Page 1 of 4 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 31

Thread: Camera scanning on the cheap -- an example approach

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    Guelph, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    293

    Camera scanning on the cheap -- an example approach

    There’s a really long thread about “DSLR scanning” already on the forum, so think of these posts in this thread as a child of that conversation that might be useful for people who want to build a straightforward, cheap and reliable way of “scanning” 4x5 negatives with readily-available equipment. Needless to say there are endless other ways to do this – many of which have already been mentioned in the big “DSLR Scanning” thread. Think of this posting as some detailed notes on one specific approach. If what I’ve done meets your needs, the approach is relatively easy (and cheap!) to replicate.

    My goal was to develop a system for easily producing “scans” of my 4x5 negatives at 2,667 ppi. I’m not interested in scanning at the highest possible resolution I might potentially need; if I ever need more than I can produce using this approach, I’ll have the negative drum scanned. Instead, I’ve designed a system to give me what I actually need most of the time. Note that the basic design is easy to adapt (e.g., if you need more ppi).

    In addition to some notes on the “hardware” I’m using, I’ve also written up some comments for people, like me, who are working mostly in Lightroom (last post in this initial set).

    If you find this useful, great. If you have suggestions for how to improve the design of the system -- also great and most welcome.

    Rob de Loe
    Guelph, ON

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    Guelph, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    293

    Re: Camera scanning on the cheap -- an example approach

    THE HARDWARE SIDE

    My system is based around a Fuji X-T2, which has an APS-C sensor that produces 6000x4000 pixel RAW images in 3:2 aspect ratio. I use this camera to make 12 overlapping images, each of which covers 2.25” x 1.5” of a 4x5 negative.

    Just about any modern high resolution digital camera can be used for camera scanning. However, if you want to duplicate what I’ve done here you need 6000x4000 pixels, or you need to start making adjustments to the setup. For example, if you use a Sony Nex 5 with a resolution of 4592 x 3056 pixels, you’ll get 2,041 ppi if you use 12 overlapping images that each cover 2.25” x 1.5”. If you want more final resolution in your “scan” of a 4x5 negative from that camera, you’ll need to shoot more frames. As another example, if I replaced my Fuji X-T2 with a Sony A7R III, I’d have a final resolution of 3,534 ppi (7,952 pixels on the long edge divided by 2.25”). You could shoot fewer frames to get 2,667 ppi, but you’ll have to redesign the scanning template.

    Any good quality “macro” lens will do. It doesn’t have to be a proper macro lens that reaches 1:1 (unless you want more resolution). I’m using an Olympus OM 90mm f/2 macro lens, which just gets to my target image area of 2.25” on the long edge. I shoot in RAW, and use f/5.6 to get the best balance of depth of field and image quality from my OM 90/2 lens. I also have an Olympus OM 80mm f/4 lens with the 65-116 variable tube, but on my APS-C camera the largest image this lens/tube combination can record is around 2” (too small for my needs). If I ever need more than 2,666 ppi, the OM 80/4 will be superb. Importantly, using these film-era SLR macro lenses on an APS-C sensor allows me to use only the best part of the image circle. As good as the OM 90/2 and OM 80/4 are, they’re a bit softer at the edges than in the centre – so APS-C is a good choice.

    A copy stand to hold the camera is ideal, but I don’t own one. Like many people, I do own some sturdy old tripods and heads that I don’t use anymore. I put an old aluminum Manfrotto tripod and 3-way head back into service for this job. Anything sturdy will do. I’m only scanning 4x5 negatives, so once it’s all set up in the right position, it doesn’t need to be adjusted again (unless it goes out of alignment) or I have to take it down and set it up again. If you want to get a bit fancier, use a macro focusing rail.

    My light source is a cheap Chinese LED light pad ($25 on Amazon). I’m only scanning black and white negatives so my concern was consistent light, rather than colour temperature. As you can see in the pictures, the light pad slides underneath the scanning template. Even though it’s cheap, it provides excellent light for my needs. You can spend vastly more money on the light source if you want.

    I tried various dry mount approaches, but I recommend fluid mounting. You’ll get fewer scratches and less dust with fluid mounting. It’s easy to do and holds the negative nice and flat, with the emulsion side down. In my setup, the negatives are fluid mounted onto an 8”x10” piece of glass. I’m using plain picture framing glass – nothing fancy like Anti Newton Ring (ANR) glass. It cost me a few dollars a piece. In the picture you can see four disks under the glass; these are “glider” feet, the purpose of which will become clear shortly. What you can’t see in the picture is that I scribed guide lines into the underside of the glass to mark where the negative needs to be. In my setup the negative needs to be precisely in the middle of the 8”x10” glass negative holder. These scribed lines don’t disappear when I clean the glass (unlike guide marks made with a marker).

