Author Topic: Belomo 10X and 20X loupe comparison  (Read 10178 times)

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Offline badon

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Belomo 10X and 20X loupe comparison
« on: September 13, 2010, 03:43:09 PM »
Here's some photos I made, looking through the Belomo 10X and 20X loupes, attached at the bottom of this post. I discussed these loupes originally in this thread:

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

The photos were taken with a Canon PowerShot SD940 IS, discussed here:

http://china-mint.info/forum/index.php?topic=834.0

The camera does a respectable job for just about everything I've tried to use it for, except taking photos through these loupes, because it does not have a manual focus. It's difficult to get the camera's autofocus to focus on the coin instead of the lens or reflections. The 10X loupe photo was reasonably good, but the 20X didn't turn out so nice.

The macro photo I took in the camera thread above is of the same coin that's pictured in the loupe photos in this posting. You'll notice that the camera image alone is very good without the loupes in the way. The loupes allow you to see the coins with your own eyes though, in real time, so you can shift the light around to get a good look at the coin's features.

A few things to notice are that the 20X loupe is very dark. Both photos were taken seconds apart from each other, in the same place, with the same lighting. The biggest reason it's so dark is that it has to be very close to the coin to be in focus. That blocks the light. 10X loupes are the standard for coins, gemstones, etc because they're quick and easy to use, and produce a wide, bright image with lots of details that you couldn't see with the naked eye.

However, 20X loupes do have some special uses. Mainly, they're used to get a better look at a detail that has already been identified first with a 10X loupe. For example, in coins, I can spot a flaw on a coin, but the type of flaw must be determined before it can affect a coin's grade. If the flaw is something like a "lint" mark, it does not reduce the coin's grade.

A lint mark is where hair, dust, or other debris was on the die or planchet and then struck into the coin surface. Only damage done to a coin after minting is complete affects the coin's grade, usually. It doesn't affect the coin's grade if the marks were CREATED by the minting process.

So, if I see a mark on a coin, I can see what kind of mark it is using the 10X loupe, and then the 20X loupe if I need to see more details. Evidence of damage done after minting is what I'm looking for, and it usually comes in the form of a slightly raised burr above the coin's surface, and also parallel "scrape" lines. Lint marks will not come with burrs or parallel scrape lines. These features are so small, it's difficult to see them without a good loupe. I can see hints of those features with a 5X or a 10X loupe, but I may need the 20X loupe to verify what I think I'm seeing for sure.

A good example of a highly graded coin with hideous minting damage is the Neil/Carter/Contursi 1794 USA silver dollar, graded SP66 that sold for over $7 million. The "SP" means "specimen", which is roughly equivalent to a "proof". Check out the nasty deep raspy file marks all over this coin:



There's even a nice "worm" lint mark, right above the head (they almost always look "wormy"). If those file marks were done after minting, the coin may not even be gradable. However, the filing was done to the planchet to reduce it's weight to the correct amount. Then, the coin was struck by the dies, and the minting process was complete. So, in short, those ugly marks were part of planchet preparation during the minting process, and are not post-minting damage. So, the file marks do not affect the grade! It is amazing such an ugly coin can receive such a high grade.

That's why you need a loupe. Imagine being offered a damaged coin at a bargain price, only to discover with your loupes that the damage isn't really damage. You may get a higher than expected grade for the coin, and earn yourself a small sum for discovering an overlooked coin.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2010, 10:44:54 PM by qwasty »

Offline badon

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Re: Belomo 10X and 20X loupe comparison
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2010, 07:10:05 PM »
I forgot to mention that the 20X loupe is very difficult to focus. I had to hold the 20X loupe so close to the coin, I bumped it several times. As a guess, I'd say the 20X loupe must be held within a few millimeters of the coin surface. The slightest twitch of your hands will cause the loupe to crash into the coin. For this reason, I wouldn't use the 20X loupe on a coin that wasn't in a protective holder.

Also, it appears that there's a large lint mark right above the panda's eye in the loupe photos, but I didn't notice it until after I had taken the photos and posted them. It's interesting all the stuff you can miss even with a loupe, if you're not paying attention! The skill of the collector is clearly more important than the tools he uses.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2010, 03:05:46 AM by qwasty »

Offline 123panda

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Re: Belomo 10X and 20X loupe comparison
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2011, 03:03:20 AM »
I bought a $1000 Bencher copy stand for taking photos, I have a Nikon D90 camera, around $1000 without a lens, another $800-900 for a 18-200 lens, then $200 a piece for the memory cards 16GB, 30mb per second.  I like to take pictures at concerts too.  It was about $2500 out the door without a Macro lens.  So I need to be 10 to 12 inches from the coin to take a picture.  But they come out pretty darn good.  It works nicely with only a Zoom lens.
For inexpensive coins I don't bother with the copy stand.  It also has 4 halogen lights on two arms attached to the platform in about 2 ft x 2 ft and is about 42 inches in height, it is a monster. 
Fortunately and unfortunately my brother is a Tech in a College TV studio, his wife is the Manager there too, and the both teach TV boardcating or filming.  So he advises me what too buy, thinking if I die or replace it he will get it, that's his plan.   

I got the picture of the first loup and it is only 7/8" where as mine is 1 1/8" I hate looking thru such a small hole, but it is somethings benefical.  I bought a coddington 10x, what a piece of crap, I gave it to my wife so she could her small print at work that was $25.
I think I will take your advice and get one of though 20x for the reasons you have stated.  But I suggest you look into the one I posted it is so much bigger glass for a 10x.  But that 20x is amazing in your face close up, I see what you mean.  Living on an Island you have to talk to others, because dealers over here do not stock anything, and if you try to see what they use, they do not even pull one out.  Because whatever you want to sell, they act like they are not interested, what a game they play.  We only have two show over here in a year.  It did not bother me when I was not playing with my coins, just golfing all year round.
What do the NGC graders use, do they start with a ? then increase as they see things like you describe?
Thanks 123panda

Offline badon

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Re: Belomo 10X and 20X loupe comparison
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2011, 12:41:37 PM »
NGC graders start out with no magnification, then go to 5X if they want a closer look. I assume they can go to 10X or higher if they need to.

I recommend against getting the 20X. The 5X to 10X loupes are much, much better. You really need to know what you're looking for to even bother with a loupe at all. When I use a loupe, I use a Belomo 10X. I have been thinking of getting Belomo's 7X to use instead of my 10X, since I think my 10X is sometimes too much magnification. I rarely use my 20X.

The reason why is the field of view and distance from the coin. The higher the magnification, the smaller the field of view, and the closer you have to be to the coin. That means you'll be blocking out the light. It is very hard to get a good view of a coin from a 20X loupe.

The Belomo field of view is as follows:

* 20X: 7 mm
* 15X: 9 mm
* 12X: 9 mm
* 10X: 17 mm
* 8X: 14 mm
* 7X: 22 mm

As you can see, the two best loupes by far are the 7X and the 10X, and nothing else even comes close. You can buy them here:

http://www.amateurgeologist.com/belomo/

There are other alternatives that are more than 10 times the price, but are not 10 times better:

* Swiss Axe Triplet Hawk 10X
* Harald Schneider Model L1 GemologyPro 10X

Those will cost you between $300 and $400 each, but they are supposed to be slightly better than the Belomo. All reports say that if you are not professionally using a loupe full time, all day, every day, they are not worth the high cost. I'm pretty picky about quality, and I can easily afford those loupes, but I still decided against them because I don't want to worry about losing them.

I do watch for them if they turn up used for an ultra cheap bargain price, though.