
    outlets where she's going, so why does it matter if they're standard AA or
    not?

    The good news is that if you remove the requirements for batteries and video
    capture, there are a number of digital SLRs (and even some high-end
    point-and-shoots) that will meet all of the rest of your criteria. An SLR
    will be bigger, heavier, and harder to carry about, but thousands of
    professionals do it all the time (including myself) so I assure you it's
    possible. :) What an SLR will give you is the ability to change to
    whatever lens the situation requires (from wide-angle to extreme zoom), and
    will provide high-resolution images of superb quality (even in low light
    situations). High-end point-and-shoots will also meet most of your
    criteria, but you probably will not be able to get the zoom range you would
    with an SLR and a telephoto lens, and it will not perform as well in low
    light. For shooting animals hundreds of feet away, that telephoto lens is
    going to be indispensible.
    That price range will exclude SLRs and the appropriate lenses, so I guess
    you'll be looking at point-and-shoots. You can find excellent P&S cameras
    for $600-900, but just go in knowing you won't get the kind of zoom and
    low-light performance your criteria indicates that you're looking for.
     
    Mike Kohary, Aug 3, 2005
    #2
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  3. Keith

    Keith Guest

    Mike- thank you for your reply. My thoughts in-line, following your
    comments-

    Given the prices of SLR, the additional weight, and the risks of carrying
    extra lenses (she will be out there 4 months at a time, 3 trips over the
    next 16 months) I'm hesitant to spend the money for SLR... I guess it
    depends on relative picture quality...if SLR is a 10 and a disposable film
    camera is a 1 (no telephoto, etc) I'd probably settle for a 7...but I don't
    know comparatively where non-SLR telephoto cameras (SLR-type body size) fit
    in terms of quality.
    My wife works and lives in the jungle while she is there. They have a
    generator that they only run a few hours a day to recharge everything, but
    if something goes wrong she has extra rechargables with her. If the power
    wasn't quite right (overall, or just one bad day) there would be no access
    to replace or repair a proprietary battery out there. Mailing one isn't
    even an option, because half the packages I send don't arrive at all, and
    the other half can take 8 weeks or more to get there (3rd world postal
    system, gotta love it)
    Video is desirable but not required. As you mention, I could always get a
    separate video camera if needed.
    The hard part will be finding a compromise she is willing to carry- she
    hikes several kilometers per day, up and down very steep hillsides (lots of
    work, every pound matters). She packs her field gear to minimum standards,
    so it is partly a trade-off, she really wants pictures of her work, so she
    is willing to carry a camera at least part of the time.
    I was hoping a point-and-shoot with 8+ (I see many with 10 or 12x) optical
    zoom would be sufficient for her needs. The anti-shake or other
    stabilization is because there wouldn't be any way she could carry a
    tripod. Unfortunately, if point-and-shoot simply can't take backlit
    pictures (especially at full telephoto)...
    Fair enough- does anyone out there have a high-end P&S that would be
    willing to take a few backlit pictures at full (8+) zoom and post somewhere
    so I can see the results? Even someone standing in front of a bright window
    or something would be helpful, with at least 20% of the image including the
    backlit area, so I can see whether it is something I/she could live with...

    Many thanks,
    Keith
     
    Keith, Aug 3, 2005
    #3
  4. Keith

    Mike Kohary Guest

    I think in terms of sheer photographic quality, you can reach an 8 or 9 with
    an excellent point-and-shoot digital (for example, the Canon Powershot G6).
    However, that camera will not have the telephoto reach or low-light
    performance of an SLR (which is not to say performance in those areas will
    be bad, just not as good as a good SLR. Mostly I'm thinking of the
    telephoto capability, where SLRs put point-and-shoots to shame by their very
    nature (the ability to change lenses), and that sounds like a pretty
    important criteria for your wife's situation). That's something you and
    your wife will have to weigh.
    I assume she could gain access to conventional AA batteries, which is why
    you want that capability? Well, it's possible there are high-end cameras
    (your price range will get you a very high-end point-and-shoot) that don't
    use proprietary batteries; I haven't researched every single model. But I
    don't recall seeing one recently, and models from the best camera makers
    (Canon, Nikon, et al) use proprietary batteries. My impression is that this
    is true of all high-end cameras, but I could be wrong (and maybe someone
    else can point that out if they know better). If you can't meet this
    criteria, simply pack along extra batteries that the camera will take. :)
    If she learns how to use the camera's manual capabilities, she'll be able to
    take backlit photos just fine. High-end point-and-shoots usually have the
    full manual control that an SLR would have, so that shouldn't be a problem.
    Most backlit pictures taken on auto, though, will turn out looking backlit.

    I'm thinking more of the reach of the camera. 8x, 10x, 12x are meaningless
    marketing numbers - 12x what? - so don't be fooled into using that as
    criteria. You need to look at the actual focal range of the camera in mm,
    that will give you what the camera will actually be able to reach out to.
    The aforementioned Canon Powershot G6 is a 7.1MP camera that has a focal
    range of 35-140mm. Not bad for a point-and-shoot, and the image quality is
    terrific, but 140mm just isn't that far out. If she tries to photograph a
    monkey at 300 feet away, it's going to look like a picture of forest with a
    tiny animal in the middle. ;) Does she know exactly what kinds of
    distances she'll be shooting, and how close she wants to bring them?
     
