Author Topic: Loupes for coins  (Read 14607 times)

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Offline badon

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Loupes for coins
« on: August 14, 2010, 06:45:57 PM »
I've been doing some research on loupes lately. I have an old eye loupe, but I'm not sure what magnification it is. I think it's probably 10X, but could be anywhere from 5X to 10X. My eye loupe is cracked, and too easily smashed if I put it in my pocket. It's made of plastic, which is good in case I accidentally bump it into a coin, which has never happened before, but it could. Here's what I've been looking at to replace my worn out eye loupe:

10X and 20X Belomo loupes with Belomo lanyards, $30.67 each, for a total of $61.34:

http://www.amateurgeologist.com/belomo-10x-triplet-loupe-magnifier.html
http://www.amateurgeologist.com/belomo-20x-quadruplet-loupe-magnifier.html

Or, get a 5% discount on both of the Belomo loupes listed above, for total of $59.78 (you can get up to 4):

http://www.amateurgeologist.com/pconf.php?productid=17287

Get an additional 5% educational discount, for a total of $56.79:

http://www.amateurgeologist.com/news/2/Educational-Discount.html

The Belomo loupes are famous for being nearly top quality in the industry, but only costing as much as very poor quality models. This particular seller, amateurgeologist.com, has excellent pricing, and he fixes a common problem with the screws coming loose by gluing them in for you. You can also get slightly defective units from the same seller on ebay, but they're not cheaper. If you must save every penny, contact him directly so he doesn't have to pay ebay fees, and I'm sure he'll give you a better price:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=310138070541

In short, my research has revealed that cheap loupes are not worth the money when you can have a Belomo for the same price, or only a little more. Now on to the top end loupe, the Harald Schneider GemologyPro L1 10X Loupe, for $330:

http://www.facetingaccessories.com/magnification.shtml#gemologypro_loupe

The next best price I was able to find was more than $50 more. This loupe is one of the most expensive, and has the highest reputation as being the finest available. It has been called a "millionaire's toy" by gemologist's that use a Belomo instead because they can't afford a Harald Schneider:

http://www.richardspens.com/?page=xf/xf0709.htm

I found the "original", older version of the Harald Schneider for around $150, and there are other good bargains here:

http://www.rubin-and-son.com/index.php?target=categories&category_id=393


Another interesting loupe I found was the Eschenbach 1182-10 fiberglass loupe. The body is made of fiberglass, which, like my old plastic eye loupe, it is less likely to damage a coin in case of accidental contact. It's also probably lighter and stronger than either the metal or the plastic loupes on the market. The downsides are that it's expensive, it's only a doublet (two lenses) which produces inferior image quality to triplet designs. Doublets usually can only correct for distortion, or color, but not both at the same time. The triplets can do both at the same time. The best price is here, for $51.60:

https://www.gesswein.com/catalog/catalog.cfm?cat=17&sub=2&subsub=30&catalog=1&CFID=3543686&CFTOKEN=52921690

And here, for $56.95:

http://www.riogrande.com/MemberArea/ProductPage.aspx?assetname=113694&page=GRID&category%7ccategory_root%7c120=Bench+Tools+and+Equipment&category%7ccat_120%7c324=Magnifying+and+Optical&category%7ccat_324%7c1246=Loupes

The Kruss Weinschenk is the most expensive loupe I was able to find, at $525 from an expensive seller. I wasn't able to find it from any other seller. It's got two high quality lenses in 10X and 20X, that can fold over on each other to give you 28X, all in one loupe:

http://www.kassoy.com/kruss-weinschenk-10x-20x-28x.html

I have avoided mentioning loupes that have hexagonal lens frames (except the original, old Schneider) because with so many sharp corners, even very light accidental contact with a coin will probably leave a visible mark. I have also avoided the ones with LED lights because I couldn't find any top-end loupes that had an LED light, and the general consensus is that the LED light causes too much reflection.

Overall, it looks like the Belomo loupes are by far the easiest choice. They're very good quality, such that most people probably won't be able to justify paying 10 to 15 times more money for a Swiss Axe Triplet Hawk or a Harald Schneider GemologyPro, even if you could tell the difference in optical quality. For some people, the price is worth paying, but only if you blow some serious bucks on coins (or whatever), and for some reason you absolutely must have a loupe.

