View Full Version : Digital Camera - which is best for the artist?

09-25-2006, 04:52 PM
With hundreds and hundreds of digital cameras out there and more announced every week, which ones are the best for the serious artist? Or do we need two to get everything done? Can the problem be solved by throwing money at it...$4,000 DSLR? Is there a "most bang for the buck" solution for under a thousand? Under $500?

You are invited to share your first hand experience in this thread in an effort to find the answers.

The Working Artist needs a camera to:

1. Document work.
2. Enter shows, competitions, etc.
3. Upload to website.
4. Books, magazines, brochures.
5. High quality prints, small to large, giclee.
6. Gather reference material, inspiration
7. Travel - still and video

Let us know what you are using now or have used or would like to get next...and why!

09-25-2006, 05:04 PM
I have a Nikon D70, 6.1mp, in case a really good photo of a painting is needed to make a large print. Mostly I use an old Canon S1 IS, 3.2mp. It will make very good prints up to 8x10, is small, easy to travel with, very handy 10x zoom and it will take video...tv quality. If I were buying a camera today? The FinePix S6500fd with 3200 ISO looks like a do it all, most bang for the buck winner. Or maybe the S9100 or Lumix FZ50. Anybody used these?

A real world comparison: S1 IS vs. Nikon D70


S1 IS max jpg

D70 max jpg

D70 raw - sharpening: low

Lady Carol
09-25-2006, 07:13 PM
The Rebel XT is $700.00 with lens (older model) and the newer model the XTI is $900.00. This won't do video and in that case you want a point and shoot Fujifilm Finepix F30 $340.00. But you then trade off for the better quality still images.

I am a strong advocate for shooting in RAW. I used to not think it was worth it but my hubby had been using RAW for ages and convinced me to try it. Now it is the only format I shoot in. Admittedly it needs a little post processing but it is well worth the effort.

09-25-2006, 07:41 PM
I have a Panasonic Lumix FZ30 and I love it! You can get it for around 600.00 and it does everything with an awesome lens. I use it for all of my artwork needs and it hasn't failed me yet.

09-25-2006, 07:45 PM
Hi Carol,

"...needs a little post processing but it is well worth the effort."

If you have the time and ability, please post examples that show how much better the XT images are than the F30 under the same conditions. I recommend taking the best possible picture of a painting with both cameras. Then crop both down to just a small, interesting square that shows the pixels. Then, resize to 500 pixels wide using Resample set for "Pixel Resize". In my example above the image size with the D70 was 2262x1814 after cropping down to just the painting. I cropped again to a square 100x100 showing just the bandana. Finally, I resized to 500x500 so it is easy to see on the forum. The image from the S1 IS was 1808x1452 cropped to the painting and 80x80 cropped to the same detail of the bandana.

09-25-2006, 07:51 PM
Thanks, Amber. Do you know someone who has a DSLR so we can see how yours compares? My theory is that in good light, real world conditions and in the hands of an amateur your FZ30 will take as good a picture as a Rebel, for example. See my reply to Carol above for direction how to do it. You need Paintshop or Photoshop to do it.

09-25-2006, 08:05 PM
Here I've resized the Canon S1 IS by 200% using Bicubic resampling, then resized again to 500 pixels wide using Smart Size resampling.


I haven't tried printing this, it sure looks like it would print well at a large size!

Roger Evans
09-25-2006, 08:28 PM
I highly recommend the Canon Rebel digital camera. They have a new 8 megapixel version but it achieves the increased resolution through interpolation and not really a better imaging chip. If you can find the older 6 megapixel version, you can save some money and get the same results. All the photos on my gallery were shot with the Canon Rebel. Easily the most bang for the proverbial buck at about $900 USD.

Mark Newton
09-25-2006, 08:58 PM
I use a Nikon D50, 6.1 MP and more than enough resolution for very high quality images. I use the highest quality lenses, which is far more important than the capture device. I also use professional high power Metz flashes.

