Friday, 9 August 2013

Fuji X-Pro 1 as a film scanner?

Couple days ago I was scanning some old 4x5 negatives and wondering, is there any other way to make the process faster? Each scan usually takes about 5~7 minutes and files are huge (500 + mb @ 3200 DPI). Can a modern digital camera take a perfect "scan" of the negative and replace my old monster ?

Just for fun I decided to test the concept and see how well Fujifilm X-Pro1 (with Nikkor 28/2.8 CRC lens) stacks up against Epson V700.
The test image  ("St. Elias the Prophet Church") was taken years ago with Toyo 45CF Field Camera + Rodenstock 135mm f/5.6 Apo-Sironar-S Lens, on Kodak TMAX 100 developed in Rodinal.

Scanned with Epson V700 with SilverFast 8.0 @ 3200 DPI

I googled the topic and found that iPad can be used as a lightbox. There are couple free apps that can make the screen perfectly white ( Negative Viewer, Soft Box Color, etc). I set iPad's retina display to its maximum brightness and put the negative (in the film holder) right on top of the screen. Then I mounted X-Pro 1 on a tripod, switched AF dial to M position (with focus peaking) and set the aperture @ f/8. Double checked that camera and film are parallel aligned and took the first shot.

The 4x5 film in a holder on top of the iPad

focus peaking really helped to quickly focus

It was sooo simple and easy that I decided to investigate what was missing :)
Almost immediately I realized that putting the film on top of the display was wrong approach. The screen texture was clearly visible!

I lifted up the film holder with old CD jewel cases and the screen texture's gone away.

Another issue was reflections.  I could clearly see the camera and the tripod reflections on the film. That thing in the circle is camera strap connector.

Camera/ball head contours
Back to the darkroom! To eliminate any reflections or parasite lights from the window I had to wait until the sunset when the room has become dark   Of course, I could've built a simple box around the rig, but din't bother.
Now the image was fairly clean of external artifacts and ready for comparison.

X-Pro 1+ iPad. Not bad at all!

For comparison I downsized the Epson file from a massive 15012 × 11953 to 3924 × 3051 resolution to match the Fuji's file size and I closely inspected both images  at 100%.

Comparison #1

Comparison #2

As I expected Epson won hands down. More details, better dynamic range and tonality. Not to mention that at 15012 × 11953 resolution you can easy make a print @ 75 x 60 @ 200 ppi.
But Fuji image was surprisingly good.

If you don't have a dedicated film scanner (or drum scanner) then you can definitely use your digital camera + iPad to make a fair digital copy of your large or medium size negatives.  The image quality is more than OK for web publishing. The "camera scanner" can also help you to go quickly through hundreds of old negatives to pick only those that deserve additional investment (time and money) in high quality scanning.

For 35mm I wouldn't even bother with iPad + camera and rather use something like this Slide Copier.

Thanks for dropping by,



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