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02-21-2017, 06:35 AM   #1
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Help selecting the perfect lens for copying artwork with a K-1

I'm going to be copying a lot of artwork for both documentation and future prints. I've settled on the K-1 as the best option for me to do this. Now I need some advice on the best lens (or lenses) for photographing artwork. Here are some of my considerations:

1. Sharpness (edge to edge), contrast, and color are very important. Sharpness probably being the most important.
2. Low distortion
3. The artwork will be shot indoors with studio lighting on a tripod.
4. The artwork size can range from a 4'x8' to 8"x11". I have some room in the studio to back up, but fear anything over 85mm would be too much to get the whole work in view. Maybe I need two lenses? One for smaller works and one for the larger?
5. Does the lens need to be a true Macro lens? Yes...to minimize distortion? No because the artwork won't be reproduced 1:1? Not sure on this one.

I've considered the:

FA *85mm
FA 77mm F1.8 Limited
D FA 50mm F2.8 Macro
DA* 55mm F1.4 SDM
DA 50mm F1.8
FA 50mm F1.7
FA 50mm F1.4
M 50mm F1.7

What should I eliminate? What did I miss? What should I choose to take full advantage of the K-1?

Please advise.

02-21-2017, 07:43 AM - 1 Like   #2
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I'm going to suggest it must be a macro in the 50--100mm range.

You want a flat field lens, ie absolutely no distortion, and this range is the only area you are going to find such. You can get much more expensive macros in the 180-200 range, but that's overkill and your distance needed for larger paintings starts to get cumbersome.

My personal favorite macro is the Sigma 70mm.

You can also find a lot of ideas and suggestions in stamp collector's websites, their photography needs are similar.

Lastly, one item you didn't list was lens mounted ring lights, I think you'd really need those due to the perpendicular angle requirements of artwork shooting. It's tough to fill in all the shadows with external lighting.
02-21-2017, 07:47 AM - 1 Like   #3
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I've owned and tested most of the lenses that you list.

D FA 50mm F2.8 Macro is the sharpest of all that you list. Also, being a macro I would think would be a big advantage when photographing smaller artwork. It's the one I'd use.
02-21-2017, 08:23 AM - 1 Like   #4
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For working distance on the larger pieces the 50 is your best bet. 70 or even a 100mm might work on the small stuff but you wouldnt want the camera back 20 yards/meters for the big ones.

02-21-2017, 08:23 AM - 1 Like   #5
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Hi,

You can also consider the Pentax 35mm 2.8 macro, supposedly amongst the best macros Pentax ever produced.

Another interesting thought, is to try an enlarging lens. These are known for their flat field properties. They don't come with a focus-ring, but if the artwork and the camera are fixed, it may not be a problem. Most of the enlarging lens come with a M39 thread and should be mountable on the K1 using M39->m42 adapter.

All the best.
02-21-2017, 08:52 AM - 1 Like   #6
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I use a Vivitar Series 1 105mm macro lens for slide copies and I think it would be an excellent choice for your needs. I saw one in the For Sale section here that looks like a pretty good deal.
02-21-2017, 08:59 AM - 1 Like   #7
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I'd go with the D FA 50mm F2.8 Macro. The required working distance will be roughly = FL*(1 + 8' / 35.9mm) = FL*(1+2438.4mm/35.9mm). For FL = 50 mm, that's roughly 3446 mm = 11.3 feet give or take a bit.

Note that the shorter the focal length, the wider the angle, and the more challenges you'll have lighting the art without reflections off the surface especially if the surface has strong textures (e.g., heavy oil or acrylic). With a wide-angle lens, the lights need to be far off to the sides.
02-21-2017, 09:00 AM - 1 Like   #8
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D-FA 50 F2.8 macro. Even across frame, which is key - it's what I use. The FF is sometimes a little long for large floor photographed work, and I have to stand the tripod on blocks. I've recently bought the FA 35 f2 and will compare this with time. Photographing on wall mounted work, is problematic as the hanging system of the work being copied is never perfectly vertical, thus I only copy horizontal pieces.

X-rite colour checker passport too, if you don't already have one. I find it helps, but is not foolproof - full colour management is absolutely crucial...

