Need Nikon/alternative copy stand setup for once in a lifetime project.

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by 10964670, Jun 15, 2018.

  1. Greetings photography enthusiasts and professionals... I am building a copy stand setup from scratch to photograph Native American artifacts. Artifacts can be seen at I have $1000 to spend on the entire rig. I have settled on the Nikon D5600 based on a) general purposes b) wife needs an lcd display for general photography c) budget including lens(es), d) flexibility with eBay/used lenses e) PC connectivity would like actual size photos after cropping g) name. Will pull the trigger on D5600 purchase in the next few weeks unless someone can convince me otherwise. I plan on publishing through Amazon POD (print on demand) a book on my artifacts. Over the next 10 months I will be taking thousands of high-res photos for use in the book. The questions I have are:

    1) skip the kit lens for a different general purpose/copy stand lens?
    2) get the kit lens and a 100mm lens for copy stand work?
    3) something else? (all suggestions are appreciated)

    I am moving from a Canon 7.1 mega pixel point 'n shoot to a $1000 copy stand setup - I am in a little over my head and any help would be sincerely appreciated. Thanks, T
  2. I am not sure that the D5600 is the best kind of camera for this sort of work. You want high res for $1,000? I think you can do better. IMO you should look at the current Fuji line (24Mpx X-Trans sensors) and see what you can get for that money. The performance of the Fuji sensors is on par with many full-frame sensors. You can also buy a Sony A7 for under $1,000 these days. OTOH, there is nothing really wrong with the camera you chose.
  3. Thanks Karim.... I will check out the Fuji line, and also Sony. Like I said, I am a novice and thus easily influenced by mass market articles and reviews. Any lens recommendations?
  4. - Of the $1000, how much money would you need to build the copy stand setup -- excluding the camera gear? $100, $200, $400??

    - For the sake of argument, let's say you spend $200 on the copy stand. That leaves you $800 for the body and lens. A brand new D5600 (body only) will cost you $600; with an 18-55mm, $700. For your specific purpose, i.e., your final output is a book, the D5600 should be good enough, but I would advise against the kit lens. Instead, get a macro lens. A body-only purchase leaves you with $200 for such a lens. A Nikon 40mm macro will cost $250 while a 60mm macro (AFS) will cost you $600. Note that you will likely need an extra batter and possibly other accesories. The above are B&H prices for new gear. Obviously, buying used gear is always an option.

    - Amazon POD is done via the CreateSpace service. While the paper (and ink) that they use are passable for written text and illustrations, I would not recommend them for photo-specific books. Lulu, Blurb, BookBaby and others are much better options for photo-specific books strictly in terms of photo print quality. Where Amazon has the obvious advantages are the traffic and the distribution channel.
  5. Nothing inherently limiting about the D5600 for copy work. The flip screen is a bonus. Lenswise, you might find a100mm-ish macro works out to be around 150mm. This will require some extra height on the copy stand as the working distance is greater. I'd recommend the very affordable Micro-Nikkor 40/2.8g. I use one happily on a D7200 to scan 120 b&w negatives. Pin-sharp and likely near-perfect for your project
  6. Fuji might be a tad more expensive than Nikon. - At least when you are comparing apples to apples AF performance wise for general photography. - But:
    + Nikon Is a huge red flag. AFAIK any Nikon pre- or below D500 & D850 is a major PITA to shoot in live view. Sod image quality and buy Canon instead. - Or go for the in all ways sluggish AF of an older Fuji. - If you are planning copy stand / tripod work they 'll be good enough. - I read the old Fuji 60mm macro is annoyingly slow focusing. Maybe pair it with one of their first generation bodies. - The EVFless ones have a tilty screen, X-E1 lacks it.

    Kit lens: Wife & general photography... = > "yes!" You'll want one.
    Fuji specific issue: they might be harder to find on their own than in other systems where more seem to be floating around on the used market. (Fuji price theirs on their own way too high, at least for my taste, but yes, they are pretty decent, the 18-55 even excellent.

    Focal length for copy work with old artifacts: 50mm macro (on APS!) would be my 1st bet. 35mm macro might work will most likely be more expensive might be harder to use since it leaves less space to place your lights. - A question of taste. - 100mm can easily become a bit too long and might make your subjects look too flat. - But yes a popular focal length too...

