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09-15-2018, 01:18 PM   #1
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Best Macro for Photographing Paintings

Hi everyone,

I'm looking to buy my dad a present of a new Pentax lens that he can use to digitize artworks. I understand that macro lenses are considered to be the best for this because they are flat field and have minimal distortion. I've done a bit of art digitizing myself on my Nikon with the Nikon Micro Nikkor 60 for a friend's exhibit with nice results.

My question is which macro between the current DFA 100/2.8 WR, DFA 50/2.8 Macro, or the DA 35/2.8 Macro? Price wise they're all in the same range, seems like all three are on sale at B&H. So far, I'm leaning towards the DFA 100/2.8 but I have a few things I'm not sure about. Maybe some of you know?

* Crop factor / shooting distance - Is the 100mm long for the APS-C crop factor? I forget which exact camera my dad has, but I think it's a K20D or K200D. The works he'll be digitizing are in the 20x20 inch range. I'm having a hard time visualizing what the shooting distance would be to fit a work like that in one shot on 100mm APS-C (or 50mm or 35mm).

* Distortion / Sharpness - Among the macro choices, would the 100/2.8 have the least distortion, be the most flat-field, and have the best sharpness, etc?

* Other applications - A side consideration is other uses of the lens. I think my dad could use the lens I get for other things, for example the original macro purpose, portraiture, landscapes. It seems for actual macro work, 100mm is a better choice because you can shoot from a little further away (especially for small moving subjects)? And reports say DFA 100 2.8 macro is a strong portrait performer. What situations do the DFA 50/2.8 Macro and the DA 35/2.8 Macro shine at?

09-15-2018, 02:10 PM   #2
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Based on what your wrote and the intended usage, yes, the DFA 100mm/2.8 makes the most sense and is best suited for your intended purpose.

The DA 35/2.8 is a better street photography lens that double as a macro in a pinch. It's also a good choice if you don't have the space to back up for larger art.
The DFA 50/2.8 would be the FF equivalent of the DA 35/2.8 with APS-C.
09-15-2018, 02:23 PM - 1 Like   #3
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The 100/2.8 is a wonderful lens for all the reasons you give.

But the 100 is a little long for APS-C for digitizing art works. For shots of landscape-oriented painting, for example, the camera will need to be a little more than four times the width of the painting away. Thus, you'll need to back up 4 meters to take a shot of a 1 meter wide artwork. If all the art is pretty small (or your dad has enough room for longer shooting distances), then go with 100.

The 35 macro has a different problem for digitizing art. The width of the view of the lens makes it a little harder to illuminate the art without any reflections. Any lights/flash need to be further to the sides, bottom, or top to avoid hotspots. But moving the lights makes the lighting less uniform because the far-side of the art is so much further than the near-side to the light source.
09-15-2018, 02:41 PM   #4
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I notice that you seem to be looking only at lenses currently available new, not used.. correct?

09-15-2018, 03:15 PM   #5
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There is also the Venus Laowa 60mm f2.8 Ultra-macro lens (Venus Optics Laowa 60mm f/2.8 2X Ultra-Macro Lens VEN6028P B&H) for $399, which is a few bucks more than the 100mm Macro
09-15-2018, 03:24 PM   #6
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I just did a quick check with my 105mm Kiron f2.8 macro on my K10D. To fit a 20 inch long subject in the frame you need to be around 8 feet from the subject. With my 50mm, about 4 feet. The piece is square you'd have to be back around 6 ft with the 50mm. So probably around 12 feet with the 105mm.

Depends on how much working space you have. I suppose you could always stitch images together in cramped quarters.
09-15-2018, 03:51 PM   #7
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On a crop camera I would use the 35. No question.
100 is way too long. Great for copying slides though

Hand held and in uncontrolled light, the FA31 did a pretty good job in the Uffizi. With the DFA100WR it would have impossible to frame this.
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Last edited by Sandy Hancock; 09-15-2018 at 07:30 PM. Reason: Other shots were with the DA21!
09-15-2018, 07:15 PM   #8
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For this type of work I use the 100 macro, but for big format paintings the narrow angle of view makes the shooting distance too large, sometimes being impossible to fit the object on the picture. In these cases I opt for the 40 limited. The resolution is high and uniform across the image. Distortion and CAs are minimal, and stopping down two or three steps should avoid any field curvature problem (I have to say I haven't seen any even at 2.8). The results are on par with the 100 macro. All this is for APS-C format, which I use exclusively.


