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12-11-2014, 06:38 AM   #1
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Recommendations for a camera/lens combo to photograph circuit boards?

I originally posted this to the macro forum of DPReview, but got no replies, so I'm posting it again here...

My fiance is a hardware engineer, and is trying to convince his boss to get a DSLR with macro lens to take pictures of circuit boards and components on the circuit boards in order to troubleshoot problems. The requirements are these:


Important criteria:
Can achieve manual focus accurately.
Inexpensive-- the budget the boss gave was $350, though I imagine that is probably too low.
Can produce a decent picture of something like this in enough detail to tell whether all of the pins are soldered correctly.
Can work in indoor light without a tripod or a hotshoe flash (unless you all feel that is absolutely necessary to get decent results.)


Not-so-important criteria:
Superb image quality. He needs to diagnose problems, not make fine art.
Long battery life.
Build quality, as long as it's sturdy enough to survive a normal life.
Weather sealing.

What camera/lens combo would you all recommend? Obviously we are all big fans of Pentax here, but it doesn't necessarily have to be Pentax. Thanks!

12-11-2014, 06:49 AM   #2
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I'd look into a reverse-mounted lens setup. That sort of works like a microscope, and probably will provide the biggest magnification.
A decent tripod, subject platform and a macro focus rail for the tripod along with a couple LED panels is probably what I would do.

As for the camera, probably K5 IIs - no AA filter in front of the sensor.
12-11-2014, 06:52 AM   #3
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That would cost way more money than the boss is willing to budget for. Do you know of any less expensive options?
12-11-2014, 06:52 AM   #4
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$350 for the lens alone or for everything including tripod and camera?

---------- Post added 12-11-14 at 09:55 PM ----------

My suggestion: get a k10D, a manual 50mm f/4 (a mere 1:2 but should do the trick if you just want to see the solders), and a small tripod. I still reckon that this will cost you a little north of $350, and get one of those Chinese branded (Yongnuo) led ring flash. Those ring flashes have very low power output, usually unbalanced color cast but if "art" is not a primary concern, it will do.

12-11-2014, 07:00 AM - 1 Like   #5
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The reverse-mount lenses will not be expensive, that's manual M series most likely.
A used K20 or K10 is another option, it will save you a couple hundred bucks. LED panels are not expensive but I do think that budget's probably not quite big enough.

You're going to want a tripod, though you don't necessarily need a big one if you're doing this on the tabletop. The focus slide will be useful, and doesn't have to be expensive. Dot Line Adjustable Camera Platform (6.0") DL-0322 B&H
Super-close high magnification macros are nearly impossible handheld. The timer is your best ally.

The onboard flash can be used with a diffuser like the Gary Fong Puffer, or a homemade option.
LED panels aren't expensive either - Sunpak LED 30 Video Light VL-LED-30 B&H Photo Video
12-11-2014, 07:04 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by drypenn Quote
My suggestion: get a k10D, a manual 50mm f/4 (a mere 1:2 but should do the trick if you just want to see the solders), and a small tripod. I still reckon that this will cost you a little north of $350, and get one of those Chinese branded (Yongnuo) led ring flash. Those ring flashes have very low power output, usually unbalanced color cast but if "art" is not a primary concern, it will do.
Wow...you almost read my mind! I was just debating between a K10D or an *istD. I think the *istD can do TTL metering with flash, but I don't know if that works with the non-A lenses or not.
12-11-2014, 07:29 AM   #7
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I'd suggest a K20D, an excellent performer that's going for around $200 on eBay. For the lens, look into a Pentax-M 50mm Macro. They sell pretty cheap too.

You might also look into a ring LED light versus a flash. They sell for much less and provide constant light, so you can see what you are shooting in otherwise dim light.
12-11-2014, 07:35 AM   #8
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Use a copipod with a lens plate to match the filter ring diameter of your lens (49mm or 52mm) instead of a tripod.

K10D = $250 - maximum
M50/1.7 = $50 (that lens was designed for copy work - precisely what you are doing
Copipod = $50 (you'll need to find one)
Any light source will do, even a desk lamp - just adjust the white balance in camera.

