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Digital camera for genealogy


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#1 vlanders

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 07:28 AM

OK, this isn't specifically a RootsMagic question, but I noticed another thread discussing jpg vs. bmp files, and that brought up a question of my own:

I want to purchase a digital camera for the purpose of photographing genealogical documents (eg. a page out of a hand-written Baptismal record book from the 1860s).

I want the photographs to be close-up (that is, I want just the page I am interested in to be in my field of vision, not the entire book and half of the table), and I want good definition (the ink in these books is often faded).

When looking at cameras, I see things like Max Resolution, Low Resolution, Effective pixels, Digital zoom, Normal and Macro Focus Ranges, etc. I don't know what any of these things are! What should I be looking for? I would like to purchase a low to medium cost camera that I can use for my daily picture taking, but that will also serve for the specifc purpose I mention above (photographing documents).

And, just so I can make this thread more on-topic for a RootsMagic board - is there anything I should know about about the format of the picture, size, etc. as far as creating a file I can use in the RM program? If so, what, specifically, will I need to know about my camera to assure it creates the type of file I want?

Thank you to anyone who has some helpful information for me!

#2 Norman Law

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 07:37 AM

Hi

Pretty much any digital camera will do what you require. You will need a 'macro' (close up) facility and a built in flash. The camera will have a number of 'quality' settings that will have an effect on both the resolution and file size of the image. Just select .JPG maximum quality and you should be OK.

You mentioned low-cost but don't scrimp too much as you do get what you pay for. I take it that these documents need to be photographed on-site rather than at home. I mention this because for documents you would be better off scanning them with a flat bed scanner. These are available at very low cost nowadays.

Good luck,


#3 Candy

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 07:48 AM

I have two digital cameras that I use when it comes to taking my pictures. One will store my pictures on a 3.5" floppy disk and the other uses just a memory stick. The one with the 3.5" floppy also uses a memory stick that is held in a 3.5" carrier.

The higher the pixels, the better quality picture you will have. My 3.5" camera is my older one, when the digital cameras first started coming out and has 2.3 pixel count with the pictures. My new one, which my husband and I just received from our daughter for Christmas, is a 5.0 pixel camera (very reasonably priced, by the way, compared to my first one).

The zoom factor will allow you to zero in on any particular print where you don't want to get the entire page. It will also help if you take pictures of grave markers. You don't have to get your nose right up close, but rather you can stand/kneel in a comfortable position and then use the zoom to get a closer picture. The same goes for taking pictures of buildings, etc.

A lot of local tech colleges offer digital camera classes for the community, with costs of $20 to $50, depending on what type of class it is, but they can answer any questions or give general advice about the various types of features of a digital camera.

As to the cost factor, well, as I said above, my older camera was purchased when they first came out, is a Sony and was in the $800 range. Just a few months after that, my daughter purchased a higher pixel camera for about $200 less, also a Sony. The one that we just got, the 5.0 pixel, was purchased at less than $200, and has quite a few of the bells and whistles.

I'm sure others that post on the boards here can offer more information for you as well.

===================

<<I take it that these documents need to be photographed on-site rather than at home. I mention this because for documents you would be better off scanning them with a flat bed scanner. These are available at very low cost nowadays.>>


If a person has access to a laptop, HP has a scanner that was created for a genealogist, I think. <G> It is fully mobile, can be used on an easel stand that comes with it, or by itself where you can lay it over the top of a page of a book and scan the page.

I recently took my laptop and this scanner to a church that my family was instrumental in organizing and scanned all of their records with it. I have all their records on CDs, and will scale them down and put into a .pdf format for the Church, so they have a record of the Church's history should anything happen to the originals. There are also programs that help 'merge' two scans if you need to do two scans if the page is larger than 8.5 x 11.
Candy

~~ In a perpetual state of not knowing if I'm coming or going.

#4 Dennis

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 07:32 PM

QUOTE(vlanders @ Feb 25 2006, 07:28 AM) View Post

OK, this isn't specifically a RootsMagic question, but I noticed another thread discussing jpg vs. bmp files, and that brought up a question of my own:

I want to purchase a digital camera for the purpose of photographing genealogical documents (eg. a page out of a hand-written Baptismal record book from the 1860s).

