Digitizing Film Without a Scanner (pt. 1)

We interrupt regularly scheduled programming to bring you this special, 3-day, analog event.

I have quite a few film cameras:

  • Vivitar 250/SL
  • Asahi Pentax K-1000
  • mamiya/sekor 1000 DTL
  • Ricoh 35 ZF
  • Pentax Espio AF Zoom 35-70
  • Pentax ZX50
  • Lomography LC-A (refurb model)

Most of these came second- or third-hand from various family members, and most of them spend most of their time sitting on a shelf, as decorative items, rather than as tools or toys. Why don’t I shoot more?

Well, I do carry the LC-A around with me most of the time (back and forth to work everyday, anyway), but it takes me a month or six to shoot through a roll. It’s partly for lack of time, partly for a lack of vision, partly for a fear of wasting film. And then there’s the cost of processing: ~$.50/frame for developing and a set of color 4×6 prints at Walgreens (plus $3.50-$7 for a cd with scans of varying quality); and my local B/W place stopped doing black and white of any type about 3 months ago, but if I recall it was over $20 for developing and scanning at 1942×1305 (2.5MP).  If I send the film off mail-order, mpix does C41 only for $.19/frame, developed, with 1228×1818 scans at 72dpi available for download and a DVD of selected images at 300dpi available for $10/15; TheDarkroom.com does 35mm C41, B/W, E6 for $11/roll, developed and scanned (at 1024×1536) or $15-20 for scans at printable sizes. So it could get a bit expensive if I were to start shooting more, unless…

I have these fantasies about shooting more B/W film, maybe getting an old Twin Lens (or maybe a mamiya rb67), and developing/scanning myself at home: a darkbag, developing canister, chemicals, and everything else for developing black & white at home would run maybe $100 and I could potentially scan the film with my camera and get close to 16MP, instead of the ~2-5 offered by the online houses. It would cost me some time to process the pics, but it might be worth it, if I start shooting a bunch of black & white.

But given that I’m sitting on 16 rolls of color film (and a single use camera that expired in 2004 or so), plus rolls in progress in 2-3 cameras, and given that I don’t shoot film much at present, and given that I’m a colorist by nature, I doubt I’ll be getting into the b/w-develop-at-home game any time soon.

But the self-scanning sounds like a good idea: get the negs processed at the nearest one hour place with prints; and then process selected negatives at home.

So to that end, I spent some hours last weekend researching and testing some ways of duplicating negatives and converting them to positive in Lightroom.

First up (and that’ll be all for today’s post: stay tuned: InshaAllah I’ll share more on this tomorrow and Wednesday): determining distance from the film-plane with an old slide of a motorcycle rally that I think Cassandra Cockroft (my Dad’s second wife) shot long ago.

I started out with the Vivitar 70-210mm f/3.5, in Macro mode, on a tiny little extension:

Nope. Not even close.
Nope. Not even close.

Let’s try again.

slides|14|©JamesECockroft-20140912

At this point (actually, a few frames later), I switched to the mamiya/sekor 50mm f/2, which is almost the sharpest lens I own (and can focus… the CP-2 duplicating lens is probably a good bit sharper), and I soon had it, almost:

slides|15|©JamesECockroft-20140912

At this point,  I realized I would need some kind of support structure that would make attempts repeatable, so I took the rest of the extension tubes I had and attached them to the end of the lens…

previously unreleased|6|©JamesECockroft-20140913

And after a couple more attempts, I got to this:

 

previously unreleased|8|©JamesECockroft-20140913

Not bad for mostly handheld. (Note the circular edges of the extension tube rig making a strange sort of vignette thing in the corners…)

But that wasn’t going to cut it for rolls of film (and develop-only processing at CVS was maybe $7 the last time I checked).

I needed something more. But that will have to wait for tomorrow, I’ve already gone on way too long today.

Oh! Before I forget… One last thing:

Slides look pretty cool in the right light… I noticed this as I was playing around, and with some difficulty captured the silver (or whatever it is) and three-dimensional/etched quality of the film. I had no idea it would be like this at all.

slides|10|©JamesECockroft-20140912

And if you’ve made it on this long, your reward is a nice gallery of the above images. Congratulations!

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