Test negatives for scanning?

Hello NLP experts!

I am thinking about starting to digitize some old 35mm negatives and a few slides. I am a complete newbie at this but on the other hand I have all sort of odds and and ends that might be useful: eg some Nikon & Minolta bellows with slide duplicators attachments, a Minolta 5400 scanner (alas missing the film holders that now cost an arm and a leg), some macro and enlarger lenses, etc. My main camera is a Fuji XT3.

Anyway, I’d like to compare various potential hardware arrangements and software workflows so
my question is: can one buy or make some standard test negatives that can be used for this purpose? By “making” what I have in mind is starting from a digital test image and having it reproduced as negative. For instance Quick MTF can be used to generate MTF test charts as PNG & there are many other test charts available for download and then companies like Colorslide can create slides and/or 35mm negatives from them. Or I can take a photo with my camera, have a negative produced from it, and then compare the original vs the end process.

I do not aim for perfect scientific rigor and test reproducibility by others (way too many variables to control), just to get some comparative ranking wrt my environment.

Bottom line: do you have any suggestions? If I were to create my own test negative, what do you think would be a good way to go about it? Are there other/better choices than colorslide. com for printing? BTW, their instructions ask for lossless TIF ( LZW compressed) which potentially is a can of worms (b/c TIF is not necessarily lossless, so simply “convert to TIF” in a random program might not generate the right thing) so ideas of how to generate the TIF file are also welcome.

Many thanks, – Red

Answering my own question to some extent, I discovered that Silverfast sells a resolution target currently $70.

I’d just try the most promising combinations of technology (lenses, rings, bellows etc) and check which combination gives you the best result.

Please note that every item (be it hardware or process step) you add to your workflow will degrade quality to a certain degree as each item will ad its issues like misalignments, wobbly connections etc to the lot. This means that you run a higher risk of having to tweak the copies more than you might like.

My advice:

  1. Keep your setup lean and stable
  2. Stitch multiple shots if you really need a lot of pixels
  3. Read through this forum to learn best practices

With those targets check http://www.digitizationguidelines.gov/guidelines/digitize-OpenDice.html
Not sure if those will work, but its something I want to check myself also.

In my opinion, using a resolution-test negative is starting off on the wrong foot — anything you put together is likely to have more resolution than you need.

Your biggest challenge will be to get pleasing color balance and contrast range, so I think you should choose a test negative or slide that represents the type of film and kind of subject you want to look the best.

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A few random observations:
If you are copying 35mm slides/negatives with your APS-C Fuji, your slide duplicating attachments may not be that helpful. Some (many?) slide duplicating attachments were designed to copy at 100% (full frame to full frame), and cannot be adjusted to provide the lower magnification need to copy full frame to APS-C without cropping (there may be exceptions).

Personally, I would be inclined to make my own test negatives and not bother with commercial charts, especially if costly. Any subject which has fine detail in-focus from corner to corner on the slide/negative will do for sharpness comparisons. Obviously, you will need to take care when producing the test negative (tripod, flat-field lens at a good f-stop, probably f/5.6-8.0, parallel alignment, etc.).

For color comparisons I would pick selections from my existing slides and negatives which represent a variety of subtle and bright colors, including skin tones and neutral grays. Evaluating color results is probably going to require several test negatives and slides.

One area that might challenge some capture methods more than others is brightness range, or contrast. Most negatives have a limited range of densities which can easily be recorded by your digital camera. But slides often have brighter brights and darker darks than negative film. Sometimes, I can see shadow detail when a slide is projected, but those details are lost when scanned by my old Minolta film scanner. I think the scanner underexposes the shadows due to its setting the exposure to control the brighter areas of the slides. Supposedly my scanner is able to make a second pass with more exposure, but still, I was never able to record those shadow details. When I started copying slides with my Fuji X-T1, this was much less of a problem for most slides. But for the worst ones I am able to make two exposures, one dark and one light - and then combine them, HDR-style in post processing. I suggest you will want to test some contrasty slides which have faint shadow details.

I would expect any image editing software that can read your Fuji RAW (RAF) files to be able to Export or Save As a TIFF without concern. You DO want to work with RAW files from your Fuji. BTW, recently I’ve tried saving the same files both as regular old TIFFs and with LZW compression. For some reason the “compressed” files were always bigger than the uncompressed versions.

Resolution is one test area, color is another.

Simple resolution test: Can you see the film grain in your camera scan? Use 300% view in LR and you should see grain in most any film. If not, then you can do better on resolution, probably by using a better lens.

Color… I made my own color test negative. Use your favorite film, expose in bright direct sunlight, include a color checker and objects with lots of familiar colors, colors important to you. Shoot a whole roll of this scene. See if your conversions give the colors you want.

My test scene

Detail, upper right, film grain at 300%