Numismatic and History Discussions > Coin Photography, Conservation and Storage

Coin photography camera setups

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Joe Sermarini:
I also have no idea if you were one of the offenders, but almost every one of the last ten or so posts on this thread had a quote of the FULL post above, for no valid reason. Some had quotes within quotes within quotes of the full prior posts. Members were hitting quote when they should have simply replied. I have been moderating this discussion for nearly 20 years. I really do know how quotes should and should not be used. My message was for those that do not know how they should be used. I am pleased the you know how to use them but disappointed that you think it is necessary to explain them to me.


--- Quote from: Anaximander on February 21, 2021, 09:57:11 am ---I graduated, a long time ago, from using a flatbed scanner to a camera, and the results are finally presentable. I've purchased better equipment as the technology evolved.

I currently use an Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera (EP-L) with a bunch of features that I use a lot.  This camera gets up to 16 megapixels, takes a macro lens (the 60mm with a 2x crop factor makes it equivalent to a standard 120mm lens) with a touch flip screen.  The really nice bits about a modern mirrorless or SLR camera are the control over white balance, shutter delay, bracketing exposures, center-weighted exposure metering, and the ability to stop the exposure up or down. I use an on-screen grid and the 'bubble' levels. I use auto-focus now, but I do sometimes miss my old kit and the manual focus.

My stand is homemade and isn't nearly as slick as the ones in this thread.  Still, it lets me use axial lighting with a glass plate to 'suspend' the coins in air. 

I haven't really been happy with the lighting arrangement until now. This is my fourth iteration with this rig over ten years.
I use three rechargeable battery-powered LED lights: two Lume Cubes and one Lume Panel-mini, all with diffusers. The Lume Cubes have 'barn doors' to narrow the light beam, and I use one for the axial light, at max., and one for the background, to dispel shadows.  I can control the Lume Cubes with an app on my phone or tablet.  The panel light is used as soft direct lighting, and is moved around as needed to get the right surface illumination on the coin. 

This setup takes nice enough pictures that, after HDR processing of the multiple exposures, I don't have much post-processing to do.

--- End quote ---

nice work.

axial lighting is a great technique and it's easy to set up a home-brew rig that works pretty well like this one. i built one from a cardboard box with black paper lining. the little block keeps the axial light from hitting the coin from the side, which would give some odd lighting highlights. mirrorless cameras are very inexpensive now and give 'wysiwyg' results and many have movable screens. it's simple, inexpensive, and very effective. you can also use manual focus inexpensive macro lenses from older film cameras with adapters. macro lenses are, imho, important and you chose one that lets you get far enough away from the coin (focal length) to let the light work properly.

a $400 mirrorless camera body can make 6000 x 4000 pixel images of excellent quality if you use a macro lens that lets the coin fill up most or all of the field of view. more expensive ones make 40 (or more) megapixel images that you can use to make poster-sized razorsharp prints. big prints of ancient coins are pretty cool. I had some 10" x 20" prints made of some favorites that I like a lot. it would be easy to go even larger. for those who like experimenting the higher-end mirrorless cameras have 'pixel-shift' systems that create super-refined color in extraordinary high resolution (up to 200+ megapixels). it's time-consuming but it's the digital equivalent of 'dye-transfer' technology from the 1950s as far as color fidelity is concerned. great for bronze coins or toned coins. you can turn the ancient die-maker's art into photographic art you can hang on your wall.

Some cameras can use USB camera control to bring the pic right into the computer and don't have to pull it in later from the camera's SD card. That can also control exposure (shutter, white balance, etc.) from the software. some cameras also have a little HDMI output so you can see the camera's-eye view of the coin on a big computer monitor and not have to depend on the typically small camera screen itself.

thanks for showing this setup.


i light what you did here - clever and likely gives very good pictures.

Ron C2:
Making large wall prints is a cool idea.

Honestly, anything 16MP or higher in a mirrorless format like 4/3 or APSC will make amazing photos if you use macro lens and decent lighting. I tend to favor very high apertures also, as the greater depth of field is helpful with magnification.

Anything up to poster size, 16mp is all you need and there are some great Panasonic and Olympus 4/3 mirrorless offerings, new and used, for under $400 and a decent macro lens cam be had for around $300 new.

When you consider the cost of nice coins, a nice camera rig is not so out of reach.


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