negative scanner blues no more

For those of you who follow this blog or who know me and have had  to listen to me regale you with stories of my (still not functional) Leafscan 45 and the quest for outdated technology to get this dinosaur of a film scanner to work…well it still doesn’t work, but I found a solution to my problems, it’s not quite as good, but not a bad DIY solution…

Frustrated with the fact that I still can not get my dedicated film scanner to work, I began to think of alternatives…the film scanner is basically a very large digital camera with negative carriers and other bells and whistles. I have a digital camera, negative carriers and lots of gaffers tape, and being a creative type I set about converting my digital camera into a film scanner of sorts…

I looked at the design of my film scanner, its a sensor with a bellows a lens and then the negative…not having a bellows attachment for my Nikon I made one out of cardboard and gaff tape, this blocks out all the light except that which enters through the negative. Using a macro lens so I could position the negative as close as possible and a Besler negative carrier attached to a light-stand for stability I pointed it toward a window to act as a back light. To make the window light as even as possible I held a translucent scrim between the window and negative.

It worked swimmingly…not only can I digitize any negative I have a carrier for (which is every size from 35mm to 4×5) but it was made for (basically) free. I am extremely pleased with the image quality, and I have plenty of resolution for enlargement. The above photo is Katie in my Aunt Rosemary’s hay barn, window light with a Yashica Mat 124, Illford HP5 120mm film, I can’t recall the settings.

Our friend Matt Beaty of Vault Photography in the woods shooting his Glock 9mm.

The last two images are both 120mm film, but the 35mm digitization looks good too, as we will see below…

Ron, a Flagstaff outdoorsman and  favorite subject of my various street portrait series, the day he left Flagstaff to ride his bike to Wyoming.

Stephanie at the pub crawl bike walk-first sequence

Willie at the same…

I will elaborate much more on this process in a future thevisualCollective “Sunday Funday DIY” segment. Be sure to check out the collective’s blog at this link and our you tube channel here and get caught up on all our DIY happenings and be on the look out for this super exciting video…



4 responses to “negative scanner blues no more

  1. Pingback: What I have been doing with my summer vacation… | Taylor Mahoney Photography

  2. This is rather clever… In fact you could probably create a kit and sell it. I know tthere’s probably a market out there for it, either for people who started with film and new digital photogs experimenting with it. You mentioned a macro lens, what focal length did you use and how long is the baffle? Since it’s been a few months, have you made any improvements?

    • I’m glad you like it, a major labor of love. I use a 55mm f/3.5 Nikkor macro lens. The baffle started at about 6-8 inches, but i have been progressively shortening it for ease of use and because if i work in a dark room I don’t need it as much. The key is to see how far away your camera needs to be to fill the frame with the negative and build a baffle from the negative holder to the camera body, or somewhere near it. I have created a negative carrier holder out of foam-core to make the workflow easier, balance and clamps were bumming me out…

  3. This is a very smart solution. The results look great. This is a 21st century re-invention of a 20th century device. In the mid-80’s I had a “slide copier” that was essentially this same device. You could buy them down at the local camera shop or in magazines. You attached it to the front of your film camera and inserted the slide. The backing was a translucent white plastic. When you aimed it at an open window, it was like viewing the slide on a light table. Focus, take photo, and take in to process at a lab. You could make slide copies of your slides or you could shoot them with negative film as though you were shooting the original scene, and now you had a negative you could take to your photo processor and come back with one or two or 10 prints. I think I still have one of these devices in a box with my old dark room equipment.

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