Scanning vs. Digital Camera for Copying Slides, Negatives and Prints

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by RH Horn, May 3, 2004.

  1. RH Horn

    RH Horn Guest

    I am interested inconverting all my slides, negatives and prints to
    digital images. I have a family heritage or legacy I want to leave to
    my children.

    I was thinking once my pictures were converted I could burn a CD or
    DVD with family talking about the pictures, ad music and menu to allow
    my family to search the family photo album. This way I could burn
    copies instead of passing the photo album around.

    A friend of mine has a flatbed scanner but it seems to take him
    forever for scanning wand to move over the slide, negative or print.
    He just recently bought a device called ShotCopy when seems to work
    great! Just drop it in and click. He usese his own digital camera
    which macro focus. The ShotCopy he bougth can be found at

    I've been watching digital cameras and they seem to be getting much
    better going from 1 to 8 mega pixels (and I've heard there are some
    out there that go to 13 mega pixels.

    My question is, what digital camera should I buy that would equate
    with a scanned image? Are there any other pitfalls I should be aware
    of if I choose to use a digital camera to copy my slides, negatives
    and prints instead of a scanner?

    Thanks for your help,

    RH Horn, May 3, 2004
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  2. RH Horn

    Jim Guest

    None. I regularly get about 12 Megapixels with my Coolscan IV ED, and it
    only provides 2900 dpi.

    By the way, if you should decide to store the images on a CD, don't for a
    moment think that these devices are as archival as film.

    Jim, May 3, 2004
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  3. 11.2 MP max, to be exact, but who's counting :)

    Mac McDougald, May 3, 2004
  4. RH Horn

    Joe Rooney Guest

    I recall reading about a slide adapter for the Nikon 990 which made for a
    small package, but I tried and tried with my Olympus 3040 to get as close to
    no avail.

    I finally got a Minolta Dimage Scan Dual II at B&H for a price, at the time,
    rivaled what they were going for on ebay. I recently scanned a bunch of
    Vietnam Kodachromes for a friend and it made 30meg tiffs.

    It doesn't do dark slides very well, but I firgured if I ran across the
    mother of all slides, I'd have it scanned professionally.

    Santa Clara, California
    Joe Rooney, May 4, 2004
  5. RH Horn

    bmoag Guest

    Theoretically there is no reason a slide duplicating attachment for a film
    slr should not work with a digital slr. Theoretically this would be a lot
    faster than any film or flat bed scanner. Realistically the quality will not
    be as good as with a dedicated scanner but probably very good indeed.
    bmoag, May 4, 2004

  6. A "decent" 35 film scanner needn't set you back
    more than a few hundred $ and will probably do
    a better job than the digicam approach. That's
    my guess, anyway.

    6 million pixels works out to around 2000 dpi
    "equivalent" for scanning a 35 mm frame.
    That's OK but easy to beat with any dedicated
    film scanner.

    A 4000 dpi film scanner is will give 20 million
    "real" RGB pixels, as opposed to the digicam
    which gives 6 million RGB pixels from 1.5
    million RGBG groups.

    If you go the digicam and slide-copying route, I would
    be very interested in seeing your results, however, or
    even posting them on my site of "scan samples."

    rafe b.
    scan samples
    Raphael Bustin, May 4, 2004
  7. Meaningless question.

    What size is the hypothetical scanned image? 8x10, 4x6?
    What resolution is the scanner running at?
    What is the end use of the image? Screen, photo-grade printer?

    For example, a 4x6 scanned at 600DPI can be reset to 300DPI
    (with no interpolation "resampling") to produce a photo-grade 8x12

    That same 4x6, scanned at 300DPI, will be too big to view on
    even the highest resolution monitor (it would be 1200x1800 pixels).

