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Advice on Point and Shoot Camera for dermatology

Posted on 2009-07-08
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Hi experts,

Not a huge fan of taking multiple digital pictures. Maybe I will be some day if I have a good camera. Currentl, I own an Olympus Camedia D-340R which I purchased in 1999 with the a whole 1.3 Megapixels. I think this is the camera Prince intended one to use in his famous song. Suffice it to say, I think it is outdated and I could probably get better pictures with my HTC camera, although I must admit I couldn't figure out how to use if I happened upon Scarlett Johansson whose top just malfunctioned.

Anyway, I am a pediatrician and often come across patients with rashes which I cannot diagnose. Fortunately, the director of pediatric dermatology at Children's Hospital in Boston does not mind at all if I send a picture to him with a little history. Let's just say at the moment that he is hard pressed to diagnose a raging case of Chicken Pox with the way the pictures turn out. Part of the problem (and maybe because I never read the manual), it always flashes and the skin is so bright you can no longer see the rash. Also, there is about three seconds between the time I snap the picture and when it takes it (if it takes it), and by that time that baby has moved in an entirely different direction.

So, there are a few considerations I am looking at when purchasing a new camera:

1. It should be fairly tough, although I would have been better off if this had not been true with the Olympus. (this is the least of my criteria.
2. I am looking to spend between $200 and $300 although I would spend $1,000 given my pension for thinking the more it costs, the better it must be.
3. It must take photos quickly and possibly one after the other (SLR). I know nothing about cameras.
4. It must be fairly simple out of the box unless I spend the $1,000.
5. The transfer of photos to the computer should be quick. Currently, I remove the SD card and it is fairly quick, but I have to go to the office, remove the card, put it in the Dazzle thingy and upload the pictures. Then, I leave it in the Dazzle thingy and forget it is there. So, when I am in one of four rooms, I have to travel back. So, maybe Blue Tooth or something or a direct USB connection.
6. Would uploading the picture directly to Photo Bucket or Flickr or whatever be a good way to go? Could I do it encrypted? Would it come with good software for this?
7. It should have auto focus, which I am sure even a $75 camera has, but I would want it to figure out if it needs a flash or not.

Thanks in advance.

And, I should say I am generous with my points, but this is the type of question where spreading the wealth is most likely. Just because I buy camera "D" doesn't mean I would give 500 points times 4 to that Expert as I am sure others' input will be helpful and should be rewarded.
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Question by:Bert2005
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lherrou earned 500 total points
ID: 24806131
Bert2005,

This is a good question (and I love your sense of humor :)). First of all, no matter what advice I or anyone else gives you, the bottom line is that the camera has to feel comfortable to you - just because it sounds good on paper does not mean that it's right for _you_, so try out any serious options in person if at all possible.

Most cameras do have an autoflash mode (including your D-340r) as the default mode and the camera decides if the flash is needed or not. You can also turn it to always flash, never flash, and use red-eye reduction. Virtually all digital cameras, when turned off, revert to the default autoflash mode when turned back on.

In your case, my recommendation for a point-and-shoot would be any of the Nikon Coolpix cameras with D-Lighting. D-Lighting (the D is for Dynamic) is Nikon's term for processing the image to bring out detail in both highlights and lowlights. In the Coolpix cameras, this is mostly a post-capture process applied to images you select (in their D-SLRs, there's a mode where you can apply it to every image taken). There are a couple of higher-end Coolpix cameras which can do active D-Lighting, but they are in the $400+ range. In general, don't get a bottom-of-the-line model either, because one of the ways that these sacrifice is in the delay from button-press to shutter release (although in the 10 years since your D-340r came out, this has gotten an incredible amount better in ALL models).

If you want to step it up a little bit more (and look like a professional), think about getting a Nikon D-40. This is the bottom of the line D-SLR from Nikon, available from Amazon.com for less that $450 (in a kit with a decent lens). This is an EXCELLENT camera (see http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d40.htm for more), and all the more so for the money.

If you want ease of transfer, there are several cameras on the market that will support some kind of wireless mode. Each of them has different capabilities, some are designed to only upload to a specific site (for example, Kodak's Easyshare series only uploads to the Kodak Gallery). Nikon's cameras (like the link to one below) are primarily designed to transfer directly to a computer, not to a website. The Panasonic (second link, below) sends photos direct to Picasa. The Sony (third link) has a built in browser, and you can use that to upload to a number of sites or web-based email. From what I've seen, none of these work great, and each comes at a premium expense-wise, so you should keep that in mind.
http://www.adorama.com/INKCPS610CBK.html
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0017TYGNA
http://www.adorama.com/ISODSCG3.html

Cheers,
LHerrou
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by:Bert2005
ID: 24808435
Thanks LHerrou,

Thanks for the compliment on the sense of humor. I try. And, I definitely appreciate all of the good information in your post. Obviously, I want to fix as much of the red eye problem as possible, but ironically, there is one good reason for leaving it in. And, this would be to decrease the chance of a lawsuit.

