Nikon ES-2 Flatness and Light Source

I’m toying with the idea of picking up a used Nikon D800/60mm and ES-2 to get better scans than I can from my Plustek, but I wanted to check in to see if there are any issues with film flatness with this holder? Is there a real difference between this holder and the expensive NS ones, etc.?

Also, I see a lot of in-depth talk about light sources, but I’m wondering where a normal camera flash falls in the quality spectrum? Between a flash and an expensive high CRI source, which is better in practice?

I know these are basic questions, but my search results so far have gone off in meandering and sometimes contradictory directions. Thanks in advance.

I use the Nikon ES-2 in combination with a Sony A7 and Rodenstock Rodagon 4/50 on a bellows. I repeatedly check with the A7’s magnified view if the grain is visible across the image frame and that is adequately so, even wide open at f/4. The scan is made at f/11 which assures me that the whole image is in focus while avoiding too much sharpness degradation due to diffraction.

My light source is Durst M605 Color Head, with filtering adjusted to yield a color temperature around 5500 K. I imagine that a flash would do just fine, although you’ll need some continuous light to focus, so it might be more convenient to use continuous lighting.

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Good to know! Thanks. That’s a good point about a focusing light - I hadn’t though of that. I may have to do the deep dive into fancy light sources.

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I use the Essential Film Holder. It keeps film REALLY flat. I use an LED panel, the Viltrox L-116t. It’s 95+CRI, adjustable color temperature, and plenty bright. Exposure is about 1/250 at f/5.6 at ISO 200 on a Lumix GH4 Micro 4/3. The light is well-diffused by the Perspex built into the Essential Film Holder.

Camera is on a home-brew copy stand. I use a similar sort of macro lens to what you are using (Lumix 30mm f/2.8). I’ve digitized thousands of negatives and slides and love it. I hope to add the new Lumix G9 Mark II later this year, to allow 100 MP scans from medium format film, and up normal resolution to 25MP.


After a month of reading on this forum I decided on a similar setup. I shoot in RAW using a Nikon D850 with a Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 AF Micro lens and the ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter with a SB800 flash as light source. I use a led light for focus, its on a switch to turn on off as needed. I shoot tethered at f8.0, 1/60th, adjusting the EV value to bracket exposure.
I’ve only used the ES-2 so can’t speak to other film holders. Some of my negs are 40+ years old and are curved and I find the ES-2 holds them fairly well. It’s a bit of a pain to load and get contact with all edges for badly curved negs, but works to hold it once you close it. The bar between frames helps.
Read post by @Richard1Karash help me decide to use a flash for light source.
Here a photo of his setup using flash


How is the quality of the resulting scans, and have you compared to any dedicated film scanners? Can you see the grain clearly?

I agree on the EFH! It’s much easier to use than those magnetic clamping holders. I use a Kaiser Slimlite plano which give a nice even light across the copy surface.

The only issue I have with the EFH is that it is difficult to scan fewer than four frames of 35mm film, or any strip of film in another size that is shorter than that. You can’t push it through. I got around this by Velcro-ing my old Omega B22 enlarger negative carrier to the 6x9 mask layer of the EFH. I’ll need that to scan the thousands of negatives I have that I processed before I started using 6-frame NegaFiles to store film. I also need it for the few one and two frame strips left at the end of 38 exposure rolls that I used to spool myself back in high school in the 1970s.

The EFH is really used to scan whole rolls of freshly processed film at one sitting. It seems few good commercial solutions exist for single, double, or triple cut frames of 35mm film. The negative carrier works, but it’s a pain to unmount the 35mm mask, mount the carrier, copy two or three frames, then switch back to the 35mm mask…

Can someone confirm that the ES-2 works with the Sigma 70mm Art Macro, using the appropriate stepping ring? I read in an Amazon review comment that it does, but wondered if anyone has used this combo. I’m leaning towards this lens and a Sony body, if I go down this road.

Probably important to state whether you are looking to use an APS-C or Full Frame Sony as the setup, the extension rings etc. will be very different.

Also, have you considered the Valoi easy35 as that will come with a better selection of extension tubes and fittings.

I’m looking at the A7RII, which is full frame. The resolution and used prices are about right.

Yes, but I’m not sure about availability and shipping time/customs fees to Asia. It does look like an elegant solution, assuming no one has found any issues with flatness. I do not want to get involved with leveling a copy stand, and since I’m only using 35mm, these types of devices should be much easier.

