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03-02-2018, 05:06 PM - 1 Like   #1
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Crazy Fun Digitizing Slides Old School Modern

A recent article in Outdoor Photographer magazine sold me on ignoring my already outdated scanner and digitizing some of my 30,000 old slides the modern way--by shooting macro photos with my DSLR. I didn't just forget the slides for 10 years, but only scanned maybe 100 as needed...then forgot them for 10 years.

So I got lucky and found a Pentax Slide Holder 1X K over in Japan on ebay...basically a tube that has a neutral white diffuser over one end, with a slide holder slot next to that light source. No glass inside, just fixed extension of 100mm. The other end of the tube is designed to take the reversed end of a normal lens...reversed for magnification. Then you point it at your light table or rig a flash off camera. Seemed way easier than a bellows unit and racks and add on slide copy bellows etc. So it finally arrived...

Well I figured this 30+ year old Slide Holder rig could be used with a macro lens NOT reversed and copy slides with a lens optimized for copy work. Yeah, this time I was right. Because I'm still shooting an APS body I don't need 1:1 Macro...at least for now. Desiring a neutral color cast lens lead me to older models. So I started with an A 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens and dialed in the half life size 9.44 inch minimum focus distance to work.

The rig: camera body, 20mm auto extension tube to reduce minimum focusing distance, Pentax A 50 Macro, knurled Pentax Reverse Adapter 49mm, Slide Holder 1X.

Focusing is with magnified live view. Shutter tripped with remote cable and 2 second delay which also locks up the mirror. Shake is moderated with this tube, but it does translate.

For light I ran a wired system with 540 souped up with Quantum Turbo battery for the actual shooting. Tipped a color corrected light table (from my slide shooting days) on it's side pointed at me so the vertical wall of light provided focusing and positioning light--the Slide Holder 1X has a rotating slide mount for positioning in the frame.

This is first few hours JPEG work while dialing it in. Completely unbelievable results...good enough to reshoot my old scanned slides (maybe after I get a K2 or something?). I have control of adjusting white balance both with digital controls in the camera body and by altering the light source (see photos). I also have the ability to change exposure slightly and started playing with using the highlight blinkies to dial down the exposure in live view until about half the blinkies are gone. Real world, if it's blown out or blocked up on the original transparency it isn't recoverable, but basic mods work surprisingly well! Amount of dust as seen in the droplet photos is a tolerable amount to spot away...at least as easy as fixing a scan.

So now I have a 35 Macro Ltd on order to see if I can get away without extension tube? A math person could figure this out...shooting full frame slide onto APS at 104mm working distance including reverse ring. The 35 has a minimum focus distance of 5.5" but I think that's from the sensor not from the front element? And exactly how far out does it rack when focused close? Rather than struggle with the math, I ordered the lens in the marketplace. If extension is required, it's required?

Stonefly Husks are 3 full stops apart. Original was somewhat overexposed but not blown out. Simply used exposure compensation for this much range.

Ram images show first Shade white balance, second is 5000 Kelvin white balance, third is Cloudy white balance and last one is Flash auto multizone or whatever that's called...I have a different example with natural light too.

First droplet photo was shot at meter, second was at minus 1 exposure compensation which is what knocked down half the blinkies in the highlights. The few dust specks will be easy to fix. I prefer the greens at meter, prefer the grass bloom at minus 1 so this process could be enhanced in Lightroom or...

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Last edited by Ron Boggs; 03-02-2018 at 05:56 PM.
03-02-2018, 06:21 PM   #2
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Thanks for posting this. Does pixel shift have any effect on the results?
03-02-2018, 06:40 PM - 1 Like   #3
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35 Macro Ltd for me did not require any extension to shoot 35mm film. It can focus close enough so frame image occupies whole APS-C sensor.
03-02-2018, 07:22 PM   #4
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Hey Tibbetts. Haven't gotten to pixel shift yet...still testing things like "how far down can I dial an already dark sky before it muds up?' And finding custom setting 4 for the flash so I can really test the color balance. Also waiting to dig out something ridiculously sharp for first try with pixel shift...with the size of film grain so much bigger than the pixel of shift I think the film grain is my limiting factor? I'll find out soon. Haven't even found my best slides yet (have them saved separately/misplaced at the moment).

Thanks Jumbleview. My fingers and toes math and guess-&-by-golly ciphering thought the 35 would be pretty darn close...more so than the 1:1 50 Macro's. Have to be honest. The old A Macro is going to be pretty tough to beat!

