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photographing archival documents--query

by danilo04 / October 15, 2008 11:30 AM PDT

Dear all,
I am planning to do some research in the British National Archives, and would like to use a digital camera to photograph documents. The archive does not allow one to use a tripod, or a flash. In addition, its not quite clear to me what the lighting conditions will be in the reading room (I assume decent, if I can get a widow seat).
What type of digital camera would be best? i am photographing a wide variety of documents, some handwritten; some in small print on large format pages (phone book size). The Ritz camera salesperson suggested that I choose between a Nikon D60 or the Fuji S2000HD (10mp; 15 zoom)? While the former has a heaftier price tag, the latter gives you far more bang for your buck. Should I invest in the more expensive Nikon or in the less expensive Fuji? Or, is there a good in between option?
Your suggestions are more than welcome.

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archival photography
by Joliet Eddie / October 15, 2008 11:44 PM PDT

What do you plan to do with the documents? Are these simply for your own reference--essentially in place of scans/photocopies? If so, you can get away with some pretty simple photo hardware. For instance, I own a D60 but also it's little Point-n-Shoot brother the P60. The little P60 has a "copy" setting which shifts the image to b&w. So I tired that and found, pleasantly, that you get a very readle copy of a 8.5 x 11 page. And you can stand over the page on a normal work table since the camera will close focus enough. As it turns out, you don't need that setting. You can copy in color in the macro mode, too. The images that I get from shooting an 8x10 color photo are about as good as an inexpensive flatbed scanner at 300dpi. There is some barrel distortion in the lens, but if this is just for your own reference, it is more than fine. BUT you do need a lot of light. A window-side table would be great.

The dSLR D60 takes great photos, but I have not tried copy work with it. It will do much better in low light, that's for sure. I'm just not sure how close the 18-55 kit lens will focus. You may need to invest in a macro lens in this case. I suggest, as with all cameras, to try it out in the store. Try copying some advertisement flyers in the store, etc. I don't know the capabilities of the other camera as to copy work.

In either case, the cameras will allow you to compensate for the color of your light source: daylight, shade, flourescent or incandescent.

The P60 can be had for $200 on sale. The D60 kit for $600 on sale.

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Just sharing.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / October 16, 2008 12:01 AM PDT

Such research institutes have staff you can talk to about your needs. They should guide you on the solution.

It's possible that research in the past was done with pen in paper. That is you would read a document and find a passage you needed. Then you would pen that in your notebook and then give attribute to it.

But digitizing the works do have some issues you need to get under control before you spend a dime on a camera. Some research houses forbid the cameras altogether since that would mean the works would be digitized and copyrights could be violated.

Be sure you don't spend all that money and then get denied access to the content.

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