Seeking a bit more knowledge - Scanning 35mm vs Digitizing - month+ of research but hesitant buyer

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by Zepher, Oct 6, 2020.

  1. Been looking online and in the past I have used a Epson Perfection v700, but I'm only looking for 35mm right now, and have seen the abilities of both a dedicated 35mm scanner (many types) like an Plustek Opticfilm 7x00 series or 8x00 series and digitizing with a mirror-less and macro via youtube.
    They both offer their pros and cons, however in my month and half of reading and watching only semi helpful gear reviews and comparisons I have come to these rambling observations / conclusions - rambly, and some un-needed information however considering I'm here to get help, I figured more info may be more helpful than less for me in the long run.

    When it comes to cost I see:(mostly based on low google search price on the side)
    • Epson perfection 700 starts about $650,
    • Epson perfection 600 is about $200
    • Epson perfection 800 is discontinued, but looks like $600
    • Epson perfection 850 is over 1k.
      Now I could possibly snag deal on ebay, but say $600-$800 for an 850(not discontinued, hopefully improved grain quality from 700) I could get a full frame mirror-less, which will allow me to more, and do what I want (arguably) better from other internet results.
    • A OpticFilm7200 is about 50-100 used, 8200i se starting about $400 new. I haven't seen results from any of these on specific os, but I currently only have computers running win 7, win 10. The 8x00 series should work, based on drivers and for the 7x00 series I would need an additional vewscan purchase. The results from the opticfilms I have seen are comparable with digitization solutions. However some models can also do dust removal, which is another 100 bucks for a new 8200 AI
    • One of the mirror-less body type I want is between 300-800 used, depending what I'm looking for and where I look. at about 600 i start seeing auctions with lenses and accessories - especially if its craigslist or not sponsored ebay listings
    • Digitization also requires me to buy or build a frame, buy holders, glass, lights, to make a setup. This could end up being the price of a scanner itself:confused:
    There are also other cameras in this line, however I'm looking for quality photos over video so more research would be required.

    Current thoughts and considerations:
    • I'm likely to grab a OpticFilm7200 for testing with black and white as I cant take advantage of IR filtering (unless I use colour processing B/W film as I understand it) or start developing colour film. The need of vuewscan makes me less willing to test this out, but I'd have to look into licensing and some other stuff. (for example, considering a hackentosh as I have hardware for one.) However when I look at the Plustek OpticFilm 8100 and the upgraded models or digitizing with a mirror-less I start to see appeals of getting a mirror-less camera
    • Body type: Sony a6000, a7 or a7II - I have a collection of vintage FD lenses I would like to attempt to use. I also like the results I see from youtube videos, but only way to know if I'd like it is to do it myself. I enjoy the bokeh of a Canon fl 55mm 1.2 I have especially, its also a fairly sentimental lens to me and would hate to sell it or see it not get use - however I shouldn't buy a whole system for one lens, thus why I mention a collection of them and hope my favorites for film will be okay for "something."
    • In regards to my lenses I have mostly primes, with :
      • Canon FL 55mm f1.2
      • Tokina 17MM f3.5
      • Tokina at-x 35-70 f2.8
      • Canon FD 50mm 1.4(Olympics)
      • Canon FD 50mm 1.4 breach-lock ver
      • Canon FD 50mm 1.8
      • Vivitar Series 1 28-105 f2.8-3.8
      • Canon FD 70-210 f4
    • There's also a bonus that a digital camera, vintage glass or not, it will allow me to practice with new aspects of photography for the price of electricity and time. Which, when coming from b/w film, is a lot of potential savings to me seeing the price of colour film.
    I dont know if my expectations for camera equipment has been wrongly tempered by my use of a New F1, but I adore this camera. I have a T90 as well, which is an amazing unit - except I just don't enjoy its hand-feel, weight, etc and its been my backup camera since film class. So idk if I'll enjoy shooting this camera like my F1 or my T90. Regardless, I got both in kit deals for photo class, and due to not having time to decide bought a cheap t90 hoping it didn't break/wasn't broken when I got it. had to fix its battery tray and unclick the lever to fix the EEE error. But with it coming broken I made an offer on a kit with the New F1 and it was accepted, I fell in love with the sturdy build and the ability to be fully manual. Although after college I stopped shooting sadly and am only getting back into it since buying chemicals.

