The lenses we use

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ray_parkhurst
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The lenses we use

Post by ray_parkhurst »

Over the years I have tested hundreds of lenses across a wide range of magnifications, on a quest for best sharpness, color fidelity, flexibility, and scope. My intent was to find the best lenses for shooting coins, generally US coins, and primarily Cents and their details. The range of sizes for US coins is ~40mm maximum down to ~14mm minimum.

See here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_St ... coin_sizes

I usually leave a bit of room around the coin for cropping and a more natural look, so on APS-C shoot from 0.3:1 up to around 1:1. Cents are 19mm, so a lot of my work is around 0.7:1.

For variety details, I use the Date and Mintmark of the Lincoln Cent as the reference. These features are a little less than 3mm across by 2mm high, perfect size for 5x magnification on APS-C. Often I will zoom into a mintmark, and need to maintain a bit of the date features for positional reference, so use 10x magnification for this. I also use 10x for work in shooting BIE die chip details.

At this point I have "settled" on a set of lenses and objectives that do what I need to do very well, with minimal compromises. Here is the list:

0.3x-2x: Schneider 85mm Macro-Varon. This lens has no equal for flexibility and color fidelity over basically the whole range of US coin sizes. Its ultimate sharpness is not as good as a few other contenders (given the f4.5 max aperture) but it's flexibility wins over everything else for general coin shooting where single shots (rather than stacks) are needed.

0.7x-1.2x: Nikon 105mm Printing-Nikkor. I often need to shoot true reference shots of Cents to simultaneously document a die variety and all its details, and there is no better lens in this mag range for this work.

2.4x-4x: Lomo 3.7x. This is an amazing objective with good flexibility, working distance, and color fidelity. I owned one for years without fully testing it, figuring it was similar to other Lomo's, but once RobertOToole pointed out its fine qualities, I put it through its paces and found that it is an ideal objective for my work across this difficult magnification range.

3x, 5x, and 10x: Specifically at these magnifications, and especially for 3D stacking work, I use the Nikon MM objectives. Their telecentricity and perfectly flat field makes them indispensible for this work. They do not have the color fidelity of the Mitutoyo Plan Apo series, but they are more flexible in my finite system, and their telecentricity results in very sharp stacks.

20x: I do some occasional work at 20x, usually for documenting the wear patterns and surface topography of phonograph needles. For this work I use a Nikon BD Plan 20. I will talk more about this objective in a later post.

That is MY list of lenses and objectives for the work I do. I would love to hear what others have found to be the best for their work.
Last edited by ray_parkhurst on Wed Aug 01, 2018 5:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Lou Jost
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Post by Lou Jost »

This is a great idea, Ray. The best of the best, by someone who has tried almost everything.

I hope others with such wide experience will add their own lists. I am not yet settled, except between m=0.7 and m=1.4, where I too find the PN105A to be essentially perfect.

mawyatt
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Post by mawyatt »

Ray,

Interesting discussion and lens recommendations. I had not thought of "pushing down" the Lomo below ~4X. Does it still cover a full frame at 2~3X?

At ~3X how would compare the Lomo to a 5X Mitutoyo & Raynox 250, or around ~2X to the Canon 35mm Macro Bellows?

thanks for posting this information,

Best,
Research is like a treasure hunt, you don't know where to look or what you'll find!
~Mike

ChrisR
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Post by ChrisR »

Phew, no need to scour ebay - got those!
Chris R

mawyatt
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Post by mawyatt »

Chris,

I've got a couple, but you and Ray have a nice stash :D

Suspect Lou does also :shock:

Best,
Research is like a treasure hunt, you don't know where to look or what you'll find!
~Mike

ray_parkhurst
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Post by ray_parkhurst »

mawyatt wrote:Interesting discussion and lens recommendations. I had not thought of "pushing down" the Lomo below ~4X. Does it still cover a full frame at 2~3X?

At ~3X how would compare the Lomo to a 5X Mitutoyo & Raynox 250, or around ~2X to the Canon 35mm Macro Bellows?
I have pushed the 3.7x Lomo down to 2.4x and it covers APS-C well. I put 2x as the bottom end but I suppose I should have put 2.4x since that's about as low as I can go with it on my setup. Not sure how well it would do on FF at this mag, but perhaps worth a try. It can go well above 4x with good results, though not earth shattering with its NA=0.11.

I can't comment on 5x Mitty with the Raynox as I don't have a Raynox to test it with. I can comment on the 35MP as being best I've seen at 2.4x, but not easy to get to that low a mag. I had to modify my setup to get there, so I don't consider it very flexible. So even though it's about the best lens I know from 2.4x (and probably down to 2x) and up to at least 3x, it has seen little use. It just sits on my shelf, along with a whole bunch of other lenses that are excellent but only really get used as references.

