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P&S for combat photographer
Daniel Bates, Photographer, Assistant
Taylor | TX | United States | Posted: 11:31 PM on 06.15.07
->> Hey all,

As some of you know, I joined the Army and am getting ready for Basic Training to start in a few weeks. I'll be a combat photographer (25V), and as such, the government will be supplying my [Nikon] camera equipment. I sold off my Canon personal gear, since there's not much point in having a personal kit that is fundamentally incompatible with my work cameras. Now this leaves me camera-less - a less than pleasant experience for a photographer!

I thought about getting a Nikon DSLR and using it with the military-supplied kit, but I'm not sure that I would want to do so (for insurance and liability purposes). At any rate, I'd rather wait for an update to the D2_ series, since I have a suspicion that Nikon might be coming out with something new and updated in the relatively new future.

In the meantime, I would like to get a camera. A point-and-shoot would suit me well, I think, for the times where I just want a small camera and don't want to drag along a pro-series DSLR and two or three lenses. I do have some requirements and preferences: It must be rugged, since I may not be in the best of environments, and I'm not particularly easy on my gear anyways. :) I need manual controls - that's a non-negotiable; I'd prefer that the camera have a hotshoe for an optical viewfinder. I need a fast, fairly sharp lens for available light work, and high ISO capability for the same reason. I would prefer that the camera be fairly compact and coloured black for unobtrusiveness.


Now I've been looking for a while, and the closest thing I've found is the Ricoh GR Digital ( This camera is rugged, compact, black! (heh), has excellent manual controls, has a hotshoe, and a fairly fast fixed 28mm lens. It is rather slow in operation, however, with a 2-second startup time, a ~2.6 second write time in JPEG fine, and a 12.5 second (!) write time in RAW. It also shows noticeable noise at ISO 64, significant noise at ISO 400, and a whole bucketful of noise (my technical term) at ISO 1600.

However, it's more or less the only game in town as far as I can see. Does anyone know of a better camera out there, or should I spring for the Ricoh (through Adorama), noise be damned? Or should I wait for the next generation of point-and-shoot technology?

Eagerly awaiting your advice,
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Brian Leddy, Photographer
Gallup | NM | United States | Posted: 11:41 PM on 06.15.07
->> The Sigma DP1 looks promising, but it has yet to be released. Supposedly an early summer release date is planned.

I first read about it on The Online Photographer blog
(Tuesday, June 12 was the post date)
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Debra L Rothenberg, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 11:45 PM on 06.15.07
->> Daniel,
I just bought a (used) Olympus 8080. It's on the larger size but fits in my vest pocket. It has manual controls, RAW, hotshoe, 8 megapixels and I have to say the image quality is great. It also has video capability. It used a CF card as well as an XD card (I only use it with the CF card).
I searched high and low for a camera like this. I really wanted something small but after searcing-and testing-about a dozen or so p&s, I am happy with this camera.
Hope this helps.

PS-I used the Canon G7 but wasn't happy with the results compared to this. I couldn't find the older G6 but I have heard it's a great camera, and a little smaller than the Olympus
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Daniel Bates, Photographer, Assistant
Taylor | TX | United States | Posted: 12:20 AM on 06.16.07
->> Brian, the Sigma does indeed look interesting. I just wish they'd release it (already!)...

Debra, my first digital camera was the Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 (a similar breed of camera). It was a good one, but I'm not sure where to draw the line between features and size; a XTi has pretty good image quality too. :)

I've been considering the Ricoh, the DiMAGE A1, the Nikon Coolpix 8400, the Canon PowerShot G6, the Lumix/D-Lux 3, the Epson R-D1, and the Leica M8. Unfortunately I can't afford an M8 and an R-D1 is just at the limits of possiblity - the DiMAGE is a bit bulky, as is the Coolpix, and I have doubts about the ruggedness of the Lumix/D-Lux. I already mentioned the problems with the GR Digital, but it seems the best of the lot so far... I don't know anything about the Canon G-series cameras though.
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Steve Russell, Photographer
Toronto | ON | Canada | Posted: 12:44 AM on 06.16.07
->> Daniel,
You might want to look into this little P&S!
My brother has it and has taken pictures with it immersed in a pint of beer!
Waterproof up to 33 ft
and shockproof and crushproof!
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Walter Calahan, Photographer
Westminster | MD | USA | Posted: 6:46 AM on 06.16.07
->> I love the various credit card size cameras that are available. They are very small, fit pretty much anywhere, now come in 7 mp size. Shop and compare.
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Michael Myers, Photographer, Student/Intern
Miami Beach | FL | USA | Posted: 7:02 AM on 06.16.07
->> Based on what you're looking for, and what your other gear will be, why not a basic D40? With the kit lens it's small, and if you get other lenses, they'll fit on it as well. Or, with a bit more weight, but not much, D80.

If then you want a small, light-weight lens, the Sigma 18-200 is quite small, light, and produces good images.

If you want something tiny, forget the above, but it's inexpensive enough to "fit" into the P&S category, even though it's a DSLR.
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Brian Tietz, Photographer
Fort Myers | FL | USA | Posted: 12:36 PM on 06.16.07
->> I normally swear by Canon Point and shoots (my cheapie a540 has a manual mode), but there is a great article on Rob Galbraith about Magnum Photographer Alex Majoli and his Olympus point and shoots.
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Ron Erdrich, Photographer
Abilene | TX | USA | Posted: 1:41 PM on 06.16.07
->> Get a point and shoot that is light and has a good MP rating. After a week full of carrying around your gear, you'll love being able to take pictures with something that's smaller than a deck of cards.

