What lens should I buy for a copystand setup?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by al_dobs, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. Equipment:

    Camera: Nikon D800

    Copystand: still deciding between
    Bencher Copymate II
    or Beseler CS-14 Copystand Kit
    or Kaiser RS 1 / RS 2

    Lighting: a lighting kit made for the copy stand?
    or a flash setup (e.g. 2x AlienBees B400 in soft boxes or maybe speedlights?)

    Lens: ?

    So far all I have bought is the camera and two primes (50mm 1.8G & 85mm 1.8G).

    My objective is to digitize, in the best possible quality, hundreds of old photographs.

    I had bought the 85mm 1.8G because it scored very high on DXOMark for sharpness as well as having almost no distortion & very little chromatic aberration. However it can't fill the frame with a 3x5" photo, the smallest area it can focus on is about 11.5" x 8".

    What lens should I buy for this project? I would prefer not to spend a fortune, but quality is very important to me.

    Would using an extension tube or bellows decrease image quality? Would using just the center of the lens cause a decrease in sharpness or introduce distortion / CA?

    Is a macro lens my only option? What would give me the best results?
  2. You are possibly better off with a scanner for this type of project.
  3. pge


    I did this, great results. I used a tripod and studio lights. I used a 105mm vr lens. Its great for this sort of thing.
  4. Get one of Nikon's 60/2.8 Micros. The newer "G" flavor is very nice, but so is the earlier D, which you can probably find for a very reasonable price.

    Why: because it has a very, very flat field. It's born for this sort of thing. Also, of course, has a very small minimal focus distance, if you're shooting something small and want to fill a fair bit of the frame.
  5. 55mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor or the 60mm f/2.8 I find my 55 to be sharper then my 60 but you might get a little focus creep from the 55
  6. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Those Nikon 55mm and 60mm macro lenses are designed for this type of work, as Matt and Michael mentioned. If budget is not a concern and hopefully it isn't since you have a D800, I would get the latest 60mm/f2.8 AF-S macro (micro).
  7. I believe the 55mm f 2.8 manual focus lens is perfect for this project. it is a flat field macro lens, but it does not go to 1 : 1, only .5 to 1. If you need 1 : 1, you will need an extension tube. Many copies are available used on ebay and other places. Just make sure the copy stand is sized properly for your d800 and your macro lens of choice and your desired reproduction ratio. It has been years since I have used a copy stand, but when I did I preferred one that had lights or provisions to hold a lighting source built into the stand. Joe Smith
  8. If you are going to invest many hours in copying the photographs, I recommend that you investigate using flashes with polarization to reduce reflection "noise" from irregular paper surfaces. This can be a problem with flatbed scanning of old prints with textured surfaces because the scanning light is directional. There is a method that involves scanning from both directions and then layering the images to eliminate the reflections. But you also may have some prints mounted on backings larger than the platens on most flatbeds, and so I would recommend using the copystand and polarization that involves putting aligned polarizing gels in front of the strobes, and a polarizer on the lens. You can use almost any continuous light source as a modeling light through the strobe gels as you focus on an irregular, glossy surface that is not metal, and then you adjust the polarizer on the lens until the reflections are minimized. Once it is all set up, you can shoot many subjects very quickly on an almost assembly line basis. The strobes need to be angled symmetrically, and I am sure you can find precise directions on how to do this somewhere on the web. One thing the polarization cannot handle are old prints that have "silvered" out and actually have shiny metallic silver on their surfaces, because polarization does not work on metal reflections. If you don't want to get into cabling all the the strobes or using radio triggers, you can cable one strobe to the camera, and use inexpensive optical slave triggers on the rest of the strobes if they do not have built in triggers.
    I made many hundreds of 35mm slides of book illustrations for teaching purposes with this type of setup, and it would only be easier with a digital slr. I used old Nikon Micro 55mm 3.5 lenses, and they were superb for flatwork. Although not essential with digital, an exposure meter with an incident reading dome that faces up and that can meter flashes is handy for this type of work.
  9. 60 Micro.
  10. I have two 55/3.5 Micros of different vintages (one very early, one very late), and a 60/2.8 AF-D, for doing a similar kind of work, tested them extensively to see if one was going to work better. and the results among all three are identical. 55/3.5s are dirt cheap, and once you have one you'll find a lot of uses for it.
    Much more important than the lens will be getting the camera aligned properly parallel to the subects. You can do that easily by putting a mirror on the baseboard. When you have the image of the camera lens centered in the finder, the baseboard and film are parallel.
  11. I agree with Matt 100%. The 60mm. 2.8 G is great for this purpose and is a fairly good portrait lens as well.
  12. I agree with both the 55mm and 60mm suggestions

