Public Lab Research note


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Choose a camera for aerial photography

by liz with cfastie |

Image from Ebay seller Goodwill Maine

Reposted and updated from parts of https://publiclab.org/wiki/balloon-mapping-materials and https://publiclab.org/wiki/camera-selection

Philosophy: these days, you can just go for the cheapest camera and get decent image quality.

  1. Search for a used 10mp+ camera for as little as $10, typically between $20 and $40 on Google or Ebay
  2. Make sure the camera has a continuous shooting mode so that when we send it into the air with the button mashed down, the camera will continue taking photos every second or so.
  3. Consider what kind of battery the camera has: when buying a used camera with a proprietary rechargeable battery, there is always a chance that the battery will be worn out and unsuitable for long flights of interval shooting. This is especially true if the camera is a very old model. The Canon A490 takes standard AA batteries which is helpful when simply being outside might prevent you from recharging the custom battery.
  4. Buy the camera!

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2 Comments

I am a little confused about some of the suggestions here.

I like the advice of using a camera with at least 10MP because it ensures that the camera is not too old. It is not that easy to find a 10MP point-and-shoot camera for under $20. A low-end used Canon PowerShot with at least 10MP typically costs $20 to $40.

Most of the camera models suggested here (the SDxxx models) have fewer than 10MP and are rather old models. Most of the under $20 cameras found by the Google search have fewer than 10MP and are old models.

If the goal is to use CHDK, it is good to buy a PowerShot model released after 2011. Earlier models could use only SD cards of 4GB or smaller with CHDK unless the SD card had two partitions (although maybe that restriction was lifted for the newest versions of CHDK, I can't remember).

Buying used cameras has obvious risks, but an important one to consider is that when buying a used camera with a proprietary rechargeable battery, there is always the danger that the battery will be worn out and unsuitable for long flights of interval shooting. This is especially true if the camera is a very old model.

"Most recent Canons have continuous shooting, known as "P" or "M" mode." I don't think continuous shooting has anything to do with "P" or "M" mode, although continuous shooting works in "P" or "M" mode and not in "Auto" mode.

Another consideration is the lens's widest focal length. PowerShots vary between 24mm and 37mm (equiv.) which is a big range. Depending in the photographic goal, this could be important.

Chris


Hey Chris, you spotted me trying to re-post some fairly vintage content from the original balloon mapping page. I'll update this note -- which was intended to be the simplest, step-by-step place to learn how to choose an appropriate camera -- with your fresh notes, thanks!


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