Seeking recommendations for "entry level" decent camera for rocketry

Discussion in 'Photo/Video Tips' started by Marc_G, Aug 30, 2012.

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  1. Aug 30, 2012 #1

    Marc_G

    Marc_G

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    (Please move to the Photo/Video Tips subforum :handshake: )

    Hi all,

    One aspect of my rocketry that I'm not currently satisfied with is in the photography, and I'm wondering what it would take to kick it up a notch. Currently I use a Nikon S8200 point and shoot (well, it's at the repair shop under warranty, but it will be back soon enough). It's one of these:

    Nikon.jpg

    I'm not very satisfied with it; it has lots of pixels but when you take even a high-light shot and zoom in you loose crispness due to what is apparently digital noise in the sensor. The pictures are less good than my circa 2006 Canon 720i. The Nikon does have a high speed (120 fps) video mode at VGA resolution, but the video tends to be blurry, whether or not I leave continuous focus on (generally, best to leave that off). It has a continuous shoot mode that I haven't mastered, but it's a camera optimized for taking pictures of kids at the park. It's fine for that. All else, meh.

    What's the next step up from these ~$200 point and shoots? Specifically, I'd like a camera that could give me good high speed burst shots for pad takeoff (doesn't need to do super sharp video, just a second or two of rapid fire shots to capture stills of the bird heading up). Then a continuous burst mode for capturing the rocket under a chute, with decent zoom/focus to capture the thing on descent.

    Let's say I had $400 or MAX $500. Would something like a Nikon Coolpix 510:
    Coolpix P510.jpg
    or maybe a Nikon D3100:
    Nikon D3100.jpg

    or possibly Canon Powershot SX40
    PowershotSX40.jpg

    ... be a decent step up?

    Or would these just be a waste? I know photography is mostly about the person taking the shots, and only a bit about the camera. I'm gradually learning how to use my point and shoot to better effect, but I think there are hard limits with it, and am interested to explore options. Funds are definitely limited; I'd be trading away getting a drill press to help fund the camera purchase.

    I would greatly appreciate your input.

    Marc
     
  2. Aug 30, 2012 #2

    jadebox

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  3. Aug 30, 2012 #3

    Disaster_Guy

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    I would give consideration to a used Canon D30, D40, or t2i. Going with an SLR will open a world of options to you.
     
  4. Aug 31, 2012 #4

    luke strawwalker

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    DSLR's will give you the most flexibility, but then having to buy glass for them and changing lenses out in the field if you want to do different types of shots is a PITA too... pretty good chance of getting dust or crud inside the body...

    *I'VE* been quite happy with my Fujifilm 2500HD that I got three years ago. It's one of the "pro-sumer" models that's bigger than a point-n-shoot (and a lot more flexible) but doesn't have switchable lenses like a DSLR. It takes VERY good launch shots in burst mode (high speed burst is 33 frames in about 2.5 seconds or so...) The only bad thing is, once you release the shutter button, it then takes several seconds (usually about 20-30 seconds) to write those pictures from the buffer to the card... which means it's hard to get pics of the rocket under chute... the GOOD thing is, that if you pre-focus and all that with the button halfway down, it takes pics with NO detectable shutter lag, unlike most point-n-shoots. The other nice thing about the Fuji is that the burst mode settings are accessed via their OWN BUTTON on top of the camera beside the "face detection" and mode selector dial... VERY handy for toggling between burst mode and non-burst mode shooting.

    The new Fujifilm models are more advanced, with better lenses... mine is a 15X zoom (OPTICAL zoom-- digital zoom is particularly worthless for rocketry applications because it merely cuts down the area of the chip actually being imaged and then blows that up to "full size", IE zooming in on part of the chip instead of using the whole thing. I turned digital zoom completely off as soon as I bought it and have never turned it on). The new ones are up to about 24X optical zoom. Mine, being an older model, is a 10 megapixel (which honestly is more than enough unless you're blowing up photographs to put on the side of a bus or a billboard) but the newer ones are up around 15 megapixels now... I usually set mine on 5 MP and call it a day, so it writes smaller file sizes...

    Best of all, it's about a $250 or so camera... not the MAJOR bucks you'd shell out for a DSLR... I looked at some other "prosumer" models but honestly I think the Fujifilm has the most logical layout and the simplest controls, which are very intuitive to use... none of the others I looked out had such easy access to the burst mode or other shooting modes without working through long menus and all that...

    That's my experience... YMMV... Later and good luck! OL JR :)
     
  5. Aug 31, 2012 #5

    Marc_G

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    Thanks for the info so far everybody, and thanks in advance for any further thoughts on this.

