Macro lens for coins

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by bob_estremera, Nov 8, 2009.

  1. It can be anything macro really but I'm interested in a macro lens for a EOS dSLR body that can approximately full-frame a dime-sized item.
    Importantly, the larger the distance from lens to subject is desirable for lighting flexibility.
    I had read some great reviews on the 60mm EF-S macro, but then I discovered this reviewer's opinion:
    "I love Canon products and I have had a complete Canon system for about 10 years. I love everything Canon does. However I do not understand Canon's reasoning behind producing this lens.

    The reason for the EF-S lenses is offering wider angle by getting the rear elements of a lens closer to the "film" plane. They cannot do this on film and full frame sensor cameras because the mirror is larger and would hit the rear elements of an EF-S lens.

    They have indicated, however, that by 35 mm that advantage is gone. Why then do they produce a 60 mm Macro lens when they already have their macro requirements covered with they current three lenses? I would guess that the short back focus makes the lens cheaper; but this lens is only $60 short of the excellent 100 f2.8 USM Macro."
    Is his reasoning correct? Is the 100mm EF a superior option? Other suggestions?
    Thanks, Bob
  2. I have to apologize by stating that I'm not following the reasoning in the quoted section of your post.
    The EF-S lens series only works on Canon's crop body cameras, so full frame digital and 35mm film cameras are excluded from use.
    I have and use the 100mm macro, and do find it gives a very good image. And is even useful as a walk-around lens (if you remember to flip the short-focus switch off so it doesn't hunt forever). The Canon crop body 1.6 factors the 60mm out to be pretty close to being a 100mm size (96) so part of the reasoning for producing the lens seems to indicate that Canon is going to remain firmly attached to the crop sensor product lines, and using the 100mm macro on a crop body yields a longer lens - perhaps unsuited to some uses.
    I can't say I've ever considered needing a shorter macro though. Any chance you can rent and play with one or both of these to see how you like it in actuall use?
  3. I have the EF-S 60mm Macro and it is a wonderful lens. Macro quality is good (1:1 ratio) and image quality is excellent. Working distance isn't great--you have to be really close to your subject. That won't be a problem with coins (assuming you have proper lighting techniques), but it may be a problem if you're trying to photograph bugs or other critters.
    As Tom touched on above, the EF-S lenses are only usable on Canon's APS-C cameras (the Rebels, most the xxD models and the new 7D. If you are using a different Canon digital or a Canon film camera, it won't mount on your camera and wouldn't be fully usable if it did.
    I wouldn't say that it is inferior or superior to the EF 100mm Macro, it is merely a 60mm offering that gives an image crop on a crop body camera that resembles the 100mm Macro on a 35mm frame. If I used the 100mm on my APS-C camera it would effectively crop to 160mm and that may be more than I want in some situations.
  4. the 60 produces the best image i have seen. the 135 f2 may match it -- it's a matter of opinion. why there aren't more primes that produce an image this good i can't understand.

    the focal length of the 60 on a crop body is almost identical to a 100 on a ff body. 60 shoots up to 1:1. you can use tubes with it for closer work.

