Numismatic and History Discussions > Coin Photography, Conservation and Storage

What is your camera setup?

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Ron C2:
I've been playing around lately with my camera setup for photographing coins and am curious what others are currently using.

Here's my latest setup:



I'm using a micro four thirds Olympus E-M1 camera (16MP mirrorless camera) with a 50mm 1:2 f2.0 macro lens (100mm f4 1:1 in 35mm equivalent). I sometimes also add a 1.4X teleconverter.  I'm also using an Olympus TTL dual-gun macro flash. I set up on a rigid tripod with a mall head and levelling bubble.  I use canned food as an adjustable height coin surface with the coin on a white index card. 

Depending on the coin, I do have to play around a bit with the distance form the lens to the coin, flash intensity, etc. to bring out a decently detailed image with some 3D to it.  Previously  I was using a ring flash, but it was flattening the images too much.  There ends up being zero shadow and you get no depth to the coin's details. 

So what are you using now?

Heliodromus:
Well ....

I had (past tense) been using a Canon Rebel XS on a small copy stand, using the 18-55mm kit lens either alone or with addition of a Raynox DCR-250 macro conversion lens (highly recommended) as seen attached to front of lens below. For lighting either sunlight (preferred) or IKEA Janso LED lights, sometimes with a plastic milk bottle diffuser (sitting on table there).

For focusing I was either using Live View manual focus (on camera LCD screen), or more conveniently tethered shooting using my PC to control the camera (coin displayed on 30" monitor for focusing).

That was a decent setup, although the Janso lights really arn't up to the job. Lighting is key.

Then, being too cheap to buy a decent macro lens, I decide to experiment with a self-assembled franken-lens made out of a El Nikkor enlarger lens coupled with a focusing helicoid and necessary adapters. The magnification is insane (I would have needed a taller copy stand to get sufficiently far away from the coin), but the lens has no electronics so I've ended up burning out my Canon image sensor by overexposing it!  :'(

So, my current setup is just using my iPhone resting on same chopped up milk-bottle, using timer shutter release to avoid shake. Lighting options are same, with sunlight preferred. It's not the best, but in less than 10sec (5sec per side) you can have an entirely serviceable photo. Here are a couple of on-boarding photos taken with this setup this morning. I use GIMP for joining/rotation and to adjust white level.

I will get a new DSLR body soon, but for time being the iPhone is OK.

Ben

Heliodromus:
Here's another from the iPhone using manual focus this time. I'm using the Halide camera app which supports focus peaking, which makes it tolerable, even though I'd certainly prefer focusing using an image that fills a 30" monitor rather than a 1/2" image on an iPhone screen!

Ben

Anaximander:
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.

Heliodromus:
Neat setup.

Those Lume Cube lights look really nice. I'd had my eye on the Apature Amaran AL-M9 but the Lume Cube panel looks even better. These mini panels seem ideal for desktop directional lighting. The cube lights look good too - nice set of accessories available for them.

Do you always use the combination of axial plus directional (from panel) lighting, or is it an either/or choice depending on the coin? I'd have thought that the axial lighting would remove any shadows created by the directional light.

What are you using to position/support the panel light, and how are you diffusing it? Is the Lube Cube Panel Mini additional rubber diffuser effective?

Is there any particular reason you're using the two types (panel + cube) of light, rather than one type for both purposes?

Ben

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