    I've read all the relevent links and now I think I need to look over some specs. It seems the "best deal" on a (new) DSLR is right around $500, give or take. These would be Canon T3 + 18-55mm lens. Going up to the T3i adds another hundred or so though I'm not quite sure what the difference is yet. And it seems the T2i is another $50-75 above that. Not sure why. Need to research.

    I could save money on a DSLR getting one used, but I'm not sure I trust "some guy I don't know" on Craigslist.

    As JR mentioned, there are other choices than DSLR, so I'm going to dig in. What specs do I need to get to, I guess I need ones that take pictures quickly (as in, a burst mode that takes lots of pictures in a few seconds, with each picture being a very brief exposure to reduce blurring). What's this called in technical specifications lingo, and what are some good values?

    Marc
     
  6. Aug 31, 2012 #6

    luke strawwalker

    luke strawwalker

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    Well, if you want to go DSLR, you're right that I'd avoid Craigslist. Most big towns or cities have camera shops still around, and most of them deal in used cameras as professional and semiprofessional photographers decide to move up to bigger, better, nicer, or newer equipment. Some deals can be really sweet. If you don't have a nice photography store nearby, reputable pawn shops aren't a bad alternative...

    If you want to stay with something new in box, newegg.com or some of the other online electronics sellers have some good deals. I'd stay away from Ebay too, because it's hard to know what you're getting until you have it, and the sellers might not be very reputable. I actually got my camera at Best Buy on sale, as the newer models were coming out, so the older ones were discounted pretty good to move them out and make room for the new ones. Best Buy and other electronics stores can have some pretty good deals, but that's not a given, so you really have to do your homework. Do some research online, and look for reviews and professional recommendation pages online to get a better feel for the features you need and the ones you don't. DSLR's DO have a lot more flexibility, just like the old film-type SLR's before them, but most of them have tons of features and usually have a fairly steep learning curve, maybe more than you want to get into if you're not an amateur shutter bug, but just want some nice pics of your launches. If that's the main thing you're after, most of the "pro-sumer" models will do just fine for that kind of shooting... You just don't have quite as much flexibility as you would being able to change lenses. But, of course, that flexibility DEFINITELY comes with a price...

    Do some research and read up on things... Don't just take the word of whatever slick willy salesman in the store tells you... they DEFINITELY are either more interested in moving higher priced stuff to increase the store sales and profits or their commissions (if they get them, depending on the store), OR they're trying to meet quotas or move certain items that might not necessarily be what you need. You have to be knowledgeable about what you're buying, compare features and prices, and then make a decision. This is where a good camera shop can come in handy-- they're usually more concerned with customer service than the chain stores, because they're more reliant on repeat business to stay alive.

    SO as for features?? There's a lot of differing opionions on options, and a lot of it depends on what you want to do with the camera. The biggest thing the camera manufacturers and stores want to shout about is megapixels. While it's true that in the "early days" of digital cameras, more megapixels was ALWAYS better, basically the need for more megapixels has plateaued... you won't be able to tell the difference between a picture shot with a 15 megapixel camera and a 10 MP cam at most standard display sizes. MP is the resolution, much like the film size on old film cameras. The larger the film and negative, the better the resolution. That's why 35 mm cameras produced so much better looking pictures than the old 110's, which had a film frame size about half that of the 35mm. If you've ever had enlargements made of a 110 image, it turns grainy and blurry very quickly, and anything over about an 8x10 was practically worthless. 35mm images could be blown up to small poster size in many cases without getting into objectionable fuzziness or graininess of the image, depending on the quality of the camera, film, and photographer. Professional grade equipment in 35mm could go MUCH bigger! Ever wonder why those old Ansel Adams pics blown up into posters look so good?? It's because he used cameras with ENORMOUS film sizes... MP is like that. If you're just doing 3x5 or 4x6 prints, or looking at the pics on a computer monitor, even a 2-4 MP camera is adequate (a modest point and shoot). If you want to display the pics on a large-screen TV, then the more megapixels you have, the better the image quality will be. 5-8 MP is usually adequate for most uses and enlargements up to poster size... 10 MP is certainly fine. If you're blowing up pics to put them on the side of buses or on billboards, you'll probably need more than 10 MP, but otherwise, 10MP is all you'll probably ever need for average use. One other thing to consider is, the larger the MP rating, the larger the file size for each pic, and the less you can put on your card... and the more space they'll eat up in storage. Most cameras can be set to lower MP settings; in fact on mine I set it down from 10MP to 5MP, which is more than good enough for most shots/conditions. As electronics have improved, they have been able to cram more and more pixel sensors onto a chip... actually the bigger the chip the better... but most cameras have a sensor chip size at most about the size of a postage stamp, and most are much smaller, maybe 1/2 to 1/4 that size. The larger the sensor and the larger the lens, (and that goes hand in hand with the quality of the glass, especially on DSLR's) the better the image quality will be, regardless of the resolution (MP's). That's why DSLR images look SO much better than equivalent pics from a point-n-shoot with their tiny "bubble lenses" or the "pinhole" lenses in microcams like we put on the side of a rocket...