09-26-2006, 12:19 AM
Thanks Roger and Mark. Can you post a side-by-side comparison with an SLR-like camera, for example, or other non-DSLR camera with pictures taken under the same conditions? I was surprised to see how well my S1 IS compared with the D70. Not as good, but not five times worse either as might expect based on price.

jeff m
09-26-2006, 10:22 AM
Money spent on quality lighting may prove more beneificial than blowing it all on the camera.
Below is a list of cameras that will produce RAW files.

(Copied and pasted from a car forum)

jeff m
557 posts
47 months [report] 15:32
Hi camera people,
Which cameras have the ability to produce RAW files, am I looking at a boatload of money?

Any opinions on "RAWshooter premium" or "Adobe lightroom"


4230 posts
37 months [report] 16:33
Only the "high end" prosumers create RAW files, and all DSLRs will.

Regarding Rawshooter/Lightroom - I'm pretty sure Adobe acquired Pixmantec recently meaning rawshooter will soon cease to exist, if it hasn't already.

1902 posts
37 months [report] 16:52
Fuji E900 will do RAW for about £180 at the moment.

snapper seven
11 posts
3 months [report] 20:04
Indeed Adobe have acquired Pixmantec. Adobe have/will stop selling the Premium version but will continue to allow free download of RawShooter Essential, though don't know how long for.
I use RS Essentials and it's very good. The fact that it is free is just a bonus. Has always received good write ups in the mags for it's simplicity, intuitiveness and general good accurate performance.
Only thing I find missing from it for my needs is levels and curves which is of course what was offered on the premium package.


227 posts
16 months [report] 20:11
Having said that on the PC I like Rawshooter Essentials but there isn't really an equivelant for that on the Mac.

Now adobe have acquired them we might see a Mac version... ?

587 posts
24 months [report] 20:25
These are the cameras with RAW support from Adobe...






EOS 20Da


EOS 30D *


EOS 300D (Digital Rebel/Kiss Digital)

EOS 350D (Digital Rebel XT/Kiss N)

EOS-1D Mark II

EOS-1Ds Mark II

EOS-1D Mark II N

PowerShot 600

PowerShot A5

PowerShot A50

PowerShot S30

PowerShot S40

PowerShot S45

PowerShot S50

PowerShot S60

PowerShot S70

PowerShot G1

PowerShot G2

PowerShot G3

PowerShot G5

PowerShot G6

PowerShot Pro70

PowerShot Pro 90 IS

PowerShot Pro1


N Digital



R-D1s *


FinePix E900

FinePix F700

FinePix S5000 Z

FinePix S5200/5600

FinePix S7000 Z

FinePix S9000/9500

FinePix S2 Pro

FinePix S20 Pro

FinePix S3 Pro


DCS Pro 14n

DCS Pro 14nx




EasyShare P850

EasyShare P880

Konica Minolta










Maxxum 7D / Dynax 7D


DYNAX 5D (Europe)


Aptus 22

Aptus 65 *

Aptus 75 *

Valeo 6

Valeo 11

Valeo 17

Valeo 22


Digilux 2


Mamiya ZD













Coolpix 5000

Coolpix 5400

Coolpix 5700

Coolpix 8400

Coolpix 8700

Coolpix 8800







EVOLT E-330 *

C-5050 Zoom

C-5060 Zoom

C-7070 Wide Zoom

C-8080 Wide Zoom


SP-320 *








*ist D

*ist DS

*ist DL

*ist DL2 *

*ist DS2










...just found this as I had to upgrade my plug in.

09-26-2006, 10:42 AM
I bought a Nikon Coolpix L1 about six months ago for about $250 plus a 512kb card, about $30, use it for taking photos of my paintings. It has settings for 6MP, 3MP, PC screen and TV. (It also records sound and takes videos.) I've also used it for reference photos and, at 6MP, it crops down pretty tight. It doesn't take RAW images, however.

09-26-2006, 12:00 PM
Here are a couple sites with digital camera reviews, including some comparison pictures.
Steve' DigiCams:
Steve' DigiCams reviews (http://www.steves-digicams.com/default.htm)
Digital Photography Review:
Digitla Photo Review (http://www.dpreview.com/)

I got an Olympus Evolt 330 recently. The feature I like about it that none of the other DSLR's have at the moment is the LCD screen image shows the actual view through the lens. This is a common feature on point and shoot digicams but not on DSLR's. Got mine for $800 on Ebay. I find this feature makes it easier to get a straight shot of the canvas, as there is an 2.5 inch LCD image to look at when lining up the sides of the canvas to the picture frame.

