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Making Digital Copies of Slides and Negatives With Your SLR

By Roel Reijne
August 9, 2007

Roel Reijne offers us his tips on how to digitize your old slides and negatives. A prolific Airliners.net photographer, Reijne has converted hundreds of old images into a digital format with this fairly simple and quick method.

From the moment I first used my slide scanner, the Minolta scan dual II, I knew the process was too lengthy and labor-intensive—there simply had to be a quicker way to digitalize slides and negatives. The problem with my scanner was that it took about five minutes to scan a slide or negative (at the highest resolution), and it also scanned quite a lot of dust, no matter how well I cleaned the slide. So it took even more time and energy to clean up each slide in Photoshop after scanning it.

I think everybody has, at least a few times in their life, an ‘Einstein moment,’ and I think this was one of mine. I thought, why not take my slide lightbox, lay down a slide on the light box and make a photo of it with my digital camera? Of course!


Process

Back than I had a Canon 10-D, now I use a Canon 20-D; the lightbox I use is a MEDALight LP-2000 with cold cathode lamp, which has a perfect bright white light (5000K daylight). This is how I do it: I put the camera on a tripod, and (if possible) set the camera to mirror lockup, so the mirror has minimal vibrations when it’s going up and down. I also use a remote switch so I don’t have to touch the camera.

The Av (aperture value) is not so important because the slide is flat. For Tv, (shutterspeed) I mostly get the best results with 0.3 – 0.5 seconds. I’ve tried several lenses, from wide angle to telephoto, but I’ve had the best results with a macro lens. That way I can get very close to the slide, about 10 to 15 centimeters. I use the Tamron 90mm 2.8 macro. I always put a lens hood over the slide, as this reduces the light from the sides and reflections.


Adjustments

With this process, the necessary editing in Photoshop is minimal. Usually, I have to rotate and crop the image slightly, and then I remove the few specs of dust that inevitably make their way into the image (although there is significantly less dust than scanned images).

B/W and Color Negatives

It is even possible to use this process for black-and-white and color negatives. After taking a digital photo of the negative, simply open the image in Photoshop, and select Image ? Adjustments ? Invert, or Ctrl-I, which inverts the image, giving you the positive view of the negative.

RAW or JPEG

I mostly use JPEG, as I don’t have much experience with RAW. The few slides I shot in RAW setting seem to need many more adjustments with the same results, more or less, as a JPEG.

Prints

I have made some prints of the digital copies I’ve made, and the results and quality are basically identical to those I’ve had printed at a professional print shop. The difference is that I know that the costs are lower and that my slide won’t be damaged while at the print shop.

Costs and Benefits

Buying a genuine macro lens can be a big investment, but a slide scanner is only made for scanning, while a macro lens is also a useful and versatile photography tool that can be used in other ways, like nature photography and portraits.

I hope you are satisfied with the results when using this simple and quick method. No matter what, it’s a great excuse to see your old slides again! I had not looked at mine since I switched to digital photography years ago—it was great to see the ‘old’ stuff again!


If you have further questions about copying slides with your digital SLR,
please don’t hesitate to ask! You can contact me here.



Below are some samples of images (© Roel Reijne) made through this process
that are posted on Airliners.net:


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Written by
Roel Reijne

Roel Reijne was born in Amersfoort (the Netherlands) in 1964. His interest in photography was created by his first hobby: spotting aircrafts. With his first camera, a Pentax ME Super (1982), he photographed military aircrafts at airshows and bases in the Netherlands, Europe and USA. It was during the visits abroad that he became interested in photographing other subjects like landscapes, flora and fauna. His work has been published on Airliners.net, and in numerous aviation magazines, such as "Air Tattoo" and "Scramble." His website is www.foto-expositie.nl/.

1 User Comments:
Username: RationalKeith [User Info]
Posted 2008-04-16 10:55:54 and read 32768 times.

I suggest looking at the image acquisition software "Vuescan" from http://www.hamrick.com, which claims to handle raw files from many digital cameras.

While fairly versatile, it is oriented to color transparency work.

The software is relatively inexpensive - you'll probably need the professional license level to deal with raw files. Trial is n/c, puts watermark across image until you pay for a license number.

Vuewcan is not perfect (what personal-computer software is?) and is getting unwieldly - but I've criticized Adobe harshly for poor quality invasive bloatware at many times the price of Vuescan.

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