Ian Fenn's Blog

22 Nov 2015

Coin Photography: Improvements to my macro photography rig

Exonumia | Ian Fenn

I have made any post for a while about my secondary hobby; photographing coins. For about three years I have been slowly building and adapting a copy stand for photographing coins. In earlier blogs I have covered some of the design points. last month I made some improvements, but as always they are compromises. First off how my copy stand is assembled. I have a Kaiser copy stand column that is counterbalanced by spring steel tape( inside the column) the column is mounted on a 2 ft square of granite ( weighs over 60 pounds) which is covered( see first picture) with black out material from Edmund's optical; you can see the uncovered stone near the column base. The granite slap sits on four sorbothane pads, the pads in combination with the weight of the slab act as Vibration isolators. This is important as my rig is on the second story of our house.

In the first picture you can see a seven inch HMDO screen, I use a Sony A7rII. this camera is mirror less and can be thethered to a computer, but there is a fault with the Sony system, you can't have live view on the computer screen, so instead( like a number of Sony users) I use the HMDI screen to view which ever coin I am photographing. I used to have that HMDI screen mounted on a clamp on stand attached to the front of the granite slab but the stand got in the way too often. With the recent modification I discovered I could mount that screen to the camera arm. This is not ideal but it gives me a very clear working area below the camera lens, enabling me to position diffusers and reflectors much more easily.

The modifications I made were adding two panoramic arca clamps and two 200 mm double sided Arca rails. The two panoramic clamps rotate and positioned at 90 degrees to each other allow me to finely adjust the camera or camera and bellows for level. However one of the Arca clamps( Chinese made of course) had poor tolerances and actually adds some slant to the set up, the second clamp does compensate for it easily. I have looked for German and American made alternatives but they don't have the narrow profile needed for a macro stand. In a few months I will buy a new one gambling that the new one will have better tolerances



Level 6

Too cool! It does look like a lab!


Level 3

Wow. Looks like a physics lab. What camera and macro lenses are you using? I am in the process of setting up something similar, a good copy stand it impossible to find in Malaysia.

Ian Fenn

Level 5

Camera is a Sony A7rII. I previously had a Sony A7r and I needed a very stable rig to adapt to that Cameras faults. I would recommend you put your own Macro rig together. For US$500.00 you can probably produce a rig with a performance that would only be matched by a US$2000.00 Copy stand. The granite slab cost About US$12.00, the Sorbothane feet (US$30.00). you then need a Column and Camera Arem. I use a Kaiser K4474 ( Aprox US$240.00) column with a Kaiser RA 101 Camera Arm( US$ 110.00) however if the column and Arm are too expensive look for a second hand Photgraphic Enlarger stand with a column that has a Steel tape counterbalancing system. With some hunting you could find one( in Malaysia) for less than US$50.00. Send me a Private message if you want more details. The lights I found second hand for US$50.00


Level 5

Incredible setup. You have a great passion for the hobby.


Level 6

I covet your setup! Thank you for share and the details!!


Level 5

Keeping in mind that your setup is far more advanced than what I use, I do have a question. When I am trying to photograph old dark copper coins I can't get the lighting right. They always come out dark. Any suggestions?

Ian Fenn

Level 5

I have a variety of different reflectors and diffusers I use for each coin. I have some old copper I will have a play and post what I foudn works best. In the interum tweo techniques that work well( that I suspect you have already tried) adjust the exposre time to longer than what the camera suggests,


Level 5


We use cookies to provide users the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your cookie settings, we'll assume that you agree to receive all cookies on money.org. You may disable cookies at any time using your internet browser configuration. By continuing to use this website, you agree to our privacy policy and terms of use. To learn more about how we use cookies and to review our privacy policy, click here.