09-26-2006, 07:37 PM
Did a shoot with a 3.5mp Kodak and the D70.

3.5mp Kodak

D70 jpg

D70 raw as shot

One difference I just noticed...the D70 pixels are about 1/4 the size of the Kodak's.

09-27-2006, 12:18 AM
The 3.5mp Kodak is an Easy Share Z700.

09-27-2006, 12:28 AM
Having had to fight with paralax for a while I am a firm believer in the digital SLR. I have the canon rebel but having seen the results of the new Nikon, I have that itch all over again. My rebel is about 3 years old now but still takes remarkable images. I have started working in raw but don't have any of the iamges with me right now. Certainly worth the effort to give it a try.

09-27-2006, 10:21 PM
I love my digital Canon Rebel.

09-28-2006, 10:14 PM
First off, this is not Louise, but her boyfriend. My name is Philippe Roy and I'm a professional studio photographer. My work: www.photojournaliste.ca and my company: www.rimagine.com

Ok, now that that's clear.

If you do care about your art you'll go an see a professional photographer. A professional photographer will give you good quality pictures which is of prime importance, IMHO, when you're out there representing yourself as an artist.

For example... I work with the Canon 1Ds MarkII (16.7 megapixels) and some medium and large format cameras with digital backs. Not to mention I have access to a 900-square meter studio with some 30 lights, computers, assistants, a team of retouchers and whatnots. These are not things that most of you have acces to, I imagine...

However, if you're still interested in doing this on your own I think that the three most important points have been raised in the forum already:

1) Get an SLR camera. n SLR will give you more control on the lighting and how much of it you want to let in. (Not to mention the all essential and all important tripod).

2) LIGHTING LIGHTING LIGHTING. You can fight all you want about brands and logos and whatnots. A Canon is just as bad as a Nikon when you don't have the right lighting - might it be strobes, tungsten lighting or diffusers for sunlight - and don't have the right ways to control it: umbrellas, softboxes, reflectors, cups,...

3) RAW RAW RAW!!! At the risk of sounding like a cheerleader shoot RAW, all the time!!! Memory is cheap, shoot in RAW. RAW allowa you to do just about anything you want, including change and select different colour profiles - even CREATE your own colourprofile to match exactly with the printer from around your street corner. Shooting in RAW is about keeping ALL the colour information and depth... From a RAW file the possibilities for converting, stretching, changing colour modes (RGB vs 32 bit CMYK) and changing the white balance are almost endless.

I'll shut up before I stay here all day. I understand that most of you are just talking about taking a few pics here and there, events and whatnot, or just to post on forums. But if you want to do this for galleries, promotional materials and your website I strongly recommend a crash course in photography, buying serious lighting equipment and a good digital SLR. If not, look up the listings for local profesional product photographers- they'd come to you if they wanted a painting, why not go to them for your photos? :).

It's more than just a picture, it's you're image.
--Philippe Roy

09-28-2006, 10:40 PM
Philippe - Don't be sorry! I really appreciate your input. I used those small crops because at 100% they all look pretty much the same...the pixelation isn't detectable on the monitor.

Kodal EasyShare Z700 100%

Nikon D70 100%

It would be very interesting to see a picture of a painting taken with your pro 16mp and one taken under the same conditions with, say, a 10mp consumer model.

Truth is most artist are "do-it-yourselfers" and not likely to change. Plus, they can't affort the time or money for professional photos. If I understand your post it can be summarized thus: Buy the best camera you can afford, and the best lights, and learn how to use them. What would a minimum setup look like? A lot of painters have a Rebel or D70, what lights should they get?


09-29-2006, 01:46 AM
Thank you Phillipe for all the time and information! Your right in that I use my sony cybershot for fun and taking pics to post here and ebay etc. High quality/definition isnt really necessary. For real quality shots I have a professional photographer friend who does both film and digital

09-29-2006, 02:46 AM
From Philippe again...

