I have a large amount of 120 (mostly 6x6cm) and 135 (36x24mm) transparancies in a family archive that I want to be able to digitize with high quality. I am myself not too familiar with digitizing, and looking around it seems to be a bit of a hassle and/or very expensive to get better than mediocre quality. I can do with some hassle, but have a limited budget.
Whatever you do, it will be a hassle: this is drudge work, so finding an efficient
way to work is the key. Have some nice music and bevvy to while away the waiting.
There seems to be three options: 1) flatbad scanner 2) dedicated filmscanner 3) digital camera with macro lens.
I would consider a flatbed for 120 film, but never
for 35mm. I will return to the camera option later. FYI, I have scanning experience spanning many years, mainly for print reproduction.
According to my research flatbed scanners have poor dynamic range and hugely overestimate their resolution, 2300 ppi is what a good scanner (epson v750, €700) can do in practice despite 6400 ppi claimed resolution. It is the cheapest and quite efficient solution, but I think I want better quality, both in resolution and DR.
You’ve done some homework! The Epson
dynamic range, and there is nothing else available that is better in its segment (though Epson software sucks in my NSHO*). Occasionally large-format pro scanners (Fuji, Lino etc.) come up, but they are often hard to fix, and may need to be used with an older OS for compatibility. For perspective, my first medium-format scans were made on an Agfa Argus II scanner, enlargeable 200–300% for offset with excellent results. The Argus’ native resolution was 600 ppi.
Concerning resolution I'd like to sample also grain so large prints get analog look with visible grain up close. It seems about 4000 ppi is what is needed for this goal (?).
4000ppi at a minimum, yes; the 2700ppi resolution on many scanners turns grain into clumpy porridge.
Dedicated film scanners are plentiful for 36x24mm, but very few exists for 120 film. Reflecta MF5000 is one of the few, which gives about 3050 effective ppi and a bit better dynamic range than the best flatbeds. The discontinued Nikon Coolscan 9000 still seems to be king among "affordable" scanners, but still much more expensive than the Reflecta. Better DR still and 3900 effective ppi.
Not heard of the Reflecta
; it looks like a re-badged Plustek. The Polaroid Sprintscan 120
scanner and its evil twin (joke) from Microtek
come up occasionally on eBAY. Another option is a medium-format Minolta
scanner, though they seem to be highly regarded, thus not cheap.
The Nikon Coolscan seems to provide the quality I desire but is a bit too expensive and hard to find (€6500 is a price I have seen), with some compromise the Reflecta MF5000 (€1600) may do as well.
There may not be enough difference between the Reflecta and the Epson flatbed (for 120) to justify the price differential.
Finally, there is the option to take a photo of the transparency using a sharp macro lens. I would use a 21 megapixel 5Dmk2 with 1:1 macro lens which would in theory yield about 3900 ppi (stitching or lower res required for 6x6, would probably do lower res for casual digitizing and stitch when digitizing for a print). This option was the hardest to find information about, so I don't know what quality to expect. In theory dynamic range would be great, HDR also possible (as is with some scanners), and if it is possible to focus and get a sharp shot, resolution would be good too. No automatic infrared dust detection though, but I think/hope I can live with that.
For best results, you would need a lens optimised for 1:1 when shooting 35mm slides; many macro and enlarging lenses are best at 1:10 or so. Is it possible for you to easily try this out? Many years ago I photographed a 5" x 7" Ektachrome transparency for a client who ran a Cibachrome printing lab—his largest enlarger was 4" x 5". I turned my LPL colour enlarger head upside down, put an improvised light box over the head made from a small polystyrene cooler (diffused with white perspex) and shot it with Ektachrome Duplicating film on my Nikon F w/55mm macro. While I never saw the result of my labours, the client said a printed 8 x 10 was very
acceptable. If you go this way, you will be able to balance your light source much more easily than in the bad old days! There are a lot of slide copiers on eBay, including the ancient Bowens Illumitran
. Here’s a cheaper
one, but without the copystand by the look of it.
FWIW, Schneider Comparon
enlarging lenses are optimised for around 1:5 whereas Componons are best at 1:10 and more; Comparons are much
cheaper on eBay.
In conclusion, I would get the best flatbed I could afford for the 120 scans, and a dedicated 35mm scanner for the littlies. HTH
Just spotted on eBay
Polaroid SprintScan 4000 Plus
(SCSI and FW). Oops
, not working
*NSHO = not-so-humble opinion.