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 Post subject: Lighting for gemstone photography
PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:39 pm 
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Hi all I now have my camera macro lens and am ready to start taking awesome shots of my stones but I have no idea what I should do for lighting. Any suggestions for inexpensive lighting setups?

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 Post subject: Re: Lighting for gemstone photography
PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2011 3:04 pm 
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JordanWilkins wrote:
Hi all I now have my camera macro lens and am ready to start taking awesome shots of my stones but I have no idea what I should do for lighting. Any suggestions for inexpensive lighting setups?

Hi Jordan, if you haven't taken the time to work through these two threads, I suggest you do so to build a network of concepts that will be helpful to you.
http://gemologyonline.com/Forum/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?f=57&t=6420

And this one as well.
http://gemologyonline.com/Forum/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?f=57&t=13714

Here, you'll find numerous tips in addition to all the helpful little tools that we end up needing.
http://www.tabletopstudio.com/HowTo_page.html

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 Post subject: Re: Lighting for gemstone photography
PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:01 pm 
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This really doesn't bear directly on Jordan's question but it may spark some discussion. If there's a more appropriate thread please move it, Admin.

I noted Doug Menadue's comment about his Olympus camera's inability to render yellows and oranges without adding undesirable brown. I have exactly the same problem with my trusty Nikon 4500. It's maddening! What's especially frustrating is that it doesn't happen with every stone.

I'm ready to change camera brands if necessary to overcome that difficulty. Suggestions anyone? I use natural diffused light for many of my gem shots.

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 Post subject: Re: Lighting for gemstone photography
PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:26 pm 
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Is your camera a dslr or p&s? I'm using a Sony alpha 350 and I love the camera and there is such a wide variety of lenses that can be used on it. Any older minolta autofocus lens can be used and there are some great legendary ones like the minolta 100mm macro you can get some pretty amazing shots with that lens. It is now my preference of camera and you get everything you get in nikon and canon for a much lower price tag.

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 Post subject: Re: Lighting for gemstone photography
PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2011 2:23 am 
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Hi Rick,

I had a yarn with a professional product photographer about this and he replied with: just shoot in RAW and then tweak everything that doesn't look like it should.

Jamey will, without a doubt, jump in here and recommend a Foveon chip which apparently will solve your problem as well...


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 Post subject: Re: Lighting for gemstone photography
PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2011 3:53 pm 
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Tim
Thanks for your suggestions. Unfortunately the 4500 doesn't offer RAW as originally set up (it's an older camera) but it has so many other advantages for gem photography I'm very loath to give it up.

The 4500 actually does record a RAW image but the work-around to access and process it makes my brain freeze due to the technical complexity involved. It would probably be a breeze for you and others but I'm something of a bewildered analog guy adrift in a digital world.

I'm looking into the Sigma cameras with Foveon chips. That could be a solution to my problem. Significant $$$ involved though, it appears.

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 Post subject: Re: Lighting for gemstone photography
PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2011 6:03 pm 
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I picked up an SD9 on Ebay a while back for a pretty reasonable cost. I am not having as much luck getting a good lens though.

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 Post subject: Re: Lighting for gemstone photography
PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2011 6:51 pm 
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Allen, I looked for used SD 9's but this review chilled my enthusiasm http://www.kenrockwell.com/sigma/sd9.htm

Did the Sigma software come with your camera? Since I shoot 2 to 8 second exposures frequently the low light performance and ISO limitations were a worry. Hopefully you'll find work-arounds for those issues.

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 Post subject: Re: Lighting for gemstone photography
PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2011 8:29 pm 
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Yes, my camera came with all of the software. I have not had a problem with the RAW conversion since I, with the aid of my son, set it up to automatically convert them to JPEG files. I have not had any real problem with lighting, at least no more problems than with my Coolpix 4500. I purchased it because I was having a lot of problems getting true colors for some rubies I own. As for the lens limitations, yes, Sigma mounts are hard to find but their is a 42mm adapter available which opens up a few more avenues.

