Suggested backlight sources for scanning film with DSLR

I bought a skier copy box (v2) a while ago, but I did a little test to see the concentration of the light source or how diffused it is. I pulled the image around a bit here, but this was the result. I included the Lightroom panel so you can see how I pushed the image around - it’s a pretty extreme grade, but I do have a tendency to push my film images around as much as I can, and it’s good to know where the limits are / where the light source is acting as a problem. I was a bit disappointed because this seems to be very highly recommended. Although the plastic seems to do a good job at diffusing the light, I wish the light source wasn’t so concentrated.

I got the nicer one. Need to test it out more as I’m getting an orange color cast in part of my image.

Has anyone used or heard of the Nanlite Compac 20? It came up when I ran a google search for the nanguang cn-t96. It looks to be the same thing (maybe). I know Nanguang rebranded to NanLite, so it would make sense. Both are listed at CRI95, though the Compac 20 doesn’t have cn-t96 anywhere in the specs. If it’s actually CRI95 and the still the same light source as used in the Skier and cn-t96, it’s a heck of a bargain at $40 on B&H. It comes with a diffuser, but I also have the EFH which would add another diffusion layer.
NanLite Compac 20 Daylight Slim on B&H

Interesting findings. I have just begun my exploration into “DSLR” scanning (using my Fuji XH1 and an adapted Micro-Nikkor 55/3.5) and have been having an awful time tracking down the source of some vignetting and edge exposure issues. I am running the Skier Sunray v3 box. So far, after much deduction, I think the problems are coming from the light source or the film holders, or both. So very interesting to see you have noticed similar things.

Hi, I’m new to dslr scanning. Really enjoying this feed as I’m still trying to find a good set which I am happy with before starting to digitise boxes of old film rolls.
I now experimented with a flash shooting into a white box with my negative holder sitting on top. It’s really even and bright illumination. But I noticed that the film grain is so much more noticeable and harsh. I really like the overall look of the scan but in magnification the grain is just too much.
Am I missing something important for this technique as flash is often recommended as very good solution. Like I said I love the look of the scan. The stronger light seems to work very well, but can I reduce the grain sharpness somehow? Or is it just normal that you’ll get more grain with a stronger light source?
Much appreciated!

Flash is a very good solution but it needs to be diffused. You can either fit a clip-on diffuser to the flash head and/or place a sheet of opal perspex or other diffusing material between the flash and the film holder. The light will be much softer and you will have less trouble with film grain, scratches, etc.

You can also white-balance on the unexposed ladder … This will produce an orange mask deduction base.


could one of you guys who own it be so kind and post a Kaiser “slimlite plano” LED light box illumination shot? I would love to evaluate the distribution of light before I buy it …

Thank you and best regards!

Compare a shot of a central part of an A4 Slimlite Plano:

Without tonal adjustments (check histogram)

With some extreme processing (check histogram)

Note how the extreme processing shows how LEDs are mounted densely and in diamond shape. It also shows lens vignetting and that light shone onto the panel from a window. All this is not relevant or visible under normal working conditions (check filmstrip)

Differences appear greatly exaggerated due to the following:

  • tone curve: instead of 1/255, edges are placed at 200/210
  • Structure slider at max
  • Clarity slider at max
  • Haze slider near max
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Thank you thats very helpful and a bit discouraging D:

I was convinced the LEDs are in the edges of the panel reflecting from the bottom surface like with a monitor.

That would be the best architecture for uniformity.

Don’t be discouraged, conversion tonecurves will be nowhere near the curve shown in the lower screenshot. I found that the plano is easily good enough as a backlight.

If you want something better, you might want to use a white surface lit by the sun or a couple of tungsten lamps in a setup lika a copy stand and put a few feet between the negative and the lit surface. Not very practical, but best CRI you can get…

I’ve also just checked the plano for how the LEDs are mounted. I thought they were spread over the surface, but it rather looks like edge-lighting… See the photo taken from the panel’s backside:

Looks like the diamond shape is caused by the light-guide.

Here’s a shot of a negative treated with the settings that revealed the diamonds:

I found not the slightest hints of the diamonds, no matter what I did. This extreme treatment brought out the ribbing of the sofa’s covering - and imaged in the medium format negative shot against the light - and it would take a heck of a lot of postprocessing to make it visible in a real image. BTW, I keep my negatives an inch off the surface of the backlight.

