Coin Photography: Macro Lens

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by Coinchemistry 2012, Jan 5, 2017.

  1. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

    Not really. I'm not trying to be insulting but it's sometimes tough to see what you are trying to show.
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  3. Dennis Misiak

    Dennis Misiak Member

    I use a Nikon AF-S Micro Nikkor 105mm, f2.8 ED mounted on a Nikon D7100 body.
  4. messydesk

    messydesk Well-Known Member

    If you have an APS-C camera, the 150mm lens would be the longest I'd recommend. Your working distance with a 180mm would be really long. For larger coins (bust half, silver dollar), you wouldn't be able to look through the viewfinder and reach the coin at the same time easily unless you're at least 6'2". More working distance also means more susceptibility to wobbling.

    For full-slab shots, you'll either have an extremely long working distance, even with the 150mm lens, or you'll need to swap to a shorter macro, like a 60mm or 105mm.

    I shoot with a 200mm macro lens on a full-frame camera (Nikon D610), which is the equivalent of a 135mm on an APS-C sensor as far as working distance is concerned.

    For slabs, I switch to a 105mm macro and set my camera to APS-C cropping mode. It may seem strange that I do this, but I don't need 24 MP for slab shots, and the file size is much smaller with cropping turned on.

    I also have a 55mm macro that I use if shooting something rather large.
  5. Dennis Misiak

    Dennis Misiak Member

    I'm new here. Can anyone tell me how I can change my username to reflect my avatar?
  6. usmc60

    usmc60 SEMPER FI

    Can't argue with you on that point. But lately I've managed to post photos that more than adequately Showing the coin. Without having to spend hundreds of dollars, like I said it's just for CT, and I'm the first to admit I can't get the right photos some time, with the equipment that I'm using. Bottom line. If I like what I see I post it, if I don't like what I see I move on. Basically I'm the only one I have to please.I look at this way, the less money I spend on taking a photo of a coin, the more money I have to spend on acquiring new coins.(Spend a lot of time and money on a nice camera, must not forget all the accessories that go along with it, more money.) I also look at it this way, so far all the photos I've sent in for submissions, I have not had any complaints on by any of the professionals. And one professional insist on photos to help him identify the error in question.So I must be doing something right.And the few times that members have question my photos, I've always tried to oblige them. By retaking the photo, to resolve the issue.And not once has Mr. Neff on cuds on coins, asked me to send him another photo. My coins listed on his sites are all my photos. As any member who Has ever submitted a coin to him and had him listed. Knows that that is there coin and photo that they personally took.It's just me I just feel that the money could be spent on more coins. USMC60
  7. BooksB4Coins

    BooksB4Coins Newbieus Sempiterna

    I think most of us appreciate or at least respect your preference, but why push it on everyone as you've done again and again? In this particular case we have a gentleman who has already purchased a lens, obviously the camera for it, and has expressed an interest in learning to image coins with it. It's probably safe to assume that if he wanted an inexpensive USB "mircoscope", he would have bought one instead of spending many, many multiples on what he has.
    Michael Clarke likes this.
  8. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    PM one of the mods........they could (maybe) help you out with that. Welcome to the forum.
  9. usmc60

    usmc60 SEMPER FI

    It's quite obvious a lot of the members are into photography. Hey that's great know a lot of people that are into photography to. My intent is not to put people down on what they like or whatever blows their skirt up. I always say to each their own. I'm just expressing my opinion it seems like an awful lot of money, if they just want to take a photo of a coin. And I more than understand if you're investing that kind of money, you're going to take photos of more than just a coin that is understandable.I seen some very interesting photos of arachnids. Like I said whatever blows your skirt up. Books I'm not pushing anything on anybody it's just my opinion, just like you expressed your opinion. And I have no control over the way you comprehend statements. Short and simple you don't need to spend a lot of money to take a good photo of a coin. USMC60
  10. 4to2centBC

    4to2centBC Well-Known Member

    I have used expensive equipment and gotten great photos and I have taken photos with an iPhone 6. This is what you can do with a silly phone and with an expensive lens.

