There has been a lot of interest recently, both here and on YouTube, regarding how to transfer film (slides, black-and-white negatives, and color negatives) to digital files.
I'm in a pretty good position to discuss this, since for five years, I ran a high volume film scanning operation (and all other digital imaging departments) of a major portrait lab. 20 years before that, I did plenty of film duplication as an AV producer making big corporate slide shows. So...
There are three classic ways to do film-to-digital conversions:
> Use a service bureau
> Use a scanner
> Use a digital camera with macro lens or other sort of close-up attachment (enlarger lens on bellows, reversed normal lens on extension tubes, etc.)
The advantage of a service bureau is that you don't do much of anything. Just fill up a box with media and send it off. Some time later, receive your materials back, along with a disc, flash drive, or link to download the files.
The disadvantages of a service are that it is usually a bit expensive when you have lots of files to digitize. The service takes time. Many services send files to a remote scanning sweatshop in an emerging nation, to minimize their labor costs. Confidentiality is impossible to maintain, if you need that. And the quality can range from excellent to excrement.
The advantage of scanners is that you are in control. The scanner can be a reasonable expense ($230 to $1300 for a decent flatbed or film scanner). You can take advantage of technology that removes dust and scratches, restores some semblance of color balance to faded media, and so forth.
The disadvantages of scanning include:
> A lack of speed (Scans can take a boring minute or more per original for high resolution.)
> Complexity (If you don't understand the principles of digital imaging, you can get very disappointing results.)
> A lack of resolution (Flatbeds rarely focus film as accurately as I would like. Effective resolution usually is much lower than the scanner's rated resolution.)
> Obsolescence (I wish I had a $20 bill for every scanner abandoned by its manufacturer in less than five years! I'd take my wife to a fancy restaurant.)
The advantages of using digital cameras with macro lenses include:
> A full 36 exposure roll of film can be "scanned" (copied) in about seven minutes or so.
> Digital cameras can resolve more than original 35mm film did. Use a high resolution camera (50 to 100 MP) on medium format film, and the same is true.
> You can save raw files and process them the same way you would process other digital camera files.
> Excellent software exists for converting both black-and-white and color negatives to positive digital images *without* fighting curves tools.
> You may already have much of what you need to use your digital camera to copy film. Add a light source, a film holder, and some software, and you're set. Almost...
I've spent years mulling over how to proceed to digitize my collection of film. It's of no use to me as film... I want to make videos of it, sell products from it online, preserve some of it for family, etc.
Accordingly, I settled on the copy method for film. I'll flatbed scan prints, but film will get the macro treatment.
I've written a white paper explaining how I am doing it. It is a PDF file you can download and view with your favorite browser or PDF viewer. It contains links to videos, reviews, and commentaries, and to various sources for the products I'm using. I've included some samples I "scanned" from images recorded on film 30 to 50 years ago. Enjoy:
Loc: Raleigh, NC
Excellent and very useful post Bill - thank you for doing this.
Read every word of the PDF. And totally agree with 99.9 percent of your outline. (Have to say 99.9 percent so in the future I can say that I don't always agree with you.) This is probably the best outline and essay on using a digital camera for scanning that I have read -- and I've read a bunch. Thanks for doing this -- simply outstanding.
Aww, thanks, guys!
This is what I did for a living… My goal is to make processes complete, easy to absorb, and easy to use.
There has been a lot of interest recently, both he... (
Great contribution, Bill! Consider also posting this in the "Main" section to reach a wider audience.
Mr. Burkholder there is one method you left out...the plethora of self contained "scanners" currently available such as the Kodak Slide 'n Scan and others.
They are much quicker than traditional scanners, less than a second per "scan" because they are not really scanners...they are actually self contained cameras, usually with a resolution of 14mp with an interpolated resolution of about 22mp.
I had a Magnasonic that I purchased on Amazon and returned because it stopped working after a week.
I currently have a "Veho" designed by a British outfit that I got for $10 on the DealDash auction site. It does a fairly good job but can't compare to the quality of my older Epson Perfection Photo scanner ( can't remember the model number). It does kill the Epson on speed though. The Epson used to take several minutes to scan a group of 4 slides.
Mr. Burkholder there is one method you left out...... (
I have had one of the sub-$100 camera scanners. It didn’t meet my quality standards.
I also had an Epson V600, which is fine for prints and medium format films, but slow. 35mm scans were marginal.
But I had the camera and macro lens, and since I had duplicated thousands of slides professionally, I knew that was the way I would go. It is fast becoming the preferred method of many professionals and enthusiasts, because raw files are better for editing than TIFF or JPEG, and with 50+ MP cameras available, getting huge files from medium format film is much faster and less costly than high end scanners (those have been discontinued, anyway).
There has been a lot of interest recently, both he... (
I've been using a scanner; but I think I might look into using a copier and a macro lens. That seems like a viable alternative. Thanks for the information. Now off to that PDF for more information.
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