    This also gives you a hint of digi-cam needs -- to get the
    effect of scanning that 4x6 at 300DPI, using a digi-cam, will require a
    camera with over 1200x1800 pixels (you'll want an edge margin for
    trimming). Call it a 2.5Mpixel camera. To do that 4x6 @600DPI will
    require closer to a 9Mpixel camera.
    Forget macro mode (and forget wide-angle too) -- it will add
    distortion (macro mode on common digi-cams is 2-8 inches. The best
    results for copying will occur using the telephoto and stepping back
    from the image. The less the difference between lens-to-image-center vs
    lens-to-image-corner the flatter the image will appear. Have you ever
    seen those images of a dog sniffing at a camera lens, and how the nose
    looks really huge while the ears are small... Using macro/wide-angle to
    get close to a photo will do the same thing -- the corners, which are
    further away from the lens, will look smaller relative to the center of
    the image.

    Dennis Lee Bieber, May 4, 2004
  8. That is in fact a function of the lens design, not the perspective

    As long any given off-axis angle to a point on the object translates
    to the identical (or exactly proportional) off-axis angle to a point
    on the image regardless of where the point is, there will be no
    distortion. For instance, an object point 22 degrees off axis should
    give an image point 22*A degrees off axis, and an object point 39
    degrees off axis should give an image point 39*A degrees off axis,
    where A is a constant for a given lens. "A" would be 1.0 for a
    normal lens, greater than 1.0 for a true telephoto, less than 1.0
    for a retrofocus wide angle lens, and depending on focal length for
    a zoom. An example of what I mean is the fisheye lens, which is
    purposely designed to have this distortion in an extreme amount, so
    that A is not constant, but diminishes the farther from the optical
    axis you go.

    What you described is in fact an effect of the change of perspective
    with change in image distance, and happens when imaging three-
    dimensional objects. It is not dependent on lens design, but on
    plain old geometry.

    Designing a zoom lens to have this rectilinear property at all focal
    lengths, and any lens to have it at all distances, is not easy, even
    in this day of computer-aided design. In fact, it's *very*

    Another problem is curvature of field, which tends to be worse at
    closer distances. This is a change of focal length with the off-axis
    angle, and its main result is that the corners of a flat object will
    be out of focus when the center is OK, and vice versa. There are
    cameras whose film carriers are curved to deal with this. The
    original Minox spy camera and astronomers' original Schmidt
    telescopes (not the modern Schmidt-Cassegrains such as Celestron)
    come to mind.

    In any case, I definitely agree that stepping farther back from a
    flat object and using longer focal lengths to compensate will
    normally produce better results :0)

    BTW, expensive copy lenses are fixed-focal-length lenses which are
    designed to have (among other good things) no rectilinear distortion
    and no curvature of field. They are also typically of relatively
    long focal length and relatively small aperture, such as f:8, which
    simplifies the design problems.

    Gene E. Bloch, May 4, 2004
  9. RH Horn

    David Chien Guest

    Any of the Nikon CoolPix series that swivel (eg. older 9xx series, newer
    5xxx series) that have the slide copier adapter will do.


    Other slide copiers:


    You can find many other examples online -- basically, even a 2MP digital
    camera does a good enough job for most screen & 4x6" reprint purposes
    that you don't have to worry about the resolution, etc.

    Naturally, the closer you get towards 8MP and higher, the better your
    digital camera snapshots, but other than that, you do get far faster
    speed of captures vs. scanning.
    David Chien, May 4, 2004
  10. There are quite a few who are now doing that, including myself.
    I've started a page on this subject, but have a ways to go. I really
    haven't addressed the issues of using a camera/copy stand/slide
    duplicator yet, but I'm planning on doing so. is the start.
    It currently should help any one considering this as a project as to
    how to start.

