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Scanner vs. DSLR/macro lens for digitizing

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#1 Doppler

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 08:08 PM

I've seen mention of some of the flatbed scanners some here are using (e.g., Canon 9000, Epson V600), while at the same time I haven't worked out the math to compare images from them to what can be done with a DSLR and a macro lens (using a light box). I guess the macro lens is most commonly used with 35mm scans, versus 120 film. Nevertheless, I get the impression from reading other sources that the macro lens route can give higher resolution, etc. Considering that I have a DSLR and macro lens (Sigma 105mm f2.8), have I got everything that I need to digitize film, or do I need to consider a flatbed scanner? I can't swing a ($$) dedicated film scanner. Is the flatbed scanner, and its software, more of a convenience factor?

Greg

#2 Nebhunter

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 10:46 PM

Greg - the fact that you have a macro lens - try it. Nothing to loose. This was a common practise even in the film days where you would shoot a positive film and then shoot another positive - or even a negative film using a macro lens.

See what happens and go from there. If you have a lot of slides from years past then maybe a scanner may be an option, but for now... The Canon 9000f is probably the best of the flatbeds, but it needs Siverfast Version 8 to bring out the best. Mind you - any flatbed scanner would probably benefit from SF.

igor

#3 SMigol

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 01:23 AM

I've been scanning my daylight photos via my DSLR and a macro lens. Here's a website with demos and information on projects to digitize via cameras.

Camera Scanning

Advantage is that they show steps to do it within Lightroom, which is what I use.

Something they don't cover in detail is the spectrum of your light source. I've been using a white LED panel, but I think that I may switch to strobe-based light sources for good spectrum coverage.

#4 Samir Kharusi

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 02:39 AM

I have tried 35mm film scanners, a flat bed scanner (@6000dpi), and a DSLR with the Canon 100mm/2.8macro USM (a top-notch macro lens). The quality of the results (and convenience) fall in the same order; best is the film scanner, followed by the flat bed scanner, with the DSLR last. It's difficult to pin down exactly why the DSLR falls short. Is it the limited depth of field, even at f8? Closing down further loses resolution. Nevertheless the DSLR, with a lot of care, can give very good results. It's also a fiddly business with the DSLR, less so if you own a proper stage/device to hold your slides or film rolls. What is, by far, the most convenient when you have several hundred/thousand negatives to scan? Talk a one-hour lab operator to do it for you, if you can find one that still handles film processing. They hate slides because very few (by now none?) have auto loaders... I had all my color negatives done this way, thousands, several years back, for less than the cost of 4x6" prints. I did not need prints. I simply asked the chap to scan and save to CDs. It is totally impractical to scan thousands of negatives or slides at home without an auto loader. You are guaranteed to give up after the first 50...

#5 Doppler

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 08:46 AM

For starters, I don't have wads of old film to scan, I only want to scan what I shoot going forward.

Samir, that is interesting to hear that your results at f8 are not to your liking, because that (i.e., f8 and aperture priority) is what I have read one should do. Also, not having done any of this yet, I can imagine how it might be relatively easy to shoot 35mm slides with a macro setup, but for strips (35mm & 120) there will need to be a way to keep the film flat. Maybe buying and using the film carriers from a flatbed would be the way to go.

Basically, I've got somebody who is very knowledgeable about all of this saying the the DSLR method is best, while at the same time I'm thinking that a flatbed would be mighty convenient :). Moreover, the images by those here who use flatbeds look very nice to my eyes.

I'm going to try the DSLR/macro since I have it, but I'm trying to understand whether I might be missing something a flatbed would offer me e.g., ease of use if the quality is no worse.

#6 Michal1

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 04:30 PM

Hi Doppler! In the last several years, I used the opportunity of scanning by commertial services on dedicated film scanners. The results were OK up to a few exceptions. Since I don't produce a lot of photos, it is cheaper for me than buying a good flatbed scanner. I'm sceptical to scanning by a DSLR, because you can introduce the lens's abberations in the image and have problems with uneven illumination. Especially if you want to process the photos in computer. My experience: don't believe the photographers who try to look that they are the best.

#7 TxStars

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 10:00 PM

I'm sure that a good old slide duplicator could be found for little cost.
They worked fairly well for slides back in the day and with digital you get to see how they look in short order.

#8 Nebhunter

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 10:57 PM

Great article - but all things considered I think a good scanner is easier in the end.

igor

#9 Samir Kharusi

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 12:07 AM

I did say:
Nevertheless the DSLR, with a lot of care, can give very good results.

