Taking industrial machinery pictures - need help!

Started Apr 2, 2014 | Questions
CarbonManTX New Member • Posts: 3
Taking industrial machinery pictures - need help!

I have been in the industrial industry for 20 years and am also an avid goto enthusiast. As an application engineer I take many industrial application photos for reports, etc. Over the years I have had always wanted to get better quality pictures. This is the photo enthusiast side in me but the problem is many plants do not allow cameras though I can tend to get way with the smaller point n shoot type camera. I have a few obstacles yet want better pictures.

I started with the Olympus 3030 years ago an then went to the Sony Cybershot series and have been with the Cybershot series since. The latest 2 I have been using is the DSC-TX9 and the newest is DSC-TX30. Overall these have given me good results and the range in which I can take the picture is very good. I range from macro to 4ft away.

The other obstacle I have is I am unable to set up any equipment IE: tri pod, lighting etc. Most often I need to use the flash, portable small light, or flashlight. It must be done during my inspections and not require much extra time nor elaborate set ups. This is why the point n shoot has worked so well. I may be limited but thought I would reach out. I am by no means an expert with any camera and certainly not with a point n shoot. My regular camera is a Nikon D7000 and this is way to large to get in a industrial plant for pictures.

My question is what camera option is there to keep me in a the small pocket size to a bit larger yet cover the range, and produce higher quality images?

I have bought a Sony RX100 11 but cannot seem to get the good close ups from 2-4 ft away. The Cybershots let me get close up shots from any distance.

Here are some image types I shoot for work.

Feel free to respond here and or contact me for more info.

shot from 3-5 ft away

Shot from 3-5 ft away but zoomed in as motor was running and could not get closer

Close up of commutator

 CarbonManTX's gear list:CarbonManTX's gear list
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX9 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX30 Sony RX100 II Nikon D7000 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II +6 more
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Mark Scott Abeln
Mark Scott Abeln Forum Pro • Posts: 12,323
Re: Taking industrial machinery pictures - need help!
3

Ooooo, I used to work in industrial maintenance.  Great fun, big expensive stuff.

A big problem, photographically, is that the photos were apparently taken with the on-board flash. That leads to distinctive shadows which tend to look rather poor in most cases. Typically, the camera's own flash is a last resort.

Generally speaking, you would get better results from a flash that is off-camera. Now, this doesn't have to be too intrusive — if you camera has a hot shoe, you can put a small adaptor on it, with a cable that goes to an external flash. Alternatively, you can use small wireless transmitters to do the same thing. All of this ought to fit into a pocket if small enough.

Since the built-in flash gives poor results, a counter-intuitive solution is to use a ring flash — a circular flash that goes around your camera lens. This provides a similar flat lighting, but eliminates most of the shadows around the subject, and is considered nice lighting.

 Mark Scott Abeln's gear list:Mark Scott Abeln's gear list
Nikon D200 Nikon D7000 Nikon D750 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D +2 more
OP CarbonManTX New Member • Posts: 3
Re: Taking industrial machinery pictures - need help!

Mark Scott Abeln wrote:

Ooooo, I used to work in industrial maintenance. Great fun, big expensive stuff.

A big problem, photographically, is that the photos were apparently taken with the on-board flash. That leads to distinctive shadows which tend to look rather poor in most cases. Typically, the camera's own flash is a last resort.

Generally speaking, you would get better results from a flash that is off-camera. Now, this doesn't have to be too intrusive — if you camera has a hot shoe, you can put a small adaptor on it, with a cable that goes to an external flash. Alternatively, you can use small wireless transmitters to do the same thing. All of this ought to fit into a pocket if small enough.

Since the built-in flash gives poor results, a counter-intuitive solution is to use a ring flash — a circular flash that goes around your camera lens. This provides a similar flat lighting, but eliminates most of the shadows around the subject, and is considered nice lighting.

Agreed no question - The problem is a ring flash is mainly for a DSLR camera and large. Actually the lighting from flash is ok for what I use the pictures for. (mainly reports & presentations). I would love to use a ring flash with my DSLR but the camera is big and customers have a tendancy to get over reactive when bringing such a camera in. Since many plants do not allow or no not promote taking pictures I can usually get them to agree to it since it is needed for my reports that ultimately help them. That said they just do not want a pro looking set up (in there eyes). I certainly would not mind

Mt=y strive for better looking pictures while limited in what I can use is what gets me. With a point n shoot the pictures are not as detailed. I would suspect it has to do with the sensor, lens, etc. With the DSLR you can get very fine quality images. I guess this is what I am trying to accomplish though I am going to try using a hand held flash. With the new LED ones I can easily make that work.