    I'll offer some information, but you are going to have to make your
    own decision and selection. For one, you haven't provided near enough
    information for any one to answer the questions directly.
    This works if you don't have a lot of old family photos. In my case I
    have tens of thousands of slides and half again as many negatives.
    Then I have two very large boxes of prints dating back to a few
    tintypes as well as what is often referred to as "petrified cardboard"
    prints. I'm guessing I may have a bit over a 100 pounds in old
    If you are thinking of something on this order you want to make
    *MULTIPLE* copies to pass around and keep at least TWO
    in separate, safe places. CDs and DVDs are easily damaged and passing
    them around much is almost a guarantee they will get trashed sooner or
    In my own opinion this would be a waste of time. He's making very
    low resolution copies of slides on a digicam which would be low
    resolution for even a computer screen. A "slide duplicator" probably
    cost little more and would do a much better job.

    There are a number of devices used for copying slides and old
    photographs with varying degrees of success.

    To do it justice you really need a camera and copy stand.
    For slides there are "slide duplicators" that fit cameras that take
    interchangeable lenses and do a good job.
    However the first question you need to ask, is just what kind of
    resolution do you want or need in the finished product?
    Do you want something good enough to make 8 X 10s, or are you just
    interested in images good enough to display on a computer screen?
    This one is 1280 X 1024 which for a full height image is going to be
    close to a 1.6 megapixel image and allows no room for error. In a few
    years I'd expect to see twice that resolution so with a good setup I'd
    want at least twice the resolution, or an absolute minimum of 3.2
    megapixels for images just to display on a screen.

    IF OTOH you want images good enough to make prints up to 8 X 10 that
    means at 300 dpi for the print you should be thinking of a minimum of
    2400 X 3000 for a 7.2 mega pixel sensor. Actually you can get by
    quite nicely using a 5 megapixel camera.

    Remember too that 35mm slides are 1 by 1 1/2 inches which is a
    different aspect ratio that any digital cameras with which I am

    Copy stands in the hands of an experienced photographer do very well,
    but again it depends on what you want for the finished product.
    One thing I do want to point out and that is you will not come near
    the resolution of the original slide with most digital cameras. OTOH
    that may not be your goal.
    IF you are talking high resolution you are talking a lot more than a
    simple Point and shoot (P&S) camera. You are talking money from both
    the camera and computer standpoint. Large, high resolution images
    take up a lot of space on hard drives and when put on CDs or DVDs.
    This is kinda, sorta, an open ended question, but I can understand
    asking in this fashion. It's just that to properly answer it will
    take a lot of space.

    First, comparing cameras to scanned images. "It's very difficult to
    do". Scanners come in a wide variety of resolutions (dots per inch or
    dpi) and a considerable range of costs.

    Most of today's flat bed scanners will scan 2400 dpi. In general that
    is a useless resolution as it's rare to find something to scan in a
    flat bed that has that kind of detail.

    For example, if you scan a 4 X 5 inch print at 2400 dpi that is 9600
    by 12,000, or 115,200,000 (115 megapixels) and would take several
    hundred megabytes of Hard drive space at an 8 bit color depth. That
    is roughly 4 or 5 images on a CD. You will find few people who could
    afford a camera that could do that.

    So, from that approach you can not find a practical equivalent camera,
    BUT you don't need that kind of resolution even for large prints.

    Again, without knowing your goal as far as the final product it is
    almost impossible to answer in specific terms, but "in general you
    don't need to scan over 300 dpi on a flat bed. That makes a 4 X 5
    1200 by 1500 pixels or about the same as a high resolution screen
    display. Don't expect to scan a small image at high resolution and
    then create a high quality enlargement. Physics just doesn't work that

    I have seen a number of flat beds that come with a film strip adapter.
    My HP 5470c has one, but I've yet to see one I cared for. I use a
    Nikon LS 5000 ED scanner, but it is a tad more than most want to spend
    of scanning the "old family slides". It's also 4000 dpi which results
    in a TIFF of about 64 megs for each image. I have a bulk feeder for
    slides and it took me 6 weeks to get most of the slides scanned in
    which take up well over 100 Gig. That is approximately 25 DVDs.

