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Old Jul 2, 2012, 10:30 AM   #1
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Default camera/lens to photograph small paintings

Hello, I am an artist and need a better digital camera to photograph my small paintings and drawings. They range in size from 12 x 15 inches to about 5 x 7 inches. They are very finely detailed and very subtle in color and value gradations. Some of them can be quite dark, while the drawings are very light. (A photograph of a painting is attached). My current GE point and shoot camera doesn't capture the work well, so I need a camera that is much more sensitive and maybe a special macro lens. I photograph the work in excellent natural light and use a copystand. I wouldn't use the camera for anything else, so I don't need extra features like video, panorama, etc. I've been looking at used cameras and would like to spend around $500, although I realize that if I need a macro lens I would have to spend more (if it makes a great difference, I definitely would). So...what would be the ideal combination of camera and lens? I would appreciate any advice.

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Old Jul 2, 2012, 5:37 PM   #2
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I would go with a Sony A37 and a Sigma 70mm f/2.8 Macro lens.

The Sony uses the same 16MP image sensor used in their A57 and several earlier models, as well as Nikon's D7000 and D5100 and the Pentax K-5. The Sony A37 uses an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical viewfinder, so it always has a clear, bright view of the subject under any lighting conditions. It also has a tilting 'Live View' LCD Monitor, making it easier to use with your copystand.

The Sigma 70mm f/2.8 Macro is probably as good a macro lens as you will find from any manufacturer, and is a good focal length to use on your copystand.
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Old Jul 3, 2012, 11:48 AM   #3
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Default Thank you!

Thank you, TCav! I really appreciate your advice! Since I posted this question yesterday, a friend has offered to sell me her Canon 50D camera for $500. Do you think this would be a bettter camera for my needs than the Sony A37? If so, would the Canon 50 mm f2.5 compact macro lens (which is only $280) work well or would I need a more expensive lens?

And last question, for the kind of "copy work" I'd be doing, would manual focusing be as effective as autofocus? I ask this because I've seen in the research I've been doing that a lot of people use the Nikkor 60mm micro f/2.8 lens to photograph artwork, but the autofocus does not work in the Nikon D5100, which is a comparable camera to the Sony A37 you recommend.

So, to sumarize, the options I'm considering at this point are the Sony A37 with the Sigma 70 mm f/2.8 macro lens; the Canon 50D with the Canon 50 mm f2.5 compact macro; or a Nikon D5100 with a Nikkor 60mm micro f/2.8 lens (manual focus).

This will be the camera and lens I use for many, many years, so I really want to get it right. THANK YOU for the advice!!!!

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Old Jul 3, 2012, 1:49 PM   #4
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Can't advise on a camera but your photo is quite nice.
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Old Jul 3, 2012, 4:21 PM   #5
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The 50D and the 50/2.5 would work well.

In general, autofocus is more accurate than manual focus, especially since the appropriate tools for manual focusing are absent from the focusing screens of modern cameras.

The reason Nikon's 60/2.8 doesn't AF on the D5100 is because neither the lens nor the camera body have an AF motor. That's only the case with some lenses and some Nikon bodies.
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Old Jul 3, 2012, 5:03 PM   #6
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I hope you show one of your paintings. I like the bag you photographed though.
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Old Jul 3, 2012, 6:36 PM   #7
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Default found a Tamron macro AF for the Nikon D5100: better?

Again, thank you so much for the advice, TCav! (and thanks for the image compliment, eysha).
Doing more research, I found a Tamron 60mm f2 macro for Nikon that does autofocus. So...would this lens with the Nikon D5100 be the best choice? I keep reading comparisons with the Canon 50D that say the Nikon is much better in terms of image quality (less noise, more dynamic range, larger sensor, more color bits). Since I'm new to all this I'm not sure what it would all mean for photographing my work. The Nikon camera body costs about $500 new. What do you think?
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Old Jul 3, 2012, 7:02 PM   #8
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Everything that makes the Nikon D5100 better, also makes the Sony A37 and A57 better. They all use the same 16MP image sensor, and they all have a tilt/swivel 'Live View' display.

Most third party lenses for the Nikon lens mount will autofocus ok. The Tamron 60/2 is a good macro lens. The advantages of a macro lens over a conventional lens, for your purpose, is the close focusing and the flat field of focus. That means a macro lens will be able to focus on the subject within the short range of your copystand, and that the edges will be as sharp as the center. While some macro lenses are better than others, they'll all run rings around conventional lenses for what you've got in mind.

In general, you should stop down a little to avoid vignetting and to get the lens at its sharpest, but anything within an appropriate range of focal lengths (so you can capture your largest subjects within the range of your copystand) will be fine (as long as it will AF on the Nikon bodies that don't have their own AF motors.)
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Old Jul 3, 2012, 9:00 PM   #9
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Default Thank you!!!

I am sincerely grateful for your advice. It is really helpful for me and I will let you know how it all goes soon (although it may actually take me a while to figure out how all the new equipment works--Ive been taking slides of my work with the same 35mm Nikon for the last 15 years, so this is all new to me).

All best!
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Old Jul 4, 2012, 6:12 AM   #10
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What lens have you been using with your Nikon?
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