Camera Close-Ups

I have been using a Canon Powershot 520A, 4.0 mega pixels camera. It has been great for general photo shoots, but is limited by how close you can get with clarity.

So, I am looking for a new camera. My wish list includes: at least 7.0 mega pixels, takes AA batteries, has accurate color capture, takes very good close-ups (I would like details of a small aphid) and is inexpensive.

Thanks for any ideas!

Jim Sproul

Why AA batteries? Most come with dedicated rechargeable Li batteries now. What do you call inexpensive? A second hand dSLR might be a good one. YOu can get a Canon 1000D for about $900 now too.

Jim, forget looking in Costco. None of their cameras have view finders. On request I bought one yesterday with all the current features and while programing and setting it up the wife went back and bought another one. Bottom line, both are going back today. Even for free I wouldn’t use that camera even though it cost hundreds of dollars on sale. Today i’ll go to a pro shop that sells used cameras and see what they have. Meanwhile when playing with the old camera this morning “portrait” popped up on the screen. Wonderful, portraits of the seedlings are infinitely better with true colors and no glare. So maybe sometime later I can post some portraits.

I’d like some advice as well. My camera is Nikon Coolpix 5100 which is adequate for my purposes of snapping seedlings for my records. But it has the annoying proclivity of capturing the background with exquisite sharpness & detail while leaving my seedling fuzzy and out of focus. This is while using the autofocus. On occasion I’ve place a cardboard behind the seedling when shooting in the house (yes I have equisite details of my kichen counter), but it’s not always possible to carry around cardboard when all I want is a snap in the garden. Am I at fault for using the close up feature as opposed to the portrait?


I used to have one of the earlier Coolpix’s as well and had the same problem you describe. My solution? Similar to yours. Most times, however, I found it was sufficient to focus the camera on the palm of my hand first, at approximately the same distance that the real subject was to be shot at, and then re-aim at the desired subject. 9 times out of 10 this did the trick.

As for cameras, I highly recommend the Nikon DSLRs. (My current one is the D90, of the “prosumer” grade) I recognize that this is probably far more $$$ than you want to spend, but a really good camera is going to make your life easier and will probably be a satisfactory tool for many years. The point-and-shoot digitals are not designed to be “relevant” for much more than a year or two, as new technology comes out to replace it.

Another big selling point of the full-sized DSLRs (for me) is that they capture in RAW. With many image editing tools, you can import RAW files and convert during download into DNG file format, which is 1) a third smaller than the RAW files, and 2) puts the files into a format that is likely to be supported across all platforms indefinitely. Each manufacturer has its own proprietary RAW format and as such, there are no promises that the manufacturer will continue to support that technology. Ten years from now you may be in for a rude shock: your RAW files may not be openable using new tools. Saving as DNG (digital negative format) insures that your images will be accessible in the distant future.

If you are at all serious about maintaining a catalog of high quality images (not in a lossy compression format, as JPG does) that will remain accessible for years to come, and which will be in a format supported by industry wide software, then you ought to seriously consider enabling yourself with tools to save as DNG. Just thought this might be useful info. (bear in mind that I am specifically addressing the matter of archiving lossless images, not JPGs, for example. It is unlikely that JPGs will suffer from the same fate as proprietary RAW format images, since JPG is a format that will likely remain viable for a long, long time. If JPGs are your preferred image format, and you don’t mind the fact that JPGs use a compression algorithm, then the discussion about DNGs doesn’t apply to you.)

You can read what Adobe says about DNG here:

or the Wikipedia link below. (The Wikipedia article is more detailed and objective)


I use a Nikon Coolpix S10 (I bought it 2 years ago, 6 megapixels, paid $114 on Ebay, seller = “cametaauctions”), and I love it. No viewfinder, but the screen is fine for my purposes. But you gotta get a pop-up screen protector for it in order to put it in your pocket. The pop-up shade/screen protector doohicky from is about $15 and worth it’s weight in gold. Should be standard equipment, but isn’t.

