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Thread: Custom Slide Copier

  1. #1
    benm's Avatar
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    Custom Slide Copier

    Five or six weeks ago there was a thread on slide scanning and copying and I mentioned that I was constructing a slide copier. Well, here it is.

    I have 5000+ slides that I want to digitize and using my flat bed scanner was not going to cut it as it takes about 16 minutes to scan 4 slides at 4800 dpi. Not counting inserting and removing the slides it would take approximately 350 hours just for the scanning (!). Slide scanning services would cost about $1700 (4000 dpi)for JPEG; $800 more for TIFF files.

    Since I already owned a camera and a macro lens I decided to do it myself. My Nikon D90 is able to do 3000 dpi (4288 pixels/36mm*25.4mm/in). How does that compare to 4800 dpi? Since there may be some people who are interested in just how good, or not good, I also decided to do a comparison of camera vs scanning quality and this will be the subject of another thread.

    The device looks cumbersome but the whole point of it is to lock in the relationship and alignment of the camera with the slide holder. If you have machinist’s skills you could simply construct a tube with threads at one end and a slide holder on the other. Or start with a screw-on lens hood? The commercial models, of which there are only one or two, either do not provide a sharp image (based on reviews) or need a different macro lens to work properly.

    Photo 1 shows the device with camera and lens and Photo 2 is a close up of the camera mount.

    Photo 1
    Custom Slide Copier

    Photo 2
    Custom Slide Copier

    The camera mount component looks somewhat complex but I did not want any free play or adjustment capability at this end. The slide holder is a combination of a portion of an old slide duplicator unit and an old bellows unit [originally for an Exakta camera – anyone out there ever own one?]. The bellows has been discarded and only the rack mechanism has been retained. The slide holder component has all the adjustments to align it with the camera lens. Adjustments can be made in 3 planes and 3 rotations and everything can be locked down once collimation has been achieved. Collimation was done by inserting a mirror in place where the slide goes and making adjustments until I could see the mirror reflection centered. I thought I would be able to see my eye but it seems I am seeing some component located inside the camera (AF mechanism?).

    To copy a slide insert it into the holder, face the device towards a sunlit window (not a valid option for UK residents) and take a photo. For consistent exposure I decided to use a flash. I have some old flashes, and because they are not recommended to be connected to a digital camera, I bought an optical slave so it could be fired remotely. I use the camera’s built in flash to set off the main flash. I experimented with various flash-to-slide distances until I got a good exposure. Four to six feet is a good distance for a flash unit with a Guide Number of 60 (ISO 100).

    Camera setting parameters:

    Utilize shutter delay to minimize vibration.

    Use a remote release to also minimize vibration.

    Set AF to multi point, not single point. If single point is used and that part of the slide has no contrast you will lose focus. You can also try manual focus but not all slides may be in the same exact focus plane. DOF is razor thin.

    I used manual setting but you can also try shutter preferred. A starting point for exposure of ISO 200, 1/200 second and f/11 worked fairly well.

    If using an optical slave the on-camera flash can be set to its minimum output (1/128 power on a Nikon D90) to save the battery from running down prematurely.

    If using the on-camera flash a light hood should be used to prevent lighting up the front of the slide.

    Slide copying tip:

    Brush each slide to remove dust. I found that all slides had dust even though they had been in their carousel tray and box their entire life.

    Preliminary results are very good. 3000 dpi provides an image suitable for monitor viewing and small prints. The scanner appears to provide better resolution (4800 dpi claimed) but is only noticeable at 400% or better. I will provide a more detailed comparison (with photos) in another thread in a couple of weeks.

  2. #2
    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: Custom Slide Copier

    I praise your ingenuity.

  3. #3
    Clactonian's Avatar
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    Mike Bareham

    Re: Custom Slide Copier

    Now that's clever!

  4. #4
    timo2's Avatar
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    Re: Custom Slide Copier

    My lashup from a few years ago:

    Custom Slide Copier

    The two flashes are bouncing off a white card just out of shot to the right.

  5. #5

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    Re: Custom Slide Copier

    Quote Originally Posted by benm View Post

    Camera setting parameters:

    Utilize shutter delay to minimize vibration.

    Use a remote release to also minimize vibration.
    This looks like a very solid setup, Ben. Since you've done the hard work once, you should get lots of good results.

    I would just suggest that you might be able to simplify part of your process. A manual release is probably more convenient, but I doubt that the shutter delay is needed: with light being provided by a flash, the illumination time will be very short, so I don't think any camera shake will be a problem. And with a shutter speed of 1/200s, even if there's some ambient illumination, I wouldn't think shake would be a problem. I only raise the question in case it makes it easier/faster for you to process slides.

    Cheers,
    Rick

  6. #6
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    Roben

    Re: Custom Slide Copier

    I having been taking photographs for over 50 years, so of course a lot of my photographs are on slides, or on negatives. I am a recent convert to digital photography, which has a lot of advantages, and some drawbacks - resolution is beginning to catch up with film now.

    Anyway it is more convenient to show digital pictures than slides, so I have been looking for ways to copy the best of my slides. Commercial is out of the question as being too expensive. Scanning looks like a bit of a problem with my scanner, so what I have been looking at is direct copying using my digital camera. One way to do this is simply by projecting the slides onto a screen, and photographing the screen. I have tried this, and got useable results, but they would need some experimenting to get good results. The main advantage of this is I think that it would be quick, because switching between slides would be fast using the projector.

    I have also tried photographing the slides using the macro facility on my camera. I put the slides in a hand held viewer which illuminates the slides. I removed the slide viewer lens, so photographed the slides directly. I have also seen a suggestion that you can do this using a slide projector with the lens removed, but have not tried this as I am a bit worried that the light might be too strong. I have been encouraged to refine this approach by the posts of ingenious slide copiers on this subject on this forum.

    I would appreciate comments on this generally, but with two specific questions in mind. First should I drop the the idea of photographing projected slides? Second if I directly photograph the slides in the projector, having removed the lens, is it possible I may damage the cameras sensors.

    I have also seen some on the internet that slide copiers are available relatively cheap - has anyone any experience of these?

    jrvz

  7. #7
    Hansm's Avatar
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    Re: Custom Slide Copier

    Some time ago I disassembled a old Meopta enlarger. On the place where normally the head was mounted I glued a Manfrotto 323quick release adapter to mount the camera on it. So it ended up as a reproduction device. When copying slides I put a 5000K lightbox on the groundboard and place the slide or negative on top of it and frame it with black film. That is my way to reproduce slides and other stuff.

  8. #8
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    José Ángel Bueno García

    Re: Custom Slide Copier

    Hello:

    Peter Krogh has white papers on how to use vintage devices to migrating from film to digital.
    I agree with the use of a source of light as flash units, but need a continous fill light for focusing and positioning.
    The best is to get a DNG master file and develop with Adobe Camera Raw.

    Jose Bueno

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