I want the photographs to be close-up (that is, I want just the page I am interested in to be in my field of vision, not the entire book and half of the table), and I want good definition (the ink in these books is often faded).

When looking at cameras, I see things like Max Resolution, Low Resolution, Effective pixels, Digital zoom, Normal and Macro Focus Ranges, etc. I don't know what any of these things are! What should I be looking for? I would like to purchase a low to medium cost camera that I can use for my daily picture taking, but that will also serve for the specifc purpose I mention above (photographing documents).

And, just so I can make this thread more on-topic for a RootsMagic board - is there anything I should know about about the format of the picture, size, etc. as far as creating a file I can use in the RM program? If so, what, specifically, will I need to know about my camera to assure it creates the type of file I want?

Thank you to anyone who has some helpful information for me!


Most digital cameras today are comparable. Depending on how close you want to get to the document is the question... so you will need to be concerned about the macro distance. I have an old Sony that allows me to get to as close as 2 inches. The overall resolution is very poor though as this was in the beginning days of digital cameras. The max resolution on this camera is 1.6 megapixels. Very low by today's standards. You should also consider a small tripod of some sort... the human being, no matter how dedicated, is not a very steady way to take close up pictures of anything. You will need the support of some kind of device to make sure that the pix are sharp and clear. Naturally... the higher the resolution of the camera, the higher quality of the pix. You may want to consider a trip to your local library to the reference section for something like Consumer Reports to compare digital cameras.

Dennis



#5 vlanders

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 09:30 AM

Thank you for the replies.

At the moment, I don't have a laptop, but I am considering purchasing one during the upcoming year. If I do, I will definitely look into the HP scanner that Candy mentions.

For the moment, though, I think a digital camera and tripod (good idea, Dennis). And yes, the documents need to be photographed onsite. There is actually a photocopy machine available, but these are very old books in poor condition, and I don't think opening them flat and putting them on a photocopy machine is a very good idea. So, for now, a digital camera.

Thanks again for all the good advise.

#6 Alfred

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 02:29 PM

I have had good luck with a three year old Kodak, 3.1 MP camera taking shots of pages no larger than 8.5" X 11". Anything larger than that I nearly have to take two shots for the OCR program to read the text. My camera does have the Macro setting but no Zoom, you won't need the soom for pages, but I wouldn't get one without it again, for other shots. (It was the first 3 MP camera I thought I could afford, it is good enough for me anyway)

I have found that the reflection from the flash washes out the center of the page somewhat, so, I would rather photograph pages with indirect or ambient light and not use the flash. It sometimes takes a bit of manuvering to make sure that you or the camera are not casting a shadow on the page.

I have seen diagrams of a camera holder with a stand and an arm to move the camera over a page, but I haven't gotten one. It seems to me that one of these and some sort of a remote shutter button would work very nicely.

If you get too close, so that the page completely fills the viewfinder, the picture of the page is distorted, the center edges are wider than the corners. If you are not straight above the page, it will be distorted in a perspective sort of way, the nearest edge will be wider than the farther one.

==============
In the next to last paragraph, I should have said the stand has an arm to HOLD the camera over the page. it is stationary, not moving.
Alfred

#7 Candy

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 03:38 PM

QUOTE(vlanders @ Feb 26 2006, 09:30 AM) View Post

Thank you for the replies.

At the moment, I don't have a laptop, but I am considering purchasing one during the upcoming year. If I do, I will definitely look into the HP scanner that Candy mentions.

For the moment, though, I think a digital camera and tripod (good idea, Dennis). And yes, the documents need to be photographed onsite. There is actually a photocopy machine available, but these are very old books in poor condition, and I don't think opening them flat and putting them on a photocopy machine is a very good idea. So, for now, a digital camera.

Thanks again for all the good advise.



With very old books in that poor of condition, my scanner would be the ideal thing to use. All you would have to do is open the book on a table top, and lay the scanner on top of the page, adjusting if it is an oversize page and do two scans.

This is exactly the reason why I requested this particular scanner as a Christmas gift one year. It also will scan negatives and slides (both things of the past or soon to be) and blends very well with my other 'scanner family' members, an HP S20 (for prints/papers up to 4x6, negatives and slides) as well as my HP all-in-one that does standard paper scans.
Candy

~~ In a perpetual state of not knowing if I'm coming or going.