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Photographing B&W negatives

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by Conrad, Jun 10, 2011.

  1. Conrad

    Conrad Mu-43 Veteran

    When photographing some dull test objects to find the limits of my new PL45, I somehow got the idea to take old B&W negatives as a subject. I have always been mightily unimpressed by the speed and quality of my flatbed scanner, but this turned out as a very positive surprise.
    After some fiddling around I settled for a very simple setup with my GF1+PL45 on a tripod, the negatives in my Durst negative holder (from my old enlarger), and a plain white piece of cardboard as background illumination under 45 degrees directed towards a window.
    The resolution&sharpness of this combo is more than enough to resolve the negatives really on grain level. The dynamic range is easily captured by the sensor. After processing through ACR, the results were more than satisfactory and it was a joy to be able to redo digitally what took hours of darkroom time and retouching back in the 80's.

    If you have a good macro lens but no film scanner (like I do), you might give it a try.

    Of course I want to share results, which is a terrific excuse to post some older material.

    From 1984 (I was 14 or 15 at the time), taken with a Minolta SR-T 101 and MC55/1.7 with orange filter on FP4:

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    Taken during alpine training in the Swiss Alps near Arolla.

    From 1985, same equipment:

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    Also taken during alpine training, but now in Austria near the Kaunergrathütte in the Pitztal. Perhaps nice to know is that this photo was taken during an exercise simulating a drop into a crack in a glacier (you were lowered rather gently into the crevasse hanging on a rope) after which you had to climb out by yourself using rope (prusiking). Before doing so I took this photo. The blue toning is a digital redo of the actual chemical blue toning I did back in 1985.

    From 1990, Minolta X500 with MD50/1.7 on T-Max 100. This is from the time that I didn't have a darkroom permanently to my disposal, and I have never printed this image:

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  2. sprinke

    sprinke Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 5, 2011
    Pasadena, CA
    What an interesting project! I'd be interested in seeing a picture of this setup.
  3. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    I think this is a great way to digitize negs. Main trick will be to keep the camera's sensor plane as parallel as possible with the film plane. Good thread. Please show your set-up!
  4. Pan Korop

    Pan Korop Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 31, 2011
    Phare Ouest
    Way to go! This one of the reasons which pushed me into buying a N* D3x not D3s. Since then, the big 4x5" Coolscan has been sleeping.

    And btw, it's time to grab one of those used bellows/slide dupers before everyone finds out a modern camera IS a digital enlarger.
  5. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Have you digitized any color negs yet? I think the orange mask can be compensated for in the reversal in Photoshop.
  6. Conrad

    Conrad Mu-43 Veteran

    Getting it parallel is not that difficult. With the camera on manual focus and the focus assist, you can easily check whether the complete field is in focus.

    Setup is as follows. It is really simple. It can help to cover the space between the lens and the negative holder to prevent straylight in the dark parts of the negative. But the piece of cardboard I used for that came from a pizza box :wink:

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  7. Conrad

    Conrad Mu-43 Veteran

    I spent quite some time on doing that, but it was more difficult than I thought. The removal of the orange mask is actually the easy part. Don't invert the image in ACR, but add a layer in Photoshop filled with the mask color (sampled from film area in between images or a really black part in the image) and set the blending to "difference". But all color channels have a different response curve that need individual tweaking. I did that by adding a levels layer, but it took way more time than was practical. And I'm not entirely satisfied with the result. Even though is matches the print rather well, I'm disappointed that I couldn't get it better than that.

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  8. tomrock

    tomrock Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 21, 2010
    Indianapolis, IN
    That's a very cool idea. I may have to try that if my negatives haven't turned to dust.
  9. Pan Korop

    Pan Korop Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 31, 2011
    Phare Ouest
    Great colours, though, and you avoided "digital" oversaturation.

    I wonder if some scanning softwares, like Silverfast, wouldn't solve your problem. Some could import TIFF files instead of direct scans.
  10. MajorMagee

    MajorMagee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2011
    Dayton, OH
    This is why I love this site...
  11. zpuskas

    zpuskas Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 25, 2011
    Santa Barbara, CA
    I wonder if you could also use a slide duplicator to accomplish the same results. Unfortunately I sold mine more than a few years ago. Thanks for the report.
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