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Macro lenses (Nikon and Olympus) for slide copying

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by RichardB, Nov 12, 2015.

  1. RichardB

    RichardB Snapshooter

    443
    Nov 19, 2012
    Maryland, US
    Richard
    Inspired by a thread from @Pecos@Pecos, and motivated by a need to digitize my father's slide collection, I tested 3 macro lenses with the Nikon ES-1 slide copying adapter. The lenses were:
    • Micro-Nikkor 55mm/3.5, for which the ES-1 adapter was designed
    • Olympus 12-50mm/3.5-6.3, which shoots macro at 43mm/6.0
    • Olympus 60mm/2.8
    Spoiler: All lenses performed adequately, and differences were slight at reduced resolution. The Oly 12-50 images were the least sharp but had the least noise. The Oly 60 images were sharpest and noisiest. The Micro-Nikkor was neck-and-neck with the Oly 60 in sharpness, with noise between the two Olys.

    Lens setup: The ES-1 adapter was designed to mount directly on the 52mm-diameter filter thread of the Micro-Nikkor 55. A crop sensor needs the slide pushed farther from the lens, so I used 52mm-diameter filter extension tubes between the lenses and the ES-1. The Oly 12-50 needed a 14mm extension, and the Nikkor and Oly 60 each used a 56mm extension (two 28mm tubes). The end of the ES-1 telescopes and rotates for fine adjustments so the slide image can best fill the camera's sensor.

    The Oly 12-50 has the same 52mm filter size as the Micro-Nikkor, but the Oly 60 has a 46mm filter size, so it needs a 46-52mm step-up ring between lens and filter extension tubes.

    PB120035a_1600.
    Slide copying stack: Olympus E-P5, Olympus 60mm/2.8, 46-52mm step-up ring, two 28mm filter extensions, Nikon ES-1 slide copying adapter.

    Camera setup: Having the adapter attached to the lens eliminates most concern about camera shake, so image stabilization was turned off. I used base ISO, fixed aperture, and let the camera open the shutter for as long as it wanted. Aperture was f/5.6 for the Oly 60 and Nikkor; the Oly 12-50 used its maximum aperture of f/6.0 at its fixed macro length of 43mm. For consistent lighting, I pointed the lens toward a laptop screen with a white page maximized on it, and I set the camera to a custom white balance for the ES-1 through each lens before I inserted a slide.

    Test slide: This test was done on a truly random slide from the archive. The slide has no artistic merit to distract us from the technical aspects of its reproduction. :wink:

    Big picture: Below is the slide with borders cropped and reduced to 1600 pixels long in Olympus Viewer 3. All settings are vanilla, except I habitually set Noise Filter to Low. At this resolution, you have to look hard to see differences in output from one lens to another.

    Nikon55_ov_1600.
    Micro-Nikkor 55mm at f/5.6

    Oly12-50_ov_1600.
    Olympus 12-50mm at 43mm/6.0

    Oly60_ov_1600.
    Olympus 60mm at f/5.6

    If you look closely, the image from the 12-50 lens is just a bit softer than the others. Below are 100% crops from the photo's lower-right quadrant, using the camera's full resolution, again processed by Olympus Viewer.

    Nikon55_ov_right.
    Micro-Nikkor 55mm

    Oly12-50_ov_right.
    Olympus 12-50mm

    Oly60_ov_right.
    Olympus 60mm

    I'm glad to see the sharpness from the Olympus 60, but I was surprised that its image was so much noisier than the image from the Olympus 12-50. It made me wonder whether the lens was instructing the Olympus Viewer software how much noise reduction or sharpening to apply. In an attempt to see what each lens could do on its own, without software, I used Corel PaintShop Pro to open each Olympus RAW file and save a 100% crop as a jpeg. Below are 100% crops taken directly from the ORFs.

    Nikon55_raw_right.
    Micro-Nikkor 55mm RAW

    Oly12-50_raw_right.
    Olympus 12-50mm RAW

    Oly60_raw_right.
    Olympus 60mm RAW

    In the raw images, the Oly 60 is still sharper than the 12-50, but just a little noisier. This suggests to me that OV3 is oversharpening the 60mm image without removing enough noise first, which may be my fault for cutting OV's noise filter to Low.

