Blog #148 Scanning Film Negatives
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If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know that I’m a total film nut. So I gave a new film scanning technique a go this past week. I love shooting film and I dislike the long wait times it takes to run to the lab, and wait for my film to be developed and scanned. I do, however, enjoy a bit of hands-on developing at least with black and white.
Developing colour film I used to do at home but it’s actually quite challenging to get the temperatures very accurate and subsequently the colours in the film. Colour film simply needs to go to the lab. Black and white is very manageable at home.
If you want to shoot film and and you want fast results, you need to develop it yourself at home. If you want to actually SEE your images, you need to scan them. There are commercial grade at-home scanners available from about $200 to $600 USD. The process is painfully time consuming and I’m convinced that you do not necessarily get the best scans (aka “look”) from these machines.
Matt Day, recently shared his process using a popular technique of scanning negatives using a digital camera on his YouTube channel. In his tutorial, Matt used a Fujifilm X-T3 which so happens I have as well. You need a bunch of gear to get this right in addition to the camera.
A Copy Stand or adjustable tripod that can hold the camera close to the negativesLomography negative frame holders (35mm and/or medium format)light table (to place under the negatives to light them for the sensor)Lightroom software Negative Lab Plug-in application for Lightroom ($99 USD)Some sort of MACRO style lens that uses a 1:1 magnification ratio. Shutter release cable to electronic shutter remote (we can’t be bumping the camera, kids!).
So what Matt did was rather than buy the super expensive MACRO lens for his Fujfilm X-T3, he bought a manual focus old SLR lens and used a cheap $25 USD adapter to mount it to the X-T3. This seemed like a good idea so I’m going that route as well to minimise the costs of the conversion from scanner to camera. The lens and adapter will be around $200-$300 USD. This beats the $1000+ USD price tag on Fujifilm’s dedicated 55mm f/2.8 or the Carl Zeiss version for the XF mount. I’m a Nikon fan boy so I used a 105mm f/2.8 “Micro” prime lens and Nikon F > Fujifilm XF adapter. I will replace that with the 55mm f/2.8 Micro (Macro) shortly. The smaller focal length will get the lens closer to the negatives and therefore “fill” the sensor with the image/negative better. We live and learn.
I put the whole thing together, switched on the light table, and clicked off a few frames of some black and white negatives that I recently developed.
I’m still waiting for the Kaiser copy stand to come in the mail but I used a tripod in the mean time. The copy stand will help a lot since my impromptu tripod set up doesn’t allow for much movement of the
negative holder “between the legs”.
1. The negative frame (image) will fit horizontally or vertically in the frame of the X-T3 when scanning.
2. The act of shooting 36 frames and dumping them into your computer (Lightroom) will likely take a fraction of the time to scan. I timed my last roll of scanning and it took 30 minutes to scan 38 exposures @ 1200 dpi. Arghh!
3. The dynamic range will improve and be closer to the natural light burned onto the film. I have confirmed this in my initial tests.
4. The film grain will likely be copied better (more accurately) from the camera’s sensor than that scanner’s
1. My X-T3 scanned image required quite a bit of tweeking in Lightroom to get the image close to where I like it.
2. There is a bit of adjusting needed to get the focus correct. I think my replacement lens will be way better. Also, there is a sort of focus check function on the back dial wheel of the X-T3 that functions like a grain focus device used in the darkroom when making prints with an enlarger. It took me a few tries to get this right but it seems to help a lot!
On the X-T3: I used the following settings:
1. “L” on ISO which is about 80 ISO
2. Nikon 105mm f/ 2.8 set to f/5.6 about 1.5 ft. from negative ( I actually think that F8 might work better).
3. Peak Focus assist which helps on Manual Focus
4. Manual focus mode.
5. Shoot without lens mode to allow for the F <—> XF Lens Adapter
6. I used a bubble level to ensure the film plane and the X-T3 sensor plane were as parallel as possible.
7. The shutter release is essential.
I will do some more of these and share images later. This technique is still “Under Construction” but I’ll report back on my results later. Basically if this results in images that are the same or better quality and saves me time, it will all be worth it.
The light is always right.
*Images: © Limelight Limited
Where: Bohol, Philippines,
Subject: Underwater Ocean Creatures
Gear: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3, Snorkle, Mask, & not enough sun block lotion