    That also being said, I have recently developed a lot of old film leftover from school, and have stuff left to shoot. When its done, I'll probably restock on HP5+ as I bulk load, but digital keeps looking a little more appetizing in comparison, especially for colour however I loose that beautiful grain I enjoy with digital.
    • in regards to price v what I want. When I get to the price of about 400 I start to want a digital camera, when we hit 600 I start wanting to get a deal with a kit lens, and when I start spending over 800 I want to make sure I'm satisfied with what I want.
      • that being said, I know both methods have costs I havent seen - like lightroom, the darkroom addon, a light table or viewscan or other software, etc.
      • at the low-end a 7200 with viewscan and software (darkroom) is still about the price of a Sony a6000 body, which enables lots of fun trial and error photography without costing me additional film.
      • at the middle price of 600 I could get a higher end Opticfilm, like an 8200 which gives decent options for scanning colour 35mm. Or perhaps the xp2 i was given thats in my fridge, should i load up my bulk loader and get some c41.
        • but on the other hand for that price I could get a camera with a lens on craigslist or ebay, while I dont get dust removal I get a modern lens with a body and I know there is likely to be one person who will tell me "if you get a digital body, just get modern glass" regardless of if they have a reason or read the reason I want to use my vintage.
        • I could alternatively get some Epson perfection of some model, which would let me try out medium format scanning, which the scanner excels at. however this is also what steers me to 35mm scanners as I don't have a MF camera and haven't used one but between the two, I think I'd currently like to go digital 35mm. if only because I've seen mixed complaints about digital medium format cameras quality vs classic medium format - but that's not my debate yet.
    • When it comes to 800+ i see various bodies and deals on line- and its hard to not be suckered into a kit of glass that (assuming I tried to sell the glass for fair used price) breaks me even on a body. doubly so when some is vintage glass commanding pricetags like that.
    Between a 35mm Opticfilm scanner or Sony alpha 6000 or 7 series camera seem where I'm situated based on what I've seen over the last month-month and a half of looking at "whats best"
    Scanner runs me anywhere between 200-600 for new with vewscan and silverfast - not counting light room and darkroom however.

    Getting a camera I would still need some kind of light table, I would likely still need to get light room and darkroom either way I go.
    I know that the camera, especially compared to the scanner, to get a "deal" i'll likely be spending more than 600 or having to get lucky with something like a speed pack included with only the body. With an A7II with Sony 28mm f2 auto lens and Sony 28-70mm f3.5-5.6 auto lens for about $1100 a good deal when it comes with a bag and some extra vintage lenses? Idk what the shutter actuation count is however, which is another point of consideration.

    Sorry for the long post, wrote it and reformatted it a couple times over the course of today. I have an obvious bias towards the camera- I enjoy the thought of being able to shoot a modern digital, with its low light capabilities, in body stabilization, etc - but I also don't want to overspend. I'm also likely to sell one of my old bodies and a few prime lenses should I buy the digital, probably the T90, but should I enjoy it enough I could see myself selling the F1 and its motor drive also.

    I would love to hear feedback from people who use a mirror-less for digitization or if you use vintage lenses with it. as well as people who have any of the OpticFilm scanners. Also "words of sage advice" like "oh, if the a7 has more than some-number-of-hopefully-tens-to-hundreds-of-thousands of shutter actuation don't pay more than 800 for the body as its over half its life expectancy" or "if its a model pre 2015 it's shutter lasts longer/degrades faster" sorts of things I don't find in these half paid adds via youtube and blogs.
  2. OK. A few rambling thoughts in response.

    WRT the Plustek scanners, they're all basically the same shoebox with different model numbers printed on them. The 'i' suffix indicates inclusion of infrared dust reduction. Claims of 7200 ppi capability are entirely bogus.

    I bought and returned one years ago. The scans were 'adequate' but operation was ridiculously slow and there's no auto-feed for multiple frames.

    Most of the Plusteks came supplied with a crippled version of Silverfast software. So Vuescan shouldn't be necessary - although IMO it's an improvement over Silverfast.

    I would strongly recommend any Pacific Image/Primefilm scanner model over a Plustek. The P.I./Primefilm scanners were also sold under the Reflekta name in some countries.

    My digital copying setup cost around £280 (~ $400 US) in total. Consisting of: Used Sony a6000 body - £195, used Bowens Illumitran film copier - £50, used 80mm enlarger lens - £25, Sony to Leica thread adapter - £10.

    I would not recommend the construction of a DIY lightbox and copying stand. You need a high degree of precision in getting the camera parallel to the film holder. A front-of-lens film copying attachment is a better option. As is converting an old enlarger into a copy stand.

    I see little advantage in using a full-frame digital camera for copying 35mm film. 24 megapixels gets all the detail possible off any sensible-speed film. However, a full-frame camera would obviously make better use of your existing lenses. You might want to lower your expectations of their performance when fitted to a high-res digital camera though.

