Author Topic: Cameras for coin photos  (Read 24587 times)

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Offline badon

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Cameras for coin photos
« on: July 31, 2010, 07:30:41 PM »
I'm looking at getting a new camera, and one thing I will want to do with it is take photos of coins. Aside from the normal reviews at Amazon and around the web, I've found the following two websites to be particularly useful.

http://snapsort.com/
http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM

I've been looking at the Canon S90 and the G11. Both cameras are top quality, and will serve me well for more than just taking pictures of coins. The have the some digital sensor, so perform quite similarly. The difference is in the optics of the G11, which makes it better for really close macro shots. They're so close that I'd use to photograph tiny features in a coins details.

The S90 is can't get as close as the G11, but it has the advantage of being much smaller, so I can take it with me to use for more everyday stuff too. The G11 is pretty small, but it's just barely small enough to be considered compact. Some reviewers call it a mid sized "prosumer" camera.

Neither camera does HD video, which is unfortunate, but I might decide that it's a worthy sacrifice to get the premium image quality that each camera can do. The thought has crossed my mind that I could get two cameras, but I hate having tons of stuff I rarely use.

So, what kind of cameras do you all use for photographing coins? Am I putting more thought into this than I need to? What do you like or dislike about the camera you use? Keep in mind that I'm probably never going to be very serious about photography, and I don't want a big SLR camera, even if it's cheaper and higher quality. I travel, and so I need to luggage light.

Offline PandaCollector

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2010, 11:01:43 PM »
Both of your proposed cameras ought to take nice photos BUT since you asked what other people are using I'll describe a different approach to coin picture taking. My experience with a Canon DSLR is that a dedicated macro lens (not a zoom with a macro setting) will beat the pants off other lenses in sharpness and contrast when photographing coins. I'm using an old manual focus Canon FD 50mm f/3.5 Macro lens on my camera (a D7, but any Canon DSLR with interchangeable lenses and 8 megapixels and above should do the job). These old lenses are pretty cheap because they won't focus to infinity on the new cameras. In fact, with a non-optical adapter on it, my lens won't focus past 12 or so inches. So what? For coins that's perfect!

I have tried a very Fuji nice point and shoot as well as a nice modern Canon zoom lens with a macro range on the D7 for coins, and there really is no comparison to the results  that old 50mm macro lens delivers. It's downright amazing, really. A new autofocus 50mm Canon macro is over $300. I paid about $35 for my FD lens because it showed some barrel wear. As far as I know the old and new lenses have essentially the same optics.

If you are seriously interested in HD Video from your camera the Canon T2i is pretty capable, albeit several hundred dollars more than the two you mention. Anyway, as I'm sure you already know, the key to great coin photos is lighting, not the camera. A nice lens sure is fun, though...

Best wishes,
Peter Anthony
http://www.pandacollector.com/


Offline badon

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2010, 12:16:43 AM »
I also wonder if I'm unnecessarily fixating on this since all of my coins are slabbed. No chance for a stunning photo while the coin is in a holder. I'm thinking now that I might just settle for an older SD940, and save myself some time and money - at least until I become seriously dissatisfied with it for some specific application. I want a tiny camera anyway, so if I can get useful results out of it for the coins, then I can wait for the 2011 product line. The rumors say I'll get HD video and even better image quality out of the upcoming S95 and G12 cameras.

This has been really handy for comparing image quality of different cameras:

http://www.imaging-resource.com/IMCOMP/COMPS01.HTM

I checked out the Canon Rebel T2i, and it has some funky moire thing going on with the hair near the forehead. Probably a problem with noise reduction accidentally removing non-noise along the edges of the hairs.

Offline badon

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2010, 01:45:32 PM »
Try using the photo comparator with the G11 and the SD780! It's pretty amazing, the super tiny and cheap SD780 does better macro shots than the many times larger and more expensive G11:

http://www.imaging-resource.com/IMCOMP/COMPS01.HTM

Unfortunately, the SD940 gives better all-around photography, but poorer macro shots, and the SD780 is really awful for everything except macro shots (but it's older and cheaper). If I need to buy two cameras, one for coins and one for general use, I'd be happier if both of them were tiny. The SD940 and the SD780 are almost exactly the same size, and together they weigh less than the G11.

The macro shots on the SD940 aren't terrible, so it might be good enough, especially if I get lucky with a good unit, or I use some tricks. I can try using my flat bed scanner too, but I don't think it'll work very well with slabbed coins.

Notice how easy it is to find coin photos taken with the SD780 on Flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/search/?cm=canon%2Fpowershot_sd780_is&w=all&q=coin&m=text#page=0

There's virtually nothing for the SD940:

http://www.flickr.com/search/?cm=canon%2Fpowershot_sd940_is&w=all&q=coin&m=text

Offline PandaCollector

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2010, 05:26:16 PM »
The SD780 does seem more popular. This shot http://www.flickr.com/photos/davel59/4373466700/ taken with it looks nice and sharp. If you look at the lines of text along the edges there seems to be some barrel distortion but I suspect that all the little zoom lenses that come on similarly-sized cameras have it, too. The SD780 looks like a nifty, cost-effective tool for shooting coins.

