Results: High resolution stamp photography

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Chris Brooks, Oct 10, 2005.

  1. Chris Brooks

    Chris Brooks Guest

    Awhile back I posted a comment indicating that I was planning to take
    pictures of stamps and mount them, along with the original, as a form of
    art. I thought I would follow up with the results of my work.

    I wanted to get as high a resolution as possible within reason. I used a
    dslr canon rebel xt (8MP) with a reverse macro lens. For those who have not
    heard of this technique, a reverse macro lens is simply a (usually older)
    wide angle lens (in my case, a 28mm lens), mounted directly on the camera
    backwards. This provides significant magnification rates at low cost (about
    $50 canadian on ebay for the lens). There are some caveats (like a shallow
    depth of field, no autofocus, etc.) but in this case they are easily
    mitigated (because the stamp is fairly static).

    The magnification is so great that a stamp more than fills the frame of the
    camera. Thus I needed to take many pictures of different areas of the stamp
    and stitch them together after the fact. I used some software tools for
    this (ptassembler, ptstitcher, autopano, and enblend though it wasn't really
    needed). Issues with dust and vibration (custom built copy stand for this
    project) were around, so every image was shot using the laptop.

    Here is a scaled down version of the full image (proof of concept, hence the
    poor background choice/bad crop), the original runs in at 65 megapixels.
    I've used a postmarked Canadian two cent stamp from 1954 for this image:

    Here are a couple of 100% crops:

    Comments appreciated always,

    Chris Brooks, Oct 10, 2005
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  2. Chris Brooks

    Bob Williams Guest

    An alternate way to get great results very easily is to SCAN the stamps
    on a plain vanilla flatbed scanner. For instance, the Epson 3940 ($99)
    has an optical resolution of 3200 dpi. This yields a >10MP image from a
    1" square stamp. The beauty of the flatbed scanner is that you can scan
    around 100 square inches of stamps in one pass. Also, there is
    absolutely no barrel or pincushion distortion.
    Bob Williams
    Bob Williams, Oct 10, 2005
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  3. Chris Brooks

    Marinpix Guest

    Why do you need to have an image that is bigger than 1:1 at 8MP? I
    would guess that when converted to psd or tiff for editing that it's
    probably several times that size. Epson's printer driver, like most, is
    designed to throw out anything over +/-240 dpi, depending on the
    manufacturer and model. If you are saving the print file at higher than
    that, you are wasting space and turning over crucial detailing to the
    printer manufacturer. A 10"x12" image at full printer resolution is
    around 7 MB at 240 dpi. It's something like spending the time and
    effort to write a 1,000-word essay just to have the editor carve it
    down to 250 on your behalf and without consulting you.

    If you want a good, clear image of something the size of a postage
    stamp, you might try using a simple, inexpensive set of diopters for
    your normal lens. They usually come in a set of 3 and attach to the
    front of the lens in the threads for screw-in filters. By combining
    them, you can get just about any multiple of magnification for extreme
    close-ups. I would think that you can probably find a set on eBay for
    around $20US.

    Since you are not hand holding the camera, set the aperture to as tight
    as your lens will allow, f22 or better. It will give you the maximum

    As I'm sure you have already discovered, stitching is never as perfect
    as a single, seamless, original image.

    I hope this makes sense and is helpful.

    Marinpix, Oct 10, 2005
  4. Chris Brooks

    Ralphael1 Guest

    Bob, I am with you on just using the scanner, my OneTouch 5800 does a
    very good job, as far as I know. My problem is that I have not found a
    way to save/print images that I have enlarged.

    Ralphael, the OLD one.
    Ralphael1, Oct 10, 2005
  5. Chris Brooks

    Jim Guest

    Also the flatbed absolutely does not have curvature of field, it gets the
    same amount of light all over the subject, and costs lots less than a macro
    Jim, Oct 10, 2005
  6. Chris Brooks

    bob Guest

    I got a $200 Epson scanner recently for scanning old snapshots, but it does
    a respectable job on negatives -- it reads the grain off Tmax, which seems
    to be at least good enough for the application in question. The _optical_
    resolution is specified as 4800 dpi. Quite a remarkable improvement over
    scanners in the same price range I bought a couple years ago.

    bob, Oct 10, 2005
  7. Chris Brooks

    Chris Brooks Guest

    This macro setup was about the same cost or less than a similar scanning
    setup (reverse lens == cheap). The main reason I went with it instead of a
    scanner was:
    1. I would have no use for the scanner after this project, where as with the
    reverse lens I can use it for other macros as well
    2. I wanted to get the highest level of resolution I could - this setup
    gives me more than adquate results, as I can print the stamp at ~ 25" x 29"
    at 300 dpi. I don't know what kind of scanner could give me these kinds of

