Digital camera advice please.

Hi, I’m looking to buy a digital camera to be used for textures and reference,
the main features I would like are a LCD display that flips out and turns around and a good zoom capability for macro shots.
I have no previous photography skills and would like to spend around £150 $300 USD, (I could stretch a bit more on that front though.)
Questions:
What would be a suitable pixel amount for good quality textures? i.e. 7, 10, 12mp
Are there any not so obvious things I should be looking out for in the reviews?
Do you own such a camera?

Thanks

5mp is more than enough for textures. Other than that, I can’t really help you.
Oh, make sure you get a good lens. That’s propably more important than amount of pixels. My old Sony Cybershot, with Carl Zeiss lens still take better quality photos than many new cameras with much higher pixel amounts.
Remember, for textures, quality is important. A 3mp foto is already 2048x1536 pixels, which is more than you need for textures.
However, for fotos to be used as background images, you need at least 5mp, but 7 is better. Ideally, your background image should be the same size as your rendering.

for entrance level photography, (starting out), I bought a Fuji S9500.
Whilst not a interchangeable lens SLR (or true slr some would try to argue), it has settings from 5-10 megapixels.
The newer s9600 is even better.
Photos for textures are better taken at higher resolutions then size reduced in a quality image editor.
The camera is more than enough for most other than true professional photography.
A good way to start so you can learn & see if you want to take it further.
http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/s/finepix_s9600/index.html
m.a.

The Panasonic Lumix series is great. They use Leica lenses. Can be a bit noisy in lower light levels though, so best to check what people say about their particular model. The Lumixes also shoot in true 16:9 aspect ratio and have a rather wide angle lens.

Good site to check out Digital Cameras: http://www.dpreview.com/

I wouldn’t limit myself to models with flip-out screens if I were you.

Oh yes, most Lumixes are great, but they are not the cheapest.

You certainly know about sites like dpreview.com or steves-digicams.com. The first one has a nice feature search function.

My preferences would be, regarding your specifications:
a) Go for wide-angle. It should be at least 35mm, 28mm focal length would be better (based on 35mm film, as the chips are smaller you always have to calculate the value if using the real values). You always can zoom in, but you can’t that easily combine multiple images.
b) 6-7 Megapixel. In fact, more megapixel in a compact camera make the image worse. Not better, but not even the same quality, but worse. The chips are that small, the lenses are that small, they just can’t produce more pixels. Trying to do so needs “tricks” like sharpening software that produces muddy images.
c) Go for manual settings (aperture, shutter time; white-balance is pretty much standard). You need predictible results, you can only get them if you know what you want and can tell this to the camera.
d) Typically you can’t do much wrong with the “big” names, but they are producing different cameras for different segments.

The combination of wide-angle and manual settings is an expensive one in the compact segment. In fact, I am searching for such just at the moment.

I guess something like the Canon A570IS will serve your needs. Or maybe (a little cheaper, no plastic feeling) the Samsung S850 (arg, manual controls like no other in that price segment - and then they add childish effects menus…). The Ricoh Caplio G5 even is nice (wide angle, 28mm), but has no manual possibilities. Panasonic Lumix LX2 is nice (and expensive)… and there are so much other very fine cameras.

This thread over at Conceptart.org may be of help to you:

http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=78354

BgDM

Thank you for your advice & links as always it is very much appreciated.

P.S. The reason for the flip out LCD is so I can use myself as reference and check that all relevant parts are in the shot.

I’ll be getting a camera shortly myself so the above advice is much appreciated!~

Flip-out LCDs are great, you can make shots that are otherwise hard to do (near-ground shots, shots from the hip level). But for taking yourself in the shot it is not that useful… means you are only around 30 cm from the camera. And that would really need a wide-angle lens to get you fully in the picture. A self timer is more suitable then.

I am using a FujiFilm Finepix S5700 but with the self timer is the problem that AF cant be aimed on the actual target - here myself cause AF works before being in place.

Good reviews on this site, but I wouldnt waste too much time looking in the forum. 90% of the information on the internet is gear wank, and very few is by people who are actually out there making good pictures.

the fuji, lumix and canon powershot series are all great.

wouldnt bother with the flip out LCD. it’s not like exposures are precious, just keep taking shots till you get it right.

I’m also doing some research on digital cameras. Almost the same needs as that guy at conceptart.org: ability to point-and-shoot (others in family will be using it) but personally I want to control everything about the photo:evilgrin:, such as DOF, aperture, yadda yadda.
I found that both Canon and Nikon have SLRs of about 6 megapixles for about $600.
That’s more than you want to spend of course, but amazingly cheap for an SLR of decent quality.