In previous posts I have described my efforts at scanning old negatives using a digital camera, macro lens and a light table.I have had mixed success with the process for converting the negatives into positives with some films responding better than others.I was okay with the output but thought things could be better.A YouTube video showed up on my page that was about scanning negatives with a digital camera and I decided to watch to see if they did anything different to me.The technique for shooting the negatives was similar enough but they introduced me to a Lightroom plugin called Negative Lab Pro.
I downloaded a trial of the software and gave it a go.I was sufficiently impressed with the output that I stumped up the cash for the full version.It isn’t cheap but, given that I can now use it on several thousand images, I figured it was worth the investment.The plugin requires a small amount of effort.I revert the images back to a normal San without any of my previous edits and conversions.The first thing to do after that is to take a white balance reading from some of the visible edge of the film to neutralize any color shift.Then you crop in on the image.Apparently, it is important to avoid getting any unexposed edges in shot as this messes with the algorithm.
Then you open up the dialog box.It analyses the image and does a conversion.You then get some basic sliders to tweak the settings such as exposure and color balance.There are some auto setting check boxes but I haven’t found them to be too helpful so far.Then you click okay and the image is ready to do further editing in Lightroom.You can also do batch conversions of images if you want although I think it is probably better to focus on individual processing.I have been playing with this on a range of images so far and I like the results.My old negatives are not that great and this is not going to suddenly make them amazing but I am impressed how much more I can get out of some of the scans using this software.
I wrote about the set up I had created for scanning negatives using a digital camera a while back. Since writing that, I have been working on a lot more scans and have gained some additional experience. This has resulted in a few changes to the configuration so I thought I would share those too. Overall I am very happy with the results I am getting as a result of the updates. Things could be better but that would involve considerably more expense and the need just isn’t there.
The first change I made was to use a different lens. I had been using the 24-105. It was pretty close to the film plane and was sensitive to getting the alignment spot on. I had a few times when focus was not consistent across the shot. I thought it might be better to try a longer lens further away and this proved to be a big help. I have my old 100-400 still so I hooked that up. It makes for a slightly higher position but I can use the zoom quite well although it needs more of the extension tubes to focus properly. It does result in good focus although I tend to focus manually as the autofocus does not seem happy in this setup.
I was using Liveview quite a bit and I discovered that the old batteries I have were not lasting long at all. Rather than buy new batteries, I went to Amazon and picked up an AC adaptor that replaces the battery for about $15. Now I can scan as long as I like without having to have batteries charging in the background.
I also have modified slightly the light pad. I found I was moving it around a lot more than I realized as I moved the negatives and swapped strips. A little gaffer tape now holds it pretty much in place. This means I can have the lens zoomed more closely to the full frame of the film which allows for a higher resolution scan.
With everything tethered in to Lightroom, the import process is pretty smooth. The preset I use is okay but I am regularly tweaking for the white balance and exposure. This is not too big of a deal. I find I can get better detail out of the shots than was possible with the scanner and using the raw convertor gives me plenty to work with. They are still limited by the quality of the original shots of course!
Overall I am very pleased. I can scan a lot of stuff very quickly compared to the old way and now I am happy to scan a whole shoot without worrying about whether any of them could be ignored. It is quicker to scan them and then discard them afterwards. I am scanning stuff that I have been thinking about for a long time and rescanning shots that had been done before but really were not great. Of course, now I have even more stuff to do in whatever spare time there is so maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all!
I have a lot of negatives and transparencies from my days of shooting film and various of them have been scanned at times either for projects or just because I wanted to have them as part of my digital library. For a long time, I have made use of a Minolta Scan Dual III film scanner. While it doesn’t appear to like modern operating systems, a few tweaks to the config files make it run with Windows 7. However, it is not a totally smooth process and the scanner has a habit of hanging at odd times which requires a lot of fiddling to recover.
When I built my latest computer, I didn’t bother to install the drivers and the box is sitting on a shelf. I was figuring I would come back to it if I needed to. Recently, I needed to scan a single strip of film and wondered whether I had an alternative. I do have a flatbed scanner that has a film scanning capability. I had previously dismissed flatbeds for film scanning since they were seen to be inferior to dedicated film scanners. However, my film scanner was pretty old and gave me mixed results and my flatbed is relatively new. Therefore, I figured I ought to give it a go.
First, the limitations. It will scan a strip of film of shots but you have to move a small device between each shot between scans. No scanning a full holder of film or slides. Big scanning jobs are therefore a lot less practical. As for the image quality, I have yet to find a way to have much control. A preview scan is done but if it comes out with a poor exposure, for example, I have yet to find a way to adjust it. The dedicated film scanner allows all sorts of tweaking. Then there is the speed. If I go for the highest resolution, the scans take many minutes for each exposure. I can wander off and do something else but, if you have more than a couple of images to scan, this is a slow and inefficient process
As for the output quality, it is a mixed bag. The scans are not too bad. Despite the lack of control, if the original is a straightforward image, it comes out okay. Large areas of a similar color such as a sky are subject to banding. I suspect this is a problem all of the time but most pronounced on large areas of one color.
So, am I going to make do or is the film scanner going to be resurrected? I think I will get it back off the shelf. The time and quality issues are sufficient to make the flatbed not helpful except for odd individual scans. It does a nice job on documents but that is it. Now I shall have to find a location for the film scanner and sort out the config files again.