Experts say the average useful life of a point and shoot camera is about 3 years. My trusty old Sony Cybershot actually lasted longer than that despite heavy use. But it is now making the occasional shuddering noises as it struggles to focus in macro mode. Time for a new camera. 

The best cameras are the digital SLRs without a doubt. But the basic camera together with an additional macro lens would have set me back over $1000, an expense I could not afford justify. Yet, I do need decent pictures of the jewelry.

The good news is unless one is seriously into photography, many of today's point and shoots do take very good pictures and are sufficient for most jewelry artisans on a budget. We do want to leave some money over for more beads!

I did some research and came across a very good compact camera, the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 (around $400) which is ideal for lugging to workshops and for travel. No need to heave around some heavy camera bag either as it pops into my handbag.

It's a good compromise as it has both point and shoot and some digital SLR capabilities such as aperture priority and shutter priority. The bottom line is the images are not quite as perfect as camera buffs would like but they are still excellent for the kind of online pictures I need. There are additional bells and whistles like geo-tagging and 3-D photography which might be fun but are unnecessary. So if you are in the market for one, consider the earlier models like the ZS-5 or 7 which cost even less.

The Panasonic is noticeably larger and heavier than my old Sony but it is still a compact camera. Its size is largely due to the incredible 16x optical zoom Leica lens. The quality of pictures directly relates to the quality of the lens which is why the bigger digital SLRs take better pictures than point and shoots. 

Macro Photography
Here are some highlights of my first trials and comparison taken in natural light within a light tent. The light tent does cut down the glare from the sunlight coming through my kitchen window. Tip : never take pictures in natural light with indoor lights on - too confusing for the camera.

I kept as many conditions the same as possible - the same pair of earrings was photographed in the same place on the same day.  The photos were not corrected after in any way except for cropping and resizing for this post. Notice my home made reflector?  It's an old cork tile wrapped in aluminum foil. It helps brighten up the shadow side of the jewelry.

Using the iA or automatic mode makes things easy when I don't have time to fuss about.  It auto-focuses, auto-everything. I don't even need to select macro because it senses what I am about do. 

Without a doubt, the new camera does take sharper images even in the automatic mode- just compare the seed beads in the right foreground in both pictures. This section is a bit blurry with the old Sony.  This Panasonic can focus in more than one area.

Old Sony - White Balance adjusted (shady)
Panasonic in  iA or automatic mode
I actually like the above photo even though the background does not appear as brown as it should be. That's due to the camera's automatic white balance adjustment.

Moving on, I set the Panasonic to the program and aperture priority modes where I chose some of the settings to try and correct the color. Note there are only a limited number of settings for aperture priority unlike the bigger range for the digital SLRs. The resulting photos are truer in color but I actually prefer the grey background!

Panasonic in Program mode - multi-area focus, shady, iso100
Panasonic in Aperture Priority F3.3 (lowest); other settings similar to Program mode above
Camera Stand
Having made the decision not to spend $$$ on a top notch camera, I could then rationalize this wonderful miniature camera stand, the Modopocket from Manfrotto which was on sale in my local camera store.  I blogged about it a couple of years ago.

You can really get close in as the minimum macro distance of the Panasonic is a mere 3 cm! Using a stand meant I could set the delay timer at 2 seconds and let the camera take the shot thus avoiding the slight blur from when one depresses the take button.

The stand can be lowered in the front. I also found mounting it on a small box or book gives more angle options.

You can still use a full size tripod to take pictures of your jewelry placed at the edge of a table. Or raise the jewelry to some suitable height in order to use a regular mini-tripod as shown below. ( I also tried out the gorilla style tripod but I didn't like having to fiddle with the flexible legs).

For this earrings on a bowl shot, I tested out the zoom function and liked it!

But the Modopocket is tops for utter portability for my workshop use. It folds up neatly while still attached to the camera (see below) which then goes into the small camera bag. Even if one doesn't take jewelry pictures outside the home, this means the stand will never be misplaced! It also doesn't need to be removed when attaching to a full size tripod. Tip - make sure the stand was attached in such a way access to the battery is not blocked.

Pop-Up Light Tent
I also really liked the light tent I finally got at the same time as my camera. I tried making one (see tutorial links below) but this commercial item folds up so it doesn't take up much room when stored away.  It's also quick to set-up and take down so I will probably take it to workshops. The only hassle is folding it to fit into the little bag it comes in!  I just fold it until it's flat. Perhaps with more practice, I will be able to do it as easily as the instructor in this  useful video.

I am still taking pictures in natural light. But I plan to purchase inexpensive lights so I can do jewelry photography at night with the light tent and go for the very light background look.

One last picture to show. These highly reflective wavy and coated crystal coins would have been a challenge to photograph but the camera did a good job even in automatic mode with a slight zoom-in.

Earrings on grey background
If you have had great success with other camera makes, please do share your comments.

Before You Go:
For more tutorials check out my Jewelry Making Tips
Liked what you read? Don't miss a post! Subscribe via RSS OR Via Email* It's FREE! *Click on the link in the confirmation email to activate subscription

Be a Fan!