Featured Macro lens for iPhone coin photography

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Gavin Richardson, Jan 15, 2020.

  1. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    TL;DR: A cheap clip-on macro lens improved my simple iPhone coin photography.

    This is a post for people like me who use their cell phone to photograph coins. True photography aficionados should avert their eyes. TIF and Doug Smith should not even be reading this post. It will just depress them. :(:shame:

    I use my iPhone for coin photography and editing. About a year ago, I upgraded to the iPhone X. While the camera was better in many ways, it was actually worse than my iPhone 6 for close-up photography. I saw a set of Godefa cell phone lens attachments on Amazon for about $20 and suggested it offhand as a Christmas gift. Lo and behold, my wife got it for me (https://www.amazon.com/Fisheye-Telephoto-Kaleidoscope-Starburst-Compatible/dp/B07DHHXLXF ). I was skeptical that these cheap attachments would work, but I have been pleased with the 15x macro lens, which is the only one from the set I really use.

    You just take your iPhone out of its case and clip on the lens. For my purposes, the lens results in better color and detail. Clearly the resolution will not be high enough to meet the standards of many on this board. But if you are a “good enough” coin photographer like me and you have a cell phone, it might be worth the $20 investment if you’d like to try to improve your photos.

    My set up is strictly lo-fi. An old CD spindle elevates the coin to give it a “floating in space” look. A piece of cloth at the base of the spindle forms the background, which is attractively blurred as the camera focuses on the coin. A styrofoam block elevates the cell phone over the coin. (I have to put a weight on the cell phone so it doesn’t tip over.) I use the camera’s timer function to minimize shake. I try to photograph in natural light as much as possible, but the new lens gives me satisfactory photos even in artificial light. Sometimes I manually shape the light. Literally. I cup my hands around the coin, which sometimes brightens the coin in the center.

    [EDIT: I forgot to mention that I set everything within the backside of a canvas frame I got at Hobby Lobby for a few dollars. The frame keeps the coin from rolling away if it falls off the spindle.]


    Once I have photographed the obverse and reverse, I use a free iPhone app called Pic Stitch to splice them together.

    These photos of a Julia Mamea denarius show the difference the cheap lens makes. The top photo is without the lens. The bottom one is with.

    I guess I would characterize these procedures as “coin photography hacks” that may render satisfactory images with items you already have. The resolution isn’t high enough to do great work with detail, as you can see. But for cataloging and sharing on this board and elsewhere, the photos meet my needs.

    Here are some other recent photos using the iPhone and macro lens.

    Last edited: Jan 15, 2020
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  3. Evan Saltis

    Evan Saltis Teen Collector

    Instagram has a "collage" app which might make better photos. It's ad free, too, and you could easily share straight to Facebook, etc. if you are a user :)
    Gavin Richardson likes this.
  4. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Well-Known Member

    I use my phone as well and will have a look at these lenses.
    Also like the idea of using the cloth as background - will give it a shot.

    Excellent post and very nice photos. Thank you.
  5. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    Thanks. My cloth is a polishing cloth that came with my eyeglasses. I just tore a small hole in the center of it and slid it over the spindle.
    Justin Lee and Clavdivs like this.
  6. GSDykes

    GSDykes Well-Known Member

    I shared this with another member several days ago, he likes it and is just getting started with on his iPhone7. For about $20.00 you can make it a very fine close-up macro camera! Available everywhere (Amazon et cetera). He bought it and got in in just 2 or 3 days, he has shared his first images, here is the post: https://www.cointalk.com/members/jason-is-new.106572/

    Gary in Washington
  7. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    I don't use a fancy camera-- I use a fixed lens point and shoot :D (although I do shoot in manual mode). I'm very interested in using my phone instead so your post about macro lenses for phones is welcome. The new Mamaea images are quite an improvement! The clip-on lenses are cheap enough for me to buy them without feeling guilty-- maybe I'll play around with enhanced phone photography too :).
  8. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing Supporter

  9. ancientone

    ancientone Well-Known Member

    I will be trying this soon. Thanks!
    Gavin Richardson likes this.
  10. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Well-Known Member

    I've come back to this post a few times - not only for the info on the macro lens for the iPhone (I have one on order) but for the simple and effective set up displayed by @Gavin Richardson .

    I spent yesterday in my garage putting this together for $0 - from scraps.

    I already owned the camera clamp... just had to figure out a way for it to hold a platform for the iPhone.


    camera 4.jpg

    I liked the idea of the trim around the edge to collect any runaway coins..
    I can easily adjust the height of the "spindle" or adjust the iPhone platform height itself.


    Will my terrible photography get any better? I don't know - but it will be easier and quicker to get something almost acceptable to post. This picture was taken, cropped and merged on the iPhone - no adjustment made to the background. Super quick.


    Attached Files:

  11. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing Supporter

    Nice work on your "found object" platform and backdrop! Your photo really looks pretty nice and (certainly) presentable! (and quick it sounds like) The mobility of your setup makes me think you can adjust it's placement to make the lighting (the sun?) do what you want (mostly). Have you considered the addition of a light? Is there one (other than the sun) that you use?
    Clavdivs likes this.
  12. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Well-Known Member

    Using natural light at the moment.. I am looking for a small inexpensive "natural light" lamp that I could add. I do like the size of the one @Gavin Richardson is using in his photo at the top of this thread. If anyone sees one going cheap please let me know.:)
  13. Clonecommanderavgvsvs

    Clonecommanderavgvsvs Well-Known Member

    That’s a really nice set up man, also nice hand of god heller
    Clavdivs likes this.
  14. Matthew Kruse

    Matthew Kruse Active Member

    Is that company paying you to say this??!?! Hahaha just kidding. Thanks for sharing!
    Gavin Richardson likes this.
  15. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    How do you explain the color change on Mamaea?
  16. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Well-Known Member

    @Justin Lee Lights added to my inexpensive set up.....

    $19 ... they charge via USB which is nice.

  17. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing Supporter

    Nice!! I can't wait to hear abut how it works for you, and see the results!
  18. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing Supporter

    Oh, also @Clavdivs I just noticed that you have the screen facing downwards so you use the front facing camera... Is that intentional? I ask cuz the front facing cam is usually a lower MP than the rear facing cam. You got me curious... :happy:
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
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  19. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    I took the first Mammaea a long time ago, so I’m not sure. I suspect the color has more to do with the light I was trying to use at the time, more so than the lens. It was probably some kind of artificial light.
  20. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    I’m not quite sure what you mean. The screen is facing up. I’m not using the selfie side camera.
  21. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing Supporter

    :nailbiting::nailbiting:Oops, sorry @Gavin Richardson... My post was meant for @Clavdivs based on his recently posted photos of his new light system. My apologies for not being specific initially, but I just edited my post to add his name. :sorry:
    Gavin Richardson likes this.
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