I would like some recommendations on digital cameras. I have burned through several in the past couple of years. I’m using a Sony 18.2 Meg. DSCTX30. The second one in about 6 months. The battery clip broke today… Thank you
Responses will be all over the place (cellphones to DSLRs) because everyone has their own requirements and priorities. What do you want most out of your inspection camera?
Just get a warranty and shoot.
Any rugged camera.
Refurb Nikon S7000 on sale for $79. Don’t know for how long.
Coupon code FEBCOOL20 get $20 off
The Nikon S series are solid super zoom compacts that take great images (I’m using an S9700) the S7000 is only 20X optical, but the price is outstanding. It’s a refurb, but you can get square trade coverage on it (I’ve never had issues with refurbs).
It’s not a ruggedized camera and best not taken into dusty crawlspaces.
Olympus stylus tough
Fuji XP series dust, water, & shock proof. Cost around $200. I but them refurbished on EBAY for around $50. I buy 3 at a time. Ive dropped them off roofs, ladders, and gotten them wet with no problems. Mechanical problems happen before I break them… IE shutter quits working or card reader fails
Certainly no one size fits all. I’m in the market and here are factors I’m considering:
What optical zoom factor is sufficient? I spent some time with an inspector who suggested no less than 30x optical zoom to replace binoculars for roof inspections, but I’ve also seen cameras with less than 5x optical zoom in use.
What image sensor size/mega pixel count is sufficient? The aforementioned gentlemen suggested a low pixel count worked for him because he zoomed in to the detail/defect in the field and wasn’t making large prints, but I could see advantages to having the option of viewing high resolution/large sensor photos on a large computer monitor back at the office and being able to zoom in digitally but clearly on screen versus risking framing out important parts of an image while zoomed in to 20 or 30 or 60x in the field and missing something altogether.
What physical size camera is best? We’d probably all say big enough to hold and manipulate but small enough to store in a pocket or pouch on a belt or in a tool bag. Many of the mega-zoom cameras (20x plus) are not exactly pocket-able, although some examples such as the Canon SX720 HS with 40X optical zoom begin to approach it.
What level of ruggedness? Shock-proof/dust-proof/water-proof are all great, but most “Rugged” models are limited to around 4 or 5x optical zoom, which may or may not be acceptable.
WiFi Control Capability? Could be helpful for Spectoscope type rigs as well as for transferring photos directly to your phone or tablet.
Articulating LCD screen? They make it easier to get odd angle shots where you can reach and put the camera but can’t necessarily get your eye to the viewfinder or even see a traditional fixed angle LCD.
Other features such as a good flash, battery longevity, ability to be used with gloves on occasion, image stabilization, video and audio recording capability and last but not least, price, are other factors.
If having two copies of most tools is a good idea anyway, perhaps having a Mega zoom for outdoor/roof photos and a smaller pocket camera for inside isn’t a terrible idea, although it does add some complexity to the process.
For those that do use their phone or tablet for writing the report, many probably use the on board camera for most photos for simplicity sake even if the on board capabilities are not on par with traditional purpose built cameras.
In the end, it’s not so much the hardware that makes the inspector…it’s the software (training and education.)
It’s all a matter of personal choice and how it fits into your inspection process. How you take your photos will also have a major effect on how a given camera will typically work for you (i.e., do you use simple mode, program mode, Scene specific mode or even aperture mode)? I typically use Program mode which gives me more control, but still keeps most of teh image setting automatic (iso, shutter speed, aperture, etc.). I keep the camera in macro mode, because I frequently take very close up images.
I have owned and used compact super zooms (30X) from Canon, Sony and Nikon. I also have rugged/underwater compacts from Nikon and Olympus TG4. Each has its advantages and disadvantages (often the same attribute comes with both).
Here are some of my observations and preferences (I take about 30,000 pictures/year):
Size: I like subcompacts because I can carry them on my belt and whip them out quickly to take images.
Speed: Fast startup, fast shutdown (or no shutdown) and the fastest memory cards available (time spent waiting for an image to write to the card so you can can reholster your camera adds up rapidly at 30K/year, so I don’t care how much a card costs, if it can save even 1 second per image). This is one of the unexpected advantages of the TG4 - I don’t have to turn it off. There’s no lens cover and lens doesn’t extend so I can simply shoot and holster, eliminating any startup and shutdown time.
Optical zoom: There is no substitute for optical zoom - not even high resolution digital zoom. Any magnification that a low optical zoom can achieve using digital zoom a high optical zoom can do digitally on top of the optical zoom advantage. To make use of a super zoom requires a camera with stabilization (all of the super zoom cameras that I own have great stabilization capability). Long rage image capability always goes to the high optical zoom (talking high quality cameras). There are, however some distinct disadvantages to the super zooms. The lenses have to extend a long way. It takes times, the mechanisms are susceptible to jamming (lens error) due to sand or grit. The lens covers sometimes get sticky and when the lens extends, it draws in a lot of air (like a bellows) this will eventually lead to dust on the sensor, which degrades image quality, especially on low contrast images. Unlike a DSLR there is no provision for cleaning dust of the sensor.
