Slide scanning recommendations

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by schristian|1, Jan 18, 2021.

  1. I am looking to rescan all of my slides and negatives. I originally used my flatbed scanner, but they all seem to be soft. This time I plan on using my Nikon D750 and 105 mm macro lens on my tripod with an extension arm. I have looked at several film molders and have narrowed it down to 3.

    Sunray copy box III
    Essential Film Holder

    Right now I am leaning towards the EFH. I like the Sunray, but it is out of stock for awhile and I have heard it gets very hot. With the other solutions, a light source is needed. I have watched reviews and one brought up the issue of color rendition with their light source. I have been looking at various LED light boxes/pads used mostly for tracing. They mention brightness, but not much in the way of color temperature or color rendition. One reviewer did a comparison with 4 different light sources and the Viltrox L116T light had excellent color. It is a video light and not a light box and would require some kind of holder be made as it is not flat.

    My questions are these:

    Are these light pads acceptable for illumination and give me proper color rendition? Any recommendations below $100?
    Can I just correct color temp in Lightroom as I will be shooting RAW?
    What are your opinions on my 3 holder choices from your actual experience. I liked the Pixl-latr, but am concerned about all of the parts snapping together and the need to lift the cover to move the film. I have heard that all of the parts can come unsnapped while using. Once set up, I want to imit the possibility of disturbing frame alignment as I change to the next image to copy.
  2. SCL


    I'd suggest whatever light source you use to set a custom white balance in your camera. I've found it makes later post processing color adjustments easier.
  3. Found some more information. The tracing light boxes/pads are out. Looks like one of the video lights is what I need.
  4. I've tried continuous lighting for slide copying but got better results using flash. The colour temperature is well defined and can be handled by setting flash white balance, and the extra light gives more flexibility in terms of selecting aperture and shutter speed.
    Jochen likes this.
  5. I own a small light pad that I use to preview chromes and negatives. It's a Kaiser Slimlite Plano Lightboard 2453. I don't use it for scanning and don;t know if this is a good product for that. But it's around $100. They also have larger units. In any case, I checked the light output to see how accurate the manufacturer's specs were. They came pretty close to 5000 Kelvin.

    Kaiser Slimlite Plano Kelvin 2453 test.jpg
  6. Nikon ES-2+FH-5???

    Alignment is easily adjusted. Scratches are forever. The Lego-ish Pixl-latr isn't the greatest. Indeed, hacking a holder for 35mm and 120 materials isn't that demanding.

    Color temp issues aren't complicated, correction-wise. DSLR scanning smokes flatbeds that haven't seen any appreciable updates in years.
  7. Thanks for the input. The Sunray copy box came back into stock today and I have ordered one of those. Once you add up the costs for the EFH, slide mask, light panel, and power supply for the panel, the price was pretty close to the Sunray. I looked into the smaller Kaiser units and their CRI is around 88. A CRI of 95+ is recmmended from what I have read.
  8. Passable for slides and maybe 120 frames but that sliding 35mm strip through a gate looks like scratch city. Buena suerte!
  9. I much prefer the use of a dedicated film scanner like the Nikon CoolScans, but if you're not doing too many images, some of the camera-based solutions work, if tiresomely.

    There's a long history here.

    Start by reading the following, not in any order.

    Which macro lens to get in order to scan 120 film with a Nikon D600
    What scanner for 35mm slides & prints up to A4?
    Setup for slide scans
    I need a new flim/slide scanner

    CanoScan 9000F vs. CanoScan FS 4000US
    Huge Scanning Job Finished (yet again!)

    Items that will never be settled include how many slides you need to scan before a scanner becomes preferable to a macro copying setup, for just one example.

    Short answer - Canoscan 9000F and its kin from other makers at around $200 do an OK job of scanning, expecially for web use. You need to be able to 'interface' it or other scanners with your computer, no longer a simple matter.

    For high quality scanning, you need really much better equipment, and not much of that is being made nowadays.
  10. I'm a purely digital photographer so I know nothing about scanning film. But just out of curiosity, I looked up the solutions you posed. I also quickly browsed what film scanning techniques there are. Please correct me me if I'm (probably) wrong but from what I read, there are basically 3 types of solution:
    1. - scanning by a function of a a general purpose scanner/printer
    2. - scanning by a dedicated film scanner
    3. - techniques (and apparatus) though which you can 'photograph' the film with a digital camera.

    Unless I've missed something (which I might well have), this discussion so far has focused on solutions 1 and 3. Solution 2 has IHMO hardly been mentioned. Solution 3 sees to me to be a very painstaking and time-consuming and process. If you have the dedication, patience and time, all power to you! then you have everything under your own control. If it was me, I'd investigate how some photographic labs could perhaps speed up the process according to you specifications.

