I've decided that the next step for me will be to go with a copystand solution with a new lens on my Nikon D40x. I've currently got it setup on a tripod, but it's not as sturdy as it should be. Also, I found the mirror lockup instructions in the guide, but it appears that that is only for inspection and cleaning.. not for taking photos. So to mitigate those two things.. I'm thinking a copy stand is in order.
Are there any recommendations on copystands to use? I know heavier is better.. but I dont know about namebrands, types, etc.
Also, any recommendations on specific lenses for the D40x? Our camera is about 4 years old, so I would want a new lens to also fit newer Nikon models so it's compatible when we upgrade. How about thoughts on say 105mm vs 150mm? Or would an adjustable lens work better? If there are any really good lenses that are cheaper in any of those options, even better :)
I'm also thinking about going with three of the Ikea Jansjo lamps.
Any thoughts before I start making decisions would be apprecited!
105 will be better than 150 for you - the 150 will require a *large* distance from the coin to fit the whole thing in.
You're not going to improve much from what you're already capable of, without a fairly significant investment of money (north of $400-ish) and learning curve.
In terms of sheer dollars, the number will be significantly smaller if you go the bellows/enlarging lens route, especially shooting Nikon, whose compatible lenses are significantly more expensive than Canon. The learning curve will be a lot steeper, and the result will be kinda unusable anywhere else. On the upside, you can commission a bespoke bellows/camera mount system from Ray which you can be sure will do the job from jump street, at a fixed and known price.
You're already at the cusp of choosing whether or not to go "pro," man. Your stuff is already as good as it gets without taking that leap, but it's a big jump.
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Catman, Gary Burke, Bigg Fredd, coinguybrian, numismo, Johnny54321 - CCF members emeritus, now part of Heaven's Own Coin Club.
Hmmm.. If the gains are minimal, and what I most desire is improved sharpness, then perhaps I just go with a copy stand for now to reduce vibration from a weak tripod and mirror slap? Do you think this would be a first step to try to avoid spending a ton of money? This would also let me go the bellows route.. So if anyone has a recommendation for a good copy stand, that I'm assuming will be bellow compatible, I'm all ears :)
Thanks for the compliments too - I didn't realize my pics were close to as good as they will get without making the leap
OK, let's do a test to see if vibration and/or mirror slap is the problem. Here's what you do...
1) Take a pic of a coin with you normal setup as a reference 2) Reduce down to 1 light, at 12:00, and put it far away from the coin (3ft above the camera) 3) Turn off all lights in the room except your coin light (cover your monitor so no light gets to coin) 4) Cover the main light with tissue paper, etc until your exposure time goes to 2sec (you heard me right, two seconds) 5) Take a second reference pic 6) Set exposure to 3 sec 7) Turn off the light 8) Press shutter release, wait 1 sec, then turn on the light
Now compare your reference pics to the pic in 8. The pic in 8 gives your setup a full second to recover from any vibrations, mirror slap, shutter slap, etc before the light comes on and starts exposure.
If you see no improvement between #5 and #8 images, then vibration is probably not your problem. You of course need to make sure there is no constant vibration problem, and that you don't cause any vibration when you turn the light on, or this experiment is worthless...Ray
Yep, you've got a vibration problem. #8 is very sharp, if a bit over-exposed. I think you need to wait a bit longer before turning on the light, but this experiment proved its point. #5 is worse than #1 because #1 has a fast enough shutter speed to partially ignore the vibration. #5 has long enough shutter opening that the image sees ALL of the vibration. #8 looks like it waits long enough to ignore most of it. If you wait even longer, it might be better.
You need to figure out how to get your lens more rigid vs the coin. Does the 100mm have a tripod mount? I've used sticks to prop between lens and tripod or copy stand to achieve this, and also sticks holding up the lens above the coin.
This is one area my microscope stands excel at. They are rock solid against vibration. But even with such a rigid stand, my D7000 still needed additional help at higher magnifications.
Another alternative is to use flash if you have one to "freeze" the vibration. The flash needs to be pretty short to do this, and delayed a bit after the shutter opens. I'm not a flash guy so others on the group will need to give instruction on how to do this with a D40x...Ray
Not sure what you mean about the 100mm having a tripod mount? I've only got a d40x with the stock lens... it does have a tripod mount on it - and that's what I'm currently on. If I buy a 100mm lens, it'd be on my d40x which would have the same mount on the Nikon body.
Does your microscope stand work with all cameras too? If so, PM me for details on it as I'm pretty sure the next step will be a stand to see if that satisfies me.
Sorry, I think I confused posts and that you had a 100mm lens...
I'm a bit worried that even with the microscope stand you will still have vibration problems. The reason is that the D40x does not have Live View, so is going to always have a mirror slap problem. My D7000 on the microscope stand still shows a bit of vibration just due to the shutter action while in Live View, so your D40x will have the problem even worse. One of the keys to minimizing vibration even on the stand is to make sure the lens is rigid versus the coin. I have tried mounting my D7000 by the camera mount with my 105VR Micro lens, with the lens just "hanging" there from the camera, and the vibration was very noticeable. By bracing the lens against the stand with a small piece of foam, a lot of the vibration went away. I suggest you try something like this before you invest in a copy stand to ensure you will be able to improve on what you have by improving rigidity. Some sort of makeshift brace that will hold the lens stable vs the coin will help prove this out.
If bracing reduces the problem, then it would probably make sense to go for a microscope stand. And if you go that route, as Dave suggests it's cheaper to get a bellows and enlarger lens than a dedicated macro. I just want to make sure your result is good if you make the investment and since I have no experience with the D40x on a stand I'm being a bit cautious about it.
By the way, which lens do you have? How are you processing your photos for web publishing? Do you downsize them, crop them, or a combination?