Last edited by CarlosU; 09-15-2018 at 07:23 PM.
09-15-2018, 09:22 PM   #9
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I reckon a good approach for photographing art work is to shoot with a long lens, and shoot 4 or 6 overlapping shots and stitch the result.
This gives a number of advantages.
First the long lens and overlapping shots reduces distortion, second a decent stitcher will correct any residual distortion, and third you'll end up with a very high resolution image that can be readily printed at large scale.
I've done this a number of times and the results have been excellent. I've used the DFA 150-450 and hugin as the stitcher.

Cheers,
Terry
09-15-2018, 10:34 PM   #10
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I agree with the option proposed in the last post. It gives optimal quality for printing, but involves some PP.
Such a long zoom would not work if the original is huge, and the room not so big.

In reality any decent prime would work fine, on tripod and used at its sweet spot.
On location the main problem is lighting.
If the artwork has a glass, and the photos have to be taken with available light, the best option is a shift lens. A 28mm would work on crop. On FF a 35mm could be sufficient.
If you can have the artwork at home there would be no obstacles and the lights could be arranged with some ingenuity using what you have at hand.

09-16-2018, 03:00 AM - 1 Like   #11
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to be honest I would even consider the Sigma EX 50mm f1.4 or the Sigma 35mm 1.4 - the latter is sensational and ideal for the proposed task
09-16-2018, 06:37 AM - 1 Like   #12
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I would do the Goldilocks thing and get the DFA 50/2.8 Macro. Not too long, not too short, just right.
09-16-2018, 07:05 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dubesor Quote
* Crop factor / shooting distance - Is the 100mm long for the APS-C crop factor? I forget which exact camera my dad has, but I think it's a K20D or K200D. The works he'll be digitizing are in the 20x20 inch range. I'm having a hard time visualizing what the shooting distance would be to fit a work like that in one shot on 100mm APS-C (or 50mm or 35mm).
I have the 50 & 100 and an aps-c camera. For this sized object, I'd pick the 50mm for a working distance of a bit over 5 feet, but it depends on the space you have available. The 35mm would probably be a bit more convenient distance-wise. I'd only plan on stitching if there's a specific need for higher resolution outputs.

QuoteOriginally posted by Dubesor Quote
* Distortion / Sharpness - Among the macro choices, would the 100/2.8 have the least distortion, be the most flat-field, and have the best sharpness, etc?
Between the 100 and 50, I'd pick the 50 but I'd also say they're both excellent to the point it's not much of a choice. The biggest flaw of the 100 is purple fringing on high contrast edges wide-open, which won't be a problem for reproduction work.

As mentioned above though, there are plenty of 'non-macro' lenses that could do the job very well.

QuoteOriginally posted by Dubesor Quote
* Other applications - A side consideration is other uses of the lens. I think my dad could use the lens I get for other things, for example the original macro purpose, portraiture, landscapes. It seems for actual macro work, 100mm is a better choice because you can shoot from a little further away (especially for small moving subjects)? And reports say DFA 100 2.8 macro is a strong portrait performer. What situations do the DFA 50/2.8 Macro and the DA 35/2.8 Macro shine at?
Absolutely right about the minimum focusing distance, the 50mm is close enough at 1:1 that it gets tough to position lights or reflectors, the 35mm would be even worse. I usually opt for the 100mm if I know I'm going to be working at higher magnifications, but the 50mm makes a great 'walk-around' for photographing non-moving objects that aren't too tiny. It would depend on what else he has in his bag, how you prioritize the secondary purposes, and what subjects he's likely to aim at.
09-16-2018, 10:16 AM   #14
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A 100mm on a crop body might be a little long (150mm FOV equivalent) for portraiture).
09-16-2018, 02:12 PM   #15
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I went for Sigma 35mm Art that is used only or mostly for photographing the paintings... It is used on APS-C camera.
It is not a macro lens but it serves the purpose very well.
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