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What point and shoot camera would be best for dermatology

Posted on 2014-01-21
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2014-01-24
Hi experts,

I am a pediatrician and many times find myself needing to take good photos of rashes to send to dermatologists to help with a diagnosis.

I bought a Nikon D40 once, but it was too much, and I either had too much light or too little and too much zoom, etc.

I am looking for a reasonable P & S camera that would work the best with skin. I suppose the more pixels the better. My guess is they would all be the same, but just in case someone knows the best one, it would be helpful.


Question by:Bert2005
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LVL 70

Accepted Solution

Merete earned 1100 total points
ID: 39799608
I have two cameras,
Panasonic DMZ TZ 1 takes great images especially Macros, absolutely love how I can use windows photo viewer and just keep zooming in without a loss of clarity. it's a bit slow for point and shoot but of course you can point and shoot anyway to take photos of rashes on skin.
It connects to the computer via USB
Light is very important and I take lots of Macro snaps of flowers very close up and using windows Photo view zooming in a lot produces great results with this camera on Macro

The other is a Nikon CoolPix 16 meg Pixels, takes great photos and videos, however for Macro not so good but does a good enough task with a few tinkering of settings. has lots of features and is not expensive. I got it as a 2nd camera for quick snap and zoom
Connects to PC with USB
So to me the key is MACRO a good inexpensive Camera that offers Macro setting.
Overall from the cameras I have tried the Panasonic takes the best on Macro
Example of a close up of a bee on a flower, Macro  taken with the Panasonic
The flowers are pretty small real time and the bee about 6 mm real life size. I actually didnt see the bee until I zoomed in windows photo viewer.
Macro on a bee
Macro Photography Tips for Point and Shoot Digital Cameras
LVL 38

Assisted Solution

lherrou earned 500 total points
ID: 39799878

I agree with Merete that the macro capabilities of the camera are important, but the key element is lighting. My own dermatologist uses a Sony, but almost any P&S camera will have a built-in flash that does NOT do a good job of lighting the skin when you are close up - so what they use is a cheap ring light that attaches to the tripod mount of the camera and provides much better lighting than the on-camera flash.


The other thing you need to keep in mind is that most P&S camera default back to their "normal mode" settings when they power down. So each time you are ready to take photos, make sure you set the camera in Macro mode and set the flash settings to what you want BEFORE you go to take the pictures.

I'd also take a look at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 or LX7K, both of these are excellent cameras with good Macro modes and a lot more control over settings than you often get with P&S cameras, and the prices are very reasonable.

LVL 44

Assisted Solution

Darr247 earned 400 total points
ID: 39799960
I would recommend the Canon Elph 130 IS.
Target has them for ~$130, and I've seen them on sale there as low as $100.
I've also seen that same model at BestBuy, Staples, and Amazon has them, of course.

16megapixels, built in WiFi for transferring the pics to a computer without cables, 8x optical zoom (they make point and shoots with lots more optical zoom than that, but the stated purpose doesn't *need* lots of zoom), simple operation, and the Macro focusing mode that Merete mentioned is engaged by pressing the left side of the 'joystick' button (which then puts a 'tulip' icon on the display, telling you Macro mode is active). Canon's macro mode typically works from about 12'' down to about 2'' away from the subject/object. Some of their models also have a 'super macro' that works from about 4'' down to 1/4'', but you probably don't need that level of macro.

I recommend disabling the 'digital zoom' function in the setup menu, by the way. Optical zoom is what you want; not digital zoom.

edit: Many digital camera kits don't include a card to hold the pictures/video.
I recommend a Class 10 (indicated by a C10 on the card) SDHC card for that Canon.
e.g. a Transcend 16GB card should hold over 1000 pics at full resolution.
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Author Comment

ID: 39801031
Sorry guys, I took a while to get back. I will read this evening. Thanks as always.

Author Comment

ID: 39801211
I don't know what a macro is "when relating to a camera." You have all mentioned this, but when I used the expensive D40, the light ended up making the whole rash almost invisible.  

These are great suggestions.
LVL 38

Expert Comment

ID: 39801289
Macro refers to microphotography, taking pictures of small things, close up.

As you noted, the lighting is critical in taking pictures of things up close. The camera gets close and blocks out the light, and the flash from the camera is often much too bright and blows out the subtle differences in color tones (especially in skin, which is translucent anyway).

You can get a ring light, like my original suggestion (but one which will fit the D40), or you can use a light modifier on the flash (like this or this) and with a little practice, you can get excellent results.
LVL 70

Assisted Solution

Merete earned 1100 total points
ID: 39801474
Bert with refs to>
I don't know what a macro is "when relating to a camera." You have all mentioned this, but when I used the expensive D40, the light ended up making the whole rash almost invisible.
That is too much light at close range.
You are actually holding your camera too close and using a flash.
What is your current camera?
Maybe we could resolve your closeup photography skills with the current camera.
Knowing your model camera would help me to know what this camera supports.

