Scans are looking foggy and lack sharpness

I have just done my first scans using my Canon M6 Mark II mirrorless camera, I had it sat on a Manfrotto Tripod above a lightpanel, with the film being held in a Pixl-Latr film holder. Downside is I have had to use a everything that is not recommended (adapter and an old lens) as well as a 2x teleconverter only way I could get it close enough. The shots have appeared rather foggy, I have peaking enabled on the camera and peaking showed that the negative was in focus. Other than this in one of the shots I managed to essentially replicate the colour from the lab scans, but it just lacks the sharpness and has this awful fogging.

It could be a number of things but have you shielded off the rest of the light panel? If not it could be flare. It could also be camera shake if you are using slow shutter speeds and the way you are supporting the camera isn’t entirely solid. Do you use a cable release or set the camera off on a delay? If all those are good then perhaps the lens is at fault. Nothing wrong with an old lens, they can be excellent, but it shouldn’t have haze and it should be sharp at its optimum aperture of course. Vlad’s Test Target is very good for ascertaining how good your setup is and highlighting any problems.

I tried again this morning and the fogging seems to have not appeared on this scan, I remote shots from my phone instead of the camera, but it does still lack sharpness, I decided to try a different old macro lens, with a 2x teleconverter. The results did seem to be better, when comparing to the scan I got from the lab of the same shot it just lacks the sharpeness. I do get that I’m using my mirrorless VS a Fuji Frontier SP300 but the M6 Mark II is a 32.5 megapixel and I’ve seen others get way sharper results from lower megapixel sensors. I know I didn’t shield the rest of the light panel, I just put the Pixl-Latr on it did some tweaks and then shot. As for lens I used a 75-200mm Macro I shot at 75mm with the 2x teleconverter so the lens was away from the negative.

Firstly, imho, you should be able to get results that equal or exceed the Frontier lab results with your 32.5MP Canon sensor. I think that the lens is going be to your limiting factor here, a ‘macro’ zoom lens coupled with a teleconverter is probably not going to cut it at 1:1. There is a whole long thread on here about peoples’ setups and they use a variety of different lenses of course, everyone will have their own favourites. Personally I think the cheapest way in for APS-C will be a 50mm 6-element enlarging lens like a Rodagon via bellows or a combination of extension rings, though an old 55mm Micro-Nikkor in good condition via an adapter and an extension ring also gives very good results for not too much money, both entirely manual for aperture and focus of course. If you want to spend more then Canon also have their own dedicated fixed focal length macro lenses.

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…if your into this, the laowa macro lenses seems to be pretty good if we believe in what is written here: Lenses — Close-up Photography

Just followed your link to Iaowa, I’m staggered at the range of lenses that they produce now, I wouldn’t have known to recommend them. I believe that the 60mm Micro-Nikkor f2.8G is significantly better than the old 55mm, but only on a Nikon as there’s no aperture ring and an ultrasonic motor. I find the 50mm, 60mm & 80mm Rodagons very good, even old pre make-over ones and they can be bought quite cheaply. Not everyone wants to get involved with manual settings and no AF though.

I’ve never had good experiences with affordable macro zoom SLR lenses, of any sort. I know some use them but I’d never choose one for scanning purposes.
These are two macro lenses I’ve used on the regular, both with great result.

Konica Hexanon AR 55mm F3.5 Macro

SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F2.8 Macro

Fogginess and lack of sharpness are most likely separate issues. The fogginess could be from making your exposures in an environment that allows too much ambient light into the light path from the negative to the camera. Either work in a darkened room or find a way to shield the light path going through the negative from the light table to the camera. To achieve the most sharpness you can from this process it is necessary to use a flat-field copy lens and manually focus. A quality enlarger lens would be a good candidate.

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Oh - and as well - if you are using tubes or bellows that extend the lens to sensor distance, it is important to make sure exposure is adequate. Light reaching the sensor declines exponentially as the lens to sensor distance increases.

I have decided to invest in a flatbed scanner, as I would have had to invest in a new lens and I think I caught a good deal on an Epson V500, which can do 6400DPI and it was cheaper than some of the Macro lenses.

It may well be fine for your needs but that 6400 dpi is an invention, they get nowhere near that in real quantifiable terms. Plenty on the ‘interweb’ to that effect. The dynamic range is important also and that is nothing like what you would expect to get with a RAW file from a modern digital camera in a good camera ‘scanning’ setup. That said if you only want to share your images on social media, or to make small prints it could be fine for you but it’s best to be aware of the limitations.

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Be sure the only light reaching the lens comes from the negative. There should be NO stray light from any source reaching the lens. Mask off or shroud all sources other than the light coming through the negative. Black velvet or Velcro works well.

Be sure the lenses involved are spotlessly clean on both front and back elements. No haze, dust, fingerprints, spots, or other blemishes should appear. Any of these will contribute to image softness and reduced contrast.

Be sure you are not stopping the lens down more than about three stops. MOST lenses perform best within 2 or 3 stops of wide open. My Lumix 30mm macro lens is f/2.8 maximum aperture; I use it at f/5.6 to f/6.3. (I have been doing film copy work since 1975, long before digital, and have done considerable testing to find the best apertures on every lens I’ve owned or used for extended periods.)

If your camera has an electronic shutter, use that with a 2-second self timer.

Be sure the film is FLAT. I recommend using a better-engineered film holder of some sort (I use the Essential Film Holder).

If these suggestions don’t help improve your results, you may need more information. This PDF file might help:

The consensus appears to be that modern digital cameras and reasonably sharp macro lenses will produce scans that exceed in quality those you will get from a consumer-level scanner. Remember that the macro lens you purchase will not be used only for this purpose! You can use it for regular photography, too. So, there’s that to consider as well.

I’m not entirely inside that tent, if we’re talking consensus. A “reasonably sharp macro lens” in and of itself may not necessarily satisfy. I’m not concerned about comparisons to “consumer-level” scanners, whatever those are, but more pertinent is one’s own objectives in respect of perceived resolution and edge sharpness. The kind of macro lens one uses matters. The best results will be achieved with a high-quality lens that is designed for flat-field copy purposes. Few macro lenses are.

Moreover, there seem to be almost no reports about lens properties at close-up and macro distances…

Digitizer - I know you post about these first two sites so this is not for your benefit but it might be useful to post about them again here:

Coinimaging - fairly esoteric selection of lenses and generally not the newer macro lenses from major manufacturers such as Sony, Sigma, Fuji, Tamron etc.

Closeupimaging - very much high end flat field tests on a silicon wafer target but including some ‘consumer’ macro lenses from major manufacturers.

Enrico Savazzi - again a fairly esoteric selection but interesting none the less, flat field not tested though.

Vlad’s Airtable - for users of Vlad’s test target, potentially a useful resource but it seems to have fallen into disuse. Some limitations as you can’t either edit your uploaded results, or delete them and post again (I’d like to do the former). However anyone can download the results and come to their own conclusions.

But yes, in the main reviews of macro lenses in the major publications or online aren’t concerned with flat field corner to corner performance at around 1:1.

I agree - not easy to find. Certain manufacturers such as Schneider and Rodenstock do publish MTF functions for their macro lenses and those are quite informative, but this would only be of interest to those willing and able to get into this range of equipment.