Note that the 43 Ltd doesn't work for close focus work...won't quite truly focus and requires lots of extension to bring that foot and a half minimum focus down to under 4 inches. I tried it years ago either reversed or in some other macro realm and it didn't work then either. So it is obviously not of the same type of lens group construction as most normal 50mm lenses. I think most of those lenses kind of like being reversed to play macro from time to time.

---------- Post added 03-02-18 at 07:28 PM ----------

Not to ruin the mood, but good luck finding another one of these Slide Holder 1X units. I've checked several times with fairly picky searches over the last 6 weeks. The one I grabbed is the only one I've seen. So this is not a wait and see item if you find one!

03-03-2018, 09:37 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ron Boggs Quote
Hey Tibbetts. Haven't gotten to pixel shift yet...still testing things like "how far down can I dial an already dark sky before it muds up?' And finding custom setting 4 for the flash so I can really test the color balance. Also waiting to dig out something ridiculously sharp for first try with pixel shift...with the size of film grain so much bigger than the pixel of shift I think the film grain is my limiting factor? I'll find out soon. Haven't even found my best slides yet (have them saved separately/misplaced at the moment).

Thanks Jumbleview. My fingers and toes math and guess-&-by-golly ciphering thought the 35 would be pretty darn close...more so than the 1:1 50 Macro's. Have to be honest. The old A Macro is going to be pretty tough to beat!

Note that the 43 Ltd doesn't work for close focus work...won't quite truly focus and requires lots of extension to bring that foot and a half minimum focus down to under 4 inches. I tried it years ago either reversed or in some other macro realm and it didn't work then either. So it is obviously not of the same type of lens group construction as most normal 50mm lenses. I think most of those lenses kind of like being reversed to play macro from time to time.

---------- Post added 03-02-18 at 07:28 PM ----------

Not to ruin the mood, but good luck finding another one of these Slide Holder 1X units. I've checked several times with fairly picky searches over the last 6 weeks. The one I grabbed is the only one I've seen. So this is not a wait and see item if you find one!
Iíve been copying my slides with a K1, bellows and slide copier. A short extension tube needs to be mounted to the body to allow the bellows too mount, and I am using a Fuji enlarging lens as the optic. It seems to be working really well.
A few years ago, a local lab was closing and he gave me his Beseler slide duplicator. I finally got around to buying a T-Mount adaptor to fit the K1 onto it. At some point I will fire that rig up and see how it does.
03-03-2018, 03:02 PM   #6
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This digitizing game is mostly lots of fun with nice success, however, I'm purposely playing with lots of variables and starting to drive myself nuts...yesterday I could adjust exposure easily with exposure compensation. Today I had one image that I went as far as minus 3 and as high as plus 1 with no visible affect on the brightness of the copy...Apparently, it's important to keep the Slide Holder rig aimed over the top of the "wall" of light? The vertical light table is color adjusted and only used for focusing and slide position and shouldn't impact the flash lighted digital image? But it does...aimed back over the top of the light source I regained control over exposure...That's just one of the fun things I'm learning here...(unless I changed some other variable in the process and now I know even less).

Tibbetts, I tried pixel shift. I'd say maybe 1% sharper. Barely perceptible at high magnification. But the sharpening seems to be primarily of the edges of individual film grains which look better 1% softer. Plus, you can't light with flash for pixel shift so you end up with several second exposures with just a light table for illumination in my case. So for work flow, for today I'm sticking with standard single shot with flash illumination.

Pic is the "studio."

Light table set up vertical and not directly in line with Slide Holder (except when shooting Pixel Shift images). Indirect light used for focusing and slide positioning.

Flash with diffuser in place powered by Turbo battery and connected to camera with 5 pin long cable.

Rocket blower for the ever-present dust on each slide (will use my hobby air compressor for higher volume). White legal pad to prevent dark worktable from reflecting reddish brown into my scene. Bifocals to give me a small chance of seeing what the hell I'm doing.

Camera/Slide Holder rig set up level on 300 series tripod aimed about a foot over the "light wall" and reset lower and aimed at light wall when using pixel shift.
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03-03-2018, 05:13 PM   #7
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To get a little more consistent exposure (and easier use), it shouldn't be too hard to make a small light box based on a few white LEDs. They can be obtained now with a high CEI (close to sunlight quality) and in a number of color temperatures (although auto white balance should take care of any issues). Pair those with a commercially available LED driver and you could control the brightness of your illuminator. Just check some of the on-line LED sources if you're interested (google LEDs). You can run them continuously or if you research it enough, you can strobe them, controlling the flash intensity just like some ring lights do (or just buy a cheap ring light and modify it as your source).

