Old Negatives to Digital: Winter Photo Project

David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and OdditiesChicagolandPosts: 12,372Administrators moderator
edited February 9, 2015 in Digital Darkroom
I've kinda been obsessing about this for a few decades now. Back in the day (mid 1970's to 2002) I had accumulated hundreds of processed rolls of Pan-X and Tri-X (and some color slides and negatives) that had either been not ever printed or very infrequently printed for College projects or for my own adventures and amusement. But mind you, there are hundreds of rolls times the 24 or 36 exposures from each that are almost unknown to me now. Included are 32 B&W rolls from an extensive Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Israel and Greece trip in 1979. Might be some good stuff. Or perhaps not. But I want to find out.

I've never been one to buy and learn the scanner routine, along with the myriad of hobbled software that comes packaged with those, or buying additional modules to make it all work. Costs a lot, takes up a lot of room, and they can be a pain.

So, armed now with a decent number of megapixels plus winter boredom and determination, I have begun some experiments. Luckily, I had stored all the negative strips in those sleeves that are supposed to be acid-free. And they all look OK, given the almost 40 years packed away.

First, was to figure out how to hold somewhat curled 6-frame strips flat enough to keep the subject frame all in the plane of focus. I entertained plenty of ideas over the past few years, but I really didn't want to sandwich the things between glass or make or buy something to do that. Then I remembered -- I had/have a Besseler 67C enlarger gathering dust! What better to hold negatives than a 35mm negative carrier! Bingo.

So I tested that against my monitor with full-screen TextEdit behind it with a number of lens and extension tube combinations. I don't own a macro lens, and buying one, even used, didn't meet my criteria of a little or no cost project. I tried all my good lenses from 16mm all the way up to 400 plus extension tubes, manual focus, exposures and tripod. No go. Every one of them, when set up to get a full-frame 1:1 image of the frame vignetted badly, had horribly unsharp corners and enough C.A. to start my own commercial rainbow business.

I almost gave up right there. That was a couple days ago. Then I tried my tiny and lowly 40mm pancake lens and two of the three extension tubes; a 20 and a 12. And it matched up perfect as about 1:1. And the 40 out-performed all my L-lenses in every respect for the job. Thanks, Canon!

So anyway, that's the lead-up. Below is test frame #1.

Negative test image from the camera, full image (almost 1:1), ported to Canon DPP and jpeg'd. No post here yet.
i-5r7p2P3-L.jpg

Cropped in DPP and sent up to Smugmug. No conversions or heavy post yet except light sharpening of the RAW image.
i-Khk5Zbr-L.jpg

2 minutes in the Smugmug implementation of the built-in PicMonkey tools and I got this:
i-3zzLxPb-X3.jpg

Grain aplenty. Oh well. In fact, when I read up on how to re-shoot negatives, the article mentioned to specifically focus on the grain itself. Glad I had some! Maybe I push processed the Tri-X in warm water or that was the way they all are from back in 1986. Dunno. But heck, test #1 went OK, and nothing has been bought yet for this project.

I had never purchased a portable light table like I should have in the 70's. Even so, I might not be able to find replacement bulbs now, so a diffused light source is still needed (I don't want to use the monitor), along with a sound, easy and repeatable setup for faster image gathering.

Feel free to tell your stories if you've ever done something like this at home on-the-cheap. Maybe we can all learn to get better at this.
My Smugmug
"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky

Comments

  • ZanottiZanotti Improving Daily Posts: 1,410Registered Users Major grins
    edited January 22, 2015
    I want to do this also. I want you to be successful. Every time I look at this I come to Ken Rockwell's observation is that you will never have the time to be successful. It makes me want to try the Indian solution and just pay, but like you I am scared to ship all my slides over to India.

    http://kenrockwell.com/tech/3000slides.htm

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]First let's do some math: it takes at least five to ten minutes for each scan. Scanner makers lie: no scan you or I want really happens in 35 seconds. Even if it did, you still have to find and fumble with jamming each slide in the scanner and then waiting around while it scans, and then formatting and filing each scan as it comes off. At least on Apple's Mac OSX you can be working on the last scan in Photoshop while the next scan is scanning, but it still will take you 10 minutes a slide. Thus it will take you three months working 40 hours a week to do the scanning.[/FONT]
    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Three months later you'll probably change your opinion of what file format or resolution or color space or whatever you really wanted and have to start over.[/FONT]


    I am following this, so let us know how you succeed!

