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03-30-2016, 04:36 PM   #1
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Best light source for copying negatives and slides with a digital camera

I want to copy a lot of old pictures with my digital camera. I have a Pentax 645z with the 120mm macro lens. This week I received the light box I ordered. The illumination was horribly uneven including an ugly dark area. I have successfully used it to copy some negatives after locating a fairly evenly illuminated area on the surface. I also want to use the light box to review and sort old slides. The unit I bought is the Porta-Trace / Gagne 11x18 led lightbox. It will be sent back for a refund.

I want to copy both 35mm and 120 medium formats negatives and slides. I have a 120mm aftermarket negative holder that is designed to work with a scanner. I placed it on the lightbox. The negative rests about 1/8 inch above the lighted surface. I think I have a satisfactory setup using a sturdy tripod.

Here's my light source experience. I tried using a notepad and placing the negative holder above that but the led matrix shows up in the copied picture with a large weird grainy effect. Then the problem with this particular light box.

I'm not aware of a 120mm film and slide holder that could be used in conjunction with a flash unit.

Any recommendations for a better light box or illumination source?

Thanks.

03-30-2016, 04:49 PM   #2
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For 35mm, I've heard of people who use their smartphones, using a picture of a white card full screen with max brightness; alternatively an iPad for larger negatives.
03-30-2016, 04:59 PM   #3
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A while back I photographed hundreds of glass plate photos from the early 1900s. I used an old light box and neutral white (around 4000k) bulbs. It worked beautifully. I did want to influence the sepia tone of of the plates by introducing a yellow or blue cast from the lighting.
03-30-2016, 06:41 PM   #4
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A cell phone or notebook will not work as the pixels show up in the copied photo.

I'm looking for a recommendation for a lightbox, or source that is currently available, that someone has experience with.

03-30-2016, 08:05 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by PhilRich Quote
A cell phone or notebook will not work as the pixels show up in the copied photo.

I'm looking for a recommendation for a lightbox, or source that is currently available, that someone has experience with.
I use a Gepe myself and the light is even and works for my purposes.



I see they have this on the auction site as well as a few lightboxes like this -> Logan Porta-View Portable Light Box Trace Porta-Trace 17"X12" Drafting / Slides

I also see many light boxes on local craigslist if you have access to that.

Last edited by LesDMess; 03-30-2016 at 08:16 PM.
03-30-2016, 09:42 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by PhilRich Quote
I want to copy a lot of old pictures with my digital camera. I have a Pentax 645z with the 120mm macro lens. This week I received the light box I ordered. The illumination was horribly uneven including an ugly dark area. I have successfully used it to copy some negatives after locating a fairly evenly illuminated area on the surface. I also want to use the light box to review and sort old slides. The unit I bought is the Porta-Trace / Gagne 11x18 led lightbox. It will be sent back for a refund.

I want to copy both 35mm and 120 medium formats negatives and slides. I have a 120mm aftermarket negative holder that is designed to work with a scanner. I placed it on the lightbox. The negative rests about 1/8 inch above the lighted surface. I think I have a satisfactory setup using a sturdy tripod.

Here's my light source experience. I tried using a notepad and placing the negative holder above that but the led matrix shows up in the copied picture with a large weird grainy effect. Then the problem with this particular light box.

I'm not aware of a 120mm film and slide holder that could be used in conjunction with a flash unit.

Any recommendations for a better light box or illumination source?

Thanks.
As a professional service, I've copied, scanned and printed a lot of 120-format transparencies using a similar method.
-For the light source find an old color enlarger head and turn it upside down. My old Omega worked really well. The bulb is color corrected and the glass absorbs heat and has anti-Newton ring capability. Just make sure the bulb is good. I ended up ordering a new one on ebay that wasn't obscenely pricey and has lasted nicely.
-Your negative holder will work, but transparencies are a little awkward. My teenage son took a small sheet of 3/4-inch foamcore board (I also frame artwork) and cut and carved it to accommodate a 120 transparency. He also cut in a thumb-shaped space that helps me very quickly remove and replace new transparencies. If you are doing dozens and hundreds of these, efficiency helps a lot. Tape edges of the cut-out areas with white tape to eliminate bits of foam core Styrofoam from getting loose and onto the transparency surface.
-You want to lock down the foam core holder onto the reversed enlarger head. Blue tape works well and is forgiving.
-You can also use the color head C-M-Y controls to tweak white balance if necessary. I deal with multiple brands including aged Anscochrome, so a bit more control helps.
-Setup a flat-field macro lens on a tripod directly over the transparency. Create some kind of a registration point system and lock down the tripod to ensure repeatable framing, as things get jostled accidentally all the time.
-Cropped-sensor cameras work just fine for this. I use a Sigma 70mm macro lens.
-According to my experience, the results will be different from say scanning materials with a flat-bed dual-illuminated scanner that has transparency and negative holders. Sometime the enlarger head is better, sometimes not, but the enlarger head is sure a lot quicker. Most of the time I thought the scanned image was at least as good as the original, probably due to fading and aging of the source materials. Most of my clients inherited stuff that was not stored with archival standards or just cleanliness in mind.
-You'll have enough headroom to crop edges if vignetting happens, or Lightroom anti-vignetting is quite effective for these purposes.

Hope this helps.

M
03-31-2016, 11:04 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by LesDMess Quote
I use a Gepe myself and the light is even and works for my purposes.



