Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I would like to buy a compact camera to take photographs of documents in archives. The issue with normal compact cameras is that - obviously - the photos are often out of focus and are geometrically distorted. I mostly need these photos to read the texts and images later on, not for high-quality printing.

I know that there are special cameras for documentation, but I would like something more compact, because I don't need very high quality. Basically I need a compact camera optimised for document photos. Does such a thing exist?

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What sort of documents are do you want to digitise? Are they fragile? If not, maybe a portable document scanner (no affiliation, just first hit on Google) would work? –  Bart Arondson Dec 4 '13 at 12:51
    
You should be able to use exposure compensation available in most P&S cameras to nudge the images into the slightly over-exposed direction so that the (usually) white pages are not mistakenly set to 18% gray. Try something like +1.5EV as a starting point, your mileage will vary. A moderately bright white LED flashlight with a diffuser may also help with having enough light to hand-hold the camera, and reduce any shadows. –  RBerteig Dec 5 '13 at 23:01

2 Answers 2

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Any moderate-level compact camera should do just fine. In fact, since you note that you don't need very high quality, they should be more than fine.

For the two issues you raise:

  • Make sure you are using Macro mode and focus should be no problem. Most compact cameras use a focus technology which is somewhat slow but very accurate. They also all include macro modes which can focus at very close range (a benefit of the tiny sensor and small lenses), so it's actually less necessary to have a special setup.

  • You could look for a model where reviewers note low distortion, or (perhaps better, if completely distortion-free images are important) use a program like Hugin to make the image perfect after the fact.

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Most of the smartphones cameras can do the job. In conjunction with amazing apps like Evernote or Google Drive you can achieve the same goal that you are looking for and save a few steps in the process. I recommend create a nice place with good light and firm board in order to avoid those distortions. Again the smartphone camera is a good tool for that. I already use it.

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