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 Post subject: Re: Lighting for gemstone photography
PostPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 12:22 am 
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First off IGNORE Ken, if it is not Nikon he trash talks it. He is a brand biased fanboy when it comes to equipment. While the SD9 is not perfect, no camera is really, it does just fine. I actually own one myself to go with my SD14. I am selling the SD9 soon though most likely. The biggest quirk with the SD9 is when using rechargeable batteries every now and then you need to open the battery compartments and close them again when the camera has sat for a while. Gets very annoying. 2 out of the 3 SD9's I have used had this quirk, lol. Doesn't hurt anything, just annoying. Most of what Ken wrote is a load of bull too! First off Adobe products read Sigma RAW files just fine, as does SageLight Editor, RAWTherapee I believe does as well, DCRAW does, and quite a few others. Sigma provides software that is very similar to the likes of Adobe Lightroom v2 and it works phenomenally well! I always use it to process my RAW files and then use Adobe for editing. The camera only produces RAW files because that is the only true way to utilize the immense amount of data captured by the Foveon sensor, while the later models due do JPEG the JPEG output is not near as nice as the RAW. The SD9 is also built like a true Professional body, unlike the SD14 which is still built well but not near as nice IMHO, but still functions fine. Just how did Ken test the camera when he did not even put a CF card into it!!!?? Makes it a bit tough to test a camera if you are not taking any pictures with it! :^o [-X

For our uses the high ISO and long shutter speeds are not an issue any ways. We do not want high ISOs as even with cleaner cameras you still loose lots of the finer details.

One AF sensor, who cares!? Unless shooting Pro sports or super fast action most shooters only use the center focus point anyways, so this is a moot point. Heck, even for sports I never use anything bu one focus point, the center one, lol.

The Canon 300D Rebel is in NO way even remotely superior to the SD9 either, I owned one of those as well! It was better for sports and action, that is about it, but even then if the photographer's skill was up to the job the SD9 worked/works fine, since I know folks who still shoot F1 and sports bike racing with one! The 300D was OK when it worked, very prone to shutter failure like most of the current entry level Canon models still are, even the 40/50/60D have had their share of lots of shutter failures. I wouldn't recommend ANY Canon cameras except for the 5D, 5D MkII, 1D MkII, 1Ds MkII, and 1D MkIV, or really any other Series 1 body except for the early serial number MkIII's, they were plagued with one issue after another and serious focusing issues! But the image quality(IQ) of the SD9 kicks the butt of the Canon hands down day in and day out, which in the end, is what is important, is it not!? ;)

Again, another piece of misinformation on his part, "only takes Sigma lenses". First off, what does this really matter? Sigma makes lenses equivalent in function and quality to all the other companies out there including Canon L glass and Nikon glass. Sigma even has a few that are tops in the industry period like the 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4, 120-300mm f/2.8, 100-300mm f/4, 150mm f/2.8 Macro, 50mm f/2.8 Macro, 70mm f/2.8 Macro, 180mm f/3.5 Macro, and the list can go on, lol. Now, that said, the camera can also use any M42 mount lens with a simple $12 adapter. Also, one can take ANY Canon EF mount lens and swap its mount with Sigma's SA mount and have a fully functioning auto aperture and auto focusing lens! The Sigma SA mount is mechanically a Pentax K-mount and electronically a Canon EF mount. Most Pentax K mount lenses will fit as well if you remove the lever. There are even entire lens mount replacements for the SD14 to change it to Leica and a few others. Here is a website with lots of info on the SD14, it is down though so this is the Wayback Machine cached version: http://web.archive.org/web/200902191009 ... ertips.htm

This shows how the IQ and resolution compares to a FF dSLR like the Canon 5D:
http://www.ddisoftware.com/sd14-5d/

Another benefit of the Foveon sensor cameras is they capture pixel level sharper images and more finer details over the Bayer based ones due to not having to use an AA(anti-aliasing) filter like the Bayer based sensor cameras have to, except for the Leica M series which came up with a very in depth algorithm(s) to do the same affect the AA filter itself does so they could leave it off their M series cameras.