Summary: Stay cool, the plano will do its job, as will many other products or DIY solutions.

I was dramatising a bit, but yes — sometimes I have a hard time curbing my OCD.
Than again — I just got rid of that Skier thing. It produced fall-off visible to the naked eye with medium format.

Now, the problem with this panels is they all use cheap diffusion plastic instead of something better as the materials sells.

But yes, as you said — one needs to put the image to the stretchers to make it apparent on that Kaiser. Not all of the light tables though.

Again thank you for you effort :slight_smile:

Hi, I don’t have time to read all the responses you got but I’ll tell you about my experience.
I had the Digitaliza from Lomography and it was kind of disappointing, time-consuming, wouldn’t hold the negatives flat etc etc etc… After spending money in everything else, it makes no sense to fail on your scanning methods, so after a little research I decided to try the Skier and it’s very good, no regrets and only good things to say about it.

The metal: is safe, it has a coating or some sort of treatment that makes it smooth, that’s the best I can say to describe it. The flatness: it holds the negatives flat, at a high enough degree that I haven’t had a problem since, sharp from corner to corner, it was a nightmare with the Digitaliza, especially with 135 film. The speed: it depends on you :slight_smile: I get through the rolls in 5min max, faster with 120 even taking two exposures per shot when doing 6x7 or 6x6.

The only con for me, if you go too slow, it gets warm, and the rolls tend to curl a bit. I couldn’t be happier with it. Mine came with two pairs of microfiber gloves that I wasn’t expecting at all.

Happy to share my experience,
Good luck!

Nice thing is that an iPhone backlight is easy to get

I’m making a dslr scanner based on a toyo 4x5 LF camera that will use this backlight source :wink:

About Kaiser Slimlite Plano: yes, there’s a pattern.

Solution: Some separation (from panel to film) is probably a good enough solution. Probably half-inch will put the panel’s pattern well enough out of focus for 1x shots.

If you want more, use spacing, then a diffuser, then more spacing.

This panel gives good light. Biggest problem I see is that exposure times are ~1/3 sec, and you’ll for sure want to darken the room.

A modified combo like this looks like something that could be useful… if there were some adapters to screw into the front thread of the macro lens. No stray light!

I’m one of those who likes to make use of what I have, and will sometimes thin outside the box. possibly foolishly. Having been a casual lurker for over a year, but finally got around to getting some gear, I’m almost ready to start digitizing my old 35mm film negatives. My question is about backlight (hence asking on this thread).
For context, I have the Essential Film Holder (received v3 a couple of months ago) and I’ll be shooting with a Canon 80D and EF-S 60mm macro

Rather than buying a backlight, I was considering using my GVM 80W CRI97+ Dimmable LED Continuous Video Light 5600K with Bowens Mount [I got mine with a softbox vs reflector]
and either adding either (I don’t have, would need to acquire… in the ~$25-35 range)

  • an Bowens Mount Snoot (with opening larger than 35mm negative); or
  • (simply) a reflector

If this is worth pursuing at all (and I’m ok to hear it isn’t)

  • with snoot, should I use the grid (collimation?) or is that something I’ll need to test with & without?
  • for a reflector, either Std 7", or something like Glow 45 degree long #GL-RF45-BO

Obviously I could lay the EFH flat on a table but to use a light stand mounted LED video light, I would have to go with either a horizontal setup, or have raised the EFH (and camera) with the LED video light below pointed up at EFH (I have plenty of ways to pull that off with what I have)

as I’m considering buying a snoot or reflector I might not otherwise use, should I simply get one of the LED panel backlight sources mentioned above instead and call it a day?

Another interesting approach:

Any news about that?

So I thought I’d add my setup. I’m using:

Olympus OMD EM1 III - using high-resolution mode.
60mm Macro
Kaiser Repro Kid Copy Stand
iPad Pro 2018 for a light source
An app called Lightbox
Most importantly, a homemade 3 - 4 " spacer between the iPad and the film holder (The film holder is just a plastic piece that came with a flatbed scanner I had from a while ago.)

Works great for me.