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Best Usb, Photo-capable Magnifier/Microscope For Less Than $100

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Pillar of the Community
United States
505 Posts
 Posted 09/26/2016  8:47 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add twslisa to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
OK! So the title pretty much asks the question. I want to document the better coins in my collection, plus examining all my grandpa's coins at the kitchen table has given me serious eye and neck strain, and I'd love to be able to put them up on the screen for up-close inspection.

I need to be able to take photos. I gather most of the USB microscopes online are actually video cameras, so when you snap a still picture, it's a frame of video, meaning that it will be pretty dense,in terms of taking up memory space. I'd prefer something that just shot still photos, or at least had the option.

Anybody know of a really good, pretty inexpensive gadget that would fit the bill? I'm not picky, but I'm also not a techie, so it has to be easy to use.
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 Posted 09/26/2016  9:29 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Alpha2814 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
There's no significant difference in disk space between a frame of video and a still photo. What matters most is the resolution of the image (how many pixels wide/high) and the format of the image (JPG, GIF, BMP as well as how much compression is used).

I bought this a few months ago -- https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01DIRJ6PQ -- while it did come with image-capture software that was a bit of a trial to install, I find it easier to use just as an external camera on my Chromebook and save screenshots. No need for special software except the photo editing tool of your choice.
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 Posted 09/26/2016  10:35 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Garoyn to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I use a Plugable digital USB microscope http://plugable.com/products/usb2-micro-250x/ This link is to a newer version than the one I have.

Worth a look for the price.
Pillar of the Community
United States
505 Posts
 Posted 09/27/2016  12:25 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add twslisa to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks, guys! You're happy with the pictures they make?
Pillar of the Community
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 Posted 09/27/2016  01:18 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Alpha2814 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I just took these (picked at random from a bag on my desk). Took a minute to size and focus with the camera, took a screenshot on my Chromebook, copied to Google Drive, Downloaded on my PC, cropped with IrfanView, and finally through the image optimizer on this site.




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 Posted 09/27/2016  06:20 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add twslisa to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Nice! Is it also possible to get a pic of the whole coin? Thanks!
Bedrock of the Community
United States
31125 Posts
 Posted 09/27/2016  07:51 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add John1 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
to CCF. If you search,upper left of page search box you will find tons of info. I have two different brands,one was $60 and the other $15. They both have their +/-. When ever possible I like using a point-n-shoot digital camera. If you get a scope the lower the mag goes the better and nothing higher then 200x.
John1
( I'm no pro, it's just my humble opinion )
Searched 5+ Million Cents Since 1971
Pillar of the Community
United States
1569 Posts
 Posted 09/27/2016  11:01 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Alpha2814 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Getting the whole coin is less practical with this kind of device -- it's designed for detailed close-ups; the lens is very close to the surface of the coin (in the shots I took last night, less than one inch).

Here's a pic I tried to take of a quarter. It's blurry because I held the camera in my hand instead of the mounting arm, and that was because the lens needed to be about 12 inches away to get the whole coin in-frame (the black bars at top and bottom are the borders of what I was able to see with the camera). With a secure mount and better lighting/focus, it would certainly be clearer, but with a lot more work.



If you want high power close-ups (e.g. to look for overstrikes, doubled dies, varieties, etc.), this kind of camera works pretty well.

If you want clear whole-coin shots (e.g. for documenting, selling, etc.), there are other/better choices and photography techniques. I took these with a Canon G6 a few months ago, just by putting the camera and the coin in place (camera on a stack of sticky notes, coin on a display stand) and moving them around in whatever lighting I had at the time (just a window nearby and a desk lamp). I'm pretty happy with these results, but for your case, it's a question of what the purpose is.




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1027 Posts
 Posted 09/27/2016  3:41 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add clairhardesty to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I have two USB microscopes, one is a Celestron with a 5MP sensor and the other is a generic brand, also with a 5MP sensor. Many of the $20 to $30 microscopes only have 2MP sensors, but prices for decent scopes can vary wildly so do some research to find out what you really get for your money. Some of the newer scopes come with an adjustable stand and include target scales so you can make accurate measurements, but again prices seem to vary wildly for very comparable units.

