Scanning Results - Soft Edges?

Hi there,

I’m using an Nikon Z with a Nikon 60mm Macro and ES-2 to scan negatives, and I’m I’m pretty happy with the results.

One thing I have noticed is that when I magnify areas around the corners and edges, some areas look quite soft.

I don’t think it is a big issue because it’s probably not noticeable unless magnified, but wonder if any others experience anything similar and whether you have any ideas on how to improve (or do you just accept it as is?).

Appreciate your thoughts.



There are a number of people here (and on various FB groups) who are comparing macro lens options. The general idea seems to be that a legacy macro lens is probably better than some of the newer-fangled options. Older macro lenses (as well as enlarger lenses or copy lenses) are optimized for focus on flat objects, especially at 1:1 or magnifying ratios. WARNING: I’ve found chasing sharpness in the corners is a bit of a rabbit hole! I’ve recently found myself contemplating whether I want to spring for a $400 Rodagon enlarger lens, or even see about cannibalizing a Nikon Coolscan 9000…

I found this website to be REALLY helpful when diving down the rabbit hole:

The author specializes in photographing coins, and has tested a plethora of different types of lenses for that purpose but still quite applicable to digitizing film. You can even see the results of some microscope lenses if you’re considering one of those!

Another good resource is Good sharpness and flat-field analysis for most modern lenses. Helped me decide to go for my current macro lens.

I was using a Schneider Componon 50 2.8 with the Canon slide duplicator and Bellows FL for 135, and an EL Nikkor 135mm 5.6 with a custom 3D printed holder for 6x7. You’ve gotta remember to stop those lenses down after having them wide open for setting focus, otherwise you’ll definitely notice soft edges. I got good results with both, especially with the Nikkor on some studio-shot portraits with my RB67 and 90mm KL lens. With the Schneider, I mostly scanned some old slides that were shot with a camera with a less than sharp lens, but the grain came out looking pretty good!

Recently, I decided that the whole set-up can be GREATLY simplified if I just bit the bullet and bought a modern macro lens. Plus, I could use if for more that just camera-scanning, like product shots or flowers and stuff. So I picked up a Tamron 90mm macro for $200, haven’t regretted it at all. Super sharp all the way to the corners.

As for your Nikon 60mm macro; I’m not too familiar with it’s performance, but sounds like you need to stop down the aperture to find it’s best corner performance without sacrificing over-all image sharpness. You’ll have to find that sweet spot with experimentation!

Thank you both for your responses.

The other thing that has occurred to me is that, given I’m using a 45 megapixel camera (Nikon Z7), perhaps I don’t need to fill the frame with the negative?

By framing my shot to use a smaller part of the sensor (say 2/3rds) and sacrificing some resolution, I could avoid the majority of the soft corner issue?

Having said that, I’m not sure at what point I’d be sacrificing detail in a 35mm negative.

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I’ve seen test shots that suggest it’s possible to get all the resolution possible out of a 35 mm neg/slide at 24 MP, so yeah, you probably can sacrifice some of your 45 MP.

If you’re not a member of the “Digitizing film with a digital camera” Facebook group already, you probably will want to be. (That is, if you can stand to be on FB.) Richard Karash posts a lot of great lens comparison shots there, with specific focus (ahem) paid to corner and edge sharpness, and whether the negative grain is fully captured.

+1 for both the Digitizing Film With A Digital Camera facebook group and for @Richard1Karash and all he does for the film community! :raised_hands:

StephenK, sorry to be slow in responding.

To assess your scan-lens, look for the resolution of film grain. You’ll see it for sure in the center, but look in the corners. You should be able to see it there as well. If grain is well resolved in corners but image detail is soft, that would point to the scene-lens.

I’ve tested the 60 Micro-Nikkor and it looks very good through the corners on an APS body. So, your idea of using the central area is probably good. Have not tested on FX. Best aperture on APS body was f/8.

Here’s the 60 Micro-Nikkor at a corner on an APS body. It matches and maybe beats the excellent 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor AI. These are 300% in LR.

Thanks very much Richard