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Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?
  
 
trogdon
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


Hello there! I have been shooting more film lately, and have come to realize that I'm just not very happy with the quality of my Epson V500 scanner. It does an okay job for my 67 work, but leaves a lot to be desired for 35mm film. I know that my shots have a bit more resolution to be gained, but it seems that better scanners also come with a much higher price. So I turned to the idea of using my already owned a7r, as it manages to capture some incredibly sharp images. I've been looking into various options, but am ultimately just stumped on which route to take.

First off, the setup. I've looked at things ranging from the Nikon ES-1 (great for my slides, no go for anything else), the Honeywell Repronar, slide copier and bellows setups, and just using a basic tripod and macro lens with a light table and my current Epson v500 trays for film. Trouble is, all of them seem to have their own slight drawbacks whether it's not getting both medium format and 35mm, or just severe issues in maintaining parallelism to ensure I actually get the extra resolution that I desire.

Does anyone have any recommendations, or setups to show off? I know I need to start with a lens, I was thinking of getting the Minolta Maxxum 50mm f2.8, as it runs under $100 and does 1:1 macro, one of the few lenses that exists in this category. Is this too short (or would being shorter help me maintain greater depth of field). It sounds like the easiest solution is the light table and tripod, but how does one maintain parallelism with said combo? The Repronar looks like the most beautiful contained setup, but then again does it have masks for the film sizes I want (probably doesn't even do medium format though)?

I'm just looking for some more recent musings on how other people have overcome these issues, or what they have tried to do and come up with, without resulting to something like the FilmToaster or some crazy DiY setup that I need mechanical skills to build. I'd also like it to be fairly repeatable, not something where I have to take parallel measurements every time. Any posts at all are appreciated!



Nov 08, 2016 at 02:57 AM
Alexluu627
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


Building this setup is easy.
1. Macro stand (100 bucks) or a tripod to shoot downward.
2. A light box (40 bucks)
3. Use your current film holder for epson or make one with 2 pieces of black foam core.
4. Attach your camera to tripod or macro stand and take the picture. Even better if tethered to computer.
5. Lightroom or capture reverse rgb levels or curves and your done.

Only problem I have right now is that Kodak color films like portra or ektar have a strong Orange cast to the photos. Using a scanner you'll get better more accurate colors sacrificing sharpness.

Should take about 10-30 seconds scanning each frame and shouldn't take you long for post processing if you use Lightroom or capture. You can just copy and paste settings which is ideal. Crop and resize in Photoshop and you're done.


If you want to use your scanner get betterscanning.com holders for your epson. They make it flat!



Nov 08, 2016 at 03:09 AM
genji
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


You can solve the orange cast from negative films by processing the RAW files from the A7R with VueScan which, in addition to working with most scanners, has an option to import RAW data from your hard drive. VueScan also provides a large range of color negative film profiles. There is no time limit on the trial version, an embedded watermark is removed after purchase.

There is also a plugin for Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and PhotoLine called ColorPerfect that does the same job but you would obviously need one of those programs.



Nov 08, 2016 at 03:34 AM
Alexluu627
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


Sick I'm gonna check that out! Thanks boss!


Nov 08, 2016 at 03:40 AM
retrofocus
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


I posted this earlier here in this forum I believe, but this is exactly what I am doing for my 35 mm negatives (both for color and B&W). The photo shows my setup - A7R with MBIII and Sigma 105/2.8 macro lens with 1:1 magnification. The sensor is parallel to the negative plane. I am using a negative holder from my old HP scanner to straighten the film. I shoot with ISO 50, f/11 or f/16 and exposure times between 0.8 to 2 seconds to avoid shutter vibration. For shutter release, I do it electronically via Sony freeware with USB cable connected to the A7R from my PC. I shoot in RAW.
I do the precise focusing each time with C1 magnification button in camera and by looking on the camera display. Normally I manually focus on the film grain (easy to do with ASA 400 and higher films). For low grain or slide films, I magnify parts to best sharpness within the negative/photo.




Nov 08, 2016 at 12:26 PM
retrofocus
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


Alexluu627 wrote:
Only problem I have right now is that Kodak color films like portra or ektar have a strong Orange cast to the photos. Using a scanner you'll get better more accurate colors sacrificing sharpness.


