Photographing airguns - Part 4
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, I'll show you the camera I use, and I'll talk about photographing pellets, plus how to take macro shots without a macro mode. Let's do the macro mode first.
Connect the dots
Many of you have never opened the manual that came with your camera. You know it has more features than you use, but as long as it takes nice group photos, you really aren't interested. You have what is known as a point-and-shoot camera. It's time to face the facts. If we were talking film cameras, there are things you can do with even a cheap camera - like use a film with a lower ISO number. With a digital camera, you have software that adjusts the ISO (film speed, meaning how grainy the film looks after its developed), but the "size" of the image produced means a lot more. The size of the image in the digital world means the number of dots in it, at 72 dots per inch (on most cameras). And here's the bottom line - if your camera has only two megapixles (the number of dots the image is wide times the number of dots high it is), there is nothing I can do for you. Your resolution is too low to do what I'm about to describe.
Where megapixels count
However, you would almost have to have a dinosaur camera to have that low a resolution. Most of you have at least 5 megapixels or more, and it's hard to buy a camera these days that doesn't have at least 7. The problem is that most of us are using our cameras in the default mode, which the camera maker assumed meant taking pictures for the internet. They know most of you don't know how to get the pictures out of your camera and printed on paper! So, the default mode of your camera uses about 0.3 megapixles - even though it says 7.2 on the front of the camera in shiny letters. To put it into automotive terms, you have pulled 7 of the 8 sparkplugs out of your car's engine to save gas, and then you wonder why it won't go faster than 15 m.p.h.
Read the manual and set your camera on the highest resolution it's capable of - and you may discover that instead of 335 photos you can now only take 7 because your memory card is too small. If so, you may want to upgrade. Both my cameras call this the "Quality" setting, and it isn't that easy to find in the manual. On my point-and-shoot camera, the quality is a menu selection, but on the bigger camera it's a dedicated button.
Taking a macro picture without the macro mode
When you take the picture at a close but non-macro setting, you'll be enlarging the image in software. Yesterday, I showed you some bullets that looked like this:
Here is what I can do with that image because my camera is set on the highest quality or resolution:
Now for the toughie. Pellets are difficult to photograph because it's hard to get close enough to them even in the macro mode. That's why I love the second, super-macro mode, of my Fuji S9100 camera (the big one). I can get almost 1:1 images, and, with this camera, that means a photo of a dime can be a magazine-quality, full-page spread. I don't usually need anything that big for most work. Although I use super macro, I don't get close enough for that much enlargement.
To cancel the foreground and background I use a sheet of printer paper held down in front by tape and in the back by a weight. I have photographed this setup for you to see what I mean.
The camera was casting a shadow, so I painted the pellets with light like I described in an earlier segment of this report. The lens was about 1.5 inches from the subject.
My big camera
I use a Fuji Finepix S9100 camera for all my serious work. Although it doesn't have interchangeable lenses, the one lens it has is razor-sharp and zooms from a true 28mm to 300mm! It also has ISO speeds from 80 to 1600. At 1600, I can hand-hold the camera in a dark barn and get good closeups without blurring. My friend, Earl McDonald, who is the lead photographer at the National Archives, has used this camera in just 3 foot-candles of light, which is darker than most restaurants. The camera focused fine and held the shutter open as long as required.
This camera is not a professional digital camera, but it has many of the features I need for professional work. And it also shoots video, so I no longer have to take a separate video camera to airgun shows. They give these things away for as little as $335 on the internet. It takes pictures with up to 9 megapixels, which is 50 percent more than the Fuji S2 professional camera. I've been using it for three years and I recommended it to Pyramyd Air for all their product photography. I cannot think of a better camera for less money.