    Conclusion: The Olympus 60mm lens is a good choice for sharp reproduction of slides. I need to work on processing to reduce more noise before sharpening. The old Micro-Nikkor has similar image quality to the Oly 60, but changing slides in the ES-1 can move its telescoping end, and focus must therefore be checked for each slide. When there are hundreds or thousands of slides to digitize, the Nikkor's manual focus becomes onerous. The Oly 12-50 does a competent job of reproducing slides for most purposes, and its images are notably clean. When the highest resolution is needed, though, the versatile optics in this lens do not capture fine detail with the same sharpness as the fixed-length macro lenses.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2015
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  2. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    Given the uniform nature of the 'noise' between the shots from the Nikkor and the Olympus it's highly likely that you're seeing the image start to break down into the dye clouds which make up the image. (look at the blue area to the top left of the close up frame, the noise/blemishes are in the same area)

    I personally would be happy with the Nikkor or the 60mm macro, they look to be close enough for real world usage rather than a hypothetical internet scenario.
     
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  3. You didn't mention what the film was, but I would agree that you're starting to see the actual guts of the film...the grain and everything else. It would be interesting to see if there's any difference between this method of copying and using a decent film scanner.
     
  4. RichardB

    RichardB Snapshooter

    443
    Nov 19, 2012
    Maryland, US
    Richard
    The sample is Ektachrome from 1978. I appreciate the insight from you and @eteless@eteless about what's causing the blotchiness.

    I have an old film/slide scanner and a flatbed that can scan film/slides, and I thought about adding them to the comparison. I didn't do so, in part to expedite this post and in part because it would take so long to scan my slides with my scanning equipment. I have a couple thousand slides to copy, so I plan to copy them with my camera, and then perhaps go back to the really good ones and scan them if the result would be better. In previous tests with my scanners, the resolution seemed about the same as my camera, but I'd like to test more fully, not only for resolution but also for color, dynamic range, noise, etc.
     
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  5. Pecos

    Pecos Mu-43 Top Veteran

    776
    Jan 20, 2013
    The Natural State
    From what I've read, it's more hassle than it's worth to copy slides with a scanner; images taken with modern macro lenses and good technique equal the quality of all but the highest-end professional scans. And the time involved in scanning slides is ridiculous.
    By the way, @RichardB@RichardB - what is the length of the tube in the ES-1?
     
  6. RichardB

    RichardB Snapshooter

    443
    Nov 19, 2012
    Maryland, US
    Richard
    The ES-1 can extend from 46mm to 70mm.
     
  7. jrsilva

    jrsilva Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 1, 2012
    Portugal
    Jaime
    Thank's for sharing your this slide copy technique and thoughts.
    I can't find 52mm filter tread extension tubes like that...
    Doing a search on eBay I only found Macro extension tubes to attach to the camera mount in one end and to the lens on the other end.
     
  8. RichardB

    RichardB Snapshooter

    443
    Nov 19, 2012
    Maryland, US
    Richard
    The one I bought is item 161382198838 but the listing says it doesn't ship to Portugal. :frown:
     
  9. jrsilva

    jrsilva Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 1, 2012
    Portugal
    Jaime
    Thank's for the link :thumbup:
    It's a starting point because now I know what to look for.
    I'm going to search for one that ship to Portugal.
     
  10. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    Yes, I've recently got into medium format film, and I'm quickly finding that getting lab scanned TIFFs is the most expensive part of the whole process, almost double what the (very reasonable) developing costs are.

    Given that the scans I'm getting from the lab are only 5-6MP, I am very confident that I can get dramatically better image quality with a simple copy stand, LED light pad, and my GX7 + macro lens. The setup will mean self-scanning about 10 rolls of film to pay itself off, but in the meantime I'll be getting images with 3x the resolution, with the potential to make multi-image stitches. With a 1:1 macro lens on M4/3, I can nominally get 250MP of resolution from a 6x7 negative, though my guess is there might be only 30-40MP of "real" resolution there.
     
  11. m4/3boy

    m4/3boy Mu-43 Veteran

    306
    Jul 21, 2013
    I'll take a Nikon 9000 scanner or Minolta Dual Scan any day over the macro lens option or even better a drum scan.
     
  12. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    Based on what? The Nikon Coolscan 9000 came out in 2003, back when DSLRs were limited to 6MP with clunky interfaces. Obviously the scanner would have been superior.

    But today? I haven't seen any evidence to suggest that any film scanner under $5000 can beat the quality of a modern digital camera and macro lens. They may be more convenient or faster in some cases, but for the average consumer the value-to-quality proposition is wildly skewed in favour of a macro copy setup.

