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):
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:
It would be best to block out the extra light. I used a painting program (below) to quickly black out the unnecessary light…
…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.
(The screen shows up as blue because the camera is trying to white balance the mixed lighting.)
Now we are ready for the slide.
The results look like this. I used the Camera+ app in macro mode on my iPhone5C.
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.
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:
The image with the emitters visible seems sharper, but I think this was an illusion.
Compare this to results from a Canon G15:
A marked improvement.
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?
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.)
First, the iPhone5C:
(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:
Fewer aberrations than the sheet protector over an iPhone.
And finally, the 3MP camera from 2002 designed for the adapter:
So, the very best DIY result I could get vs a slide copier from 2002:
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).
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 . Instead of this .
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.
But this was a bigger pain in the neck than a slide thanks to difficulties in color correction.
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
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)
How does the old Nikon slide scanner fair up against expensive film scanners?
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.
But if you look closer, the results are very different.
- 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