    If you're getting a DSLR, you'll need good glass... get the best glass you can reasonably afford... but good glass costs! You need a good wide-angle lens and a decent zoom lens. That's what's nice about the prosumer models, is that they have the glass built in, so you're not buying glass... less expense, but usually a little less quality and of course less flexibility. I was looking at the new Fujifilm model that replaced mine (well, it's the second or third new replacement model past mine actually) and they're up to a 24X optical zoom. Mine is only 15X IIRC... The wider the zoom range, the more flexibility you'll have in shooting. IGNORE "digital zoom" numbers altogether... that "feature" is absolutely worthless-- it's a "cheat" manufacturers use to play up cheap models with low-quality glass. OPTICAL zoom is what you want... if your camera has digital zoom, just turn it off and leave it off... all digital zoom does is "zoom in" on a small portion of the already small sensor, and then blow that up to fill the entire frame... As someone else mentioned, you can do that inside the computer to "zoom in" on the parachutes and stuff on the way down in editing software... BUT, since you're basically just "cropping" the picture and then blowing it up to fill the entire frame, you're losing resolution, therefore graininess and fuzziness will increase substantially, and it gets worse the more you digitally zoom.

    For rocketry, especially liftoff shots, a good burst mode is essential. Make sure the burst mode is easy to access (not requiring a laborious process of going through several menu pages or steps to turn it off or on). Some cameras have a single "burst mode" setting or at most a couple... better quality cameras for rocketry use will have more selections... My camera will shoot 33 pix in a little less than 3 seconds, which is good enough for most rocketry uses... I usually get about 5-10 pix of the liftoff, more if I can follow the rocket as it's ascending and keep it in frame... (that's where not being zoomed in too much definitely helps-- zoom in too much and it's virtually impossible to keep the rocket in the frame as it's accelerating away). It downselects the MP rating at the 33 frame rate to 3MP, to reduce the filesize and allow the buffer to hold all those pics at once before writing them to the card. There's several other settings to allow it to have higher resolution (say 5MP) at a reduced frame rate or number of frames (I think it's 22 frames at 5MP) Good cameras will have these different settings, allowing you to choose what resolution/frame number/frame rate you want for the particular shooting you're doing. They're not ESSENTiAL though... I myself usually just use the 33 frames at 3MP setting, and then toss the unneeded frames. Since rocket activities are usually done in full sunlight conditions, even 3 MP pics look pretty darn good... but of course if better quality is what you're after, then the lower frame rate at 5MP is going to produce sharper pics...

    Most cams have plenty of flexibility in different "modes", like nighttime, backlit scenes, snow, water, sunset, fireworks, sports, etc... These modes allow you to quickly set the camera for special conditions like backlit scenes near sunrise or sunset, low contrast/high light conditions (snow settings), high reflection situations (water or lake settings), fast action (sports) or low-light conditions (fireworks) settings. Actually I have a blast photographing the fireworks shows in Indiana near the inlaw's home over the fourth of July... all you need is a tripod. Of course the better the camera, the more flexibility and settings it will have; this is what really sets them apart from point-n-shoots which have usually a LOT less modes available and don't do as well with the ones they have. The main difference between the better quality camera models is the way the camera is set up, how intuitive or difficult it is to use and learn to use. Some are DEFINITELY easier than others! My Fujifilm even has different color modes= B/W, standard color, and "vibrant" color which 'brightens and enriches" various colors to produce more vibrant, brighter colors... got some AMAZING sunset pics at the beach with these settings a few years back... even had one featured on Channel 2 News during the weathercast (they select the best contributed pics for their weather forecast background image). Heck I've even got into shooting lightning storms, though I need some practice on this count... there's a lot of luck involved, and you have to have a tripod, and use the burst mode to shoot a TON of pics and then toss the ones that are blank... but it's fun and dramatic...

    Later and hope this helps! Good luck! OL JR :)
     
  7. Sep 1, 2012 #7

    Sully

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    Marc... I (and I am sure many others too) am following along with interest. Let us know how things go, where/what you buy, etc.

    Thanks!
     
  8. Sep 1, 2012 #8

    hornet driver

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    SAME HERE!
     
  9. Sep 1, 2012 #9

    SSenesy

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    Marc;

    For what it's worth, I'll throw my $.02 into the rink. I agree with the previous suggestions regarding DSLR's. They give you a much higher degree of control over the shooting situation and can be adjusted to give good results when conditions are less then optimal. With that said, there's a learning curve if you're new to this type of camera that needs to be factored into your purchase. Generally speaking the more you spend, the less 'hand-holding' in the form of pre-programmed modes, etc you'll get.