With my scopes, the Celestron has better optics, resulting in much clearer images than those taken with the generic unit. The software that comes with these devices isn't great and there are several better, free applications available. Glass lenses are generally better than plastic ones, but not always, so look for scopes that have a lot of user reviews to help guide your choice.

Here is a 5MP image taken with the Celestron unit (JPEG artifacting is mostly due to the 300KB requirement):


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 Posted 09/27/2016  4:03 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Alpha2814 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Wow, that's a great pic!
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 Posted 09/28/2016  1:08 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add twslisa to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks-- and that is an awesome pic!!

I pulled out my Canon Powershot and tinkered a bit. Got a couple decent pics, but lots of reflection. Can't figure out what to do about lighting. Will post once I figure out how to get them on my iPad.
Pillar of the Community
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 Posted 09/28/2016  1:40 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add twslisa to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Here we go (fingers crossed). See what I mean about reflections? She has some cherry red toning around the upper and lower rim, but the reflections make it hard to see.

Pillar of the Community
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 Posted 09/28/2016  11:12 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add clairhardesty to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
You will probably get a much better picture if you take the top of the capsule off. It is actually easy to do if you have enough patience to do it slowly. Most of the reflections look like they are off of the top and bottom surfaces of the capsule top. They are not sealed, only press fit. If you don't have enough of a fingernail, a small pocket knife blade used gently and worked around the seam a couple of times should loosen it enough to open by hand.

EDIT: Whoops! I just realized that the pic you posted is of a slabbed coin. For that case, either no flash or a diffused flash should help (put a sheet of printer paper between the flash and the coin). Also, try blocking any ambient light that is casting shadows on the coin.

Here is an example of what you can do with a DSLR and a nice lens (turned around backwards and with some extension tubes). This is the 2016 proof ASE. The image has been shrunk from 20MP to 5MP and the file sized to just under 300KB. Lighting is always a challenge. Every coin is different and at very high magnifications a steady workplace is a must.



EDIT again: This is the same image after some tonal adjustment in my image editor (darkest pixels set to 16 and brightest ones set to 239):

Edited by clairhardesty
09/28/2016 11:42 pm
Pillar of the Community
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 Posted 09/29/2016  10:01 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add twslisa to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks, I think!! I'm even more of a newb to cameras than to coins, so... Backwards? Tubes? Drrrr... Gah!

I WILL learn this stuff!!
Pillar of the Community
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 Posted 09/29/2016  10:02 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add twslisa to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Amazing detail in those pics, by the way! Can't wait to get SOMETHING that can do that!
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 Posted 09/29/2016  2:02 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add clairhardesty to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
That last image was taken using a Canon T4i and a Canon FD 35-105mm F3.5 lens (a totally manual lens using an FD to EF adapter). The lens is mounter using a reversing ring that screws into the front of the lens and has an EF mount. This allows the lens to get very close to the subject and still focus, thereby giving higher magnifications. The extension tubes (just empty tubes, mine connect camera & lens circuits) achieve a similar effect by moving the lens further from the camera allowing closer than normal focus at the expense of loss of focus at infinity.

I really like using the old lens because it has fantastic optics. It is totally manual and can be a chore to set up but once it is the images are a real treat.

Here is another sample of what it can do (my 2009 silver proof quarter with a mint error of a mis-polished obverse die). In the original 20MP image, pixels are around 2um square.



Here is the setup used to capture the "N GO E TRU" image (from top down; Canon T4i, 3 extension tubes, a smart reversing ring/extension tube [smarts are not used here], Canon FD 35-105mm f3.5 lens backwards, the other end of the smart reversing ring, which when used with EF lenses allows full auto operation when lens is reversed). This pic was taken with my Celestron USB scope, which will focus to infinity (it is really a webcam with a very close focus feature).

Edited by clairhardesty
09/29/2016 2:12 pm
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