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coin photography experiments - 220827 - need feedback & suggestions


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I tried the Note 20 Ultra method tonight.  In pro mode, I tried a control group of 3 ways; 1) autofocus 2)  autofocus but tap focus on approximately the middle 3) manual focus.  2 seemed to yield the best results.

No flash was used.  I used my record photography station as the base. I'll have to improve on the lighting setup.

I went with the raw DNGs.  The Note has 3 cameras, I think.  The 108 mp one doesn't seem to offer the raw mode, so it was 14 MP.

I made no attempts to isolate the coin and swap out the background, only to get the pictures.  That will come later.

Per the raws, I went pretty much with pushing the 'auto' button to determine the various sliders (exposure, contrast, etc.).

My fancy setup; the book method (a box and 2 CDs).

I felt my hands were too moist (even with gloves) to risk handling AE's, so the test subjects were a couple of electrum coins. The obverse is mushy in person on the John II.

John II Trikephalon.



Nicephorus Botaniates electrum nomisma (broken)



What do you think? The results aren't perfect, but better than what I was doing.  The background was a regular piece of paper. 

Edited by Nerosmyfavorite68
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  • Nerosmyfavorite68 changed the title to coin photography experiments - 220827 - need feedback & suggestions

Thanks for the feedback, and nice picture!

The only light source currently at the record photographing station is the room's light source; an antique lamp with an LED bulb. The record labels are for research purposes, so they never had to be artistic masterpieces.

I realize I do need a more specialized light source.  the only LED photo thing I have at the moment is a giant LED light ring. I think it's dimmable, however.

I found that the tricky part was once the coin was under the overhang of the phone, getting the coin to be lit enough or out of the glare.

The photos were also taken at night.  I usually do record label photos in the morning or day, as I find they come out better.

Tonight's experiment was more about getting the coin in focus.  Lighting will be the next thing to tackle. The results were much less mediocre than I anticipated. 

I mis-spoke; the camera for the raw part is 12 mp, not 14. If I try the 108 mp one, I won't have the versatility of raw.

Manual photography has always been a great frustration.  Even though I might know what ISO to use, it invariably ends up out of focus.

Perhaps I can also experiment with a black piece of paper as a background (if the coin isn't too dark).


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Good start for an experiment. Aside from your lighting issues which, as stated above, can be enhanced by diffusion, raising the coin slightly from the background, I use different diameters and thicknesses of cork for instance, will allow the camera to focus on the subject rather than the overall view including background. It also enhances and defines the edge. Trying different solid color backgrounds can make enormous differences to the outcome depending on the color and tone of the subject. Also, if you have a timer setting on the Note, set it for two seconds and you can remove the possibility of camera shake. To effectively remove the background one of the best free software I have found is https://www.remove.bg/


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12 hours ago, Nerosmyfavorite68 said:

I went with the raw DNGs.  The Note has 3 cameras, I think.  The 108 mp one doesn't seem to offer the raw mode, so it was 14 MP.

Could you share a photo of a coin taken in the DNG format vs JPG format? Hopefully you can take an identical photo and just switch between the two formats to make comparing them easier.

Normally, if you had to choose between 14 MP in RAW or 108 MP in JPG, holding everything else equal, I'd say go JPG every single time. What gives me a bit of pause is that mobile phones do a notorious amount of post-processing that can make images significantly worse when it comes to coins (IMO). If the RAW version doesn't have this post-processing, it may be the better option even if at fewer megapixels. But that's not to say more megapixels will necessarily help you here either, it would just be worth checking which gives you the best results.

In general, for DSLR/mirrorless cameras, using RAW isn't going to give you any better quality once it's uploaded to the internet. The main benefits to using RAW in those circumstances is the greater ability to make white balance and other adjustments to the image during the editing process.

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Well, all I have are the jpg's which were produced when the raw was taken.  I found the jpg's to be worse (the 12 mp) ones.

I had to wash my hands, so coin photography time is blown for hours.  That's a frustrating part.  The window which I can safely handle the coins is small. My cotton gloves also have a hole in a crucial finger, and I can't find the other glove.  I'll have to order more.

I can perhaps try in a couple of hours with a gold/electrum coin.