A couple of months back I had to scan an old B&W negative. My film scanner is no longer functional, and my flatbed scanner was on the other side of the world; so macro lens it was. The way I do it: use a milk acrylic for diffusion of the light, place negative (with glass cover if curly) and a flashgun for illumination, lens at f8. Vary distance and power of the flashgun until the Back-of-camera histogram looks perfect. Needs a slave on the flash, but one can of course also use a desk lamp. It's all rather fiddly but the results are fine, dependent on how much care one has input.

#10 Doppler

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 05:30 AM

Thanks for the followup Samir, and thanks to all for the input!

Greg

#11 Hikari

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 11:10 AM

For well exposed slide film, a DSLR can do a good job. For astrophotography which tends to be low contrast or with negative film, which is also low contrast and requires the integral mask to be removed, the DSLR is not going to do very well as you cannot control the input values. If you are using this for digitizing your astrophtography film work, then it will be very limited.

#12 Doppler

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 08:29 PM

Thank you for that info Hikari!

My wife said she would get me a scanner for my birthday later this month :-).

Quick curiosity question: for the flatbed scanners that do 35mm and 120, will they also scan 4x5 film? I ask because I just picked up a nice LF outfit for a steal.

#13 Nebhunter

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 09:23 PM

The only scanner that does all that - I believe is the Epson V700 or 750??? The other one that has not been seen basically is the Microtec M or F1? It supposedly does glassless scanning for most sizes and uses glass for the 8x10. I was hoping it would be the answer but I won't buy anything unproven at this point in time.

igor

#14 Samir Kharusi

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 10:03 PM

My flatbed scanner on the other side of the world is a Canon I bought a few years back that indeed also did 4x5. It cost around $700 and did a very good job with Medium Format. I have not tried it with 4x5. There is a huge jump in price between a flatbed that does an excellent job with prints (even under $100 versions can be great) to one that can do a competent job with film. There is a good reason why people paid $50k for drum scanners. For very occasional use I'd stick with a macro lens and a DSLR. Fiddly, but you do have good control overall.

#15 Doppler

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 07:28 AM

Okay, thanks for the info on 4x5!

**Igor, If a person were to get SilverFast, will the basic "SE" version do the job, or do you recommend "SE Plus"? I will start by playing with the software that comes with whatever scanner I get, but I wanted to ask while this thread is still alive.

#16 Hikari

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 09:36 AM

I have an Epson V750 and it does all kinds of formats--I think you could get up to 8x10 sheet film. I use it for 6x6, 6x12, and 4x5, although I don't do a lot of large-format anymore. We got a V700 for work and it seems nice as well, but I have not done any film scanning with it to see if there is a real difference.

#17 Nebhunter

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 09:51 PM

I got the SE Plus version and I find it does just fine. The Multiple Exposure is a great feature where it does a pass for highlights and then shadows and merges them into a single image. But for astro - when it works - I can see a difference. When it doesn't work - the stars are slightly blurred as the alignment is not perfect.

If you shoot a lot of different films and need accurate colour matching - then the version with the IT8 targets is worthwhile. But I would suggest a basic version - and you can easily upgrade to the next grade - from SE to SE Plus or higher if you need to.

#18 s58y

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 07:14 PM

I'm hoping to take some film photos this year (startrails), and don't plan on getting a scanner just for a few photos, which will probably come out bad or fuzzy anyway.

I'm going to try an Olympus bellows-based slide copier, with suitable 1-1 80mm bellows MACRO lens (although the 135mm bellows lens is also available). I guess I'll have to use slide film. For digitizing onto an APS-C sensor, the magnification will not be 1-1, of course, and that requires some fiddling around with extensions and parts of two old bellows, to get the right reduction.

The slides will probably be curved, wrinkled, crooked, etc, so the whole slide may not be in focus at the same time. I'm planning to use f/5.6 or f/6.3, and use Zerene Stacker to do a focus stack with perhaps a dozen subexposures. Hopefully, I can use live view and the Canon Electronic First Shutter Curtain (EFSC) feature to minimize vibrations.

Has anyone here tried focus stacking with a slide copier?

I suppose it's also possible to go 1-1 and make a mosaic of 2-4 DSLR shots (each one a shallow focus stack) per slide, if necessary. I'd hope that the slide is flat enough, so that there are no perspective problems during the mosaic combine, meaning I don't have to concoct some sort of telecentric combination setup for this.






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