    Nikon D5*** will not be easy to use with their old and most affordable manual focus lenses. VF is rather dim and it doesn't provide automatic metering with them.
    I would pick it for handholding with studio strobes but from tripod I'd prefer something mirrorless with an adapter to have focus peaking and magnification of the LV image.

    FTR: I use Pentax for such jobs (inexpensive SLRs, no clue if their macro lenses are still affordable mine are relics from film days) Nikon have way superior general purpose AF. I (and that's really just me!) don't like Nikon's menu system, so my recent fast AFing SLR became a Canon. I have mixed emotions about Fuji; I obviously bought too early ones but the JPEGs' quality is amazing...

    Bottom line: Whatever you'll pick will be kind of wrong somehow. Choose a wise compromise and try to handle your camera of choice in a store. (after reading up about menu structure online).

    Read reviews about the macro lenses you are considering and make sure to get a good one, since a 24MP sensor must be quite demanding...

    what kind of light are you planning to use?
  7. Thanks 10964670 and c_watson|1....I really appreciate your time and the feedback. Per some of your points -

    - I will be spending the least possible on the copy stand. I am hoping that once I get my distance-to-subject down (hope to produce actual size photos for most of what I have in a 8x10 paperback), adjustment on the copy stand will be minimal.

    - I agree on skipping the kit lens. From what I have read, it sounds like a nice macro lens is what I need for the book, with a general purpose lens to come later. The best macro photos are my priority at this time as long as I can get all for < $1000.

    - As for Amazon vs. the others, Amazon requires no $ up front, just a bigger chunk on the back end. Blurb is out because of the cost, Amazon bought CreateSpace and is folding them into their empire as we type, BookBaby has some up front cost. Not sure about Lulu. Amazon only requires a Word document to do POD, you can get proofs for cost, and take the manuscript elsewhere if not satisfied with the quality. Basically publish on a shoestring budget if you can handle the tech side (which I can). Not a big fan of Amazon, but it's hard to argue with free and Kindle et al.

    Thanks again for your input...T
  8. +1 for the flip screen and macro lens(es). The DX format will also offer deeper DoF for a given lens and aperture. For your budget, any good-quality used 24MP camera will work. Given the potential physical issues of viewing even an articulated screen like the D5600, you might consider a Cam Ranger or similar, or a tethering option to your laptop or tablet. This will allow you to manipulate all aspects of the exposure without having to physically see the tiny live view image. Keep in mind that the lenses will have far more impact on the maximum quality of your images than will the body, since you will be doing this work entirely in a studio environment. You don't need to worry about ultra high speed AF, high ISO performance, an extra bright viewfinder, etc. You need a body with a quality sensor and image processing algorithm, and the best lenses you can afford. When you worry about how much resolution (in both lens and sensor) you might need, keep in mind the scale of the final output. Even a coffee table picture book uses only a fraction of the potential resolution of a 24MP sensor. Don't spend money for resolution you don't need, but do buy good lenses. Keep in mind you'll need good, reliable lighting and careful white balance to match.
  9. Thanks David, for the time and insight. I don't know much about photography (still reading and absorbing), but to me the hardware selection kinda follows how I have bought stereo equipment in the past. For a sound system, put the money in the speakers, or what you hear. For photographs, put the money in the lenses, or the lens and sensor combo. I will be tethering the camera to a desktop, so some of the bonuses on the camera don't matter as much. We haven't made it to lighting yet, but it doesn't look like that will be very expensive. Thanks again.
  10. Thanks Jochen..... It's obvious I need to do more research. Canon needs to be on the table, too. With regard to lighting, I haven't really gotten that far yet. I will be taking photos inside with very little natural light. It will be trial and error for sure. Also, will be a tethered setup to a desktop PC for live review...
  11. AJG