All Bayer based sensors will have trouble capturing certain colors. Typically red and blue, but some have issues with others. It all boils down to how well the Company programmed the algorithms which interpolate the color data. But without a proper custom white balance and exposure NO camera, not even a Foveon sensor one, is going to capture true and accurate colors, lol.

The above said, ANY camera will work excellent to capture gemstones and such. Believe it or not a P&S all-in-one style fixed lens camera with a smaller sensor will capture the images far easier then a dSLR will. This is because, simply, the smaller sensor cameras will have almost 2x the DOF of the larger sensor dSLRs. Now, you don't want a tiny sensor even though it will have more DOF because it will cost too much quality, but the standard 1/2.3" and larger will do just fine. For example, my Panasonic FZ8K at an f-stop of f/8 will have about the same DOF as a normal 1.6/1.5x crop body dSLR(Canon Rebel series, Nikon D3###/5###/40/50/60/70/80/90, etc) has at f/16 just about. So it makes things much easier to get the shot as you get faster shutter speeds due to the lower f-stops because not as much light is needed. And for a shot that would require stacking 2-3 images on a dSLR you could get in a single shot with one of these fixed lens cameras like the Panasonic FZ(8 and up) and LX2/3/5 and even LZ2/6/8 series, Nikon 9## series, Canon G series or even A6## series with the CHDK hacked firmware(but still some color issues under certain artificial lighting as with almost all Canon fixed lens cameras and even lower end dSLRs), for example.

Your 4500 should do fine if you are setting the custom white balance properly. Make sure your color control is also set properly in the menu system. You want Spot metering mode or sometimes Center Weighted mode works better, but try spot first. I have no issues with my Nikon 995, does great.

For lighting I prefer Solux PAR or MR16 bulbs. Next best IMHO would be the Ott-Lite 6500K Daylight HD bulbs. I simply use the clamp on shop lamps from Wal-Mart automotive, 8" or 10" if you have the space.

ROM, why do you need 2-8 second exposures for? For gemstones, minerals, and gemology you should NOT be using anything above ISO100 anyways, so not sure why the limitations would be an issue!?

Sony is a Bayer based sensor but their algorithms used seem to record more accurate colors then most others, at least in the dSLR.

dSLR my choice is:
1. Sigma SD series IF you are somewhat experienced or don't mind learning. The cameras are designed for a true Pro and do NOT do anything for you and hold your hand like many of the other brands.
2. Pentax K-x, or K-5 if your budget allows. They currently have the top high ISO low light imaging quality in the APS-C sensor camera bodies! ISO1600 on them looks like most others' ISO3200+! Plus the built in the body image stabilization allows you to NOT have to pay hundreds to even thousands of $$$$$ per lens to get it, because EVERY lens put on them will become IS/OS/VR/SR even the old MF M42 mount lenses!
3. Nikon D7000 or above, anything below is too crippled IMHO especially considering many lenses will not even AF on the D3###, D5###, D4#, D5#, and D6# cameras.
4. Canon 7D

I love the FF 5D and 5D MkII, but the FF sensor makes macro shooting even more of a PIA.

Another great choice are the Panasonic G2/3, or the Olympus Pen series cameras. The micro 4/3 system they use is a great balance between the benefits of a dSLR for IQ over a P&S but you still get a much better DOF control over a dSLR, so kind of the best between both worlds.

The Panasonic LX3 or LX5 are also amazing if you do not need interchangeable lenses. Get a full Raynox macro add-on set of lenses and you are really good to go! The FZ series + Raynox add-ons offers far greater magnifications, into the microscope range without a scope..lol, but at the cost of some IQ due to the smaller sensor over the LX series. I still think the FZ8/18/28 and LX3/5 series are the best cameras for macros hands down.