Slabbed coins do present a challenge to light. Scanning them on a flatbed usually gives decent, kind of flat-looking results. I find that mirrored fields often go black and show no detail, but a coin with fully matte surface comes out better. If lit well, a coin — even in its slab — will look considerably more 3-dimensional when shot with a camera. The trick is to light it in a way that avoids reflections off the slab's flat plastic surface.

Just for the fun of it, here's a photo I snapped last night to help answer a question about Pandas on PCGS Collector's Universe (http://forums.collectors.com/messageview.cfm?catid=6&threadid=783334). It was done with the old macro lens. The original is many times larger and remains sharp as it is enlarged all the way up to where the image breaks up into pixels.



Good luck with your camera search — that photo comparator is pixel-peeper's delight. Thanks for telling us about it.

Best wishes,
Peter Anthony
http://www.pandacollector.com/
« Last Edit: August 01, 2010, 05:31:28 PM by PandaCollector »

Offline larrydreher

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2010, 04:32:51 PM »
Slabs compicate photos but don't ruin them.  I use a dSLR too with a macro lens but I find that the camera and lens combination is not as important as good lighting.   More info:

http://coinimaging.com/photography.html 

KonaJim

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2010, 02:29:09 AM »
Peter is much more knowledgable in this field than I am.  I bought a new Olympus with a nice macro lens a few months ago.  It works great but Peter's last words I found to be the most significant, "lighting".  I've tried some indoor lighting set ups but for me what has worked best is natural light, and especially when the light is a little filtered by clouds the photos come out great.  If the light is too bright it's shadowy, with too much contrast.  I'm sure pros can make the lighting work, but the sun for me on a cloudy day is perfect.

Offline badon

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2010, 04:31:06 PM »
I got my SD940, but I forgot to get an SD memory card to go with it. But, just looking at the LCD, it seems to be decent for macro shots of coins. Once I get an SD card, I'll try it out and do some show and tell.

Not only was I suprised to discover that the old SD780 produces the finest macro images of all the inexpensive point and shoot style cameras, even when compared to professional point and shoots like the Canon G11, I also discovered yesterday that the Sony NEX-5 has vastly superior performance than all the point and shoot cameras, and is equal to or better than most of the DSLR cameras on the market, but it's actually SMALLER than the "compact" Canon G11. The trade off is that it's quite a bit more expensive (same as an entry level DSLR), but you get more than just smaller size. It's a fanstastic video camera, and has interchangeable lenses (if you want them).

I haven't tested out my tiny SD940 much yet, but if I decide I want to do higher quality photography, I think I'll be giving the Sony NEX-5 a close look. I normally don't like Sony. They're talented at writing lengthy feature lists to go with their pretty marketing, but the features usually seem to be mediocre in quality. Sometimes it is actually pretty good quality, but then I get stuck with some stupid situation where I have to lug around special proprietary Sony USB cables and Memory Stick storage. I'm peeved enough that I have to needlessly pay extra for such common things as cables an storage, but the deal breaker is the fact that being forced to carry around those things more than wipes out any size advantage I get from Sony products.

That's why I decided against the Sony DSC-WX1, which was superior to my Canon SD940 in every way except price. It costs almost twice as much as my refurbished SD940 costed, but I would have paid it if it weren't for the fact that the size advantages were negated by the requirement that I buy and carry around incompatible Sony cables and memory just for this one gadget.

So, Canon gets my money, and less of it too :)

For reference, the Sony NEX-5 shows up on snapsort under the "mirrorless" camera category because it's not an SLR:

http://snapsort.com/explore/best-mirrorless
« Last Edit: August 06, 2010, 04:34:51 PM by qwasty »

Offline PandaCollector

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2010, 01:18:20 AM »

Not only was I suprised to discover that the old SD780 produces the finest macro images of all the inexpensive point and shoot style cameras, even when compared to professional point and shoots like the Canon G11, I also discovered yesterday that the Sony NEX-5 has vastly superior performance than all the point and shoot cameras, and is equal to or better than most of the DSLR cameras on the market, but it's actually SMALLER than the "compact" Canon G11. The trade off is that it's quite a bit more expensive (same as an entry level DSLR), but you get more than just smaller size. It's a fanstastic video camera, and has interchangeable lenses (if you want them).

http://snapsort.com/explore/best-mirrorless

The NEX-5 looks quite fantastic for what it does and its diminutive size. Because it's so thin I suspect there will soon be adapters to allow the use of other manufacturer's lenses on it. Beyond coins, I can think of several outstanding uses for a camera like this. For coins, I remain leery of zoom lenses due to distortion issues, but that's really a fairly minor factor in most situations.

As noted before, nothing is more important than lighting for excellent coin photography. KonaJim is correct that indirect window light fills the bill for a nice light source for coin pictures. It takes a fair amount of experience with artificial lights to improve on what Mother Nature provides for free. On cloudy days you get a great, big diffuser thrown into the bargain, too.

Best wishes,
Peter Anthony
http://www.pandacollector.com/

Offline badon

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2010, 01:37:58 AM »
The NEX-5 looks quite fantastic for what it does and its diminutive size...Beyond coins, I can think of several outstanding uses for a camera like this.

