Suggested backlight sources for scanning film with DSLR

This is for anyone with the Skier Sunray Copy Box (original or II):

I saw my concerns mentioned in passing, but I wonder if anyone could expand on them:

  1. how flat does it hold the negatives? “Pretty good” was mentioned but I don’t know how that compares to, for example, the DigitaLIZA scanning mask. Also, because I’m just now researching this method for scanning negatives, just how much non-flatness is acceptable?

  2. it’s not explained how the aluminum holder keeps from scratching the negatives as they slide through. “Care was taken” could mean both that the design ensures the negatives don’t get scratched OR, that the user has to be careful about not scratching the negatives when sliding them through. Metal edges seem an unfriendly surface for film and my main concern is not so much not being careful, but the amount of time required to be careful (i.e. it affects scanning time — I have a lot of negatives).

Thanks for any clarification or real-world experience anyone can provide.


I had similar worries about the Skier box and I have been very happy. I would go for it. In an answer to your questions:

  1. Very flat, much flatter than the digitaliza holders, and it will even hold some curl-prone expired film very flat. I have had no issues with flatness.

  2. I’ve seen no scratching at all, at least on the frame itself, although it’s possible it might scratch the outer part of the negative, near the sprocket holes–but if so, not visibly. No care is required in use: scanning with this setup is quick and easy.

Thank you for the reply. It eases my mind as I work through the decision process.

Thanks to zlov for that reassuring information, I too have just pulled the trigger on a Skier Copy Box.

Another poster earlier asked about plugs and voltage on these; I see in the Specification of the device that it’ll run on 100 - 240 v and comes fitted with a conventional 2-pin US plug.
The voltage should be good for anywhere in the world, and the plug is easily dealt with by use of an adaptor or directly wiring on the correct local one.

Just by way of a followup to this, I can confirm that the Skier Copy Box works perfectly on the Irish grid, 230V 50Hz.
It’s a beautifully made piece of kit, and the negative holders are really nice!
I’m looking forward to using it, it’s so much more elegant that the messing about I was doing with homemade masks and light pads/flashes.

iphone light source is really good in your scans! what did you use to elevate the negatives?

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Yes, I’ve seen that on mine as well. Not quite uniform at the edge.

Just keep the film away from the edge of the panel.

Yes, the design is good, keeps the image area from touching anything.

I use a negative carrier. Can’t remember exactly what I did, but if more spacing required, just add spacers to lift the negative carrier. One drawback of this rig is that it doesn’t stay reliably in one place. So, you have to adjust the positioning for each image.

I’ve sent the Kaiser back since and got the Skier CopyBox II instead. Much better results and cleaner workflow.

This is an interesting and useful thread, but my problem is that I have film negatives to be digitized smaller than 34×26mm – at least 28×28mm and 13×17mm. There doesn’t seem commercial, non-DIY solutions (especially negative holders) available for them. I sent a message today to Skier to alert them to the problem, but it may of course take some time before they have patched their product line :-).

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28x28mm sounds like 126 format film, and 13x17mm is probably 110 film.
I got negative holders for these sizes from Negative Solutions ( to suit my Epson V800, and I find they work perfectly well with my newly acquired Skier lightbox. They make holders for loads of different film sizes.
I’ll cut a nice mask out of stiff black card sometime to make them work even better.

Thanks for the tip, argaach. This solution sounds promising, and I’m comfortable with the pricing. Have you paid close attention to how well these holders keep the film strip straight, so that every part of the film is in perfect focus? Even if there’s some curvature on the film? I assume that the flat surfaces of the holders are even so that you can just lay them on the lightbox without any additional support or horizontal adjusting?

They hold film strips as flat as any other holder I’ve seen or used, that doesn’t involve sandwiching the film between glass plates. That of course, has it’s own problems.
They appear to have no discernible misalignment or out-of-square issues that I can see or measure, so they sit as square and level to the camera as any other holder on the light source.
Film strips with ‘normal’ curvature appear to work just fine in them.

Hi to all! I’ve only started digitizing negative films recently and I’ve found something very interesting. My negative films suffer from minor scratches from the camera. These scars are quite visible while I use Plustek 8200i for scanning (convert with NLP). I recently acquired a Skier lightbox and used my digital camera and tested on the scratched negatives… the scars become invisible!!!

After some investigation I found it’s due to the Callier Effect ( The Skier is a very diffused light source which helps to hide the dust/scratch. Does this affect the resolution of the scan?? According to WIKI diffused lighting doesn’t affect the overall contrast of the color neg scan but does cause a bit softness. iPad, if placed close to the film, should be a more collimated light source, but I don’t see any difference in sharpness in tests posted here. Does this mean iPad could be a better light source in terms of sharpness? Does anyone have experience on this?

FYI, I use Plustek in 3600 dpi mode. I copy with a Nikon Z7 at 1:2 magnification and find the details to be similar. I’ll wait for my copy stand to arrive and try copy at 1:1. The higher resolution the camera is beating the scanner, but I am wondering if there is any advantage changing the light sourcing to iPad/iPhone for more collimated lighting.

Tablets or any other display-like light source are designed for the widest viewing angle possible. These devices are therefore close to perfect diffuse light sources unless you put a (huge) lens in front of them that redirects the light towards the negative or camera.

As we can see in the article about the Callier effect, the influence of collimated or diffuse light differs for silver vs. dye based films. Collimated light will get us crisper copies off silver based film. Collimated light will also get us crisper images of dust, hair or scratches, no matter what our film is based on.

I have taken test shots of negatives with a condenser based enlarger (collimated) as well as using a lighttable (diffused) light sources and found that the lighttable gave me images that were more forgiving and that images taken with collimated light looked sharper and more contrasty with the downside that film grain plus camera noise was more obvious in bright areas. Nevertheless, I’m not sure yet, which kind of result I prefer and therefore keep testing before I get into serious production.

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Yes, I see people investing into collimated light sources. That’s not really practical for me personally. I only shoot 135 and mostly in color.

Making huge investments into expensive collimated light source in order to get a more difficult file to process (without benefits of material details, only sharper grain :slight_smile: ) doesn’t sound right to me. If I care that much about resolution I will switch to use a digital camera :slight_smile:.

I got a reply from Skier, in which the representative says the following:

  • That is a good suggestion. There is currently no production exclusive to negatives of 28×28mm and 13×17mm. You can use 135 film holder to scan negatives of 28×28mm and 13×17mm first.

I’m not sure how that could bring optimal results, as the film strip assumably wouldn’t be supported from all sides. Anyway, I’ll probably order my film holders from Negative Solutions.
Thanks again argaach for your help

Reviewed a few shots I had taken from my Durst M605c Light source and ran a shot through NLP to see what it did with it. This is what I got.
Bildschirmfoto 2020-02-28 um 14.22.43

As we can see, the lighting at medium format settings is everything but even. Colored borders showed already in the original shots, but the histograms did not look that bad. Processing one of the shots with NLP created this image, which exaggerates the situation. Nevertheless, the shifts in hue were visible in some of the landscape shots I tested with.

If you want to verify your lighting, you can proceed like this

  1. Take a shot of the backlight at the settings (focus, aperture) you set for digitizing
  2. White balance the raw file in Lightroom and crop it to eliminate borders
  3. Apply NLP - This here was converted using the Basic setting with Saturation set to 3

BTW, the tone curves look like this:

Hmm… I wouldn’t recommend this. NLP will always try to normalize the image, so even if you gave it a blank shot with nearly perfect light, it would still probably produce a result like this, or even just not work (if there isn’t room to place points on tone grid).

What you could do is to copy/paste the settings from an actually frame conversion, and apply that to the blank light source image (you may need to adjust the exposure so that it isn’t blown out). This way, you are seeing the same contrast that is being applied to a real conversion, but now just applied to your light source - so it should be a more accurate representation of the amount of unevenness present…

Or, you can just crank up “contrast” all the way to 100, which is what I usually do when teseting!