Let's see your DSLR film scanning setup!

@Maude, as far as see from my test setups, there is no simple answer to your questions. The number and size of negatives and how they are cut makes a difference. Let’s have a look at a few things to consider:

If I had to scan large negatives like 4x5, I’d opt for a vertical setup. Wet scanning could be an option for the very best few images or if dry scanning were not good enough.

If all I had were uncut 120 and smaller films, I’d go for a setup that allows to change negatives easily. Have a look at my vertical setup which makes serial scanning easy.

Short strips of film work well in a film strip holder that fits the format of the negatives. The digitaliza holder works well, but it does so only with shorter strips. Strips of four 645 negatives need repositioning, which is annoying.

A horizontal setup seems best for comfortable scanning because you can sit down and work with your head upright. No snaking around copy stand columns or tripod legs. Great for serial scanning.

A closed path between negative and camera looks like a very good idea because it eliminates stray light and creates a firm geometric coupling between negative and camera. Nothing moves around unless you want it to. A closed path allows for scanning during the day too. No need for a dim room or nightwork.

Tethering or no tethering? Tether if you can, it adds comfort.

Dust is omnipresent and a big pain.

All of the above are building blocks for your setup. See what you like best and what parts of the setup you have, can buy and what you can’t. This might tip the scale too. Your first setup does not have to be perfect. Start with what you have and see how far you get with it. You can always improve your setup later.

Does the above answer your questions? Probably not.

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OMG! Thank you… Of course your comments are helping. For the moment I’m considering tethering for the comfort at least. This setup may one day be used in some sort of commercial way if I decide to scan for others, so moving between negatives easily will be important…

My train of thoughts for this moment after looking up items on Amazon and EBay is to use a kind of construction foldable bench like a Workmate WS425 from Black and Decker. I would open up the middle of the bench, position the strobe vertically underneath while using a soft box to join the space between the flash and the base of the bench. This would provide a first diffusing level.

Then, the plan is to procure an acid etched/frosted piece of glass the length and width of the bench and place it over the opened “mouth” of the bench. This would provide the second and last diffusing level. The strobe I’m looking at is a 600W. If, and it’s a very big if, I can keep the surface of the glass clean and free of dust enough, that surface would be my base scanning surface, wet scanning and another piece of glass over it.

The 5Ds would be mounted on follow focus rails the would allow movement in both the x and y directions as well as some z (height, spacing between the lens and the surface). If this pans out, I could place a whole 36 exposures in stripes on the surface, wet it, cover it and scan them in no time using the follow focus dolly that will be on the x dimension. The ends of the x follow rails will be mounted on wheels and that will give the y dimension movement.

Ouf!

I talk/write too much… I don’t know if this pipe dream or not but the budget is there for the start of September… Which me luck !

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Don’t limit your vision. Go crazy! Think big, start smart.

The glass you’ll want is opalized glass, which is a clear glass with a fine sheet of opaque white glass fused to it. Put the clear side towards the film in order to protect the opal and get more even diffusion. Check for colour shifts.

For lighting, you could use something like this or this instead of a strobe in order to not flash your brain repeatedly. Provides working light too!

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I plan to use something like this in between the lens and the film carrier so that there will no external light coming between sensor and negative…

EBay Canada

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That looks nice, but expensive! I was thinking about MacGyvering something out of some black cloth and some wooden dowels to get the same effect for much less money.

By the way, I scan with a 400W Buff Alienbees flash, similar to what you’re looking into. This over powers most of the light in the room, but eliminating stray light is still a good idea and from my tests will improve results. These flashes are very powerful, I do most of my scanning at 1/32nd power, and I still need to back the flash off a good foot from the negative holder to scan ISO 64 and around f8-10, and this distance depends on the film stock. I would suggest blocking the stray light from the flash from bouncing around the room and into your eyes as well.