In pediatrics, documenting the red reflex in a baby is one of the more important things one can do. It shows there are no cataracts or, worse, tumors. Then again, they are so rare, I almost forget to look.

Ironically, the July issue of Consumer Reports cover story is on digital cameras, and the Nikon D5000 is on the top. But, I honestly cannot think of a worst magazine, and I only get it because someone gave me a subscription for the office. I hate the little red and white balls on the right that take hours to decipher, and generally the difference between the top rated object and the lowest is from 87 to 78. I guess I would have read it except I got distracted by the other cover story of sun screen ratings. I definitely don't want to go outside without making sure I have the Consumer Report's Best Buy sun screen.

I will definitely look at your cameras. What camera do you have?
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by:Bert2005
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LHerrou,

Been doing some research based on your information. I like the D40, but it states that it does not do auto focus unless maybe having a different lens. Is that an issue?
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by:lherrou
ID: 24836732
Bert,

I have 5 cameras, 2 Nikons (including a D200 dSLR), two point-in-shoots from Fuji, and one older Olympus (which I keep because of it's infrared capabilities). I also use a Canon dSLR for one of the jobs I do.

Most cameras which have a red-eye reduction mode have a means to disable it. Typically they work one of two ways, either by a bright non-flash light (from a bright LED beam) shining in the eyes, or from a series of pre-flashes to close the pupil before the flash fires. Either of these delays the shutter release so that the pupil can constrict, so it's important to keep that in mind.

As far as the D40 is concerned, it does not have a built-in autofocus motor (as many of the lower-end dSLRs do not these days, so to have autofocus, you have to use a lens that has the autofocus motor built into the lens. The kit lens sold with it, as well as many other consumer lenses meet that requirement - so you WILL have autofocus with most of those lenses. The high-end pro lenses (in the $1,000-2,500 range) may or may not, but you probably have no need or budget for those anyway. I think it's an excellent choice, and know a number of pro photographers who use one as their emergency backup or their "travel dSRL".



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by:Bert2005
ID: 24836968
lherrou,

Thanks VERY much for the information. I knew you would get me on a research kick, and I would quickly begin to move up the camera ladder. Believe it or not, I do love the D40, but for some reason started looking at the D200. (Which I see you own).

What got me excited about the D2000 was Ken Rockwell's review. Although I have been in enough delivery rooms to not want to take pictures, I suppse if it is your own, it would be rather cool. :-)

But, he kept saying that with the D200, no matter how you take the picture it comes out great, whereas with some of the others you have to take the shot and make adjustments and then shoot again.

Ironically, I have had a Smart phone with a camera for about three years now, and today is the first picture I have ever taken. My receptionist's daughter and I went out to eat and after her 3 yo was on this moose and jumping around everywhere. It was pretty fun taking the pictures. They look pretty good on the phone, but I can't seem to get them on the computer.

So, from where I first started, I guess it sounds as though I am moving from an excellent light and practical camera which would do all I need and more to trying to be a camera bug or something.
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by:Bert2005
ID: 24836983
Of course, this coming from a guy who, A) didn't know he coudl turn the flash off on his Olympus, B) only used one button other than to change the buttons, and C) didn't even know it had an off/of switch. Or does it? Or does opening the lens window do that? (It slides)
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by:lherrou
ID: 24839153
In my estimation, you would be happiest with the D40. Believe me, I have been shooting with Nikon cameras for over 10 years, and some days it's a puzzle to get to the right screen and settings in the D200. The D40 is much simpler, and is designed for users who want to be able to just point it and get great photos, yet also have more control over settings if they need them. From Ken Rockwell's review: "I only grab my big D200 when I've got something more serious to photograph." This from someone who makes his living off his photography.
The D40 is going to turn out great shots without changing settings most of the time - in most people's hands, it will do this at least as often as the D200 would. I'm not trying to steer you away from the D200, but the D200 is not readily available (it's been replaced by the D300), and will cost you at least twice what the D40 will, but will NOT  more than double what you are likely to get out of it.