I am using the same method as you described above. Color casts with Porta and Ektar can be tricky for post processing. I find it best to use the black and white point tool within PS curve setup and then use slight hue/saturation changes to finalize the image after channel inversion. Ektar can be tricky in dark areas which might appear too bluish, Porta tends to have some orange cast in shadow areas.



Nov 08, 2016 at 12:41 PM
retrofocus
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


genji wrote:
There is also a plugin for Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and PhotoLine called ColorPerfect that does the same job but you would obviously need one of those programs.


Thanks for mentioning these tools - I was unaware of them. Unfortunately they aren't freeware ($67 for ColorNeg is not cheap at all for what it does in the end!). And I am not a big fan of demo versions.....



Nov 08, 2016 at 12:44 PM
trogdon
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?




retrofocus wrote:

I posted this earlier here in this forum I believe, but this is exactly what I am doing for my 35 mm negatives (both for color and B&W). The photo shows my setup - A7R with MBIII and Sigma 105/2.8 macro lens with 1:1 magnification. The sensor is parallel to the negative plane. I am using a negative holder from my old HP scanner to straighten the film. I shoot with ISO 50, f/11 or f/16 and exposure times between 0.8 to 2 seconds to avoid shutter vibration. For shutter release, I do it electronically via Sony freeware with USB
...Show more

This looks like the type of setup that I will probably end up using. Questions though, how do you make sure that the tripod is at a complete 90 degree angle? I have a pan head but I'm pretty sure it tilts more than that as a maximum, wasn't sure if I needed a new tripod head too. And for your light table, is that just one of the portable tracing paper ones? I've seen a lot of those on Amazon, just worried about consistency of light on he units, most reviews are just for tracing where it doesn't quite matter as much



Nov 08, 2016 at 02:27 PM
JonPB
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


Cheap, easy, high quality. Pick two. :-)

A few comments based on my experience with digitizing film by shooting negatives:

50mm is quite wide for 1:1 reproduction work. Also, while autofocus macros usually have better manual focus precision than their non-macro counterparts, a manual focus lens will be much better. I'd go for a 100mm+ manual focus macro, all of which going back to the 1970s are really quite good. At the top of the pack would probably be the Mamiya 645 120mm; KEH currently has one for $230, so the diminishing returns aren't too steep. That said, a 50mm macro lens is highly versatile to shoot with, so it isn't a bad place to start if you want to also use it in the field. Longer lenses give you more working distance at 1:1, and also tend to place less stress on optical design, but are more specialized tools.

You'll be stopping down to maximize resolution. This also increases depth of field to the point where the quality of your light source matters a lot. I ultimately illuminated the negative from about a foot away. This also allows you to control the direction of the light, which can have a big impact on how the grain renders.

Speaking of light, the orange cast in color negs is problematic for any digital workflow. Simply, if you take an image of it with white light, you're reducing the image's bit depth substantially to cut out the orange dominance. I had begun experimenting with cooling filters on my light source to make that correction in the optical domain, which may or may not be useful. The good thing here is that, if you use the same lighting and the same film, corrections you make digitally will be highly repeatable. The bad thing is that getting accurate colors will be highly difficult without extensive profiling. If you aim is interpretive color, then you should be good to go. If your aim is color accuracy, it'll be hard to even come close to scanners that are already profiled for this sort of thing.

I sketched out a few designs that would make everything highly repeatable, and make it easy to advance the negative and quickly digitize numerous negatives. All of those were interesting contraptions, but none were as simple as I think you want. Personally, I was willing to sacrifice a bit of resolution resulting from using depth of field and software to correct misalignment rather than getting everything perfectly perpendicular between lens and negative.

Ultimately, I went with a dedicated film scanner. I never liked it; slow, noisy, required constant attention (to keep the negatives from scratching), and I never found a good way to get files that I liked. That said, my biggest hurdle was getting a feeling for what was on the film in the first place. While I can read a B&W negative, I've never been able to read a color negative. If I had a flatbed scanner, that'd allow me to make a proof of the roll, and then I might have tried to achieve a higher quality digital file by shooting the film directly. Then the place where I had my film developed relocated, and the convenience hurdle just led me to shooting all digital, so I never really put together a full workflow around all of this.