    Which is which?? London-full.jpg first meris compressed2.jpg reverse neptune-crop-tile.jpg South Sea done.jpg

    Life can be simple if you make it so.
    Stork and usmc60 like this.
  11. lehmansterms

    lehmansterms Many view intelligence as a hideous deformity

    One thing that became perfectly clear - in fact, hit me like a flash from the blue - back in the 90's on the occasion of acquiring my first decent computer, then discovering the internet and the on-line numismatic community almost simultaneously, was the realization that in order to participate in this exciting new arena (before then, being an ancient coin collector was a solitary pursuit, I can assure you) it was going to be necessary to learn how to do digital imaging of coins so they could be shared without writing a novelette on each.
    My point is, when I was a pre-internet ancient coin guy, I merely dreamed of someday having a set-up to photograph coins. At that time, however, with film photography, it was not only expensive, there was a long lead-time between taking an experimental photo and seeing the result, "Photomats" not withstanding. And, as I said, it was prohibitively expensive - this was back when grading was actually important and meant something - but that's a rant for another day.
    I had noticed that some photos on ebay were very good, and many were pure dreck. I did a quick survey, writing to about 10 ebay sellers chosen on the basis of whether their ebay photos actually looked like coins or not. I asked them what sort of camera they used or recommended and of the 6 who responded 5 said "Sony Mavica". Well, that was the standard for that time, and if I say so myself, I have taken quite a few decent photos with what most would consider pitifully under-megapixeled cameras. My first Mavica was a used FD 71 and I probably took at least eight or ten thousand photos with it before moving up to an FD 91 - which I still use quite often.
    I'm in the phase of trying various consumer-grade cameras to see if any are able to take superior photos with 10 or 15 mp (vs the incredible 0.3 mp of my original FD 71) and non-specialized lenses - and thinking ever more seriously about perhaps acquiring a SLR digital body and a dedicated macro lens, if I ever have a few bucks extra to play with - but for now, my go-to camera is still the FD 91 - which has the most impressive lens (I'm told it's the equivalent of a 115mm telephoto) Sony put on any of the Mavicas.
    Why am I going on about "antique" digital cameras? Possibly because although it's really nice to be able to afford top-of-the-line equipment, there is no reason not to go on with whatever you can afford and does what you consider an adequate job. I don't consider myself "professional" by any means, still, I have been hired to photograph collections - granted, not for publication beyond the web. Still, comfort and familiarity with your camera probably comes very close to equalling the results one is likely to get with all but the very most sophisticated (expensive) gear. Learn the "trade" - the rules are simple - #1, "Lighting is everything." #2, see rule #1. can add" Don't shoot against a busy background, make sure the camera stays motionless, focus, use your GD phone to talk to people, the general quality of on-line photography took a major hit and went steeply downhill when people started using their phones in lieu of real cameras for shooting coins.
    Aside from keeping your phone in your pocket, it's important to remember that if it works for you, it's probably not particularly useful to pine over the equipment you can't afford - just go with what you know and what works for you - that's my two cents worth (talk is cheap, see how much you get for two cents?).
    usmc60 likes this.
  12. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

  13. Burton Strauss III

    Burton Strauss III Well-Known Member

    A great photographer can take great photos with even borderline equipment. We've see above great photos taken with a smartphone. And in other threads with P&S.

    They become great mostly through experience and LEARNING the craft. Same as about any skill. Shoot 10 coins, ruthlessly analyze what works and what doesn't, experiment, improve, repeat. Shoot 100 coins. 1000. 10,000... After a while you do get very good.

    For -most- of us, decent equipment and some modest level of skill allows us to take pretty good photos. We learn from 10 and plateau after 100.

    Of course, you can take bad photos with any equipment.