    you cannot use the 60 on a ff body
  5. Bob,
    I don't see what you quoted as a criticism of the lens itself, just questioning why Canon developed it. To me the 60mm is distinctly different then the 50mm and 100mm macro. The 50mm macro only goes to 1/2 life size. The 60mm has internal focus so it focuses more quickly and quietly.
    I have the 60 and 100mm macros. They are both very sharp. As already mentioned, the 60 can only be used on APS cameras. Also, the 60 is much smaller and lighter then the 100. Other then that, the decision as to which one to use comes down to subject to camera distance, which is greater with the 100. So that would seem to be the one for you.
  6. I shoot a lot with the EF-S 60mm macro. Simply put, it is a superb lens, and a spectacular one for the price. There is nothing in the review you cite that argues otherwise. If Canon did not produce this lens, the only option for APS-C owners who want to approximately replicate the function of a 100mm on a full frame would be the 50mm f/2.5, which is not true macro and is noticeably inferior in several respects to the 60mm.
    The two 100mm macros are also superb lenses. If you are using an APS-C body (I assume you are), then the tradeoffs seem pretty clear. The 60mm is smaller, lighter, easier to handhold because of the shorter focal length, and cheaper. On an APS-C camera, it makes a nice long walk-around lens and is a nice length for portraits. The 100mm gives you more distance from the subject. That is helpful for critters that can be scared away, which is why I intend to buy one to add to my 60mm. It should also give you more options for lighting, but I have never found the latter to be a problem with my 60mm.
  7. Bob, I'm less than impressed with the review that you quoted. It's perfectly obvious why Canon produced the outstanding EF-S 60/2.8. They wanted to offer 1.6-factor users a lens that would do pretty much the same job that the 100/2.8 does on FF. The ancient 50/2.5 is optically excellent, about equal to the 60/2.8, but it goes only to ×0.5 (which on 1.6-factor fills the frame to about the same extent as ×0.8 on FF) and it does not have full-time manual focus. So why did they make the 60/2.8 an EF-S lens rather than an EF lens? Again, perfectly obvious. Designing a 60/2.8 ×1 macro with FF coverage is a much harder task than if only 1.6-factor coverage is required, and if the same quality was to be maintained the lens would probably have been bulkier and heavier and would almost certainly have cost a lot more. In this particular instance, I doubt if the opportunity for shorter back focus is an issue, however.
    Now, as to your needs. I have the 50/2.5 (and LSC), 60/2.8, and 100/2.8USM, and use all of them for rather different purposes, the 50 and 100 on FF as well as 1.6-factor. First, you are worrying unnecessarily about working distance. As I am sure you are aware, lighting objects like coins that can produce specular reflections is very tricky – at one time I photographed a large collection of antique silver, so I am familiar with the issues. You will presumably put a light-tent from the lens to the flat surface with the coin(s) on, and light it from outside, and even with a 60mm macro lens at ×1 you'll have no problem doing that. Optically, the 60/2.8 is outstanding. I agree with everything that Dan said. The 100/2.8 would also do the job for individual coins, equally well in terms of optical quality, but if you want to photograph groups of coins you may well find that the working distance starts to be too long for comfort on 1.6-factor.
  8. hello Bob:
    In the Other Suggestions department...a "macro" lens is not always necessary...
    You could use extension tubes...a much cheaper option than a macro lens (if you already have suitable lens).
    I use a Kenko tube set (three tubes: 12mm; 20mm; and 36mm). If I use all three tubes on my EF85 f/1.8, I get very close to 1:1 magnification.
    Here is a test shot I did when I bought the tubes. I used the EF85 on all three tubes (68 mm of extension) mounted on my 10D. The EF85 was set to "closest focus distance". Note that my label in the image is should read 68mm not 67mm. The 335mm on the label was the "focal plane to subject distance" (not working distance).
    The 10D sensor is 22.5 mm wide. As you can see, about 24.5mm of the ruler fit across the frame (22.5/24.5 = about 0.92...or about 92% of life size).
    Note: I didn't invite the folks from the Canada Research Council to check my is the best I could do with a tape measure and my MkI Eyeball. ;~)
    I'm not saying this option is just as good as a macro lens...a 1:1 macro lens could be much more convenient. However, for much less money than a macro lens, you could buy a tube set and get more use out of a lens that is lounging around in your bag.
    One more "Other Suggestion"....
    If you are located in the USA or in Canada, you could rent a variety of macro lenses from these folks:
    That way you could try different lenses to see which one best suits your particular application (i.e., if you are concerned about having enough working distance to light a might want a 150mm or a 180mm macro).
