Suggested backlight sources for scanning film with DSLR

Bayer filter sensors have two photon collectors filtered for green and one each for red and blue. RawDigger can be set to display the two green channels separately (default setting) or not.

Thanks. Never realized that. Clear. I could have summed the greens. Still, from the above, one can use Rawdigger to check for homogeneity of the light, which was new to me. It could also explain why some folks here see funky color variations in their scans.

Which leaves me wondering: Is my conclusion correct that I might as well use the Rollei and would not have to use the available, but less convenient, Solux?

Is this correct: For scanning, I would simply ETTR with Rawdigger this way on a non-exposed section of a negative strip, and use the LR eyedropper on a non-clipping frame from that, to determine exposure as well as WB for the film and use those settings for the entire film?

Can’t say anything about this. I have seen neither of the two lights and respective results.

You best consult the GUIDE you can access through the link in the black header of the page (scroll up to find the link)

In general, exposing to the right provides a good starting point for the conversion. About exposure, the guide recommends the following:

Keep the SAME exposure for the entire roll. This will cut down on variance during processing. Beware auto exposure, as the small settings changes throughout the roll will create unwanted variance.

While this recommendation might make sense if you fill rolls with one scene, it might not be optimal for film strips that cover many different objects and densities due to variations in exposure of the film. Whether a roll is evenly used (same object and exposure) or not could make a difference and I usually test different camera settings in unevenly exposed rolls.

I also understand NLP’s initial conversion as a starting point rather than as an end result…but we’re getting off topic here…

Do enlargers work well as a light source? I got a free colour Nikor 6x7 enlarger, which is super bright. Also, it has knobs which adjust the colour of the light source so I should be able to counteract the film bases orange colour cast. Also, the light coming out of it is already pretty diffused and I am using a EFH, which will further diffuse the light

The only things I am worried about is the CRI of the light, and it is kinda a warmer light (but I can counteract that with the enlarger’s built-in filters.

I was just curious if anyone has experience of using an enlarger as a light source and how it compares to using a LED light source?


I’ve worked with this and found that lighting was not even enough for medium format negatives and that the colour filters did not matter that much. After all, NLP will deal with colour fairly well in most cases.

Search the forum for more comments on enlargers. Also, check out other threads about light sources and setups, they cover lots of ideas and experience.

@Digitizer So I tried using the enlarger lamp and it actually worked really well. I don’t know if it is just the design of my enlarger lamp housing. But the light bounces 90 degrees into a box that has sides that are some sort of white foam before it shines out the bottom (where the film holder would go) through some sort of white diffuser. Then through the EFH’s diffuser so the light seems pretty good.

Sadly, I was only able to scan two frames because the old bulb blew out. It is really easy though to get replacements. Once I fix it, I’ll experiment more and post the results. I will likely get an LED panel though since the enlarger head is quite awkward and it gets pretty hot. Though I can fix that by rigging up a computer fan to cool the bulb.

Does anyone have experience/tested the Cinestill CS-Lite?
It has a 95 CRI and the reported specs seem comparable to the Viltrox 116T that I’ve seen recommended as a budget-friendly light source.

It seems like a great entry-level scanning setup since there is a fitting 35mm film holder, but at 90$/80€ for the kit it seems almost too good to be true (considering the price for e.g. the essential film holder or Skier box), so I’m hesitant on pulling the trigger just to get a disappointing product.

Curious to hear your thoughts on it!

I have one and I can’t actually think of anything bad to say about it though I haven’t compared it with other panels personally. Just some detail about it in case it’s useful.

The CS-Lite is 175mm x 120mm x 20mm overall and the illuminated area is 149mm x 94mm, so just a bit too narrow to think of doing uncropped 5"x4" but fine if you are stitching across the short side if you get my meaning. The surface of the lit area has a pure white matt frosted appearance and on my setup I use it about 3 cms below the negative. It’s bright, I get about 1/160 sec at f8 at 200 iso. There is a little bit of illumination unevenness very close to the edges but otherwise it is very even. It’s rated as >95 CRI (Colour Rendering Index) which really should be fine, 99 CRI panels are super expensive as you will know. I believe that the highest CRI rating is for the warm setting. I’ve seen excellent results posted using the CS-Lite with NLP but I bought it for slides/transparencies mainly.

There is a 1/4" tripod thread at the centre of one of the long sides (useful perhaps for mounting on a table tripod, or even for using as a Macro light source). The captive USB lead is just under 2m long and the control switch is about 45 cms from the body on that lead. It needs a 1.6 Amp 5V USB ‘A’ power source for full brightness. Standard Iphone power plugs are 1A (5W) but Ipad power plugs like the A1357 or A1401 are 2 Amp (10W) and easily available for less that £10, I’m using an A1357. They say that 5W power plug means it will still work fine but it will be half as bright though I haven’t tested this.

Having the control switch on the lead works very well, much better for me than those other video lights that have them on the back for this application. It is also completely flat on the back so no 3D-printed holders required.

Mine came with a textured ‘collimator’ sheet but they now sell these separately in packs of 2 as the CS-LiteBrite+ and it is not included with the CS-Lite. There is also a useful mask to reduce the area for 35mm and I’d recommend making your own for medium format etc. to reduce extraneous spill light, as you would with any panel.