Batteries: Only use Li-Ion rechargeable, buy two, swap from camera to charger every morning. Looking for a camera that uses AA or AAA batteries is akin to shopping for a flip phone or incandescent flashlight, very 1990s. I have never had a fresh battery go dead on an inspection regardless of how many images I took in a day.
Resolution: More is better, but more takes more time to write and move. I shoot everything at full resolution at the finest detail compression setting. I store the originals in a Lightroom catalog at full resolution and batch reduce the copies that I include in reports to 1024x768. I frequently go back to the original to zoom and crop a portion for detail when putting together my reports.
Flash: I like to manually control when I will use flash or not in an image. I have cameras with pop-up and non pop-up type flash mechanisms. I have found teh pop-up flash mechanisms to be every bit as durable as the fixed flashes, though the fixed flashes are more convenient (the pop-up style is more for red-eye reduction and doesn’t really offer any advantage on an inspection camera). The built-in flash seems to be the Achilles heel of some camera manufacturer’s. I managed to burn up 3 Sony flashes within a single year of use and burned out two in a year on a Canon. I have never burned up a Nikon flash and haven’t owned the Olympus long enough to know.
Aperture: Larger aperture lenses (low F-numbers) perform much better in lower light and rely less on high ISO which can produce grainy images. With high aperture comes narrow depth of field so focus becomes critical (I use center spot focus so I can control exactly what my camera is focusing on). The larger the aperture usually comes with a substantially larger price tag.
WiFi: I’ve bought it on numerous cameras and never used it other than testing it. The transfer rate is just too slow for full resolution images.
Flip screens: I think they would be very handy for shooting video. But with the number of still images I shoot I have no problem capturing odd angle shots without using any display. I’m concerned that a flip screen might be another fragile component for a high duty cycle camera.
At this point, I’m not ready to settle for the strengths of one over the other so I have and use both.
I have an Olympus TG4 for attics and crawl spaces and rainy days where conditions are tough (wet, dusty, get dropped often or bumped).
I use a canon G7x for everything else. It has a large image sensor so pictures are much better than you can get from a cell phone or mid-range point and shoot cameras.
I carry an extra battery for each camera and have chargers in my bag. But if that fails, my iPhone 6s plus has a decent camera as far as phones go.
It is a poor substitute for a dedicated camera, though.
Just bought the nikon b700 not cheap 60x wide zoom 1080 4 k quality, 20 plus megapixel full wifi bluetooth.
So great roof pictures so close. Drone 4k for a complete drive over picture package. Life is good technology perfect
I use a canon powershot 20 megapixel wifi elph 190. I need something with wifi transfer. As I shoot, the images are automatically being sent to my ipad where I run Tap inspect. I then easily upload them to the report without even having to download anything to my PC. I then back up all the photos to my external drive when back at the office. not a bad little camera for $120 CDN. I forgot my powershot one day and just used my google pixel 2 which has a phenomenal camera on it, and as I took pictures, they uploaded automatically to google photos which I then retrieved instantly on my google photos app on my ipad to add to the report. Cloud based image transfer is the way to go. Google photos also saves the image in very good quality and looks great in the reports.
Nice detailed post. WIFI comes in handy using a camera with an extension device, I never use it to transfer files, but great for viewing what the camera sees on another device.
I worked as a commercial photographer for about 20 years (still do the occasional job) and since the iPhones hit the market have been continually impressed with the quality of the cameras in top-end smart phones. They have several advantages over “real” cameras:
- Ultra-compact. They slip in your back pocket (or wrist pouch when in crawl spaces) rather than dangling from a strap around your neck. They can get in tight spaces easily.
- Handle low-light situations very well
- Have excellent depth of field, even in low-light situations
- Front-facing camera feature adds another dimension of versatility
- A 12MP image holds up well to all but the most extreme cropping or digital zoom.
- Can be set up to automatically save photos to the cloud for archiving
This is not true for all phones, but once phone cameras got above 8 megapixels, the advantages of DSLR cameras became less and less. For those who use software that assembles the report as you move through the inspection, there is really no better tool than a good smartphone and a good flashlight for those few times when the on-phone flash doesn’t cut it.
I keep an iPhone 4S in my vehicle’s console, constantly charging, should something happen to my main phone.
That said, I do keep a DSLR with a telephoto lens in my vehicle for those rare occasions when the smartphone just can’t get me in close enough. I find I have to use it maybe every other month or so. Otherwise, my Pixel 2 does just fine.