Yes, not sure about availability, the website still seems to talk about pre-ordering for July 23. I was trying to find a page where they listed a lot of different lenses and the extension tubes that would be needed which might in any case have been handy for you but I can’t find it now, I think there were accessory kits for greater extension. The negative holder is, I think, possibly better designed than the ES-2 which is quite basic, it also allows scanning to include some film rebate which I don’t think is possible with the ES-2.

It definitely looks that way. I just tend to be biased towards things I can buy domestically, in case of defects, etc. But I suppose I could give it a try, since it isn’t THAT expensive.

I’m still undecided as to whether this is all worth it or not. I can rent time on an Imacon, but I have to accumulate some rolls first to make it worth it. That takes away the immediacy, but at the same time, at-home convenience is not worth sacrificing quality to me. In that case I could just keep going with the mediocre Plustek.

Do you think the Sony A7RII/Sigma 70 Art/easy35 solution could match or exceed an Imacon?

Well, just to be clear I use a 24MP APS-C Fuji X-T2 with an 80mm Rodagon (or 55mm Micro-Nikkor f2.8) vertically on a bellows from a solid copy stand and I have a separate DIY film scanning box that is currently lit with a Cinestill CS-Lite, I can do 35mm of course but also 120 stitching. I’m just saying that because I’m sure that a 42MP A7RII and a Sigma 70mm ART on the same rig would give me better resolution and dynamic range, probably a couple of ‘Elements’ up on Vlad’s Test Target, maybe more, and the dynamic range would probably be very good to have for difficult slides. What I’m not sure about is whether I need it to or perhaps under what circumstances would the differences become significant to me and of course it would mean a large outlay to upgrade when I’m entirely happy with that camera system for my other photography.

I do also have an Imacon Precision II, so scanning with that is a slow process and I’m certainly not saying that my X-T2 setup out resolves it, it doesn’t, clearly it has a fantastic lens, it’s a line scanner with an RGB light source and its own custom dedicated software and for 35mm offers 5000 ppi in the ‘landscape’ orientation or 6300 ppi for ‘portrait’, 3200 ppi for all medium formats, I love their ‘3F’ RAW format. I do think that in the Real World we are then talking about how the grain or dye clouds are resolved though, I don’t think that I can see a difference in the detail that the camera captured on fine grain film, say Kodachrome, from what I get with the X-T2. I’m not saying that the grain or dye clouds aren’t important either, just that I’m unlikely to want to print big enough for that to become a factor.

I think you should be very pleased with the results from a Sony A7RII and a Sigma 70mm ART but maybe renting an hour on an Imacon would help you to make up your mind. If it’s an X5 then that would be an entirely different experience to mine, much, much faster and better dynamic range.

Thanks! It is the X5, which I have used a few years ago. I know that it’s probably the safer choice for quality, but I’m quite lazy.

I’ve read that the 3f files can be opened directly in LR/NLP. That would make the workflow pretty great so i don’t have to waste time on the clock screwing around in the software. Hopefully it’s really that simple.

Hmm. I haven’t heard that, I don’t think so. Perhaps what you’ve read is that you can change the ‘3F’ file extension to ‘tif’ because it is essentially a tiff file with the Flexcolor settings baked into it as invisible metadata. Quite a few people like to do that although I like the way Flexcolor does its colour negative inversions actually. Note that if you do that then there is also a certain amount of sharpening set but only the default 0 setting whereas no sharpening in Flexcolor is -120 Unsharp Mask (USM). The main advantage is that you can download a relatively modern version of Flexcolor for free to work on the 3Fs that you bring back from your rental session, however it is only 32-bit so only works up to Mac OS 15 (I think, you’d need to check). On Windows it’s more accomodating.

Ah, I vaguely remember that sharpening setting. So the renamed tif from a 3f is sharpened? Is it ever too much? Any other downsides to using NLP with those?

Personally I don’t think it’s too much, it’s more or less what I would add anyway because all scanners require some sharpening so I don’t worry about it, opinions differ of course. In Flexcolor you can open one of these 3Fs and export it as a Tiff with a USM of, say, -60 but it would seem that you are then softening an already (slightly) sharpened image. In practice it is easy to test how much that would differ from scanning directly to a tiff with a USM setting of -60.

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