I see they have this on the auction site as well as a few lightboxes like this -> Logan Porta-View Portable Light Box Trace Porta-Trace 17"X12" Drafting / Slides

I also see many light boxes on local craigslist if you have access to that.
I agree that the Gepe light box works very well. Here is a link with more info:Midwest Photo Exchange Gepe - Pro 6x8 Slim Light Table with Case & AC/DC Adapter

---------- Post added 03-31-2016 at 11:15 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Miguel Quote
As a professional service, I've copied, scanned and printed a lot of 120-format transparencies using a similar method.
-For the light source find an old color enlarger head and turn it upside down. My old Omega worked really well. The bulb is color corrected and the glass absorbs heat and has anti-Newton ring capability. Just make sure the bulb is good. I ended up ordering a new one on ebay that wasn't obscenely pricey and has lasted nicely.
-Your negative holder will work, but transparencies are a little awkward. My teenage son took a small sheet of 3/4-inch foamcore board (I also frame artwork) and cut and carved it to accommodate a 120 transparency. He also cut in a thumb-shaped space that helps me very quickly remove and replace new transparencies. If you are doing dozens and hundreds of these, efficiency helps a lot. Tape edges of the cut-out areas with white tape to eliminate bits of foam core Styrofoam from getting loose and onto the transparency surface.
-You want to lock down the foam core holder onto the reversed enlarger head. Blue tape works well and is forgiving.
-You can also use the color head C-M-Y controls to tweak white balance if necessary. I deal with multiple brands including aged Anscochrome, so a bit more control helps.
-Setup a flat-field macro lens on a tripod directly over the transparency. Create some kind of a registration point system and lock down the tripod to ensure repeatable framing, as things get jostled accidentally all the time.
-Cropped-sensor cameras work just fine for this. I use a Sigma 70mm macro lens.
-According to my experience, the results will be different from say scanning materials with a flat-bed dual-illuminated scanner that has transparency and negative holders. Sometime the enlarger head is better, sometimes not, but the enlarger head is sure a lot quicker. Most of the time I thought the scanned image was at least as good as the original, probably due to fading and aging of the source materials. Most of my clients inherited stuff that was not stored with archival standards or just cleanliness in mind.
-You'll have enough headroom to crop edges if vignetting happens, or Lightroom anti-vignetting is quite effective for these purposes.

Hope this helps.

M
This is also good information. Either the Gepe light box or this approach will work well. I don't think all colour heads are safe to use inverted, but I seem to remember that some Omega heads were designed for that purpose. Perhaps Miguel could tell us exactly which head he is using. As well, Kaiser used to make an enlarger/copy stand that was designed for this sort of work. Probably hard to find now.

Another option for holding transparencies is to use an enlarger film carrier.

If you have a large number of transparencies of the same size to do, you can try taping everything in place so you aren't constantly repositioning. Duct tape is your friend.
03-31-2016, 04:48 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by John Poirier Quote
I don't think all colour heads are safe to use inverted, but I seem to remember that some Omega heads were designed for that purpose. Perhaps Miguel could tell us exactly which head he is using.
[deleted]

Another option for holding transparencies is to use an enlarger film carrier.

If you have a large number of transparencies of the same size to do, you can try taping everything in place so you aren't constantly repositioning. Duct tape is your friend.
OMEGA B DICHROIC COLOR HEAD. I think it was designed for copying capabilities. The enlarger film carrier wasn't as efficient as the foamcore cutout in real world use.

I also found blue tape far easier and more forgiving than working with duct tape for this kind of work.


M

03-31-2016, 07:18 PM   #9
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Les, thanks for posting the picture. Based on my experience I'm wary about how even the lighting would be. Your unit produces even lighting - I'm looking to get one like yours. Thanks also for the other replies!
04-08-2016, 10:29 PM - 1 Like   #10
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If this helps any, here is what I am doing. Love the results:
Using a copier stand, macro lens, tablet with a light box app, custom built lego stand to hold an old darkroom negative carrier away from the light/pixels. That way the light is nicely dispersed.
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04-10-2016, 05:45 PM   #11
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OK, I see that a lightbox is needed when using a tablet as a light source. That is good to know for future reference. Thanks.
02-16-2019, 03:20 PM   #12
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Sorry to revive such an old thread...
Miguel, would you please explain how you could use an enlarger head for this application? I have a Durst M601 head that i tried but no matter the distance of the head from the negative and from the camera i get a very bright spot in the middle of the frame and extreme vignetting for the rest of the negative. I tried with the enlarger lens on and off the enlarger head but itís more or less the same. Is there something Iím missing? Hope you can give some advice. Thanks!
02-16-2019, 03:25 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Photopathe Quote
Sorry to revive such an old thread...
Miguel, would you please explain how you could use an enlarger head for this application? I have a Durst M601 head that i tried but no matter the distance of the head from the negative and from the camera i get a very bright spot in the middle of the frame and extreme vignetting for the rest of the negative. I tried with the enlarger lens on and off the enlarger head but itís more or less the same. Is there something Iím missing? Hope you can give some advice. Thanks!
Welcome to the forums

Given the age of this thread, you would be much better served by posting a new thread asking for assistance in what you're trying to achieve

Kind regds...
10-31-2019, 07:06 AM   #14
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This picture of me as a kid hasn't had any post processing other than default from raw. I used a camping lamp with negative then a glass plate on top. The DSLR was a KP with a 40mm ltd lens. It's easy to do with ok results. I do think for the many other photographs I will get a dedicated scanner though.

Lanktoo 2 in 1 Rechargeable Camping Lantern & Power Bank for Hiking Fishing Emergencies - Super Bright, Lightweight, Water Resistant.: Amazon.co.uk: Sports & Outdoors
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