About Cameras in PhotoModeler

PhotoModeler accepts photographs from most cameras including digital still cameras, video cameras (analog and digital), and film cameras. Each type of camera has its advantages and disadvantages, but they all have a place with PhotoModeler.

PhotoModeler customers successfully use many different camera types such as DSLR, Point and Shoot, Smart Phones and Drone / UAS cameras.

What Is The Best Camera For My Project?
What Is The Best Digital Camera?
Can I Use A Camera With A Zoom Lens?
Will I Need To Modify My Camera?
What Is Camera Calibration?
What Is a Pre-calibrated Camera from Eos?


What Is The Best Camera For My Project?
When choosing a camera, you should consider your project requirements and your budget. The most common choice is a digital SLR camera. Point-and-shoot consumer digital cameras are common as well. In some fields, such as forensics and accident reconstruction, film may be the only choice because that is the evidence at hand. PhotoModeler can also work with photos taken with unknown cameras, providing there is some known information about the scene. See InverseCamera.

Consumer Digital Cameras are a good match for PhotoModeler. A typical project might require 1 part in 2000 accuracy or less for 3D models with high-quality photo textures. Consumer-grade digital cameras are convenient, affordable and produce good results. You can expect to pay anywhere from $200-$600 US for a new consumer digital camera.

Digital SLRs are an even better choice if they are within your budget. With an DSLR you have more control over settings, get to choose the best lens (usually a fixed, non-zoom, wide angle), and often have higher resolution. You can expect to pay anywhere from $800 to $8,000 for a good DSLR and lens.

Cameras on Drones and UAS are lightweight so they can be carried aloft. Some cameras are built into the drone, some are sport cameras like the GoPro, some are small point and shoot, and some are full DSLRs.

Video Cameras are also compatible with PhotoModeler. Analog video can be digitized with a frame buffer and used in PhotoModeler. Analog video cameras provide low resolution images and the resulting PhotoModeler projects are usually accurate to 1 part in 500 or less. HD digital video cameras are common now - they improve on standard video with greater resolution, greater image stability frame-to-frame, and easier transfer to your PC (USB, firewire or SD Card). The resolution is not as high as a still camera.

Film Cameras can be used by PhotoModeler when the image (from negative, positive or print) is digitally scanned. A good quality scanner is needed. Film cameras are not commonly used as digital camera resolution is improving constantly. Film is used in PhotoModeler when that is all that is available such as in forensic cases.

A good source of digital camera information can be found on these sites: Digital Camera Resource List, Steve's Digicams, and Digital Photography Review.

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What Is The Best Digital Camera?
There are so many digital cameras on the market, with new ones becoming available at such a rapid rate, that we cannot recommend a particular brand or model (unless we test it thoroughly in-house, as we have done with several Nikons such as the D90 and D7000, for example).

The most important items to look for in a digital camera are:
  • High resolution: most high quality cameras support resolutions of 8 mega pixels or better.
  • High quality non-zoom lenses: almost all digital consumer cameras will come with a zoom lens, so this is difficult to avoid. If using a zoom lens, you should set the optical zoom to one setting for all your PhotoModeler projects. Avoid using the digital zoom settings - digital zoom manipulates the photo without actually adjusting the focal length. DSLRs on the other hand let you choose your lens and we recommend a wide-angle non-zoom lens (called a prime lens). Do not use vibration reduction or image stabilization lenses.
  • Control over settings: if your camera has automatic features such as image stabilization or orientation detection ensure there are menu settings for turning these features off. Other good controls are for manual focus and sharpening (and in some cases aperture and shutter speed). When doing projects with high contrast targets we recommend using cameras with an anti-aliasing filter (most cameras have one) and turn off or reduce the sharpening setting.
  • Easy, fast image download to your PC: the best methods are through Flash card (SDCard with SDCard reader for the PC), or a USB interface cable.

Can I Use A Camera With A Zoom Lens?
We normally recommend fixed lenses with PhotoModeler (i.e., no zoom) but zoom lenses can be used with PhotoModeler if extra care is taken. PhotoModeler needs to know the focal length of the lens for each picture taken. Some cameras do not store focal length information, so you will want to fix the zoom at a known focal length - such as the widest angle, the most telephoto or the power-on-default zoom - before you start shooting. Be careful not to change the zoom during the photo shoot or your accuracy will be affected. Some consumer cameras have a more stable zoom than others (ie. the focal length does not change as you handle the camera) - these cameras are preferred.

Will I Need To Modify My Camera?
For digital cameras, no. If you are using a film camera with a film scanner that crops the edges of the frames and you need high accuracy, you can optionally place an Eos Film Plane Insert in your camera. The insert has two fiducial marks that appear on each photograph and allow PhotoModeler to orient itself to the lens and camera body in a consistent manner.

What Is Camera Calibration?
When you require the high accuracy, you can use PhotoModeler's Camera Calibration software to calibrate your camera. Eight to twelve photos are taken of a supplied grid pattern, imported into the Camera Calibrator function and processed automatically. The program calculates the camera's focal length, lens distortion, format aspect ratio, and principal point. The resulting calibration data file can be saved on disk for use in all PhotoModeler projects that involve photos taken by that camera, at the same settings. PhotoModeler also includes self-calibration and field calibration modes to improve camera parameters further when accuracy is your prime concern. Further information on calibration can be found in our Knowledge Base.

What Is a Pre-calibrated Camera from Eos?
The majority of our customers use or buy their own cameras since the camera calibration step is easy to do. In some cases, if you don't have a camera, and you want a high quality one that we have tested and proven to work well, you can buy a pre-calibrated camera from Eos. These come in digital camera bundles along with the PhotoModeler software for a turn-key operation.

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