Overall image quality is what I am striving for in a compact size yet getting the macro and distant shots in the close quarters. I am limited to a 4" - 4 ft area in which I can take the picture. This is where I struggle when trying the Canon G16, Sony RX100 11, and similar. The point n shoot allows me to snap the photo within these parameters and get an overall clear shot every time. Most others do not unless I go to a DSLR which is not an option. Now I just need to get better overall image quality for detail, blowing up, cropping, etc.

Thank you for responding and I will try your suggestions to make the pics even better as I still want all aspects to be better : IE: lighting, image quality, etc.

 CarbonManTX's gear list:CarbonManTX's gear list
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX9 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX30 Sony RX100 II Nikon D7000 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II +6 more
Henry Falkner
Henry Falkner Forum Pro • Posts: 14,173
Re: Taking industrial machinery pictures - need help!
1

As you already found out, small sensors give you the depth of focus you require.

The new small-sensor cameras have BSI-CMOS sensors and LED flashes in them, which all helps with better sensitivity, less noise and more reach.

Google brings up lots of cheap and expensive ring flashes, most seem to need a hot shoe - which excludes a lot of small sensor cameras.

Your examples with the internal flash in use suggest that you might have minimised some shadows by turning the camera 180 degrees.

Basically, you are doing already what is possible with the constraints you must work with.

Henry

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 Henry Falkner's gear list:Henry Falkner's gear list
Olympus SP-570 UZ Olympus SH-50 Olympus Stylus SH-1
Aberaeron Senior Member • Posts: 6,544
Re: Taking industrial machinery pictures - need help!
1

I share the same kind of interest and love touring engineering and production factories. Even small engineering companies. Not all are willing for photography but a surprising number have given in and do now allow it, possibly because every phone is now a camera. If they have secrets, they tend not to show it to anyone outside the company.

Anyhow, I have had reasonable success with the Panasonic TZ6 in the past but the Fuji X20 is far superior in low light and at higher ISO when flash is felt to be disruptive.

Currently I have no suitable off-camera remote flash for it, but just last week I was looking at wireless remotes for my cameras, partly for this type of image. In general though, the X20 produces very acceptable image quality in surprisingly low light at ISO 1600 or even 3200 if need be. A tripod is not practical on a quick tour but if time allowed it would help to create sharp images through long exposures as long as the subject was not fast moving, which they often are in factories. So I would generally find a good off-camera hand-held flash far more useful than a tripod.

 Aberaeron's gear list:Aberaeron's gear list
Fujifilm X20 Sony SLT-A57 Olympus OM-D E-M10 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 Olympus 7-14mm F2.8 Pro +21 more
OP CarbonManTX New Member • Posts: 3
Re: Taking industrial machinery pictures - need help!

Thank you - This is kind of what I thought as well. I appreciate your insight on the sensor and depth of field as that answers it. I also work with different ways to utilize built in flash as you mentioned as well. Thank you

 CarbonManTX's gear list:CarbonManTX's gear list
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX9 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX30 Sony RX100 II Nikon D7000 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II +6 more
Leonard Migliore
Leonard Migliore Forum Pro • Posts: 15,964
You bring what you need

CarbonManTX wrote:

I have been in the industrial industry for 20 years and am also an avid goto enthusiast. As an application engineer I take many industrial application photos for reports, etc. Over the years I have had always wanted to get better quality pictures. This is the photo enthusiast side in me but the problem is many plants do not allow cameras though I can tend to get way with the smaller point n shoot type camera. I have a few obstacles yet want better pictures.

I started with the Olympus 3030 years ago an then went to the Sony Cybershot series and have been with the Cybershot series since. The latest 2 I have been using is the DSC-TX9 and the newest is DSC-TX30. Overall these have given me good results and the range in which I can take the picture is very good. I range from macro to 4ft away.

The other obstacle I have is I am unable to set up any equipment IE: tri pod, lighting etc. Most often I need to use the flash, portable small light, or flashlight. It must be done during my inspections and not require much extra time nor elaborate set ups. This is why the point n shoot has worked so well. I may be limited but thought I would reach out. I am by no means an expert with any camera and certainly not with a point n shoot. My regular camera is a Nikon D7000 and this is way to large to get in a industrial plant for pictures.

My question is what camera option is there to keep me in a the small pocket size to a bit larger yet cover the range, and produce higher quality images?

I don't know about "small pocket size" but I find a Canon G12 works pretty well:

Focuses real close, needs flash most of the time.

But last week I had to take a really close look at a piece of machinery and I was concerned about using flash so I took my D300 with a 35mm f/1.8. This did a good job at ISO 1600:

Some noise at ISO 1600 but perfectly usable

So when you need it, a DSLR isn't too heavy to bring onto a production floor.

 Leonard Migliore's gear list:Leonard Migliore's gear list
Canon PowerShot G12 Sony RX100 III Nikon D300 Nikon D750 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR +12 more
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