    The scanner-v-digital copying options have been thoroughly discussed already on this forum. I suggest you read all the previous threads on the subject.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2020
  3. Thank you for the feedback already!
    Especially about the Plustek,I was looking at Pacific Image/ Primefilms scanners too so im glad to hear a strong recommendation, not sure why but I thought the brand was more out of stock than it seems to be this time

    Glad to know digital copying setup can be done relatively inexpensively.

    The diy comment was mostly offhand, but oh god the building process wouldn't be fun. Id rather just buy and convert an enlarger or buy a pre-made stand.

    In regards to wanting a full frame camera, its based partially off of opinion - that being I'm under the opinion that if I were to get a digital I would be more fully satisfied from a full frame camera; as well as my interpretation of my research, which includes that I will get better use out of my lenses on a full frame, there is also some crop factor stuff that I don't fully understand - but from what I think I do get, if I were to get new glass say I would want something like a 105mm f.14 lens that as I've been told "doesn't exist for smaller sensor sizes" but that's something to worry about later. Also that adapting lenses on other sizes changes how they act.
    I'm not expecting my vintage lenses to not be perfect, not compared to something like a modern sigma or zeiss, but I'm assuming they should be at least enjoyable and I know one day I'll probably be allured by some modern lens as well.If I can get a good starter deal, I'd like to.

    yeah, there's a lot of discussion on scanner-v-digital here - had searched before (mostly from google results) although I forgot I had an account until I tried re-signing up. I know I'm still likely to give them a twice over, so thanks for the advice.
  4. It's true that there's no 70mm f/1.0 lens out there to give you the equivalent angle and depth-of-field of a 105mm f/1.4 on full-frame, but do you really need such a shallow depth of field? My experience is that razor-thin depth of field is more trouble than it's worth, and that you have to spend really big on a lens to get acceptable quality with that sort of aperture.

    Much easier, IMO, to stop looking for spotty backgrounds simply to show off how great your lens 'bokeh' is. Choose a plainer and less fussy background and all that silly bokeh issue (only loved by fellow photographers!) disappears, along with the necessity to use unworkably wide apertures.

    This is wandering well off topic now, and there's also been a stack of previous discussion of/argument over the DX v FF debate.
    Jochen likes this.
  5. SCL


    So I raise the question - what do you intend to do with the scans and how many do you intend to do? It is an important question because it may help you focus on the best solution for your problem. After using a variety of under $1000 scanners (for both 35mm and 120) over the years with different software packages, I kept Vuescan professional, but found that using a good digital body and macro lens produced good enough results for me to get good B&W prints up to 3x4 ft. for exhibition purposes. And it was faster and easier than the scanners I had access to. I modified a mostly unused enlarger to use as a copy stand, and made a compact negative holder/flattener and light source dedicated to digitizing several thousand accumulated negatives and slides. While everybody has to decide on their own what works best for them, this solution has been a very good one for me. YMMV
  6. I use a Sony A7 with a Nikon 55/2.8 Micro, PK13 extension tube (for 1:1) and a Nikon ES-1 or ES-2 film holder.The entire assembly screws together, so you don't need a tripod. For light source, I use a desk lamp with a daylight LED bulb, bounced off a white card held 45 degrees to the lens. The film holders have a diffuser, so getting even light is easy. Exposure is typically 1/4 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400. I can do at least 5 rolls of film in an hour.

    The ES-1 is for mounted slides. The ES-2 has holders for two slides or one 6-frame film strip.
  7. Slow down and first decide whether you want to shoot film or digital. You're all over the place.
  8. Why is it a binary choice?
    steve_gallimore|1 likes this.
  9. And if you shoot both, then using the digital camera for scanning is the obvious choice.

    Curious, is there a cheaper alternative to the Nikon ES-2? It would appear to be rather expensive for what it is.
  10. If you shoot both then you must have the digital camera already so you don't need to buy a camera.
    For slides using a camera is fine and fast. For negatives I haven't figure out how to post process the negative images satisfactorily.
  11. Possibly, but the ES-2 is made very well, including the film carriers. It comes with 52 and 62 mm filter ring adapters, which fit several Nikon lenses. It's specifically designed for 60 mm macro lenses, but works with the older 55/2.8 AIS lens if you use a 52-62 mm filter adapter ring for a little extra length. It also works with a 40 mm DX macro lens.

    Film doesn't make economic sense, but not everything revolves around economics. What's the fun-factor worth?

    The simplest way I find to process negatives is with the back end of scanning software, such as Vuescan or Silverfast HDR (my choice). Color balance is strongly affected by exposure level, not to mention dominant colors in the image.
  12. Short answer - yes!
    But you have to look a bit harder.

