Macro camera advice - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 09-09-2013, 09:59 PM Thread Starter
Planted Tank Obsessed
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: New York City
Posts: 476
Macro camera advice

I'm looking for some advice from you guys,

I need to buy a camera that will be used only for macro. It will be secured to a special lightbox all the time. I was recommended by the person who made the pro lightbox that I can use the 18-55 non vr and get good results, but i might get a sigma 50mm macro or other, ( i noticed that this lens dent have a motor, so wont work with D5xxx or D3xxx.

The items will mostly be round (coins and medals) with some small plaques and oddly shaped pieces.

I have viewed dx0 results for the D3200 and D5200 and while they use different sensors they both offer good results. I am also considering the D5100. I don't believe that I need a more expensive body.

The shots will be triggered from the PC program so much manual on body control is not required. I know that the 5xxx series has slightly unusual controls (button placement) but the user will get used to it quickly enough.

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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 09-09-2013, 11:12 PM
Algae Grower
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 60
I collect ancient coins so I set up a macro rig, though I use the camera for a lot besides that.

I use axial lighting for coin photography sometimes, other times various diffused light from the sides, and then a ring light at other times. Overall I find the ring light tends to be best, but sometimes other approaches work. It's one of those things where for a given piece there's a lot of different fiddly things to try that come out a little differently for each coin. Metal surfaces can be tricky to photograph.

I shoot with a D5100 with either the kit lens or a 35 prime with extension tubes. I have a Sigma 105mm macro that's great but for coins it's overkill. It's really for bugs.

I'd guess probably a D3200 would be fine for your needs, just make sure that you can adjust all the manual settings you'll want. With coins the autofocus systems tend to be poorly equipped at choosing the right focal point, so the lack of built-in motor might not be an issue - autofocus only gets you in the ballpark and I almost always end up shifting to manual. So a Sigma 50 might still work, depending on how comfortable you are with manual focus.

The one thing that's a pain with the kit lens is that if you use it with a Ring light, the whole ring rotates, which makes focusing... odd.

Last edited by fisheye; 09-10-2013 at 03:29 AM. Reason: fix typo, added a little more on AF
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 09-10-2013, 04:57 AM Thread Starter
Planted Tank Obsessed
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: New York City
Posts: 476
Originally Posted by fisheye View Post
I collect ancient coins so I set up a macro rig, though I use the camera for a lot besides that.
Thanks for the input. Why do you say a 105mm it will be overkill? I intend to secure the camera to the box and use it. The sensor point is somewhere in the range of 7-9 inches from the coins.
What we want is for the physical size of the coin or whatever to translate directly onto the screen. So there will be no need to enlarge or anything. It would then be possible to view the image (on screen and printed) and see exactly the size and imperfections.

There wont be a ring light, just the box which is specially designed for this.

I know a bit about cameras, but the main operator doesn't really know anything, so he needs AF. He can figure out manual focus to secure the focus, but it's easier to have AF to do the rough work.

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Last edited by xev11; 09-10-2013 at 05:24 AM. Reason: add
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 09-10-2013, 03:05 PM
Algae Grower
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 60
Originally Posted by xev11 View Post
Why do you say a 105mm it will be overkill?
The 105mm would go past filling the frame for most coins in my setup. A penny doesn't fit. Also it's long, so it doesn't fit nicely in my stand. If you have a lot of clearance it could work for you, though you might as well just go with a 55. I use the kit lens with Kenko tubes and it handles autofocus and controlling the lens fine and can fit a coin in most of the frame, though I haven't tested to see if it would fit a penny in the whole frame. Since I crop to make things square and combine the obv./rev. in an image I don't mind cropping out a little on the edges, but depending on your process that might not work for you.

If you're trying to automate a process for someone then going with the simplest setup you can figure out is the way to go. Maybe kit lens + a tube would be the way to go. If you could borrow a D3200 + tubes from someone in a local camera club/whatever you could see if it'd work for you, sounds like it might.
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