If you do not mind tweaking/correcting some colors in image editing, the Canon A610 series camera, yes and older one, lol, offers an amazing setup if you get the lens tube + Raynox Add-on macro lenses. But only if you use the CHDK hacked firmware to add in all the professional features like RAW, Focus Stacking in camera done by scripts, HDR imaging by scripts, etc. I have one of these as well and use it frequently. Just be careful with the lenses, on all the Canon compact cameras, especially the SD, G, and A series(in that order from worst to better) have E18 errors due to a substandard, what many call a faulty, lens mechanism design that if bumped too hardly, interupted while lens is extending, or gets grit inside will cause the machanism to fail and throw an E18 error rendering your camera useless and unless you get a sympathetic CS rep when you call into Canon they will charge you for the repairs saying it was customer misuse/abuse, has happened to lots of folks, even many I know, sadly. But the A610 seems to be a bit more sound then the others, lol.

As for macro lenses for a dSLR, you really want something at a minimum 100/105mm in focal length because it gives a greater working distance therefore allowing for easier lighting of your subject. You can get away with the 50/60/70mm macro lenses but it makes lighting much more difficult. I have shot and/or owned almost every single macro lens ever made, lol, seriously, even the 25-35yr old ones! Here are the ones I found to be the best in order:
1. Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro lens(Best currently made and possibly best ever made)
2. Sigma 180mm f/3.5 macro coming in a close second, more like 1.5, lol, but a bit bulky for gemstone/jewelry uses IMHO.
3. Sigma 105mm/Tokina 100mm f/2.8 macro lenses
4. Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro
5. Any of the 100/105mm OEM macro lenses

If you don't mind working a bit harder for your lighting, the Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG 1:1 Macro lens offers the most economical without sacrificing build quality macro lens you can get @ around $299 brand new! Probably one of the sharpest macro lenses out there, beat only by the Sigma 150mm macro. I own one of these myself currently and love it. Also makes it easier to get higher magnifications by simply adding extension tubes or even a tele-macro adapter.

The cheapest, but still good IQ, macro lens you can get is the Phoenix/Cosina/Vivitar 100mm f/3.5 macro lens. It is built like a child's toy almost, but optically is quite decent, and since shooting in a "studio" environment, its worst negative factor(that is sucks dust/dirt) is just about negated. Hard to beat for the $149 they run new, lol.

The Sigma 70mm macro is another insanely sharp lens, toss up as it may even be sharper then the 50mm Sigma, undecided on that one yet, lol.

If you are on a real serious budget, the Sigma 70-300mm 1:2 macro(half life size) is a cheap alternative at like ~$140-$150. But you really MUST use it on a tripod at all times really, due to the 300mm focal length for the macro mode. The Sigma 28-80mm ASPH 1:2 Macro II is another very cheap, like $45-$95 used/new old stock, but works quite well actually. Can not expect miracles, but great for web based viewing images. I currently own the 70-300mm myself and used to own the 28-80mm when I had my Canon 20D.

Another option is an M42 macro bellows setup with a variety of focal length M42 mount lenses. Flat field macros are not necessary because we are not shooting flat subjects, so don't worry about that.

There are also a large number of older M42 mount lenses that can be sued via an adapter on most all camera bodies but in full manual only. But the likes of the Kiron/Lester Dine 105mm macro, Tamron Adaptall-II 90mm macro, Tomioka/Yashica 60mm macro, Pentax 50 and 100mm macros, and a few others are simply amazing lenses and will perform as well if not better optically then many of the newer macro lenses! If you can ever find one the Tokina 28-70mm f/2.8 AT-X macro + 25m extension tube yields simply stunning macros and captures great finer details too but are very difficult to find!

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 Post subject: Re: Lighting for gemstone photography
PostPosted: Sun Aug 04, 2013 3:58 am 
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Well hope it is OK to revive a thread- just had to say a Big Thank You to Swishman to the post above!
I have revisited those words about 150 times in the past year, and the best precis I have read anywhere.
Thanks for taking the time!
James


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 Post subject: Re: Lighting for gemstone photography
PostPosted: Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:39 am 
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James,
Glad I could help out. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Lighting for gemstone photography
PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 8:34 pm 
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Hello Im having difficulty taking photos of Rubies , I cant seem to get enough light into the stone


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