Digitizing film

Discussion in 'Film Cameras' started by dan swiger, Dec 12, 2017.

  1. dan swiger

    dan swiger Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2017
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    This first thread is about some of the basics.
    The follow on threads will cover an alternate method of digital camera copy.
    Any additional information and corrections are welcome.

    I'm not breaking new ground here, but thought I would provide a thorough account of what's required.
    When I 1st returned to film 5 yeas ago, I picked up an Epson 4990 scanner.
    This is the predecessor to the V700/V800 series.
    It's a pretty good scanner and with the addition of Better Scanning's film holders & ANR glass, the process is improved.
    These additions mainly improve film flatness & some adjustment for focus improvement.
    I never went the "wet scan" step. I've heard it improves "micro-contrast" but have no 1st had knowledge.

    It is said that flat-bed scanners don't do 35mm film very well. This "may" have something to do with film flatness. But since I've acquired the Better Scanning ANR glass for the Epson holder, I don't see an issue with it.

    There are other choices for scanning
    I know of several who are using the Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Film Scanner for 35mm and are happy with it.
    For medium format, there is the Nikon 9000 series as well. These are not cheap though.
    Used cost for these are $1000 to $3000 on Ebay.
    But for large format, the Epson series is probably the best bet.
    Most of the flatbed scanners do have a limitation in that the overall height of the device requires that they use a mirror system for the light path. This does lead to some loss of quality, perhaps contrast & detail.
    For more info on scanner technology & technical descriptions, I will defer to this link

    Drum scanning is whole different method and has much better range & detail . BUT, they are expensive to buy and keep up. Their interfaces and required drivers are dated, often requiring an old computer system to run them. There are still a few services that offer drum scanning. I have used it once to "save" an underexposed 4x5 Velvia image. It was worth it, but at $75 for one transparency, not viable for any quantity of shots.

    My main film formats are 6x7 medium format and 4x5 for large format. Just for fun, convenience and nostalgia, I have a few 35mm cameras

  2. JimFox

    JimFox Moderator
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    Jul 19, 2017
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    This is a great start Dan! Even though I do t shoot film anymore it’s kind of exciting still to read about how you are handling the scanning of negs. I look forward to the follow up threads.

    We do have a few guys that shoot film, so maybe some of them can chime in too.
  3. Jeffrey

    Jeffrey Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2017
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    Santa Barbara, CA
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    Good writeup Dan. I have shot a LOT of film even many years into having pro level digital cameras. For my 6x7cm films I used the Minolta Dimage dedicated film scanner, and it worked great. For 4x5, I had many scanned by a local friend who has a drum scanner. Still cost me $40 a pop. I only used that for color trannies. I used an Epson 4990 and then the V700 with the BetterScan fine tuned focus frame. I wet mounted to the ANR glass and it made a big difference. My BW's were excellent. I finally learned to scan color trannies on that V700, and got fairly close to the drum scans. I have not shot a piece of film for over two years. I miss the process of using the 4x5, but the digital today meets my needs.
    dan swiger likes this.
  4. dan swiger

    dan swiger Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2017
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    While scanning is a decent method & workflow, it does have some drawbacks.
    If you are scanning medium or large format and want the best resolution possible, the scan times are not short.
    This can be 2-5 minutes in some cases.
    File sizes are large if you want the best out of the scan.
    I see about 200mb for medium format, and just over 500mb for large format

    There are some technical limitations that can have an impact on the scanned results.
    Most scanners use a so-called 3-line CCD sensor. While I'm sure at the time it was the best imaging device for this purpose, it does not represent the best imaging technology now.

    Over the past few years, I have been seeing more articles on using a DSLR or mirrorless camera to copy the images from film.
    At first this seemed like sacrilege o_O. We were already compromised by not using optical-wet printing!

    But the more I thought about it, this made sense. While early digital cameras were just matching the dynamic range of some films,
    now many have a range of 14 stops.
    What finally pushed me over the edge was a Windows 10 update that crippled the now ancient Epson 4990 driver.
    Web searches revealed I was not alone. There were suggested remedies but at best it was an uninstall/re-install that was good for one use.
    Quitting the application required a repeat.
    My short term solution was to bring up my older Win 7 machine. This was slightly improved by using my netbook as the computer.
    This was a bit clunky in that I would have to transfer resultant scan files to the my Win 10 box for the tool chain.

    What follows is the basics of setting up a a film copy stand.
    Many that I have seen incorporate a film enlarger column, like this one on Craigsiist for $60
    Here's a picture of a enlarger like the column I procured.

    You may have to make up a bracket to attach the camera.
    I was lucky in that the adjustment section had a well placed hole that I used

    You will need a light source to lay the negative/transparency over.
    At first I used a large slide viewer. It works fine as a light source but way too big/bulky.
    Most of the ones I've seen use an LED light tablet. These can be found on Amazon for as low as $20 to >$100.
    I found the reviews all about the same regardless of price.
    The main complaints were the micro usb connector for power & the sensitivity of the power button.
    I leave my power cable attached & protected from too much stress.
    The button is just touchy so you just figure out the tap-tap to get it right.

    For the camera, you will need a Battery-eliminator setup, especially if you use a Sony A7 series camera as they are notoriously battery hungry. I purchased an aftermarket one and it works fine. I did check the output with a voltmeter before connecting.