    The mounting fluid I use is Gamsol Odourless Mineral Spirits. (There’s a thread on the forum that discusses this product.) It works extremely well and is cheap in comparison to almost all the other options. Negative dry with no residue that I can see once I remove them from the mount. I’ve been using 0.005” acetate from the art store that I cut into pieces around 6”x8”. Once I finish my supply of that material I’ll be buying some “Grafix Clear .003 Dura-Lar Film” -- a better yet still inexpensive option that has also been the subject of a previous thread on the forum. The other fluid mounting tools I’m using are a semi-hard rubber “brayer” (the roller you can see in the picture), a blunt-tipped syringe for dispensing the fluid, a microfiber cloth for final polishing, and some wipes. You can easily find guidance on how to fluid mount on the Internet.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	01 Negative fluid mounted on the glass holder.jpg 
Views:	160 
Size:	62.2 KB 
ID:	186615

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	02 Scanning station showing LED pad.jpg 
Views:	159 
Size:	57.7 KB 
ID:	186616

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	03 One of the 12 images that make the full picture.jpg 
Views:	146 
Size:	58.4 KB 
ID:	186617

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	04 canning template showing ruler guides in place.jpg 
Views:	134 
Size:	46.6 KB 
ID:	186618

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    Guelph, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    293

    Re: Camera scanning on the cheap -- an example approach

    The only somewhat complicated piece of the puzzle is the “scanning template”. You want to be able to keep the camera in a fixed position, and move the negative underneath it into the positions that provide the necessary coverage for reliable stitching. You also need to mask out extra light from your light source. My initial efforts involved simply moving a negative around under the camera, with some crude positioning using rulers. Results were hit-and-miss because I couldn’t keep everything lined up properly.

    In the big “DSLR Scanning” thread you’ll see an amazing semi-automatic machine where the negative is moved around under computer control. I’d love to have that setup, but in the meantime I built myself a “scanning template”. The dimensions are in the sketch I posted. Needless to say I couldn’t achieve the precision in the measurements shown in my sketch… That’s OK though because consistency is more important than perfectly equal amounts of overlap between frames.

    Anyone with some basic tools and skills can make one of these scanning templates. (Trust me – I’m no carpenter!) I built it out of bits and pieces of materials I had lying around already (scraps of wood, bits of moulding). The base of the template is a piece of particle board shelving. Some bits of left over moulding provide the outer “walls” that enclose the working area of the template, within which the glass is moved around. The grooves in the surface (which hold the rulers you can see in the pictures) are 5/8th inch deep cuts and made with a circular saw. The plastic rulers that serve as guides (see below) cost a bit over a dollar a piece and are exactly the right width to slide easily into the grooves yet still provide a secure “edge” for positioning shots in the middle of the frame. A better carpenter than me could have made a non-embarrassing window to expose the LED light source that sits under the template. Mine looks like it was chewed open by rats, but it works. It’s just a bit bigger than the 2.25”x1.5” target image size. I used some left-over matte black spray paint from another project to finish it off.

    When you are camera scanning, the lens plane, sensor plane and the plane of the negative should be absolutely parallel (or as close as you can get). To ensure the scanning template is level, I installed four “furniture levellers” that allow each corner to be raised and lowered independently; these cost a few dollars at the local hardware store. I level the camera using the old trick darkroom workers know well for levelling their enlarger: place a mirror underneath the camera, on top of the level scanning template, focus on the front of the lens, and then adjust the camera until the front of the lens is dead centre in the frame. I find this is much more accurate than putting a level on the camera.

    To get 2,666 ppi on a 4x5 negative with a sensor that collects 6000x4000 pixels, you need to shoot four rows of pictures in landscape orientation that each cover 2.25”x1.5” of the target 4x5 negative, with each row having three overlapping pictures. You can shoot fewer pictures. However, having plenty of overlap increases the odds of successfully stitching the set together. In my design, I’ve allowed for around 40% overlap between rows, and 33% overlap between columns.

    To use this outfit to make your 12 pictures, you position the 8”x10” glass negative holder (with the negative fluid mounted in the centre) in the scanning template, and then move it around under the camera to get each shot. I start in the bottom-right corner and take the first picture. I then insert the short ruler into the vertical cut, slide the negative holder along the bottom edge of the template until it stops at the ruler, take the second picture, remove the ruler, slide the negative holder into the bottom-left corner of the template, and take the third picture. That’s the first row. I repeat this for the next three rows, except I use the long ruler to position the negative holder for the middle two rows. The top edge of the scanning template is used to make the final row. The glue-on gliders attached to the bottom of the glass negative holder allow me to slide the negative holder without scratching the glass. I can shoot all 12 pictures in a couple minutes at most.