I’m sorry for being so upfront in my language, I guess it comes from my attitude as a photographer… we do have a bad reputation for our attitudes, don’t we! Anyhow, I think Louise edited my post to make it sound nicer! :P

In response (through Lou) from the studio…

Here are two examples I shot with the Canon 1Ds MarkII – it’s a digital SLR, 16.7 megapixels (http://web.canon.jp/Imaging/eos1dsm2/index.html). First is a commercial advert for watches and the second is a painting from an artist friend I do shots for – I’ve included full picture and 500x500 pixel crop at 100%..

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/29-Sep-2006/72001-Fullframe_F.jpghttp://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/29-Sep-2006/72001-100pc_F.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/29-Sep-2006/72001-Anthony_Full.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/29-Sep-2006/72001-Anthony_100pc.jpg

Well, for minimal equipment I recommend a 100mm lens with your SLR.

I’d recommend a circular polarizer filter on top of that – for reflections.

A tripod to get your exact framing.

And 2~3 800 watt strobes with either large cups or white umbrellas.

For painters I also strongly strongly recommend a gray card! – to get your white balance reading and correct colours!! J

As for a set up, all depending on the brush strokes from different painters (thickness and direction) would change your light set-up every time. As a basic set-up I’d say 2~3 strobes pointed to the ceiling with a white bounce board underneath the painting. But, like I said it’s not a constant, and it changes from artist to artist and from what materials you use… A Riopelle for example would require a much more complex setting because of the thickness and multitude of directions (i.e. lots and lots of relief) in his strokes.

For the camera I think an SLR (any) is great because you get more control over what you do and how you do it. But I’d look for a digital SLR that can do white balance and take RAW file pictures. Since colours are so important so us (you and me both! – not to mention our clients) it’s important to do a white balance, all computer screens and cameras are different (as our eyes) and perceive red (for example) in a different way to each other… with a gray card you can do a white balance and get closer to the actual colours, and moreover, if you provide the gray card picture to a printer (provided he has the right software, e.g. PhaseOne) he can also read the gray card reading and come out with the same colours as you. But I’m getting lost into details.

Oh and before I forget, after “always shoot in RAW”, “always shoot at 100 ISO” to eliminate as much graininess as you can! ;)

Philippe Roy

10-10-2006, 07:08 PM
Best explaination I've found so far! Worth reading.


"Forget the silly debate over pixel counts among digital cameras. There is little visible difference between cameras with seemingly different ratings. For instance, a 3 MP camera pretty much looks the same as a 6 MP camera, even when blown up to 12 x 18!" I know because I've done this. Have you?..."

10-14-2006, 07:35 PM
What is the best all-round cameral for the artist?

Panasonic DMC-FZ50 10.1MP Digital Camera with 12x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom

Read the reviews, scroll down, keep going...


It is a compromise as everything in life seems to be. I'm seriously thinking of selling my D70 and S1 IS.

10-14-2006, 11:06 PM
For what it's worth I have a Canon Powershot S3 IS. It's a digi/SLR camera.
Priced around NZ$700 (US$450) It's perfect for reference material and recording my work.


SENSOR 1/2.5” CCD (5.76x4.29mm) 6MP
MAX PRINT SIZE 144x10 inches at 200dpi
LENS 6.0-72.0mm (36-432mm) f/2.7-3.5 IS USM
SHUTTER SPEEDS 15-1/2000sec
ISO Auto, High Auto, 80-800
EXP MODES M,A,S,P 14 Sc, Custom, Mov, ±2EV
FLASH 50cm-5.2m (W) / 90cm-4m (T)
DRIVE MODES Single, continuous 2.3fps
METER Evaluative, Centre-weighted average, Spot (centre or linked to focusing frame)
WHITE BALANCE Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Custom
FOCUS TTL, 1 point Flexi selction, focus Bracketing
VIEWFINDER EVF, 115,000 pixels
FILE SUPPORT Canon Direct Print, PictBrisdge
OTHER MyColour mode, photo in video, IS USM lens
DIMENSIONS 113.4x78.0x75.5mm

Review website...


10-14-2006, 11:44 PM
Canon Powershot S3 IS

Certainly on the short list...