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Best SRL and Lens to photograph oil paintings?

Posted 15/09/2017 - 21:52 Link

I manage an online art gallery and I would like to know which is the best DSLR pentax camera to photograph oil paintings? Porbably I need a high resolution camera to capture as much detail as possible? Currentply I'm using a Pentax k20 kamera with the kit lens but I'm not very happy with the result. Sometimes the camera can't render the full range of colors. Usually I take photos of abstract paintings..a lot of colors there and I don't need chromatic aberration.

I would like a camera that can capture sharp images with that deep color effect which I think it's the best option for artworks.

Can anyone suggest me a DSLR camera and lens? Or probably I only need better lens? Thank you!
Edited by art-gallery: 15/09/2017 - 21:53
Posted 15/09/2017 - 22:22 Link
I would have thought that any current APS-C sized body would do if used with a good prime lens, say 50mm f1.4. I have been impressed by the sharpness and detail shown by the cheaper 50mm f1.8 lens which you could consider if nearer your budget. Such a lens would give minimal distortion, and use a good tripod as well. As your images will be online rather than large prints I don't think the K1 would be justified unless you want to do other things as well. Also if you photograph in RAW you have more flexibility in adjusting the colour in post processing including getting the colour temperature right if the lighting is giving a problem.
Posted 15/09/2017 - 22:46 - Helpful Comment Link
Hi and welcome to PU. Just wondering how are you processing the photographs? Are you relying on the camera jpegs or are you shooting raw and processing those raw files in Phtotoshop or Lightroom or something? If the in-camera jpegs there are various settings to adjust brightness, contrast, sharpening and so on so maybe your not using the most suitable. Lightroom, for instance, can adjust out those chromatic aberrations. Also which lens are you using as some are more prone to those than others? The camera itself has a setting to remove distortions with Pentax lenses providing the lens pre-dates the camera as obviously, the camera wouldn't know about more recent lenses though updating the camera to the most recent firmware may make it aware of some newer ones up to the date of the firmware which was April 2010.
I'm sure the K20 should be able to do what you want but without knowing your experience with cameras, software and you viewing set-up and lens(es) you have it is quite hard to make any definitive recommendation. Maybe it's just your monitor not showing your photographs to their best?
Then there is the technique in taking them. Just using the onboard camera flash would never be ideal, probably causing washed out images and unwanted highlight reflections.

So can you expand on your set up, how you take them, exactly what with , how you process them, how you view them and maybe we can start to help sort it out! I wouldn't suggest that the K20 isn't capable of achieving what you want to do and changing that alone might not make a scrap of difference if it's a technique issue. I suspect that's not the answer you were expecting. Have you read any books or web pages suggesting how best to take photos of paintings?

Some web pages on the subject to help eliminate photographic errors before looking to replace your K20:
(Sorry if those are like teaching you to suck eggs but I've no idea of your photographic expertise so please don't be offended if that's all second nature to you!)
John K
Edited by JAK: 15/09/2017 - 22:52
Posted 16/09/2017 - 07:12 Link
Ok first things first, your photographs need to be correctly exposed. If they are too dark or too light colours never look correct. You can fix this to a degree in post processing, particularly if shooting RAW.
You need an understanding of colour gamut and colour spaces - try this -
Once the photos are correctly exposed, then you need to be shooting and post processing in RAW. If you have shot in jpeg then you will probably be in sRGB (the most limited of the 3 normal colour space options) and some of the colours you want to capture may be "out of gamut" and hence lost for good. You also only have 8 bits of colour info per channel in jpeg, RAW gives you 12 (I think..) for the K20.
Also for colour-critical work (which it sounds like you are doing) you need a fully colour managed workflow, using custom profiles for your camera, monitor and any printers. Obviously the light you shoot the paintings in also needs to be controlled, using daylight bulbs or flash.
Finally if your photos are correctly exposed and you are shooting and post processing in RAW, and you still don't have the colours you want, then it is likely that the camera is capturing the colours that you need - it may be that your monitor is not able to display them. Most cheaper monitors can only display the narrower sRGB colour gamut. If the "colours that are not displayed correctly" are outside your monitor's colour gamut, then you will never see them on that monitor.
However looking on the bright side, if you send the digital file to a wide gamut printer, all may be well!
Hope this helps, let me know if you need more.

K3ii, DA16-85, DA35mm Limited, FA77mm Limited, 55mm f1.8 K, 135mm f3.5 M, DA300, DA 1.4 HD TC,
DA16-45, Sigma 15mm f2.8. Cosina 100mm f3.5 macro
Posted 16/09/2017 - 09:03 Link
I think the main issue here is going to be lens distortion distorting the image particularly with the kit lens.

Best option would be a prime lens and depending on whether your photographing them on a wall or the floor or desk I would opt for the plastic fantastic 35mm very little distortion and great colour rendering.

The K20 will be fine for this kind of work as it doesnt require fast processing and i would be shooting artwork at f8 and on a tripod to improve sharpness.