    Also be prepared to store those hundreds of pics, your D800 files may be rather large if using NEF ( Raw) format, but Raw format gives you more possibilities to get the colours the way you want them..
    For lighting when using macro for stationairy subjects, i like to use 4 led boxes, they give a nice evenly spread light with les reflection isseus and because its continuous light which does not produce heat they give you time to adjust whatever is needed without problems of your subject getting warmed up ( which is a challenge withsome older photo material) .
  13. Depending on how (or if) they're mounted and what sizes there are, it makes a lot of sense to sort them into batches of the same size and make a position frame on the baseboard. Wracking the column up and down between a 7 x 5 and a 6 x 4 and a 9 x 6 etc will kill you and take all the fun out of this project.
    As, technically, you need more-or-less zero DoF, you can choose the sharpest aperture, which on the 60mm AF D or AF-S is f5.6. I'd guess, but other's will know better, whether you can rely on Matrix Metering for this job....or maybe the biggest centre-weighted area you can select? But not spot.
    The only downside with an older MF lens is that it's MF! If you fine tune your 60mm AF-S + D800 combo, you can allow it to AF-C as and when you raise and lower the column.
    Tethering will allow more of a hands free approach. A preset white balance using your shooting lights makes it easier later....and of course you can shoot straight into pre-created folders. I personally like ControlMyNikon. You can even set it to fire on voice command. In the good olde days I had a foot switch if I needed to hold something flat and had run out of hands to trip the shutter....but things have moved on, thankfully!
  14. What lens should I buy for this project? I would prefer not to spend a fortune, but quality is very important to me.
    A good cheap lens could be the "classic" 50/1.8 (6/5). It cannot be cheaper, but you will also need an extension tube or a bellows (extension tubes&bellows does`t have optics, so the only issue is the quality of the lens`reproduction at such magnifications). Or a 6 elements enlarging lens. An EL Nikkor could be even cheaper, and also a very good performer. Sadly, your 50/1.8 is a "G" version, which cannot be used due to the lack of an aperture ring.
    But if you already don`t have them, maybe the best option is to acquire a Micro-Nikkor lens, in any iteration. Older 55s are great for that task.

    Anyway, if you have to buy a copy stand and a lightning setup with softening devices, don`t expect to save too much with the copy lens... so I think I`m with Elliot, buy a good scanner and save money.

    Think that probably, you`ll have to post-process every shot, modifying contrast, saturation, or even sharpness... maybe you`ll have a better workflow scanning than photographing and adjusting the setup, specially if you have to do it in different stages (although if they really are "thousands", the much longer scanning times could be a big drawback).
  15. Sadly, your 50/1.8 is a "G" version, which cannot be used due to the lack of an aperture ring.​
    Do what?? You can't use a 50mm 1.8 G on a D800 'cos it's got no A ring? Surely not??
  16. Mike, I wanted to mean on the bellows (well, you can use it anyway, at the smallest aperture). On a D800, they obviously work.
    There are tubes with electronic connections, like this ones, that seem to permit the control of your "G" lenses from the camera... never used them.
    Same with converters, they increase magnification but using optics, so performance could be affected. It should be advised by someone who have tested it.

    If the performance of your 50/1.8 or 85/1.8 at such magnifications is good, it could be another option. Some non macro lenses are even very good performers at macro distances when stopped down (like the 6/5 50/1.8), but I don`t know if yours belong to this group.
  17. Jose....obviously..:) The new text makes that clear now.
    The 50mm G 1.8 is pretty sharp in the centre but the FX edges aren't great and sadly the sweet spot for the centre isn't at the same aperture as the edges.
    The flat-field of a purpose-designed macro is important with flat copy work.
  18. (Ooops, I see, you read it while copypasting in the edition... my excuses, now it`s all right :)

    Scanning pros; even illumination, sharpness in the whole frame, model flatness, no need of adjusting the setup, working space, framing and other processing options.
    Photograph pros; speed, and... (?)
  19. How large is the largest photograph (I assume we are discussing prints, not film) and how small is the smallest?