    I have a 'Sunagor' attachment that predates the Nikon ES-1/ES-2. It takes both mounted slides and film-strips. The same device was sold under other brand names as well.
    The back end telescopes to allow different magnifications to be achieved. Unfortunately it doesn't extend far enough to allow a DX camera to duplicate a 24x36mm frame without further hard-to-find filter threaded extension tubes.

    If you're not averse to a bit of DIY, there are also Nikon ES-E28 duplicators. These are almost identical to an ES-2, but were designed to fit an ancient Nikon digital with a 28mm filter size.

    I drilled out the uselessly small 28mm hole to take a 42mm Pentax/Praktica lens flange. This allows cheap extension tubes and a standard lens-reverser to be fitted.
    Here it is, ready for action on a 55mm Micro-Nikkor macro lens.

    The Sunagor gizmo and the ES-E28, plus extension tubes, lens flange and all cost me about £30. Excluding the Micro-Nikkor that I already owned.

    Both of those front-of-lens attachments have now been put aside in favour of a Bowens Illumitran. Why? (A) Because I've always fancied owning one, (B) because it's permanently set up and ready to go, and (C) it can handle film sizes up to 6x7cm.
  13. Thanks Ed and Joe, I'll look to see if I can find something that I can diy to my Macro Hexanon. Currently I'm using a spare 6x7 negative carrier placed on the screen of a tablet, with the camera above on a tripod. Far from perfect, but gives me an idea of what I could do with a better setup. I shove the RAWs through darktable's 'negadoctor' module.

    Digitising negatives is a pretty low priority for me though, hence the desire to spend as little as possible.
  14. Just to round out this discussion - belatedly - I did a comparison between my dedicated Illumitran setup and a cheap slide-copier attachment picked up years ago for next-to-nothing. A quick search shows that they fetch under £20 (~$30) these days.

    This is the gizmo tested.
    The same or similar thing is/was sold under various brand names - Panagor, Hanimex, etc.

    It has a fixed lens inside that appears to be about 40mm focal length at f/11. So the whole thing is self-contained and only needs a T2 mount to attach to a full-frame camera. Unfortunately it will only copy half of the frame, or less, if used with a DX sensor.

    The point is that these things have a reputation for poor quality, but revisiting the one I have, it's not that bad, and about on a par with flatbed scanning.

    Here's the slide I used. This was copied using the Illumitran at 6000 x 4000 pixels via a RAW camera file.
    I think it would be quite hard to better the copy quality. Any colour fringing is due to the original taking lens and present on the slide!

    Now the Ohnar copier version.
    Almost identical at this scale.
    A 100% crop shows it's slightly softer near the centre of the image - probably due to the f/11 (approx) aperture of its fixed lens causing diffraction.
    The grain is resolved by both copiers, and in any case there's no more detail to be scraped off the original slide.

    Things get a bit fuzzier at the extreme corners with the Ohnar copier.
    Still, if you just want a quick copy for posting online, it's more than good enough, and could probably be improved with a touch of USM sharpening if necessary.

    To sum up: I wouldn't dismiss these cheap copiers out of hand. If you have a full-frame DSLR or MILC; they're an easy way to transfer your slides to digital at a small cost in time and money.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2021
  15. SCL


    After lots of experimentation over the years, for most purposes, including relatively large prints, I'm convinced that a digital camera and macro lens is the way to go. If you're a professional and need and can store large amounts of data for each shot, other solutions may be preferable. The issue of cost has been important for me, and quality has not been sacrificed IMHO.
  16. Search no more, stop wasting time and heart burns. Seriously. Just buy Nikon Coolscan 5000 (LS-5000) with batch attachment if you have a lot of slides. There's a film roll attachment too. Yes, pricey, but you may get lucky at eBay. Good luck.

    I had tried most if not all of the above unsatisfactory methods.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2021
  17. You're kidding, right? Or perhaps trying to sell yours? For the archives: Zero parts, service, or support from Nikon.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2021
  18. Not kidding, And definitely NOT selling mine. No need for support - if something breaks then find parts, that's all. What's so hard about that? Better than spending money on all those less satisfactory methods - like I did. Wanna buy those from me? ;)
  19. digitaldog

    digitaldog Andrew Rodney

    No kidding (OK, I am), find a Kodak PIW that takes a Kodak slide carousel: 18mb scans in 6 seconds, unattended, scanned into PhotoYCC (predecessor of raw). Of course you'll need a very old Mac 68000 processor and a really old (circa 1995) OS.
    Had one in an old service bureau I ran in the very, very old days.
    Cool: Kodak pcd Film Scanner 2000 teardown | Delightful Toys

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