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06-16-2010, 08:10 PM   #1
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Seeking Advice on Slide to Digital Transfer

For starters, I'm a long time Pentax user - meaning I still have lots of money invested in old Pentax film camera bodies, lenses and accessories. I also have lots of old images in the form of 35mm slides. This prior investment (or is it sunk costs) makes me somewhat reluctant to commit to new digital SLR equipment.

I might be more inclined to make the leap, if I had some favorable experience bringing my slide film images with me, so to speak. I'm sure I'm not alone in this situation.

The marketplace seems full of equipment for transfering slide images to digital media. Nikon has some extremely expensive units. Ebay has some very cheap ones.

I would like to turn to some of the more experienced members of the forum for a discussion of the merits of this range of equipment. My questions are relatively simple: What works? What doesn't? What is suitable for an average hobbyist? Can the current crop of DSLRs be used as their predecessors were for slide duplicating (except the finished product would be a digital file)? I hope you can sense where I'm coming from and provide some advice and guidance.

06-17-2010, 08:13 AM   #2
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A relatively inexpensive solution is a flatbed scanner. The Epson V series is excellent for this as they include ICE technology for removing dust and imperfections. I Have tried some of the cheaper 35mm slide scanners but they are essentially toys. They are actually just 5mp cameras and as such, lack the resolution for decent scans.
06-17-2010, 08:43 AM   #3
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Do you have a slide projector?
Do you have a DSLR and a lens that reach at least macro 1:2?
06-17-2010, 10:13 AM   #4
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Depending on the number of slides you want to convert and the amount of time you want to spend on this project it might actually be cheaper to send your slides out for scanning professionally. ScanCafe is one company that has offered this service for a number of years and I've read nothing but favorable reviews about them. I advise running the numbers for several approaches in terms of time and cash and then decide which path you want to take.

06-17-2010, 02:21 PM   #5
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You put the slide projector on a solid table, load the slide magazine as usual, unscrew the lens from the slide projector. Then put a tripod on the floor in front of the projector and mount a DSLR with a macro or close focusing capable lens on it (recon you can get around with tubes or bellows also). Aim the camera lens into the lens-opening of the projector. Enter the first slide and play around with camera position, focus and exposure until you are hapy. If you haven't figured it out yet, you are to focus the camera on the slide inside the projector. Sit down with the projector remote cable in one hand and the camera remote in the other and fire. I did 160 slides in half an hour yesterday.

How well it works depends on how evenly distributed light your projector gives. I got some strange effects first until I discovered that one of the diffusors were out of position. Made me go through and service and clean my Kodak carousell, which was needed anyway. Most sensitive are large areas of sky.

Typically, you will have so much light that you are shooting on very short times (so projector vibrations are not a problem) and can close down so much that the focusing is not extremely critical, which is good since slides will take somewhat different positions, especially paper slides or thin 1-2 mm slides. If you get too much light, you can put a grey filter on the camera lens.

The idea isn't mine. Can't find the link now, but I think it was some Canadians who described how they even connected the camera and the projector to a simple intervallometer so that they could load a magazine and go and have a cup of coffe. I have some plans, but have not got that far yet...
There is of course commercial versions (at least two brands I think), where they built this sort of automatic slide scanners where you can load the whole slide magazines. But they cost >1000 Euros and the results I've seen have not been impressive enough to spend that sort of money, especially as I already have the projector, DLSR and macro lens.

Most likely you have 24x36mm slides. And you Pentax DSLR APS-C sensor is about 16x24mm (don't remember the exaxt numbers for Pentax APS-C's right out of my head). If you want to cover exactly the whole slide on the whole sensor, you need to shoot at macro ration 16/24=24/36=1:1.5. But you will run into problems when you have a mixture of vertical and horizontal slides. Rather than running them separately, I set up the camera so that a vertical slide fits into the sensor in a horizontal position. That gives 16/36=1:2.25. Then you can run straight through the whole magazine, but you need to do some cropping afterwards. So you need a lens that can do at least 1:2 macro ratio.

Sure, I can get better result in the slide scanner, but then I will do 3-4 slides in the same time it takes me to run through a whole magazine with 80 slides.
06-17-2010, 03:16 PM   #6
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Thank you, Ty, Dave and Douglas of Sweden.

Ty, I'm doubtful that a commecial service is waranted for most of my collection. In any case, I'd like to see what I can accomplish on my own first.

Dave, I have a flatbed scanner (HP 4200c) but it lacks any feature for scanning slides.

Douglas of Sweden, I still have a projector but I have not yet made a decision to purchase a DSLR. I have an Olympus C750 which has some macro capability. I may give your approach a try with it, but it is only a 4.0 mega-pixel camera to begin with.
07-03-2010, 03:21 PM   #7
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Moved to film section- this is not an article.

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07-04-2010, 03:10 PM   #8
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Ruling out DIY projects and mutant slide projectors, here are your options:
  • Traditional slide duplicator/bellows setup on dSLR: Works pretty good, but very time intensive
  • Photo capable flatbed scanners (consumer-grade): These come with film and slide holders and can produce quite nice results, though with limited resolution. Batch scanning is possible.
  • Dedicated film scanners (consumer grade): Only a limited number support batch scanning of mounted slides. Price increases steeply with increased scan quality. Availability at the high end (Nikon) may be a problem. Used units are available, but at inflated prices for most brands.
  • Commercial-grade scanners (flatbed, drum, and other): Much better resolution that the consumer grade units at a much higher price
  • Slide digitizing services: If you are not into film and don't see yourself spending time to learn scanning skills (steep learning curve), this may be the best route.


(Have both a Nikon 5000 ED film scanner for 35mm and an Epson V700 flatbed for medium and large format...)

07-06-2010, 11:10 AM   #9
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A bellows slide duplicator perhaps gives best results - especially if you have the bits already. Once you get the focus and spatial relationships right, this can be relatively fast - mainly positioning each new slide.
Flatbed scanning is a pain. Can't use ICE with Kodachrome. And you'll need to get a new scanner
In a pinch, you can use a light table and macro lens, especially if you have a copy stand setup already.
07-06-2010, 11:45 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nesster Quote
...Can't use ICE with Kodachrome...
Depends on the scanner and the version of Digital ICE. Digital ICE works fine with Kodachrome on my Nikon 5000 ED. Not as well as with other color films, but definitely better than nothing!

07-08-2010, 12:17 AM   #11
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I've had good experience using a K20D and DA35 Macro, on a lightbox, with the camera on a tripod pointed down at the lightbox. The working distance is short, but that is good since you don't have to reach very far. With a 35mm lens a slide fills the frame.

You can see some examples here, most were done in a hurry. I probably could have spent more time lining up the slide perfectly square with the lens.

Assorted Slide Scans - Frank B. Baiamonte's Photos

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