The criterion that turned me to this camera was the trueness of the reds. Most cheap digitals don’t get the reds even close to their true shades, but this one does an admirable job for the price. So if your shopping, take a few red things with you and test the ones you are considering.



Back from the stores with two Canon Power Shot SD780 IS Digital elph with view finder that fits in a watch pocket. The wife just had to have one to carry in the purse with all the other necessary things. Jim, check out Celestron Hand Held digital Microscope (44302) $54.95 free shipping,10x,40x,150x, built in video or still, plugs into pc. The portrait setting evidently is a softer setting ect.? so faces will not have blotches?

So…how large a closeup do you want? For print or for viewing online? Do you want the aphid to fill the 21" screen? Are you willing to shoot on manual or aperture mode? How large a camera are you willing to haul around? How much are you willing to spend? Those are the key factors.

If you really want high resolution, the best three tools you can buy are a well-respected mid-range digital SLR, the best macro lens you can afford, and a tripod. With that as a baseline, good macro photography is about how you use what you have. Given my kit, Paul will shoot better macros than I because of his skill and experience. As an amateur hack, I find that good macros require the patience to take many photos and the luck to have a still day with good light. I use a Nikon D40x, a small, light, beginner’s compact DSLR. You can get it factory refurbished for $500, not cheap by human standards but really cheap by DSLR standards. I have another Nikon very similar to Paul’s that I never use because it’s too bulky and too heavy.

I’ve heard there are decent Canon point and shoot cameras that have good macro capabilities, but I can’t offer any advice about that.

I also agree with Simon on the rechargeable battery. They are much better and more efficient than they used to be. Disposable batteries are evil.

I also use one of the Nikon DSLRs. Mine is the D5000, which I believe is the top of their beginner DSLR line.(One level below the D90)

One of my friends is a professional photographer and she has a Canon DSLR. To me, Canon takes very pretty pictures but I think that Nikon is more true to color. But it’s basically personal preference.

Mine came with two lenses, and with the battery and memory card and such was around $900 including tax.

For close up work, I use the Tamron AF 90mm f/2.8 Di SP A/M 1:1 macro lens. The Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G ED IF AF-S VR is very nice, but it’s pricey and the Tamron macro is just fine for what I’m doing.

I agree with Paul about the image quality of DSLRs. Especially if you ever intend to submit photos to the press or print a catalog or something, it’s great to have the extremely high image quality and resolution.

I forgot to mention – my Coolpix has a choice of focus points, which you do need. You can let the autofocus do its thing on a point that you set, either at the center of the picture or elsewhere in the frame, or let the camera do its autofocus as an average of the whole frame. I always use the point focus. I think all of the newer cheapy digital cameras now have this feature. So the problem that Lydia and Paul discuss above has been resolved by the mfrs.


Interesting discussion. I have a Canon Rebel XT but the macro lenses are pricey and it’s a pia to work with for quick and dirty documentation photos. I’ve been looking at point and shoots for a while with the thought that I could also use one to shoot some video for web work. Unfortunately, although a lot of them have macro capability there’s not much to be found about that aspect of them.

Paul’s point about format obsolescence is well taken. An alternative to the DNG format for loss-less compression is PNG. Another thing to think about is the physical storage media you put the photos on. I routinely store my photo archives on multiple forms of media to guard against hardware obsolescence - try to find a 5.25 floppy disk drive, for example.

Thanks for all of the food for thought.

Peppa, I really like the close-ups that you have shown on recent posts - very nice!

I am cheap (got 2 kids in college), so looking at under $500 and would like to be easy to carry. Still interested in AA batteries. I have had poor luck with the others not being ready when I am. It is so easy to have a couple of extra AA’s in the camera case. I had a Nikon SLR many years ago and liked it, but have mostly had Canons since going digital.

Jim Sproul


I really studied the alternatives for my next camera a year or so ago. I wanted a camera that could take excellent pic’s in macro mode, recorded pic’s in the raw file format, had a view finder and was highly recommended by professional photographers. I did not want a camera that required me to purchase different expensive lenses and had a learning curve of two life times. I purchased the Canon G9 with 12 mega pixels and have been 110% pleased with it since the day I bought it. I paid about 450.00 .