Care to mention a few outstanding uses? If one of them rings my bell, I might have to start looking closer at the NEX-5. One thing that turned me off was that it doesn't have Sony's latest version of Panoramic Sweep (called Intelligent Panoramic Sweep). I really like the panorama features of the Sony's, and when I think of a scene I'd like to capture, more often than not it requires a panoramic field of view. Sony can do it!

About lighting, I'm aware how important it is from all the coin photography I've done in the past. The Canon G11 have light ring gadgets available for it that would probably work wonders. I used to have a small collection of gooseneck USB powered LED lights that could be positioned wherever you want them. I never tried them for coin photography, but I suspect they could produce good lighting results inexpensively, with any camera.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2010, 01:40:50 AM by qwasty »

Offline badon

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2010, 11:55:25 AM »
I had trouble finding the Sony NEX-5 on the image comparator, but it's there under "Sony Alpha NEX-5". The macro shots are horrible. My cheap and tiny Canon SD940 does a much better job, in comparison. I took some photos with the SD940, and although the pictures aren't perfect, I think they are very good, and more than adequate for most purposes. The cropped photo here was my first attempt at taking a picture of a coin with the SD940, using fully automatic settings. You can easily tell that this coin is fake :)

So, in short, I think I made a good choice for photographing coins to get an inexpensive SD940, that can fulfill most of my other needs also. A new one is $199. Mine was a refurbished unit for only $149.95 from Adorama:

http://www.adorama.com/searchsite/default.aspx?searchinfo=Canon%20SD940

They have a few different colors to choose from, but the black one looks great, and since reflections from the coins will show the camera's colors, I think black is the only good choice for coin photos. I'm also considering getting a Joby GP1 GorillaPod flexible tripod:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000EVSLRO/ref=ord_cart_shr?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER

The SD940 has a timer that will take a photo a few seconds after you push the button. That greatly reduces movement and gives you much sharper images. I hadn't figured out how to do that yet when I took the panda photo here, so I guess the details would be a bit sharper if I had used that feature. If I use the Gorillapod, I suspect I would have sharper images and better lighting, since I won't have to hold the camera while I fiddle with lighting, as the timer counts down to take a photo for me.

Does everyone else use a tripod and the timer features of their cameras? Do you notice a significant improvement in photo quality, or is it not worth the expense and the trouble?

KonaJim

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2010, 02:37:28 AM »
I bought a camera copy stand on Ebay for about $25.00 that adjusts from 6-12 inches, it has about a 12 x 12 inch base.  I set my camera on the 2 second delayed timer so my pressing the button does not impact the photo with movement.

Offline badon

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2010, 03:07:28 AM »
It looks like Joby, the makers of the Gorillapod, have the Gorillatorch for lighting also:

http://joby.com/gorillatorch

It looks like you can have a portable mini-studio, complete with lighting, all from Joby.

Offline PandaCollector

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2010, 07:34:54 PM »
I use both a tripod and the time release for coin photos – couldn't live without them.

Some other uses for the NRX-5: any photography where very long or wide lenses are needed in a small, light package. This would be a fantastic camera to tote along when traveling and you want to take more than snapshots. It has the potential to be a high quality videocam, too. As for horrible macro shots of coins, the way to go with this camera is to find an adapter and put a true macro lens on it. With its high density, high quality imaging system it ought to shine. It would be a lot of fun to try out for coins under those circumstances.

Finally, a general comment on light sources. It's my experience (and bias) that the most interesting coin photos are those that look the most three-dimensional. To approach this condition the photo needs to have deep, black shadows + bright specular highlights that aren't overexposed + nice clean, sharp midtones. Lighting a small object to achieve this is the trick.

Best wishes,
Peter Anthony
http://www.pandacollector.com/

Offline badon

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2010, 07:51:23 PM »
I've seen Heritage use videos where someone tilts a coin in the light to show all the details and flaws. Maybe that's the ultimate best we can do without 3D, and even that is coming with the next generation of Sony cameras. I might try using both photos and videos of a coin, and see how it turns out. I think it does a much better job of giving a buyer confidence that he knows where every glint of light is coming from.

I just bought the Joby Gorillapod, so when it arrives, I'll give it a spin. It'll be handy when trying to make videos of coins because then I can use my hands to tilt the coin in the light, instead of holding the camera.

Offline badon

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #15 on: August 14, 2010, 07:42:41 PM »
Looks like a good loupe can be put in front of a camera lense to get even closer to your subject for macro photography:

http://www.google.com/search?q=loupe%20macro
http://www.google.com/images?q=loupe%20macro
http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=loupe+macro

Most of the photos were taken with very poor quality loupes. Once I decide on the loupe I want to get (probably a Belomo), then I'll give it a go and see how it turns out. In the meantime, check out my posting about loupes:

http://china-mint.info/forum/index.php?topic=878.0

Offline badon

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #16 on: September 21, 2010, 01:41:11 AM »
Here's the loupe photos:

http://china-mint.info/forum/index.php?topic=934.0

It didn't work out so well with auto focus. But, luckily, the Canon S95 and G12 are finally announced, according to the latest rumors:

http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php/board,3.0.html

Offline ?

