Scanning Film with a Camera – My Test


So I was doing a little research about film scanners today and came to realize that most of what’s left in the market are either way too cheap and low-res (basically to preserve family photos) or too expensive and from companies I can’t trust will be around in 6 months. I’ve been unsatisfied with scanning on my Epson 4990. It’s fine for large format and even 6×6, but for 35mm I’m never happy with the results. I’ve tried using the film holders and end up with soft images; I’ve tried laying the film on the glass and then have to fight Newton’s Rings.

I remember a few months ago I read a post somewhere about using your dSLR and a macro lens to shoot slides and thought about trying it with negatives as well. In the end I found this post on petapixel which was very helpful. I didn’t have a light table handy, but I had a little battery powered LED light which I diffused through a stack of tissue paper, set the camera up on a tripod with a 100mm macro lens and pointed it straight down toward the film The results are very impressive. Now these are not the sharpest film shots ever, but they give you some idea of the quality you can get out. MUCH better than I’ve ever gotten from my flatbed and using gear I’ve already got.

I tried some color film as well with less than ideal results. The color temp and spectrum of the LED just wasn’t up to the task. Color negative film is REALLY hard to get the color right when scanning, in my opinion. The only time I’ve ever gotten great results was when I rented time on an Imacon with custom profiles for each film type.

TIP: Use live view and 10x magnification to get the focus right. Also stop down on the lens a bit to get to the sweet spot and handle any slight depth of field softness.

Here’s a 100% blow-up of the above: