I bought a new toy for Zoom

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by dougsmit, Jul 23, 2020.

  1. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    Here lately with no coin shows, no places to volunteer and plenty of time, we have learned a bit about Zoom meetings. To enable meeting with coin friends via Zoom (I assume the same would work with Google and Microsoft platforms), I bought a small USB camera with a fully adjustable 5-50mm zoom lens on a c-mount camera. I opted for the cheaper 2 megapixel model which is enough for show and tell but they come in 5 meg for a little more. When plugged in to my laptop Zoom offers a selection between the camera built in to the laptop (marked with the yellow V) and the USB camera with a single click of the button so swapping back and forth would be easy. It does seem unnecessary, however, to show my face so the thing can be left on the coin all the time if desired.
    The camera has three adjustment rings for focus, aperture and zoom which are poorly differentiated so I put rubber bands of different colors on them making adjustments easier. The smallest field filling coin is about 10mm but that is at about 15mm from the front of the lens so lighting becomes an issue. It is most comfortable in the denarius range. I found a scrap of wood from previous projects and made a stand that can be rotated in the light as desired. You can hold the coin under the lens and wiggle if you must but I may have to work on an accessory tilt and spin device later. Focus, exposure and zooming are completely manual.

    Has anyone played with anything like this? You can take photos and videos with the software built in to Windows 10 but the 2 MP camera is not as good as would tempt me to do that. I know some of you have expressed security concerns with Zoom in the past. Are there any updates? We use it regularly for library book discussions and church meetings now that neither of those are happening in person.
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  3. Chris B

    Chris B Supporter! Supporter

    Can you share the model number of the camera you bought? I've looked at a number of these but they all look the same. It would be nice to know a verified user.
    capthank likes this.
  4. Egry

    Egry Well-Known Member

    This looks very similar to my setup. Let me know how you go.

    I’ve noticed that anything beyond the size of a denarius becomes difficult to fit into the screen due to the minimum allowable magnification of my model (something generic ). To fit a Tetradracm into the screen I have a modified stand that increases the separation of the camera to the coin. But as I’ve mentioned in a previous thread lighting is my nemesis.

    Best of luck with your new toy Dougsmit, I look forward to reading and viewing the results.
    rrdenarius likes this.
  5. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    I have a Celestron Micro Capture Pro. I can toggle back and forth on zoom shows.

    It takes reasonable pictures. It is too small for my big cast bronze pieces, but is the best way to take a few pictures. Details on the two weights were best shown on the electronic microscope.
    Alex Tet and one uncia counterstamps.jpg
    two uncia.jpg
    the weight should say VNCIA II or some variation of that. My camera did not pick up the V well.
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  6. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Well-Known Member

    I have a cheap Carson eFlex mm-840 .. they call it a "digital microscope" but it's a webcam .. very similar looking (but maybe lower end?) to what @rrdenarius is showing.. here is a stock photo of the unit:

    I actually purchased it when I started collecting to take coin photos but it wasn't very successful (probably user error).. however it has found new life.
    They look to be around $50 on Amazon .. I'm pretty sure I didn't pay that much.
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  7. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member


    I bought this one. If I were not so cheap I would have paid $20 more for the 5 MP one but I do not understand all the differences between models. Reading the reviews, there seems to be fewer problems with the 2MP one so I might have done the right thing. All of these focus to infinity unlike the toy microscope cameras that are better for mintmarks than coins.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2020
  8. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    Do you have any pics with it?
  9. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    No. It is for Zoom type meetings. I have better cameras for pictures to be saved.
    rrdenarius likes this.
  10. Jay GT4

    Jay GT4 Well-Known Member

    I just bought a cheap plug and play capture card on amazon with usb to micro hdmi and plugged in my Sony a5000. Does the same thing for $20 and I get to use my existing gear. Works flawlessly. The only thing is the a5000 doesn't have a clean output signal so you can see the f-stop and aperture on the bottom, no big deal. The a6000 and up do have clean outputs as do most newer cameras. Just need to make sure what kind of output your camera has, micro or mini HDMI.
    rrdenarius likes this.
  11. abc123

    abc123 Active Member

    Nice simple set up and good result, Doug. Thanks for sharing the idea.

    Our local ancient coin club has now held 4 meetings via Zoom. Offers a good means to stay connected as a group and carry on our monthly educational presentations. We originally used the free account limited to 45 min duration and recently have gone to a full account with unlimited meeting time. I find the connection quality is better with the full account. I don’t want to tempt fate but thus far we have had no security issues. I think the main thing is being mindful of who you share the meeting link with and not posting it somewhere for the world to see. Also worthwhile for the host to learn the various meeting controls in order to efficiently deal with an offender if a situation were to occur.
  12. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    Do you do prepared 'slide shows' or have a camera to show coins and have live conversations?

    I made a new stand that allows adjustment from filling the frame with a 10mm coin to an open book. I know it will not be the last model since making Rube Goldburg devices is fun for me.
  13. abc123

    abc123 Active Member

    All of our Zoom presentations and the majority of past “live” meetings use slide decks (PowerPoint or otherwise). Members would often supplement slides by passing around coins in their own collection. This obviously isn’t possible over Zoom so your setup is brilliant.
  14. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    Doug, I like your stands. Mine is not as fancy, but it is adjustable... by adding or removing a USA Volleyball rule book. Note the adjustment to make the top of the coin and weight the same.
    Alegandron likes this.
  15. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    I've been experimenting (perhaps somewhat ineptly) with USB connected cameras for a couple of years. My favorite is this one (~$90) which takes decent pictures and has a field of view big enough that I can fit a sestertius or a tetradrachm without taking the camera off of the mount. Most of the photos that I have posted have been taken with this "camera". Down-sides: it has poor exposure control, but this can be overcome by adding in the field of view a swatch of white or off-white paper to trick the auto-exposure into working reasonably and different backgrounds. The other issue: somewhat limited focus control and depth of field - noticeable in my photos. Why I like it:
    • 0 setup time
    • live view of a coin on a large screen - I find a tiny obol (even a denarius) much more interesting on a 23 inch screen
    • fast & easy to take a reasonable picture and open with a photo editor for combining (obverse and reverse) or other post-processing (which I prefer to skip)
    Here are the four others that I have experimented with - none of which I can recommend - although the stand (available separately) that comes with the Jiusion could be an alternative to the nice wood one that @dougsmit shows in the OP:
    • Jiusion WiFi USB Digital Microscope HD 1080P Resolution ~$60
    • Celestron - 5 MP Digital Microscope Pro - Handheld USB Microscope ~$120
    • 7 inch LCD Digital USB Microscope Angle Adjustable with Remote Control, Koolertron 12MP ~$140
    • Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope with Flexible Arm Observation Stand ~$40
    I see little connection between observed image quality and the advertised quality (between 12MP - and HD1080). Several have built in lighting - which I found unusable for taking a coin photo.

    All of these had issues that made them unusable to me: note that not all of them had all issues - just saving space by combining lists.
    • field of view not sufficient (when using stand provided)
    • image grainy
    • poor focus control
    • poor exposure control
    • minimal depth of field
    • color issues: mostly too cold (white going to blue to purple)
    • stands that don't work very well (the flexible/bending ones)
    Here are a couple of images to illustrate - the first one: Celestron supposedly 5MP (before weak attempt at white balancing, both obv and rev were more purple) and the actual coin does not have this grainy pattern:
    Hadrian Liberalitas.jpg
    the image from my preferred setup - better? - what do others see?
    Hadrian LIBERAVG .jpg
    Would be interested to hear if you find you can make anything resembling a reasonable photo with the OP 2MP camera - I could be tempted to try a 6th one (2MP or 5MP). I have been eyeing these AMScope camera's believing that if I spend more I might get better results.

    I am also interested in any CT members with advice or info on positive experiences connecting a camera to computer for real-time viewing and decent photos.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
  16. Rick B

    Rick B Well-Known Member

    Hi, I just bought the Plugable microscope. I can't get it to see the whole coin, though. A Kennedy half dollar. Any help? Thanks!
  17. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Hi Rick, if I am understanding your issue properly, you will need to find a way to get more distance between coin and camera. Several of the microscopes/camera's that I have tried max out smaller than a half-dollar unless you use some sort of work-around. @rrdenarius has a creative book stack illustrated above :) depending on the camera you have - this may mean you have to get the base out of the way - if in some way adjustable. Hope that helps.
  18. Rick B

    Rick B Well-Known Member

    I'm not having much luck with my Plugable microscope. See attached photo. I put it on a stack of "Red Book" books so I'm getting the whole coin now, but how do I deal with the glare from the microscope light? Kennedy Plugable photo.jpg

    Glare on the left, dark on the right...
    rrdenarius likes this.
  19. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Edit: Step 1 - turn off the microscope light - I find these do not make effective coin photos.

    I changed two things between the photo on the left and the one on the right.
    • LIGHTING: changing distance & angle, I moved the light to be less directly over the coin and a bit further away
    • EXPOSURE: I added the white strip of paper on the right of the coin in view to trick auto-exposure into being less bright (works differently than changing "brightness" on the camera app)
    I won't win any awards for photography - but at least improved.
    Quarter OverExposed.jpg
    Working with ancients I don't often have a coin that shiny, but still need to think about the direction and distance and angle of lighting.
    Tacitus Pax Antoninianus.jpg
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
    Alegandron, rrdenarius and Bing like this.
  20. Rick B

    Rick B Well-Known Member

    Thank you. I will try this when I have a chance.
    Also, there is an online video course on the ANA website in September about photographing coins. I plan on attending. And they record the courses so you can watch them later if you can't make the "live" course time:
  21. Rick B

    Rick B Well-Known Member

    I'm getting close to giving up on the Plugable. I'm not in love with the photos or how it works. And in the software they spell "folder" as "nolder", LOL!
    Let's see, which of these two photos do you like the best?
    Kennedy Phone photo.jpg Kennedy Plugable photo.jpg
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