DIY Slide Copier vs 2002 Slide Copier

20150913 224218 iPhone5C_DCE vs 20150912 233556 IMG_9629 t2i_DPP_DCE

Although I have used $2000 film scanners, I also love reading about do-it-yourself solutions using materials you already have or are cheap, but I still want:

  • good results
  • that aren’t a pain in the neck to accomplish.

Many of these DIY solutions are presented too rosy so you get this:


So here we go with the idea that you can copy slides (or negatives) easily with just two smartphones (or a smartphone and a good even light source). These are just the steps that I took — as any DIY project, adjust and adapt as necessary.

Two smart phones (lightbox technique):

20150913 224218 iPhone5C_DCE

First, I cut a piece of paper slightly larger than the image.

Put your screen brightness to maximum.

If you put a plain paper masking sheet on your phone now, it will have a lot of light bleed like this:

20150911 212226 iPhone5C_DCE

It would be best to block out the extra light. I used a painting program (below) to quickly black out the unnecessary light…

20150911 211057 iPhone5C_DCE

…but there are many other ways to do this including what I ended up doing for the multiple tests.

  • Screen capturing a white screen
  • Pinching the image smaller in the iPhone default photo app
  • While pinching, screen capturing that screen.
  • The final white zone was a little long for 35mm, but good enough.

Here is what it should look like now.

20150911 211119 iPhone5C_DCE

(The screen shows up as blue because the camera is trying to white balance the mixed lighting.)

Now we are ready for the slide.

20150911 211145 iPhone5C_DCE

The results look like this. I used the Camera+ app in macro mode on my iPhone5C.

20150911 210738 iPhone5C Camera+ app macro_DCE 20150911 210738 iPhone5C Camera+ app macro_Crop_DCE 20150911 210738 iPhone5C Camera+ app macro_Crop_2_DCE

You can see the screen emitters in the resulting image. To even out the light, I used a slightly milky sheet protector to diffuse the light more.

20150911 215840 IMG_9600 t2i_DCE 20150911 215706 iPhone5C_DCE

This was not a perfect solution as you can see the material is not perfectly even (but don’t worry about this just yet). Here are the results. This is the best from multiple shots:

20150911 221733 iPhone5C Camera+ app_DCE 20150911 221733 iPhone5C Camera+ app_Crop_DCE 20150911 221733 iPhone5C Camera+ app_Crop_2_DCE

The image with the emitters visible seems sharper, but I think this was an illusion.

Compare this to results from a Canon G15:

20150912 211551 IMG_9653 G15_Crop_3 2200px_DCE 20150912 211551 IMG_9653 G15_Crop_3 2200px_Crop_DCE 20150912 211551 IMG_9653 G15_Crop_3 2200px_Crop_2_DCE

A marked improvement.

20150911 221733 iPhone5C Camera+ app_Crop_2_DCE vs 20150912 211551 IMG_9653 G15_Crop_3 2200px_Crop_2_DCE

See why I said don’t worry about the iPhone results? The Canon G15 is capable of macro as close as 1/2 inch which is unusual for a point-and-shoot.

This is probably good enough for Facebook — if you resized it down to Facebook size, you could sharpen it up a little and brighten it up for dramatic effect (but this was A LOT of trouble just to get a photo for Facebook).

But what about printing and long term preservation?

How does this stack up against specialty scanners?

20150913 090620 IMG_9635 t2i_DPP_DCE 20150912 233556 IMG_9629 t2i_DPP_DCE

Old Nikon ES-E28 slide copying adapter for Nikon Coolpix 995

This camera is old — about 12 years at the time of this post. It shoots 3MP photos, but before I show you the results from the 995, let me show you what the results look like using the adapter with an iPhone and a Canon G15. (For consistency, the light source is again an iPhone set to max brightness.)

20150912 230421 IMG_9622 t2i_DPP_DCE 20150912 232616 IMG_9626 t2i_DPP_DCE

First, the iPhone5C:

20150913 212538 iPhone5C Camera+ app macro_DCE 20150913 212538 iPhone5C Camera+ app macro_Crop_DCE 20150913 212538 iPhone5C Camera+ app macro_Crop_2_DCE

(I don’t know why the iPhone is picking up dirt. I cleaned the slide and the iPhone camera several times, but the dirt never went away, but was fine on the G15.)

Next, the Canon G15:

20150912 230343 IMG_9654 G15_DPP_Crop 2200px_DCE 20150912 230343 IMG_9654 G15_DPP_Crop 2200px_Crop_DCE 20150912 230343 IMG_9654 G15_DPP_Crop 2200px_Crop_2_DCE

Much better.