EDIT: Just wanted to add that having adjustable bellows also seems overkill, the distance from the negative to the sensor is almost always fixed in my case. I scan just below 1:1 magnification. The only time I change the distance is if I’m scanning 120, and that also depends if I’m stitching 120 or not.

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@Tristan, I took the first such item from the ones available on EBay… there are similar but less expensive models Similar

I thank you for your comment and will definitely take it in consideration. All comments are welcome…

@Digitizer and @tristanw,

This guy’s setup is my inspiration:

Video YT

At this point the only thing I’ll update is a higher resolution camera. Maybe something with an electronic shutter and full frame. I feel like this setup may be shaking slightly when making the capture (I do use a shutter release cable.) Currently using a Fuji X Pro-1 with an old Nikkor Micro + M2 extension tube. Getting the negative to fill up the frame now, which is awesome. Should be able to get some decent prints made from 35mm.

It would also be great to have a camera that tethers to my laptop or something as the X Pro-1 lacks the functionality, but no biggy.

  • Peak Design tripod
  • Raleno LED studio light
  • Negative Supply MK1/MK2

Nice but the price is kinda … Plus - how does this thing keeps film flat? Is there a glass sandwich?

Also - there is only defused light option right?

Regards, Rene


It uses a laminated wood base, but MDF would work well too.
Manfrotto Super Clamp
Good ball head
5500K light table
1/2 inch black foamcore with a 5x7 hole cut in the middle
A variety of film holders, some Beseler and some custom as the film ranges from 35mm to large format
Mirror for alignment
F8 to f11, varying the shutter speed for exposure adjustments
I have a Nikon D800 (although I’ve also used a D850), 60mm f2.8 G micro Nikkor
live view, 5 second timer

I don’t have NLP as I’m running Linux, and most of the film is B&W or colour transparency. My friend, on a Mac, is probably going to buy NLP so I’m curious to see how colour negs work on his system. From the online reviews I’ve seen it looks like really excellent software with great support, and I would likely buy it if I were on Win or Mac.

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I’m trying a new setup. It’s in an early stage but I’ll post an image and update it, if I’ll be able to edit the post by the time the rig is completed.

Camera and Light sit on SmallRig 1798 carriers, the carrier in the middle is a 1775.
Aputure AL-MX provides ample power for captures at around 1/100 at its 50% setting.
The rods are from the hardware store, longer and cheaper than what SmallRig offers.
Overall length including the camera, which hangs in free air, is approx. 57 cm or 23 in.
I can copy negatives from FF up to 6x9 cm, which was the design goal.
If I attach my EOS M6, smaller negatives can be covered. I might use the M6 for MF negatives because it has fabulous AF - and a few pixels more than my DSLR.

The next step will be the negative carrier based on a Durst Sirioneg that I already have. I have two ideas and will see which one gets the go. The goal is to get a rig that prevents things from shifting around, which will be helpful for “factory scanning” lots of negatives.

Hey Rene. The film feeds inside of a track that has a sort of ‘S’ curve that bends the film flat before it even gets to the rings that pull it through using the knob. It is quite pricey and I do not regret my purchase at all. You can scan through a whole roll very quickly and accurately making batch edits in Lightroom a bit easier.

As for the light, the only one I’ve seen from Raleno is diffused. Can’t see any bulbs through the diffuser at all and is rated at a 95+ CRI.

about this point: I use NLP on Linux and on FreeBSD.
It runs on Wine, but on the older 6.x Lightroom versions. On FreeBSD you must compile Wine from source but it builds flawlessly. Installation may have to be done on a Windows first, for instance in VirtualBox, and then copied over to the Wine windows filesystem.
Only real problem: I experience sometimes freezes when cropping. This may vary according to the sets of wine libraries, versions and system. Couple quirks in the UI, corrected by simple clicks, and don’t affect functionality But all in all that’s how I use NLP. I am not a win nor a mac user, have been on Unix since the 90’s.
And of course if plenty of RAM and cpu, NLP can just be used on a Virtualboxed Win, but with Wine you only need the Adobe license and the NLP one, not a Windows one.