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #17 on: September 21, 2010, 05:48:14 PM »
@qwasty: Do you have any expercience with USB mircoscopes likie this one?

http://cgi.ebay.de/Digital-USB-Farb-MIKROSKOP-200x-Bild-Video-USB-2-0-/370352269226?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_77&hash=item563ab727aa

Thanks

anwir

Offline badon

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #18 on: September 21, 2010, 06:01:44 PM »
Yes, I looked at those too. I decided they weren't worth the trouble, but I never bought one. If I want to, I can use a Joby Gorillapod to hold the camera over the coin in macro mode, and record a video of if, and then output the video to a large display using the camera's built in HDMI output port. Here's the Gorillapod:

http://joby.com/gorillapod

There might be good reasons to want a USB microscope, but I decided the higher quality and versatility I get from a real camera was better for me. I decided I wouldn't bother with such a thing unless I were going to get a professional stereo microscope.

If all you want to do is get good quality images of your coins, I think a USB microscope would only be a good idea if you wanted something cheap. I don't know how well it will work though. For me, getting the good quality camera saved me money because it's the only thing I need.

Offline SANDAC

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #19 on: March 14, 2014, 07:43:36 PM »
A forum member PM me about my camera setup.  I thought I re-post my respond here with additional notes and a picture of my setup.
 
My camera setup is an evolving series of trial-and-errors and small improvements. My old point-and-shoot died last year and I purchased my first DSLR last Christmas, a Nikon 5300.  A camera stand is a must (http://china-mint.info/forum/index.php?topic=7931.msg46723#msg46723) so is a CPL filter (http://china-mint.info/forum/index.php?topic=7632.msg44407#msg44407).  I find natural lighting with large window and indirect light is best for pleasant-looking coin pictures but diagnostic pictures require more harsh oblique lighting. I have a couple goose-neck spot lights, but I'm currently playing with LED ring light.  I can get closer and more consistent lighting with a LED ring light. A remote shutter and camera stand mean shutter speed is not important so I usually shoot ISO400 in aperature priority mode with a F/stop of 8 for reasonable compromise between depth of field and diffraction loss.

Macro lens is nice, but I've discovered something called "extension tube" that's very cheap and convert regular lens to macro lens.  I put it on my 300mm and use it to photograph bugs and bees and they came out great.  So a dedicated macro lens is not really necessary.  

It is still evolving, the thing I'm fighting now is specular reflection between mirror coin surface and clear plastic slab.  I still have a lot to learn about coin photography so feedbacks are appreciated.  

Offline SANDAC

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2015, 12:59:06 PM »
I'm trying a photography technique to show the 3-D details of a coin.  It is called focus stacking where a well-focused image is synthesized from better focused portions of many images.  The medallion below is synthesized from 8 images focused on different points of the tilted medallion.  The image synthesis is done automatically in Photoshop which is kinda amazing.  Compare that to the single image focused on the chest of the astronaut (second image) one can see the image is well focused from edge to edge.  My question is whether this technique is useful.  Does the synthesized image have undesirable artifacts from the blending of different images?

Offline KeepOnTrying!

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #21 on: October 21, 2015, 01:53:33 PM »
Can you do your alternating coin sequence magic so to allow closer comparison?
KeepOnTrying and Never Give Up!
That lion is also after you!

Offline SANDAC

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2015, 02:37:49 PM »
Ah, an excellent suggestion.  Should've thought of that myself.  Unfortunately the combined image is too large (13meg), I have to reduce resolution by 40% to upload.  Yes, you can see some discrepancies due to the merging of multiple images.  Some of them are due to differences in brightness of individual images which means I'll need to go to full manual mode to make sure all images are uniformly exposed.

BTW, the medallion is 3 inches in diameter and weight over 1/2 pound.  It is propped up 1 inch on one side. 

Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #23 on: October 21, 2015, 06:32:36 PM »
Reviving this topic is certainly interesting. I have been trying to get clear pictures in the past two years. Recently a QQ group was organized in China for numismatic photography, led by a professional photographer/collector.

Here is my latest attempt, with a newly acquired Nikon 50mm f/1.8 micro lens and a 20mm extension tube.

Offline SANDAC

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #24 on: October 21, 2015, 08:34:08 PM »
Very nice!  That is a gilt goldfish, right?  The detail of the goldfish tail is not as brilliant as some of the brass goldfish pictures I've seen.  You have a number of hand-carved medals and I think it would be really informative to see comparison of the original/restrike/plated carefully photographed.

I'm new to DSLR and after fiddling around with different lens, tripods, and borrowed cameras,  I've came to the conclusion that the limiting component is not the modern multi-megapixel camera sensor but the lens.  The zoom lens is nice for walking around, but nothing gives you a sharp image like a primary lens.  The Nikon 50mm/f1.8 is an amazingly sharp lens.  That and a set of extension tubes will serve you very well for coin photography.  The downside is that you can no longer blame your camera for bad pictures!    :laugh:

Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #25 on: October 21, 2015, 08:55:05 PM »
Very nice!  That is a gilt goldfish, right?  The detail of the goldfish tail is not as brilliant as some of the brass goldfish pictures I've seen.  You have a number of hand-carved medals and I think it would be really informative to see comparison of the original/restrike/plated carefully photographed.