    Forgive me for offering an opinion on something about which I nothing about!
  11. Regarding item 1, a general-purpose printer scanner does not scan film only prints. It's shining a light up to reflect off the image you want to scan.

    You need a film scanner to scan the film. With those, the light is projected from the lid through the film to the sensors in the base of the scanner.
    mikemorrell and bgelfand like this.
  12. Don't try to adapt a tripod. Difficult/impossible to get perfectly squared. Buy or build a dedicated copy stand (mine is the stand from my old Durst 609 enlarger with extension devices to get camera centered vs enlarger column). Logan A-7-A LED light box is excellent.
  13. This is largely true, but it can be made a little easier with some old tricks
    Modern Photography 1985 May​

    A real copy stand is worth it if you do much of this
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2021
    ajkocu likes this.
  14. Not sure what the point is here, i.e., why post? Flatbed scanners haven't seen any upgrades for years. Cheap lab scans are often no better than home scans--mainly because labs often use flatbeds; drum scans are superior but pricey. DSLR scanning offers speed and the ability to focus--both baked-in drawbacks of civilian-grade flatbeds capable of handling transparent material.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  15. Solution 2 (dedicated film scanner) hasn't been touched on for four key reasons: scarcity, expense, learning curve and unavailability of repairs. For many people, true film scanners are still the go-to, best solution, but in terms of practicality they are fading more and more with each passing year. The good ones were all discontinued a decade or more ago, a factor which is far more significant than it is with most other photographic gear.

    Film scanners are incredibly complex, high-precision electro-mechanical devices that are prone to mechanism breakdowns and proprietary circuit failures. Other than Nikon and Canon, the popular, quality units were made by brands long since defunct (Microtek/Polaroid, Konica/Minolta). This leaves many orphaned scanners that cannot be repaired, joined now by the Nikon/Canon scanners no longer supported for repair. While DIY service info can be found on tech sites for a few of the "hottest" models, the work isn't for the squeamish (raise your hand if you enjoy attacking surface mount FireWire chips with a soldering iron, opening chassis designed by Rubik, or cleaning front surface mirrors so fragile they're destroyed by breathing on them).

    Then you have increasing difficulty with dependency on passe FireWire 400 connectivity, and proprietary software/drivers incompatible with current Mac/Windows OS (driver updates stopped with Leopard/Vista in many cases). There are workarounds and third party software alternatives, but they can be sub-optimal. After wrestling with that, you need time to learn the fine points of the software/hardware: getting the best results from film scanners is a black art not easily mastered. Depending on the individual scanner, the film size, and the processing options selected, each frame of film can take considerable hardware time and manual reworking time.

    Finally you have the inflated second hand pricing, driven by increased demand for (but dwindling supply of) fully-functional classic film scanners. Smaller models that only handle 35mm are still borderline affordable, but medium format and larger units become increasingly risky (the highly-sought Nikon CoolScan 9000 changes hands for $2k - $3K, despite its high failure rate and distinct aversion to being shipped any distance). Some "pro" units that were only recently discontinued, like the Hasselblad/Imacon Flextights, can be found mint but at price of $10K or more.

    Not as much as you'd think. The biggest hurdle with "film scanning by camera" is getting the physical setup sorted out. This can be daunting, but once the setup is nailed down the speed of use is vastly more efficient than dedicated film scanners. High resolution FX-sensor cameras can image the entire frame instantly, as opposed to film scanners which mechanically scan one to three rows of pixels at a time. A digital camera delivers familiar camera raw files without the odd specifications and proprietary software requirements of old scanners (you need to deal with the orange mask of color negative film and other film-specific details, but its doable).

    Drawbacks of camera scanning involve lens limitations, increased complexity of scanning/stitching medium format and larger frames a section at a time for best quality, and arguably less precision with color processing (the best scanner software was debugged over years for optimal handling of film sources from specific scanner hardware, digital camera sensors and Lightroom aren't inherently optimized for film reproduction). But sooner rather than later, "camera scanning" will become the dominant method of digitizing film: dedicated scanners employ a technology no longer mfd or supportable, even if a big name wanted to revive the category (Pacific Image tried with a "new" 35/120 film scanner a few years ago, but teething problems dogged it badly and were never fully resolved).

    At the professional and institutional (museum) level, a pile of money solves the scanning dilemma handily. Phase One will sell or rent you a super-high-end turnkey "camera scanning" solution involving a 50MP to 150MP medium format sensor, premium optics, custom stands/film holders/light source and proprietary, highly refined software. For a trifling purchase cost of $50K and up (way, way up).
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2021
  16. I run my Coolscan 8000 and Coolscan V on a Mac Pro 5,1 using OS X Snow Leopard(10.6) with Nikon Scan. Using it in Snow Leopard is very significant. Nikon Scan for Macs is a PowerPC native program, and 10.6 was the last version to include the Rosetta PowerPC emulator.