Thanks for that. Another photographer, and good friend, will be checking NLP on his Mac, so I’ll see how it works processing a few of my old negatives, compared to using the colour negative module of RawTherapee. I don’t have a lot of colour negs so it may not be worth the Adobe licence and the hassle of setting up FreeBSD/Wine. My friend, on the other, was a wedding photographer, so has a ton of 120 colour negs.

But for me the first step is to try my digitized negatives on my friend’s computer with NLP. I haven’t yet had the chance to try NLP, but it certainly does look good on the video reviews I’ve seen.

A lot of my digitizing is with my father’s photos, mostly B&W and colour trannies. https://harryrowed.ca/

the usual unix tools: gimp, rawtherapee, etc, work well but require more or less manipulations. I shot lot of colour film, so NLP was worth it.
On Debian-like systems it’s just about an “apt-get install wine” then install LR6, only FreeBSD needs to build from source.
You can use the trial, there’s no watermarking nor quality degradation just a lock after 12 conversions.

anyway, back to the main topic: for 35mm film I use a Reflecta ProScan10T, it’s a single frame at a time, you push the holder frame after frame, and at a good resolution level it takes time… Recently I shot more 35mm and the time it takes is not acceptable.

I shot mostly film, got rid of DSLR but kept a Canon 5D (the so-called now “classic”…) just in case, for my bunch of M42 lenses. The other day I decided to try scanning of 35 film with the 5D.

I had around a cheap LED roof/wall lamp that was supposed to be mounted somewhere in the house months ago, before plans changed. That lamp from the DIY and hardware store use the regular 220v wall sockets, is 18W at 3000K white and cost less than any dedicated light table:


IMG_1487_640

a small Rollei tripod I use when traveling light, a film holder for the Reflecta scanner, in my box of M42 lenses I had a bellows macro lens from the 60’s/70’s, a Noflexar 105mm/f4.
See the fancy scanning “lab”:

actually the 12.8MP of the 5D are usable up to A3 in case of sharp emulsion like Ektar. Yet some softness, so yesterday I got myself a 2nd-hand Sony a5000, with a 20MP sensor. Not a DSLR, but better, it’s small and light:

on the Canon 5D focusing through the prism is ok, shooting with 2s timer MLU and cable, on the Sony a5000, the liveview focus magnification and/or focus peaking is quite good, shooting with 2s timer and/or from the mobile phone app.
I usually have a Bronica-S2 or a Salyut in the hands, the Canon 5D feels like a toy, and that little APS-C thingy with it’s liveview gadget felt ridiculous at first, but is in fact quite nice. Love it

my little testing went well, so i will make some plate with retaining clamps for the lamp, guiding rails for the film holder, etc. Will be a permanent or semi-permanent setting, since I will not use the Sony a5000 for anything else.

ten minutes for shooting 6 strips of 6x 35mm negatives, instead of couple hours attending the scanner…
only difference is lack of infrared dust removal with a digital camera but my negatives don’t have time to collect dust, they go straight from the bathroom after drying to protective sleeves. In case of need a wash with wetting agent is enough.
For old not well cared negatives with some scratch I bought a license of the SRDx Photoshop plugin, from LaserSoft Imaging (the maker of Silverfast). This software tool has the advantage that it works of course on BW film too.

