Wanna play a game called, scan my negative?

I posted previously about being unable to achieve sharp scans.
I’d love to mail one of my developed rolls to someone more skilled than myself (someone who also scans with a digital camera), to compare results.

Or, Is someone willing to join a Zoom session with me to see what I’m doing wrong?
I really want to get the hang of this. I’m starting to wonder if my camera (or I), is simply not nailing focus?
I’m new to TLR/film, but I’ve been a photographer for over a decade. HELP!

You could start the game by listing what gear you use, add a photo of it or link to your post(s) dealing with your problems. Add an original raw picture file that you think had the best focus or share one in a cloud service.

This could give us an idea of how bad your scans are.

Is this the post you mention?

Vlad’s Test Target, which you can find on FreestylePhoto and also pixl-latr.com is a great tool to use to check center and corner sharpness without relying on grain to focus on. It’s true that some films/emulsions have a slightly different thickness or distance, so Vlad’s isn’t the last word before capturing the final image, but that’s where I’d start if my images were consistently coming out blurry in the digitization process.

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Id love to help. First things first, turn all your lights off when scanning. you can lose a fair amount of contrast if your lights are on. Also, The biggest helper for getting sharp scans is focus peaking. If your camera has focus peaking, turn it on. It’s essentially a fool-proof method. I also zoom completely in on my negatives in live view while using focus peaking to ensure a completely sharp negative. Once you have that dialed in, DO NOT touch the camera, or the film holder. Move the film gently to the next photo to ensure you are not messing with the focus. If you practice these steps there really shouldn’t be an issue with your scanning. Also, if you’re scanning MF film, try shooting multiple photos and stitching them together in PS or Lightroom, instead of scanning the entire frame at once. If you’re still getting bad results, id love to hop on a zoom call and discuss further. Hope this helps!

I would also visually check your negative holder to ensure film flatness. If you’re following all the steps, but still have bad results, it could be a film flatness issue. a little variance will shift parts of your photo out of focus.

I would be willing to rescan your negs with my setup but first,

Consider this:

Are your Fuji scans soft, or are the Mamiya 645 negatives soft?

Have you had a lab scan them? You can have a roll that you’ve already scanned done again by a lab and compare the digital results. A good lab will also give you feedback on any issues with your negatives.


“jeremyjohnson” had a great suggestion of using a target and seeing if that improved focus and if that target image was sharp.

Use a mirror to get lens into alignment.

Does the Fuji have any manual focus aids like focus peaking?

You may not see a lot of grain in a medium format negative.

Is the lens focusing tight?

Any creeping after focusing?

This is more common in zoom lenses. If you focus and come back to it a bit later does the focus stay the same or do you find yourself refocusing?

Hope this helps


bxsnett, thanks for your thoughtful, comprehensive response – you’ve given me actionable insights.

I always scan in a pretty dark room. I also have a rolled tube piece of card stock creating a light seal between the lens (macro) and the negative.

I use a Fuji XT2, I use highlight red focus peaking. Zooming all the way in, the image looks soft :slightly_frowning_face:

I’m going to do the same exercise on a few scans that are sharp.

Regarding your guidance about zooming all the way in, and then not touching anything – when zoomed in, I looking at only a portion of the image. This is why you’re suggesting multiple “scans”

Lastly, I checked my negative holder (I downloaded and 3D printed at my local library)

Looks like the film is a little curved at the edges – I’ll post pictures. That might be a contributing factor, however, I have managed to get sharp scans with this holder. Another variable is that I’ve been using two different MF cameras: Mamiya 645 SLR and a Mamiya C330 TLR – I think my TLR is where the soft images have been happening, I’ll confirm.

Again, thanks for your solid guidance! I’ll report back. I would still take you up on your Zoom offer whenever you’d like. FYI, I’m in FL / eastern time.

Just taking this from your other post:

“Some people are saying to focus by moving the camera vs the lens – with this method, however, I find it difficult to fill the frame.”

Did you get around this I wonder? If you focus with a manual macro lens then you are also moving the lens closer or further away to the film that you are photographing at the same time as trying to focus it and so you are also changing the magnification, this can make it difficult to establish the precise point of sharp focus. If instead you fix the lens at the correct magnification to fill the frame and then move the camera and lens together then you will find that it snaps in and out of focus very positively. In other words ideally you need a macro rail like a Nisi NM-180 or similar.

Im glad you’ve been able to somewhat narrow down the diagnosis. I recently Purchased a Mamiya C220 TLR and I will say, focusing with it is hard! Especially with my bad eyesight.

With my good (in focus) negatives, I’ve been having success with taking two photos of the negative and stitching them together as stated previously. If you’re able to get sharp scans with the film holder and all the sudden you’re getting soft scans with your TLR negatives… Well I think you have your answer. if you have a loupe or magnifying glass or anything of that nature, look at the negative on your light source and visually confirm for yourself.

If you have a camera shop nearby or the means to do it yourself, check that the focus of the two lenses in your C330 match. This could be a culprit for your soft photos. When I received my C220, I took it to a shop before I shot any rolls through it just to be sure the focus was correctly calibrated. They checked the calibration for free but your mileage may vary.

Im not entirely sure how to exchange info for a zoom call on this forum without publicly identifying myself but if you have any recommendations that would be great.

Hi Harry, no, I never tried that – my setup doesn’t make this approach feasible. I have a home-made camera stand; moving the camera + lens as a unit isn’t possible/precise. I didn’t (don’t) want to spend good money on a rail until I decide if shooting film is something to which I want to commit.

Things to check:

  • Film emulsion (dull side) must FACE the lens.
  • Film must be held perfectly flat.
  • Minimize film borders, but leave just enough for white balance. This reduces lens flare.
  • Turn all room lights OFF. This reduces flare from reflections off the film.
  • Be sure your camera support is rock solid! My copy stand rests on rubber feet on a desk. The support column is a three foot by one inch steel pipe, and the camera support is a ball head with quick release mounted on a Superclamp. It does not move.
  • Use a cable release, electric remote release, smartphone app shutter release, or two-second self timer to minimize camera vibrations.
  • Be sure the camera sensor and film are absolutely parallel to one another.
  • Be sure the light source is COMPLETELY diffused.
  • Focus on the IMAGE, which is in the emulsion. With 120 films, it is doubtful you will see grain, unless you are copying old 1200 to 1600 speed films.
  • Use an aperture in the performance “sweet spot” on your lens. On my 30mm f/2.8 Micro 4/3 camera macro lens, it is f/4 to f/5/6. On most APS-C lenses I’ve used, it is f/5.6 to f/8. On most full frame macro lenses I’ve used, it is f/6.3 to f/10.
  • DO NOT stop down to minimum aperture(i.e.; f/22 or f/32)! That introduces diffraction, reducing contrast and acting as a soft focus filter. The same goes for general photography. Yes you get deep depth of field, but you don’t need that as much as you need a sharp image.
  • I use single AF with 49-point sensing. I confirm it with focus peaking turned on. On my ancient Lumix GH4, it is deadly reliable. I’ve never had issues with focusing on negatives. I had plenty of issues when I exposed the original film, 50+ years ago!

If your TLR has a focus magnifier, use it. Twin lens reflex cameras are notoriously hard to focus without one. I used an 8X Agfa Loupe magnifier back in the day.

Fair enough, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t get sharp focus without one, particularly with the red focus-peaking on your X-T2. Maybe it’s worth pointing out that a single shot of 6x6 from 120 film on a 6000 x 4000 px sensor means that you are using those 4000 pixels to cover 56mm across the width of the film, equivalent to just 1800 ppi, so there is a lot more detail on the negative that could be captured assuming that it is sharp. With 645, assuming you have turned the film through 90º, you are in a better place because those 4000 pixels are now capturing the 42mm ‘height’ of the frame, so you are getting 2400 ppi, on a par with what you might expect to get from a good Epson flatbed like the V700.

I would recommend choosing a negative that has plenty of clear sharp detail, perhaps from your 645 but also from your 6x6 (a building or ‘cityscape’ is good for this) and hopefully you can examine the negative with a magnifier first. Then scan this one frame until you are happy that you are getting consistency using all the good advice offered in the other posts.

Thanks, my friend.

I think my issue might be with the 80mm lens on my Mama-Miya C330. I’m looking at previous scans, both of my Mamiya 645 and the C330 with the 55mm lens. While I still have some softer scans, those may be due to user error, I have several that are quite sharp. I’m going to do some tests with the C330 using the 55mm and 80mm lens, trying to control for as many variables at possible, and being as scientific as possible. I’ll report back being as detailed as possible.

I’ve gotten LOTS of great advice for which I’m quite grateful.

I wish I knew how to properly check alignment of my lens–I’m wondering if that might the culprit, misalignment between taking/making lenses.

Thanks fwolff – all good advice. Based upon your feedback and that of others, I have a game plan. I’ll provide an update shortly…

You could contrive to cut a suitable rectangle out of thinnish glass (2 or 3 mm) to fit where the film rests and then use fine valve grinding paste against another piece of glass to give it a ‘ground’ matt finish. You can then tape it carefully in place with the matt surface towards the lens and compare sharp focus on the glass with that in the viewfinder by pointing the camera out of a darkened room. You could even improvise a dark cloth as used in large format photography, you’ll need a magnifier.

I like the dark cloth idea… So, I’d focus view the view finder, then compare under the cloth (through the taking lens), and see if the image is sharp? Is that the concept?

That’s it, I appreciate that it’s a bit of a performance but I don’t see any other way of doing it. It may be possible to think of some other translucent material that you could stick to glass rather than have to grind the glass yourself, and you could get a piece cut to size of course.

I wasn’t that impressed with my Mamiya TLR 55mm lens when I was using one but it was OK, on the other hand I was comparing it with a Hasselblad 50mm Distagon T*.