FWIW, the imaging equipment is surprisingly secondary if you've got your lighting and reflection control nailed - you'd probably be best served to start out by just getting a macro filter (I prefer the multi-element ones, but they're getting stupid expensive - For example the canon 500d filter costs nearly as much as one of their short macro lenses - the best single element ones I've seen are made by
marumi, and they're not terribly expensive), racking your 15-85 out and working on getting the lighting so it reveals what you want to see - depending on what you want to show, what you've got
may be good enough for you just doing that. Its usually better only to buy new gear when your existing gear is proven not to be up to the task (or is getting in your way).
That said, swords are super contrasty, so they're a challenge - if you're trying to print large you'll see every problem your lens has, which is why I'd usually go for a (modern) prime lens - for the close-ups its also helpful to be a bit further away from the piece so you have room to work on your lighting/reflection control (though YMMV on that depending on what you decide to do for your
lighting/reflection control), so I prefer a longer prime.
As another poster stated, you really need to be shooting in raw. If you want to actually upgrade your body, the live view feature of the newer units is Really Helpful
(I pretty much always shoot
this stuff tethered unless I have no other option - its a lot easier to make out the fine details on a large computer screen), and I like the results you get from having the higher resolution a/d as well
(and then there's the sensor shaker and...). The other thing is that because of the high contrast issue, you'll find you need more resolution than you think to do a decent overall shot (diatribe about human vision resolution deleted).
On the lighting, it really depends on what you want to show - sometimes you need a point source, sometimes you want fake sunlight, sometimes you want a broad source (like a fluorescent tube).
here's one I shot to emphasize the hada/peer through the hadori (which was really over-applied):http://www.rkgphotos.com/work_samples/p ... _tanto.jpg
There's a couple of other creepy things to consider avoiding - a lot of articles talk about putting swords on glass - NEVER do that - use plexi, and then use standoffs of your choice off of that. Also some guy put out a video a while back showing a rig that holds swords up in the air to shoot - I built up something similar, and it gave me the heebie jeebies to use - it was entirely too easy to have the piece slip and possibly do a point plant - I think its better to use a rig where gravity is your friend rather than your enemy, particularly where expensive swords are involved...
And finally, along the lines of the "give a man a fish" parable, you might also consider getting and reading this book - it talks more about the physics of lighting and is very helpful in allowing you to figure out what the lighting has to be in order to achieve what you want to show:http://www.amazon.com/Light-Science-Mag ... Y52Q8S8PH9