Good luck

02-21-2017, 09:29 AM   #9
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100mm macro hands down. Or the 50mm macro.
02-21-2017, 10:38 AM - 1 Like   #10
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As I noted in the PM, 50mm and 100mm macro lenses. Simple, easily available and they work.

You will need good color managed lighting and workflow.

Also look up reverse polarization for the lights to remove glare and reflections.
02-21-2017, 10:50 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by bobbotron Quote
100mm macro hands down. Or the 50mm macro.
bobbotron, I looked at the 100mm macro. How do you handle the distance required from the camera to the larger works or even the medium 4'x3' works? It would seem to me to be unworkable unless you have a very large indoor setting. Your thoughts?

---------- Post added 02-21-17 at 11:51 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
I'd go with the D FA 50mm F2.8 Macro. The required working distance will be roughly = FL*(1 + 8' / 35.9mm) = FL*(1+2438.4mm/35.9mm). For FL = 50 mm, that's roughly 3446 mm = 11.3 feet give or take a bit.

Note that the shorter the focal length, the wider the angle, and the more challenges you'll have lighting the art without reflections off the surface especially if the surface has strong textures (e.g., heavy oil or acrylic). With a wide-angle lens, the lights need to be far off to the sides.
My math isn't that good. How much distance would you need for a 77mm and a 100mm?
02-21-2017, 11:02 AM - 1 Like   #12
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Another vote for the D FA 50mm F2.8 Macro without any doubt.
02-21-2017, 11:05 AM - 6 Likes   #13
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I’ve shot a lot of art work. Here are some things to keep in mind for such shooting. If you’ve done this before, most of this may be second nature, but I learned a lot of it the hard way.

Since you are in a studio, shooting stationary objects, you do not need to worry about short exposure times. Hence, you can stop down whatever lens you use to its optimal sharpness, probably somewhere around f8 or f11. So, you don’t need any particularly fast lenses. Distortion and flatness of the focus field is most important. In this regard, I do not like my DA f1.8 50mm - at least for my copy, when the center is in focus, the corners are not, at least up to f5.6 or so. Macro lenses probably offer the best performance here.

Again, since exposure length does not matter, use the lowest ISO your camera has for least image noise. Make sure you have a good solid tripod, and use a cable release or the 2-second mirror lockup mode.

Make sure you have the white balance and exposure set properly! This saves a lot of time in post-processing. In fact, if you’ve got it right, you may not need any PP at all.

Set a custom white balance, and check it every shooting session. Depending on your lights (i.e. fluorescents), they may need some warm up time during which both the amount of light and color temperature may vary.

Get a color checker card, and include it in every picture. If you got the WB wrong, this will help you fix it.

Depending on your customer, you probably want to put some kind of scale indicator in each shot as well. I combined my ruler and color checker card.

Put the brightest highlights close to the right edge on your histogram. Check the color histograms - just looking at the overall histogram can fool you. This gives you maximum dynamic range.

Depending on what kind of art you are shooting, you may be bothered by reflection glints from oil bumps and ridges. You may want to experiment with polarizers on your lights and lens. If your objects have cover glass, you may be bothered by reflections of your camera set up! Keep the illumination off the camera/tripod as much as possible - use baffles on the lights as necessary to keep your camera in the shadows. In the worst case (and I’ve had to do this), you may need a big (half the size of your largest such object) black cloth in front of your camera with a hole in the middle just big enough to let the lens peek through.

For your larger objects, uniformity of lighting can be a problem. You want lights on both sides of your objects, with probably some vertical spread as well for larger objects.

The biggest PITA is getting your camera exactly square and centered with respect to your objects. You want the art work as flat as possible in the plane orthogonal to the line of sight from the camera, and you want the camera dead center wrt to the center of the painting. Otherwise, you will get misshapen images (your art works are probably mostly rectangular in shape (?)). Use a tape measure or ruler to determine the height of the picture center, and set your camera lens to the same height (assuming your picture is flat against a wall!).

If you are shooting more than a few objects, it’s worth spending a modest amount of time figuring out how you are going to hang them. I came up with a vertical mounting system attached to a wall in my “studio” (a room adjacent to the art works) that allowed me to hang the paintings at an appropriate height for their size, so I didn’t have to move my camera up and down more than an inch or two. I would recommend against using an easel, unless it holds your art works exactly vertical and the height of the support can be varied easily. Otherwise, squaring up the camera wrt to the art work will have to be done for every object.