    Mike Kohary, Aug 3, 2005
    #4
  5. Keith

    Richard H. Guest

    Speaking from only one example, Nikon's auxilliary SLR battery grips
    take AA's. But it makes the camera body even bigger, which probably
    won't be well received.

    Unless the OP's wife is a serious photo buff, I can't imagine she'd
    backpack all the extra gear of a DSLR for the incremental quality.
    Instead, I'd suggest shooting in higher-res mode and cropping the photos
    later. Memory cards are a lot cheaper and lighter than SLR lenses.

    FWIW, I've got a P&S similar to this one (no doubt there are better ones
    out there):
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/con...s&Q=&sku=365528&is=REG&addedTroughType=search
    Almost pocket-sized; very crisp photos; level of control nearly competes
    with an SLR, though not as convenient; also runs full-auto in different
    preset modes. Does multi-frame rapid-fire, plus a faster stop-action
    mode with 25 frames in a picture.
    It'll do video clips, though I haven't bothered trying it. It uses
    proprietary rechargeables, spares are $30. The "4x" zoom is comparable
    to a film SLR 35-150mm. (The add-on lenses are not recommended.)

    A waterproof housing is available for slightly lower-end models, which
    could be useful in the jungle...

    Richard
     
    Richard H., Aug 3, 2005
    #5
  6. Keith

    UC Guest

    You're out of your mind. How stupid can you be?

    A digital camera would last only a few days in the rainforest. Get a
    MANUAL, FILM camera.

    I suggest a Leica.

    Moron!
     
    UC, Aug 3, 2005
    #6
  7. Keith

    Rob Novak Guest

    It's not the body I'd be concerned about, but the lens.

    For wildlife photography, you're looking at effective focal lengths of
    300, 400, 500mm. I don't know of point and shoots that do that.
     
    Rob Novak, Aug 4, 2005
    #7
  8. Keith

    Keith Guest

    She backpacks in extra rechargables to the field camp; I guess whichever
    option works out, I'll just have to include the cost of some backup
    batteries in the equation
    Thank you for the advice, if we do go with P&S I'll definitely make sure
    she knows how to use the manual settings :)
    Ah, I wasn't aware the zoom factor was marketing hype. I'll pay attention
    to the mm ratings.

    As for the distance, it may vary widely; she may be directly under the
    subjects of interest (albiet they may be several dozen feet above her) or
    she may be trying to capture them at a distance if she can't get close
    access. I gues that is my way of saying "I'm not sure, but probably a wide
    range of distances". Most of the pictures will be for presentations, so the
    final cropped resolution won't have to be all that high- she can take a
    small subject in the photo and just crop it to get her subject, and
    probably still have plenty of resolution for presentations. My fear was
    that if the noise is too high, whether that would affect her ability to get
    something usable, vs. having it look grainy or otherwise poor quality.

    Thanks for your continued advice!
    Keith
     
    Keith, Aug 4, 2005
    #8
  9. Keith

    Keith Guest

    Thanks Richard, I'll take a look.
    Keith
     
    Keith, Aug 4, 2005
    #9
  10. Keith

    GC Guest

    So, my first day in this NG and I read through this entire perfectly
    civilized post and then it ends with this nonsense? I guess this behavior
    ISN'T limited to the sports NG's only.

    Sorry, I won't feed the troll any further.

    GC
     
    GC, Aug 4, 2005
    #10
  11. Keith

    grolschie Guest

    GC, meet UC (aka Michael Michael Scarpitti) the resident alt.photography
    troll. Add him to your kill-file and enjoy the ng.

    grol
     
    grolschie, Aug 4, 2005
    #11
  12. Keith

    UC Guest

    The question was and is idiotic.

     
    UC, Aug 4, 2005
    #12
  13. Keith

    UC Guest

    The biggest, heaviest pro equipment won't do a very good job under such
    conditions, and you could hardly expect a woman to carry such
    equipment.
    Different problems altogether.

    (Stupid drivel excised.)

    This is an absolutely idiotic question.
     
    UC, Aug 4, 2005
    #13
  14. Keith

    rwesurfn Guest

    look at the panasonic fz5 or fz20....they fit most of your requirements
     
    rwesurfn, Aug 5, 2005
    #14
  15. Keith

    Cordovero Guest

    That was my first thought, too, (of fz30), but I believe these are powered
    by a Lithium Ion rechargeable pack. If you want the AA powered cameras,
    then I think you're talking Canon S2 IS or Konica Minolta A2 (though the
    latter has less zoom) as finalists. I have one acquaintance who does
    professional photo art [this is NOT the same thing as photography] using
    nature photos, and she uses the A2 with dramatic results.

    C
     
    Cordovero, Aug 7, 2005
    #15
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