Saturday, February 4, 2017

Turn your iPad into a High-Resolution Film Scanner


(Okay, that's a misleading headline, since you also need a camera and a macro lens as well.  But it works and the results are great!)  
  
This method works much better than the dedicated film scanners that were once available: Using a 24 megapixel camera, you get a larger file size: 6000 x 4000 pixels versus 3779 x 2522 of the Nikon Coolscan LS-2000 (which continues to gather dust under my desk).  If you use an even higher megapixel camera, you can easily see just how unsharp your old film lenses were.


Here's what you need:

·       A camera with the ability to shoot things that are close.  Ideally this would mean a dedicated macro lens that can fill the frame with a single negative (like a 90 or 100mm macro); worst case it can be an RX-100 zoomed out all the way if you just want something quick and dirty. 
·       An iPad (or other tablet) with a "flashlight" app that can turn the screen white.  This is a good example (although by no means the only one).
·       An 8x10 piece of glass with some spacers

Here's what to do:
0.   Use the spacers to mount the glass a few inches above the iPad, and put a negative strip on top.  (I'll explain why the glass is needed below.)
1.     Turn on the flashlight app.  Point the camera at the iPad so the screen fills the camera's frame.
2.     Put the camera into Manual Exposure Mode. 
a.    Set the ISO to 100.
b.    Set the f/stop to f/8 (the sweet spot of most lenses) 
c.    Set the shutter speed so the camera tells you you're overexposing by 1.7 stops.
d.  Shoot in RAW or RAW + JPG, as you'll probably need to do some extreme manipulation later on.
3.     Perform a Custom White Balance, so the white will really look white.  (This will really be essential if you're shooting color negatives.)
4.     Now compose your shot with one frame of the film strip and make sure some of the sprockets are in the frame.
6.     Using the camera's self-timer, take a picture.
7.     If you shot a negative, you have to turn it into a positive again and make adjustments.  I'll explain how to do that later on.

Now then, you're probably wondering why the sheet of glass and the spacers are needed.  Why not just put the negative right on top of the iPad?  Well, I'll show you:


Don't see the problem yet?  Here, have a closer look:


That's right!  You can see the pixel resolution of the retina display.  Not good!

What about using an intermediate layer, like tracing paper?


Worse.  I suppose I could have used some white plexiglass, but who has that lying around?  I ended up using a piece of glass I borrowed from a picture frame, and using old film canisters as spacers.  (I knew I saved those for a reason!)  The idea being if you're focused on the negative, the retina display behind it will be out of focus and therefore rendered as a blurred, smooth continuous background.


Processing these in Photoshop takes a few steps.  I'll explain how I do it after a few announcements.


In The Pipeline

The ebook for the Sony RX-100 V is out!  (.epub and .mobi versions coming soon.)  It is being translated into French as we speak.


The Fujifilm X-T2 ebook has been updated, and .epub and .mobi versions are now available.  If  you purchased it from my website then you will be receiving an email with the updates shortly.

The Fujifilm X-Pro2 book by Tony Phillips is being extensively re-worked, adding 30 pages to the volume and enhancing several sections.  If you bought from my website or registered your purchase from elsewhere you'll automatically get the free update.

The ebook for the A6500 is just a couple of weeks away from being finished.  After that I'll start working on the Sony-can't-keep-up-with-the-unexpected-demand A99 II.  Email me at Gary at Friedman Archives dot com if you'd like to be notified when these are ready.

The ebook for the Alpha 6300 is already translated into French (and is in the process of being updated), and is currently being translated into Spanish.  Probablemente se hará en un mes. 

Please help spread the word!

Seminars

This year's seminar schedule continues to congeal.  Here's what's on the horizon:

Tuscon, Arizona Feb. 14-15, 2017 (This is for a photo club, and so is a closed session.)  (I can do this for your photo club too!  Email me for details.)
Edmonton, Alberta (Canada) March 18-19, 2017 Learn More and Sign Up
London (Manchester, actually) July, 2017 Notify me when enrollment opens!
Edinburgh, Scotland July, 2017 Notify me when enrollment opens!
Seattle-ish August 26-27, 2017 Notify me when enrollment opens!