    I use a Canon EOS 7D and am very satisfied with it. My principal reason for the purchase was it's frame rate and resolution. It can shoot at 7 fps until the buffer fills up, which is usually around 90 pictures when I shoot JPGs. RAW files will only give me about 15 shots continuously, but I have greater control over the pictures when I go to edit them. The 7D's resolution is high enough that I can generally crop in tight enough so that I can edit the shot that I want even if I'm fairly far back from the action.

    You've mentioned the T3 and T3i. The T3i has better specs in almost every respect. It's resolution is higher, it has a better frame rate, and it can serve as a video camera and shoot 1080p video as well. I bought one for my wife earlier this year, after she complained that she had to upgrade her point & shoot almost every year. She loves her camera and has taken some great rocketry shots (even though it's not her primary interest). By both of us using the same basic style of cameras, we can share lenses although this hasn't happened yet.

    You didn't mention what type of rocketry you want to photograph, but that will have a large impact on your lens choice. If you're shooting high power where you need to be back away from the pad you'll need a longer lens. Mid/Low power generally aren't set back as far, so a long lens is less critical. Another factor to consider is the maximum aperture of the lens (it's 'f' rating - lower is better). This controls the amount of light entering the camera through the lens and will affect how fast a shutter speed you can use. Many zoom lenses will have two different ratings - one at minimum zoom, the other at maximum (where you're likely to be when shooting HPR). The max zoom rating is likely to be higher.

    If I remember correctly, Canon sells a 50-250mm zoom lens as a 'kit' lens option with the T2i and T3i. This might give you better utility for rocketry than the 18-55mm that you've mentioned. Another factor to consider is that most 'consumer' or 'pro-sumer' DSLR's use a sensor format called APS-C. This is a bit smaller than a traditional 35mm frame (which is called APS in digital cameras). It's not a big deal, but it will affect the actual focal length of your lens. APS-C cameras (like the T3i) have a 1.6x crop factor. That means that any lens that you attach to it will have a range 1.6x greater than printed on the lens. So, a 55-250mm lens is in reality a 88-400mm lens when used with an APS-C camera.

    With all that said, there's a whole lot of good choices that will work as a rocketry camera from point & shoot's to very expensive DSLR's. Here's a few of my favorite pics taken with my 7D.

    IMG_1030.jpg

    IMG_1196.jpg

    IMG_1218.jpg

    IMG_2535.jpg
     
  10. Sep 1, 2012 #10

    Marc_G

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    Thanks for the continued comments and input. I'm learning a lot.

    To JR's point, the comments about megapixels and resolution not being the whole story are right on. It's a good reminder for those of us using this thread. And good points about the buying process and where to buy (and not to buy). And SSenesy, thanks for your recent input too. If I go DSLR, the info about differences between T3 and T3i and the lenses and such are really pertinent.

    My big worry is to stretch my budget beyond the original $400 or so, but getting a low end DSLR less useful for my needs than a high end point and shoot.

    My rocketry is all LPR or low end MPR for the foreseeable future. No need to go for long shots at an away pad or anything. Basically, these are park launches and I'm routinely 30 feet from the pad per safety code, less if I'm putting up A-C flights.

    I think what I need to research for some models is the burst/continuous frame rate, and the speed at which frame is taken under high light conditions. What's this latter parameter called, btw?

    I'll probably pull down the T3 and T3i manuals for comparison to get my bearings, then expand to other models/manufacturers.

    I'm a bit concerned because my $400 budget looks like it needs to be stretched if I go DSLR. I have looked into used shops, but from what they show online, I might as well buy new from Walmart/Costco.

    Marc
     
  11. Sep 1, 2012 #11

    jsargevt

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    For $400 you can pick up the Canon S100 - if you are not interested in a DSLR I think that this is probably the best alternative that i know of. The S90/95/100 series has been well regarded and should do what you are looking for.

    First - it can do about 2.3 FPS (frames per second) which should be plenty fast to catch rockets on launch.
    Second - it minimizes "shutter lag" and should take the shot when you press the button. That alone is the biggest complaints off compact cameras these days.
    Third - street price is $430 and on amazon it is about 370 right now.

    I agree that craig's can be a pain but I have purchased a couple of Nikon D40 with 18-55 and 55-200 for $200 each off there and both bodies and 3 of 4 lenses are running strong. However, I knew what I was looking for and rejected a camera deal which was junk. I'd stick to retail unless you are willing to take a risk (which I suspect you are not).

