Asking for scanner lens + digital camera setup recommendation

Hi there,

After my failed attempt to get good results with a macro lens (for what most of you including myself suspect is a problem with the lens), I’m now back with another attempt.

This time, I’d like to try with a scanner lens. I know some of you have had successes setting up scanner lenses with a digital camera, but I found absolutely no tutorials on how to adapt thoses scanner lenses. Keep in mind that I have almost 0 experience with system DSLR’s as most of my photography is on film.

I’m willing to purchase a second-hand digital camera dedicated to scanning. I’d like to ask for your kind help on

  1. What scanner lens gives you the best results?
  2. Which digital camera is easy to use for pairing with the scanner lens of choice?
  3. What adapter to use to mount those two together?

I have the rest (copy stand, light source, etc…) already. I’m hoping to set it up once and forget about it, so the easier the solution the better. I scan 35mm and 120 film only.

Thank you in advance for your help!

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You’ve been around for a while, as has been the following site with possibly useful information.

Oh actually you’re right, I didn’t look carefully enough but my previous thread actually had some suggestions. I’ll look into it, thanks!

I do have one question: if these scanner lenses have a fixed focus distance, how would you accommodate scanning medium format vs. 35mm film since you can’t change the distance between the lens and the film holder?

You can and do change the distance between the lens and the sensor according to the magnification required, so with different formats for example. Whether a particular scanner lens covers medium format or even 35mm is another matter though. Lenses from 35mm scanners are designed to cover the 24mm width of the film, albeit extremely well. Personally I wouldn’t let your experience with your particular 90mm Sony put you off the many very good standard macro lenses recommended on here.

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I have had both good & bad luck with macro lenses. My first try was with a vintage 100mm Canon (non USM) and it was horrible. I then bot a 70mm Sigma Art lens and that was a real revelation. I am using an older 16MP Canon 1DS Mark II and the colour is fine but I am going to have to upgrade to at least 30MP to get results comparable to the original film & enlarger combo.

I’ve shared some set up help in another thread, which you may want to read. The lenses in use are the Schneider Kreuznach Macro Symmar 120 and Rodenstock 75mm 2X f/4.5. This thread also includes a full set of other equipment you’ll need to make this all work. Just skip the parts you already have.

Hope this helps!

Setup + Lenses + Equipment

Further thoughts on the SK Macro Symmar 120 here:

Stay away from dedicated scanner lenses, such as the Nikon Coolscan lenses or Minolta DiMage lenses. While these are awesome pieces of glass, they are a PITA to work with due to their wide aperture of f/2.8 (Coolscan).

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I’ve been using a 7Artisans 60mm macro lens with a Fujifilm X-T30 camera and happy with the results. The lens was very reasonably priced.

Thank you all for your generous help, let me do more research and consider macro lenses again.
So far, it seems like the 105mm Sigma Macro Art lens looks awesome, maybe I should give this a try before diving into scanner lenses due to the overhead.

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A macro lens I can highly recommend is the Mamiya 645 Macro A 120mm f/4. This is a beast and on par with the Rodenstock scanner lens. It goes all the way to 1:1 magnification. Together with an adapter it would be cheaper than the Sigma. Given the Mamiya is a medium format lens, it easily covers your FF sensor.

If that is of interest to you, be sure to look for the “Macro A” as that’s the only full manual version.

Adapting a scanner lens to a dSLR is difficult on so many fronts I won’t even address it.

Here is what I do, stem to stern:

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You may find the following useful:

I recently got a Mamiya 645Macro A 120mm f/4 and paired it with my GFX50r. However I was not happy with the initial results. I have a good stable setup with a fantastic light source (Cinestill lite), so it’s all about the lens. However I have now ironed out all the kinks and it is working great now. The biggest problem was the vignetting that causes an orange light bleed around the corners. the flat field correction in Lightroom actually solved all of that and it’s quite easy to implement in the workflow. Just start or end by capturing a frame of the light source without moving anything on the lens, I use aperture priority when I shoot so I don’t blow out the image.
The lens is sharpest in the center at f/8 but slightly soft towards the edges. At f/11 it’s sharper around the edges but a tiny bit softer in the middle. So I use f/8 for 35mm and f/11 for 120. But before I figured it all out I ordered a Pentax 645 Macro FA 120mm f/4 and it arrives soon. That lens has gotten amazing reviews, seemingly the best of all the old analog lenses. The problem with these old lenses is that they are not digitally corrected in any way. A modern lens will digitally remove vignetting and distortion.

I just wondered if you mean this new Cinestill CS-Lite $35 LED panel? I haven’t read any reviews on it as it’s pretty new I think.

That’s the one, I just got it on Black Friday when I ordered a Valoi kit. Yes it’s super new, but It’s really good.Very bright (700 lumen), so it shines through those dense slide film shots. It comes with a diffuser that works really well and also some masks to block out a bit of light. It also has three light modes, one neutral 5600k, one 3200k and one warm. The cool is supposed to help with color negatives, the neutral is for b&w film or neutral slide film. The warm is supposed to simulate the warm color projectors use when projecting slides, since they have a cool blue color baked in. Personally I thought it was a bit too warm.
Overall, probably the best scanning light out there.

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Thanks very much for that fulsome review, it sounds just what I’m looking for, and at that price it’s just going to walk off the shelves. Yet to appear on UK shores I think but I’ll try and seek one out.

I’m surprised about your experience with the Mamiya lens. Mine is super sharp all over, right from f/4 (except far edges). Stopping it down to f/5.6 gives excellent results, though I prefer to work at f/8 for a higher DoF. The difference in sharpness is only noticeable when you overlay the images to pixel peep. Who knows… maybe a difference in how well the lens is calibrated or aged. After all, these are quite old.

I doubt the orange bleeds are caused by the lens though – These are usually an effect of stray light. Vignetting would darken/lighten the edges but not colour them.

I got mine from Kamerastore in Finland. I suppose these days you have to pay import tax, could still be worth it though. Might get some Santa color while you are at it. Very nice film.

Mine is super sharp as well. Im just super pixel peeping. It’s just good to get to know the lens. But the vignetting is bothersome. Vignettes creates orange “light bleeds”, that I have learned the hard way. Trying to eliminate every other factor possible. It could differ from copy to copy, I tried some other lenses and they also cause light bleeds. I think it’s a case of once you notice it you can’t unsee it. But it’s all solved with the flat field correction. Just perfect scans. It would be interesting to see other photographers scans to see if its the copy of the lens doing it.

I had some issues with stray light – basically only with the Valoi Advancer and 120 film – which never showed up with other holders / smaller formats. I believe this is a design flaw of the Valoi in combination with bright light sources.

These gaps here: – Once I taped them off, all corner/side light bleeds were gone. First I did it with black gaffer tape, next up with black foam, cut to fit. The light bleeds only showed up with really bright light sources. Other than that, it was all fine.