Camera's for the Assessor
It is often said that a picture paints a thousand words. That is why we, in the assessment profession, need (or should be) constantly updating the photographs of all improved properties in our respective municipality. Pictures are a great public relations tool; not only can we demonstrate that, yes, we have seen your property, but pictures can help both the assessor and property owner tell a story and agree on details.
With the advent of the digital camera, we have the advantage of taking a picture, reviewing it in the field, deleting it (if need be), re-shooting and then moving on to the next property. No longer do we have to take a roll of film to the corner drug store and wait a day or two for the prints. Once we're back in the office, we can download the pictures to RPS V4, ImageMate or a variety of other photo sharing/cataloging software.
So let's assume you're in the market for a new camera - here are three things to consider:
It's Cheaper Than You Think
First thing to do - check your budget - make sure you've got $200 to $400; in most cases, a camera shouldn't "break the bank." You could go for a high-end ($1,000 plus) camera, such as an SLR (Single Lens Reflex) with interchangeable lenses, but this would be like buying a $75,000 Cadillac XLR to do your field review - either way, it's the taxpayer that gets taken for a ride.
More Pixels make for better pictures! Right?
Not really. Most of us
have heard the term megapixels - we know that if you look at a
photograph under a strong magnifying glass, we will see different
colored dots that compose the picture. We have been told that
the more dots that we have, the better
picture the picture will be; that's true - IF you are
looking to create posters, and most assessors are not. With a
picture projected on your computer monitor, you can, with a good
photo software, zoom in on the picture; at some point, the picture
will start to "pixelate" - it looses its clarity. Well defined
lines now start becoming blurred shadows - the dots are spreading
out, trying to cover more territory, but it gets stretched thin.
More pixel will help, but again, we are now talking about an image
of poster size quality - in out profession, don't sweat the small
Although you probably won't find a camera in the two or three megapixel range anymore, these are more than adequate for the assessment community; the "cheap" cameras usually start off at about 10 megapixel.
Optical Zoom vs. Digital Zoom
Another choice you will have
is really a no-brainer and it concerns that house sitting 300 feet
off the road, and the property owner doesn't want you on their land.
It's time to "reach out and touch someone." Cameras are often
advertised with two numbers: "Optical Zoom" and "Digital Zoom."
It's important to know which zoom will really give you the results.
Digital zoom there is no adjustment of the lens; instead, the camera crops the entire image, and then digitally enlarges to the size of the viewfinder. The end result is a loss of quality. By using image-editing software, such as Photoshop, instead of the digital zoom on the camera, is that you can decide how much to crop, and how much to enlarge the image. When you use digital zoom on the camera, the image quality is irreversibly lost.
The bottom line: Compare optical zoom and ignore digital zoom. Optical zoom capabilities make all the difference in the final product. The higher the optical zoom, the farther away from the subject you can be and still get a great, clear, crisp quality shot.