How sharp should I expect them to be?

Scanning the last of my 35k slides and cannot understand why:
My Fuji X-T4, Fujifilm 80mm Macro, negative supply 99cri Lightbox, slide holder, shooting in RAW at ISO 250, SS 30 f 5.6 cannot land me a sharp image.

scanned images are not sharp. the slide is flat and slide image in focus.
see attached.

Have you checked the original film for sharpness? What was the originag gear used?

In other words: Copies can only be less sharp than the original, unless heavy sharpening is used, which might make the copy look sharper under certain circumstances

I’d expect to see the grain but I’m not seeing it at 1:1 in the downloaded 6240 x 4160 px image in Lightroom so it doesn’t look quite in focus to me either. You’re obviously very experienced at scanning but I’m wondering how you scanned the rest of the 35K slides, a conventional slide scanner perhaps? Is it still available to do a comparison? Are you using AF to focus or manual with focus-peaking?

a 24 Mpixel image with only 2.6 MB cannot really show what’s the cause of suspected un-sharpness. Pasting an image to the forum does all sorts of things to keep the size limited. For better research, post a link to a few RAW files on a sharing platform.

Other than that, the posted image does not look too bad when seen at reasonable distances, I suppose that it could reveal better detail is we could see the RAW file.

That looks sharp to me.

Maybe you expect them to be more crunchy and have very fine contrast, but that is ‘digital sharpness’, not what you would get from this.

Every DLSR picture you look at, has sharpening applied. In Lightroom / ACR even with the sliders to 0, there is still sharpening being applied.

What you are looking at here (Yes, even when ‘scanned’ through a digital camera) has no sharpening what so ever. If you want the same look, apply some (being subtle).

Don’t confuse detail for the sharpened look. Every scan of consumer 35mm film I took, if I compared them to a shot of a digital camera I took a few seconds later, I can see everything in the film scan that I can see in the digital picture. But that one single hair poking, it’s clearly there and visible in the film scan, but it really ‘jumps out at you’ in the digital picture. Because one pixel there is no hair, the next pixel there is hair, and the next pixel the hair is gone again… sort of like that :).

I guess in modern digital terms, a film scan is just really, really anti-aliased.

But if I look at that picture on your post, downscaled on my screen, I’m thinking ‘wow that is sharp’. I don’t see a problem with it.

That being said - what probably others have said - don’t expect the lenses from the olden days to be perfect, the focusing systems to be perfect, or ‘what looked like nicely in focus on a 4x6 print looks out of focus when pixel peeping in a 4000dpi scan’.

To me, pictures on films and scanned have detail but lack that pixel-crunchy punch. It’s recorded on film, not ‘sampled’ so to speak. And it’s one of the things I like about it. It makes things look a bit more ‘natural’.

But yes, I also have tried many, many sharpening plugins when I started film scanning. Somewhere along the line I just stopped.

oh I only now see the full res download.

Pixel peeping I see what you mean. I still wouldn’t expect a full 24mp of resolution out of a 35mm film scan (assuming it’s 35mm, I don’t see it mentioned anywhere).

It looks like demosaicing going wrong, or the noise reduction still being enabled (and too strong). It looks ‘too smeary’ to be just a focus issue to the film plane, ast least IMHO.

Maybe share the RAW of the scan if you can / are willing?

Thank you for the reply. I’ll try and post a handful of RAW images for all to see. The 35mm slides are razor sharp in detail (through a Peak 8X Loupe). I’d like to think my Fuji X-T4 and Fuji 80mm Macro would pick up some of that detail.

Everyone here has been a great help trying to champion my cause.

Any suggestions on where I can toss a few RAW images for folks to see?

Here is a link for google photos to see the raw images.
thanks for looking.

Did you…

keep the dull, emulsion side of the film facing the lens?

use a self timer or remote release to avoid camera shake?

turn off any IBIS or ILIS (stabilizers) if instructed to do so by your camera manual?

ensure that the entire rig is stable and not susceptible to structural vibrations?

use autofocus or manual focus with magnification and/or focus peaking to set focus?

apply sharpening with unsharp masking?

