Best DSLR / mirrorless for photographing artwork?

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Benjamin
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#1
Hello all

I'm a painter (canvases not walls) and want to start photographing my paintings instead of paying someone to do it (because it can't be that difficult and the savings I make doing it myself will quickly cover the cost of the equipment).

So what camera and lenses do people recommend?

Since all my photos will be taken in my studio on a tripod with lights etc, I don't need features aimed at working in the field. I'm just after the best quality highest res images. (For archiving my work as well as printing).

For these reasons, I am currently inclined towards the Canon 5DSR and a couple of professionals have also recommended this. However the Sony AR7III and Nikon D850 have also been recommended.

Are there any major reasons to choose (or avoid) any particular one of these models? For instance, are the very best lenses incompatible with one of the models? Sorry if these are elementary questions (I'm something of a newbie).

Many thanks in advance

Benjamin.
 
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Paul
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#3
Having shot absolutely hundreds of pieces of artwork, I know from experience the camera is the least of your worries. Personally I use a 1dx, but the 5D would be a good budget choice.

More importantly would be a quality lens and quality studio strobes.

And even more importantly is the knowledge you need in how to setup those lights, and to know what where and how you keep adjusting those lights.

Its not easy, and takes a lot of skill to consistently produce high end images.
 

GarethB

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#4
Yep. The 5DSR or D850 are very high resolution cameras - what do you plan to do with the images? Print or web?

Also maybe consider a decent macro prime lens - they are usually very well corrected, with very flat focus plane and minimal distortion....even if you don't shoot macro.

Oh, and welcome to TP :welcome:
 
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#5
You mentioned lighting asifit was somewhere between taken for granted and an afterthought!

£500 on lighting and £300 on a camera and lens will beat £2000 on a camera and lens and £100 on lighting all day every day.

The simple answer to your question (presuming you understand that) is what Jeremy said, either of those cameras will do the job well*. Get yourself a 50mm macro lens as they have a very flat field of view.

*but you really don’t ‘need’ anything that good.

It might be time to roll out my favourite ‘help me shoot products’ story, by the guy who’d already rented studio space ‘too small’ and bought a Nikon D850, then askedfor advice about a sub £100 lens and was planning to spend nothing on lights. He couldn’t grasp the advice to swap the camera for something much cheaper so he could spend his money on the important stuff.

Edit just to add... the camera is no more important than the paintbrush.

And dont belittle the chosen field of people you’re asking for help. How would you react to ‘what kind of brushes do I need to create some artwork, I’ve seen them paintings sold for thousands, want something for my wall and figured I could save some money’.
 
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#6
Many thanks for the swift replies.

The camera may indeed be the least of my worries but it's a worry nonetheless. One to knock on the head at the start. I mentioned studio lighting to specify that I won't be working in the field and this thread is about the camera - I will be asking lighting questions etc elsewhere.

The images will be for many purposes including giclee printing at full size. And in any case I want the highest quality archive of my work that I can achieve (because once a painting sells, I generally never see it again).

GarethB - thank you for the link :)

Phil V - sorry didn't mean to belittle (where did I do that?). Happy to advise on paintbrushes in a friendly manner.
 
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GarethB

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#7
GarethB - thank you for the link :)
Actually, that's one of the auto links that the site puts in....I didn't even know it happened til I posted!!:D

I wish I understood how it worked!! Guess I'm a bit dim!!:D

But you're welcome anyway (y)

Best of luck :)
 
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#8
Phil V - sorry didn't mean to belittle (where did I do that?). Happy to advise on paintbrushes in a friendly manner.
I think he may have been referring to this bit :-

"paying someone to do it (because it can't be that difficult ..."

Good luck anyway, it's all about the light :)
 
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#9
Perhaps he thought I meant "it can't be that difficult to be a successful professional photographer". That's not what I meant. I meant it can't be that difficult to take professional quality photos of my work, which is a much narrower endeavour. I stand by this claim (which in any case was a harmless bit of banter to open a friendly discussion).
 