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I hadn’t heard of SRDx before so watched a couple of video demos. Looks good in the demos, but:

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any slides that were so incredibly dirty in the sky, but totally clean in the areas of the photos with the real content such as buildings. The videos made it seem that you just had to mask around the buildings, and presto, the image is cleaned up. In a real photo, you would have just as much dirt and scratches on the buildings, which the filter wouldn’t fix, and you’d still need to use the clone or healing brush.
  2. As you say, cleaning negatives or slides is not that difficult and it’s a huge time saver to take 30 - 60 seconds to clean properly before digitizing. I use a variety of methods for this, including a DataVac electric blower, microfibre cloths, Kimwipes, liquid film cleaner (or 99% isopropyl) and 3M Magic tape. When there are a lot of small, stuck on pieces of dirt, the 3M tape is very effective. Just press it on and pull it off, without rubbing the sticky side over the film.
  3. For badly scratched film I use Edwal NoScratch or light mineral oil. Old darkroom trick.
  4. I have on occasion used a similar approach to SRDx. There’s a G’MIC filter for Gimp, Repair/Remove Hot Pixels, which works similarly to Photoshop’s dust and scratches filter. I restrict the filter to large, even areas such as the sky by duplicating the layer and using layer masks. I don’t try to remove the larger flaws, just the numerous small, pesky ones. The larger ones are quick to clean after with the healing tool.

I’m dealing with a lot of historical negatives, dating back into the 1930s. Most are in good condition, but there is certainly some cleaning needed, especially when they will be reproduced at large sizes.

well, I don’t consider LSI’s SRDx a miracle solution, and I bought a license after trials. Coming from unix/linux with the usual tools you named (gimp filters like gmic suite, resynthetizer, healing tool, etc) I found SRDx more effective because no need to paint the defects among other things. it does often a good detection job over the whole image.

for instance this 35mm negative, scanned without IR mask on the Reflecta 10T then NLP rendered, is heavily scratched:

on SRDx detection over the whole image is effective and easy to parametrize with two main cursors, like for instance

this:

or this:

I chosed the latter and result is:

a scratch is still well visible on the left of the arch and when you zoom in stil quite some very thin scratches, that can be healed further, in gimp or whatever. It needs some more work but a lot has already been done without much degradation over the whole picture.

for comparison, with highest IR filter of the scanner:

another, less damaged picture, with dark and light walls, trees, sky, etc:

the defaults shown at once by SRDx:


after healing:

thanks. Useful advice. That’s in fact one of the reasons of wet scanning.

my personal opinion is that DSLR (or mirrorless) scanning is anyway good for the speed, yet I may keep my 35mm scanner for the effectiveness of IR healing once in a while. This for colour film. Otherwise for any film, BW or colour, I find the SRDx plugin quite convenient, time saving.

Good info, thanks. Those negs seem pretty badly beat up. Have you tried wet mounting with DSLR scans? Fortunately most of my negs and trannies are in decent condition but I’ve done some tests by intentionally scratching throwaway slides and found that DSLR digitizing using Edwal No-Scratch was much more effective for getting rid of scratches than IR scanning with a Minolta Dimage Multi Scan Pro running Vuescan. Of course, it is messier and needs to be cleaned after.

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I started playing with DSLR scanning last week, spent most time trying different lenses and silly me didn’t think of wet mounting these 35mm negatives, yet I wet mount sometimes 120 film on my V700.
So, as per your advice have just done it, quickly. Sandwiched the Branderburger Tor between two plates of plexiglass and heptane.
Indeed, it works very well , there are still couple scratches only. ( did this quickly, couple bubbles and fluid on the corner is seen. )

btw, this was taken with a Mir-24 lens, a 35mm/f2, at f8 and a short tube. Works great.

Hi…

Just saw your post…I am actually trying to sell this unit. Although, it is a great machine I decided to go the copystand route so I could just have a dedicated camera for all scanning…slides, negatives, and reflective media. I was using their Slidesnap Pro machine which would allow you to have slides in carousels for quick capture.

To answer your question…the light is diffused…but I guess if you wanted to switch out the light source you could do it pretty easily. At least in the film I converted with this machine I didn’t have any issues with flatness…The negative is pulled through by a little conveyer belt holding the bottom part (over the sprockets) and then a small grooved guide that the top part would move through.

Again, I am trying to sell this one that I honestly only used on one job of less than 500 frames before switching setups. So if you are interested let me know.

Thanks,
Chris

This is my current setup…