    When it comes to using a copy stand you need to get it all properly
    aligned, the camera precisely leveled and the old photos aligned
    precisely at right angles to the camera lens axis. Although the
    process works very well you need a way to position the old prints
    properly, two and preferably four photo floods to light the old prints
    and a good size piece of non reflective glass to cover them. The glass
    holds the photos flat and helps to eliminate reflections from the

    Although your friend's flat bed may seem slow, setting up and using a
    copy stand can make it look blazingly fast.

    Using my flat bed I can copy about 4 prints a minute. The LS 5000 ED
    will do a slide including preview in about 20 seconds although I
    figure about 30 seconds. Then any post processing adds to that, but
    it does a fantastic job of "fixing" old, faded slides.

    There is a wide variety of dedicated slide and film strip scanners.
    The prices vary from cheap to pretty steep. The quality also varies.
    HOWEVER Unless you are aiming for the ultimate in resolution and want
    to archive the most information available in the images you really
    don't need the best on the market.

    You can purchase a very nice flat bed large enough to do legal
    documents and even a half way decent job on slides with resolutions on
    the order of 2400 dpi for a few hundred dollars. Say $200 to $300

    In the same price range you can purchase a very nice dedicated slide
    and film scanner.

    Look over the scanners and then look up the reviews on them and spend
    some time in the scanner news groups to see what people think of these

    There are some pros and cons. For one, regardless how it looks,
    *overall* scanning will be faster. OTOH although slower you can
    combine the functions and have a very nice digital camera for the same

    Myself, I much prefer the scanners when doing this kind of work. If
    very many slides and photos are involved it can be a long, tedious
    process that will require a lot of dedication to finish.
    In my case I figure I have at least another 6 months of scanning in
    negatives now that I have the slides scanned and then maybe as a
    kinda, sorta, SWAG another 3 months to do the old photos on the flat
    bed. Overall I'm looking at something on the order of a years project
    and I've been spending close to 3 hours a day on it and I have good,
    fast equipment.

    Good Luck and best wishes.

    Roger Halstead (K8RI & ARRL life member)
    (N833R, S# CD-2 Worlds oldest Debonair)
    Roger Halstead, May 4, 2004
  11. RH Horn

    RSD99 Guest

    "Roger Halstead" posted:

    "... If you are thinking of something on this order you want to make
    *MULTIPLE* copies to pass around and keep at least TWO
    in separate, safe places. CDs and DVDs are easily damaged ..."


    Also ... Don't forget that dye-based CDs & DVDs actually have a poor life expectancy.
    Metal-based CDRs and DVDs are *much* better.


    One other possibility is to use CD-RW disks, and record them as standard ISO-9660 CDs
    (i.e., not using the CD-RW "Packet Writing" software). I believe they also use a metal
    reflective layer.
    RSD99, May 4, 2004
  12. RH Horn

    Dave Hinz Guest

    And yet, the film that you're copying from is good for centuries rather
    than decades. Digitizing it is fine, great, makes for convenient
    distribution of the pictures, but please, _PLEASE_ don't destroy the
    originals. 20 years from now, the CD, DVD, or whatever you make
    today is going to be like trying to read open-reel data tape is
    today (not so likely), while 20 years from now, the photographs
    you copied to the computer will still be human readable, without
    trying to find hardware and OS to read it.
    Unless you're going to arrange for generations of your descendants to
    have access to the right hardware and software to use the data, all
    they're going to find is a bunch of shiny disks they can't do anything
    with. Any data format needs to be renewed every decade at most, or
    it'll become worthless.

    It's a great distribution format, but a lousy archival one.

    Dave Hinz
    Dave Hinz, May 4, 2004
  13. RH Horn

    Toby Guest

    None of the optics for digicams (unless you go with a very expensive model
    to which you can attach a macro lens with bellows and slide adapter) is well
    corrected for copying, nor are the file sizes comparable to what you get out
    of a modest film scanner.