I'm new to DSLR and after fiddling around with different lens, tripods, and borrowed cameras,  I've came to the conclusion that the limiting component is not the modern multi-megapixel camera sensor but the lens.  The zoom lens is nice for walking around, but nothing gives you a sharp image like a primary lens.  The Nikon 50mm/f1.8 is an amazingly sharp lens.  That and a set of extension tubes will serve you very well for coin photography.  The downside is that you can no longer blame your camera for bad pictures!    :laugh:

This is brass, not gilt :) I am kind of proud to be able to capture the "soul" of brass medals.

I made a mistake. The 50 mm f/1.8 lens is not macro/micro, but prime. But its sharpness is superb, better than my 105 mm micro.

I totally agree with you that it is the lens, and the way to use them, that is the key to good pictures. I have been fumbling around, till I got hold of this lens, which gives really sharp pictures.

There is an interesting discussion on the setup of coin photography here: http://boards.collectors-society.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=6693713

Offline PandaCollector

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #26 on: October 21, 2015, 10:04:58 PM »
In order of importance for good coin photos I would vote for 1: lighting 2: lens 3: camera. Getting all three right leads to 4: photographer.

Best wishes,
Peter Anthony
China Pricepedia
www.pandacollector.com

Offline dynamike51

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #27 on: October 22, 2015, 12:27:52 AM »
This is brass, not gilt :) I am kind of proud to be able to capture the "soul" of brass medals.

I made a mistake. The 50 mm f/1.8 lens is not macro/micro, but prime. But its sharpness is superb, better than my 105 mm micro.

I totally agree with you that it is the lens, and the way to use them, that is the key to good pictures. I have been fumbling around, till I got hold of this lens, which gives really sharp pictures.

There is an interesting discussion on the setup of coin photography here: http://boards.collectors-society.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=6693713

fwang and SANDAC,

If I may suggest that, as long as you're using a DSLR w/ 40mm (or 50mm) prime lens, you step up your aperture (a.k.a f-stop) to 18. Looking at your setup, you have sufficient light source to compensate for the small aperture. Doing so will allow your camera to capture the details beyond the focal point. Also, you can set your shutter speed to 1/60 since this is a still photo.

http://improvephotography.com/photography-basics/aperture-shutter-speed-and-iso/

Offline SANDAC

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #28 on: October 22, 2015, 11:38:59 AM »
My camera is mounted on a copy stand, so the shutter speed can be lower to a second or more. Like you said, the depth of focus is directly related to f-stop so higher f-stop (or smaller aperture) gives greater depth of focus.  Unfortunately smaller aperture also introduces more diffraction blur.  I routinely use f/16 for flower photography because I want the flower petals soft rather than sharp, but for coins I want to see the scratches, blemish, and extra materials in tight corners.  Therefore I want to operate the lens in its optimal sharpness zone which is usually one aperture stop from its maximum aperture.  For my 40mm f/2.8, which has a variable max aperture at the closest distance, I like to keep the aperture between f/4 to f/5.6 for the sharpest detail. The sweet spot of fwang2450's 50mm f/1.8 is probably f/2.8.  At that aperture the depth of focus is so shallow that he'll need to make a decision about whether to focus on the mirrored fields or the frosted devices.  This is where focus stacking becomes helpful merging focused fields of one image with focused devices of the second image to form a composite sharp image of both fields and devices.  Alternatively he can raise f-stop to 5.6 and focus on the frosted devices and call it good.  It seems such a waste of an excellent lens, though.

Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #29 on: October 22, 2015, 11:51:46 AM »
According to Ray, owner of this site: http://www.macrocoins.com/, f5.6 is optimal for pennies and dimes, and f6 is best for dollar sized coins. I have been using large apertures on my Nikon 105 mm micro, which yielded not-so-sharp pictures. I was advised by the professional photographer that large apertures result in less sharpness. I have yet to test other aperture settings on this lens. But f5.6 did give excellent sharpness on the f/1.8 lens, known for its clarity.

This is where people discuss coin photography: http://www.coincommunity.com/forum/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=81

Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #30 on: October 22, 2015, 04:25:19 PM »
According to Ray, owner of this site: http://www.macrocoins.com/, f5.6 is optimal for pennies and dimes, and f6 is best for dollar sized coins. I have been using large apertures on my Nikon 105 mm micro, which yielded not-so-sharp pictures. I was advised by the professional photographer that large apertures result in less sharpness. I have yet to test other aperture settings on this lens. But f5.6 did give excellent sharpness on the f/1.8 lens, known for its clarity.

This is where people discuss coin photography: http://www.coincommunity.com/forum/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=81
Made a mistake: should be  "f8 is best for dollar sized coins".

Offline Gilmore

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #31 on: October 23, 2015, 10:09:17 AM »
According to Ray, owner of this site: http://www.macrocoins.com/, f5.6 is optimal for pennies and dimes, and f6 is best for dollar sized coins. I have been using large apertures on my Nikon 105 mm micro, which yielded not-so-sharp pictures. I was advised by the professional photographer that large apertures result in less sharpness. I have yet to test other aperture settings on this lens. But f5.6 did give excellent sharpness on the f/1.8 lens, known for its clarity.