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#10
I meant it can't be that difficult to take professional quality photos of my work, which is a much narrower endeavour.
There are many people here who have spent years learning their craft, so you may well find it a bit trickier than you expect. I've spent years taking photographs but I would still be a novice in this genre.

Lenses are specific to brands and often models/ranges within the brand. Not all lenses are equal - as Phil was alluding to. They may have similar specifications, but some are much better quality than others and you will notice these ones are generally more expensive and will produce better results.

No one can blame you for wanting to take the images yourself. It will be an interesting journey. Enjoy it!
 
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#11
If you intend to shoot for a permanent high quality archive. It is reasonable to suppose you will want to be able to provide some very large prints indeed.
This would lead me to suggest either a medium format fuji GX or one of the newer high pixel count mirrorless cameras.
Any of these give you the advantage of live view and total lack of mirror slap. As you will be working on a stand of some sort, lenses need not be auto focus nor anti shake. So very high quality macro lenses intended for past generations of SLR's will give you the necessary flat field and the very high quality results needed.
You will have no difficulty finding the necessary adaptor to fit the chosen mirrorless camera.
Camera shake is always a serious consideration for copy/macro work. So anything that can reduce the possibility is worth considering including the use of the cameras electronic shutter.
 
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Chris
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#12
Perhaps he thought I meant "it can't be that difficult to be a successful professional photographer". That's not what I meant. I meant it can't be that difficult to take professional quality photos of my work, which is a much narrower endeavour. I stand by this claim (which in any case was a harmless bit of banter to open a friendly discussion).
Although I've never been a professional photographer in the sense of earning my living from it, I've been an enthusiastic photographer for most of my long life, and have paid for most of my photographic gear by contract work, mostly by taking photographs for artists of their artwork. Since by pure accident that has turned out to be much my best photographic earner, probably just because I know a lot of artists and often turn up at exhibitions carrying a big camera, I have devoted some time and effort (and money) to becoming good at it. There is one sense in which your remark that "it can't be that difficult to take professional quality photos of my work" is most definitely true: most artists are quite happy with what I'd call "fair quality snapshots" of their work, the kind of photographs which some artists are quite happy to do themselves, others to have a friend with a good camera do for them. That's because all they want is a portfolio record of their work which can be shown for advertising and promotional purposes at A4 print sizes or on the web. That can be done by anyone with a half decent camera and a tripod and good natural light or a ceiling bounced flash, and enough technical skills to absorb a good on-line tutorial on the topic.

Half decent camera? In terms of colour and detail reproduction modern digital camera technology is now so good that you don't even need an interchangeable lens camera. A good fixed lens compact camera, or possibly even an intelligently used smartphone with a high quality camera inside is good enough. Note too that some kinds of paintings are more difficult to photograph than others, e.g. watercolours are easier than oils.

There is another sense of "professional quality photos of artwork" which is much more demanding. That's the kind of image quality required for producing top quality large prints of large paintings or murals. That requires an excellent lens, carefully controlled studio type lighting, the use of a colour calibrated screen in post processing, plus quite a lot of study and practice. In other words, top professional quality equipment and skills, possibly going as far as a medium format camera and the use of polarised lighting.

It would help people focus on the kind of equipment and skills you're after if you could post examples of good quality images of your won work or similar work.
 
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#13
..............It would help people focus on the kind of equipment and skills you're after if you could post examples of good quality images of your won work or similar work.
Following on from Chris' good advice above ~
Just a quick note /reminder that if the examples you wish to show "us" are not your own please do not embed them but simply provide the URL link. By all means embed examples of the pictures that you own (the copyright of) :)
 
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#14
It may not be that difficult but it can't be condensed into just buying a top of the line camera. Even the most humple entry level cameras will make Profesional quality images provided you use money on good lights, tripod and lens. The hard part is how to use it all.
A polarizer may come in use full too.
The book "light, science and magic" is a good read btw
 
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#15
The camera may indeed be the least of my worries but it's a worry nonetheless. One to knock on the head at the start. I mentioned studio lighting to specify that I won't be working in the field and this thread is about the camera - I will be asking lighting questions etc elsewhere.
There are two big mistakes you are making here, one is separating camera and lighting into blocks, everything works together. Its like wanting to discuss an engine without wanting to discuss the vechile that its in, but still expecting it drive you around.