    Toby, May 6, 2004
  14. RH Horn

    BioColor Guest

    I have a device called the Happenstance Slide Copier for my CP950. The
    Happenstance site no longer mentions this device. I used it to copy
    about 500 slides of my life in Hawaii back in the 70's. It was
    infinitely faster than trying to scan them on my flatbed scanner.

    It's just a little slide holder with a translucent square of plastic
    with grooves to hold a slide. Then there are some spacer bars about an
    inch long, and another piece of plastic with a hole that fits around
    the camera lens. You could achieve the same thing with the camera on a
    tripod over a light table.

    My two complaints are that there is no way to attach the holder to the
    camera. You just have to hold it on with your hand while you snap.
    Rotational alignment is manual using the LCD.

    You have to set the focus to "flower" mode. The CP950 would not focus
    on slides that didn't have details in the center of the slide. I had
    trouble with pictures with sky and with pictures of waves (those
    glassy, surfable kind).

    Results were as you might expect. Nothing as good as the original
    slide, but plenty good enough to look at on the computer.

    BioColor, May 6, 2004
  15. RH Horn

    RSD99 Guest

    "Toby" posted
    "... None of the optics for digicams (unless you go with a very expensive model
    to which you can attach a macro lens with bellows and slide adapter) is well
    corrected for copying, ..."


    That would probably be a PhaseOne or Betterlight "Scanning" back on a high-end studio view
    camera, with a corresponding high-end lens (such as a Schneider Apo Symmar or a "process"
    lens). Figure on the cost being roughly the same as a new car ... and *not* an economy
    RSD99, May 6, 2004
  16. OTOH IF the user is only interested in a high enough quality to
    display on a monitor the bellows and slide adapter might be
    satisfactory. Still... I'd want somethig I could get from at least a
    mid range scanner. Say, 2400 dpi. That would be a bit over 8
    megapixel equivelant with a TIF on the order of 20 to 25 megs.
    (I'm using 4000 dpi and the TIFFs are 60 megs)

    Another reason for going with a scanner is getting one with digital
    ICE. It does an IR prescan and removes fingerprints and a lot of
    small dust specs without noticeable degradation in the image, at least
    with E6 and C41 films. I don't know of any equivelant way to remove
    finger prints and dust from the camera image without losing
    resolution, or softening the image.

    I had poor luck with earlier versions of Digital ICE, but even with
    Kodachrome I'm quite happy with current versions. They don't remove
    the dust and fingerprints, but at least they don't look worse. <:))
    I've not tried it on B & W negatives, but it shouldn't work on those

    Incidentally, the device that was linked to earlier "appears to me" to
    be just a mount to hold the camera and slide holder in the proper
    relationship to each other. This arrangement worked well with slide
    duplicators on 35 mm cameras with interchangeable lenses. However
    dirt, dust, and fingerprints were copied right along with the slides
    albeit at a higher resolution than most scanners.

    Roger Halstead (K8RI & ARRL life member)
    (N833R, S# CD-2 Worlds oldest Debonair)\
    Roger Halstead, May 7, 2004
  17. RH Horn

    Tom Monego Guest

    You don't have to go stratophericif you are just copying 35 slides. For a
    professional slide duplicator you have a constant, flat light source, maybe
    some filters. Your camera on a rigid stand, generally with bellows, but
    extension tubes would be fine. A good lens, I use a Rodenstock 60mm f2.8 that
    the company recommends for duplicating. That said I just did a job for a client
    who sent me 300 medical slides for a PowerPoint presentation with 2 1/2 days to
    do it. The images were difficult and most were taking more than one try to get
    right. I took the light box side of my slide duplicator and my Nikon 995 and
    shot the rest. The client was happy, and I got some sleep but not much. This
    worked for the PPT presentation, but I wouldn't try to publish or print them.

    Tom Monego, May 7, 2004
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