Basically I like it.

hello! informations that you give here is very useful, thank you for that. but i have one question for now. when using ipad, do you use any diffusion material like when you are using led panel? thank you

Billie, good question. For iPad and iPhone, I did not use a diffuser, just enough spacing so the pixels in the screen are way out of focus. The current iPad and iPhone displaying white gives a three-color-narrow-band spectrum that works well, perhaps a bit stylized, but is not very bright. Today I prefer for backlight: electronic flash (w/diffuser of course), any of the small video lights, or the CSLite.

Thank you so much for the answer; it’s really helpful. I have another question that just crossed my mind. What do you think about using the Godox LED P260C for scanning? As for the diffuser, I can’t use the recommended Dura-Lar because it’s so expensive here. On Amazon, it’s listed at $18, but in my country, it goes up to $80. I don’t think I can justify that price yet. What about using generic tracing paper instead? or is there any other recomendation for diffuser?

Oh, and one more thing. I’m curious about the electronic flash setup. Can you please provide a photo of the setup or some kind of reference on how an electronic flash can be set up for scanning?

Diffuser, lots of options, three sheets of tracing paper might work. Whatever you use, make it out of focus. Set up for flash, there are lots of options. I took an old furniture cabinet, cut a hole in the top and shine the flash up from underneath, see photo. Another guy has a glass dining table, flash up from underneath. White plastic cooler material (called “Styrofoam” here" is a great diffuser; you can cut a hole in a cooler, shine the light into the cooler, cut another hole and place film holder over 2nd hole. Or cut up the material, use it to line a diffusion box.

Thank you so much for the detailed answer. I’m still new to this, and your answers and this forum have really helped me. I have one more question, but it’s not directly related to the current topic of this forum, so I apologize for that. If I use an old lens with a 1:2 ratio on an APS-C camera, do I really need an extension tube to achieve a 1:1 ratio on a macro lens?

This is confusing: 1:1 or 1x means the image on sensor is same SIZE as the subject, not that subject fills sensor. To fill the sensor in camera-scan of 35mm file, you want to be 0.67x or 1.5:1 or 2:3. With a legacy macro that only focuses to 1:2, you you won’t fill the sensor so you would waste some pixels. Not the worst thing, just crop. But better results by filling the sensor by adding an extension tube. The most comment extension tube (27.5mmm for the 55 Micro Nikko) gets you to 1x, more than you need. A shorter tube would also do the job.

Hello, I’m new here and Nate referred me to this forum. I have a Nikon ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter set and a Nikkor 60mm Macro lens for my D850. I’m needing a good light source. What would you guys recommend (hopefully something from Amazon as I have gift cards) ?


Is there an optimal exposure to get the best results?
I’m a newbie to film digitizing, Lightroom, and internet forums looking for guidance on exposure and conversion with NLP, before starting into production mode. After a month of reading I started to experiment shooting 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 shoot tethered at f8.0, 1/60th, adjusting the EV value to bracket exposure. From my reading, ETTR seems to be recommended, but how far to the right is too far? Or is better to create HDRs with multiple exposures to get max detail?

I have 15,000 to 20,000 negatives to convert, so I would like to do the best I can the first time. All negatives are concerts I shot from the late 70s till around 1990. Bright subject with a mostly dark background, most negative look thin. My goal is to to capture as much detail as I can from the film, hopefully good enough to print large.

I’ve done some experimenting, going overboard EV-1 to EV+3 in 1/3 stops. The histograms march to the right with each 1/3 stop increase. I can pull the images into Lightroom and follow basic NLP instructions to get a reasonable first result, but have no experience with NLP or Lightroom to judge the quality of my results or how much better they could be. I think the range -1/3 to + 2 2/3 seems to be extremes for my negatives, beyond that the histogram starts to bunch up on the edges. I can get somewhat usable results within this range but think that the slightly better results are in the range +1/3 to +1 2/3. I also did some bracketing using 1/2 stop increments.

My totally inexperienced opinion so far is this:

  1. Making HDRs adds significantly to the workflow, so unless the experts think I could get better result with HDRs in the future when I’ve learned more I’m going to start doing single shots.
  2. An EV +1.5 seems to give me good results that I can work with.

Seeking any advise you may have before I spend significant time on this project. I would post pictures if I knew how but I’m not far on the learning curve for forum skills. Spending my time on Lightroom and NLP.


I have found that doing an HDR of three images that are exposed at -1.5EV->0EV->+1.5EV seems to give me the best results, but as you do point out it does add a lot more work/time in terms of post-processing the images, and for most scans it doesn’t always have a massive benefit to the final image.

So I would recommend especially since have so many negatives, would be to pay (would be likely around $200-$300) a place to do lower quality scans of all your negatives, so you could preview which images you like and are worth keeping, then scan them yourself in high quality.

If you do have enough time you could scan all your negatives yourself, as if you were going to create an HDR but instead only convert one photo to preview the image, and if you like it you could then easily create an HDR of that scan.

It all depends on how much time you have, since scanning and converting 20,000 negatives will take a long time. I take around 5-10 minutes to blend an HDR in LR, convert the image, and tweak it to how I like it.

I’m not sure what others see, but in my scans with various light sources, a single shot histogram never seems to fill up the entire histogram, so I have the impression that the dynamic range of my DSLR is larger than what is present on the film. Maybe I’m wrong, but if that is correct, then doing HDR stuff doesn’t seem to add value(?). Slides are a different story though…