My inexpensive Coin Photography Setup

By Michael Parrish

03 December 2006


     I thought that since my desk was much cleaner than usual, I'd do a quick photo of my setup.

     I use a small, but heavy, metal tripod which has had it's lower leg segments removed. It is positioned on my desk right next to my monitor for easy use. I've attached my Nikon D70 with a 18-70mm Nikkor zoom lens to the tripod. The camera's usb cable is attached to the camera body, and is thentaped to the edge of the desk (outside photo area). A seperate USB extension cable runs from there to the computer, allowing my to plug in the camera and unplug it from the computer without touching the camera. This is useful, since when the usb is hooked into my computer, I can't take photos (I'm too cheap to pay $50+ for Nikon's software).

     My lighting cost me around $20 - I use 60 watt Phillips Natural incandescent bulbs in two 5" clampable shop hoods. I use a couple of random containers full of rolled junk cents as bases for the clamped lamps, allowing me to easily position them. Since I manually control my exposures, I simply taped down a few white sheets of paper onto the desk surface and place the coins on those for photography. I keep the sheets dust free with canned air and simply replace if they get dirty. The sheets also double as a quick and dirty white balance callibrator if I switch bulbs.

     My photography has improved quite a bit since I started, but I still have a ways to go. Still, this setup has given me some nice photos over the last few months. I'm enjoying learning more as I go. Probably the next purchase I need to make this a better setup would either be a better macro lens (my zoom lens doesn't quite give me the crispness I desire) or a proper copystand, which would give me more room to reposition my lamps to get the lighting to work right on coins I photograph.

Approximate Costs:

Tripod: Free (giveaway); cost to buy, used, $15-$20
Phillips Natural 60 W lamps: $8-$10, 4 pack
5" Shop light reflectors: $5/ea
Nikon D70 Digital SLR body: $450 - $550, used on eBay (12/2006)
Nikkor 18-70mm Zoom lens for D70: $150 - $200, used on eBay (12/2006)

As you can see, the main cost was (obviously) my digital camera. Luckily, my father was kind enough to give it to me as a college graduation present. A number of other people shoot with other, cheaper cameras and get quite good results, so don't let the camera cost hold you back!


Copyright Notice:

This article is copyright (c) 2006 by Michael C. Parrish. All rights reserved.
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