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Author Topic: What is your camera setup?  (Read 1601 times)

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Offline Ron C2

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What is your camera setup?
« on: February 04, 2021, 09:19:57 pm »
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?
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Offline Heliodromus

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2021, 12:45:15 pm »
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

Offline Heliodromus

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2021, 02:12:08 pm »
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

Offline Anaximander

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #3 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 threadStill, 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.

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Offline Heliodromus

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2021, 12:26:53 pm »
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

Offline Anaximander

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2021, 04:40:13 pm »
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.
Cheers~

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Offline Heliodromus

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2021, 08:36:19 am »
Thanks.

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 ...

https://hipshotphotography.com/pro-tips/2020/9/24/advanced-coin-photography

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.

Ben

Offline Joe Sermarini

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2021, 01:15:34 pm »
Joseph Sermarini
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Offline Heliodromus

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2021, 01:28:18 pm »
Thanks, Joe.

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

Ben

Offline akeady

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2021, 08:41:42 pm »
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.

ATB,
Aidan.

Offline Ron C2

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2021, 12:44:30 pm »
Hmm... maybe I should just get a copy stand! :)  I do have the 30/3.5 MFT Macro lens as well as the FT 50/2.0 Macro lens with MMF-2 adaptor to fit MFT.  The 30mm does focus bracketing though...

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Offline Anaximander

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2021, 05:39:30 pm »
Hmm... maybe I should just get a copy stand! :)

 +++ Sure, get a copy stand.  While they can get large, both in size and cost, you can get a nice, sturdy one of modest dimensions and cost that works nicely for coin photography.  I like the Cosmo Mini 500.  It is compact and just feels nice and solid.  It can hold the weight of a DSLR and lens.  Mine cost me under US$150. It has a base that's 12"x12" and a vertical post that's also 12" and has an adjustable arm that can be flipped up to go as high as 17".  There are smaller models, like the Mini 300 and the Mini 100 (which I see used with smartphones).
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Offline akeady

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2021, 08:56:45 pm »
By the way, great to see that at least three of us are using Olympus MFT cameras!

ATB,
Aidan.

Offline agord

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2021, 06:44:55 pm »
Cannon 7D Mk1 with 100mm macro lens.

Offline kaleun96

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #14 on: August 07, 2021, 06:42:59 am »
My setup has evolved quite a bit over the last few years as I took the photography aspect more seriously. I focus stack all my images so have a linear rail powered by a stepper motor and custom Arduino controller for setting the start and end points of the "stack" (as well as other things) so it will take all the photos for me automatically.

This is close to how it looks now:


Offline Ron C2

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #15 on: August 07, 2021, 10:00:45 am »
I love that stand!!
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Offline kaleun96

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #16 on: August 07, 2021, 11:39:09 am »
Thanks! The aluminium square tubes that form the L, the black aluminium base (with many holes in it), and the adapters that combine the two are mostly Thorlabs gear. It's a bit pricey as it's optical-grade equipment but after changing my setup frequently over just a few years I feel like I'm finally done throwing money away and have found something optimal. The dovetails on each side of the square tubes work near-perfectly with Arca clamps for cameras too.

Offline Ron C2

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #17 on: August 07, 2021, 12:11:25 pm »
What camera and lens combo is that?
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Offline kaleun96

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #18 on: August 07, 2021, 01:16:13 pm »
I love that stand!!
Thanks! The aluminium square tubes that form the L, the black aluminium base (with many holes in it), and the adapters that combine the two are mostly Thorlabs gear. It's a bit pricey as it's optical-grade equipment but after changing my setup frequently over just a few years I feel like I'm finally done throwing money away and have found something optimal. The dovetails on each side of the square tubes work near-perfectly with Arca clamps for cameras too.

What camera and lens combo is that?
It's a Sony A7R III and Laowa 100mm f2.8 2x macro. The lens is entirely manual but for coins it's perfect and the ability to go above 1x magnification is great. It's also excellent optically too.

The Sony A7R cameras are expensive but I feel they're definitely worth it for this kind of photography where you're shooting a stationary subject in macro and focus stacking the images. The A7R II is particularly affordable at the moment too.

Offline Anaximander

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #19 on: August 07, 2021, 06:25:04 pm »
Quite the setup, kaleun96. Nicely done.  Focus stacking is quite the technical accomplishment, automating the process and layering stitching on top is simply amazing!

I hope you will share your collection here some day.
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Offline kaleun96

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #20 on: August 07, 2021, 06:59:48 pm »
Thanks! I have most of my collection photographed up on my website https://artemis-collection.com. Hopefully it's ok to share it here :)

I have some more info on my setup there as well as some fun bonuses, such as the 360 photos and "Ultra Zoom" that makes full use of the focus stacked images.

I'm still experimenting and learning so love checking out what other people on here and CoinTalk are using or any tips and tricks they've picked up.

Offline Ron C2

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #21 on: August 12, 2021, 10:03:01 pm »
I really like your website.  That said, there is photo hosting here at FORUM as well, and you might consider hosting some of your photos here for the threads you might use to dicsuss your pieces.  I'd love tosee more of your collection with such photography results.
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Offline kaleun96

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #22 on: August 15, 2021, 11:56:27 am »
Thanks Ron, I'll keep that in mind if the need arises! I see the upload limit is 2MB and most of my photos are ~20MB and then compressed down to 3-4MB via a Wordpress plugin. It is probably easier in that case to hotlink to one of my photos hosted on my website instead of reuploading them - though that does mean the links could die at some point if my website doesn't outlive Forvm!

Offline Ron C2

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #23 on: August 15, 2021, 02:27:00 pm »
If you make a double sided view of a coin about 3500 pixels in length in photoshop, it works out to around a 1.3MB photo and retains more than enough detail under JPEG quality 10.

For consideration.
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Offline Virgil H

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Re: What is your camera setup?
« Reply #24 on: August 15, 2021, 11:33:57 pm »
Ron,

You are correct, but for those of us who keep high resolution pictures, producing a photo for upload on Forum takes a series of steps that you have to do for every photo. Some sites, like Facebook, will take almost any photo and then down convert it for the jpeg web version. I don't even keep my pictures in jpeg format at all. So, when I upload one to Forum, I open my original and make a copy, resize/reduce resolution, etc. The results are throwaway pictures that take a few minutes to produce. Not a big deal, but it is if you are doing volume or are rushed for time. Just saying there are reasons why people prefer to link to their pics. I haven't started a gallery yet, but this concerns me because it doubles the work since I want high resolution tiffs that are all too large to upload. The few pics I have uploaded to Forum, I delete after because I am old school and remember when space was a huge issue on computers (my first computer had no hard drive at all and the first one with a hard drive was 10 MB). LOL. I guess I am just saying that I get the hesitation.

Thanks,
Virgil

 

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