I don't want to discourage anyone from trying this sort of thing. While I never got to the point where I was happy with the results, I learned a lot from my efforts and enjoyed the process. I think you've got a good advantage of already having some results from your flatbed scanner. Experimentation (stands, lenses, lighting, processing, etc.) will help you identify what makes a difference and what doesn't, what takes too much effort and what's fairly straightforward. I hope my comments help illuminate some of those issues.

Cheers,
Jon



Nov 08, 2016 at 04:32 PM
carlitos
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


I've been using a Plustek 8200 SE lately. For $350, it does a pretty nice job on 35mm film. The infra-red channel works well, and the grain reduction and USM software make for clean and sharp output. Making me re-think shooting film - Ektar at any rate.


Nov 08, 2016 at 05:39 PM
 

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trogdon
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?




JonPB wrote:
Cheap, easy, high quality. Pick two. :-)

A few comments based on my experience with digitizing film by shooting negatives:

50mm is quite wide for 1:1 reproduction work. Also, while autofocus macros usually have better manual focus precision than their non-macro counterparts, a manual focus lens will be much better. I'd go for a 100mm+ manual focus macro, all of which going back to the 1970s are really quite good. At the top of the pack would probably be the Mamiya 645 120mm; KEH currently has one for $230, so the diminishing returns aren't too steep. That said, a 50mm macro
...Show more

Thank you for the reply and your thoughts!

I was considering the 50mm Minolta as I don't really shoot any macro, and for other uses I have the Sigma 180mm f5.6 macro (only does 1:2 and has a lot of pincushion distortion so is bad for repro work even with a diopter correcting to 1:1). Reviews point to it being a sharper lens than the Minolta 100mm which is the next cheapest macro I was considering, and the 50 is very low distortion. I'm assuming as long as I can get 1:1 even with the short working distance it wouldn't induce too much distortion? I haven't ever done it so I wasn't sure that a 50 would work in the first place, but it seems ideal if possible



Nov 08, 2016 at 07:54 PM
alwang
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


retrofocus wrote:

I posted this earlier here in this forum I believe, but this is exactly what I am doing for my 35 mm negatives (both for color and B&W). The photo shows my setup - A7R with MBIII and Sigma 105/2.8 macro lens with 1:1 magnification. The sensor is parallel to the negative plane. I am using a negative holder from my old HP scanner to straighten the film. I shoot with ISO 50, f/11 or f/16 and exposure times between 0.8 to 2 seconds to avoid shutter vibration. For shutter release, I do it electronically via Sony freeware with USB
...Show more

Anyone have any experience using an ipad as a light source in a setup like this, with it set to display an all-white image? You might even be able to vary the color to adjust for the orange cast that's being discussed?



Nov 08, 2016 at 08:32 PM
LightShow
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


As long as there is some distance between the film and the display so you don't get any of the pixel structure in the scan it should do ok.
LED bulbs might be another option.



Nov 08, 2016 at 10:00 PM
arduluth
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


alwang wrote:
Anyone have any experience using an ipad as a light source in a setup like this, with it set to display an all-white image? You might even be able to vary the color to adjust for the orange cast that's being discussed?


I've done this, not with an iPad but a laptop screen showing nothing but white.

IMHO, no sense trying to balance the color to remove the orange cast. It'd be a lot more complicated than fixing it on the computer.

Also, I'd second what Lightshow said. The way I dealt with this is a piece of white acrylic on top of the display, which also helps diffuse the light.

The best scans I've made were with a Nikon 55mm f/3.5 AI-S lens. I've been capturing at 1:2, which is the limit of the lens, and my cheap macro tubes introduce a lot of flare. The macro lens captures blew the socks off the scans I got from my Epson v550/v600 for both 35mm and 120.

The stock film holders are crap. I've seen better scans than I'm getting with a v600/v700 with after market film holders, but haven't tried them yet. I have to believe it can do better - there's so little detail with my scanner that there has to be a focus issue. Especially with a wet mount scan - I've got a friend getting excellent results with wet mount scanning of 4x5 and 8x10 on the Epson v600/v700 (can't remember which).

