Numismatic and History Discussions > Coin Photography, Conservation and Storage

Coin photography camera setups

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Good questions... you know what to ask.

I have traditionally used two lights, one main light for axial lighting and the other for soft direct lighting. Axial is good for overall soft lighting, and the second light is helpful for filling out or providing some definition to legends and devices.

My first Lume was the panel mini, which replaced an ailing brick-sized LED panel. The Lume panel mini is 3.7 volts, 1200mAh, 0.5 watts, lithium. It is physically small and light, and boasted digital controls with fine tuning and the ability to set the light temperature.  The rubber diffuser comes with the mini and works like a charm.  I place it atop one of my two Joby GorillaPod Flexible Mini-Tripods topped by the Lume-brand triple cold shoe mount (for multiple lights and microphones). The triple-mount isn't really necessary, but it provides some counterbalance for the panel, which I've tilted at about 80 degrees (that is, nearly horizontal), which could otherwise pull down the lightweight mini-tripod.  I usually keep the panel running at just 5% to 20% brightness, but mostly keeping it at 15%.  If I were using it for my main lighting source, I would probably step up to their larger panel model.

The cubes came later.  I got the two-pack and found a use for the second to banish shadows in the background.  The barn doors really help to direct the light where you want it, and only where you want it.  The diffuser is a bit redundant for axial lighting, but I still use it.

I like the cube for axial lighting because it is a single source of light.  I have found that the panel's collection of little bulbs complicate the axial lighting, causing unwelcome reflections.  It might not be a problem for all axial lighting; it could be because of my second glass plate, the one that supports the coin.  I had tried a ring light, and that was the ultimate bad choice, as it reflected directly back into the camera (like shooting a flash into a mirror). Oh, the horror!   

I'm not familiar with Apature Amaran.  The heavy/fragile lights I was using before were LED Video Lights from LS-Photo Studio.


I think I'll buy one of these panels and start experimenting with that. I like that the mini comes with the additional rubber diffuser, although generally more light is better so I need to decide between that and the larger "Go" panel which unfortunately seems to only come with the built-in diffuser (too close to the LEDs to really be effective?).

I'll bear the GorillaPod in mind but I'm going to try a flexible gooseneck arm for the panel for total height & angle adjustability. I'd like to speed up the time that lighting adjustments take when trying to photograph a difficult coin. My holy grail would be to reduce the degrees of freedom to two - direction and angle of incidence.

There's an interesting axial setup at the link below, from a professional photographer, who is using a lazy susan to control lighting direction, but in his setup it's the coin that is moving relative to the light and camera which would seem to be annoying (hard to assess lighting with rotated coin image on screen). Ideally it'd be the light source that is moving relative to the coin, which I think may be achievable with a mini panel. The trick would be to add angle-of-incidence (basically light height, while keeping centered on the coin) into the mix too ...

I wonder if the reflections you were having with the ring light may have been due to the type of glass the coin is resting on? There is a type of non-reflective glass that is sometimes used for photo frames that might help.


Joe Sermarini:
This is the system we use most often...

Thanks, Joe.

I've often wondered what type of setup you pros are using!


I'm also using an Olympus Micro 4/3rds - an E-M1 with 60mm macro lens - on a copy stand.

I've got an LED panel on the camera and sometimes additionally use the daylight lights shown in the photo', though they're not currently attached.   I raise the coin above the background, control the camera using a mobile 'phone, set to manual, f/10, focus and shoot.



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