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03-14-2009, 01:23 PM   #1
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Lens for capturing Artwork

I make paintings (acrylic on canvas) and many a time take their pics for portfolio/blogs. Any suggestions on what lenses would be good to capture them effectively?
You may check out some of my paintings at my blog to get an idea of what I would like captured with my K20D.

03-14-2009, 03:18 PM   #2
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Good stuff, I really like that you're not limited to a single style or medium.

I'd suggest maybe a Pentax-F 50mm f1.7, or if you don't mind manual stuff and/or the 50 isn't wide enough, perhaps an M-28mm f3.5.

Both of those lenses are cheap and very sharp with flat focus fields.

Regards,
Mike
QuoteOriginally posted by mccarvindh Quote
I make paintings (acrylic on canvas) and many a time take their pics for portfolio/blogs. Any suggestions on what lenses would be good to capture them effectively?
You may check out some of my paintings at my blog to get an idea of what I would like captured with my K20D.
03-14-2009, 03:31 PM   #3
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I have used my pentax M50mm 1.7 to take some pics of my fathers paintings and it seems to do an adequate job.

Pat
03-14-2009, 03:36 PM   #4
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Thank you for your feedback on my work and the lens suggestions.

03-14-2009, 03:38 PM   #5
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Thank you for your prompt response!
03-14-2009, 04:10 PM - 1 Like   #6
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I'll put in another vote for the M50/1.7 as a good general-purpose lens for art photography. But I'll also mention some things to keep in mind in case you need to consider other options:

Most important consideration is focal length. You need to figure out what size you'll be shooting and how much working room you'll have to shoot, then from there work out (by trial and error using a zoom, perhaps - I don't know the math to work it out directly) what focal length will allow you to fill the frame. You want to more or less fill the frame with your painting, but you don't want to be so close that you're likely to get noticeable wide-angle distortions on the borders. At the sizes I saw on your site (eg, 11x16"), a 50mm lens will let you shoot from a distance of several feet, which should be fine. I like to shoot artwork outdoors in the shade as I find that's the easiest way to get really nice even flat lighting with good color. The "professional" method is to use to floodlights - one on either side of the paintings, pointed toward the center so the light strikes at a 45 degree angle. But when I try this, I often still get reflections off heavy brushstrokes. Plus I have only cheap tungsten or comapct fluorescent bulbs that, even after doing a manual white balance, still don't reproduce color quite as accurately as daylight.

The other important considerations for a lens are how sharp it is and how flat the focus field is, although in practice, that's not as big a deal as it might be, because by the time you stop down to f/8 or f/11 or so (which is probably what you want), almost all lenses are pretty sharp, and DOF is enough to cover any curvature in the focus field. If you want the ultimate in sharpness and flatness of focus field, look for a 50/2.8 macro lens, but that's probably more than you need to spend. A $40 M50/1.7 does the job fine. And MF is what you'll be wanting, anyhow, to get the focus as accurate as possible.

Some other tips: shoot on a tripod with two second timer, spend as long as necessary to line up the shot as perfectly square as you can (so the edges of the canvas are perfectly horizontal and vertical in the viewfinder), use a gray card to set exposure and white balance, and shoot RAW.

And I too compliment you on your artwork!
03-14-2009, 04:29 PM - 1 Like   #7
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I have an inexpensive suggestion: a bellows, and a flat-field enlarger lens. Last year on eBay, used K-mount and M42-mount bellows each cost me US$40 (including shipping), and various M39- and M42-mount lenses (50, 75, 90, 105, 140 mm, and more) cost me US$10-20 each. For copying flat art, you'd choose a lens appropriate to the space you have to work in - that 105mm needs to be about 15 feet from a 18x24 inch canvas (I just measured!) and you'd need the proper (cheap!) mount adapters.

Such lenses are usually f/3.5-4 (my 50 is a 2.8) and stop down to f/22-32. For shooting your (very nice!) art, a 50 and 75 or 90 might be best. The makers of the lenses I got include KMZ (Russian), Vivitar, Wollensak. All the enlarger lenses I've ever used have been crystal-sharp.

Hang the target art parallel (or almost) to the sensor plane of the camera on tripod; illuminate appropriately (I'd avoid flash); stop down the lens to f/8-11 or so; set camera Drive Mode to 2-second delay; and SHAZAM! A perfect copy!

Of course, an even cheaper solution would be to use a standard 50mm lens on the camera, stopped down to f/11, and the picture shot with WIDE MARGINS so you can crop the edges away from the sweet spot. But with the bellows, you can also do EXTREMELY close macro shots, if desired. I really like the control and versatility of bellows and tripod, and I'm in no hurry.
03-14-2009, 06:07 PM   #8
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Thank you Marc and Rio for your detailed response. I am looking up bellows and other gear!

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