1 hour ago, Kaleun96 said:

In general, for DSLR/mirrorless cameras, using RAW isn't going to give you any better quality once it's uploaded to the internet. The main benefits to using RAW in those circumstances is the greater ability to make white balance and other adjustments to the image during the editing process.

Yes, that's why I'm using the RAW, the greater power of adjustment.

I'll also try to find something to raise the coin.

The thing I was shocked about; once I cropped the coin, the pictures weren't THAT much larger than vcoins.  The large Trikephalon was maybe 2960 x 1356.

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Although I had bookmarked it previously, that Coin Photography on a Budget site is really good.

Next time I run through a spool of Scotch tape I'll take the core.  I'll have to find something for smaller coins.

Anyone have any ideas for household items which would make good risers?

Hmm, I glance to my right and my record clamp might do the trick if I can't find anything else...


(Pan down to the disc stabilizer clamp). 

If my hands are good after brunch I'll try some more photography.  I'm skittish about handling my AE's.  And I don't want to risk my really good gold coins.  I want soemthing flat to experiment with.  Perhaps I'll trot out the junk box Justinian Tremissis.  Scyphate coins are probably harder to photograph. The Tremissis has a matte/rough surface.

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I tried some more experiments.  I found a riser, a c. 25 CD black spindle.  I also piled more CDs on to raise the camera.  As you can tell, the riser is a failure.  I couldn't get it to focus. 

Lighting; same lighting as last night.

Attempt: 108 mp photo (jpg only)

Not shown; too blurry (several attempts).


Attempt 2

Riser, pro mode 12mp raw, autofocus. (also tried manual focus, which was equally lousy)



Pro mode RAW 12mp, flat on sheet of paper and same number of CDs as yesterday:


We see what the clear winner is, for now.  The light heats up the room too much and it's a hot day.  I also have many things to get done, so end of photo experiments for now.

Practice takes many failures. I might try to bring out the tripod and try with the Alpha, if I have time.

However, the Note experiments are upgrades to what I was doing before:

My best handheld Sony alpha try to date:



My results flat on the piece of paper have room for improvment, but aren't terrible so far.  I don't know how an AE would turn out.

As stated before, the surfaces of the Justinian Tremissis are matte and rough.  Perhaps the perfect kind to practice on.

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I cut out the middle of some handi-wipes to serve as a background and diffuser on the bottom of the CD spindle.

Result: FAIL. (using the Note, pro mode auto raw), also tried manual photography (not pictured).



I don't know how silver and AE's will turn out, but the coin on paper method yields by far the best results. Until I get a fancy light setup, I think coin-on-paper is about as good as it's going to get for me.

The next experiments should be different lighting, experiments with light diffusion, and a small riser.  (I didn't find anything in the garage).

If I could have yielded the coin on paper results six months ago, I would have been very happy with those results.  It's certainly not the worst photography on the forum. I just have to tweak some things.

The Note 20 route is probably the easiest for me.


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I still haven't gotten around to getting a ring light, but this was the result of today's try.  For me, good enough.  The note 20 way may be my only way. It doesn't require a giant setup. The downside; I can't get the enormous pictures that I wanted, like the ones Dr. Busso Peus has on their website.  However, I would have to get really good at photography to make giant pictures look decent.

A step-by-step what to do with your post production photos would be helpful, hint, hint. :classic_smile:  i.e. step by step on isolating teh coin from the background, making a presentable backdrop, etc.

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Oh well, that's about as good as it's going to get.  I'll look for a ring light and see what that does. I'll also raise and lower the ad hoc stand.  I'll just have to add coin photography to life's little 'pleasures', something which angers and frustrates me.  It's extremely unlikely that I'll take the time to go through my old coins, anyway. I don't want to risk a BD outbreak for one, and probably half of them aren't worth photographing, anyway.

If I improve enough I'll photograph the best of them.

I wish dealers would do like Dr. Busso Peus' site and offer enormous pictures.  A vcoins dealer told me that vcoins limits the coin picture to 1,000 pictures. Having a decent picture from the start would completely eliminate the need for me to go to any extra trouble.  Even if it were an add-on premium feature, I'd go for that.

I could have sworn that I had an Athens Tetradrachm.  I came across the Ptolemy Tetradrachm while rummaging through things.  Perhaps I just misremembered.  I guess I'll have to add a mass-production pre 404 BC one to the to do list...

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