If you find the learning curve for digital photography is just a tad overwhelming, then the High-Impact Photography Seminar was designed for you!  Clear and intuitive, this course is guaranteed to cut through the confusion and layout the basic principles derived from the world of art.  Learn more about live events and how to purchase a streaming version here.

Next Time in f2 Cameracraft


Keith Moon shared magic mushrooms with him.  Jim Morrison leaned on him so he could throw up on an audience member.  Ray Charles stopped a show because of him.  Michael Zagaris hung out with all the rock 'n roll greats of the early 70's and now sits on what he calls "the last untouched rock archive”.   My interview with Michael yielded a lot of incredible stories from the wilder days of the '60's and '70's rock scene.  

f2 Cameracraft magazine is the last of the old school publications that put photography on a pedestal.  Subscribe today!  (And read ahead for a free gift!)

Processing the "Scanned" Negative

Okay, so you've shot a close-up of a negative with a really good backlight.  How to make it useful?  Here's what I did.  These negatives were from a visit to the NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama from 1992.  Let's process a gratuitous snapshot of me in front of a Saturn V rocket, shall we?


 As you can see I didn't quite fill the frame with the negative - I included some sprockets on purpose.  Our first step is to try to nullify the orange cast as much as possible.

Using IMAGE --> ADJUST --> LEVELS, I clicked on the the rightmost eyedropper in the pop-up box, and then clicked on an orange area between sprockets, essentially telling photoshop "add whatever colors you need to add, and take away whatever colors you need to remove, in order to make this part look white".  It applies the correction to the entire image.  (And no, I don't know why the sprocket holes don't change color.)


Next, do IMAGE --> ADJUSTMENTS --> INVERT and it goes from a negative to a positive:


Still needs work.  I'll crop and straighten, adjust the color balance, and some curve action to bring out the blacks:




A few more tweaks of color balance and curves and we have a final product!


Voila!  So that's a quick-and-dirty slide scanner for those who don't want to invest in expensive dedicated hardware.  If that's too much work, there are actually a lot of photoshop plug-ins which can help automate much of the conversion process for you.  I haven't tried any of them, so feel free to list your favorite tool in the comments section. 
===
I'm off to Tuscon in a few days to conduct a seminar.  Oh, and as a reward for reading all the way through, here's a free gift: the electronic edition of the most recent f2 Cameracraft.  Enjoy!

Until next time,
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman


===
Me: So Jim Morrison threw up on you? 

Michael Zagarus: No, he threw up behind me.  I thought he was stoned; was really drunk instead.  He leaned forward over him and threw up behind me.  He just used me as a crutch. 


39 comments:

  1. hi gary .. nice tip will try this out , could be faster then scanning. did you compare the results with a normal scan ? is the result better ?thanks x axl

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    1. Assuming the room lights are out this offers a much better scan than my Nikon Coolscan LS-2000. (And faster!!)

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    2. i devenetly give this a try ... did you " shoot " medium format negatives too? thanks x axl

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    3. This should work equally well for medium format negatives. GF

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  2. Unrelated to this, I need advice. I have been following your blog ever since I bought the Sony alpha 55. Love the camera and all of the special functions. One day it just died. Without any warning I turn on the camera and get the message camera error. That's it, dead. I have already sent it offf once and paid the up-front examination fee. I got it back with the short note: nothing can be done. Is there any other repair service, Sony representative who may be more aware or more active in trying to repair the camera. As it is now, it's a great camera which I can dispose of into the garbage.

    Thanks for any response you may give:

    dasass@gmail.com

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    Replies
    1. I think you can interpret the response "Nothing can be done" from Sony repair service as meaning 'Nothing can be done belove the cost of a new camera'. This is clearly better than getting the camera repaired but with a bill that exceeds the price of a new camera. I know a few cases of this throughout the years, and of course those customers were not happy.

