I wrote an article that has just been published in Petapixel. In the article, I offer some insight on megapixels and camera scanning, particularly for 35mm film originals.
We are hitting a point of diminishing returns on pixel density where going to very high resolution sensors like the Sony A7 RIV (61 megapixels) may actually get you inferior quality to lower resolution (30-45 MP).
If you are putting a camera scanning system together, you should carefully evaluate critical sharpness and make sure that you can get consistent sharpness across the entire frame.
What I did not say specifically in the article is that use of a rail-based system becomes even more important as you go to higher megapixels since it allows easier alignment of the camera to the film I stayed away from any specific hardware mentions in the article.
If you are interested in rails, which offer precise alignment of the camera and film, I’ve just produced a new batch of the PS-4 version, which seems to sell out as fast as I can make them.
I’ve just finished a new batch of rail systems for camera scanning and I have a few additional ones available. These are among the very best tools for camera scanning slides and negatives with a DSLR. You can use just about any camera and macro lens. Faster, better, cheaper than a conventional scanner.
I have 5 rails and four light kits currently available. Here is the order page.
The rails are $350/$375 depending on rail length. light kits are $200.
After making 50 or more of these, I’ve finally gotten it down to an assembly-line workflow, best done with at least five units at a time.
Drill press time! I’ve created a jig here so that I can properly place the access hole in the cover plate repeatably.
Last month I published the results of my tests of the Nikon D850 “negative digitizer” on PetaPixel. Judging by the dialog and web traffic, a lot of people saw it. I’m putting up a short synopsis here, along with a link for those who missed it.
The bottom line: great camera for scanning, digitizer not ready yet.
The Nikon D850 is a truly wonderful camera for scanning photographs as I outline in my book Digitizing Your Photos. It offers a significant bump in resolution over the Nikon D800 which I have been using. If you are looking for the highest quality camera scan from a 35mm style DSLR, then the D850 would be an excellent choice (as would the Canon 5DSR, or the Sony a7r II mirrorless).
The camera includes a “negative digitizer” feature which can flip B&W and color negatives into positives in the camera. In theory, this could provide some real workflow advantages over manual conversion. However, there are some problems in the current implementation. Here they are in brief:
Clips highlights and shadows too aggressively
Can only shoot JPEG, which means highlights and shadows not recoverable
Exposure compensation and contrast control disabled in digitizer feature
Uncontrolled variation between frames means that batch corrections are not possible
Here are two images from the same negative strip. As you can see, the color is rendered very differently. This makes it impossible to batch correct with a consistent look.
Nikon’s unofficial response
At the PhotoPlus Expo, I got a chance to have an extended dialog with Nikon representatives. They had seen the PetaPixel article and understood the issues I raised. More important, they indicated that it’s essential to fix these problems. I left the meetings with the impression that there would be a concerted effort by the Nikon USA staff to address these problems.
When I hear back from Nikon, I’ll be sure to post an update on the situation. In the meantime, if you are interested in using your D850 (or any other camera) as a scanner, the best methodology is outlined in my newest book, Digitizing Your Photos.
Nikon sent me a D850 to do some camera scan testing. My initial impression is that it it really promising, but I have not been able to get it to do exactly what I want. It does a pretty good job for most negatives, but it’s having problems on dark images.
I’ll run a number of rolls through it over the weekend and report back. I will say that even if it’s not perfect now, I can tell this is going to be a great solution for camera scanning color negatives, particularly in conjunction with Lightroom.
The Nikon D850 has been announced, and it looks like a heck of a nice camera. The headline stuff includes everything we’ve come to expect from the next magical generation of digital SLR cameras – 45 megapixels, 7 frames per second, ISO 25,600, 8k video, touch screen, and so much more.
But tucked away on page 85 of the PDF brochure is this: a negative digitizer! Apparently the camera has a built-in algorithm for flipping negatives positive.
Some seasoned photographers may be exploring ways to convert their film assets created with old cameras into digital data. Taking advantage of its high-pixel count of 45 megapixels, the D850 offers an option for digitizing film (35mm-format), which can handle color and monochrome negatives. First, set an optional ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter onto a lens such as the AF-S Micro NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED attached to the D850. Then, insert the film to be digitized in an FH-4 Strip Film Holder or FH-5 Slide Mount Holder, and shoot. The camera’s digitizing function automatically reverses the colors and stores them as JPEG images. This once time-consuming process involving a film scanner can be done much more quickly. You can enjoy pictures with family and friends while selecting and digitizing by displaying them on a large TV monitor connected via an HDMI cable. Enjoy your old film images by digitizing them with the D850.
There are several items above that I’d love to test. If it could handle color negatives reasonably well, this could be a major workflow improvement for camera scanning.
And I don’t really like the ES-2, but there’s no reason not to use a rail system or copystand /lightbox .
In any case, it’s very exciting to see Nikon acknowledge this missing market niche, especially when so many photographers have mourned the loss of the Nikon scanner line.
UPDATE: I have one of these, and like it as an economical, small unit for a film backlight, like for a rail. I have found a power supply for only $10 at Amazon. Note that this light requires additional diffusion to use as a backlight to even out the hotspots caused by the individual LEDs.
LED lighting is a fast-moving product landscape, with prices plummeting and quality increasing faster than anything I’ve ever seen in photography.I was over at B&H last week getting things all set up for my September 13 presentation at the Event Space. I took the opportunity to look at the LED lights on display. I found a nice little unit from Dracast that should be great for camera scanning transparencies on a rail system. At $68, it looked well made. Even better, it listed a CRI number of 95, which is a very high quality light for the price.
I was talking to Gary on the sales floor, and I wondered if this light was really 95 CRI. He smiled and said he’d be back in a minute. When he returned, he had a $2200 Sekonic C‑7000 SpectroMaster Color in hand. “Let’s find out” he said. We took readings of the light, and, sure enough, it showed a CRI over 97.
I’m going to buy one of these lights and take it for a spin. Note that because this light is designed to be used on-camera, it does not come with an AC adapter. I checked with the company and they tell me it takes a 12 volt 10 watt power supply. I have a bunch of old 12 volt power supplies lying around, so I’ll test with these when the light arrives.
Note, there are several variations of the Camlux light from Dracast. For camera scanning, I’m not interested in the bicolor, but they would be useful for shooting. These come in daylight or bicolor. Here they are linked.