Unsatisfied with the results [of my current DSLR scanning setup]

Hi guys,

Just started with scanning my 35mm. This is my setup:
Nikon D780
Nikkor 60mm 2.8D

I’m not at all satisfied with the results. They lack sharpness because i have to crop a lot in post, I can’t seem to fill the whole frame with my negative. Does buying a macro tube help or do I have to purchase the Nikon ES-2?

When I look at the picture of your setup, I see that the negative fills your camera’s screen and that you might want to re-position the negative so that the upper edge is not cut by the film holder.

Moreover your camera-lens-combo allows to reproduce a 24x36 negative with a reproduction ratio of 100% (1:1) - no need for a macro tube, unless you want to only reproduce a cropped part of the negative.

As for sharpness: I find that manual focus is more reliable than AF at reproduction ratios of 1:1 with my Canon Cameras and that using live view and zooming in does help - unless aperture is set near either end of the range.

Covering the light-panel’s unused areas can help to reduce glare and to increase contrast.

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you need to get close, I mean really close. With your setup the required distance from sensor to film is less than 20cm

Yes, its filled because I use DX mode. I want to use FX mode so i dont lose quality but then my frame isnt filled. Thanks for the tip in covering the Light of the unused area’s!

I’m as close as I possibly can

I’ve scanned around 60 rolls of 35mm film with the similar setup. Your lens focus at 0.21m at 1:1 meaning there won’t be any area to crop, the negative will fill the sensor. That lens produces sharp results around f5.6 to f8
So again, you need to get much closer. If you get close at the distance, there won’t be any light entering your lens as well. This is the only way to maximise.

Thank you! I will give it another try tomorrow and thanks to you i’m sure I will get good results. Did you use FX mode or the cropped DX mode?

Always FX mode as it gives 1:1 reproduction so highest possible scan quality. The only very important bit is, your negative has to be absolutely parallel to your sensor as in that focus distance, DOF is less the milimeter and any angle will give you blurred corners or edges. You can check the alignment in various ways, like with a laser tool, bubble or reflection method.

Put a small mirror donw on the light table and aim to align looking at the camera lens and place it in the dead center. That is an easy method to use for aiming. It also seems you are too far from the light table for 1:1 reproduction.

I agree with most of the other answers.
The Nikkor 60mm F2.8 AF-D closest focusing distance is 90.4mm (3.56in) at which point the reproduction ratio is 1:1 (life size) - so your negative will be full size. The ES-2 slide copier may be a better bet as it will ensure everything is in same plane of focus and there will be no issues with stray light - and of course it will give you 1:1 without trial and error.

Simple answer is, by any means necessary, acquire an ES-2! It screws onto your lens and gets your sensor both plano-parallel with the film, AND to a 1:1 reproduction ratio.

Another alternative is the Essential Film Holder, sitting on a Viltrox L-116T LED light panel. Raise it until you fill the frame in FX mode. Block out/black out ALL extraneous light from the area.

I use a macro lens and a light table though I must admit I made my own special set up to hold the camera which in my case is a panasonicGH4 It works really well. I have used the auto white balance and have not cropped the image. It works well most of the time but with shots in extremely bright sunshine and some films the colour balance can be poor. I have assumed that the problem might be with the restricted performance of the films

Just get the ES-2, like burkphoto said. You could probably devise something that would give equivalent results but it will take hours of screwing around and expense to get something that works as well. You already have the ideal body and lens for the ES-2.

I have a rig consisting of the GH4 with 30mm Lumix macro, on a home built copy stand.

Under the camera, I use an Essential Film Holder with guides for 35mm strip films, 120 strip films, and 35mm slides. The EFH includes an integral diffuser made of Perspex (we call it milk Plexiglas® here in the States).

The EFH is mounted in a 10" by 15" piece of half-inch thick black foam core “railroad board” ($8.00 for a 20x30 sheet at Hobby Lobby, in the framing area. This keeps it steady. There is a cutout under the negative holders for the light to come through. The EFH feet are simply friction-fit into 3/8" holes drilled in the railroad board.

Under the EFH on bottom of the railroad board is a Viltrox L-116t video light. I attached it directly to the board using strips of very strong Velcro® mounted to the rim of the light. I can still remove the light and use it for other purposes.

The board itself is raised on the sides and back by three inverted ‘L’-shaped legs made of 1x2 poplar. I left the front open for access to the on-off switch. The unit may be powered by AC adapter or an NP-550 video camera battery. I have both.

This setup is heavy enough and stable enough to stay where I put it. I can pull strips of film through, making exposure after exposure rather rapidly, without having to realign the holder each time.

Regarding exposure: After decades of duplicating slides and transparencies, I understand two things:

First, there is a NOMINAL exposure for the film base plus fog. You need at least that much to get a black from a B&W or color negative. You need no more than that when copying slides, to avoid highlight burnout. Getting there is a process of testing.

Second, white balance needs to be FIXED by using your camera’s custom, pre-set, or manual white balance tool. (Lumix calls it a “manual” white balance.) Ideally, that’s referenced to a clear piece of the film in use. That will be amber in the case of color negative film, due to the mask. If not, the next best thing is to manually white balance the light source itself, in Shutter Priority mode.

With the video light set to 4400K and 100% power, my current exposure for Kodachrome 64 slides is about 1/200 at f/5.6 at ISO 200. I have found f/4 to f/5.6 to be the absolute sharpest apertures on the Lumix 30mm f/2.8 Macro lens. At apertures smaller than f/5.6, on Micro 4/3, diffraction limiting of sharpness becomes a problem.

I NEVER use automatic exposure or automatic white balance when copying images from film. I will increase exposures for “thick” (overexposed) negatives and for “thick” (underexposed) slides. But since I’m recording raw files, the film exposure has to be off quite a bit to make me stray from my base exposure.

I have found that Lightroom can recover details in the shadows and highlights of Kodachrome films that no optical/chromogenic process can. Making inkjet prints from my old slides is a joy.

As for color negative films, I get the best results from film where I’m able to white balance on a blank negative. Even for black-and-white, I like to do that so the preview JPEGs embedded in the raw files look neutral. It’s irrational, I know, but that’s my habit…

If I knew how to attach images in this forum, I’d post some…

If your outputting raw files, I’m not understanding your attention to the adjustment of white balance in the camera. Last time I checked, raw files are not affected by the white balance setting. The only thing affected by the WB setting is the JPEG file (if output) and the EVF or back display.

As for including images in posts it’s as easy as drag and drop (4MB limit).