Whatever you come up with, you can clip it on the front of your macro arrangement so distance/angle/etc. doesn't become a factor from slide to slide.

In any case, you have some nice results so far. Great pictures.
03-03-2018, 07:21 PM   #8
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Yes Bob, a fixed light source would be better. One of those LED light boxes with ability to dial in color temp would be most helpful because all those old film shots had the color temp locked in the emulsion.

I still haven't done enough testing to "get" what's happening with ambient light sources with varying colors and the flash's low output test pop 2 seconds before the real image happens.

I have two unused 500FTZ's that I can dial in manually as well. Could potentially fix a bracket to hold it semi-permanently too.

I have two small commercial jobs that require slide duplication in the next 60 days and both are low volume so might not justify too much lighting expense. After looking at the low quality of my shooting back then--box after box of slide sleeves, not sure I want to get too far into this stuff. Always been a brutal editor, but now I'm kind of inclined not to bother unless it's a top-20 lifetime portfolio shot. That decade shooting 67II's and Hasselblad Xpan II's really ruined me from the smaller formats and I'm still apparently snobbish that way.

A couple more color temp examples. First shot, the hawk was duped with the auto multi-zone flash setting and shows quite warm. Second shot at 5000 Kelvin with flash comes out noticeably blue. The weather was high haze bright reflecting off clean snow so I tried natural light pointed at my snowy yard on auto multizone and it's so blue it's damn near white in that last frame--lichen on the branch misses real color badly. However film colors for chartreuse lichen never seemed to get it right either. So first and last frame's were shot at the same white balance but one was lit with flash, one was lit naturally. Quite a difference!

These differences in color temp are also why I tend to do a bit of WB bracketing when in the field...rather do it in the field with color references in front of me than at a computer somewhere.

---------- Post added 03-03-18 at 07:54 PM ----------

Just noticed in EXIF that the flash didn't fire in the first hawk shot--2.5 second shutter speed--so it's extra warm with Cloudy balance and light table color as the only illumination which is much warmer than flash color.

Flash often timed out while prepping a new slide and first shot I'd fire before flash knew I was back...that's just to make the technical stuff even more confusing for me.

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Last edited by Ron Boggs; 03-03-2018 at 07:35 PM.
03-08-2018, 04:43 PM   #9
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Just a quick follow-up...The 35 Macro Ltd does not work out on the Slide Holder. Focuses fine in that short distance but only fills half the APS frame. My shortest ext, tube is 12mm and it's too long to allow the lens to focus. Even if I had a 10mm tube it wouldn't be enough to fill the frame.

Helicoid extension tube on order to see how it works to completely fill frame and allow cropping with the A50 Macro. 20mm tube got the nearly full frames above. I'm thinking the 26mm shortest distance on the Helicoid will be almost perfect for full frame with further extension allowing overall crop as desired...we'll see!
03-30-2018, 04:03 PM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ron Boggs Quote
. . . Even if I had a 10mm tube
Try cannibalizing any old PK body for a lens mount and epoxy a body mount adapter to it back-to-back for a short(er) extension tube. A large diameter 'washer' sandwiched between them can offer additional adjustment.

I've used that method to build Q-body extension tubes which need less depth than the usual 10-12mm rings commercially available.

If a bare body mount's a little too loose, build up layers of clear acrylic enamel (fingernail polish) for a friction fit.
03-30-2018, 05:05 PM   #11
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Thanks pacer! I've played around with it a bit and the 35 Macro just can't both fill the frame AND focus at the right distance for the Slide Holder...to almost fill the frame, the 50 is the cat's meow.

The helicoid ext. tube is a blast for super magnification with the 50mm (not while copying slides) and it does work with the slide holder. It's a little too long to provide enough range to play variable cropping games with the helicoid--darn! So with a small crop still required, I'm inclined to stick with the auto aperture with the fixed 20mm tube. The 3-4% more frame filling with the manual helicoid doesn't sway me away from the automation for open aperture focusing etc. Perhaps for large-scale copy projects without focusing in between, I could handle using the helicoid with stop down metering. I still haven't tried a modern 50 Macro with 1:1 and closer focusing than the old 50...
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