    Your camera choice should be fine, and the kit lens should be good for your wife's needs. The 40 mm Micro Nikkor should do a good job on close ups--what is the range of sizes of the artifacts that you will be photographing? If they are very small you might want a longer focal length so that you can light them well. To save money on a copy stand you might look at a used enlarger. A Beseler 23c XL is solid and will have a long enough column for larger objects, and should be easily adapted to the standard 1/ 4" x 20 tripod thread on the camera. Have you thought about lighting? A good flash system will allow for repeatable, consistent exposure that will give you a coherent look for your finished book.
  12. My copy gear starts with the Nikon 55mm f/3.5 macro (mine is pre-AI converted). One of the sharpest lens in my bag and inexpensive on the used market. Camera body is APC or FF depending on the resolution required. Manual focusing via viewfinder, a tethering option might be worth trying out, but I'm satisfied with optical focussing. My biggest copy stand challenge was convenient and consistent lighting - solved with banks of high-CRI LED tapes.
  13. Thanks AJG.... The copy stand artifacts range from around 1" (finger tools) to 9" tops (handaxes). Others will be photographed from a different setup/angle. Max depth of the copy stand artifacts will probably be 2 1/2". I hadn't thought of an enlarger, will check them out. Will also check out a flash system. Consistency is a big priority for me...thx.
  14. Thanks John... I hadn't even considered consistent lighting until you (and others) brought it up.
  15. Well, as for lenses, John suggested the 55/3.5, and I can't disagree. Others like the 60/2.8. I have the former, and it's fine. And that's just Nikon - Tamron, Sigma etc. also make equally good macro lenses. The idea is that regardless of brand, the lens should have even sharpness, and few aberrations (if any). They don't have to be expensive.

    As for Canon, I'm sorry to Canon users but Canon sensors are mediocre. I have never bought a digital Canon and I certainly have no plans to. You can appeal to their popularit,y but - no, thank you. Having said that, I do like their FD and EF film cameras, especially given that they are inexpensive and you can get terrific 3rd party lenses for them (Canon's FD lenses are great, no need for third parties there).

    I own two FD lenses made by Canon and not only were they well priced, but they are good, solid lenses. One of them was recommended by a cinematographer.

    The cool thing about mirrorless systems is that you can use a Canon lens for one thing, a Leica lens for another thing, a Tamron lens for yet another thing, etc. YMMV.
  16. Hi, I think these bring up the most important things going, even more so than the camera.

    I looked at the website you linked, and I think there is a lot of opportunity for improved "lighting." For example, when I look at those photos I can't really see the texture of the stones, including tool marks/chips, nor can I judge the "shininess" of them. These are all things that your lighting can affect. I'd suggest to put some of your money into a book, "Light, Science, & Magic..." -
    Any edition should be fine.

    If you want the color to be close to correct, you need to understand a little about what is known as "color management." If you don't want to delve into this, the safest thing is probably 1) set your camera output to sRGB, 2) use a "custom white balance" on the camera, set based on a test shot of a white card/paper placed where the artifacts will be, and 3) set the camera exposure manually (ISO speed, shutter speed, and lens aperture). This should get things close; you really don't want to try adjusting the color after the fact unless you have made a custom ICC profile (using a hardware/software package) for your specific computer monitor (this is part of the "color management" thing I mentioned earlier).

    These are some of the things that are familiar to a competent pro photographer, but not commonly realized by the general public. Best of luck with your project.
  17. We don't often have directly contradictory advice here, but I'm going to chime in with mine...

    The most important thing they might throw off everything else is:

    What exactly do you mean? Nikon's dSLRs have very good image quality, and the D5x00 range has very good autofocus performance if you focus while looking through the viewfinder. Nikon have possibly the slowest autofocus on the market if you're using "live view" (framing the image using the LCD on the back of the camera) - they've chosen to prioritise other sensor features (arguably image quality) instead. This is a genuine issue for shooting video, although video often looks best when focussed manually anyway. It's an issue if there's a medical problem using the viewfinder. But for general photography, it makes no difference - otherwise there wouldn't be a lot of happy Nikon users. It is only autofocus speed that's the problem - the LCD experience has always otherwise seemed fine to me, including seeing menus and settings, and for image review. I suggest you try one out in a department or electronics store before deciding on this basis. But if it's actually an issue, Sony, Fuji or maybe Canon (or Panasonic/Olympus) might be better.