    My daughter and I have used and they are great.
    Cheers! Jay
  9. 100mm all the way, don't look back. And the reason for that is lighting. We're getting quotes and comments from people who sound like they may never have shot coins...
    That won't be a problem with coins (assuming you have proper lighting techniques)​
    If you can't get close, you're going to be at shallow angles, relative to the coin's surface. At 45 degrees, each raised detail casts a shadow as deep as the height of the feature. Coins end up looking like the lunar surface. That's why coin photography is typically done with the main nearly perpendicular to the coin surface.
    The most important type of lighting for technical photography of metal objects (including "catalog" style work on coins) is epi illumination, that is, light right down the axis of the lens. Professional metallographic photography is typically done with a low magnification microscope having an epi system that uses a series of beam splitters to shine the light through the very same lens you're takign the picture with. This isn't necessary for most coin work.
    My favorite "creative" lighting technique for coins is a mixture of
    • epi illumination for the main light, provided by a piece of glass at a 45 degree angle between the lens and the subject. Hence the need for a 100mm macro. With ordinary glass, you need to pump some power into it, a small halogen spot works fine. With a 50% silvered mirror (dirt cheap at Edmund Optics) you can light your subject with a white LED "book light".
    • Rheinberg illumination for accents and textures. That's just a microscopists way of saying what photographers call "regular old lighting", lights at angles to the subject to bring out textures. I like colored LEDs.
    Another technique I love is a circular polarizer between the epi source and the subject, with the circular side of the polarizer facing the subject. Direct specular (shiny) reflections reverse the circular polarization and can't get back through the polarizer, leaving only the diffuze (scattering) reflections to go through. Light a proof coin like that, it's simply amazing. Best coin photo I ever shot was with that technique, the 1989 Korean 500 Won "Fairy Of Mt. Kumgang Playing Flute".
  10. Joseph, sure wish you'd posted a pic of that Won... sounds interesting.
    And no, I don't shoot coins, so it's good you commented.
    And to clarify fitting an EF-S lens on a full-frame sensor DSLR - you run a risk of damage to the camera, so don't do it, even if you do manage to get it to 'fit.'
  11. The EF-S 60mm Macro is another indication of Canon's commitment to the APS-C format. As correctly pointed out, it is the APS-C equivalent of the 100mm Macro on the 35mm-sensor cameras. There are reasons for this focal length (working close-in to 'dead things,' etc.), but for many of us, the additional working space gained by going to the 100mm (equivalent 160mm) on the APS-C bodies is just lagniappe. The 180mm or so Macro lenses would be preferred for the same reason on the "full-frame" cameras, but they just cost a lot more.
  12. Didn't realize we had so many numismatic photographers on board!
    I use to photograph coins for the American Numismatic Association. And Joseph, your first scenario is the exact kind of setup we used - axial lighting. We used bare bulbs and some diffusion but that's pretty much the idea.
    First we used Hassies and then Olympus OM's (it was quite awhile ago) on bellows.
    The key was to have approx. 3" give or take, between the lens and coin so variations on lighting can be tried. I'm mostly interested in photographing individual coins, not groups.
    That brings me around to the next obvious question, are there bellows that I can attach to my 450D?
    Thanks again, Bob
  13. Great article on coin lighting, including axial, with setup images.
  14. Thank-you very much Scott!
    Cheers! Jay
  15. Why not just use a flatbed scanner?
  16. Re: flatbed scanner - Lighting possibilities?
    While I do not know much about coin photography, for general use the shorter macro's give a very nice field of view and have less intense lighting and Dof restirctions. So with a 50/60mm one can often get away with no flash, where flash is absolutely necessary for a 100mm
  17. OK, Bob, further postings in this thread show that the lighting techniques for coins are more complex than I supposed would be necessary, and that may mean that you really do need the working distance of the 100mm. But as far as I can see, in all other respects the 60mm would be equally good.
  18. Robert,
    The flatbed fails to render the details and artwork of the coin design. Everything looks flat, and often, dark. Like human portraiture, versatile lighting is best for photographing coins.
    The axial lighting setup in the link (I happened onto that site yesterday while Googling) is very much what we used at the American Numismatic Assoc. The only difference was that our setup was in a self-contained box and there was a diffusion layer in front of the light source.
    So, how about those bellows for a 450D and what is the difference between lens to subject difference when comparing the 60mm EF-S to the 100mm EF macro.