    So I'd posit that the prosumer equipment can compensate for about 30-40% of skill/experience. And for most of us, the professional equipment is a waste.
    usmc60 likes this.
  14. rmpsrpms

    rmpsrpms Lincoln Maniac

    Lots of good insight in this thread. In my experience, a minimum level of equipment is required, and beyond that there are diminishing returns. That minimum level has become easier to achieve with the gradual improvements in cellphone cameras. Once that minimum level is achieved, results are all about lighting technique.
    usmc60 likes this.
  15. Dennis Misiak

    Dennis Misiak Member

    Agree with previous posts that lighting is most important. I started with a cheap Point & Shoot....then graduated to a Nikon Coolpix L840 (which produced excellent images and would recommend if you don't have the $$$ to jump into DSLR w/macro lens). Then the practice started...and continues with my Nikon D7100 w/105mm micro lens, f2.8. The most important investment was a copy stand which can be purchased on Ebay. I spent $178 on a copy stand complete with lights. On copper, I use an incandescent "bare filament on full red coins. On silver & gold, I either use a standard incandescent, Phillips natural light bulbs, or my OTT Light which is a cooler florescent which also is a "natural light" source. I generally use the OTT light for backfill lighting. Again, 3 words.....practice, practice, and practice!
  16. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Words of wisdom.........:)
  17. Michael Clarke

    Michael Clarke Well-Known Member

    Thank you so much for the post. It was driving me crazy changing coins and lights. Now it all makes sense, different bulbs for different coins. Maybe you guys mentioned it and I just missed it. Now my enjoyment can begin again!

    Coin below is mostly SuperDave advise Canon D1000 50mm f/2.8 Componon-S. Do I have the light right?

    Last edited: Jan 30, 2017
    Paul M. likes this.
  18. Dennis Misiak

    Dennis Misiak Member

    Your lighting is perfect!!!! Kudos.
  19. Dave M

    Dave M Francophiliac

    I've never seen it suggested to use different bulbs for different coins, but hey, if it works for you, do it :)

    This looks quite gold-colored to me, but I don't have the coin in hand to compare to. Are you also setting white balance in the camera, or are you using an auto white balance?
  20. Michael Clarke

    Michael Clarke Well-Known Member

    Don't laugh but I don't know how to change the white balance setting yet. When it's tethered I just move the little box around till it looks right.
  21. SuperDave

    SuperDave Free the Cartwheels!

    Look at the slab. Is the tint on the slab as you would expect the color to be? That's the purpose of a custom White Balance setting, and why I prefer to do that with pure white rather than shades of gray. Set your white balance however you do it looking at white paper under the exact same light as the coin is getting. When your white balance setting shows that paper as pure white, then you're going to get the coin's color right. And by "pure white," I mean not what your brain tells you is "pure white," but a block of something you know to be RGB 255, 255, 255 (Hex #FFFFFF), real live honest to goodness white, on your specific screen. Here's why:

    Another consideration - and an important one which doesn't get discussed as often as it should - is that monitors are color-calibrated differently. Some are better with color from the factory than others, and some simply need to have color calibration settings changed before they're even usable for photography. With that in mind, what you see on your monitor and then post here may not be at all what I see on mine, because my monitor is color-corrected differently. So take any advice on color correction with that grain of salt.

    Color-correction hardware is expensive. Beyond my means, for the little benefit I'd get from it, because chances are for whatever monitor you own, somebody has already tested it, figured out the correction, and posted those settings online. It's not perfect, because there are panel-to-panel differences for any but the most expensive screens, but it's good enough for my purposes, especially when I haven't factored just how "pure" the white of the paper I just used for Custom White Balance is. :)

    Now, I did a bit of color correction on your image above. I wasn't able to make it "perfect," but on my screen, to my eyes, that slab looks close to what PCGS produces them to look like and by definition the color of the coin therefore follows. I made allowance for a little of the coin's color being reflected into the translucent plastic, which is something you have to put up with when shooting slabs, and why you don't use the slab's appearance in your image as the defining correction feature. Here's what I ended up with:


    Part of the reason for the Wall Of Text™ I just posted is to convince you that just learning and setting Custom White Balance (where the camera does all that thinking for you) is a whole lot easier. :)

    For the record, the coin is tilted on its' vertical axis - the right side is in far sharper focus than the left. This is another opportunity for you. These two points have to be incorporated into your technique before working on light placement and diffusion; it'll only hurt you to try to juggle too many variables at once.

    You have the equipment, and obviously the motivation and interest, so let's go get the last 10% of quality you can wring from it. The climb may seem steep, but it's short and at the end is a plateau that not many others reach.
    Michael Clarke and green18 like this.
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