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Thread: Using your camera to digitise negatives

  1. #1

    Using your camera to digitise negatives

    So back in the day when I was training as a photographer in the military I was taught how to duplicate slides using a 35mm SLR camera. Needless to say, once I got out into the real world I never had any need for that particular knowledge again. However, I have recently inherited some large format negatives of some family photos and I would like to digitise them for preservation and archival purposes. I could send them off to a lab but I thought I would look into the possibility of doing it myself first. I've been looking at used negative scanners for sale online but I don't think any of them are going to be up to the standard of job I personally would expect. I have a full frame Nikon DSLR and a lens that will work well for copying purposes. So, I was wondering if it would be feasible to copy them myself with my camera like in the old days. Has anybody else had a go at it? Could anybody give me any pointers? Or should I just bite the bullet and send them into a lab? Looking forward to hearing other's opinions.

  2. #2

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    Re: Using your camera to digitise negatives

    You have the camera and lens so why not try it? Won't be as good as top end scans but may get the job done. You might look at the flatbed scanners if using the camera isn't giving you what you want.

  3. #3

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    Re: Using your camera to digitise negatives

    I use a digital camera to digitise b/w negatives. In my experiece, it only works well with flash. The resolution is far less than a good scanner, but I like the tonal rendition.

    There are threads covering the topic at length.

  4. #4

    Re: Using your camera to digitise negatives

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck1977 View Post
    So back in the day when I was training as a photographer in the military I was taught how to duplicate slides using a 35mm SLR camera. Needless to say, once I got out into the real world I never had any need for that particular knowledge again. However, I have recently inherited some large format negatives of some family photos and I would like to digitise them for preservation and archival purposes. I could send them off to a lab but I thought I would look into the possibility of doing it myself first. I've been looking at used negative scanners for sale online but I don't think any of them are going to be up to the standard of job I personally would expect. I have a full frame Nikon DSLR and a lens that will work well for copying purposes. So, I was wondering if it would be feasible to copy them myself with my camera like in the old days. Has anybody else had a go at it? Could anybody give me any pointers? Or should I just bite the bullet and send them into a lab? Looking forward to hearing other's opinions.
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael E View Post
    I use a digital camera to digitise b/w negatives. In my experiece, it only works well with flash. The resolution is far less than a good scanner, but I like the tonal rendition.

    There are threads covering the topic at length.
    Thanks for the pointers Michael E. I'll search the forum for the existing threads as suggested. I did find an article on Petapixel that illustrated an excellent DIY method for duping 35mm negs or slides. I am sure I can tailor that to my purposes.
    Last edited by Chuck1977; 18-Oct-2016 at 20:18. Reason: typo

  5. #5
    Randy's Avatar
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    Re: Using your camera to digitise negatives

    Chuck, I have an adapter, made by Canon I believe, that works pretty well for copying 35mm negs and slides (it mounts onto the front of your camera lens), but for larger films it will not work. If you are just looking to copy the negs so you can share them on the web with family, doing it with a camera would probably be the fastest method, but if you are wanting high resolution files for possibly printing in the future, scanning is probably your best bet, but it is time consuming. And since you mentioned you have some large format negs you would have to make sure that the scanner - if you purchased one for this purpose - would handle your large format negs, like the Epson V750 that will handle up to 8X10 negs. If you would like I can dig out my Canon adapter if you want to see if any are available on ebay.
    Also, what branch of service were you in? I was a USAF photographer for 10 years.
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  6. #6
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Using your camera to digitise negatives

    There are some long threads on building DSLR scanners in the DIY sections. Some of the important questions you want to answer are: 1) What is the end goal for the file? 2) How many slides/negs do you want to scan? 3) Do you prefer a turn-key system, or would you be willing to spend some time putting something together?

    Your options seem to be:
    1) Send the film to a scanning service.
    2) Buy a scanner.
    3) Use a DSLR to take one shot of the negative.
    4) Use a DSLR to take many shots of the negative and combine.

    1) is obviously the least work, followed by 3), then 2), then 4). 3) is faster to use than 2). The issue with 3) is whether you get a big enough files for whatever use you want. If you can, than it's a very good option.

    2), i.e. buying scanner such as an Epson V750, costs more and is slower to use, as hi-res scans take awhile.

    4), building a scanner, requires a fair amount of work, but the really hard stuff, the software for the control system, has already been done. The quality achievable is better than an Epson V750. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXy7RJwIBAo
    "Why can't we all just get along?" President Dale, Mars Attacks

  7. #7

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    Re: Using your camera to digitise negatives

    Part of the answers to this depends on the quality level desired. I have a friend who uses his medium format digital back to digitize 4x5 or even 120 film negs. He has to work to get the negs flat, and he has both a top lens and back. I would think results of a DSLR wouldn't be at that level. That said, if you were looking for good enough quality for say a decent 16" sq print, it might work. Try and find out. Parallelism of the camera back to the film is important, as is flat film and even light.

    Much depends on how many and what quality. Top is sending out for drum scans ($$) and a moderate middle answer is the Epson 750 - have one and like it and it does plenty of things pretty well. My guess is that the digitizing by shooting would either be OK for a few (oh, why not?) or if you had a lot to do and the quality was good enough, the setup might make sense to try. But the Epson scanner is easier!

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