    You can just use a wired remote and let the images go the card and have the step of removing the card at the end of a copy-scan session. I chose to tether the camera.
    I will elaborate on tethering as there are many options & decisions
    #4 dan swiger, Dec 12, 2017
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2017
  5. dan swiger

    dan swiger Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2017
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    Jeffrey, I almost tried the wet-mount method. The chemistry of the fluid was a question mark.
    Would it deterorate the scanner plastic? Then there's my wifes sensitive sense of smell.
    When ever I do anything w/cleaners or developing, she notices.
    So I deferred it.
  6. dan swiger

    dan swiger Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2017
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    Tethering options
    This is a free app and can connect with either USB or WiFi
    For some reason, I couldn't get it to connect with USB with my Sony A7R
    It would connect with my 5DMkII just fine. So that was a non-starter for the Sony.
    Next I tried the WiFi connection.
    Sony has the so-called "Play Memories" app that allows you to tether with an phone or tablet.
    I never used that method as it's pretty brain-dead & allows very minimal control.
    I established a Wifi connection to my desktop just fine.
    But immediately noted some more shortcomings.
    The 1st one was that it couldn't transfer the taken image without getting an error.

    When you are tethered WiFi with a Sony A7R, the files transferred AND stored are ONLY JPEG.
    This includes what is saved to the camera's SD card.
    I tried this both with PC WiFi tethering Apps such as DigiCamControl AND with a cell phone
    In both cases only JPEG, stored or transferred.
    I can understand limiting the transferred file type but not the stored
    This is disappointing and a non-starter for me

    Capture One
    Next I tried Capture One. It's only $50 for a 2 seat license, I will probably get it as an alternate tool.
    For some reason it doesn't support WiFi. Not sure why not. I will ask them
    But it does reliably connect with USB. But live view doesn't work via USB on an A7R.
    This is a Sony issue that is apparently solved in the A7RII.
    My workaround is to connect the camera's micro-HDMI to a desktop monitor for large screen focus assist.
    Sort of a kludge but workable.
    Now when I take scan/picts, the file is transferred to the target folder on the PC.
    This is actually slightly better for the workflow. No waiting to transfer of the camera's card to the PC.
    One complaint about Capture One is too many options when it comes to file naming.
    There doesn't seem to be a reasonable default. You can include just about every camera setting.
    Sounds interesting but my workflow, naming, etc is simpler. I went with a simple naming.

    A side note about the Sony in tethered shooting.
    Sony has the zebra overlay for exposure & the "sparklies" for focus.
    For some reason these are not included when you drive a monitor from it's HDMI connection.
    Sounds like they tapped the video stream in the camera one block too early??

    Sony Imaging Edge - just released

    Sony's just released Imaging Edge program is free
    I tried it & it works much better than Sony's original desktop PC remote app.
    It allows for much more control of camera
    It also transfers images to the your photo editing program and provides app linkage to your photo editor of choice.
    It doesn't always start the file w/your image though...
    File naming is by default is like the in-camera numbering/name, using "DSC" has the prefix
    But you need to establish your own number sequence as it doesn't inherit it from the camer.
    the files are transferred to it's viewing screen.

    I should note that about 1 in 10, when I disconnect & close the app, it doesn't want to restart.
    Not sure what that is about but will contact Sony. A minor annoyance that should be fixed.


    Lastly, when tethered, especially with a Sony, an AC power adapter is needed.
    The poor battery life becomes apparent when doing a lot of film captures.

    I am currently using the Sony Edge program as it's suites my workflow, niggles aside.
    I use a desktop monitor HDMI attached.
  7. dan swiger

    dan swiger Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2017
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    Copy Capture camera details
    Everyone suggests strongly you use a Macro lens for close focusing & flat field of focus.
    I chose a Canon FD 50mm/f3.5 macro lens. It was only $50 off Ebay & is in excellent condition.
    I also got a Canon FD 25mm extension tube for much closer focusing.
    This works for my setup as the Sony can pretty much use any lens every made

    Currently my position of the negative carrier is very simple as I move around the whole carrier.
    This is not ideal for stitching as placement is imprecise.

    Did I say stitching?:D
    With the resolution available with medium & large format film, to get the same image potential as you get with a scanner,
    some stitching required.

    For medium format, my current method is two images stitched.
    For large format, my current method is nine images stitched.

    Currently using the Better Scanning negative carriers for medium format
    I have been using the simpler Epson carrier for large format.
    I should note that when stitching multiple images, I have had stray light issues.
    This is a combination of adjacent parts of the negative, reflection off the glass & light in the room.
    I have added a simple compendium bellows for the last item mentioned.
    I have added a "mask" for the edge of negative issues.
    You have to remember that is all taken care of in a flat bed scanner.
    With the holders, a single capture pass and the lid down, it is simpler & contained.
    I have a few more experiments to run the clean it up.

    I am in the process of converting that over to using enlarger film carriers w/ANR glass.
    These are reasonably available on Ebay.
    This will result in a much flatter negative.

    I am in the process of putting together an X-Y positioning mechanism like this

    "150mm 4-way Macro Focusing Rail Slider Close-up Shooting Head Camera Support Bracket Holder With Arca-Swiss Fit Clamp and Quick Release Plate in Bottom for Tripod Ballhead"

    By using an L bracket on the column & another for the camera, I should be set.

    In the end I will probably have $300 in the setup.

    I still think it's worth it for the improvement in image quality AND the workflow.
    I am getting at least 1-2 stops better in the shadows over my Epson 4990

    I suspect the Sony is giving me 13-14 stops dynamic range overall.
    I doubt the Epson 3-line CCD gets you more than 10-11.


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