    Z
    It is the purpose of life that each of us strives to become actually what he is potentially. We should be obsessed with stretching towards that goal through the world we inhabit.
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 12,372Administrators moderator
    edited January 22, 2015
    Thanks for joining in!

    Nobody (maybe B&H) sells light tables anymore, and with used ones on Ebay, would I be able to get replacement bulbs anymore? I'm looking into how to make a smallish light table with on-line tutorials. Might be off to a craft store tonight to look at "craft boxes" as a body frame to house 12-volt LED lighting strips, then to place a white glass or plexiglass top over. Thing is, I want this project to not get too complicated and not spend much money.

    And at the same time as I'm doing this project, I have another similar photo recovery job. All my optical backups from 2001 through 2009 were placed on successive CD and DVD data discs. Those, I was sure, would be readable by any future optical drive. So in 2010 I got a Mac Pro, with their "Superdrive" included. Yup. You guessed it - can't read data discs that were burned to +R media. Not so "Super."

    So do I yank out the DVD drive from the carcass of my old Windows desktop and place it in the Mac? Would that work? Or rip out the D hard drive, place that in the Mac, and hope (it works) and the same pics are on that? I've got these two missions concurrently, so I'm not out taking new pics these days. That, and living with a Chicago cloudy winter, I don't have a big reason to, although my IR camera should arrive back from LifePixel any day now. That might get me out there again.
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 12,372Administrators moderator
    edited January 22, 2015
    Just watched this 36 min vid. I doubt I'll go to the extent this guy did by zooming in to small quadrants (or smaller) of each negative and then stitching a super high MP image together, but it was interesting info, nonetheless.
    http://youtu.be/ot_vVjlBLmk
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • cmasoncmason Old dog, new tricks Raleigh, NCPosts: 2,506Registered Users Major grins
    edited January 22, 2015
    I find this really fascinating, and hope it works out.

    But, to me, it seems even more tedious than using a scanner. I mean, if you have zero budget, then I get it, and this is super creative. But if you had just a bit to purchase a flatbed scanner, even a basic one, plus Vuescan software, you can put multiple negative strips down, and have the software scan each frame, remove dust, and do basic editing. You can do 8 or 12 frames at a time, even with multiple passes on the scanner. Click and walk away.

    Now, I don't know the limits, with respect to scanner quality, as to what kind of scanner you really need to do a proper job, but I have scanned with an HP all in one, and the images look as good or better than you got with your method. My Epson 4180 is, of course, much better, even though it is aging (love VueScan!)
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 12,372Administrators moderator
    edited January 22, 2015
    Well, OK, maybe a dedicated scanner and special software are faster, but I really doubt I'd be getting that much better images in the end. I can easily deal with dust. Shooting at about 1:1, I am already getting about 4100 pixels per inch, enough to resolve individual film grain (which is both good and bad). What resolution would a full page scanner give me scanning 35 x 24mm negatives?

