Hi all, So after stating I would never get a more expensive camera I broke my old 6 mp sony I use strictly for fishing this past weekend. Decided to downgrade my 14 mp point and shoot to just outdoors now, and get a nicer indoor shooter. I settled on one of SuperDave's suggestions previously mentioned here, the Panasonic DMC-FZ48 (Dave listed it as 47, which is now a 48) Very reasonably priced.
I played around with it for hours last night, read all the manuals, read almost every single post in the section. I seem to understand a good amount of everything, but I am making a few mistakes and need to ask a few questions to clarify what I may be doing wrong.
Lights From what I have read, lighting seems to be extremely important, but furthermore, how you use it, and not what kind of light seems like a fair understanding. I am using 2 FL daylight bulbs in 2 desktop snake lights. They seem to do decent, working at 6500k. Diffusion will probably be needed. This camera has EXCELLENT AWB, but I manually set the white balance as well, and tried a few of its built in settings too (Kelvins, sunny, cloudy etc...)
Distance This is my issue. I am using this new Panasonic as I would a Digi point and shoot. I'm assuming I shouldnt be doing this. From what I've seen its important to space out the distance between the coin and the camera. My question is how far? I've seen 6-8 inches, but I guess the distance depends on a lot of factors. Do I want to be in a "macro" type setting while the camera is this far away? I have found it is nice to set it in aperture priority, and then manual focus. But remember, this was done from about 1 inch from the coin. I'm assuming there isn't enough light being reflected onto the coin into the lens, so I'm not getting the results I thought I would. I can post pictures when I get home later of my attempts, but I'd prefer not to, as they look horrible. I'm using a very nice, sturdy tripod and setting the timer to avoid noise.
Zoom In one of SuperDave's threads, he posts this picture
Should I be seeing this type of image through my LCD while looking at the coin? Or should I be zoomed in to have the coin fully fit the frame? I'm sorry I have so many questions, but everyone here on this thread is very knowledgeable and I'm probably making some severe rookie mistakes. I'm very experienced in Photoshop CS5, so I wont even touch on processing, just stick to the camera basics for now. Any help would be great!
You've a good background to become a very capable coin photographer. This will be fun.
Your camera is going to determine how you set it up. Most definitely shoot in Macro mode at all times. You may need to experiment with distance and the use of zoom - I don't know how Macro will work with zoom on your camera; cameras differ in this - but the ultimate goal is to make the coin as large on the sensor as you can, while retaining clear focus. There's no one-size-fits-all solution for this.
You may end up compromising ultimate size on the sensor to achieve better lighting clearance. Your job, first, is to determine just how big you can make that coin on the sensor and remain clearly-focused - don't worry about lighting much until you find that point - and then gradually create the compromise which works best with your specific camera.
Be prepared, ultimately, to lean slightly on your postprocessing skills, specifically Unsharp Mask (or plain Sharpness).
Thanks for that Dave, one more question: I saw something about you mentioning forcing a camera to shoot in a certain aspect. My camera offers "16:9, 3:2, 1:1 and conventional 4:3 to shoot in the framing aspect that best suits the photo's composition or purpose of use." Would you recommend I force the aspect to 1:1? I've just been shooting in the standard aspect, which I believe to be 4:3, but not positive. It also offers 3X digital macro zoom, which has been turned off by default as well.
Okay, I got home and messed around with the settings and the setup as well, and I have pictures this time. If someone could please take a look at these and maybe point me in a bit of a better direction, that would be much appreciated. Please ignore my messy room, and my cheapo setup. This was all done with just my fan's overhead lighting to see if I can get desirable results before setting up my lights. The coins will be listed fully, cropped and then I'll display the info for each. It's gonna be a lot of photos, but I'd like everyone to see as much as possible in order to help me. Some were taken in auto intelligence mode, others were manual. On the manuals, I usually set the ISO to 100. These were all done with no manual white balance either.
I did not crop this first image, sorry!
As you can see, this is way too dark as I dropped exposure -1. Sharpness is definitely not there.
This last one is my favorite. I decided to lift the coin higher, and I used that bottle you see on the floor in one of the first pics. If you look at the info, you'll see the ISO setting. This interested me, as I've always been told to keep it to 80-100.
A 2 minute edit in CS5 and I can get something decent.
And again, please ignore the lighting and hot spots it creates, this is just to base some decent info! So in the meantime, I'll continue to experiment. If someone way more knowledgable could look this over maybe they'll find some dire mistake I've been making. At this point it seems its pretty much point and shoot.... over and over... adjust settings...etc Thanks
Yes, it's actually extremely frustrating getting it down. I guess I'm so used to a point and shoot its making my head want to explode. I've been messing around with it all night, and I'll post a few more. My conclusions are: The 6500k lights clearly are not efficient at lighting a coin. I dont like the way it looks, and they cannot be diffused easily. My fan light does a way better job, I'm guessing because the light is spread way more efficiently. I also note that I'm having better luck with the coin actually being farther away as I'm assuming this allows more light to come between the camera lens and the coin. My white balance hasnt been officially set, and I'm finding it a lot more difficult then I thought processing. I'm either too hot, too cold, no contrast, way too much. I will eventually have to get the extension and macro for this beast, but I will continue to mess around in the mean time. In terms of grading a coin, I'm not sure these are any better then a 14 mp point and shoot. I'll let the experts chime in on that one.