    Thanks for the comments,

    Chris Brooks, Oct 10, 2005
  8. Chris Brooks

    Chris Brooks Guest

    For starters it was just the technical challenge of it. Secondly, I wanted
    to show close ups of portions of the stamp, as opposed to just the stamp as
    a whole. Finally, I wanted to be able to get a reasonable sized print. I
    won't actually be printing this size of stamp, but one of the others that I
    am working on I will be printing at least at 11x14, if not larger. I wanted
    to make sure I had as much detail as I could get for it (my printer does 300
    dpi), which is around 14mp. I could have gone with a smaller reverse lense
    for this though, like a 50mm, and in some cases I wish I would have (it
    would have made the process a fair bit simplier).
    Did both the diopters and extension tubes before trying this, but didn't
    find the magnification to be satisfactory. Mind you, I didn't try them in
    combination. I typically use the diopters outdoors.
    I think the average control point distance for this project was something
    like 4 pixels off. I think the CA introduced by diopters would have had a
    greater effect than any stitching errors actually. When the camera isn't
    moving and is level with the plane it is photographing stitching is pretty

    Thanks for the comments,

    Chris Brooks, Oct 10, 2005
  9. Chris Brooks

    kctan Guest

    2D flat object is better to do in scanning than photographing when digital
    image is concerned. I never heard of reverse Marco lens technique but a
    reverse normal lens will give you a 1:1 life size image. If you reverse the
    normal lens say 50mm on a 100mm lens, you will get 2X life size without
    light lost. One draw back about this technique is it is not "Flat field" and
    may not be suitable for flat object photography.
    kctan, Oct 10, 2005
  10. Chris Brooks

    Stewy Guest

    A flatbed scanner may be a good alternative - macro photography involves
    getting extremely close to the subject and even lighting becomes a
    problem, then there's focussing and vibration.

    I've been scanning my collection of UK stamps to add to a database
    program I bought. So long as you don't try scanning an entire A4 sheet
    of stamps at 4000dpi you shouldn't have any problems.
    Stewy, Oct 11, 2005
  11. Hi,

    I do not know where or how I got this site ( it may have been
    recommended by someone in the group ). A good site for scanning is .

    Jerry B
    jerrybemail-newsgroup, Oct 11, 2005
  12. Chris Brooks

    Bob Williams Guest

    What was the actual size of the stamp that you photographed?
    What printer do you use that prints images at 300 dpi?
    Bob Williams
    Bob Williams, Oct 11, 2005
  13. Nicely done!
    Raymond Hettinger, Oct 11, 2005
  14. Chris Brooks

    Rich Guest

    IMO, an 6-8 meg P&S or a correct macro lens for your DSLR will
    exhibit FAR higher resolution that the files you've generated.
    65 megapixels? You should be nearly down to the micron level,
    seriously. But, for an inexpensive (but tedious!) method, it
    seems to work ok. The major problem is the spherical aberration
    such a combination produces, which is what effects the image most.
    Rich, Oct 12, 2005
  15. Chris Brooks

    Chris Brooks Guest

    I don't have the stamp handy at the moment, but it was no bigger than an
    inch square I believe.

    The printer I send things to is White House Custome Colour (, they
    print 300 dpi...

    Chris Brooks, Oct 12, 2005
  16. Chris Brooks

    Martin Guest

    Would it not be simpler with a high resolution scanner?

    Martin, Oct 12, 2005
  17. Chris Brooks

    Chris Down Guest

    The only problem with a scanner is that even at 2400 dpi as I can do on my
    fairly low spec HP 5470C domestic scanner you can see so much detail that if
    you print it large you would see too much, an interesting effect a bit like
    60s pop art but perhaps not what the OP needed. You would then have to do
    some work on the file to smooth the colour and fill in. Much will
    depend on how the stamp was originally printed, a scan of a modern UK stamp
    appears to show a print process much like that used for glossy magazines.
    Older stamps may not exhibit the detail effects if they were printed another
    way.. I am no expert on stamp printing.

    I am inclined to agree with Martin that the scanner method would seem far
    less trouble than the macro film method for potentially superior results.
    Chris Down, Oct 12, 2005
  18. Chris Brooks

    JAMc Guest

    If you have a graphics program, you should be able to set up our
    scanner as an "import" source. Then the scanner will do its job,
    transfer the 'file' to the graphics program and you may adjust, crop,
    etc. then save in any format that the program has encoding modes.

    I do this routinely with Photoshop 5.5 and Microtek, epson and HP
    JAMc, Oct 15, 2005
  19. Chris Brooks

    JAMc Guest

    "Chris Brooks" <> found some
    misplaced characters and posted
    FWIW, ANY lens may be used as a reverse macro. I've often used a
    105mm reversed on my Nikon. The FOV will change and may result in you
    not needing to take multiple images and stitch.
    JAMc, Oct 15, 2005
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