    Not sure if this helps but I have a few friends who have it and just love it as a portable alternative to their DSLR.
     
  12. Sep 1, 2012 #12

    Disaster_Guy

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    As someone else mentioned, one of the best places to look for a used SLR is in a neighborhood photo shop. This is particularly true if you have a university near you. I personally shoot with a Canon T2i and a variety of lenses. I have purchased all of my camera junk either from B&H Photo or used from a small camera shop down the street from the University of Delaware. Note that B&H also sells used and takes trade-ins so you may want to take a look at that to give you some ideas: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/browse/Cameras-Photo-Gear/ci/2871/N/4294247179
     
  13. Sep 1, 2012 #13

    FredA

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    I doubt you'll get the shutter response you want from anything but a DSLR....you know, the time from pushing the button to when the picture is really taken.
    Most rocket action shots are hard to get with a big shutter lag.

    Many All-In-One type cameras might fit your bill, but only a DSLR will give you ultimate control....if you are ready for that.

    Lastly -- do your homework and DON'T FEAR CL --- I just sold a really nice DSLR kit on our local CL that I shot thousands of rocket pics with --- The CL market will be cheaper then consignment sales at a local brick and mortar. Just wait till what you want comes around.
     
  14. Sep 1, 2012 #14

    Marc_G

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    I'm really enjoying the information and support I'm finding here! Thanks guys! :handshake: :grin:

    Here is a very basic question:

    Let's say I got a Canon T3i. It advertises approx 3.7 frames per second. Is that ALL? Since the camera can take 1080p video at thirty frames per second, I'm surprised that the stills are so few FPS. I know that a 1080p video (1920x1080) is much lower resolution than the camera's max (5184 x 3456), so there's lots less data to push around and store. But for rocketry purposes, on the pad all the action is going on (for LPR BP motors) in less than a quarter of a second... so how do you ensure (or at least stack the deck) to get good off the pad shots when the stills are captured only at ~4 fps? Seriously, even if I perfectly timed the launch button and the frame capture button, maybe the first frame would be "nothing happened yet" and the second one would be the rocket half out of frame 10 feet up... Or am I missing something? I sort of which the camera had an intermediate resolution still mode with higher FPS.

    What I've been doing so far with my point and shoot is capturing video on the pad, from 30 to 120 fps (albeit, at low res for the 120 fps), and snagging the best frames out of that, but of course this application results in blurred stills.

    So, how do you get good shots with the still mode on these cameras, given that the frame rates are slow relative to video?

    I think I'm missing something fundamental.

    Thanks!

    Marc
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2012
  15. Sep 1, 2012 #15

    Marc_G

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    So, looking around, it seems the Nikon D5100 and the Canon T3i are similar featured models. Nikon advertises sligthly higher frame rate (4.0 vs 3.7) and the Canon has higher Mpixels (18 vs 16). As covered in posts above, the pixel variance is moot, and I doubt the frame rate differential is significant in practice.

    Both cameras can be had (with the standard lens) new for under $700, or a bit under $600 if I'm willing to go refurb or used. I'm surprised truly used product from shops and online aren't more of a discount... typically no more than 15% off new prices, 20 % max. While I'm not too proud to buy used stuff, the risk involved to me suggests discount should be at least 30%. For the 15%, I'd just as soon buy new and get full warranty coverage. My current Nikon point and shoot is undergoing warranty repairs even as we speak.

    I'm not decided on anything yet, still doing homework, but these two cameras are my current point of reference.

    Marc
     
  16. Sep 1, 2012 #16

    SSenesy

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    Marc;

    The T3i can shoot at 3.7 fps till it fills up it's buffer, which is about 34 pictures at max resolution JPG. This assumes that you have a fast enough SD card to support that rate. A lot of the photo magazines routinely rate the performance of SD and CF cards and can guide you to one that meets both your performance and budget needs. My 'guess' that the reason one can shoot at 30fps without problem in video (they also support other modes, like 24fps) is that the resolution in 1080p is much lower than the maximum resolution of the camera when shooting stills. Remember that it's principally a data movement problem - the camera has a limited buffer, and anything in it must be written to the memory card. Anything that can be done to reduce the size of the picture files will increase the number of pictures that you can take before the buffer fills. Typically this means reducing the picture size or quality.

    How do you get good shots? practice, practice, practice! In all honesty, it's tough to get good shots all the time. Having a higher frame rate helps, but there are many other factors that come into play as well. The response time of DSLR's was mentioned earlier. This is a very important point. You want shooting to begin as soon as you press the shutter. An element of this is pre-focusing. Most DSLR's will allow you to press the shutter half-way and hold it to set the focus. If your camera has a continuous focus feature, you may wish to disable it, as having the camera trying to refocus while shooting may slow it down.