I can take away a lot of contrast/sharpness, but still the results are not that desirable IMHO.
The fan photos all seem to have relatively the same info.
The thing which strikes me is how much compromise your camera is having to make in order to get the coin lit - exposure is way slow and ISO way high. With 2-60w CFL equivalents, you ought to be able to get 1/13 @ ISO 200 or less. That said, I'd be working in a direction of shorter exposure, if the ISO setting isn't introducing too much noise - you'll need to pixel-peep the background to see what kind of noise is being generated, but I'd sure like to see exposures faster than 1/100.
How are the lights mounted and directed?
I would be looking to autofocus in your shoes - the camera's viewfinder simply lacks the resolution to show you the coin focused sharply enough. I focus manually, but I've got the coin projected at full magnification on a 24", 19x12 monitor....
So. Settings: AF Macro. Zoomed fully out - EXIF data should indicate 4.5mm focal length for this camera. Use Aperture Priority for the moment, with the widest-possible (lowest numerically) aperture. "Cloudy" white balance should be the best match for 6500k lighting. Let it autofocus.
Don't expect far better results than the point-and-shoots I've played with. That's not why you buy a camera like this - you buy a camera like this for its' insane zoom and broad range of abilities including HD video. This is one you absolutely do not use "only" for macro photography, although down the road with the addition of a Macro lens add-on (the other reason you choose it over a P&S), you're going to be shooting stuff that's indistinguishable from dSLR work at the sizes we post here.
Well, I really appreciate your help Dave. I'm sure its extremely frustrating working with people who really dont know much about the subject. The lights were placed in every possible way honestly. 10 and 2, and every other clock combination. Far, close, next to the lenses, every angle I could bend them at as well. The problem with the lights is that the hood doesn't detach, and its a pretty wide hood. It tends to create certain hotspots regardless of the circumstance. I also lack the ability to view this on a monitor, as far as I know. The difference between the LCD, my PC monitor and my macbook pro are all a little off of each other. All I can continue to do is listen to experts, like yourself, and keep on reading what I can and experimenting. I'll go home tonight and work on the correct settings. I dont nearly expect to see the results you guys post, the price difference can tell you that. My generation isn't too familiar with the term "manual"! In the meantime, I'll stop complaining and keep everyone updated when I actually get a worthwhile shot. Your advice as always is much appreciated.
Well this weekend I broke down and bought 2 Jansjo's for 18 bucks a piece. I'm moving soon shortly anyways so why not more light? I've seem to have found the sweet spot on the camera, and I like what I'm seeing. From here on out it may be just the diffusion of the lights, and post processing. The photos below have not been edited in photoshop, just cropped. Let me know if these are any better.
Quote: I've seem to have found the sweet spot on the camera, and I like what I'm seeing. From here on out it may be just the diffusion of the lights, and post processing. The photos below have not been edited in photoshop, just cropped. Let me know if these are any better.
To say the least. What's the actual diameter of the coin, in pixels, before downsizing?
OK. Postprocess full-size - it makes any sharpening you might use far more subtle in its' effect. Downsize by percentage - 50% or 25% rather than forcing to a specific number, which requires the software to interpolate and potentially misplace pixels whereas percentage reductions are simple math.
Look into what settings you may have available for in-camera processing, sharpening and noise reduction, and disable them to the greatest extent possible. You want to do any or all of that in the computer where you have far more sophisticated hardware and software. Your last pair of images are clear enough so I think I'm seeing a little oversharpening in-camera. Wish it would shoot RAW.
Okay Dave, will do from now on. I've found that I like shooting -1 step under exposure, as I seem to like the images a little dark instead of overexposed. You're definitely right in the over-sharpening, I've had the sharpness and contrast +2, saturation at 0 and noise reduction at plus 2 for the majority of my shots. I'll drop them all and take some more and see how they turn out. I'm starting to take a liking to photography in general, not just with coins. I could see how this could become a great hobby as well, and could definitely see myself getting a decent DSLR down the road. Thanks again Dave, as you've been pretty much the only person to help me with this!
Latest shots look very good. You have the Jansjos at my personal favorite 10:30 and 13:30 positions that give the nice "X" luster pattern. Beyond SuperDave's excellent recommendations, my only addition is if you can possibly bring the lights up a little bit to get the highlights off the edges of the devices. I don't know if you have the working distance to do this or not but it would help with the overall presentation. But in general, you are there...Ray