Cameras

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While still photos are rarely as convincing as video, they are still valuable for documentation of a site and getting an occasional lucky shot of something anomalous.

 

POLAROID INSTANT CAMERAS

The Polaroid Instant camera used to be the camera of choice for investigations as they are very cheap, ($20 not unusual) you can get a fairly decent image very quickly and there is a perception that Polaroids are difficult to forge or alter, thus some people tend to view them as being more trustworthy. This is a Silver Express model with adjustments for Macro (2- 4 ft) and exposure settings. The film has a built in battery for the flash and operation is relatively simple as long as you remember to pull the black light shield out of the film cartridge when loaded.

Personally, I don't like Polaroids for the following reasons: 

1) They are very bulky

2) The adjustments are fairly limited

3) The film is expensive as hell (about a dollar a shot) so you might as well be shooting in infrared

4) Film development time is not as fast as a digital

5) You have to scan an image in manually to get it into a computer

I also don't agree that they are not subject to defects in development. Take a look at my ORBS page for more info.

 

DIGITAL CAMERAS

I much prefer digital cameras as they are usually more versatile, cheaper to operate, more infrared sensitive (in general), and tend to be more portable. Below are some reviews of various models I have used:

 

1) Kodak DC4800 - This is my workhorse, and though this camera came out several years ago, it is still regarded as one of the best digitals ever made. While it isn't the most compact, there is an upside to the solidity and craftsmanship that went into it. The casing is formed like a conventional 35mm which makes is easy to hold. The optics and picture quality is superb, with settings enabling you to hit 3.2 MP in resolution which is plenty good enough for most paranormal work.

The downsides of the 4800 include a proprietary battery (they are getting hard to find), a shutter switch a little too close to the power switch so that it is possible to get confused and turn off the camera by accident when trying to take a shot, and a long cycle time between shots. It uses the old style Compact Flash card which is reasonably compact and cheap.

 There are a LOT of bells and whistles on this thing, though the big plus of digitals is that you can play around with the settings without using up expensive film. There are some in the ghost hunting community that feel like digital cameras can't be considered for serious research, and while I disagree with them on most counts, I will have to take up that diatribe later. At the very least, the digitals are good for site documentation and establishing shots.

 

2) Fuji FinePix A303 - This is a pretty nice camera for the money, though it has been discontinued. I picked this one out for my Assistant Director and she's very happy with it. It goes up to 3.24 Megapixels as well with a 3 X optical zoom and an integral lens cover. Very compact as well and it uses the newer xD memory cards which are almost too small.

 

3) Fuji FinePix A200 - This is a very basic digital camera which I selected for a worker at my Dad's company. It's rated at 2.0 MP, 2.5 X Zoom and it is very cheap: under $150 in most places. Have not used it in paranormal work, but so far it seems well suited for day to day use.

 

4) Sony Mavica - I've used these incredibly bulky cameras and I don't care for them, especially the older floppy disk models. I find the image quality to be rather poor, and using 1.44 MB floppy disks for storage is a ridiculous choice nowadays given the cheaper and smaller memory cards out there. With the newer cameras, they may be better, though I haven't tried one lately. More recent models use the proprietary Sony memory stick, which could be an advantage if you also use a Sony D-8 camera. (only thing they are good for is taking stills from the video)

5) Sony DSC - V1  Review coming soon.

Battery pack NP-FC11  

256 MB Memory Stick Pro MSX-256

 

In the future I will probably write up a brief buyer's guide, though there are plenty of them out there on the Internet if you just look around. My criteria will of course be from the standpoint of ghost hunting. Here are some quick guidelines:

1) Do research online and in magazines to see what other people are saying - but regardless, get a hold of an actual model and use it for yourself. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, and what some regard as an excellent camera may not fit all of your needs.

2) Try to buy a camera which uses conventional batteries like AA so that you are not stuck with some weird size that no one carries except the manufacturer. Rechargeable Lithium Ion's are the best and will save you money and keep discards out of the landfill. If the camera you love has a proprietary battery, be sure and get a spare.

3) Use the highest image/resolution setting you can on the camera (most are adjustable) so that if you DO get something, then it can be blown up for maximum detail. In view of this, get at least one spare memory card in a size as large as you can afford. I suggest at least a 128 MB.

 

ACCESSORIES

 

This is a padded camera case from REI with a Velcro loop system for hanging on a belt. There are outer pockets for spare batteries and film cards, and it comes in my favorite color - tactical black. The only downside is slight bulkiness and the fact that REI is no longer making cases.

BTW, for memory cards, be sure you buy ones that are MMC (MultiMedia Compatible) Even cards made by the same manufacturer can vary according to memory size. Sandisk brand is real bad about this.