Best camera + lens for archiving photos in a light box?
December 23, 2017 9:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to archive all my families photo albums. I explored using a scanner but have decided for a few reasons that taking photos is best for me, using a tripod and a lightbox. That said, what is a good camera and lens to use for this for this project?

Bonus points:
- A remote shutter
- under $500 for body and lens
posted by cgs to Technology (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What size are the prints? For regular size a scanner may do a better job & be cheaper.

For a light box reflections are going to be your nemesis.

For a better quality picture you will want a DSLR or mirrorless, which bumps into your $500 limit with lens. Probably want a macro lens for minimal distortion, but not sure of a focal length.
posted by TheAdamist at 12:01 PM on December 23, 2017

A second hand DLSR/mirrorless will do just as good a job, just make sure you specify 'must be able to use remote' but I think any of those would have this capability.

Make sure you shoot in RAW, this will give you the ability to make more adjustments to the images than jpeg images. This will be helpful in, for example, adjusting faded colours.
posted by GeeEmm at 12:47 PM on December 23, 2017

Response by poster: yeah, I'm already aware of the reflections issue, and will just have to figure it out as best I can (on top of that, the pages of the albums are laminated, so extra reflective). Scanning is just too slow for this project.
posted by cgs at 1:07 PM on December 23, 2017

Response by poster: should i get the Sony a5100? and should i go macro or 50mm?
posted by cgs at 1:18 PM on December 23, 2017

Any decent camera will do the job. It’s all about lighting and technique.

But I’ll offer an outside the box suggestion. If you already have a smartphone, download the Google PhotoScan app and give it a try. If you have a decent camera in your phone, you might be surprised at how quick it is and how good the quality is. It’s worth a try before you drop any cash and it’s definitely way faster than scanning or setting up lights and a tripod. It uses your phone’s light and merges multiple images to eliminate glare.
posted by The Deej at 1:23 PM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: wow, I'll definitely give that a shot first! Thank you, The Deej
posted by cgs at 1:28 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I texted the deej to comment as the photographer (he’s my dad) and yes, photo scan is amazing. If you have natural light then that works really well too. I scanned in 13x19 prints from my husband’s college days and I’ve scanned in watercolor art to sell prints. Play around with the toggle settings (some for anti glare etc) and you can adjust corners after of it screws the rectangle a bit.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:16 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

By the way, with PhotoScan it’s helpful to cut a couple L shapes out of cardboard and frame your photos with them so the app can clearly the see the photo edges. This is especially helpful for photos in an album where there are several per page.
posted by The Deej at 4:45 PM on December 23, 2017

Googling "how to use a lightbox" might uncover some good advice. Or "light tent."

Most of the pictures that accompany advertising show the camera about 24 inches from the subject. Getting close probably means distortion, even with a macro lens.

To cope with reflections, have the room as dark as possible except for the light box itself. Shoot with the lens peeking through a black curtain if you have to.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:27 AM on December 24, 2017

You want to be reasonably far from the page or print so that all parts of the print are equally far from the camera. This will result in the flattest reproduction. So a wider macro won’t be useful. But something like a 105 macro would be ideal, but expensive. You don’t need a macro, just a lens with a good reproduction ratio. I.e. a conventional lens that is macro-ish would be sufficient. You are shooting pages or prints, not coins.

For best image quality, use bright lighting, and the lowest ISO the camera will let you set. Typically this is 100, but it might be 50 or 200 depending on the camera.

Also, for best sharpness stop the lens down to f5.6 or 8.

Good support is important for this. Do the best you can to get a decent tripod.

Shooting in RAW is helpful
posted by thenormshow at 6:27 PM on December 26, 2017

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