If you are the kind of person that really can make use of every bit of quality you can buy in your optics, then before you put all that money into just a loupe, you may want to consider getting a stereo microscope or a stereo loupe visor thingy. An average stereo microscope or loupe is pretty nice to have, and might be a better choice even if the optics aren't as good as in the best loupes.

Perhaps you do most of your buying at coin shows, and you can't lug around a stereo microscope with you, or you don't want to wear a stereo visor that makes you look strange. Loupes are tiny, and about the most portable optics there is on the planet. For some people, you will want to use your loupe for more than just coins - Gems, fossils, art, antiquities...the uses for a good loupe go on and on.

For myself, I think I may use it for enough diverse applications that I may decide to put the cash down for the best money can buy - but I probably wouldn't do it for just coins. But, before I do that, I think I'll get a set of Belomo loupes in various magnification powers so that I can get to see what good loupes are like, and how I tend to use them. Then, after some experience with those, then I may decide that I can benefit from the best of the best in ridiculously expensive pocketable optics. I have to admit that right now, I rarely use my worn eye loupe. I have good "coin vision", and I only pull out my old loupe to do a closer inspection on interesting features I've already found on a coin with my bare eyeballs.

Some questions:

* What is everyone else using? Do you use a loupe at all?

* Do you think you could benefit from a good loupe, or a half-kilobuck elite quality loupe?

* Which loupe would you choose, if money wasn't an issue?

* Do you know of something interesting you can tell us about this topic?
« Last Edit: August 28, 2014, 07:20:32 AM by snowball »

Offline PandaCollector

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2010, 11:10:17 AM »
My favorite "loupe" is a Nikon 4 element lens that is extraordinarily well color corrected and sharp. I paid $15 for it. I have bought several more for under $25 for coin dealer friends who fell in love with mine. How's that, you ask? My loupe started life as an enlarging lens. It has a focal length of 50 mm which magnifies pretty close to a standard 5X loupe. I wrapped a piece of black masking tape around it to keep the aperture ring from shifting. Good enlarging lenses have flat fields, high resolution, superb color correction and make great magnifiers if you use them backwards. And they are CHEAP because everyone has gone digital and no one wants a supposedly obsolete optic any more.
Best wishes,
Peter Anthony
http://www.pandacollector.com/

Offline badon

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2010, 11:22:10 AM »
I just did a google search for "enlarging lens" and found that they're properly called an "enlarger lens", and ebay has them by the bucket loads for $5 to $25, depending on shipping. That's a pretty awesome tip! Imagine getting a fine quality optic device that's dirt cheap because #1 it was mass produced, and #2 because digital technology made it obsolete. Pretty cool. I'm going to dig deeper on this to see if either I spent too much money on my set of Belomo loupes, or if I can improve on them without spending $300 to $500. Either way, I'm sure somebody is going to win because of this tip, so thank you.

Here's the ebay search for them:

http://shop.ebay.com/?_nkw=enlarger+lens
« Last Edit: August 15, 2010, 11:40:55 AM by qwasty »

Offline badon

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2010, 11:41:01 AM »
It looks like Google agrees with you that enlarger lenses make great loupes - lots of photographers are using their obsolete enlarger lenses instead of shelling out the cash for a photography loupe:

http://www.google.com/search?q=enlarger+lens+loupe

Offline PandaCollector

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2010, 02:54:21 PM »
I prefer a four element enlarger lens - the cheap 3-element lenses aren't crisp enough. The fast 6 element f/2,8 lenses work great but are heavy and are no sharper as magnifiers than the 4-element ones. Four elements is the sweet spot as far as I can determine.
Best wishes,
Peter Anthony
http://www.pandacollector.com/

Offline badon

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2010, 04:05:36 PM »
I posted some photos of the Belomo 10X and 20X loupes here:

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

Offline badon

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2010, 03:05:48 PM »
I've been wanting a Swiss Axe Triplet Hawk lately. Reviewers say that it's superior to the Schneider, and I can see room for improvement in the Belomo loupes. The Belomo loupes are more than good enough, but I suppose my personal preference is to have the best thing available. The company hasn't responded to my email yet, and I haven't seen them come up for sale on ebay. I like good stuff, but I like good prices even more :)

Offline Joe Public

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2011, 04:21:23 PM »

Offline digbird

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2011, 05:33:47 PM »
Think that's for darkroom photography work there Joe Public...you want a 10X loupe. Even google style maybe worth a try. cheers...

