Digital Cameras

Stinger Stinger at FIU.EDU
Thu Feb 3 12:32:42 CST 2000


I guess my recommendations for a field camera are:

1. defintitely megapixel or bigger CCD
2. AA batteries
3. Compact Flash if you can get it (although Smartmedia are fine -
they're just more expensive and don't come in as big a size) - Budget to
buy a 96 MB.
4. Budget a $100 to buy a drive for your media.  Serial cables and even
the USB are maddening to those without patience.
5. Check out if it has automacro or you have to change a setting, this
is a pain on the PDRM3 and it would be nice to have it auto.
6. The better Canon, Olympus, AGFA and Kodaks take filters but this can
screw up the autofocus.
7. Get optical not digital zoom (digital Zoom and panorama are useless).

8. Get a camera that will save in an uncompressed format (e.g. TIFF)
natively if you can. Most go right to JPEG now.

We have a bit of experience with Digital cameras here and I get requests
daily for info. There is a lot of latitude within the market.  For our
type specimens we use a Phase I back on a Hasseblad and end up with 144
MB files that we process down.  That outfit goes into the field only
with a huge battery and a firewire compatible ibook with a huge HDD.
You are looking at $100,000 or so for the whole setup with two lights.

On the other end of the scale, for our newsletter shots of volunteers
and visitors etc. we use a Kodak DC-210 which  I can't recommend because
the native file format is proprietary and this greatly complicates
getting the photos into a useable format quickly.  Yes, the Kodak
software for doing this is good but it is painfully slow.  The pics from
the camera always need a bit of spruceing up as well.  It doesn't have
the best color reproduction.  It does take compact flash cards though
which come in bigger sizes than smartmedia.  I have taken many photos
with an AGFA e1280 as well - it is the same class of camera
(sub-megapixel) but has much better color although I am concerned about
durability with it.  Also in this same class, we just ordered some
Olympus 340Ds for newsletter stuff - they seem to be a great deal at
$299 right now.

For our production work we use Toshiba PDRM1's which are excellent and
durable.  One of ours has 20,000 hi res photos on it and it is still
going strong.  The other is at 15,000 and showing no wear either.  They
are really good cameras for the price.  They do use smartmedia (which
look a bit flimsy) but I have 10,000 hi res shots on a smartmedia card
and it is fine.  I guess they aren't as flimsy as they look.

For garden photos we use a PDRM3 which just takes super photos and is a
great camera. The battwery is proprietary (unlike the PDRM1s that take
AA's) but I really like the camera otherwise. In the same class of
camera, I used a FUJI MX2700 on a trip recently and it is not intuitive
to operate and hard to handle but it takes great pics too.

I really like the better Canon's now out (have only tested one).

You can see 35,000 of our digital photos at

Good luck,

Gerald "Stinger" Guala, Ph.D.
Keeper of the Herbarium
Fairchild Tropical Garden
11935 Old Cutler Rd.
Miami, FL 33156

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