Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Photographing Miniatures Part 3 - Camera Comparison

This one was a little tougher than the last post. Aside from being busy over the weekend I had to try and figure out how to actually use these things without finding the manuals.

What follows is my attempt to take the same photo with four different cameras. In each case the set up was the same. I used three desk lamps with compact fluorescent bulbs. I don't remember their exact wattage, but I want to say that they were meant to replace 60W bulbs. The two frontal are supposedly daylight and the over head was regular, probably soft white.

I wrapped my baking parchment over the housing of each lamp and used my regular black construction paper background. I used metal book ends to support the back of the construction paper, and used mini wooden clothes pins to secure the construction and baking papers in place.

Taken with my cellphone, an HTC One X, 8MP camera, normal setting.

The figure I chose was my favorite Orc Character. I painted him for the analogue challenge and you can check out the photos I took there. Those were natural light I believe. This figure does not have a lot of technique, in fact it's pretty basic, so that is the only thing I don't have to show you detail photography. I'll keep on working on my painting technique.

Fuji Finepix 3800

I bought this camera back in 2003, around the time of the birth of my daughter. It was a whopping 3.2MP and had a 6x optical zoom. When cell phone cameras were getting 3MP and upwards I realized it was probably time to look into a new camera. Here are the photos.

Macro and manual picture.

Macro and timer.

Macro and Fluorescent White Balance

Macro and incandescent white balance

Telephoto Zoom
So as you can see this old camera has some problems. It always had a bad focal length. You can't use the macro setting and zoom, you can't be up close and zoom in and remain in focus. I always had trouble with up close shots, thankfully I was not doing any hobby stuff when I used this camera.

Casio Exilim

This next camera I bought for my wife at Costco. She always thought the Fuji was too big and wanted a camera she could easily travel with. I believe it was around $140 when I bought it. I have never used this camera much, but it is fairly straight forward point and shoot. It is 10MP and has the white balance feature. The settings are a little strange, it has a Best Shot (BS) button for preset things. Here are the results.

Normal, out of the box settings.

Fluorescent White Balance

Incandescent White Balance

Best Shot (Flower). You can see the flash went off.

Best Shot (Collection). Seems reasonable, it gave some nice guides on screen for centering.

Beast Shot (Ebay). Forced the flash and reduced the resolution. Looks horrid to me.
Over all these are pretty good although I can't help but feel that the shadows on the figure aren't right.

Nikon D5100

This is now my main camera. It costs a lot of money but, for me, it's been worth every penny. I used the 18-55mm lens that came with the camera.

Macro Setting, Manual Shutter Control

Macro Setting, Remote Shutter Control.

Aperture Priority, f16, the flash went off.

Aperture Priority, f16, no flash.

Aperture Priority, f16, Flourescent White Balance
So in the preset settings you can't adjust white balance, it's on auto. The Macro setting is good but you see his finger is out of focus. By switching to one of the priority modes I can adjust the white balance and by increasing the f number I decrease the aperture size and get better depth of field. How ever I'm not sure I could do it without a remote and a tripod.


So this is my current cellphone. I was surprised to see it had an 8MP camera. Most of the pictures I have taken with it have been utter crap. Usually a lighting plus shaky hands issue. I have taken good video with it though.

Macro Setting, zoomed in, auto white balance.

Macro setting, zoomed in, fluorescent white balance.
Looks like I zoomed these in differently. They both look pretty good although they seem to be catching the shine of my not so matte, matte varnish.

So there you have it. I still think the DSLR takes the best pictures, but I think you can see that flooding the figure with light and exploring the camera settings can get you better results than just shine a lamp on it and point and click.

I hope this has helped some. What I would like to do is play around with the light set up more and the back grounds and see how that effects the picture. We may also need to look at post processing. The only thing I did to these pictures was crop the Fuji film macro ones and scale down all the others to between 40 and 20% of their full size.



  1. Interesting work. For my money, good lighting, proper focus and a steady camera are the things that seem to count, no matter which device is used. I'm not at all convinced by all the balance adjustments; either the results look clearly worse or else I can't tell the difference with and without.

    1. Thanks Hugh, yes those were my conclusions too. Light and a steady camera are the two paragons. Although the expensive camera is obviously better I think that the ~$100 camera wasn't half bad. The white balance didn't seem to do much. Again I did not take as much time with it as I probably should have. These were all preset settings. But you're right, it doesn't seem to make that much difference.

  2. Very interesting series of posts. I'll follow them attentively.


    1. Thanks Stefan, your pictures are normally very good. But maybe there is something I will unearth that you haven't thought of. I seem to remember you used a laptop to control your camera. I downloaded something for that, but then never tried it. Maybe have to add it to the experiment.

  3. Great post. I will definitely try to be less amateurish in my photo taking.
    When will you do a RRtK report with the new camera?

    1. Hi Cedric, I'm glad you like it. I actually have been using the new camera. I think the lighting and the shot composition make a difference. I think it proves that it is possible to take meh photos with a good camera. It may also be that the conversion to comic book knocks down the resolution somewhat.

  4. Nicely done.

    One thing that I've always noticed with the likes of people with the professional photography set-ups (okay, expensive cameras) is that they can achieve a depth of shot which still shows the figure in crisp detail.

    Forgive me here, I'm out of comfort zone. I mean, like in your first examples the figure is very close-up to the photo', but with your Nikon the figure is shown at more of a distance, but with just as much detail displayed. Is this simply because of a more powerful lens (better, obviously than, the cheaper cameras that do not have the option to swap lenses?)

    I really don't know much about cameras :)

    1. Hi Roy, Thanks. There's a couple of things going on here. In the first set of pictures I cropped to the figure because I had no way to zoom in the shot and it was showing the table and other stuff. I probably should have tried to crop it so it matched the sizing of the others. The graininess of the first photos is because of the low (3) Megapixels. It looks like I also filled the frame a little better with the Casio Exilim (the compact point and shoot). The Nikon D5100 (DSLR=Fancy Camera) and the cell phone look about the same as far as framing. The main other thing that happened is I scaled all these photos to be about the same size. The ones from the Nikon tend to be 4MB each where as the Cellphone is around 1.5MB per picture.

      I thought that the cellphone and the Nikon were the most similar. The only problem with the cellphone being less control, no tripod mount and the glare off the varnish. The Casio did pretty well in my estimation, so you should be able to take good photos with one of these if you can tackle the lighting issue.

  5. Sean,
    You're doing the wargaming world a great service! My wife of all people challenged me to up my photographic game a few weeks ago and she's been asking me about your postings here and wanting me to follow the advice within for my miniatures.

    I told her we need a new camera to which she did not say no :)

    1. Hi Steven, STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT! If SWMBO approves then it is an imperative. Big Lee of Big Lee's Miniature Adventures and Posties Rejects fame, just bought a new camera,
      I don't know anything about this camera, but it takes great photos. He also has some good tips for taking pictures at shows



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