How To Scan Film Using Your Phone & Tablet Plus Low Budget Phone Scanning vs Low Budget Flatbed Scan

Just like many of you, I scan my film as a labor of love. It started as something I enjoyed to something that became more like work. Just natural when you have time constraints due to family and job. It can be time consuming but when the results are good, they’re definitely worth it. And sometimes when I get a really good scan I’m reminded of just good film can still be in terms of resolution and detail.

However those of us familiar with using a flatbed scanner for scanning negatives know that sometimes it really can take a lot of time going through even one roll of film if you want or need to make the necessary corrections to get the best out of the images.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with “alternative” scanning methods, primarily as a way of saving time. I’ve tried all the things people try, from DSLR to Mirrorless to Phone camera.

ContaxBuddha

“Big Buddha” 2005. Contax G1, 28mm f/2.8 Zeiss Biogon. The image was “scanned” with an Olympus E-1 and 90mm f/2 Zuiko Macro lens via adapter.

Above is an early attempt at “alternative” scanning. The original photo was taken with a Contax G1, and 28mm f/2.8 Biogon taken on Fuji Velvia film in 2005. I “scanned” this image in 2005 using an Olympus E-1 5mp camera with 90mm f/2 Zuiko Macro lens via adapter. The vibrancy and detail were amazing but setting up the tripod and getting the light right was somewhat cumbersome so I didn’t use this method much.

It’s funny that back in 2005, DSLR “scanning” didn’t really catch on but it’s very popular today, especially with today’s high resolution cameras. But in my opinion, 5mp was perfectly acceptable and I made a nice 8×10 print from the above photo!

CLZoeP

“Time Out” 2009. Leica CL, 40mm f/2 Leitz Summicron. Also “scanned” using the Olympus E-1 5mp and 90mm f/2 Zuiko Macro Lens.

Recently I tried a low budget scanning method using my iPad as a light box and using my iPhone to “scan” the images. You can find a few tutorials on YouTube on how to do this. It seems everyone does it a little differently.

Here’s what I did:

1) Use white background on iPad as a lightbox.

2) Use one roll of tape as a spacer so the film is not too close to the iPad. Too close and the brightness of the iPad or tablet may wash out details or show its pixels.

3) Put film on top of the first tape roll. I use the negative holder from my Epson scanner to keep the film flat. If you don’t have a holder you should find another way of keeping the film flat. Thin glass might help.

4) Put other roll of tape on top of the film and position the image you want to scan. This might require some moving around as most of the cameras on our phones are not placed in the center of the phone itself. The tape roll also acts as support to keep the phone steady.

5) Tap the image on your phone to focus and take a few shots to ensure that at least one is sharp

5) Import into editing program on your phone.

Below is a step by step photo show and comparison. The original image was taken with a Mamiya AF-D and 80mm f/2.8 Mamiya AF lens on Tri-X 400 in 2016! Yet another camera I’ve used but never profiled. It was a great camera system if you need to know!

My flatbed scanner is a now very old Epson V500. I reckon it must be at least eight or nine years old!

My low budget iPad/iPhone scanner! See details in the article on how to do it.

A closer view of a possible Medium Format scan.

An image scanned using the iPad/iPhone method then opened in the Adobe Photoshop Express app.

The final image using the iPad/iPhone scanner. The negative needs to be inverted to reveal the positive image. I then processed the image using the sliders and controls in PS Express.

A close up of the above image. This might be fine for a lot of people, and certainly for a quick preview. But as you’ll see below, it’s no comparison to a flatbed scanner.

Same image scanned using an Epson V500 Flatbed Scanner.

Close up of the Epson V500 scan. Note the details in the fabric of the ski hat, the eyes, the teeth. There’s really no comparison!

WHY DO THIS?

Why use your phone to scan you might ask? I can think of a few reasons but probably most important is that it’s incredibly faster. If you just want to get an idea if the image is worth scanning on your flatbed scanner this will do it. It takes literally seconds to scan using the phone camera vs minutes using the flatbed. If you’re pressed for time this adds up!

Also using this method and a photo editing app such as Adobe’s Photoshop Express or Lightroom, you can do it all on your phone and not need to turn on your computer.

CONCLUSIONS?

Well, based on my initial testing the iPhone scans are surprisingly usable as a quick preview. Heck some might even be able to use these scans for posting to social media etc.

However, as expected, the scans from a “real” scanner such as my old Epson V500 are still infinity better. I’ve included crops from both the phone scan and the Epson for you to see.

Check for details in the fabric of the ski hat, and in the face and teeth. There’s no comparison really! But if you want to see images in a pinch, this works!

Now some of you might say, oh well, an optical scanner is even better than the flatbed and yes, I agree cause I had that covered too! Had an optical scanner in 2003 or 2004 and the scans were superior to the flatbed. To this day, I regrettably sold it but the flatbed is a good compromise. For the record, I’ve never used a drum scan so I leave it up to YOU to tell me about it! 🙂

Next step is for me to do a comparison with the Epson flatbed scanner vs using a modern high resolution DSLR or Mirrorless with a macro lens. This should be closer!

Till next time happy Sunday good peeps!

“Happy Sunday!” 2016. Mamiya AF-D, 80mm f/2.8 AF, Tri-X in D76. Zayda doesn’t want to be left out! She wishes everyone a happy Sunday morning good peeps! 🙂

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2 thoughts on “How To Scan Film Using Your Phone & Tablet Plus Low Budget Phone Scanning vs Low Budget Flatbed Scan

  1. Nice article bro. Interesting. In my experience my Epson V700 could not match the lab scans from the Noritsu Koki. And when the lab sold the Noritsu and obtained a 5K flat bed scanner, I had to pack them in. I think you remember that situation.
    But thanks for settling the issue of using an iphone.! .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bro yes I remember that situation! I agree I don’t think any flatbed can match the classic Noritsu machines. It’s a shame that they’re only in specialized shops now!

      Like

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