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Thread: Medium Format DSLR as film scanner

  1. #1
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    Medium Format DSLR as film scanner

    Not sure where to post this:
    I have a collection of priceless family negatives made by my father between 1935 and 1940, all B&W 645 size, all made with a state of the art Zeiss camera with Tessar lens, Compur shutter. I have a Polaroid 120 Sprint Scan film scanner that died, with no Vendor Support anymore. I have an Epson V700 flat bed that I resorted to using to film scan, but I cannot help but think I can get better quality. I want the quality to make routine 11"x14" prints, and occasionally 16"x20" prints.
    Here is my plan:
    I ordered from B&H a high quality focusing rail, with Arca type quick release. I plan on using my Pentax 645D, with quick release plate, and 120mm f4 manual focus Pentax 645 lens which will go to 1:1. I have a high quality light box with even illumination. I intend to make a horizontal negative copy rig, probably using a piece of 1"x 6" wood, bolting the rail to it, and turning the light box on it's side, and fastening it to the 1"x6". I have an electronic cable release, and the 645D has mirror lock up. As a test before I ordered the rail, I set the camera and lens on my kitchen counter, and turned the slide box on it's side, taped a negative to it and was easily able to focus 1 to 1 on the negative. Fine adjustments were needed by slightly moving the camera, thus my idea to buy a geared rigid rail. Anyone tried this? I could even bracket exposures and combine in HDR software, if required.
    Thanks in advance
    Dave in NJ

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    Re: Medium Format DSLR as film scanner

    For the copying of MF transparencies I used a special lens that is adjusted for 1: 1 copy-work and my digital back and it worked
    better than any scanner I tried before, although it is very important to keep the film flat and to avoid stray light hitting the lens. Ideal
    would be to use an enlarger film-carrier with a suitable mask. A small light table should do fine but flash would
    be much better if reflected from an even white surface.
    Cheers,
    Ignazi

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    Re: Medium Format DSLR as film scanner

    Thanks Ignazi. The enlarger film carrier is a good suggestion. The Pentax 120mm 645 lens is a macro lens designed for close up work, so I expect it to work fine.
    Thanks
    Dave

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    Re: Medium Format DSLR as film scanner

    Dave, this is a big topic over on the LFPF site, where lots of people have tried cameras to digitize LF.

    You can study it all for months, or just accept the physics. An area scanner (takes entire image at one go) can give you excellent resolution with smaller formats. Stitching for larger films yields higher res but is a major pain.

    The critical thing is that sensitivity is a compromise. You need a point scanner to get archival response into the blacks. Masking the target will help but flare will still kill sensitivity (blacks are crushed) above about 2D. That's why drum scanners and scanning agencies exist. Shouldn't matter for personal work.

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    Re: Medium Format DSLR as film scanner

    Thanks ciniminson, I will check out the large format site.
    Dave

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    Re: Medium Format DSLR as film scanner

    If you are making 11x14 prints I think the epson should do just fine and is less PITA. Your 645d should be able to equal it easily.

    The challenges are flat field lens, film flatness, vignetting, vibration. Getting past the roughly 2000px you can get from the epson is where the rubber meets the road. For 11x14 out of 645 you are fine. Especially bw which is sharper than colour neg.

    I have chased the dragon around and around with the polaroid, epson, and finally I got an imacon. They say you buy everything cheap three times or something like that.

    If it is really worth it to you I'd say save up for an imacon used on ebay. The film mounting solution is worth all the pennies combined. That is the real issue, how fast can you work trouble free which makes scanning bearable. Don't forget scanning is not fun- dust spotting. etc. So why make it worse?

    The polaroid was a great scanner hobbled by a poor film holder and poor software. Such a time waster. The imacon can out do the polaroid 1. contrast per pixel and 2. ease of use. It reveals the contrast of the scene the lens saw- you feel like you are not looking at a scan of film but what the film simply looks like. The epson doesn't even begin to touch that, but at 11x14 you might never see that.

    If you can make the film holder from an enlarger work then it might be worth the effort, however I remember from the darkroom taping all negs down to get sharp edges. That took time, which is wasted time. The imacon scans edge to edge sharp because of the curl in the holder which is brilliant.

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    Re: Medium Format DSLR as film scanner

    You might consider using electronic flash illumination in order to avoid vibration issues often associated with macro imaging.

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