20150912 211551 IMG_9653 G15_Crop_3 2200px_Crop_2_DCE 20150912 230343 IMG_9654 G15_DPP_Crop 2200px_Crop_2_DCE

Fewer aberrations than the sheet protector over an iPhone.

And finally, the 3MP camera from 2002 designed for the adapter:

20150912 223852 DSCN5559 CP995_DCE 20150912 223852 DSCN5559 CP995_Crop_DCE 20150912 223852 DSCN5559 CP995_Crop_2_DCE

So, the very best DIY result I could get vs a slide copier from 2002:

20150912 211551 IMG_9653 G15_Crop_3 2200px_Crop_2_DCE vs 20150912 223852 DSCN5559 CP995_Crop_2_DCE

What the photos don’t show is that getting photos from the Nikon slide copier mounted to a Nikon was MUCH easier than hand positioning the Canon G15 over either options.

How about other apps that automatically correct for keystoning?

I tried Office Lens (easy and free from Microsoft) and Scanner Pro (pay from Readdle).

20150914 225921 iPhone5C Office Lens

Office Lens doesn’t let you select the exposure point or adjust the color corrections when it does automatic keystone correction which is only available in document mode.

So I got this 20150911 210644 iPhone5C_DCE. Instead of this 20150912 204603 IMG_9649 G15_DCE.

Which is not surprising since it is in document scanning mode.

Scanner Pro has lots of options, and it can also take photos in the camera roll and correct them, but there is a bigger problem. When you correct for keystoning, you are also introducing errors — like a photocopy of a photocopy — and this is getting farther away from getting a clean image instead of closer.

Easy? Yes. Better? No.

This reminds me of my favorite Dilbert cartoon where the punchline is “You’re solving the wrong problem!!!”

I also tried this technique on a negative.

20150911 211355 iPhone5C_DCE

But this was a bigger pain in the neck than a slide thanks to difficulties in color correction.

Smaller apertures

I, also, tried getting better details out of the G15 using smaller apertures and faster shutter speeds. It didn’t help except increase ISO noise, but perhaps a tripod or frame to shoot at lower the ISOs would help… or I could just use the really easy tool designed to do this thing. 🙂

Modern, inexpensive slide scanners


Sub $150

How does the DIY solution compare to the current, inexpensive (about $50-150) slide/35mm scanners on the market? I’m sorry to report that I don’t know. I don’t scan enough to warrant buying one of these. Not even on eBay. I am tempted since these often save to SD cards so there isn’t a fear that they won’t work with the next version of Windows, but they also don’t have any dust removal or color correction software, so there still is a lot of post processing to do to get a near pristine image, but if you just want a scan, these inexpensive scanners seem like a pretty good deal.


Under $200 category

Epson Perfection v600

(Will be updated soon)

And finally…

How does the old Nikon slide scanner fair up against expensive film scanners?

Canoscan 8000 Canoscan film scanner

I was a graphic designer for many years and have used many “professional” scanners with Digital ICE, scratch and dust removal, color correction, etc, etc. Yes, they do get even better results than my old Nikon slide copier which does not remove dust or scratches, but:

  • It took a lot of computer time to select the image and settings and go through the fixes
  • And these expensive systems also got scrapped after a few years because those companies didn’t update their drivers and software for newer versions of Windows (but my old 2002 Nikon camera keeps chugging along after 12 years and counting)

Plus, how often do I copy slides or negatives? (Not often anymore.)

So, to recap:

If you don’t look too closely, all options look alright.

20150911 221733 iPhone5C Camera+ app_DCE vs 20150912 211551 IMG_9653 G15_Crop_3 2200px_DCE vs 20150912 223852 DSCN5559 CP995_DCE vs [V600]

But if you look closer, the results are very different.

20150911 221733 iPhone5C Camera+ app_Crop_2_DCE vs 20150912 211551 IMG_9653 G15_Crop_3 2200px_Crop_2_DCE vs 20150912 223852 DSCN5559 CP995_Crop_2_DCE vs [V600]

  • OK, but cheap: DIY smartphone & diffusion sheet (light table) + smartphone as camera + keystone correction app
  • Better, but $$ and harder: DIY light table + good point and shoot camera
  • Better, but $$ but easier: Dedicated camera made for duplication
  • Best, but $$$-$$$$: Dedicated scanner with correction software

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