And yes, the only way to turn the D-340R on or off is by sliding the lens cover, although you can view the photos by pressing the top button to the left of the LCD screen without opening the lens cover.
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by:Bert2005
ID: 24839524
I think I should just go with the D40.Does it comes with the regular smaller lens? What should I read to learn how to use it? Should I just go out and do some shoots?
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by:Bert2005
ID: 24839534
Do you think the photos will look better than my Olympus D-340R?
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by:lherrou
ID: 24839901
Here's the kit with a good lens, for $440.
http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-Digital-18-55mm-3-5-5-6G-Zoom-Nikkor/dp/B000KJQ1DG

You'll also need a SD memory card (oddly enough, one is not included in the kit). You may want to look at the D40/D40x for Dummies book as well (http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-D40x-Dummies-Sports-Hobbies/dp/0470239468)

I believe you'll be very happy with it, and yes, the photos will be a lot better than your D-340R.
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by:lherrou
ID: 24839917
Err, and yes - absolutely go out and just take some shots with it. The more you use it, the more comfortable you will be with it when it counts. Be sure to take some shots like the ones you may have to take, like closeup of someone's arm to practice taking pics of rashes, etc.
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by:Bert2005
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Thanks. Stupid question. If you take a picture of a rash, should you get closer to it by zooming in or should you just move closer? Does it make a difference. Does the D40 connect to the PC by USB or by a memory card reader? Does it come with editing software or should I look at Adobe Photoshop or something, which I think costs more than the camera.
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by:lherrou
ID: 24840374
If you get too close to the rash, and you are using flash, the flash will be cut off or distorted by the distance. In general, some level of zooming in is best, although no lens performs at its greatest at the extreme ends of the range (zoomed all the way in or all the way out).

You can use a USB cable (which comes with the camera) or a card reader. I tend to use the card reader for all of my cameras, but I also have multiple cards, so I can swap the one in the reader and the one in the camera and keep shooting if I need to.

I think the camera comes with a trial version of Nikon's Capture NX. Photoshop Elements is a great product (and much cheaper than the full version of Photoshop, which you DON'T need). There's also a number of other free alternatives, including Paint.NET, the GIMP, and others.

BTW, here's Nikon's tutorial on the camera: http://www.nikondigitutor.com/eng/d40/index.shtml
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by:Bert2005
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Thanks. I will read the tutorial before asking anymore questions. :-)
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by:Bert2005
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So, I bought a camera! Should arrive in about a week.

Thanks.

Bert

http://www.box.net/shared/u4u7syg9m7
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by:lherrou
ID: 24846027
Sounds good! You can always share a photo or two once you've received it!
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by:Bert2005
ID: 24846080
I will definitely do that.
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by:Bert2005
ID: 24880068
lherrou,

Not sure if you are still around. I received my D40 yesterday. Still too busy to play around with it. I did purchase dSLR for Dummies and D40 and D40x for Dummies.

I have two quick f/u questions if you have time:

1. All of the reviews I read were very positive. The only negative review came from CNET. The reviewer there said this:

Shutter lag and autofocus speed pop up as the D40's biggest weaknesses. It wakes up fast--0.3 second and you're good to go. But its shutter lag in good light is an almost embarrassing (for a dSLR) 0.7 second, and it more than doubles in dim light to 1.6 seconds. I frequently missed shots because of it. The autofocus system works fine for small changes--the subject taking a step, or refocusing on something nearby--but when switching from a far subject to a near subject or vice versa, it takes a perceptibly long second or two to lock.

Does that mean it will take a long time from pushing the button to take the picture to when it takes the picture like my Olympus did?

2. I noticed that the camera came out in November 2006. Does that mean it is already an old camera? Sorry, if that is a stupid question.

3. I want to read all I can on photography, and I want to read my Dummy books. Do I need to read for two weeks before I take a picture with the camera?
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by:lherrou
ID: 24881148
In reverse order:
#3 - NO, by all means go and start using the camera right away. You'll likely find that questions arise as you do so, which you can clarify via reading. But the more you shoot, the more comfortable you'll be with the camera, and the better off you'll be when you see something you just have to get a good shot of. Do try to look at your shots right away, so you can remember what settings you used, etc, when taking them.

#2 - In the dSLR world, yes, the D40 was already "left behind" almost from the minute it was released, there's a D40x that came out just 4 months after the D40. Why? Because Nikon already had the D40 in the pipeline when Canon came out with a competing 10megapixel camera, so Nikon converted the D40 (6mp) into the D40x (10mp). However, as the two have been on the market side by side for some time, the reality has been that the D40, for the money, is the best starter dSLR on the market - if you aren't a pro or making posters, you don't need 10mp, and the only other difference is the D40x can shoot 3 frames/sec compared to the D40's 2.5.

#1 - All of the bench (camera tested in a lab) reviews I've seen other than CNET's show lag times of less than a tenth of a second. I don't know if they had an error, a bad camera or lens, interfering IR beams in the room, or what, but their results were well out of the findings of any other lab. I think you're going to find that the lag time is negligible, and all but non-existent compared to your Olympus.

I wouldn't make a recommendation that I couldn't stand behind. This is a great camera. Is it the best camera for every user? No, but no camera ever is.

In answer to your other question, I do answer questions on home theater and smart phones. In fact, I am Experts Exchange's core Zone Advisor for the entire "Digital Living" subject area.

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by:Bert2005
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Thanks again. Never doubted you, just came across that CNET article, which I woulnd't really consider CNET experts on cameras.
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