    Thanks again, Bob
  19. I have bellows for the EF mount, but you will find manual focus (and aperture) lenses to work much better than efforts to use EF lenses which have no easy way to set the aperture. There are many decent copy and short telephotos that work very well. There may be bellows with electronic connections, but I wouldn't imagine they will be as cheap as the plain ones and a good enlarging lens, as just one example.
  20. JDM,
    I have no problem with doing everything manually for this type of work. Can you give me an example of a 'shopping list' of parts including lenses (even the enlarging lens - mounting backward?)
    Thanks, Bob
  21. Bob, ANA? They're fun guys. Axial illumination, I should have remembered that term. Photographers in 10 fields call the same thing by 10 different names.
    The last bellows I used on an EOS was a Nikon PB-4 with an EOS adapter. Think of bellows as "system agnostic", you can get adapters to EOS from Nikon F, Leica R, or Canon FD. On the lens end, you're going to be adapting to M39 or RMS. Whatever bellows you get, make sure it's one that has three way controls, adjustments for both the front and rear standards and the rail. The Canon "Bellows FL" and "Auto Bellows" are worth a look, as is the Nikon PB-4 and PB-6. Avoid the Canon "Bellows M" and the Nikon PB-3, PB-5, and "Bellows II". The Novoflex "Auto Bellows" and "BALLPRO 1" are also excellent.
    The Nikon PB-4 cost me about $200 on the bay. As JDM mentioned, there are some enlarger lenses that perform very well at that sort of magnification, especially the 105 f5.6 and the 135mm f5.6 lenses. Look for the newer ones, the kind with illuminated aperture scales, the new designs and new coatings are much sharper and contrastier than the older ones. About $25-50 on the bay, which for lenses of that quality, which used to go for $500 new, is something else. A Nikon F to M39 adapter ($20) mounts those.
    A Zeiss 100mm f6.3 Luminar, Leitz 120mm f4.6 Photar, or Nikon 120mm f6.3 Macro-Nikkor are about as good as it gets in macro, and they turn up around $300-500 on the used market. If you want macro to drool over, get the new Zeiss 100mm f2 and have it put inot a short mount for the bellows. Of course, that's a $1000 lens and a $250 modification, but the results will be beyond pretty much anything else out there.
    Now, where did I put that picture of the Won? Lightroom is only showing my series of coins splashing into tanks of water when I give it "coins". "Won" didn't work, and the things that come up when I try different combinations of "flying", "fairy", "flute", and "korean" simply defy description. It's not like me to not keyword something...
  22. Bob, I can do that, but it make take me a while since I am in the middle of a major house cleaning and backup on my main computer. If anybody else can get there first, go ahead, you won't hurt my feelings :)
  23. Only a little bit later, I'm still waiting on some disks to finish writing, etc. So here's a quick run down
    1. bellows (off eBay), usually about $30, depending. As it happens, I got EOS mount, which - given all the lenses that can be adapted to it- is a fair choice, but of course the bellows itself can be something else adapted to EOS.
    2. regular lenses - many choices. Any good M42 Zeiss lens will work with an M42>EOS adapter. To reverse the lens, you'll need a reverse adapter, which will depend on the front diameter of the lens and the mount of the bellows. Nikon lenses are easily adapted, and even FD lenses can be adapted to EOS for this function without any glass degrading the image.
    3. Short-focus lenses made to be used on a bellows are another good option. Many of them may be T-mount lenses (like the old, but good, Spiratone Macrotel 150mm f/4.5). Enlarger lenses tend to be Leica M39 and M39>M42 adapters will work with an M42>whatever the bellows is adapter.
  24. Great, thanks, Bob
  25. I have two FD bellows, one the well built auto set, and the specialist 35mm macro lens for it, as JDM says a regular EOS-FD converter with no glass works fine, just a way of attaching the body to the bellows. All up less than $200 for very good condition high quality equipment. I also have the 50mm FD macro, works beautifully both ways round. I also have some enlarger lenses, from my enlarger, but have never mounted them on the bellows.
    If I put the two bellows together I can fill the frame (36x24) with a watch hand, sideways. It does get mighty dim in there though!
  26. Wow, you guys have given me a ton of stuff to research and to make some educated decisions. I'm going to copy and past most of this thread to a word doc for reference.
    Thanks again - and - think small!
  27. [​IMG]
    mpe 65. costs the same as the new canon 100 mm macro but can go up to 5x life-size, where as the 100 mm only does 1:1 life size. This will find boogers in the nose of the presidents head on the coin your photographing
  28. Ooooo. Nice.
    If I wanted to avoid coin boogers but full frame coins, what would the approximate lens to subject distance be?

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