A New-Old Bench Camera


I take pictures of my finished builds (and works in progress when they hit significant milestones) with my trusty Nikon D300s. For these “staged” shots, well-lit on posterboard, the Nikon is wonderful.

But…it’s a chunk of a camera, and not exactly the most convenient thing to wield around the bench. That and, with its usual 35mm lens, its minimum focus distance really limits what it can do in terms of detail shots. Sure, I can slap the macro on it, but then it becomes even more unwieldy.

So, instead of the Nikon, I’ve been using my iPhone to capture my day-to-day bench adventures. In that it captures images that I can share, it does its job, but it’s just not a very good camera, and has many faults that leave the photographer in me gnashing my teeth. The absolute lack of white balance controls. The poor metering and poor dynamic range. The tendency of colors to shift toward the edges of the frame.

Facing down a few epic builds, I finally decided to upgrade my bench camera. I decided straightaway not to buy anything new. I’m not a big fan – or a fan at all, really – of point-and-shoots, and outside the high end, there haven’t been any major improvements to the point-and-shoot in years. After all, I don’t need face detection or sweep panorama. I don’t need billions of megapixels or a 15x zoom. All I need is solid metering and a good macro mode.

After polling others, I landed on the Canon PowerShot SD790 IS.

While the camera is four years old, it still packs 10 megapixels and does what I need it to do. At around $70, the price was also very right (this thing retailed for $350+ when it came out in 2008).

For one who’s so accustomed to the absolute control DSLRs provide, the simplicity of the Canon is…irritating. Why in the hell can’t I adjust the aperture? You call that a manual mode? But…it is a dramatic improvement over the iPhone, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Revell PV-1, shot with iPhone
Revell PV-1, shot with Canon PowerShot SD790 IS
Allarmi Capt. Ugo Drago - iPhone on left, Canon on right

And the workflow is significantly easier than the one I suffer through with the Nikon. I shoot in RAW when I shoot with the Nikon, and as such, the workflow looks something like this:

  • Shoot pictures
  • Import pictures into Aperture on the Mac
  • Tag, make adjustments in Aperture
  • If finals, go the further step of editing in Photoshop to take advantage of the wonderful “Unsharp Mask” filter
  • Drag images into iPhoto
  • Export images to Photobucket using the iPhoto plugin

With the Canon:

  • Shoot pictures
  • Import pictures onto the iPad
  • Upload pictures to Photobucket using the iPad app

The upshot…better, clearer bench pictures, with more accurate color tones, from here on out!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Ken Driggers says:

    Have you tried using a HDR (high dynamic range) app for your phone? The one I am using makes you hard-pressed to tell from a DSLR (of course after jpg compression) for posting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.