    Actually, I'm not in a race to get this done quickly. I've already waited 40 years. :D Just looking through 36 exposures of a roll with the loupe to figure which ones are keepers takes some time (until I find all my contact sheets rolleyes1.gif which are, um... somewhere). I am sort of on a budget with this. The whole point of my thread here is doing this without a scanner and then using supplies sitting around or are cheaply sourced.
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 12,372Administrators moderator
    edited January 27, 2015
    Today's mission was to visit two artist/craft stores in search of various sizes of wooden "craft boxes" and white clouded glass/plexiglass. Found both - didn't buy them. The idea was to lay cool white LED strips into the box after painting the inside white and securely covering white glass to the top with framing strips along the top edges. The finished project would come in just south of $50 for materials or a little less than $90 if I used the type of multi-colored LEDs that also included the transformer and remote light controller to change the colors (there is a white mode also). The budget was for far less than this, plus I could buy a pre-made light table for about $90.

    Went home to research the LED strips some more. Then a far simpler and cheaper method struck me which I might try. These 32 oz. yogurt containers are already white inside and tall enough to hold a lamp. I'd then need a reliable cool white LED light source at one end. I already have an upscale Petzl headlamp that has a sliding light diffuser built in. Adding a pure white panel (plastic, glass, even paper) at the top, plus a spacing ring to lift the negative carrier off the white panel a bit, and that might work. Since that would be a basically free option, I'm going to eat my way through a couple of 32 oz. yogurts and try constructing a prototype. The carton would be inverted with the removable top side down.
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • PrevailingConditionsPrevailingConditions Major grins Posts: 178Registered Users Major grins
    edited January 28, 2015
    I too am in this situation with my own photos, but it was compounded when I inherited my dad's collection as well. My philosophy is this: in the vast majority of cases, I just want decent copies of the images. They're not getting printed 24x36 or being sent off to National Geographic but they have sentimental value.

    So I built a small "lightbox" with a small holder for individual slides/film. I then use a macro lens to take a picture of the slide which is lit from behind (inside the chamber). I can even shoot tethered directly into Lightroom. It makes it really fast to go through dozens of shots. Those that deserve more attention go on the scanner for the 3-5 minute scan. The others get slight touch-up depending on their condition.

    Here's an example:
    iMG_0343a-XL.jpg

    iMG_0293a%20x800-XL.jpg

    (Both of these were taken back in 1983 in/around Arica, Chile)

    Mike
    flickr
    I welcome your feedback, but leave the editing to me - thanks!
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 12,372Administrators moderator
    edited January 28, 2015
    Mike, it sounds like we're in the same boat. At least you have a scanner to use in your arsenal. And like you, I don't need the drum scanner type quality. In fact, these old neg's probably don't hold the resolution to go beyond a 1:1 reproduction anyway. I just want to bring them back from purgatory.
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • PrevailingConditionsPrevailingConditions Major grins Posts: 178Registered Users Major grins
    edited January 28, 2015
    David,

    Yeah, I suspect most of us are dealing with this in one form or fashion.

    Something else that I was playing around with - more for prints than slides/film - was to use a white Styrofoam cooler and then putting the LEDs into the sides to bounce light around inside. Cut a hole in the top to shoot through and mount the LEDs on the sides as a bounced source. Put the cooler upside down over the print shooting through the top. The cooler itself is only $2 at wally world. The problem I ran into next was the curl on some of the prints - kind of getting back to the original post on this thread. My solution was to build a small wooden box, with a computer fan on one end and some holes where the prints go. The fan gives it some suction through the holes to keep the print flat while shooting through the cooler. This part is still under construction.

    Actually sounds pretty ghetto as I write this... :-)

    Mike
    flickr
    I welcome your feedback, but leave the editing to me - thanks!
  • cmasoncmason Old dog, new tricks Raleigh, NCPosts: 2,506Registered Users Major grins
    edited January 28, 2015
    You might snoop about looking for old or discarded X-ray light boxes. I bet your doctor or dentist has one in the back they have been meaning to get rid of. Most doctor and dentists have moved to digital x-ray, so they no longer need those light boxes they had in every exam room (and on their desk).
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 12,372Administrators moderator
    edited January 28, 2015
    cmason wrote: »
    You might snoop about looking for old or discarded X-ray light boxes. I bet your doctor or dentist has one in the back they have been meaning to get rid of. Most doctor and dentists have moved to digital x-ray, so they no longer need those light boxes they had in every exam room (and on their desk).

