My Canon Eos Rebel XT 350D has everything I want, especially after adding a telephoto. Unfortunately, with the telephoto and 1 gig and 2 gig cards and polarizers and UV filters, it's about $1500 but well worth it.
Are you talking about macro-mode close-up shots here? If so, it looks like your E550 shouldn't be too bad, but it depends on what your quality standards are.
I like my Canon PowerShot A620 overall, and have taken good (to me) close-up shots with it. Here are a couple of reviews that look specifically at the macro capabilities of these cameras for a comparison: Fujifilm Finepix E550 Canon Powershot A620
Don't know that the A620 is the best for close-ups (undoubtably not), but searching for the best close-up camera is not an easy thing.
I shoot mainly with a Nikon D70. Lenses are infinite as any Nikor lens will fit. YOu can get the D50, which is very similar for about $500-$600, body only. After that lenses can take you into any range you want. Check out the digital camera geek boards for more advice.
BTW, for overall quality and speed/reponsiveness you should definitely check out an SLR, like what the Canon or Nikon. They're user-friendly but give you unbelievable quality and speed compared to the point-and-shoot typical digicam. The drawback is the size- these are definitely much bulkier. To overcome this I bought my wife a small kodak digicam for her purse to compliment the SLR.
Thanks for advice guys, much appreciated. After looking at some of the shots made with E550,( flickr) I guess it isn't all that bad. Maybe light management is my problem, I don't know. It frustrating at times, you know, when you have the composition nailed and the product is beautiful, but you just can't get it to look appealing. All these shadows, glare... I had it all worked out with my amateur food pics, and now I just have to find a perfect setting/camera scenario so I can make plastic and metal look desirable.... Basically I need a crush course in digital photography. May have to do just that.
Grun, The problem with your photograph is mostly lighting (cheap flash). It’s a too hot in the center and fades to darks too quickly. Also, work on the composition. You've got too many objects going on in the backdground, especially some items in the distance. Try using a black cloth backdrop as the sole background image. If you want professional grade images, just buying a better camera is not going to solve these problems - although, a better camera like an SLR will handle the flash better.
It looks like the plate is under a light fixture, so try taking the photograph without a flash. You will have to hold the camera very still for a longer period.
Tabletop photography is an art. I do it with light boxes, shoot throughs, umbrellas, and the like. The Fujis built in flash, as most cameras buit ins are weak. Off the camera is beas from multiple directions. a good knowledge of exposure is helpful.
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