Ian Fenn's Blog

23 Dec 2015

Photographing slabbed coins

Exonumia | Ian Fenn

Longstrider in a recent post commented about photographing Encapsulated coins( at least thats what I assume he was asking). Personally I find photographing coins in plastic prisons extremely hard to do. About 6 weeks ago I found a solution that matches my techniques. It may not suit other people so it would be great to have suggestions from others. I use lenses at the largest possible aperture, this is different to the way many others photograph coins. The technique works for me because I have a large megapixel camera. With some of my lenses I find that if I use an F stop number higher than 8 the images I take suffer from diffraction blurring. With the F stops I use I am working with very shallow depths of field some times only a slice of a few microns is in focus. I understand that one sucessful technique of photographing slabbed coins is to tilt the slab slightly. I would imagine that would work very well with a deep depth of field ( using an F stop of 12 or smaller). With my technique tilting the slab would see most of the coin out of focus.

My serendipitous solution arose because I was trying to make a portable light source. I have used ring lights in the past but I have found them limiting as the light source is just too close to vertical. I fitted the lens mount section from an un-serviceable ring light to a polypropylene board of 9.5 inches by 8 inches. I then attached a cold white LED lighting strip to the board. This produced a very successful lighting system that was very portable and was mains powered. By chance I tried it on an encapsulated coin( the last photo) and I was stunned by the result. I still have to finish the light panel off. So far one very useful modification was to fit a lens hood to the homemade panel light. I think the pictures are self explanatory. The third picture looks a little blurry the reason for that is the leds' are on in that picture. The coin photo shows the result that can be obtained. Cost was about US$50.00.

As I have already said this is only one possible approach I would love to have some one recount their techniques



Level 6

Great information! I'm not quite sure that I understand it all but it's still interesting!


Level 6

Much more sophisticated than taking a pic with your phone! Take a lot of care and you will come up with terrific coin photos.


Level 4

I believe you are on the correct path here. An LED controller for intensity is what I've found important also.

Pliny The Elder

Level 5

Very interesting. Love this solution to a problem I have definitely thrown my hands up over. Thanks!


Level 7

I have found an additional light source was the answer. I know you won't agree but I take my pictures with a tablet. I needed more light so I tried believe it or not a very good flashlight. It worked. After I take a shot I crop it and do away with any glaze that may appear. Now I don't even get that. So far so good. Thanks for your ideas. I do have a 12 megapixel Nikon but the tablet is easer. Lots of luck mike


Level 5

How do you get both sides of the coin on the same picture? Is it a computer setting that I don't know about or a program or what?

Dollar Guy

Level 5

Ian, That Knife edge refraction you mention is common with internal nonvanadium oxide coated lenses which have a lot of internal reflections to contend with that get attributed to refractions either way the image suffers. By the way i am glad that rock you were standing on in New Zealand was inside that dust cloud. The chastisment from Rula is well deserved!! Take care Kiwi looking forwad to seeing you in June-


Level 5

too complicated for me.


Level 4

This is great information will have to put this into effect.


Level 5

A lot better than my typical results but I hope to remedy that soon.


Level 5

Now that is thinking outside of the box! Brilliant idea. I cannot provide any helpful feedback, but I appreciate the efforts you have made to help everyone.


Level 6

Just beautiful Ian. I'll be studying this in depth. Thanks! I may need further shopping lists.


Level 5

Great info!

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