    Cool idea! Never thought of those as an option.
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 12,372Administrators moderator
    edited January 30, 2015
    So as I continue to eat through a couple 32 ounce yogurts (see above), I put a very grainy test shot through the Salt & Pepper Noise Reducing filter in a very old version of Paint Shop Pro at settings of grain pixel size=3, Strength=4, also checked the "this size and smaller" box. Works pretty well at eliminating the grain and it also keeps the sharpness. The con is the time it takes to run. Minutes. But it works.
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • mhellermheller Beginner grinner Posts: 6Registered Users Beginner grinner
    edited February 5, 2015
    I appreciate what you're trying to do.

    Faced with roughly the same circumstances, I blew about $200 (less than the price of another lens) on a CanoScan 9000F Mark II. Then I blew a couple of hours to really understand how to use the software. Now when I scan 35mm B&W film (in a film holder that came with the scanner) at 4800dpi/16bit/high quality and save as TIFF, I can get a better image out of a negative than I used to get by printing in a darkroom. I do have to edit the (dust?) spots out in Lightroom.

    The scanner goes up to 9600dpi. I'm not printing wall-sized images, so that would be overkill for me, at least right now.

    With new Fuji Acros 100 negatives, and old Plus-X negatives, grain is not a problem at all.

    My SmugMug is at http://martinheller.smugmug.com/

    I do need to tag the scanned images as "scanned" and make a folder for them -- perhaps I'll get to that tonight.
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 12,372Administrators moderator
    edited February 5, 2015
    The real hard part, for me, are not the technical hurdles, or if the images are 4200 ppi or 9600, or if I can get 50 images or only 3 done in a day. The problem is in looking through all these things and remembering what they were, why and where I shot them, and in what order. Some of my sleeve sets are numbered (031, 032, 033, etc), which helps greatly in the chronology a bit. I must have transferred (I hope) the numbers on the film canisters to the negative sets. But whether a partial set of one roll is from the bus trip stop at a partially known tourist attraction along the way to the Acropolis, or is from a day before in yet another country - that is the bigger problem for me.

    Then there's all the slides from the 1950's. Gads. One step at a time. Luckily, Dad labeled a lot of those individually and then placed the sets in marked yellow and black-topped Kodak slide boxes.
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • kdogkdog artistically challenged San Jose, CAPosts: 11,506Administrators moderator
    edited February 5, 2015
    mheller wrote: »
    I appreciate what you're trying to do.

    Faced with roughly the same circumstances, I blew about $200 (less than the price of another lens) on a CanoScan 9000F Mark II. Then I blew a couple of hours to really understand how to use the software. Now when I scan 35mm B&W film (in a film holder that came with the scanner) at 4800dpi/16bit/high quality and save as TIFF, I can get a better image out of a negative than I used to get by printing in a darkroom. I do have to edit the (dust?) spots out in Lightroom.

    The scanner goes up to 9600dpi. I'm not printing wall-sized images, so that would be overkill for me, at least right now.

    With new Fuji Acros 100 negatives, and old Plus-X negatives, grain is not a problem at all.

    My SmugMug is at http://martinheller.smugmug.com/

    I do need to tag the scanned images as "scanned" and make a folder for them -- perhaps I'll get to that tonight.
    Welcome to Dgrin, mheller!

    I really like your solution here. Will this for work slides too?
  • mhellermheller Beginner grinner Posts: 6Registered Users Beginner grinner
    edited February 6, 2015
    Thanks, kdog!

    Yes, this scanner handles 35mm negatives and slides, medium format film, and sheets up to A4.