If shooting artwork on the wall then this will be difficult as i imagine the gallery will have lights above work which casts shadows on the work.
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Posted 16/09/2017 - 15:21 Link
For photographing a single, flat, plane - a painting - I'd have thought a macro lens would be ideal?
Posted 16/09/2017 - 15:50 Link
A macro lens would be ideal and it would give very sharp results, but you don't really need to pay so much for macro focussing which isn't needed. The Pentax-A 50mm f/1.7 at about 40 would be ideal.

Don't go for the f/1.4 the field curvature is a lot worse than the f/1.7.

Half Man... Half Pentax ... Half Cucumber

Pentax K-1 + K-5 and some other stuff

Posted 16/09/2017 - 16:49 Link
Lighting the oil painting will also be critical. Apart from avoiding obvious things like reflected flare, the colour temperature of the lighting must be repeatable. I know one professional university photographer who has given up using any kind of electronic flash because he found that the illumination varied perceptibly from one exposure to the next. However, to guarantee consistency with, say, halogen filament lighting one would need to have a very constant voltage feed to the bulbs.
Does anyone have experience of using LED lighting? I am not sure if one gets a continuous colour spectrum (as in sunlight) or is it an interrupted spectrum as in some fluorescent lamps?
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Posted 16/09/2017 - 23:52 Link
art-gallery wrote:

I manage an online art gallery

Could you add a link to your gallery on your profile page so we can see what, if any, problems you might be encountering. Seeing actual photos would be better than guessing the problems!

Alternatively, if you have any problem photos not on the gallery, upload them to the thread here for said reason.
John K
Edited by JAK: 16/09/2017 - 23:54
Posted 17/09/2017 - 12:35 Link
I would be tempted wit the kp if you don't want to go full frame but if you do the it's the k1
Macro is ths best way with lenses if you are doing that as finer detailed photos which then counts out the k1 as there is no deal ff macro lens yet

But if the gallery is paying for it to be used for gallery records I would be tempted with the 645z I have been told that if you have picked up and used any of the k series cameras you will get to grips wit the z straight away but at the end off the day it is your choice

May I ask where you are from
Posted 17/09/2017 - 13:37 Link
stu62 wrote:

Macro is ths best way with lenses if you are doing that as finer detailed photos which then counts out the k1 as there is no deal ff macro lens yet

Of course there are FF macro lenses even AF ones such as the .....

One of the sharpest lenses you can buy, but a pig to manual focus at normal distances and AF wouldn't be good enough for paintings.

The 'A' series version is also excellent, but can suffer from PF at times.

Normal lenses are OK at 0.45M and beyond plus f/1.7 will be brighter in the viewfinder.

A focusing rail would be a big advantage together with a Eye-Fi Card for test shots.

Half Man... Half Pentax ... Half Cucumber

Pentax K-1 + K-5 and some other stuff

Edited by Algernon: 17/09/2017 - 13:39
Posted 17/09/2017 - 19:32 Link
stu62 wrote:
I would be tempted wit the kp if you don't want to go full frame

The OP may wish to know why you feel the K20 isn't capable of this type of shot?
John K
Edited by JAK: 17/09/2017 - 19:49
Posted 17/09/2017 - 21:05 Link
JAK wrote:
stu62 wrote:
I would be tempted wit the kp if you don't want to go full frame

The OP may wish to know why you feel the K20 isn't capable of this type of shot?

there seems to be less noise at higher iso so you should be able to use it with out an flash

it was intresting to see what the kp could do in low light when i went on the kp tutorial at srs even though its the k1 that is on the shopping list for me
Posted 17/09/2017 - 22:46 Link
He wouldn't want to be using a high ISO to photograph the paintings, there's no need as they're not fast moving subjects (even if paintings are of F1 cars!) A high ISO will lead to increased noise even if not as much as a K20 might. Just mount the painting firmly, also the camera, set it on a low ISO. Set the aperture around f8-f11 with an appropriate shutter speed. Natural daylight would be the best light source reflected if necessary to keep the lighting balanced.
If daylight not possible, a couple of flash guns set at approx 45degrees to avoid reflections.
John K
Edited by JAK: 17/09/2017 - 22:48
Posted 18/09/2017 - 20:50 Link
I think any of the recent Pentax DSLR's would be ideal, obviously the higher the resolution the better within reason. I would probably recommend any of the K-3 variants, or a KP. I am basing this on an assumption that a K-1 would be overkill, I don't think you would need as much resolution as the K-1 provides.

I think what's more important than the camera is the right lens and the right camera support, i.e. tripod. For photographing paintings you will need even, natural light, not flash and I would guess that a tripod will be essential to ensure no camera shake. For lens I would suggest a macro, the Pentax DA 100WR is a good option. This lens has good (fairly neutral) colour rendering and virtually nil distortion. Any good tripod will do the job, I would err on the side of stability over weight as you probably won't be lugging it around everywhere. I have a Redsnapper which is a bit heavy, but very stable and reliable. I would suggest fitting a decent ball head to the tripod.

If you can't stretch to a macro lens, there are already many good recommendations above for standard primes. I will add the plastic fantastic DA50 f1.8 is excellent, but also the Pentax-A 50mm F1.7 would be great too, even though it's not autofocus. Manual focus shouldn't be an issue when taking shots of static subjects.

Hope this is useful.


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Edited by davidstorm: 18/09/2017 - 20:51

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