I'd shoot a lot more film if digitizing and post-processing wasn't so time consuming, laborious, and tedious. Shame, really. I've been playing with B&W developed at home, which at least removes the color headaches.



Nov 09, 2016 at 03:45 PM
Alexluu627
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


You need better film holders for sure. My 120mm film looks better with the v700 epson then my rig. It seems that my dslr rig makes the 120mm film look really grainy. 35mm film the dslr setup dumpsters the v700 even with modified holders.



Nov 09, 2016 at 06:01 PM
Jon Buffington
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


Good and fast (and certainly cheaper than the A7r), pakon f135+ or even a noritsu LS-600 (though the form factor is a bit bigger, higher rez scans and a bit pricier but still cheaper than A7r).

Personally, if I didn't use a dedicated minilab scanner, I wouldn't be shooting 35mm anymore (I shoot almost exclusively 35mm film, dang 5dmkii is dusty). Especially if shooting c-41. Color management is a breeze as color management profiles are baked into the Kodak and noritsu scanners.

Just my experience, as always, YMMV.



Nov 10, 2016 at 02:04 AM
arduluth
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


Alexluu627 wrote:
You need better film holders for sure. My 120mm film looks better with the v700 epson then my rig. It seems that my dslr rig makes the 120mm film look really grainy. 35mm film the dslr setup dumpsters the v700 even with modified holders.


My macro lens setup makes the film look grainy, but only because it's capturing enough resolution to see detail on that level. Brought out to the whole image level, I really like the look of 120 with this much detail. Looks so clean and smooth, but textured. I've been doing a single frame of 120, but eventually stitching a whole frame at 1:1 would be fun.

I've been meaning to try to find the optimal distance for the film with multiple layers of transparencies, find where the focus of the scanner is.

What film holders do you use?



Nov 10, 2016 at 03:19 AM
Alexluu627
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


I use beseler enlarger holders for scanning my film. Their gigantic heavy and keep the film really flat. You can find them for like 10 bucks off eBay. 35mm, 6x6 and 6x7 bought for under 40 buck and the fit perfectly on my lightbox.

arduluth wrote:
My macro lens setup makes the film look grainy, but only because it's capturing enough resolution to see detail on that level. Brought out to the whole image level, I really like the look of 120 with this much detail. Looks so clean and smooth, but textured. I've been doing a single frame of 120, but eventually stitching a whole frame at 1:1 would be fun.

I've been meaning to try to find the optimal distance for the film with multiple layers of transparencies, find where the focus of the scanner is.

What film holders do you use?




Nov 10, 2016 at 04:16 AM
Keith B.
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


I ensure parallelism by using a bellows with matching slide holder attachment. Add a 75mm or longer lens(50, 55 0r 60 will be too short a FL for the minimum bellows extension) and a diffused, full spectrum light source.
Fluorescent and LEDs are not full spectrum, though they may work OK for your taste.
My setup is Nikon PB-4 bellows, PS-4 slide/neg holder, 75mm/4 Apo-Rodagon special 1:1 lens($$$ new but $ used, unfortunately not common). Strobe for lighting, double diffused(the diffuser panel of the PS-4 plus an extra layer of translucent plexi behind that.)



Nov 10, 2016 at 06:28 AM
retrofocus
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Digitizing film with an a7r, good cheaper setups?


trogdon wrote:
This looks like the type of setup that I will probably end up using. Questions though, how do you make sure that the tripod is at a complete 90 degree angle? I have a pan head but I'm pretty sure it tilts more than that as a maximum, wasn't sure if I needed a new tripod head too. And for your light table, is that just one of the portable tracing paper ones? I've seen a lot of those on Amazon, just worried about consistency of light on he units, most reviews are just for tracing where it doesn't quite
...Show more

I am using a Benro head on this Manfrotto tripod which has the nice property that it flips exactly to a 90 deg angle after I reinsert the center tripod pole the other way as shown in the picture above. So the camera sensor sits always exactly parallel to the negative plane below. And yes, I am using a LED light table which you can get fairly affordable at Amazon. The quality is very good, the light is very homogenously distributed. There is no difference on the top, center, or bottom of the light table. You can also change the intensity of the light, but I normally always have it set with the highest.



Nov 10, 2016 at 12:12 PM
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