    I have run Nikon Scan with those two scanners on everything from a PowerMac G4(dual 1ghz) on up to the Mac Pro. Nikon Scan 4 is a "carbonized" program so it runs equally well in OS 9 and OS X on PowerPC hardware. On a G4 tower so capable, OS 9 can be desirable since it has lower overhead and if you run Nikon Scan as a Photoshop plug-in(as opposed to a standalone program) and have installed the multi-processor patch in Photoshop 6 or 7, you can use both CPUs. Otherwise, OS X is your only option on some computers, and does at least have native multiprocessor support even though the overhead is a lot higher. Of course, the USB scanners have a major downside in OS 9, and that's that there's no support for USB 2.0.

    Still, though, a decently specced Mac Pro(even a first generation) can run Nikon Scan faster than even a G5 Quad. You probably won't notice it if you're doing low-res scans, but applying ICE on a high resolution 6x7 scan is slow even on a high spec system.

    BTW, I've known folks to virtualize Snow Leopard to run Nikon Scan(I have a Snow Leopard virtual machine on my main laptop). This is fine for the USB Coolscan 5, but you can not pass Firewire through to a virtual machine.

    If you're running a SCSI scanner, give up on any of the above and grab a PowerMac G4. I mention that since a lot of the SCSI peripherals are Mac only, although that's not universally true. With a G4 running OS X Tiger(10.4) or OS 9(might be a better option anyway) the Adaptec 2930CU SCSI card that Apple shipped in a lot of Macs of this age works perfectly. A lot of other Adaptec PCI cards are plug and play also as long as you stay in OS X 10.4 or earlier. I've yet to find a SCSI card that played nicely in a PCI G5(even buying a few that SHOULD have), and heaven help you if you want a Mac-compatible PCIe SCSI card for G5 Quad or Mac Pro. They exist, but you'd probably pay more for one than just buying a Coolscan 8000/9000.
    Mary Doo and orsetto like this.
  17. Good luck with that! And with accurately aligning a camera on a tripod with the surface of a light box.

    When you're sick of shakey copies that are out-of-focus in one area or another; you might care to take the time to search and read through the many threads already posted here on the subject of digital film copying.
    Mary Doo and Ed_Ingold like this.
  18. I had tried and tested a number of slide-to-digital methods, from shooting with a camera to various film scanners from Nikon LS-2000, LS-4000 and, now LS-5000 with Nikon SF-210 for automatic multiple scans. I had never used a flatbed scanner because I could not imagine how the results could be better than a film scanner.

    Now I am most happy with the LS-5000. Its Installation to Windows 10 was a breeze following Ben Hutcherson's step-by-step installation method from the Nikon Forum. I had used the Nikon LS-4000 with SF-200 in the past for years, thinking it was the best setup, and had no desire to go further. However, now I realize that the LS-5000 is better. I am not sure whether the SilverFast software has added value to the ultimate result. The SF-210 is a time saver.

    So, if you have a lot of 35mm film images to scan and fussy about the image quality, I would recommend cutting to the chase: Get a used LS-5000 (it's not available new anymore) and forget about the other time-wasting less-promising methods.

    Consider LS-8000/9000 for other film format.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2021
  19. With quality E-6 processing vanishing and obscene film costs, who's shooting fresh transparency material in early 2021 beyond hobbyists? Can't see obsolete Coolscans having a future with near-zero repair/parts options, despite valiant hack efforts with OS adaptions that still won't cure busted machines. Not sure who is really up for massive personal archiving of years' worth of slides on flatbeds. Guess DSLR scan solutions are probably the only option with any legs for slides or negs.
  20. Don't think many are still shooting film. Those folks are not likely to be interested in turning their images to digital anyway. OP mentioned he is "looking to rescan all of my slides and negatives". I, too, have boxes of old slide images made in pre-digital days.

    Nikon no longer makes Coolscans, but many are available in the used market. I have used LS-2000, LS-4000 and now LS-5000, and have never needed to have any of the units serviced. In general, one should not buy equipment planning for them to breakdown. Now even if the Coolscan breaks down, there are plenty more available out there.

    For someone who looks to scan MANY slide images, I believe it would make sense to use a good dedicated film scanner, and I recommend Coolscan LS-5000 with the SF-210 auto feeder for quality and speed, as it's hard to see oneself taking a picture of each slide image until the cows come home. ;)

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