    Other than that...
    • There's nothing wrong with the D5600, except possibly lossy compression in raw files so you don't get the absolute best image quality. However it adds nothing useful over the older D5500, so check whether you can find one of those for less.
    • Old manual lenses mount fine on these cameras, you just don't get automatic metering. Under fixed lighting conditions this may not matter, and you can always check the image after you shoot, tweak the settings, then try again. For what you're doing that's not a bad idea anyway - no meter is perfect.
    • Agreed that a macro lens is your friend, mostly to limit distortion (40-60mm micro-Nikkor lenses are probably most useful for a copy stand); they'll get close if you want them. The manual focus older lenses should be just fine.
    • Absolutely agreed that lighting is critical - whether you use flash guns or LED lighting banks (presumably you don't need a very fast exposure, since your subject is static). There are much more useful resources online than I can offer.
    • For getting images off the camera, I suspect you can ignore SnapBridge - either tether the camera over USB or look at an Eye-Fi card or similar.
    • I do think the flip-out touch screen of the D5600/D5500 will be useful to you during this project.
    On brands:
    • With their latest sensors, Canon are much closer to Nikon than they used to be, but they still have a slight disadvantage in "dynamic range" (resolving highlights and shadow detail at the same time), which may matter when you're editing images for publication. You can compensate by bracketing (taking multiple shots with different settings - the camera can automate this) but it adds to the work flow.
    • Sony's sensors behave roughly like Nikon's. I suspect you're looking at more money for an equivalent camera, and you might lose a little quality and ease of use adapting cheap lenses.
    • Fuji make a lovely system, but they're a little harder to find to try out (though the dominance of Canon and Nikon is less than it was) and unless you adapt, you're looking at more expensive, newer lenses. While X-Trans has merits for general photography, I'd steer clear for this work - the design trades colour differentiation for brightness and moire control. The latter may help you, but I suspect you want to preserve fine colour detail. Fuji do make some cameras with conventional Bayer sensors though.
    • Olympus and Panasonic use a smaller sensor than the rest, which compromises image quality very slightly. However, some of them, such as the Olympus EM-5 II, have "sensor shift" and the ability to make an image from multiple shots with the sensor aligned differently. Arguably this allows them to give you better per-pixel quality with a static subject than anything mentioned here - and if you can get one in your budget (I don't know which other Olympus bodies have this feature - there may be cheaper options) it might actually be your best choice. This does assume you're shooting from a tripod, however, and it'll slow you down a bit.
    One other thought: for this subject, you might want to consider getting a camera converted to "full spectrum". You can filter it back to roughly normal behaviour (though the colors may need tweaking), but you might also want to see what your subjects look like I'm infrared or ultraviolet - it may expose details of manufacture. That's probably more interesting for fabric and papers than for stones, though.

    I hope that's more to chew on. Good luck!
  18. + 1 to buying a macro lens rather than trying to use a mediocre kit lens for documenting the stone artefacts. For a start, the kit lens may not focus close enough to fill the frame with small pieces, and secondly, any macro lens will have better image quality and lower distortion than a kit zoom.

    For the copy stand: Old enlargers can be picked up very cheaply these days, and form the basis for an easy conversion into a good, stable copying stand. I believe that many Durst models could be converted to a copy stand very easily. At least you'll have a baseboard, column and rider to start with. It shouldn't take too much DIY skill to figure out how to attach a cheap tripod head and finish the job.

    I agree that the existing lighting is a bit flat, but it's a lot better than standard crossed hard lights that are only really suitable for 2 dimensional copying. I suggest you try using one low-angle hard (undiffused) lamp to bring out the texture, and a face-on soft (diffused) lamp to fill out the shadows. A careful balance of brightness should keep both texture and evenness of illumination.

    A small turntable will facilitate getting the angle of illumination and artefact aligned to best show its facets and shape, etc. Easier than moving lights around or constantly picking up and moving the artefact while keeping it centred with the camera.

    Good luck with the project!
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018
  19. A real copy stand would work better than some jury-rigged outfit and would cost less.

    Definitely, get a real macro lens

    There are lots of old British and other "how-to-photograph-artifacts" guides. Many alternatives for background- black velvet, glass sheet raised up on bricks, and so forth.

    Include scale in picture and be consistent ....
  20. "A real copy stand would work better than some jury-rigged outfit and would cost less."

    This Kaiser Copy stand looks very much like the column and baseboard of a cheap enlarger, but costs nearly $750! That's pretty much most of the OP's budget JD.

    How 'jury rigged' a conversion would be depends very much on the engineering skills of the person doing the conversion. And that Kaiser copy stand just looks like an enlarger minus head and with a tripod QR plate screwed in place to me. That would take maybe 15minutes with a drill and a couple of self-tapping screws.

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