    By the way, my scanned film gallery is at http://martinheller.smugmug.com/Film/
  • mhellermheller Beginner grinner Posts: 6Registered Users Beginner grinner
    edited February 6, 2015
    David_S85 wrote: »
    The real hard part, for me, are not the technical hurdles, or if the images are 4200 ppi or 9600, or if I can get 50 images or only 3 done in a day. The problem is in looking through all these things and remembering what they were, why and where I shot them, and in what order. Some of my sleeve sets are numbered (031, 032, 033, etc), which helps greatly in the chronology a bit. I must have transferred (I hope) the numbers on the film canisters to the negative sets. But whether a partial set of one roll is from the bus trip stop at a partially known tourist attraction along the way to the Acropolis, or is from a day before in yet another country - that is the bigger problem for me.

    Then there's all the slides from the 1950's. Gads. One step at a time. Luckily, Dad labeled a lot of those individually and then placed the sets in marked yellow and black-topped Kodak slide boxes.

    I was lucky to have been a little obsessive-compulsive about my negatives and slides, at least in the 80s and early 90s. All my archival negative sheets have dates and film type at the top, and notations on the sheet for "picks." After that I got lazy -- or busy -- and just threw the negatives in a big box, relying on the paper envelope for any dating.

    All my boxes of slides have dates on one side of the box.

    I wish I had a light table, but I'm getting by with a Medalight 35mm Film Slide and Negative Viewer https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BBE1SH8/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1.
  • kdogkdog artistically challenged San Jose, CAPosts: 11,506Administrators moderator
    edited February 6, 2015
    mheller wrote: »
    Thanks, kdog!

    Yes, this scanner handles 35mm negatives and slides, medium format film, and sheets up to A4.

    By the way, my scanned film gallery is at http://martinheller.smugmug.com/Film/
    Yeah, I was looking at those yesterday. Good stuff.

    What's that old computer in that one shot with the child? Osborne comes to mind, but there were a few like that.
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 12,372Administrators moderator
    edited February 6, 2015
    Looked like a Compaq Portable (sic) to me. I bought the next model that replaced that one.
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • kdogkdog artistically challenged San Jose, CAPosts: 11,506Administrators moderator
    edited February 8, 2015
    David_S85 wrote: »
    Looked like a Compaq Portable (sic) to me. I bought the next model that replaced that one.
    Yeah, that would have been my second guess.

    My CanoScan arrived today! clap.gif
  • mhellermheller Beginner grinner Posts: 6Registered Users Beginner grinner
    edited February 8, 2015
    Yes, it was a Compaq Portable. That particular one was tricked out with a hard drive and an 8087 coprocessor.
  • mhellermheller Beginner grinner Posts: 6Registered Users Beginner grinner
    edited February 8, 2015
    kdog wrote: »
    My CanoScan arrived today! clap.gif

    Congratulations! If you need any guidance about finding the 16-bit and high-quality options in the scanning software, let me know and I'll post a screen shot.
  • mhellermheller Beginner grinner Posts: 6Registered Users Beginner grinner
    edited February 8, 2015
    Here's the scanner with its associated tools...
  • kdogkdog artistically challenged San Jose, CAPosts: 11,506Administrators moderator
    edited February 8, 2015
    mheller wrote: »
    Congratulations! If you need any guidance about finding the 16-bit and high-quality options in the scanning software, let me know and I'll post a screen shot.
    Appreciate the offer and the pic of your setup! I've already got an old photo ready and waiting to start with as soon as I get it set up. I just need to unearth a spot in my messy office to put it! rolleyes1.gif
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 12,372Administrators moderator
    edited February 8, 2015
    When you guys see my completely ghetto setup, you are going to laugh for hours on end.
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • kdogkdog artistically challenged San Jose, CAPosts: 11,506Administrators moderator
    edited February 9, 2015
    David_S85 wrote: »
    When you guys see my completely ghetto setup, you are going to laugh for hours on end.
    I would never laugh at someone who takes the initiative to invent their own garage-tech solution to a problem. Snicker a bit, maybe.
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