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how to copy your film negatives and slides using your camera


  • in the early days of digital photography, most people would get their film commercially converted to digital or use an expensive dedicated film scanner
  • these days the with modern 16-24mp camera sensors, you can get great results with single shot images from your cameras as outlined below

Equipment needed

  • an even light source
    • many people use an iPad with a Lightbox app to give an even “white” light
  • film holder to keep the film flat
    • these often came with older flat bed scanners and can be obtained through photography retailers and will make your life MUCH easier HOWEVER FOR BEST RESULTS consider getting something like the Digitaliza film scanning mask – $45 at Lomography which will ensure your negatives, especially medium format ones are as flat as can be.
    • an alternative is to use a slide copier set up (eg. Olympus OM slide copier and macro bellows with Olympus OM 80mm macro lens, or a dedicated all in one cheaper slide copier) and one can then use a flash to be the light source as they generally already have a white diffuser
  • dust remover
    • rocket blowers or canned air, perhaps with a clean lens brush
    • it is critical to remove as much dust as possible from both sides of the film otherwise you will be spending a lot of time in your editing software
  • camera with macro lens to give around 1:1 macro:
    • ideally you will use a modern mirrorless camera which avoids the need to use a clunky Live View mode or Mirror lockup which will be needed if you do use a dSLR
    • a APS-C or full frame camera has a slight advantage over Micro Four Thirds system as the aspect ratio is the same as 35mm film and their dynamic range is usually a little better
    • if you don't have a good macro lens, you can get an adapter to either reverse mount your 50mm lens or add a spacer to provide closer focus
  • sturdy mount that allows camera to project down on your film holder which is placed on top of your light source
    • the ideal solution is a tripod with a horizontal bar, alternatively, you can invert your centre column so the camera is under the centre of the tripod and between the legs
    • if using a slide copier then you do not need the horizontal bar or an inverted central column


Taking the shot

  • set up the shot ready to take using the above equipment, don't forget to clean the film!
  • remove any UV or polarising or other filter on your lens
  • do NOT put glass over your film it will just introduce dirt, newton rings and uneven lighting
  • IMPORTANT: the film should have the MATTE side facing the camera
  • Have some space between the film and the light source to avoid dirt on the light source becoming artefacts by being partly in focus, this will also improve evenness of the light
  • camera settings:
    • RAW file format - this will allow the best image quality when it comes to post-processing (especially negatives)
    • set ISO to base ISO for the camera eg. ISO 100-200
    • custom white balance or a preset white balance to avoid variable color balance
    • manual exposure mode
      • set aperture to optimum aperture for the lens (usually f/4-f/5.6 for Micro Four Thirds system, f/5.6-f/8 for APS-C cameras and f/8-f/11 for full frame cameras)
      • adjust shutter speed according to the exposure histogram - have most of the histogram towards the right without going too far to the right which will result in lost detail
    • avoid camera shake:
      • mount camera on tripod (remember to get the camera as level as possible and with the film taking up nearly all over the image area BUT INCLUDE the FILM EDGES which you will use to manually set a WB in Lightroom later, you could use the cameras electronic levels, or the tripod's bubble level, or sit an iPhone on your camera and use the iPhone's level app)
      • if using a dSLR this means using Live View mode or at least Mirror Lock up mode
      • most cameras now have a shutter mode which allows 1st curtain electronic shutter to eradicate shutter mechanism induced shake
      • either use 10 sec self timer or trigger the camera shutter using WiFi or cabled remote control solutions - most modern cameras allow smartphones to remotely control the camera via WiFi
      • turn any image stabiliser OFF (most modern cameras will detect a tripod mount and turn it off automatically
    • ensure accurate focus on the film grain
      • use manual focus with magnified view, or,
      • use back focus button to do AF locks if your camera is set up that way
    • if shooting medium format film and your camera has a sensor shift high resolution mode (eg. Olympus Hi Resolution mode) you could consider using this to get even more image detail although you probably wont see much more detail beyond what a 20-24mp sensor will capture natively anyway
    • take the shot

Post-processing negative film

photo/film_copy.txt · Last modified: 2020/04/21 21:43 by gary1

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