Lighting is uber important, along with the knowledge on how to set it up.
Look at it this way, if you had an experienced photographer with you setting up the lighting and you just took the photos, you'd get a great photo no matter what camera you used, honestly you'd get a decent image with a camera phone, buying a better camera (and lens combo) will enhance things, such as colour reproduction and better capture of the spectrum, but that iphone image will still be good. Way better than the image in the second scenario below.

But swap that around, an inexperienced photographer setting up lighting and using cheap lighting, the wrong lighting and generally not knowing what they are doing, then an experienced photographer with even the best camera, lets say a £50K Hassleblad and they'll stand there very frustrated, knowing that their images are nowhere as good as they can be because the lighting is so badly setup.

That photographer can then be passing images over to the best and most experienced retoucher and they'll just be sighing at the poor photography, caused by the poor lighting. And even with their skill they'll be struggling or at least spending loads of time on images that could have been beautiful instantly with the right lighting setup.

The second mistake you are making is thinking its easy.
 
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#16
Mention of polarisers has been made quite a lot. However it is true to say they are rarely needed if the lights are correctly placed.
Astonishingly accurate reproductions have been made by art galleries and museums, and then made into reproduction Artworks, coffee table art books, framed prints and the like, long before Such filters became generally available. Even deep impasto work is usually better lit by the careful positioning of the lights than using Polarisers. simply because polarisers only work on a single plane, and deep impasto has planes in all directions.
Control of light is what photography is about and this is doubly true for copy work.

Returning to the question of lenses. High quality lenses designed for reproduction work have been made since the year dot. many were intended for use in the large same size horizontal repro cameras used by the Printing and graphics industry. they were monstrous and had their own dedicated arc or halogen lighting units. The lenses themselves were distortion free apochromatic and totally flat field. they also rarely opened any wider than F5.6. as speed is totally unnecessary. Similar lenses are made for enlarging and the best enlarger lenses can make perfect camera lenses for reproduction work. though they do need a focusing adapter( they have none of their own) and most often used in reverse for extreme close ups, but this is not normally necessary for reproduction work.


Old style Macro lenses also have a flat field and capable of capturing the finest detail.

This image is the result of using a Pentax 55mm f4 macro with screw mount bought in the late 60's.
it was mounted onto my Fuji Xe2 via a cheapo ebay mount.
This example is a stacked image to maximise the depth of field, which at close distances is minimal, (stacking allows you to fuse slices of sharp focus at comparatively wide aperture into a single image. The alternative of using very small apertures brings diffraction into the equation which inevitably reduces the the lens sharpness.) this is not a problem in copy work which requires very limited depth of field. but it is essential that that field is flat, which is rarely the case with standard camera lenses.

Such old lenses are perfect for the job and are also extremely inexpensive. (but rising in price due to the advent of mirrorless cameras}

PS-TFpro-fuse-web
by Terry Andrews, on Flickr
 
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#17
Mention of polarisers has been made quite a lot. However it is true to say they are rarely needed if the lights are correctly placed.
Astonishingly accurate reproductions have been made by art galleries and museums, and then made into reproduction Artworks, coffee table art books, framed prints and the like, long before Such filters became generally available in 1934. Even deep impasto work is usually better lit by the careful positioning of the lights than using Polarisers. simply because polarisers only work on a single plane, and deep impasto has planes in all directions.
Control of light is what photography is about and this is doubly true for copy work.

Returning to the question of lenses. High quality lenses designed for reproduction work have been made since the year dot. many were intended for use in the large same size horizontal repro cameras used by the Printing and graphics industry. they were monstrous and had their own dedicated arc or halogen lighting units. The lenses themselves were distortion free apochromatic and totally flat field. they also rarely opened any wider than F5.6. as speed is totally unnecessary. Similar lenses are made for enlarging and the best enlarger lenses can make perfect camera lenses for reproduction work. though they do need a focusing adapter( they have none of their own) and most often used in reverse for extreme close ups, but this is not normally necessary for reproduction work.