    While it is an unsexy process you will likely get better , higher resolution results by scanning the photos that are 8.5 x 11
    inches or smaller with a decent scanner like the Canon 5600F or an Epson V500.

    Even if you assume that the scanner is actually scanning at an optical maximum of 2800dpi, with a 3.5 x 5 inch original
    you'll end up with a digital file that is 9,800 x 14,000 pixel - creating a 137.2 effective mega-pixel capture - far exceeding
    the D800's native 36mp resolution, and you solve the flattening and lighting problems.

    There are a couple of tricks to use when scanning photographs. Basically you bring the end points in to just beyond
    (about 5 points beyond) the ends of the "mountain range" in the scanning software's histogram, and if ultimate tonal and
    color information is important use the large Adobe RGB (1998) or very large Pro Photo RGB color space and set the scan
    to produce a 16 bit per channel file. The resulting file will be huge but you'll capture every piece of visible detail in the print
    or document. Bringing in the end points maximizes the dynamic range and tonal range recorded in the scan.
  20. I've been on photo.net for a long time, and have a resulting very high respect for Ellis' expertise, but I would also reiterate my earlier comment in this thread about the scanning option: if you have ever scanned photos on paper with much texture - for example some of the textured papers that were popular in commercial portrait photography in the fifties and early sixties, you will find that at least some scanners record the surface at the expense of the image. I agree with everything being said about file sizes: one big decision is whether you want to exactly reproduce the photos to original size, or make them larger to facilitate any later post-processing steps or larger reproductions. Those decisions will affect the file sizes and storage needs a lot.
  21. When I've done copystand work I've used either a regular 50mm plus screw-in closeup lenses or my 55mm Micro Nikkor. The 85 is too long. I've used the hot lights that came with my stand, although a couple of shoemount flashes would be fine once you get the angle figured out so that there's no glare and you're not picking up any texture from the surface of the photos being copied. Studio strobes would be OK if you already have them but they would be overkill otherwise -- so much power you'd probably have to dial them way down anyhow.

    All of that said, I absolutely agree with Elliott that this is not the way to digitize a bunch of pictures. That's what flatbed scanners are made for. They can do the job better, quicker and cheaper. They save you all the issues of keeping everything square, getting close enough, lighting, glare, contrast buildup etc. The big limit is the size of the photos being copied. But you can copy large photos in section and stitch them togther in photoshop so that's not really a problem either.
  22. Gerry B. brings up a good point about the difficulties of scanning textured prints. I had never scanned one of those so I
    had never consider the inherent problems. Thanks for pointing it out.
  23. You are possibly better off with a scanner for this type of project.​
    +1, for e.g. a scanner doesnt use that bayersensor or no problems with reflections etc.
  24. My objective is to digitize, in the best possible quality, hundreds of old photographs.
    You are possibly better off with a scanner for this type of project.​
    When you talk "hundreds" you will soon find out why a scanner is better. I've got virtually every type of slide copy accessory that has existed, from copy stand, Repronar, camera attachment slide copiers (possibly the worst solution of all), and both flatbed film scanners (for larger negatives) and dedicated 35mm film scanners.
    There are many paths to getting decent copies of old photographs, but a decent flatbed scanner such as the Canon Canoscan 9000F will be superior for prints to most other alternatives. For slides it is OK, but not so good as a dedicated film scanner ( http://www.photo.net/digital-darkroom-forum/00b9l6 , http://www.photo.net/casual-conversations-forum/00arR1 ).
    A real macro lens will work for prints without any attachments, if you are bound and set on doing with a copystand setup. Bellows and a flat-field enlarger lens will be best for slides lit from below, somehow.
  25. If I cannot get a descent image from my flatbed scanner, I use a 55mm macro on my DX DSLR or a 105mm macro on my FX DSLR, and a copy stand with a couple of tungsten bulbs.


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