Are any of your objects “3D” works? If so, you might want to come up with a rotatable support, since you will probably want to shoot them from several equi-spaced angles. If these are ceramics (typical), you will definitely need polarized lights and filter to get rid of specular highlights!!


Oops - make that black shading cloth in front of you camera TWICE as big as your largest object.

Last edited by AstroDave; 02-23-2017 at 10:22 AM. Reason: correct an error
02-21-2017, 12:44 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by AstroDave Quote
Iíve shot a lot of art work. Here are some things to keep in mind for such shooting. If youíve done this before, most of this may be second nature, but I learned a lot of it the hard way.

Since you are in a studio, shooting stationary objects, you do not need to worry about short exposure times. Hence, you can stop down whatever lens you use to its optimal sharpness, probably somewhere around f8 or f11. So, you donít need any particularly fast lenses. Distortion and flatness of the focus field is most important. In this regard, I do not like my DA f1.8 50mm - at least for my copy, when the center is in focus, the corners are not, at least up to f5.6 or so. Macro lenses probably offer the best performance here.

Again, since exposure length does not matter, use the lowest ISO your camera has for least image noise. Make sure you have a good solid tripod, and use a cable release or the 2-second mirror lockup mode.

Make sure you have the white balance and exposure set properly! This saves a lot of time in post-processing. In fact, if youíve got it right, you may not need any PP at all.

Set a custom white balance, and check it every shooting session. Depending on your lights (i.e. fluorescents), they may need some warm up time during which both the amount of light and color temperature may vary.

Get a color checker card, and include it in every picture. If you got the WB wrong, this will help you fix it.

Depending on your customer, you probably want to put some kind of scale indicator in each shot as well. I combined my ruler and color checker card.

Put the brightest highlights close to the right edge on your histogram. Check the color histograms - just looking at the overall histogram can fool you. This gives you maximum dynamic range.

Depending on what kind of art you are shooting, you may be bothered by reflection glints from oil bumps and ridges. You may want to experiment with polarizers on your lights and lens. If your objects have cover glass, you may be bothered by reflections of your camera set up! Keep the illumination off the camera/tripod as much as possible - use baffles on the lights as necessary to keep your camera in the shadows. In the worst case (and Iíve had to do this), you may need a big (half the size of your largest such object) black cloth in front of your camera with a hole in the middle just big enough to let the lens peek through.

For your larger objects, uniformity of lighting can be a problem. You want lights on both sides of your objects, with probably some vertical spread as well for larger objects.

The biggest PITA is getting your camera exactly square and centered with respect to your objects. You want the art work as flat as possible in the plane orthogonal to the line of sight from the camera, and you want the camera dead center wrt to the center of the painting. Otherwise, you will get misshapen images (your art works are probably mostly rectangular in shape (?)). Use a tape measure or ruler to determine the height of the picture center, and set your camera lens to the same height (assuming your picture is flat against a wall!).

If you are shooting more than a few objects, itís worth spending a modest amount of time figuring out how you are going to hang them. I came up with a vertical mounting system attached to a wall in my ďstudioĒ (a room adjacent to the art works) that allowed me to hang the paintings at an appropriate height for their size, so I didnít have to move my camera up and down more than an inch or two. I would recommend against using an easel, unless it holds your art works exactly vertical and the height of the support can be varied easily. Otherwise, squaring up the camera wrt to the art work will have to be done for every object.

Are any of your objects ď3DĒ works? If so, you might want to come up with a rotatable support, since you will probably want to shoot them from several equi-spaced angles. If these are ceramics (typical), you will definitely need polarized lights and filter to get rid of specular highlights!!
Thank you AstroDave and everyone else that has contributed. This forum and your expertise is exactly why Pentax rules.
02-21-2017, 01:06 PM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by dotp Quote
bobbotron, I looked at the 100mm macro. How do you handle the distance required from the camera to the larger works or even the medium 4'x3' works? It would seem to me to be unworkable unless you have a very large indoor setting. Your thoughts?

---------- Post added 02-21-17 at 11:51 AM ----------



My math isn't that good. How much distance would you need for a 77mm and a 100mm?
Roughy 17.4 and 22.6 feet, respectively. And I say roughly because lenses are never exactly at their design focal length.
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