Film Using my digital camera to scan film negatives

Location
Bloomington, Indiana
Name
Mike
I have been taking photos long before there were digital cameras. As a consequence, I’ve got half a closet full of slides and negatives that I’m trying to turn into more portable and malleable digital images.

I used to own a Nikon LS9000 ED scanner. It was crazy expensive, but it was said to be the best scanner (outside of drum scanners) that you could buy. It was a challenge to use. First, it connected to my computer using FireWire 400 (IEEE 1394, if you prefer to not use Apple’s name for it). In its day it was considered fast, but no longer. And the connection cannot be easily changed, at least by me. Second, it was loud. So loud, so very, very loud. It felt like I had spent the day in the dentist’s chair or drilling concrete after a few minutes with it. And, it was slow. I could put five slides in the tray, shut the door to my office, come back in ten minutes, and it might or might not have been finished. Despite all of this, Vuescan worked very well scanning slides with it. Noise and all, I scanned an entire file cabinet drawer full of slides with this setup. I was thrilled when I sold the thing!

Yet I still have multiple years of negatives. My wife and I are trying to reduce the amount of space these and their associated prints consume, so I needed a quicker way to scan them. I then found this absolutely wonderful video by Hashem McAdam on YouTube. It is a really excellent description of how to do this. I am simply following the steps he so well illustrates.

Hasem McAdam's YouTube video and his written description.

First, requirement is a good digital camera and a macro lens. I have a Sony A7III and a Sony FE 90 mm macro. (You might get by with just a close focusing lens, but the macro would be better.) Then you need a tripod or copy stand to hold the camera. My Manfrotto tripod works well with its center column set horizontally. I’ve stabilized it with 10 pounds of dive weights - so much more convenient than two sacks of sugar. :) Finally, you have to illuminate the negative. I bought a Skier Sunray light box from B&H. It has a very nice diffused LED light in a bamboo (why? I have no idea) box. Included in the kit I got are two holders: one for 35 mm and one for 120 mm. I got it rather than the Essential Film Holder that McAdam uses because everything is contained in it, you don’t need to add a light source. (Note how I finally found a use for those old college yearbooks!)

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My Sony is set to autocolor balance, OSS off, autofocus before taking the photo of the illuminated negative. (It works better and faster than I can focus it manually.) I trigger the shutter with a wireless remote. I’ve been using the silent/electronic only shutter. And then, one after the other, you slide the negatives through the holder, photographing each image. My only complaint about the Skier box is that if the negative has much convexity to it, it will catch as it is going through the holder. I then have to lift the holder and push the negative in a bit to get it past. It only happens on the first negative on the strip, if it happens at all. This would not be a problem if you have an uncut roll, but all of my negatives are cut.

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After you’ve photographed the film negatives (emulsion side up), import the images into Lightroom the usual way. While they are in the Library module, select all the images, use Photo>Flip Horizontal, to correct the image mirroring, e.g., text appearing backwards. (This is the result of the emulsion side scan.) I do this first, so that I don’t forget. Also, while in Library mode, add any keywords you might want to use. You’ll duplicate the images later on; adding keywords now will enable you to avoid doing it again after the copies are made. Now, go to the Develop module and using the white balance dropper select a part of the film base. This will “zero out” the film base color. I also crop a bit of the image at this point. And then sync the white balance and crop to all the imported images.

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The images will still be negative images and need to be converted to positive. I’ve been using Negative Lab Pro (NLP) to do this, and after I figured out how to use it - courtesy of the YouTube video - it works really well. FYI, I have an M1 MacBookPro and use an external Thunderbolt hard drive for storage. It is supposed to work with Windows, too.

The first thing you’ll do with NLP is convert the images. Select the images you want to convert and enter the quick key of CTRL-N (on a Mac). The NLP dialogue box then appears. Click the convert button, and it will convert the negative images to positive. The positive images will now appear and can be adjusted for color at this point using the (too small) NLP window. You can make them warmer, cooler, whatever you want. Sync all the settings in the NLP window if you want them to all have the same look. I’ve found the Frontier scanner with Standard preset works well. You may prefer something else. Most of the film I’ve scanned so far was processed by Mystic Color Lab (remember them?) and is probably repackaged Agfa Vista ISO 200. Probably not the best film in the world, but it is what I have from 20+ years ago. Click apply when done. All of these settings are reversible.

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Now, rotate the images to suit. Because everything is now positive, you may want to refine the keywords. You’ll be able to identify people and places in the photos at this point.

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If you attempt to edit the images in Lightroom now you’ll say what is going on? All the slider controls will work in reverse, e.g., if you slide the exposure to increase exposure it will darken instead of lightening it. One more step fixes this. Re-select all the images that you have converted. Recall NLP and save a copy of the image (lower left in the dialogue box). I save mine in TIFF, but you can also save as JPEG. You will now have two copies of each image. One is the original image viewable and re-editable in NLP while the other is a positive image that you can edit in Lightroom in the usual way.

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Does it work on Black and White? Yes! When you convert the negative the first time, select the BW option rather than Frontier, Fuji, etc.

This may seem like a hassle, but it really isn’t that bad, and it is remarkably quick. (It is extremely quick compared to my old scanner.) The dollar cost beats sending the negatives out to a lab by a wide margin, and the time spent to satisfaction ratio is really very good.

These two photos were scanned using this technique. They were taken in May 1999, on Kangaroo Island, Australia, an extraordinarily beautiful place.

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Our then eight-year old daughter blissed out on kangaroos.
 
