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I'm looking for a good, cheaper camera for taking still pictures of guns.

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Hi all,


I have an old sony cybershot 7.2 megapixel camera.  I've taken some pictures of my guns (I have a small photobooth with a camera stand), and they turn out okay but I really have to work hard with angles and lighting to get anything decent.  The area that the camera lacks the most is on my guns with fine engraving, as they can't seem to pick up the fineness of the engraving as a whole but only in smaller sections.   I don't want to spend a lot of dough but was wondering if anyone out there would have some recommendations on a cheaper (under $200) camera that would be an improvement.  I know the newer point/shoot HD cameras are 20 MP, so I'm guessing my results would be better but would rather hear some unbiased opinions as I know absolutely nothing about cameras.  Many thanks. 

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I've got a Sony DSC H-55 I use (discontinued) that's a 14.1 mp with a 10x OPTICAL zoom. (not the cheaper digital) I shoot my gun pics with it; what I like are all the settings, manual video, easy, quick shot,, and there is an Intelligent auto mode (I call it the iDope mode) Shutter speed settings, light balance, shadow, type of lights, etc etc. I can get zoomed right in on the serial numbers with the macro settings.Excellent reviews on this one, you can still find them for under $200, usually around $150. Excellent pics and detail. I love mine. I got mine new at Walmart on clearance for $110...and they're still around out there.

 Pic like this can be zoomed in on camera to clearly see screws and serial #'s on the guns.... 

had to downsize this, and quality suffered...




Edited by RebelSS

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Hmmm, you've made it tough with your price point. Even cheap point and shoots are in that range. Does your camera have a manual mode? Do you use a small table top tripod? You mentioned a camera stand I'm not sure what that is? People get hung up on pixels but that is really not the problem. The ability to control your camera and lighting as you mentioned is more of a factor. Controling aperture, shutter speed and of course ISO will provide you with good results and being able to position your lights. Do you have a macro mode on your camera? This allows you to get much closer to the gun and minimize some of your small sensor limitations.

Remember any point and shoot uses a very small sensor compared to a DSLR, that is where you loose some details. I just picked up a Canon S120 and it has the ability to provide complete control over your settings. It has a bit larger sensor than most compact cameras as well. I just shot a few hundred photos up on Rainy Lake on a fishing trip and it does a pretty good job. Does it compare to my DSLR's? No, but I know it would take good close up photos.

If you could post an example or two of your shots along with what the camera settings were I might be able to see what is happening to your shots.

These are a couple  of mine all taken with a DSLR.I use simple backgrounds like a sheet or blanket and some of my studio lights. I add the graphics in photoshop. I could easily replicate these with my S120.



Shot on white background and added graphics.






This last shot was with my Canon S120 a few days ago. You can see the detail available up close in the fish, lure and water. It loses some background detail again because of the smaller sensor but there is no reason it could not take credible shots with close up details like those in a gun.



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Thanks for all of the responses. 

This would be a good example of what I'm talking about.  The engraving on this gun is crisp, even and clear throughout but it will only pick up a section of it cleanly, while other parts look faded, blurry or dark.  The picture was taken with a tripod.  I believe the setting was auto exposure.  The other settings are ISO, soft snap, landscape and low light.  I seem to get the best results when I don't use lights but position my photo booth in accordance with indirect natural lighting.  I'll be the first to admit that I know nothing about the settings on my simple camera. 


Here's one more example:



Also, great pictures fellas.  I especially like the fish pic!

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If it was me, I would try some soft artificial light, Maybe one to each side of the camera if you are looking for total illumination of the guns. Also, when shooting that close, you are going to have set  your F stop as high as you can. Or there are programs that use "Focus stacking". You would shoot many pictures without moving the camera with the focus in different spots on the gun and the program will merge alll them together with the total gun in focus. But I am assuming with the price point of you new camera wish list, new software would be out.

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I think the two issues you have here are lighting and the mode your camera is shooting in. You mentioned the camera shot in landscape mode. Try shooting in macro mode if your camera has one. You will get better results shooting up close. IA4PATS touched on the depth of field issue. That is one reason I mentioned shooting in manual mode to take control over your aperture. That is what determines the amount of the gun that is in focus. If you use a higher f stop number more of your subject will be in focus.

I could live with the depth of field your shots have but one area that will give you a boost is change the flat lighting you are getting from your photo booth. While the lighting is very even it is not providing contrast in your engraving. You need a more directional light to make the lettering have a small shadow, that makes it stand out! Your second shot would be perfect with some better lighting. You have sufficient depth of field in that shot, you just need to improve your lighting.

You will have to use care when shooting that beautiful Colt with the nickel plating. You can end up with hot spots on the chrome if you are not careful with your light placement. Best advice I can give is experiment and keep moving your light to get the look you are after. Every time you  change the position of your gun you will have to change lighting.

I see nothing wrong with camera you have now, maybe look at getting a cheap lighting set up. There a number of them around that will stay WAY under your $200 budget. I think that will get you on track to what you are looking at. They make always on type of lights so you don't have to have a connection to your camera. 

The other thing is you are going to have to do some post processing to your shots to get more of the look you are after. There are some free programs out there like Picassa that will do some auto type processing for you.

This is a quick edit of your shot, just have a laptop with touch pad so I can't do much with it but it gives you an idea of what a minimal amount of processing will do.


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I'm graphic designer by trade so far from a photography expert but I have had do a lot of product photography at work and had to learn on the fly.

I think others have given pretty good info relating to depth of field and also your lighting. 

I shot a lot of products with a highly reflective surface like your Colt.  Finding the right lighting can be a challenge to get the item well light, provide the right contrast for the engraving to show up and to avoid the hot spots.  Here are some tips based on how I set things up that have given me the best results.

1. I shoot everything in a table top photo cube.  Mine is 4'x4' but you can get them smaller and they aren't a ton of money.  I use 4 lights, one overhead light, one light in the background lighting up my backdrop, and 2 side lights (one on either side).  I've shot enough in my studio and my product doesn't change much from shot to shot so I've got them more or less perfected at this point but at times I have to move them around to get the right areas highlighted and to avoid hot spots or shadows.  I have my studio set up in a closed off room that is completely black without my studio lights on so I have control over all of the light in the room.

2. I hang a long sheet of white paper from the top back of the cube that gently bends down and covers table top so I can put my product on the paper.  i find the paper works better than a cloth background because you don't get the folds of the cloth which makes for an easier time editing out the background to get a pure white background.

3. The photo cube helps diffuse the light coming into the product but if I'm still getting hots spots and I can't move the lights around enough I will sometimes add another diffusion cloth over the top of the light to soften it more.  

4. I shoot with photo grade CFL bulbs.  They offer a nice soft light and the fixtures aren't a ton of money.  I ended up having to go with them for temperature concerns.  I used to shoot with tungsten bulbs but they got too hot that the fire alarm company was concerned about my overhead light being too close to the sprinkler and tripping the temp sensor.  So I made the switch to all CFL and they have worked great, less sweating in the studio and I don't have to change bulbs as much.

5. Processing, I do all my processing in photoshop.  Since I'm a designer by trade I have worked with photoshop for years.  Thankfully my photoshop skills help make up for my lack of photography skills.  There are a lot of tricks you can go to improve the contrast and help that engraving pop.  The more you can learn the processing tools the more options you'll have to improve marginal photos.

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All great information folks.  Many, many thanks.  I think I'm going to mess around more with my lighting and see what I can do.  My camera doesn't have a "macro" setting that I can find but I can try all of the settings and see what produces the best pictures.  Again, all input has been greatly appreciated.  Have a great week everyone! 

Edited by kdawg

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