In macro mode it will focus on a flower 1 cm away, that is phenominal. One drawback that you mentioned was it uses propietary batteries. I keep three and keep them charged so I don’t run into the situation you mentioned. When you buy a Canon or a Nikon you have many after market suppliers that sell add on products that might be of interest you.

The canon g9 is not a dslr, which means you can’t change lenses. However, one thing I just discovred is that I can connect my G9 to my pc and using the software that Canon supplies with it, use the pc to take the pic’s to control the camera and pic’s immediately pop up on my pc in lieu of the back of the camera. You can really see how the pic turned out. I use this feature when I take pic’s of flowers in the house.

Good luck, you have a zillion choices to select from. Remember that with Nikon or Canon you will have an excellent camera with resale value and many options to enhance the camera from the after market suppliers.

Bill C

“Still interested in AA batteries. I have had poor luck with the others not being ready when I am”

Jim, you and I are alike in this respect. One of my first digitals was a Sony with a proprietary battery. It was extremely frustrating to have to recharge and sometimes miss getting a pic I wanted it when the batter ran low. Replacing the battery was almost as expensive as getting another cam so I dumped it.

I like the convenience of popping in a couple of AA’s but few of the newer cams offer this option.

For the last few years I’ve been using Nikon Coolpix 7600, 7.1 megapixels with view finder. It uses AA batteries. The thing is a tank. I’ve dropped it on numerous occasions. It lives in the dirt of my pocket while out gardening. The automatic lens cover works amazingly well. I do sometimes have problems with auto focus on close shots.

I hear rechargeable batteries are much better than they used to be, so I am probably a dinosaur clinging to my old technology. I can’t get over how prices are dropping on cams in general and how high the megapixel rating are on the new cams.

I keep looking at new ones but the old one keeps hanging in there for now. I have no interest in owning a DSLR. They are just too bulky and inconvenient. I photograph to document. I will leave the artistry to others. I need convenience. Technology is changing rapidly.

I’m sure the day is coming soon when DSLR quality will come in a small convenient package, and a lower price.

RE proprietary battery formats versus 'AA’s:

I used to insist that my devices use a standard battery format, since I already had an arsenal of Li-Ion batteries at my disposal. When I bought my first DSLR (Nikon D70) I had no choice: it came with its own battery. I have not regretted this. I often take hundreds of RAW images every month, perhaps even thousands during May and June when there is a lot to photograph in the garden/greenhouses. How often do I have to charge the battery in my current camera, the D90, you ask? Once every six to eight weeks. I don’t see much to complain about there, do you?


If you want something under $500 then the current line of CoolPix’s might work for you. The current best-of-line model is the S8000 (see URL: below) which appears impressive for $300. The specs list a macro capability of 0.4" minimum, which is remarkable. Check out the rest of the specs. If I were shopping for a new pocket sized digicam, this would probably be the one for me. (I currently have an older S-series Nikon and think it is exceptional for its price range, although it is five years old now and sensor technology has improved exponentially, rendering it somewhat obsolete)

I think that with most any of these current “point and shoot” pocket sized cameras, you are likely going to have to forgo the AA battery option: they just don’t make them anymore. (There are undoubtedly a few exceptions, but I expect these are low end consumer devices) Don’t let your preference for standard battery formats rob you of the chance to choose a superior camera of its class. You won’t get much satisfaction out of a mediocre camera, only to be able to say you satisfied that one requirement! (JMO, of course)


I am dredging up this old thread to post a review of a camera that seems interesting for our line of work. Note the comment on macro capabilities.

Sony RX100

I took these with a Canon T3i (600d) with a 60mm f/2.8 maco

I’m still getting used to it and it is probably more camera than I need, but it’s great.

In the second picture I tried to capture the petal texture.

Great photos, Jeff!

That first one made me wanna sneeze!