      We all know all to well that every technical item can fail, and at any moment, so randomlessly a few of us will encounter bad luck in this respect.

      Although I havne't yet experienced a camera die away from me, instead I have a load of earlier cameras lie around me never to be used again - because of being replaced by newer camera models. So in my case my cameras haven't lost their values by breaking down, but by the fast developing rate of electronics ...

      My suggestion is that you do look at the Sony A77 II. The improvements over A55 are very significant, and are surely worth saving up for.

      Hope this can be of some comfort for you. And don't forget, now you have the best excuse ever to buy that new shiny and better camera!

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    2. Actually, my interpretation would be "We don't have any more parts", which I think is more likely the case. Either buy a used A55 from ebay, or look at the A68 or A77 II as superior replacements (although not as small).

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    3. When you remove the lens, do you see a closed shutter? I had this and all it took was a third party battery to cure the problem.

      First I thought the OEM Sony battery was empty, but that was not the case. The A55 would fire with any third party battery, but no longer with the Sony one. Other people have reported the same thing.

      The general theory behind this is, that as the shutter wears, it draws more current from the battery, At a certain age, the overload protection of the Sony battery kicks in. Third party batteries are not so critical. I am running my A55 ever since using a no-name el-cheapo and a Jupio battery.

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  3. These blogs are great, much appreciated keep them coming. Will definitely give the scanner a go.

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  4. Any work being done on the Olympus OMD EM1 mkii

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    Replies
    1. There will be if there are enough requests for it... so far there have only been 10.

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    2. Yes please! The original EM-1 manual is very good.

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  5. Gary, what are you doing in Tucson. I am in Tucson. Is this an event I could attend?

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    Replies
    1. A photo club hired me to give them a private seminar. You have to be a member to participate; however I'm sure they wouldn't mind new members. Email me and I'll give you a contact for joining. GF

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    2. Hi,

      I'm the President of the Photo Club in the Tucson area that is hosting Gary Friedman for a 2 day seminar on February 14 and 15. If you would like to attend, call me at 520-818-7915 and I'll fill you in on the details.

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  6. Gary I like your posts and will compare this technique to my Epson V700 flat bed scanner. I am confused about one item. You say a 24M pixel camera will give a file that is 7952 x 5304 pixels but my math says that is approx 42M pixels. I must be missing something obvious. Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Very likely a typo. 24 and 42 is just a wrong sequence away. That's an A99m2, so, definitely 42MPs.

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    2. Fixed! Thanks for pointing that out.

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  7. Can your method be used also for Kodachrome slides? Many thanks. Michel

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    Replies
    1. Yes! Just skip the steps about correcting for the orange cast and then inverting.

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  8. Hello Gary, enjoy the blog immensely. Just wanted to point out that for those who do not own an iPad, there are lots of LED light pads available on Amazon. These come in all different sizes , both larger and smaller than the iPad . Many of them can run on AC current so there's no worry about the battery dying. Some of them are also brighter than the average iPad, so you can use a faster shutter speed if that's appealing. Also they have no pixels so you won't need that piece of glass.

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    1. And I would add the following if you really want to maximize the quality of your "scan"--- use some black construction paper to mask your light source down to the smallest possible window of light, and turn the lights off in the room when capturing your "scan." This way you're minimizing any stray light source that could reduce the quality of your image. The idea is to catch only that light which has passed through your image. Personally I would mask those open sprocket holes if you're copying strip film, as that's one route for stray light.

      Now if you really want to get into serious home film archiving, we could also talk about using focus stacking and/or cameras that employ multisampling, like the pixel shift feature on the Pentax K-1. I digitize slides using both these methods, and get results superior to my Epson V700 scanner with SilverFast.

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    2. Thanks for these tips! The goal of the article was to provide a means of doing high-quality scanning without needing to invest in expensive equipment, using things around the house (assuming you have a macro lens around the house :-) )

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  9. Hey GF,

    One small error. You state a 24 megapixel camera has a resolution of 7952 x 5304 when in fact that is the resolution of a 42 mp sensor. Otherwise, this would definitely be faster than a dedicated film scanner. I will try it with my Sony 90mm macro.

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  10. Gary, I sincerely appreciate your book (Sony A77II) and deep knowledge and research. I owned a Nikon LS 2000 and auto slide feeder. I used it in the mid 2000s to scan over 5500 old slides. Then Nikon quit supporting the unit. (Really turned off about their arrogant attitude, glad I don't use any other of their products) I used the unit VueScan until the Nikon ate a group of negatives, so I junked the $1500 unit and bought an Epson Perfection V600 flatbed scanner (about $230.00). It does a fantastic job of slides, prints or negatives. Far superior to the Nikon! I am currently scanning eight negatives at a time with little or no Photoshop enhancing. Your method is clever but a bit time consuming for multiple negatives. Thanks again. As I mentioned before I started SLR photography in 1971 with a Minolta SRT 101 (or 102 long time ago) Steve (stevebelcher@att.net)

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    1. Thanks, Steve! I found my method to be much faster than the Nikon scanner. :-) Glad to hear that the Epson unit does a good job.

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  11. I don't know how to respond with a URL?
    Steve Belcher

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  12. At one time in my 70 years in photography I had a bellows attachment with a negative holder. A quick and easy way to copy slides and negatives. Watch ebay, you never know one may show up.

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  13. COLOR BALANCE -- to use camera as scanner you say "shoot in raw and specify custom color balance." Old, stale question: when shooting raw does color balance matter? Possible answers a) thru c):
    a) not at all; b) only as a convenience: the in-camera balance simply sets starting parameters for camera raw 'developer' software, saving the user lots of time; or
    c) balance settings affect the photon counts or the digitization of individual R G or B pixelsin the raw file, preventing saturation
    and optimizing the information content of the raw file.

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    1. Excellent point! The best answer I can provide is "b)".

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  14. Hi Gary. I just love your tips. I really will try this out as my old (10 year +) printer died recently and it had a negative/slide scanner in. My new one doesn't so I was getting withdrawal! I have lots of negatives (including old glass plates) and slides and I can't wait to try it. My favourite of your tips so far was the silhoutte, backlit shots you did a while back. I did this for a family with two very ill young girls, merged all the family in a panorama and had it blown up and professionally printed for them. It looks fabulous! (It also came top in an amateur photo comp recently). Thank so much for all these, you are a good man. Tom Lee East Sussex England.

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    1. Hi, Tom! This is wonderful to hear. Thank you for sharing your successes, and I'm glad you find the blog posts helpful!

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    2. Thanks again. If you have a moment you can see my effort on Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/68942208@N02/22435284936/in/photolist-JRoGMw-AbwGzw-dfvzpm-BmejDZ-q3DRUm-pozEmW-fYYZrE-gHvHz2 > I have credited you with the technique :-)

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  15. Thanks, that's what I was afraid of.

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  16. Very neat! It occurs to me that once one has established the RGB correction necessary for correcting the orange tint of colour negatives, one could use those RGB values in a suitable colour flashlight app to set up an appropriately coloured smartphone light table. That should improve the colour resolution.

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    1. Hmmm... I'm not certain that's true. The negative STILL has an orange tint to it regardless of the color of the light that's behind it.

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  17. Hi Gary, I notice you're shooting with the a99ii. Any initial thoughts? Do you prefer shooting with this over your a7 models, or are they about equal for different purposes? I'm eagerly awaiting your book on this camera.

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    1. I gave an initial impression in my latest f2 Cameracraft article. But in summary: 1) They fixed all the problems of the original A99, 2) DAMN it's fast and sharp!! 2) It's better ergonomically than the A7 series, and I really enjoy using it.

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