    Personally, I prefocus and then start shooting as soon as I see smoke coming from the motor. I try to follow the rocket as best I can while holding down the shutter. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. It helps to have an LCO that you're familiar with so that you can predict what they're going to do.

    I use aperture priority to make it easier to control my depth of field and let the camera set the shutter speed. 9 times out of 10, this means setting the lowest F number that I can, which means my background will be blurred, but the rocket should be in focus. The bigger the rocket, the easier it is to shoot. Smaller rockets and short burn motors are very hard to get clear shots from. LPR in particular is tough since the reaction time on the motor is so quick. The Warp9 and VMax motors are similar challenges. If I start shooting a LPR rocket at motor ignition, I'll probably have 3-5 pictures of it in the frame before it moves off. I've posted a couple of shots of a MPR rocket on a Blue Thunder motor, which shows the problem. This was at 7fps, so you may only get 2-3 good shots unless you are able to follow the rocket.

    You're going to take a LOT of pictures, most of which will be trash. BUT, a few should be usable, and one or two will be exactly what you want. Good editing software can help to save marginal pictures and really tweak the good ones. I shot about 1k pictures per day at LDRS, and out of that group I was happy with maybe 30-50. As was said earlier, the beauty of digital is that it doesn't cost to get as many shots as you want. Storage is cheap.

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    Last edited: Sep 1, 2012
  17. Sep 1, 2012 #17

    Marc_G

    Marc_G

    Marc_G

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    Stan,

    Thanks for the further info. It aligns with what I expected. One more followup on stills versus video:

    For stills, basically the shutter opens very briefly, with the user having full control over things like aperture size versus timing... but for video I presume the shutter is open continuously, with much less control, and hence the lower quality (plus, the smaller resolution, of course).

    When doing continuous shooting, I presume the shutter is opening and closing that X number of frames per second (~3.7 or 4 for the cameras I'm looking at). Because these are continuous stills. If I were to dial the resolution of the still back a bit, would it be typical that the camera would be able to take more frames per second? Or is the continuous max speed a set thing, no matter what the resolution setting?

    If my choice comes down to the Canon T3i vs Nikon D5100, and given my LPR/lite MPR park launching primary use case, do you see any reason to prefer one over the other? Based on cameras I've owned I have a light bias toward Canon, but it's far from an overwhelming one. Basically, the Nikon point and shoot I have is nice specs (for it's class) but I've never been happy with the pic quality; plus, it broke (USB/charge port fried) and needed repair within 7 months of being new. The Canon powershot I have lasted 4 years before its flash died (but otherwise still works).

    Marc
     
  18. Sep 1, 2012 #18

    SSenesy

    SSenesy

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    Marc;

    For video, the mirror locks up so you don't have the 'through the lens' view available. You use the rear LCD to view what you are shooting, just like a point and shoot camera. The shutter is still active whether you're shooting stills or video. While it sounds kind of lame, many pro's swear by the newer batch of DSLR's for video production because it gives them control over depth of field that you can't get in a video camera until you get to the VERY high end. There have been a number of shows and movies filmed using DSLR's ranging from SNL to a lot of indie format films. It's a very hot topic in the film community.

    I think the maximum fps is what you're going to get, no matter how far down you reduce file size. Another limiting factor is the processing power of the CPU in the camera. My wife's T3i and my EOS 7D both have Digic 4 processors, but my camera has 2 of them. This is one of the factors that accounts for the higher frame rate. What reducing file size WILL give you is more shots continuously till you fill up the buffer. With me, thats 90 shots in JPG or 15 in RAW, so it's significant. In JPG mode, I can shoot continuously on most high power flights from lift off till deployment (assuming I can follow the rocket in the viewfinder).

    Canon vs. Nikon? Wow, that's a can of worms...kind of like Android vs. iPhone, Windows vs. Linux, peanut butter vs. chocolate. People tend to get pretty religious about their choices. Seriously, I think they're both great cameras. My only Nikon is an old D40 that my daughter threw down the stairs one day (my fault for leaving it out), but that's what drove me to buy the 7D. My secondary hobby is amateur astronomy and occasionally I like to use the camera for astrophotography. Nikon's are less than optimal for astrophotography because they have an algorithm that attempts to reduce image noise before writing the picture to storage. When shooting stars, what happens is that faint stars are treated as noise and processed out. Astronomers jokingly (sometimes) refer to Nikon's algorithm as the 'star eater'. In normal photography, (including rocketry) this is a good thing as it reduces the noise in pictures. In astrophotography, that noise is actually data so you are reducing the amount of information you're capturing. If you shoot RAW, you can recover the data post-processing but I didn't want to have to deal with it. I mentioned locking the mirror - when shooting through a telescope or with a long lens, you have to do this as the movement of the mirror will usually be enough to blur the photograph. I use a remote control to trigger the camera so I don't accidentally bump it.

    So, I went with the 7D when it came time to replace my Nikon. The choice of my wife's T3i came down to something reasonably priced that would be compatible with the lens kit that I'd collected for my 7D. She got a package deal that included 2 zoom lenses, so she hasn't asked to borrow mine yet as hers are much lighter that the one's I use.

    I did a quick Google search for articles comparing the T3i with the D5100. They seem very close in capability, with the D5100 having a slight edge due to a better kit lens. The difference in megapixels will likely not significantly affect you. The standard kit lens with both is a bit short (18-55mm) but if you are able to get close to the action it shouldn't be a problem. Just remember that the closer you are, the harder it will be to keep the rocket in the viewfinder once it lifts off. Having a longer lens and standing back a bit makes it easier.

    One other factor I just noticed in looking at the ads for the T3i and D5100. The package that I'm looking at includes a VR and IS lenses with both cameras. This is basically image stabilization and will generally help you everywhere BUT rocketry. When I use a lens with image stabilization, I turn it off when taking rocket photos. YMMV. When you start getting out to the 300+mm range, a good tripod becomes your friend.

    Just one more thing to finish up - B & H Photo was mentioned earlier. I've dealt with them in the past and they are a class act. Competitive prices and great service. You might be able to beat their prices if you can find a special at Best Buy or similar store though.
     
  19. Sep 1, 2012 #19

    Marc_G

    Marc_G

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    I found some good reviews at www.cameralabs.com/reviews . They also do a head to head comparison between the T3i and D5100 that had me leaning strongly to the Canon until they got to the part where there's no continuous autofocus in video mode, which makes me lean toward the Nikon. This may be less relevant to rocketry, but more to other uses. Also, it seemed in doing continuous shooting (a speed boat going by on a river, simulating a rocket coming down under a chute :wink: ) the Nikon seemed to perform better.

    I'm continuing to look at reviews of these and other options.
     
  20. Sep 2, 2012 #20

    jsargevt

    jsargevt

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    Marc,

    You'll eventually get stuck in analysis paralysis trying to figure out which is the "best" camera when you're comparing these two. You really can't go wrong with either one and they will be exponentially better than any P&S. The doo dads and gizmos are nice but you will probably not really miss any of them. I have a D7000 and I am certain there are some features it can do which I don't even know exist.

    Here is what I recommend. Go to a camera store or Best Buy. Pick up the cameras. See how they "fit". Each has different ergonomics. For most people either Canon or Nikon "just fits better" and that is a completely valid option.

    Second thing, (and you're already doing this) - see what your friends shoot. If you run with a bunch of people with Canon and you have a Nikon they can help with basic photo stuff but they might not be able to help with some of the settings and things like that. Also, friends with lenses you can borrow are very handy! A good way to see if that 70-200 is worth the scratch or not.

    Last, and I am sure that anyone who is a photo geek will probably ridicule me for this, but Ken Rockwell gives the D5100 a recommend (http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/recommended-cameras.htm) and has a nice write up on the D5100. I have recommended it to 2 different DSLR virgins and they both were very happy with the purchase. That said, I know of other DSLR virgins who love their T3i. Again, all comes down to preference as a previous poster stated.

    Personally, I dig Nikon because that is what I started with and what I felt comfortable using. I close friend of mine (who is a great photog) shoots Canon. He agrees it's not the camera but the user.

    Sadly the heycraigapp.com site is offline - that was super handy to set up a search and have it email you hits for your locale. Oh well. Never mind on that one.
     
  21. Sep 2, 2012 #21

    Marc_G

    Marc_G

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    All good advice.

    None of my friends are really into photography to the point of getting a DSLR and understanding the subtleties appropriate here.

    I have looked over other non DSLR cameras and don't think I would be happy with them after reviewing strengths and weaknesses.

    It's really a toss-up between the D5100 and the T3i... Each has an edge over the other in various areas. Both are a couple hundred more than I was planning on spending and I'll continue to consider my choices. That Cameralabs comparison video (two segments, 10 mins each) were really good. The Nikon seemed to do better in continuous shoot mode and has continuous autofocus... the T3i seems to have better controls and more control in some modes... So I'm going back and forth, depending which way the wind blows.

    I understand the analysis paralysis idea. I think that's kinda where I am.
     
  22. Sep 2, 2012 #22

    SSenesy

    SSenesy

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    Marc;

    The autofocus in video mode has not been an issue for me, but I'm not a real big video person. You set your depth of field so that it is deep enough to include movement of characters/subjects so that they stay within the depth of field range. My only 'complaint' is that my 7D takes a bit of time to reach the initial focus when starting to shoot video. It's not really good for 'snap-shots' of video.

    The Canon has an auto-focus mode in stills called Servo AI that will adjusts focus continually.

    But... I totally agree with Jason. Both are great cameras and you won't be disappointed with either.
     
  23. Sep 2, 2012 #23

    Marc_G

    Marc_G

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    I went to Costco today to get some "hands on" time with them. It's still a nail-biter.

    Since the Watering Hole gets a wider viewership than here, I'll post a poll there to see if there's anything like a concensus for these cameras around rocketry. Basically, I just want to make sure I've done my homework to the best extent possible!

    :grin:
     
  24. Sep 2, 2012 #24

    mkadams001

    mkadams001

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    You might want to look at the Nikon 1 series. They have the speed you need and the lenses while being much less bulky than a dslr and may fit your price point. The key is being able to shoot with a bunch of room around your rocket so that you can adjust for the movement. So the features you want besides frame rate are the sensor and optics.
     
  25. Sep 2, 2012 #25

    Marc_G

    Marc_G

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    I took a look at the cameralabs.com review of the Nikon 1 series. A very respectable product, apparently:

    (Quoting from the review mentioned above):

    "A pattern should be emerging by now. The V1 can shoot faster and longer than its rivals, but it does so with a relatively modest frame size of 10 Megapixels. Sure the Nikon 1 system certainly has a super-fast image processor, but part of its 'secret' is simply having fewer pixels per frame to process than its rivals. Surely the answer then for high resolution DSLRs and ILCs would be to offer a lower resolution mode which could shoot faster and for longer, but strangely this hasn't been available outside Nikon's pro sports DSLRs and a handful of super-zoom point-and-shoot cameras. So in this case the Nikon 1 cameras enjoy the fastest, longest and most usable continuous shooting options outside of the pro sports DSLR arena."​

    Sigh. Just when I thought I was down to 2 contenders a third rears its head...

    Other thoughts from the photogs here about the Nikon 1 vs the DSLRs I've been following?
     
  26. Sep 2, 2012 #26

    luke strawwalker

    luke strawwalker

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    When you get to that point it usually comes down to what sort of deal you can get... at least for me...

    You're right about doing your homework... make sure there's nothing you missed...

    Later and good luck! OL JR :)
     
  27. Sep 2, 2012 #27

    Marc_G

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    I've got buyer's remorse, and I haven't even bought anything.

    Reading around, I'm increasingly concerned by the autofocus (stills) of the Canon. A couple places mentioned it was a bit deficient.

    That Nikon V1 is really grabbing my attention with the high speed continuous shooting. Also the fact that if you fill the buffer, and just give it a couple secs, the room freed up is immediately available for the next frames you shoot... no need to wait until the buffer is zeroed out. It's fewer pixels, on a smaller sensor, but with higher frame rate the need to be zoomed out is less.

    Decisions, decisions. I'm now officially regretting posting the poll for just the T3i and the D5100.

    The review continues.
     
  28. Sep 3, 2012 #28

    jsargevt

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    I am not a fan of "micro 4/3" camera systems. To me, the ONLY advantage they have is size. You start dealing with full proprietary stuff and that kind of annoys me. At least with a DSLR you can still find and snap on lenses that are readily available. What happens if/when they drop M4/3 in 5 years? All that money you have invested is gone like the people who invested in APS. With DLSR your lenses keep their value more than anything else in your kit. Bodies and sensors come and go but the lens technology is more or less the same.

    That is just me.

    You are totally stuck in analysis paralysis. Listening to a bunch of people online isn't going to help ;)

    I don't really know what to tell you. Flip a coin? Whichever one makes you excited to use it will be the one you should pick. As everyone has said - both are great cameras. You cannot make a bad choice with either.

    Here is what i do - put both names on paper and pick out of a hat. If you're disappointed with the one you pick get the other one. If you are excited get that one. You may be surprised at how well this works.

    Good luck!
     
  29. Sep 3, 2012 #29

    SSenesy

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    Just another tidbit to make your choice more difficult... :rolleyes:

    The T4i came out a few weeks ago. This will likely cause some downward price pressure on the T3i. I read that the T2i will be discontinued, so that might present an opportunity as well.
     
  30. Sep 3, 2012 #30

    Sully

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    Does anyone have experience with the Canon Powershot SX260? It looks like the high end of the point-and-shoot category, definitely not for the pro, doesn't support RAW and has other shortcomings.

    What interests me, along with the sub 300 price tag, is the 20x optical zoom and the continuous shooting mode that can do 10 fps in a 1 second burst. Both of these seem like they would be great for rocketry shots.
     

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