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Barry Curtis, Photographer
Laguna Beach | Ca | | Posted: 2:07 PM on 06.16.07
->> Keep your head down

2/7 Cav
1st Cav Div
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Kristopher Wilson, Photographer
Virginia Beach | VA | USA | Posted: 12:03 AM on 06.18.07
->> Honestly, I'd hold off on buying anything for now until you get to photo school at the Defense Information School (DINFOS). There are plenty of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines there who have done what you're going to do, and they'll be your best source for guidance. You may get something small now and realize once you get there you could have gotten something more like what you're used to. I'm stationed and shoot on an aircraft carrier, and it's no problem for us to have whatever kind of personal equipment we want along with our Navy-issued gear. Since my situation is obviously different that what you face, I can't in good faith point you in any kind of direction as far as camera shopping goes. What I can do, though, is point you in the direction of people who will know.
I don't have his contact info, but if you can get in touch with SSGT Russell Klicka up there, who is in charge of the Army photog training, he can tell you pretty much anything you could want to know. I just finished up attending the DoD Military Photography Workshop with him, and based on my impression, the Army finally has somebody in the right position to make sure Army photogs are brought up to the same standards set by the Air Force and Navy. Not saying anything bad about the Army guys, but history has shown that up until recently, the Army brass didn't quite view photojournalism with the same respect as other service branches.

Another suggestion, I personally know of several other military photographers who are SS members. Do a search for each branch and contact these people with your questions. The military photography community is pretty tightly knit, so there are always others out there who will be more than willing to help. Chances are you'll run across some of us on a fairly regular basis. Seek out these people who have been down the road that you're starting on. Their experiences will be your best source for guidance for a long time.

Try this for a start:

From now until the time you stop being associated with military visual information, all roads will lead you there, so always keep it in your contacts.

Good luck, keep your head on a swivel, and keep shooting. I'm sure I'll see you down the road.
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Robert Benson, Photographer
San Diego | CA | USA | Posted: 12:37 AM on 06.18.07
->> Daniel: I'd ask Mark Rebilias this question. He was a Navy photographer for quite a few years, and since he secretly still wishes he was in the military, has probably spent many hours daydreaming about what camera system he would use if he was back on the ship (where he really wants to be). Ask him.

And as for you, warm up to the fact that 90% of what you do in the military will be Soldier type stuff (marching, training, gun shooting, cleaning...) and only 10 percent will be relating to picture taking. Maybe 5 percent.
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Daniel Bates, Photographer, Assistant
Taylor | TX | United States | Posted: 1:30 AM on 06.18.07
->> Thanks all! I've been making some contacts with current Army combat photographers, and I'll look SSgt Klicka and Mark Rebilias up too.

As far as the P&S - I'm looking at cameras like the Ricoh and the Digilux 2 (or rather the Panasonic version, the DMC-LC1). But I won't get anything until after basic for sure - there's really no point!

Again, thanks for the great information!
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Robert Catto, Photographer
Wellington | NZ | New Zealand | Posted: 5:23 AM on 06.18.07
->> I've got the Ricoh, and I have to say I don't think it's necessarily suited to what you're after - for one, the 28mm fixed lens means it's best in situations where you're close to the action and can zoom with your feet. Not sure how that would work in combat! I like it as my P&S, but that's just my own personal bent - and I have found the 28mm wider than I'd like a fair few times - if it was 35mm, I think I'd like it more.

Also, it's not as indestructible as you might think - I've had one fail already, and that's in the first year of ownership; the lens came halfway out and wouldn't extend or retract. Sure, the chassis' solid enough, but the actual mechanics of the thing aren't necessarily so flash (and I hate to say that). Wish it weren't so, but my personal feeling is that it's a little tetchy as far as reliability goes.

For all-round usability (especially since you mention available light work), I'd be looking seriously at the Fuji F30 / F31fd, rather than something that might or might not take a beating in the field. DPReview's summary is that it beats up on every other P&S in low light something fierce, and from what I saw from my F11, they're probably right. I think it'll give you a much broader range of options in actual use, and heck, for the price of a GR-D you could probably get a spare F30 as backup...but do take a look at the G100 if you like the Ricohs, it's a zoom in a GR-D body from what I can see of it.

Good luck, soldier -
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Michael Granse, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 10:15 AM on 06.18.07
->> If you just need something relatively small, yet rugged perhaps a waterproof point and shoot might be the way to go. Here is a link to a 7.1MP Pentax that is rated for two consecutive hours of underwater use to a depth of 10 feet.

If it is sealed well enough for use under water, then it should be able to keep sand out.

Good luck and be careful.
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Daniel Bersak, Photographer
Boston | MA | USA | Posted: 11:12 AM on 06.18.07
->> Daniel-

I got the Ricoh GR in December, and I highly recommend it. I've used it for professional shoots on several occasions (alongside my regular gear), and I ended up having one image blown up to 12 feet long. It held. It's rugged, sharp, there's no shutter lag, and the wide angle adapter is reasonably rectilinear. So far I've used it in the hot sun of Northern Africa and the freezing winter of Bend, Oregon, and it's still ticking. The hot shoe is awesome for doing some off-camera lighting, and I love the fact that it has 2 control wheels like a proper camera.

My only complaint is that the USB port is only USB 1.1 (rather than USB 2.0), so moving photos is slow if you use the cable connected directly to the camera. I have an external reader that's much faster, but it's a bit of a pain if I want to pack really, really light.

If you'd like, you're welcome to email me and I can send you some raw, unedited photos.

Good luck!

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Thread Title: P&S for combat photographer
Thread Started By: Daniel Bates
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