Offline badon

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2011, 10:17:31 PM »
Would something liek this work. I cant see the wood for the trees at the moment !

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Rodenstock-Ysaron-50mm-3-5-Enlarging-Enlarger-Lens-NICE-/140515117076?pt=UK_Photography_DarkroomSupplies_SM&hash=item20b75a8814

Yes, that will work. I still prefer a real loupe, since it's easy to carry around and use frequently, but if you're just using it by yourself at home, and not too busy with it, you should be fine with an enlarging lens.

Offline PandaCollector

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2011, 02:37:11 AM »
Would something liek this work. I cant see the wood for the trees at the moment !

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Rodenstock-Ysaron-50mm-3-5-Enlarging-Enlarger-Lens-NICE-/140515117076?pt=UK_Photography_DarkroomSupplies_SM&hash=item20b75a8814

I believe an Ysaron is a 3-element lens. A four element will be clearer. 5 elements is overkill and also too heavy.

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

Offline Gilmore

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2011, 04:21:37 AM »
Last month I purchased the Zeiss D40 loupe which has X10 magnification. The pocket loupe is good to carry around but now I am looking for additional one with a bigger lens diameter that I can use at home comfortably. Are the enlarger lenses a good solution for a home use or do you use something else when not traveling?

D40 specifications here: http://www.zeissloupes.com/Zeiss-D40-10x-Pocket-Loupe-02006.htm



Offline PandaCollector

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2011, 08:04:54 AM »
I continue to use my Nikon lens for examining coins and consider its optical quality outstanding.

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

Offline Gilmore

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2011, 10:47:05 AM »
Thanks Peter. Can you please tell me what model it is so I can have it as a reference? My knowledge in photography and lenses is very poor so I am kind of lost looking at different types of enlarger lenses and not really understanding a word when reading the specifications.

Regards, Gilmore

Offline ghostrider80811

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2011, 12:08:48 PM »
@ Joe Public and digbird

Just wanted to let you know I enjoy following and reading yahl post on kitco numismatic forum.  Thought about getting a account there but never got around to it and just hung out here and LBC. 

Offline PandaCollector

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2011, 12:18:13 PM »
Thanks Peter. Can you please tell me what model it is so I can have it as a reference? My knowledge in photography and lenses is very poor so I am kind of lost looking at different types of enlarger lenses and not really understanding a word when reading the specifications.

Regards, Gilmore

It's a Nikon 50mm f/4 enlarging lens. As a magnifier use it with the aperture turned to wide open.

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

Offline anvers

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #16 on: December 05, 2011, 05:19:09 PM »
I´ve owned these loupes: Belomo 10X triplet (30 dollars), classic Harald Schneider 10x triplet (300 dollars), Nikon 10x triplet (90 dollars).

Well, Belomo is nice value for money. The optics is good, but not even near to Harald Schneider or Nikon. But it depends what do you use it for - it is a very big difference whether you grade diamonds or coins.
I would say for coins it is the best choice.

Nikon 10x triplet is a very small loupe (just 13mm diameter), but the optics is absolutely great  :thumbup: Clear, exceptional, very sharp image. Really the only disadvantage is the diameter - of course just in case you need more than 13mm  :001_smile:

Harald Schneider loupe has 3 models: 1) classic 18mm (250-300 dollars), 2) "L1" 20mm (330-460 dollars), 3)the very new (available from this Monday) "L2" 20mm (can be ordered from Europe, costs about 400 dollars).

I own the classic model. Great optics, great size and huge price  :001_smile:


Offline badon

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #17 on: December 05, 2011, 05:23:02 PM »
Thanks for the info, and welcome to the forum! I'll have to check out the new L2 Harald Schneider.

Offline Gilmore

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Re: Loupes for coins
« Reply #18 on: December 06, 2011, 02:26:40 AM »
PandaCollector and anvers, thank you for the useful information. I will have a look at these models.