I think that only allows you to download a jpeg, which of course has been processed. If you have Google Drive or Dropbox you could create a shared folder. On the other hand, if you download your original image in the first post, is it the same as your uploaded file, exactly the same file size for example?

I’d also be interested to know what film was used and also what you normally scan with?


To my mind, either:

  • the resolution on the Fuji for a single slide-> single frame isn’t high enough to perceive film grain


  • you’re getting shutter shock at that shutter speed, try adjusting exposure and see if another SS is sharper


Something else is going on.

The only thing I can confirm is when I scan slides with a slide scanner (Minolta 5400) I see clear grain regardless of whether the actual image was in sharp focus in the original shot or not.

there is actually some grain in the sky, and I keep thinking that the weird smeary look at pixel-peeing level is a weird smoothing filter.

I think that only allows you to download a jpeg,
Yep, true. I just tried it, but either the photo is uploaded without the ‘original quality’ setting, or it has been edited (or this google account doesn’t allow original-quality photos). But I can’t get the RAF file out of it. And I’m still very curious what the real raw data looks like, with different xtrans demosaicing and no noise reduction what so ever (in rawtherapee for instance).

The pixel-peeping smearing reminds me of x-trans demosaicing artifacts, but then I expect them to be smaller to be honest … :man_shrugging:

Try to post your .RAF files.

I’ll try to reload again. my apologies- I am a novice. certainly appreciate all the help.

  1. Have you tested your macro at every aperture setting to see which is the sharpest? That may not fix this issue, but it will be something you might want to do anyway. f/8 is often the sharpest setting (on my Mamiya 645 120 macro it’s f/11).

  2. Buy the biggest, sturdiest tripod you can. I mean really, really sturdy. There are micro vibrations everywhere. Try to shoot at night when there is less movement (cars outside, etc).

  3. As burkphoto asks: are you using an electric cable release or at least a long self-timer on the camera (2 seconds may be too short)?

Good luck! Often it’s incremental rather than a simple fix.

If you have your camera scanning set-up on a tripod or copy stand, it could be that the camera is picking up household vibration from the operation of domestic appliances (heaters, air conditions, washing machines, dishwashers, water boilers, etc.) causing some subtle motion blur affecting micro detail. The way to fix this is with higher shutter speed and using vibration absorbing pads under the camera support.

I should add: the simple truth may be that your slide is less sharp than you think it is. There are different kinds of sharpness and they can look more and more degraded at successively larger magnifications. Edge sharpness provides one kind of impression, while the detailed definition of fine textures (e.g. fine grain or cement granules) provides another. There are of course limits to the apparent resolution of film. When you capture a 35mm slide and project it on your monitor, and then boost that projection to 100%, you would normally be seeing very close-up a huge magnification revealing a great many imperfections that could be unapparent in prints depending on the size you print it. A sure way of knowing whether the problem is the film image or the scanning process is to check whether the grasin is sharp but the image is not. In this case the issue is the image itself. If both the image and the grain are unsharp, there is an issue in the scanning.

One way to find out what the original slide can do is, to have it printed (by a good lab) to the size that you want to print or look at with your digital copy…

The problem is f18. if you shoot macro the effective number is f36. That causes hefty blur. Try shooting f5.6 or f8!

Yes, dokumentarfoto is right, in your first post you seemed to say that the first image was shot at f5.6 and 1/30 but I hadn’t checked the info on your uploaded images, in fact we get this:

Grand Canyon '09-029.RAF - f16 - 1/30
Grand Canyon '09-079.RAF - f16 - 1/30
Grand Canyon '09-106.RAF - f11.7 - 1/30
PDK Air Show '09-039.RAF - f32 - 1/30
PDK Air Show '09-056.RAF - f16 - 1/30

I don’t have this Fuji 80mm Macro but I’m certain you’ll be getting diffraction at these apertures. I agree that f5,6 or f8 ought to make a significant difference to perceived sharpness. As has been said above you should find your optimum aperture and stick to that, shooting on manual exposure altering the shutter speed to suit.