Lou Jost
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Post by Lou Jost »

On a mirrorless camera I find the Canon 35MP to be easy to work with, even at quite low magnification, and better than the Lomo. Needs to be stopped down to f/4 though. For low m I mount it on a very short helicoid.

ray_parkhurst
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Post by ray_parkhurst »

Lou Jost wrote:On a mirrorless camera I find the Canon 35MP to be easy to work with, even at quite low magnification, and better than the Lomo. Needs to be stopped down to f/4 though. For low m I mount it on a very short helicoid.
I'm expecting Sony to eventually come out with an APS-C camera that has Live View/Focus Magnifier with their Imaging Edge software. When that happens, I may shift over to Sony, and some of the lenses which have been difficult to use on the long Canon/Nikon register may become more useful. I'm not sure it will change my Go-To list, though.

edited to add: Would be nice if the 35MP had an intermediate f-stop between 2.8 and 4.0.

mawyatt
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Post by mawyatt »

ray_parkhurst wrote:
Lou Jost wrote:On a mirrorless camera I find the Canon 35MP to be easy to work with, even at quite low magnification, and better than the Lomo. Needs to be stopped down to f/4 though. For low m I mount it on a very short helicoid.
I'm expecting Sony to eventually come out with an APS-C camera that has Live View/Focus Magnifier with their Imaging Edge software. When that happens, I may shift over to Sony, and some of the lenses which have been difficult to use on the long Canon/Nikon register may become more useful. I'm not sure it will change my Go-To list, though.

edited to add: Would be nice if the 35MP had an intermediate f-stop between 2.8 and 4.0.
Ray,

Thanks for the info.

The upcoming Nikon mirrorless may have 16mm Z mount flange to sensor distance and a 49mm Z mount optical opening, with 65mm total diameter! Soon we shall all know!!

Best
Research is like a treasure hunt, you don't know where to look or what you'll find!
~Mike

ray_parkhurst
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Post by ray_parkhurst »

mawyatt wrote:
ray_parkhurst wrote:
Lou Jost wrote:On a mirrorless camera I find the Canon 35MP to be easy to work with, even at quite low magnification, and better than the Lomo. Needs to be stopped down to f/4 though. For low m I mount it on a very short helicoid.
I'm expecting Sony to eventually come out with an APS-C camera that has Live View/Focus Magnifier with their Imaging Edge software. When that happens, I may shift over to Sony, and some of the lenses which have been difficult to use on the long Canon/Nikon register may become more useful. I'm not sure it will change my Go-To list, though.

edited to add: Would be nice if the 35MP had an intermediate f-stop between 2.8 and 4.0.
Ray,

Thanks for the info.

The upcoming Nikon mirrorless may have 16mm Z mount flange to sensor distance and a 49mm Z mount optical opening, with 65mm total diameter! Soon we shall all know!!

Best
I think it is going to be FF, correct? I'm not really leaning toward a FF camera anymore, after striking out with the A7RIII and 5DSR. The format seems promising though, so if it's APS-C or M4/3, or they will eventually release one of these, then Sony may not be a shoe-in.

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Post by ChrisR »

(Ray what was your issue with the Cannon 5DSR? I searched through and didn't find much criticism in your posts?)
Chris R

mawyatt
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Post by mawyatt »

ray_parkhurst wrote:
mawyatt wrote:
ray_parkhurst wrote:
Lou Jost wrote:On a mirrorless camera I find the Canon 35MP to be easy to work with, even at quite low magnification, and better than the Lomo. Needs to be stopped down to f/4 though. For low m I mount it on a very short helicoid.
I'm expecting Sony to eventually come out with an APS-C camera that has Live View/Focus Magnifier with their Imaging Edge software. When that happens, I may shift over to Sony, and some of the lenses which have been difficult to use on the long Canon/Nikon register may become more useful. I'm not sure it will change my Go-To list, though.

edited to add: Would be nice if the 35MP had an intermediate f-stop between 2.8 and 4.0.
Ray,

Thanks for the info.

The upcoming Nikon mirrorless may have 16mm Z mount flange to sensor distance and a 49mm Z mount optical opening, with 65mm total diameter! Soon we shall all know!!

Best
I think it is going to be FF, correct? I'm not really leaning toward a FF camera anymore, after striking out with the A7RIII and 5DSR. The format seems promising though, so if it's APS-C or M4/3, or they will eventually release one of these, then Sony may not be a shoe-in.
Nikon could certainly place a smaller DX type sensor within the new Z Mount, and probably will just like they have the FX and DX F Mount DLSRs.

What's intriguing is with the Z mount optical opening & dimensons Nikon might be setting up for later a medium format sensor, similar to the new medium formate Fuji and Hassy. Thus, one mount supporting 3 sensors sizes!!

Best,
Research is like a treasure hunt, you don't know where to look or what you'll find!
~Mike

Lou Jost
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Post by Lou Jost »

That would be exciting!!!

mjkzz
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Post by mjkzz »

Ray wrote:0.7x-1.2x: Nikon 105mm Printing-Nikkor. I often need to shoot true reference shots of Cents to simultaneously document a die variety and all its details, and there is no better lens in this mag range for this work.
I think there is a Rayfact version of the printing lens, do you think it could be better? I am itchy to get it, just need some "justification" :D

mawyatt
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Post by mawyatt »

Lou Jost wrote:That would be exciting!!!
Lou,

It became clear to me this is the path for the new Nikon Z mount.

Best,
Research is like a treasure hunt, you don't know where to look or what you'll find!
~Mike

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