The Macro setting on a camera helps me to to take a photo closeup but not that close up where the light is effected between the subject and the camera, it allows me to take a closeup photo without having the lense almost touching the subject.
No zoom is used on the camera when taking the photo using Macro.
Unlike if I took a normal photo setting then zoomed in using the camera zoom key.
These photoes donot have the same closeup quality non pixelation when viewed at close range.
So there is the difference between taking a photo with zoom close up or using a Macro setting .
The lense does the closeup work by adjusting it's focus and range as per the Macro Setting.
When focusing on close-up subjects the depth of field is reduced.
This means the area in focus becomes shallow.
You’ll notice on my bee macro shot, for example, that flower’s in front are in focus, while the petals appear soft and out of focus at the rear.
The Macro Mode will not allow a lens to focus any closer than its normal minimum focusing distance.
Some non-macro lenses will get closer than others.

Bert the best I can offer you is this knoweledge take that to a local camera store and then ask for a decent priced  camera that has Macro maybe consider adding a lense so that you can really take closeup without loss of light and focus.
Or we could see if we can help you update your skills with your current camera, maybe add a lense.


Author Closing Comment

ID: 39805436
Thanks to merete, lherrou, and Dar247,

Your knowledge and advice is overwhelming. I did read all of the links provided.

First, I know the experts don't like it when the points are spread among all those in the question, but this was not so much a question with the right answer but one where everyone contributed. Hard to know why I chose merete other than his was the first answer and his picture was so good.

As to my camera, I don't have one and am looking to purchase one on your recommendations. I am glad I did as just learning about macro and lighting made it worth it. I still think that lighting will be the biggest challenge. I saw a baby with Mastocytosis the other day, and I know by the time she sees the dermatologist,  the four different rashes (my dermatology attending in residency would kill me for using the term rash) all with differing morphologies consistent with this fairly uncommon illness (I have seen one case in 18 years, so rare may be the better term).

I met a father (I am a pediatrician) in the hospital to admit the baby. He had a Nikon D60 and was lighting up the room with a dizzying amount of pictures, which turned out to be excellent. He got me turned on to photography and recommended a P & S, but of course, I had to get an SLR. I never got very good with this and gave it to my gf who broke up with me two weeks later, so I am camera-less.

The father started teaching me, but his job made him move and, fortunately, I do not have a camera to make any more bad pictures.

But, hopefully, I will now be able to change all that and basically need a camera to take the derm pictures talked about above. As far as the lighting, I don't mind spending money, so the ones on here all seem fairly doable. Am I able to completely turn off the camera's flash? I would think so.

There are some very good recommendations above, and my guess is most of the cameras talked about are all about the same as far as what I need. If I buy locally, there is only Best Buy, and I don't really trust the sales people there. Actually, there may be a better camera store.

It sounds like if I get a good camera, make sure it has macro capability, find out a way to get the right lighting and practice, I should do OK.
LVL 38

Expert Comment

ID: 39805486
The key to good photography is always practice. The good news is that in the age of digital photography, practice is cheap and the feedback is almost instantaneous - nothing like the old days of shooting an expensive roll of film, waiting a few days to get it developed, and paying for development as well...

One other point... it's not hard to shoot decent photos with the camera almost all of us carry around in our pockets. Yep, our cell phones. Most cell phones can do an excellent job (yes, with a little practice) if the lighting is pretty good. If you don't currently have another camera, try the one in your pocket. Practice on your own skin (we all have moles and the occasional scrape, etc), and see what you can do without spending any more and making any more ex-girlfriends happy ;)

Author Comment

ID: 39805608
LOL. It's funny you mention that. I have to be the worse picture taker with a smart phone of anyone I know. I think Jesus could walk by, and I would miss the picture.
LVL 44

Expert Comment

ID: 39806861
> Hard to know why I chose merete other than his was the first answer
and his picture was so good
At least we can be fairly certain you didn't favor Merete's answers because of gender bias.  :)

On most Canon cameras if you're shooting without the flash (I almost never use flash), you should set the White Balance to match your light source. e.g. in most offices/exam rooms you would select Fluorescent lighting... or, if it has the higher Kelvin temp 'Daylight' lamps, Fluorescent H; if it has incandescent lighting, select Tungsten... if there are skylights or natural light piped in with light tubes, then the Cloudy setting would likely give the best White Balance; in full sunlight, choose the Sun icon.

If you leave it in full Auto mode, the camera's computer chooses the White Balance automatically (the AWB icon), which might not be the best choice (I also almost never put my cameras in full Auto).
The Elph 130's Auto/Program mode switch is callout #4 in this diagram, by the wayCanon Elph 130 Controls (click for larger)

Author Comment

ID: 39807946

Thanks very much for your continuing contribution. That is something I did not learn earlier. Our exam rooms are fluorescent, although they seem to be a dull fluorescent.

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