Tuesday, November 1, 2016

DSLR scanner - Part 2 - Building your Rig

I'm back to share how to put together your rig (aka copystand). I've covered everything you need in Part 1, so if you haven't read that, go read that now. If you have and you're keen, let's get straight to the building!


01/ MEASURING & CUTTING the wood and working out dimensions
You'll need 4 pieces of sturdy wood (I used marine ply)

/the base (where your film, light and film holder will sit flat upon)
/two arms (with slots cut out of them)
/a middle beam (which we'll pop a tripod mount screw into the middle of to hold your camera in place).

The base piece of wood needs to be super flat (no warping!) and the size will be determined by how big your light is which the film will sit upon - plus some extra space for good measure.  I personally was lazy and just used the piece of wood I already had without cutting the base down to a smaller size, so my stand is fairly big but it's also nice and sturdy :) 

The two arms, need to be slightly longer then the distance from the negative film strip to your camera (pink arrow above).  When you take a photo of your negative film using the DSLR you'll want the negative image to fill the DSLR frame to get the most detail and avoid excessive cropping.  I worked out my optimal length by laying down a piece of 120mm film (the film I was most keen on to scan with DLSR method) and using my 85mm + 25mm extension tube and getting the frame into focus on my camera.  I then measured this distance with a tape measure and knew my two wooden arms needed to be at least that length with a bit extra to make the whole thing sturdy.  The two side arms we'll also be cutting slots into (next step) which lets you move your camera (attached to the middle beam via a screw) up and down.  If I decide to scan 35mm film I have the option of sliding my camera closer in order to fill my frame and avoid unnecessary cropping :)

The middle beam on the other hand needs to be the length of your base and at least the width of your camera body.

Marking with pencil the cut out slots on each arm.

02/ Drilling and Cutting the Arm Slots
You want some play in how far the middle beam can move up and down but the longer the slots on the arms the less sturdy your rig will be, so it's a bit of a compromise.  You'll have some idea of where the camera will sit from having measured the length from your camera to the film strip (in step 01 above) so just make sure the slot plays into those measurements.  It's also a good idea to leave a good gap from the top of the wood to give it extra sturdiness!

Once you've got an idea of where the cut out slot will sit, find the middle of each arm and mark the dimensions onto your wood with a pencil (as above).  Whatever you do to one arm, make sure it matches the other. The 1/4" furniture stud, is the bolt that will be sliding up and down the cut out slot (see below) so you'll want the slot to be marginally bigger then the bolt.  Now to cut out the slot, I used a jigsaw but to get the jigsaw into the wood you'll need to drill a hole first. Just drill a hole at the top of your pencil marking (big enough for the jigsaw blade to fit into) and then cut out your slot :) To be honest, my slots weren't 100% straight or even but my final product still works! Strive for perfection but don't be too worried if you don't 100% get there :)

The cut out slot which you can see is slightly bigger than the dual threaded bolt resting on top.

03/ Optional Sanding/Painting
I  sanded with sand paper inside the slot just to make it nice and smooth and I also gave all the pieces of wood a nice sanding and coat of white paint - this is optional :)

Sanding and painting
Successfully got the bolt into the left (without too much cracking) but the right was a write off.

04/ Adding the furniture studs (dual threaded bolt) to your middle beam
A pretty straight forward step but where I stuffed up the most.  I was going to have two dual threaded bolts on either end of my middle beam piece.  The smallest dual threaded bolt I could buy at my hardware was 1/4" in diameter but I think this may have been too big for my wood's thickness because when I drilled into my wood it cracked! Luckily I did manage to get at least one dual threaded bolt into either end with marginally cracking and promptly called it a day. Luckily after testing out the rig one bolt on either side of the middle beam was sufficient.  In hindsight I wished I would of hunted down smaller bolts or used thicker wood or even just committed to one bolt and drilled it in the middle but I didn't and it works but you can learn from me on this step and take caution!

05/ Adding the arms to the base
Measure! Make sure the arms are going smack bang in the middle of the side of your base then drill two holes slightly smaller then the screws you're using to secure the arms to the base.  I used my power drill to make the holes and then used my screw driver to manually screw them in.

I also ended up also using a bracket on the inside of each side to make sure the arms were nice and sturdy (as below)

06/ Enlist a helper  optional step but good for your spirit :P

07/ Drill a hole in the middle beam (in the middle of the wood) slightly smaller than the 1/4" screw.  This screw is the universal tripod mount screw - your camera should hopefully have the screw mount on it's bottom.  (You may need to double check that the screw size matches your camera's model). Also you have to be super careful to only expose enough screw to fit your camera - winding your camera onto more screw could potentially damage the camera's body.  You can reduce any unwanted screw length by adding washers  - you can see below I added 5 washers before I had my perfect screw length on the other side :)

08/ Slide the middle beam into the cut out slots and tighten the wingnuts on either side.  I put a metal washer before the wing nut because the guy at the hardware store told me this was a good idea (*shrugs*).  Also it's here you may need to move the middle beam up or down to find the perfect height - it's important to use a level to make sure the base matches the middle beam so there is no distortion when you photograph the film.

09/ Twist on your camera to the tripod mount screw - I found it easier to twist the camera body on without the lens and then add the lens onto after.

10/ Place the light, film holder (which you can read about in part 1) and film down on the centre of your base (see photo below). Everything needs to be level, so this is where having a level comes in handy and also a little blu tak on the corner of your light and white acrylic stops things from moving and makes life easier :)

You can see above the negative is sandwiched between the clear acrylic (with the cut out) and the white piece of acrylic with the light below.  I also laid down some quilted fabric on either side, an extra safety precaution to stop the film (potentially) getting scratched from the wood.  Also note the cotton gloves - always wear gloves when handling film!

TA-DA!!!! RIG completed
Thanks supervisor Peachy!

In Part 3 tomorrow, I'm covering everything you need to know from photographing to editing your negatives :)


  1. This is brilliant Fee! Bookmarked - I'll need these posts once I got the stack of negatives from my parent's home! Thank you so much for sharing x


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