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Need a camera for close-ups of small moving objects

HevachHevach Registered User regular
edited October 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
I've been trying for almost a year now to get decent pictures of my fish. I've borrowed every digital camera in my family, gone through several 35 mm cameras, and the only camera I've gotten that really works is an old (but expensive at the time) 19mm that I can't get film for anymore and a very expensive 35 mm Minolta. I picked up a couple different types of disposable cameras today to test those (didn't consider that the flash can't be turned off on most of them, so I've got electrical tape over the flash).

Every camera either can't focus close enough, or will delay a second for autofocus (by which time the fish is long gone), some can't get pictures without the flash (with the flash, it just reflects off the glass and nothing else shows up), even in my high light tanks (another consideration here is that they basically have to run off tank lights - the flash or room lighting creates glare on the glass which spoils pictures), and others get motion blur from even slight movement.

This is an example of the best pictures I've managed to get:
Spoiler:
For reference, the crayfish is around 5 inches long, and the picture was taken from about two feet away, zoomed to fit him in the frame. Most of my fish are in the 1-4 inch range and won't cooperate as well as this guy does.

Is there an affordable digital cameras that can handle this?

Hevach on

Posts

  • jthmjthm Registered User
    edited October 2008
    I have a Canon Powershot and can pull off pics of fish in a tank quite clearly. I don't have it with me at Uni so I dont know the exact model, but it was somewhere around 300 bucks. The pic you posted looked awfully familiar to my first attempts at taking close up pics, which failed miserably. I fixed this problem by actually putting my masculine bravado aside and reading the manual - in my case there is actually a specific "Close Up" function on the camera that I never would have found otherwise. Double check to make sure yours doesn't have this, or if there isn't a model specific solution posted on the web.

  • Brodo FagginsBrodo Faggins Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
  • Dark MoonDark Moon Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    The macro function on any modern digital camera will work moderately well as long as you have bucket and buckets of light. On-camera flash will make the photo look like it was taken with on-camera flash, and if there's glass and water in between you and the fish introduce piles of flare. The best solution might be to get every source of light you can find and aim it directly at your fish from above and in front. You need to pre-focus (half-depress shutter on most point and shoot cameras) and be in manual mode or shutter priority so you can specify a fast shutter speed and adjust your ISO and aperture to get a proper exposure. Have the front element of your lens put right up against the very clean glass of the aquarium in order to reduce the amount of flare this aquarium glass introduces to the shot.

    Shooting small, fast fish is a tricky operation for an experienced macro photographer with a DSLR, good, fast macro lenses and proper macro lighting. With the fish being behind glass and with no proper lighting directed at them, this will be a very annoying and difficult procedure to do with the equipment you have.

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  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Would a water-proof case for a digital get better results?

    Maybe stick the camera in the tank, set with the timer?

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  • HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    MichaelLC wrote: »
    Would a water-proof case for a digital get better results?

    Maybe stick the camera in the tank, set with the timer?

    Not really. Not enough room in most of my tanks to work with, and with any unfamiliar object in the tank, half of the fish will be hiding and the other half will be trying to see if it's food.

    I have tried the macro function, though the above picture wasn't taken with it. Like Dark Moon says, that generally has come down to lighting, all the cameras I've borrowed are completely unable to get a shot through glass in macro mode, with the exception of the Sony I have right now, which can't get them in focus if the target is moving. It's actually taken some decent pictures of my gouramis and angelfish, but everything else is a blurr and my shoal of lemon tetras looked like I'd just peed in the tank. Autofocus helps, but only if the fish doesn't move for a second, which aside from the two I mentioned, usually means they're dead.

    Here's an example of what I've managed with that.
    Spoiler:
    Being an angelfish, she does spend a reasonable amount of time doing nothing, like this. It's a short list of fish I can get to sit still long enough for this camera to get a shot this good. There's a second fish in the picture if you can find it, a pearl danio or praecox rainbowfish I think - that's about how everything else shows up. If I can get something as good as this angelfish picture with my more active fish, I'd probably be satisfied.

  • saltinesssaltiness Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    In your situation I would get a nice bright work light or some other bright lamp (at least 100 watts) that you can aim at the tank from the side then take the shots. You'll be able to use much higher shutters speeds that way and avoid glare from the front-on light of on-camera flash. As for getting close enough - step back to where the camera is able to focus well then crop the image later to get the tight framing you want.

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  • Dark MoonDark Moon Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    saltiness wrote: »
    In your situation I would get a nice bright work light or some other bright lamp (at least 100 watts) that you can aim at the tank from the side then take the shots. You'll be able to use much higher shutters speeds that way and avoid glare from the front-on light of on-camera flash. As for getting close enough - step back to where the camera is able to focus well then crop the image later to get the tight framing you want.

    Ooh this gives me an idea. Shoot at a slightly higher f-stop (f/8 or so) from a few feet back with a high MP camera (6MP+) at a wide focal length (get the whole tank in the shot). Prefocus on the glass itself (though as long as you're close you'll have buckets of depth of field to keep the fishy sharp) and, because you'll have massive amounts of light, shoot at a high shutter speed and low ISO. Then just crop the final product down to the desired size. Unless you want larger than 4"x6" prints or have desktop size digital files, you should still have piles of resolution to play with even after such a ridiculous crop because of the MP count and the low ISO noise.

    Basically, do what saltiness says but there's a slightly more laid out method of doing it.

    3072973561_de17a80845_o.jpg
  • cooljammer00cooljammer00 Hey Small Businessman!Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    macro function. change the shutter speed?

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  • HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    No shutter controls, though from searching it seems the +/- EV settings can simulate the effect, I've been playing with that.

    Macro mode is still giving crap for the most part, though I did manage this by adding a second double strip of lights:
    Spoiler:
    I can't get the brightness in hand, it's either bright like this or very dark - I shouldn't have deleted the picture I got of my mollies, since that showed that pretty well. I managed a half-decent picture of a syno, but very little aside from angelfish or gouramis are recognizable using macro mode.

    Going on Dark Moon's methods, I did manage to work up this:
    Spoiler:
    Cropping didn't come out terribly well, but the wide shots are coming out great and look reasonably well scaled down. These are the settings: -1.7 EV, 0.5m fixed focus, ISO 400, and auto everything turned off.

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