Suggested backlight sources for scanning film with DSLR

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…

You might be interested - or not - in a few thoughts about LED panels and diffusors.

The generic part is below what is shown in the excerpt above…

Hi all. Long time listener first time caller as they say.
Has anyone used the Rybozen C400 light source? Black Box appear to use them in their kits.
Currently a good deal on Amazon.

Would a 6500K CRI 99 source be better than a 5000K CRI 97 source?

See below, not posted as a ‘Reply’

I think that you are better off scanning this forum and others for the reputations of different light sources from the likes of Viltrox, Cinestill, Negative Supply, Kaiser etc, though the list is getting longer as light sources improve. The straight CRI ratings are headlined by manufacturers but there doesn’t seem to be any information as to how they are measured and there are other important but relevant parameters that are left out, very few, if any, link to the actual test results. Also leaving aside the CRI other factors such as eveness of illumination and brightness are also important.

(deleted the previous post as I’d forgotten to reply direct to you)


I ask because I built my own even illuminated superbright 48 LED box with waveform CRI 99 LEDs, and mistakenly selected the 6500K version. To redo this with the 5000K version LEDs will cost about $400 and a day of work. I should have asked “what is the downside to using a 6500K solution assuming all else is the same”?

I had purchased a Negative Supply box and it had something loose in it, blocking the light (just like someone else in this thread) and hesitate to do this again. Also, to match the brightness of what I built would require the Negative Supply 4x5 Light Source Pro at $700, albeit without a fan. I have the Kaiser slimlite plano and it is very dim.

My camera solution is the Canon R5 with RF100 f/2.8 which performs best at ISO 100 f/4, so maybe I don’t need as bright of a solution? If so the $200 Negative Supply 4x5 Light Source Basic MK2 might work for me (the Mk1 was the one I had purchased and returned)

If the brightness is critical, I may have answered my own question, and the least expensive way to proceed is to redo the DIY box. Here are the parts if interested:


Cut in to six 8 LED long strips

LED Connectors:

Connect as to each end as a snake, watch polarity, test after each strip, then glue down once snake is complete.

12v Power Supply:


I drilled 5 3/8’ holes in each short end to run wires through but did not need them, other than for cooling


Cut with a circular saw


Cutout a square in middle of one long end, and two screw holes at bottom of cutout, which if sized right will work with the included self-tapping screws. I used it at 4400 RPM which is fairly quiet, but 350 RPM might work also. I connected this ti the end of the LEDs


Absolutely fascinating, and it’s great that you have uploaded all the details of how to make your high quality lightbox. Worrying that you also had a defective Negative Supply unit.

Waveform do exactly what I was critical of other manufacturers for not doing, i.e. they provide the photometric test reports for the two LED strips that you mention and they are very impressive.

5000K Photometric Test Report

6500K Photometric Test Report

The colour rendition reports are also supplied, what more could you want. Excellent.

It actually might be worth reframing your question in the light of your explanation, if only to stop people like myself getting the wrong end of the stick. Personally I don’t think that you will find any disadvantage to using your 6500K LEDs over the 5000K version. Should be first class I would have thought but Nate would be the one to ask.

I wondered about the 6500K as Nate mentioned in his Best Practices “It’s generally recommended to use a daylight balanced light source with a temperature of 5000°K or 5500°K - you certainly don’t want your light to be any warmer than this”.

Additionally in Peter Krogh’s book “Digitizing Your Photos” using a reference slide he demonstrates how you lose color range using a cooler light source. Also using my solution I often have to adjust the WB on scanned slides.

A few more notes on my solution:

  • I added the fan as my initial tests with a large number of LEDs run around the edges of the box (see photo), with no ventilation the box got super hot, including the diffuser.

  • I then modified the solution to use LED strips along the bottom (for a total of 73 LEDs, not 48) and added the fan and ventilation (see photo). In testing without the fan running, the metal box got very hot but the diffuser was warm. Lowering the RPM to 300 of the fan should help while minimizing and dust intrusion. I will test this later.

  • The third photo is of the box with the diffuser install.

  • The fourth photo is with the box installed under my “any holder” scanning bed, which you can have laser cut and mailed to you by sending the CAD files to Sens Cut Send of similar service. I made the CAD files public domain and they are available on github as I have detailed in other posts in this forum.

Optionally, If one did not need the LED density I would use Waveform’s 12" hard strips ($150 for 5) and make the box from wood.

The combination of a warmer, low colour temperature light source and the orange mask of colour negatives has been shown to cause problems for Lightroom so I presume that’s why Nate wouldn’t recommend anything warmer than 5000ºK but obviously I’m not speaking for him. In fact in tests that I’ve seen NLP does a pretty amazing job with all 3 of the different colour temperature settings of the Cinestil CS-Lite but it really does make sense not to use the Warm one for colour negatives.

I haven’t had the benefit of seeing Peter Krogh’s book but it does surpise me that the difference between 5000ºK and 6500ºK might cause problems in the other direction as I would think that would well within the acceptable range for a RAW file. Naturally with colour transparencies one would need to set this WB for all transparencies ‘scanned’ with that light source.

I’d be interested to know more about the Peter Krogh tests in fact, have you seen any evidence in your ‘scans’ with your 6500ºK light source of any issues, apart from the adjustment needed to the WB. Presumably you can set this colour temperature as a custom white balance in your camera if you need to but applying it in post with a preset in Lightroom would have the same result. With colour transparencies you also have the option of creating a custom profile using an IT-8 target and the appropriate software.

When speaking about “warm”, are we talking about yellowish warm light (lower Kelvin) or higher temperature (higher Kelvin and blueish light) ?

In my tests with a dichroic head from a Durst enlarger, I found that NLP was fairly tolerant to lighting, but that was with NLP version 1 a few years ago.

I’m talking about a warmer light with a lower colour temperature, the examples that I’ve seen were on the NLP Facebook forum and with the orange mask and colour negative you can get a situation where Lightroom can’t fully correct. I also did my own tests by adding blue CC gel filters to see if there was a benefit to trying to counter the orange mask that way. Just as an experiment I took it too far and found that is was possible to add so much blue filtration that Lightroom couldn’t cope, it was out of range if you like. But it certainly wasn’t the equivalent to the difference between 5000ºK and 6500ºK, it was way beyond that.

Not precisely relevant I know but Lee Filters do a handy guide to colour correction filters here:

Using a reference slide the yellows seemed to lack as much definition between gradients on the bright end, but it was a minimal difference. Given the number of transparencys I have to scan I do not want to manually adjust the white balance each time, especially as the required adjustment appeared to change given the content.

Assuming 5000K light source negates the need for adjustment, it will be worth the cost to redo my solution. Good news is that I think there are enough LEDs on a reel for three lightboxes…