Old style Macro lenses also have a flat field and capable of capturing the finest detail.

This image is the result of using a Pentax 55mm f4 macro with screw mount bought in the late 60's.
it was mounted onto my Fuji Xe2 via a cheapo ebay mount.
This example is a stacked image to maximise the depth of field, which at close distances is minimal, (stacking allows you to fuse slices of sharp focus at comparatively wide aperture into a single image. The alternative of using very small apertures brings diffraction into the equation which inevitably reduces the the lens sharpness.) this is not a problem in copy work which requires very limited depth of field. but it is essential that that field is flat, which is rarely the case with standard camera lenses.

Such old lenses are perfect for the job and are also extremely inexpensive. (but rising in price due to the advent of mirrorless cameras}

PS-TFpro-fuse-web
by Terry Andrews, on Flickr
:LOL:
 
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#18
Polarising filter gels for lights were and are still very specialist items. colour neutral ones extremely expensive.
Early polarisers were dismally dark and a million miles from colour neutral, and quite unsuitable for colour reproduction work... just as many are to day.
I bought my first polariser from Wallace Heaton in the early 50's it was diabolical. I still have a few from the 70's that were better but still show a colour cast.
my most recent one I bought in 2004 and is some what better and extremely expensive, but I would not care to use it for reproduction work.

In the 50's and 60's Polarisers of any sort were rarely found in professional studios.
 
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#19
Many thanks for all the replies. Much appreciated.

(I actually only separated out the request for advice on lighting out of respect for the forum categorisation—didn’t want to post things in the wrong place).
 
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#20
Polarising filter gels for lights were and are still very specialist items. colour neutral ones extremely expensive.
Early polarisers were dismally dark and a million miles from colour neutral, and quite unsuitable for colour reproduction work... just as many are to day.
I bought my first polariser from Wallace Heaton in the early 50's it was diabolical. I still have a few from the 70's that were better but still show a colour cast.
my most recent one I bought in 2004 and is some what better and extremely expensive, but I would not care to use it for reproduction work.

In the 50's and 60's Polarisers of any sort were rarely found in professional studios.
Im just fooling around :) Thanks for the history lesson anyway.
BTW, Ive used on camera Polarizer with flash(no polarizer on flash) quite successfully though it takes a couple of exposures to get the angle right
 
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#21
Unless the canvasses are unusual in size, I suspect any half decent camera from the last 10 years would be fine. If the paintings are highly detailed you might want a higher resolution than the 6MP ones from 2008, but they are still quite adequate for A4 images.
As others have said lighting is more important but even here with the right knowledge a few standard house hold lights could suffice.
The reprographic camera I used, for copying artwork at an advertising agency, back in the 80's had 4 photofloods one in each corner set up to give a very even light over the subject area. With the right white balance 7 matched lights that arrangement would still work perfectly.
I'd also recommend a good sturdy tripod & either a macro lens or an enlarger lens (on a suitable focusing mount) - both are designed for flat subjects.
 

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Wuhan BAT
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#22
OK, so what would be the maximum size of your prints?

Pretty much any decent full frame would be fine in general and Medium format even better. Unless of course your paintings are 3m by 2m in which case do go for 45-50+MP bodies. I personally prefer colours from high end Canons. The appear far more natural than many others.

Lens. Probably a prime with close to ZERO distortion, good even sharpness and no vignetting at desired settings. One of the best 85 or 50mm ones would be my pick.

Lighting. That is by far the most important aspect. All the rest can be reduced to laughing stock if this fails to deliver.

Support. Don't underestimate this. Blur free images that are perfectly square on to begin with are just as important. Ease of adjustment will help here too.
 

LongLensPhotography

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#23
A polarizer may come in use full too.
Only as a fix in very difficult conditions that can't be changed otherwise. CPL will alter some colours more than others so my preference would be not to use one where critical accuracy is important.
 
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