    Note also that if you're talking about ultimate quality, the Nikon (which still sells for $3000-5000) can generate a maximum resolution of ~93MP from a 6x7 negative. With a 1:1 macro lens on a 16MP M4/3 sensor, achieving 250MP is straightforward with image stitching. And the camera makes HDR scanning trivially easy with bracketed shots. I guess that's also possible with a scanner, but the Dmax is generally far lower than the dynamic range of a modern sensor, so it's almost obligatory rather than a nice bonus.

    Not that any 6x7 negative has that much real information, but the fact remains...
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
  13. RichardB

    RichardB Snapshooter

    443
    Nov 19, 2012
    Maryland, US
    Richard
    OK, you goaded me into scanning the slide with my Konica Minolta DiMAGE Scan Dual IV, driven by VueScan 9.5.28. Here are the full image, reduced by pixel averaging, and the same 100% crop as given above.
    2015-11-14-0009.
    DiMAGE Scan Dual IV

    2015-11-14-0006.
    DiMAGE Scan Dual IV

    I have to admit, these scans have more shadow detail than the photographs, and less noise. The color balance of the scans may be a bit off, but I think I can correct that if I put some time into it. I rate the scans higher in overall quality that the photos, but the scanner is much slower than the camera.
     
  14. The biggest factor is the quality of the original. If the slides/negs have been stored well and the film hasn't suffered any natural deterioration, then you'll be OK no matter which approach you take towards digitizing. But keep your expectations realistic...you'll probably run into some that make you wonder what happened. I tried scanning a few years ago...and yes, it's a very slow process. I had purchased an Epson 4490 flat bed that had the film holder and light source option for both 35mm and 120. Film holder could take a strip of 5 35mm. Results were sometimes disappointing, sometimes not. One thing here...you should be getting much bigger TIFF files than 5-6 meg for 35mm. This depends on the resolution of the scanner. My 4490 has a native resolution of 4800 dpi...with higher resolution possible through digital interpolation, but you shouldn't really use that unless absolutely needed...kinda like the digital zoom. After discovering a local photo place that specialized in restoration, I gave them a couple of slides to scan. They had one of Epson's high end film scanners, 6400 dpi native resolution I believe, and the results were really no better than my scans. At 6400 dpi, the TIFF's came out around 120 meg...around 90 meg for my scans. I think the thing here is to keep your priorities in mind. If the originals are worth the time and effort, if they're once-in-a-lifetime shots, I would be tempted to try both methods to get the best out of them. If I had to bet on one or the other, I'd put my money on the scanned versions. If these are just average pics that you just want to quickly digitize, go for the slide/neg copying approach.
     
  15. One advantage for scanning is minimizing the glass in the process. Not sure about the film scanner, but the flatbed only has the platen in the way.
     
  16. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    My film scanner has a rodenstock lens between the sensor and the film, it functions as a large camera in effect however it only pictures three rows at a time before moving the film to image the next area. There's no real difference in optics in this case.
     
  17. Well if you have to have a lens in there, Rodenstock would be a good choice.
     
  18. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    Thanks for the comparison!

    It seems to be like the exposure on the scan may be brighter than your pictures, which would have the effect of increasing both shadow detail and reducing noise, because there is overall more signal. Maybe in the future you might find you have better results doing your digitizing with +1/2 or 2/3 EV exposure compensation, perhaps?

    If I shot 35mm film more I could see the appeal in a high quality dedicated film scanner, but for medium format the scanners are either high-end $5000 units or $400-800 flatbeds that give only mediocre quality, so it's not as great an option.
     
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  19. zensu

    zensu An Old Fool

    Aug 8, 2012
    Southeastern USA
    Bobby
    Thanks for the lens test! I also tried scanning with a Nikon ED8000 a few years ago and found that using the 60mm macro with the ES-1 and extension tubes as you are doing was much more efficient than using the film scanner. I scanned my Dads' slides for the rest of the family and placed the copies on a DVD so everyone could easily view the images whenever they wished. For viewing on a high def 55" screen the 60mm macro copies (with ES-1 and extension tubes) were excellent in every ones opinion.

    Bobby :coffee-30:
     
  20. Harvey Melvin Richards

    Harvey Melvin Richards Photo Posting Junkie

    Feb 15, 2014
    Southwest Utah
    Were you using auto focus with the Olympus lenses?

    I have the same Nikon adapter, and I made a rail to mount everything on. Besides my Oly 60, I also have a Vivitar 55mm macro that works, although no auto focus. I need the time to really test it all out and see what the different results are.