Plan to use the highest jpeg quality and crop, or shoot RAW and crop the developed file.



Google Pentax Copipod Images

eBay is your source, or a Wanted post here.

12-11-2014, 07:47 AM   #9
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True enough about the light source - even a flexible LED table lamp from IKEA is super useful, and can be quickly repositioned as required.

A copipod, that's a good idea. Then you would just want an adjustable base to rotate the subject at different angles. Though if you want extreme magnification, the reverse-mounted lens is the best option.

Last edited by TER-OR; 12-11-2014 at 07:54 AM.
12-11-2014, 07:51 AM   #10
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Your post reminded me of having to take high detail shots in confined, dirty places with difficult lighting.

I think going with a DSLR is the wrong direction. I have found that a tough little point and shoot can easily accomplish your needs.

When shooting objects on a test bench (circuit board, optics, jewelry) and in tight spaces (automobile engine compartments, under dashes, etc), I have found an flip screen very useful.

You can always use portable lighting so a flash is not necessary. It is also nice to be able to do video as well. The weather proof spec really narrows the field.

The only camera (to my knowledge) that meets all your specs is the Olympus Tough TG850.

It is available at Amazon.com for US$179.00.

Amazon.com : Olympus Stylus TG-850 IHS 16 MP Digital Camera (Black) : Camera & Photo
12-11-2014, 08:04 AM   #11
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Why is manual focus important? Some point&shoots have macro modes that might yield enough magnification for that sample image, but I have yet to see a P&S with good manual focus.
12-11-2014, 08:26 AM   #12
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If you look around, you can probably find a Super Macro takumar 50mm f/4 for somewhere in the neighborhood of $100. It's a fantastically sharp lens, and in your scenario, the shorter focal length and single coating should not be an issue at all. Since it's an m42 lens, you can mate it to whatever cheap DSLR or mirrorless you can find with the appropriate adapter. A flash or at least a decent CFL continuous light source while not necessary will make your life a heck of a lot easier. You can get Cowboy Studio photo CFLs quite cheaply on the bay. I think it's easily doable for your budget with a setup like this:

Super Macro Takumar : $100
Used Panasonic GH1 Body :$150
m42 to m4/3 adapter :$15
CFLs with cheap lamp :$40

Total: $305
12-11-2014, 08:31 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hamiltom Quote
The weather proof spec really narrows the field.
Oh, I'm sorry, I meant that it wasn't important at all that it be weather sealed! Oops.

---------- Post added 12-11-14 at 10:32 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by DeadJohn Quote
Why is manual focus important? Some point&shoots have macro modes that might yield enough magnification for that sample image, but I have yet to see a P&S with good manual focus.
It's so that he can make sure that the camera focuses on the right part of the board.
12-11-2014, 08:41 AM   #14
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I'd also look at a P&S + little tripod + a couple clip on lights. It depends on the working conditions though, are these circuit boards in place or move able to a bench? Just how much detail do you need to be able to pull out to tell if the soldering is good? Would what's shown in your example be enough or does it need to be larger?

QuoteOriginally posted by DeadJohn Quote
Why is manual focus important? Some point&shoots have macro modes that might yield enough magnification for that sample image, but I have yet to see a P&S with good manual focus.
Manual focus is usually easier for closeups, set the focus, then move the camera until the important stuff is sharp. I haven't used anything modern, but my old canon a510's manual focus worked just fine. You had to set the distance by pushing buttons which is not as nice as a physical focus ring, but it did the job.
12-11-2014, 09:09 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Outis Quote
Oh, I'm sorry, I meant that it wasn't important at all that it be weather sealed! Oops.

---------- Post added 12-11-14 at 10:32 AM ----------



It's so that he can make sure that the camera focuses on the right part of the board.
If weather sealing is not an issue that changes everything.

I would find a K100d or K100d super and pair it with a Pentax M 100mm f/4 Macro. You should be able to source that combination for under $200. You can use rechargeable or lithium AA batteries and the quality will be excellent (you will pickup pollen grains on a surface). This is the setup many dentists used over the years.

The K100 is built like a tank.
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