    I always use a cable release or self-timer to eliminate camera shake. You’ll need to experiment to see how to expose the shots. I’ve had good success by over exposing by about 1/3rd of a stop. The result is a relatively “flat” scan.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 05 Design for scanning template.jpg   06 The 12 shots that make up the 4x5 negative.jpg  

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    Guelph, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    293

    Re: Camera scanning on the cheap -- an example approach

    THE RESULTS

    Here’s an example from a negative I made in 1992 along the shores of Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. The film was FP4+. I can’t remember for sure but I think I was using D76 at that time. The lens was a Schneider APO-Symmar 150mm f/5.6. This negative was a bit on the thin side compared to other ones I made at the same time; I thought it scanned better than the denser version.

    When I tried printing it in my darkroom, I wasn’t able to make a print from this negative that made me happy. I’m glad I gave it a second chance in this new workflow. The picture I’ve attached to this post is a quick work-up from a camera scanned version of the picture. Scanning (including fluid mounting), processing in Lightroom, and spot cleaning in Photoshop took about 15 minutes total. That time will go down as I get more proficient. With a few adjustments in Lightroom, I’ve been able to get to a decent work print quickly.

    I’ve included a 1:1 portion of this picture so you can see the amount of detail I was able to pull from the negative. This is from the processed version, so it’s been sharpened appropriately. There’s plenty of information in this file for prints much larger than I can make on my Epson 3880. A print that is 34” in the long edge would still be in the ideal 360 ppi territory for Epson printers. If I ever need to print larger, I’ll have the negative drum scanned.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	07 Negative after merging in Lightroom.jpg 
Views:	105 
Size:	83.0 KB 
ID:	186621

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	08 Positive after spotting in Photoshop and import into Lightroom.jpg 
Views:	122 
Size:	77.7 KB 
ID:	186622

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	09 Finished picture 12478x8913 pixels in 5x7 aspect ratio.jpg 
Views:	144 
Size:	101.1 KB 
ID:	186623

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	10 Zoom in on the finished picture at 1 to 1.jpg 
Views:	142 
Size:	73.9 KB 
ID:	186624

  5. #5
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Location
    Fond du Lac, WI, USA
    Posts
    7,566

    Re: Camera scanning on the cheap -- an example approach

    Good system, and a terrific write-up!
    May tomorrow be a better day.

  6. #6
    Daniel Stone's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Los Angeles area
    Posts
    2,104

    Re: Camera scanning on the cheap -- an example approach

    Very nicely done! I agree with Peter, very well documented! I have been considering this as a viable alternative, seeing that flatbed scanning is a pain when you want to scan flat(and having owned a drum scanner in the past, I appreciate wet mounting as much as possible.

    -Dan

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    Guelph, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    293

    Re: Camera scanning on the cheap -- an example approach

    Thanks for the feedback Peter and Dan. If you have any suggestions for improving the design or work flow, please feel free to post them. I consider this a prototype and am always open to better designs and approaches.

  8. #8
    Tin Can's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Posts
    15,024

    Re: Camera scanning on the cheap -- an example approach

    Very good and you are an excellent writer.

    I won't be doing this, but at least i know how you do it.

    Thank you!
    where is the monolith

  9. #9
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Location
    Fond du Lac, WI, USA
    Posts
    7,566

    Re: Camera scanning on the cheap -- an example approach

    Well, the obvious upgrade is an automated positioning system. They really aren't that hard to build, and the software and parts lists are freely available, though I don't know offhand if the triggering mechanism will work for Fuji. Daniel and my systems were both Nikon, but that can't be that big of a problem.
    May tomorrow be a better day.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    Guelph, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    293

    Re: Camera scanning on the cheap -- an example approach

    Indeed! My kid just started Engineering. I told her she had one year to learn what she needed to learn to build me one!

    I'm pretty sure the triggering mechanism won't work on Fuji. When I'm working digital, I sometimes use Helicon Focus to do focus stacking. The software offers the ability to let the camera determine the number of frames needed in the stack to get everything you want in focus. Unfortunately, the developer told me it only works on Nikon and Canon cameras -- and specifically not Fuji X series bodies. A good used Nikon or Canon body that would work well for this purpose wouldn't be too expensive, so that's an easy enough problem to solve if I go that route.


    Quote Originally Posted by Peter De Smidt View Post
    Well, the obvious upgrade is an automated positioning system. They really aren't that hard to build, and the software and parts lists are freely available, though I don't know offhand if the triggering mechanism will work for Fuji. Daniel and my systems were both Nikon, but that can't be that big of a problem.

Similar Threads

  1. What is the best approach to getting your work seen
    By Craig Griffiths in forum Business
    Replies: 16
    Last Post: 7-Jan-2012, 12:12
  2. How to approach galleries?
    By Marek in forum Business
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 1-Mar-2004, 09:43

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •