Monday, October 31, 2016

DSLR scanner - Part 1 - What you will need

Since getting the method down pat I've been happily using my printer/scanner (with vuescan) to scan my 35mm film.  The only problem with that method (minus the long scanning time) is my model scanner (canon MP980) only allows for 35mm to be scanned so anything bigger (like my 120mm film) has been left sitting collecting dust - not cool.  I could pay a little extra at my local lab (who currently process my film) but ever since scanning my own film I'm now more privy to the whole process and how much (potential) bad editing could happen during the scanning stage.

This awesome guy called Michael Fraser (huge shout out!) helped me get the flatbed + vuescan method worked out and since then has personally changed his own workflow to "scan" (aka photograph) all his film via his DSLR.  Since I know his original scanning method worked, I figured the DSLR idea might not be so crazy and would also let me scan my 120mm film :)

Now Michael is no cheap skate and as a result his DSLR scan set up is super high quality, I on the other hand, decided I could cut some corners and come up with my own scanning rig *gulp*.  Essentially I needed a copy stand, that would hold my DSLR (5dmarkii) and I needed my film to sit flat and be illuminated.  I stumbled upon this stand, which was paramount in my own stand's construction and which I'll show you guys how to put together in Part 2.

Before I get into the nitty gritty though I'll pop down everything I used which might be the deciding factor for yourself contemplating this method.  Already owning a high end DSLR and lens with the ability to do macro makes the set up affordable but if you don't, then getting your negatives scanned by a lab or investing in a mid-range film scanner would probably make more sense!

(to build your own DSLR scanning rig

5dmark ii + 85mm lens with 25mm extension tube

01/ Photoshop and Lightroom
White balance and cropping in Lightroom and further colour, brightness and contrast in Photoshop.

02/ High end DSLR (better quality = better quality scans)

03/ A Macro Lens - I don't own a macro lens so instead I combined my 85mm with a 25mm extension tube as you can see above - I've rambled on a bit more about extension tubes here (spoiler alert: they are super awesome and cheap!)

LED video light

04/ A light to illuminate your negatives.  I first read about people using their ipads and then Michael stated he used a light pad, so I got onto ebay and bought myself a cheap light pad.  Don't do that! I didn't test out the ipad but I have a feeling you might also encounter some problems with it.  After failing with the light pad (It didn't illuminate evenly and put weird colour into the film), I pulled out my cheap LED light that I bring to weddings and ta-da success! The above light I purchased off ebay - super cheap!

clear plastic acrylic

05/ Something to keep your film flat. I spent many hours thinking and googling of how I would do this.  Michael uses a film holder, but they were going to blow out my DIY budget and I knew I could do it on the cheap if I just used my noggin!  I eventually came up with the idea to have two pieces of acrylic.  A piece of white acrylic, that would sit under my film and on top of my light source and then a piece of clear with a cut out hole for my 120mm film which would sit on top of the film.The piece you see above is the clear acrylic with the cut out hole.  I contacted a local plastic business, sent through the dimensions and then they cut the pieces for me.  The green writing, is just the protective film they leave on for you to avoid scratches but underneath it's just a clear piece of plastic. With this method you have to be super careful to keep the white piece of acrylic scratch free otherwise the scratches will shine through onto your negatives.

marine ply

06/ Wood for your copy stand.  I was lucky because a few weeks earlier a house had put out a bunch of marine plywood in a roadside pick up - score!  So the dimensions of my rig were pretty much based off the size of wood pieces I gathered but for those playing along at home, you just need the base piece to be as big as the light you're using to illuminate your film, plus a little extra room! The height of the side arms will also depend on your lens but I'll cover that more in detail in Part 2.

Fiber washers and 1/4" bolt to attach the camera to the middle beam

Furniture studs, washers and wing nut bolts for the middle beam

brackets and self tapering screws to attach the arms to the base

07/ Fittings
1/4" fiber/plastic washers
1/4" bolts
1/4" furniture studs (Dual threaded bolt)
1/4" wing nuts
1/4" metal washers
Screws small enough to drill into the side of your wood (to attach the two arms to base)
brackets (to make sure the wooden side arms are nicely secured to base)

drill and jigsaw

08/ Tools
Power drill

+ tape measure / level / pencil / air blower / cotton gloves


OKAY so the question is, do you have the majority of these things and can you be bothered gathering those you don't? Can you commit to a bit of woodwork? Does DSLR scanning sound appealing? If it does stay tuned because my next blog post is going to be putting everything together in Part 2!

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