This is where people discuss coin photography: http://www.coincommunity.com/forum/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=81

Yes, Ray provides tons of useful information in this forum. Here are 2 threads I learned most from.

'Coin Photo Setup' is excellent, showing and testing different setups. Best of the best, IMO.
http://www.coincommunity.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=87392&whichpage=1

In the '75mm Lens Shootout' thread compares different lenses.
http://www.coincommunity.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=98494


Here is another nice lens testing page - http://coinimaging.com/Lens_tests.html

Offline SANDAC

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #32 on: October 23, 2015, 09:22:57 PM »
Thank you all for many interesting links to coin photography.

If focus stacking technique is not used then I agree smaller aperture like f/5.6 will be needed to keep both relief and background in focus.  However, I'll be reluctant to use aperture smaller than f/8, so for high relief coins focus stacking may be necessary. 

Anyone knows the depth of the relief (distance from the mirrored field to the highest raised device) of typical MCC?  I'm guessing it is something like 0.3mm.  Given the required depth of field, a table can be generated to show the maximum aperature wrt distance of the object (for a given camera and lens).  I wouldn't be surprise such tables already existed somewhere on the Web

Offline SANDAC

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #33 on: November 01, 2015, 11:54:07 AM »
I'm doing a depth of focus and sharpness test using a Karl Marx medal.  The medal is 60mm in diameter, the longest string of Chinese characters at the bottom is 35mm long.  The medal is prop up by 0.7" on one side, so the difference in depth of the character string (end-to-end) is 0.4", or roughly 0.25" between each character.  The lens is Nikon 40mm macro and the camera is Nikon D5300.  The coin is 11.5" from camera's sensor.  I took 7 pictures at f3, f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f16, and f22 and stack them together to produce an animated GIF at 5 seconds per picture.  Each picture is annotated with f-stop number in white.

At f22, the long character string is in focus, but picture is obviously blurry due to diffraction blur.
At f11, lesser than half of the character string is in focus, but the picture is quite sharp.
At f8, the picture is sharpest while about 4 characters are in focus, a DOF about 0.75"
At larger aperture, the picture becomes blurry again, and fewer characters are in focus.

So the observation that f8 is the optimal aperture is on the mark.

I'd had 2 semesters of Fourier Optics almost 40 years ago.  In theory, larger aperture should produce correspondingly sharper image.  I'm puzzled by the lost of image quality at the larger apertures.  Nevertheless it goes to show that theory needs to be confirm with experimentation.

Offline dynamike51

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #34 on: November 01, 2015, 12:51:53 PM »
SANDAC,

My point earlier is to step up the aperture to capture the sharpness at the edges of your photo. This photo you provided illustrates my point exactly - the first with F-22 has clear edges, and as you stepped down the F-stops the edges became more and more "out of focus". With portrait type of photos, that's a desired effect called "bokeh", where the photographer wants the model to be the only subject in focus but the background blurred to accentuate the subject.

The second of your "1969 first lunar landing" photos also slightly showed the same effect - the right and left edges became slightly blurred. I was thinking it's because you had the F-stop set too low.

One other thing you can try to minimize "diffraction" is to move the lens farther away from the coin.

JMHO ....  N39

Offline SANDAC

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #35 on: November 01, 2015, 09:01:31 PM »
Don't forget both the "1969 first lunar landing" and Karl Marx are tilted with respect to the camera.  Ordinarily coins are photographed perpendicular to the camera so the entire coins will be in focus.  The DOF for f22 is such that even with a 60mm coin tilting 15 degree, it is able to get most of the coin in focus.  Whereas f8 can only get about 1/3 of the coin in focus.  However, it is not about getting the coin in focus, it is about getting the most detailed picture possible.  The focal point of both f22 and f8 are at the same spot; for f22 it is in focus everywhere but blurry everywhere whereas f8 is sharp in the 1/3 area where it is in focus.  Due to limitation of file size (the working file is 232 megabytes), I can only show small slice in a GIF.  Please take another look at the GIF image below alternating between f22 and f8 only.  The face in the wall is the focus point for both f22 and f8.  f8 shows more details than f22 in the focused area. 

While I still don't understand why apertures from f3 to f5.6 are not as sharp as f8 in my particular setup, the fact that f8 is the sweet spot makes it easy to photograph coins.  I certainly don't need to worry about the complicated focus stacking process and small tilt in some of the slabbed coins should not matter.

Offline dynamike51

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #36 on: November 01, 2015, 09:16:23 PM »
Whether f8 is the sweet spot is a matter of opinion. With the photo you presented, one can see it (in f-8) already starts to lose the sharpness around the edges. Again, that could be due to the camera being to close to the coin.

Offline KeepOnTrying!

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #37 on: November 28, 2015, 12:51:01 AM »
Trying out my Nikon Coolpix S9900 camera using the digital macro function. It is wifi enabled so I can upload the photos to my iPad effortlessly and post. Can also be uploaded to the PC and Mac with downloaded software.