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AlwaysOnAuto

Veteran
One of my first 'projects' when I was prematurely 'retired' by lay-off, was to put together a 'system' to digitize my family slides. Looking at Mike's setup, the biggest problem I see with it, and that I ran into when doing the same thing, is getting the camera sensor parallel to the slide. Some, more talented than me, came up with ways to adjust the tripod so it was such. The problem was making it easily repeatable without having to jump thru a bunch of hoops.
So I set off on the quest for a bellows system, mainly because I found the extraneous light coming in from the side between the lens to slide 'gap' caused a lot of exposure 'problems' I didn't want to deal with.
After some months I was able to score a couple of purchases on the Goodwill auction site and came up with this solution:
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It's a Nikon bellows with a slide duplicator attachment using a Micro Nikkor lens. This setup solved a number of problems. 1) No more extraneous light, 2) Sensor plane is parallel to slide, 3) Very repeatable without spending a lot of time setting it up.
The Micro Nikkor lenses were developed to be document reproduction lenses so they give very nice images without distorting them. The next biggest problem I faced was how to light the slide without hot spots. That was solved with a light panel my wife uses for her quilting.
I hope this inspires others to 'repurpose - reuse' old stuff.
I didn't know which side of the slides was supposed to be up so just tried to get the best 'projected' image I could record. I don't have a lot of PP experience or software for that matter. Mostly do SOOC stuff.
 
Location
Bloomington, Indiana
Name
Mike
One of my first 'projects' when I was prematurely 'retired' by lay-off, was to put together a 'system' to digitize my family slides. Looking at Mike's setup, the biggest problem I see with it, and that I ran into when doing the same thing, is getting the camera sensor parallel to the slide. Some, more talented than me, came up with ways to adjust the tripod so it was such. The problem was making it easily repeatable without having to jump thru a bunch of hoops.
So I set off on the quest for a bellows system, mainly because I found the extraneous light coming in from the side between the lens to slide 'gap' caused a lot of exposure 'problems' I didn't want to deal with.
After some months I was able to score a couple of purchases on the Goodwill auction site and came up with this solution:
View attachment 291431
It's a Nikon bellows with a slide duplicator attachment using a Micro Nikkor lens. This setup solved a number of problems. 1) No more extraneous light, 2) Sensor plane is parallel to slide, 3) Very repeatable without spending a lot of time setting it up.
The Micro Nikkor lenses were developed to be document reproduction lenses so they give very nice images without distorting them. The next biggest problem I faced was how to light the slide without hot spots. That was solved with a light panel my wife uses for her quilting.
I hope this inspires others to 'repurpose - reuse' old stuff.
I didn't know which side of the slides was supposed to be up so just tried to get the best 'projected' image I could record. I don't have a lot of PP experience or software for that matter. Mostly do SOOC stuff.
AOA, this is certainly a great setup. I recall using one years ago on a research project where I had to copy some slides for presentation. It worked very well.

You mention a couple of things that the bellows system addresses that can also be (indeed, should be) addressed in the system I described, but failed to mention in my write-up.

1. Yes. The sensor needs to be parallel to the slide being copied. I did not describe this, but McAdam does. It is actually pretty straightforward. Here is a link where his video described how. It should start around 7 minutes.

2. Extraneous light. I have not found this to be an issue. I do turn off all the lights in my office and use a lens hood. This helps, but I think the real issue is how bright the light source is and what are the camera settings. In my case, I'm using ISO 100, f 5.6, 1/160. If I force the camera to take a picture, the image is black, completely black, even though some light leaks in around the window blinds. I think it makes for a situation similar to how portrait photographers set their cameras where there is insufficient light to make an image and then add studio light back so that they control the image. There is no image until I turn on the light box, hence I control the light.
 

lucien

Legend
I stumbled upon this new/neat alternative to the expensive stuff. If someone is trying to do this on the cheap.

Darktable plug in




And a tutorial, using your existing equipment of course



I don't know how long these links will last but it's a start. I'm looking into some kind of set up. That won't break the bank. I'm going to try this first.





anymore input regarding my method is appreciated
 

AlwaysOnAuto

Veteran
If I remember correctly (sorry, it's been a while since I did this, I'm gettin' old and the old memory ain't what it used to be either I'm finding), for a light source, I took a photo of a flash going off (two camera's one with flash, set off by an IR remote) and imported it into a tablet. Once in the tablet I brought the image up on screen and filled the screen with it. My first couple of tries I found I could focus on the matrix of the tablet screen pixels thru the slide/negative. Made it look weird, so I took a piece of velom and put it between the back of the slide/negative and in front of the tablet screen. This effectively got rid of the screen pixels as well as diffusing the light better too.
 

lucien

Legend
I have an app that produces a pure white screen. I don't know how many kelvin's it is though. I'm going to try that first. And something I ordered is on the way. I have 2 macro''s a 90 and a 105. and I bought a basket that I can cut the bottom out to get rid of side lighting
 
Location
Bloomington, Indiana
Name
Mike
Were you referring to something like this? I have an older ipad, the screen isn't bright enough at maximum brightness. I'll wait for the Light table/pad



Yes! The lumu light meter looks very interesting-it measures color temperature, not just intensity.
 

lucien

Legend
my first attempt, Doing this on the cheap and old images. I'm not sure if they are from a disposable. I inverted the tonal curve and created a preset. All the slider's are reversed. I have to make another preset to speed up the work flow. My new negatives are coming in this week. And the lcd backlight scanner came yesterday. The file sizes are ok by me, not the best images but proof of concept.
 

lucien

Legend


This is what came, haven't tried it but it's really bright. Upon closer inspection, I'm seeing the squares/pixels of the ipad when I enlarge the image. So the tablet get's retired, light table to try and what came yesterday
 
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