The Four Beauties of Ancient China medal.
Front side.

I used the IKEA Jangso LED lamps here. They have a warm glow and seem to be well suited for copper, bronze and brass coin/medal photography (at least that's what I think for now!).
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Offline KeepOnTrying!

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #38 on: November 28, 2015, 12:54:00 AM »
The other side of the Four Beauties of Ancient China medal. Will have to find a way to eliminate the coin shadows on the paper platform.
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Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #39 on: November 28, 2015, 12:57:48 AM »
Trying out my Nikon Coolpix S9900 camera using the digital macro function. It is wifi enabled so I can upload the photos to my iPad effortlessly and post. Can also be uploaded to the PC and Mac with downloaded software.

The Four Beauties of Ancient China medal.
Front side.
Looks like the white balance is not set correctly. Also, the light on the face needs to be diffused more.

Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #40 on: November 28, 2015, 01:01:28 AM »
Here is the photo I took today of the lines on the reverse of the brass Songyue, using a Canon 35mm macro lens. The magnification is 2x.

Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #41 on: November 28, 2015, 01:03:59 AM »
Here is that little pagoda on top.

Offline KeepOnTrying!

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #42 on: November 28, 2015, 01:04:32 AM »
Looks like the white balance is not set correctly. Also, the light on the face needs to be diffused more.

I will have to look into diffusers. How do you set the white balance, on the Coolpix?
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Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #43 on: November 28, 2015, 01:07:24 AM »
Your camera should have a white balance setting.

Offline KeepOnTrying!

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #44 on: November 28, 2015, 01:11:21 AM »
I used the "daylight" fluorescent bulb lamps for this study: The 10th Anniversary Panda Coin.

Panda Side.
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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #45 on: November 28, 2015, 01:13:03 AM »
The Great Wall side of the 10th Anniversary Panda Silver Coin.
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Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #46 on: November 28, 2015, 01:15:34 AM »
You are using mixed light sources. The light from the upper left corner casts a weird hue on the medal.

Offline KeepOnTrying!

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #47 on: November 28, 2015, 01:30:42 AM »
You are using mixed light sources. The light from the upper left corner casts a weird hue on the medal.

Yes, I was using mixed light sources. I'll do the white balance adjustment and see what changes.
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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #48 on: November 28, 2015, 02:03:51 AM »
The Four Beauties of Ancient China medal (a four medal set) following white balance and using fluorescent bulb lamps. This is the closest to the natural color tone of this medal that I have achieved so far. Thanks Frank for the input!
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Offline SANDAC

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #49 on: November 28, 2015, 09:48:54 AM »
If you have photo editing tools like Lightroom, you can change the white balance quite easily.  Attached is the original photo vs white balanced photo.  I used your white paper background as reference.  Because the light sources are mixed, the white balance is not uniform.  I used the upper right edge as reference and you can see the lower edges still have a slight bronze tint.  The shadow casted by lights can be cut out with a circular cropping tool available in many photo editing tools.

Because our brain is hardwired to recognize and evaluate faces, I believe it is important to properly illuminate the face to give the best impact.  Generally the light should be diffused and shines in front or slightly above the face to bring out the best features.  Small adjustment can make big difference so experimenting is needed.  See this thread about "Coins with very beautiful women".

 http://china-mint.info/forum/index.php?topic=2651.0

Offline KeepOnTrying!

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #50 on: November 28, 2015, 10:25:26 AM »
If you have photo editing tools like Lightroom, you can change the white balance quite easily.  Attached is the original photo vs white balanced photo.  I used your white paper background as reference.  Because the light sources are mixed, the white balance is not uniform.  I used the upper right edge as reference and you can see the lower edges still have a slight bronze tint.  The shadow casted by lights can be cut out with a circular cropping tool available in many photo editing tools.

Because our brain is hardwired to recognize and evaluate faces, I believe it is important to properly illuminate the face to give the best impact.  Generally the light should be diffused and shines in front or slightly above the face to bring out the best features.  Small adjustment can make big difference so experimenting is needed.  See this thread about "Coins with very beautiful women".

 http://china-mint.info/forum/index.php?topic=2651.0

Thanks for the very useful lighting information tips. I'll have to rig up diffusers for the lamps. I think I figured out how to do the white balance before taking the photo. Post exposure editing is also a good skill to learn. Seems like coin photography can be every bit as busy and fulfilling as the collection itself!

Thanks also for the url link above. I don't know if I came across that thread previously but it has special significance. I think there may be more beautiful women coins not represented there. I'll search around my collection and see what to do. Other forum members can post what they have.

This is exactly the point I was making when I started a new thread on archived posts. http://china-mint.info/forum/index.php?topic=11929.msg69702;topicseen#msg69702 There are lots of gems to be mined from the CCF archives. So if anyone comes across something interesting/useful from the archive please post url link or update in order to call attention to the material.

+1 and have a great day!
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Offline SANDAC

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #51 on: November 28, 2015, 02:40:28 PM »
Here is the photo I took today of the lines on the reverse of the brass Songyue, using a Canon 35mm macro lens. The magnification is 2x.
Very nice and sharp picture.  I assume this is the original brass Songyue?  The minor ridges and grooves in the lines are very similar to that of Kaiyuan-in-question (2767915-001) down to the small irregularities.  The solid silver Songyue does not have these minor grooves and ridges in the lines.

Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #52 on: November 28, 2015, 04:51:05 PM »
Very nice and sharp picture.  I assume this is the original brass Songyue?  The minor ridges and grooves in the lines are very similar to that of Kaiyuan-in-question (2767915-001) down to the small irregularities.  The solid silver Songyue does not have these minor grooves and ridges in the lines.
Yes, the photo is from the original brass Songyue. The whole purpose of taking this picture was to show the grooves and ridges on those lines. Actually I have other photos with an even closer look, taken with a microscope objective. The magnification is 5x. The depth of field is pretty shallow, and the  focus area is narrow.

Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #53 on: November 28, 2015, 04:53:26 PM »
Seems like coin photography can be every bit as busy and fulfilling as the collection itself!

And as addictive!

Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #54 on: November 28, 2015, 04:55:33 PM »
Forgot to upload the lines on the restrike (Songyue). Here it is, for comparison.

Offline Hippanda

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #55 on: November 28, 2015, 06:33:26 PM »
Amazing Frank -
And can you kindly post a comparable mag photo of the silver version?
"He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good."

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Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #56 on: November 28, 2015, 06:43:50 PM »
Amazing Frank -
And can you kindly post a comparable mag photo of the silver version?
I do not own any silver pagodas :(

Offline KeepOnTrying!

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #57 on: November 28, 2015, 09:07:42 PM »
Post exposure white balance and color editing of the reverse proof FUN show silver Panda medal: Panda side.
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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #58 on: November 28, 2015, 09:10:38 PM »
The FUN Show reverse proof silver Panda medal: Reverse side.
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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #59 on: November 29, 2015, 03:29:34 AM »
I do not own any silver pagodas :(

Perhaps then SANDAC might?

Might be revealing and valuable?
"He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good."

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Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #60 on: December 08, 2015, 10:20:05 PM »
Axial light (with a piece of glass from a picture frame) plus direct light.

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #61 on: December 09, 2015, 12:10:48 AM »
Axial light (with a piece of glass from a picture frame) plus direct light.

Crisp photo.  N31 Which coin is this?
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Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #62 on: December 09, 2015, 12:32:39 AM »
Crisp photo.  N31 Which coin is this?
2 Fen from 1964, a circulating coin, made from aluminum alloy.

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #63 on: December 09, 2015, 06:47:31 AM »
2 Fen from 1964, a circulating coin, made from aluminum alloy.

Thanks for info.
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Offline Gilmore

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #64 on: January 14, 2016, 09:34:01 PM »
Hi Gilmore. Which camera setup did you use for these photos? Thanks for response.

I built a coin photography rig a couple of months ago. Using Ray's experience (coin photography forum) I learned that no expensive equipment is required to take very good photos. If you live in the US and shop for used stuff on eBay you can have it all for less than $200. I had to pay extra for international shipping for a couple of items. My setup is:

Used Canon Rebel XS 10MP - $76
El Nikkor 75mm enlarger lens - $40 (over paid for great condition, can be purchased for $20 or less actually).
Pentax auto bellow - $29
Power adapter for camera - $12
2 x Adapter rings - $2.5
2 x IKEA Jansjo lights - $20

At first I used a tripod I had. It was OK but not perfect. Later upgraded to a microscope stand.

Simple, cheap setup that delivers good results. Wish I'd done this a long time ago.



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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #65 on: January 15, 2016, 01:19:17 AM »
I agree. I do have a Nikon 105 mm micro (macro) lens, but I still followed Ray's advice and built my own bellows/extension tube setup. I am aiming at high magnification pictures, which the micro lens cannot deliver.

Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #66 on: March 06, 2016, 09:46:23 PM »
Some coin pictures taken with my iPhone 4s


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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #67 on: March 06, 2016, 10:27:34 PM »
Some coin pictures taken with my iPhone 4s



Quite sharp photos with the iPhone! Can you share some technical specifications?

I assume you used the IKEA Jangso lamps. How did you do the white balance? Pre or post exposure? Did you use just the onboard iPhone software only or some other image editing software?

**For new guests/members there has also been discussion on the use of smartphone cameras in another thread: http://china-mint.info/forum/index.php?topic=11855.0

Proof coin surfaces tend to reflect the silvery color of the iPhone/iPad. The trick is how to hide it by using a number maneuvers such as coming at a slight angle etc.
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Offline fwang2450

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #68 on: March 07, 2016, 12:25:02 AM »
These were taken with one or two Ikea Jansjo lights. My setup is shown in the picture below. It was meant to be crude because I was showing a group of Chinese collectors how nice pictures can be taken with minimum equipment.

White balance was a problem as the phone was not stable in capturing the color temperature. Sometimes the pictures had a yellow tint.

Offline SANDAC

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Re: Cameras for coin photos
« Reply #69 on: April 06, 2017, 09:58:22 PM »
The latest newsletter from PCGS has a nice article about focus stacking to take picture of high relief coins and coins at an oblique angle.

https://www.pcgs.com/news/a-coin-photographers-trick-of-the-trade