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.

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“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!

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“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! 🙂

Time Machine Part I: Portraits Then & Now

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From left, Zoe in 2008 vs Zay in 2016.

For your Throwback Thursday, we take a ride in the Time Machine.

First we go back to 2008. At the time I was smitten by the Leica 50mm f/2 Summar, an old Leica ltm mount lens. I had just gotten it off ebay for under $100. The glass was advertised as having some light haze, but otherwise ok.

When I received it, I was not expecting much as the Summar is known to be a “soft” lens in the Leica lineage. I know Leicaphiles are a passionate bunch and I can hear some say, “Oh no, my Summar is not soft, it is very sharp!”

Hey, I am not debating you. When I say the Summar is “soft” I say that in relative terms. It may be sharper than other lenses of that era or it may be sharp stopped down, but that’s not the point. In general use, wide open or shot near a strong light source, the lens does not have modern coatings/corrections that would prevent abberations from showing up. And as a Leica fan myself, I actually like the fact that it’s a “soft” lens.

But the fact that it was a near seventy year old lens at the time I got it, I had realistic expectations. However, when I tried it on my Epson R-D1, I was awestruck by the beauty of the images it provided.

Sure, if you’re not careful, the lens can flare and produce a soft veil of haze around your subjects, but if some care is taken with regards to your light source, it can produce images that I would say had that distinct but undefinable Leica “glow.”

Since that time, I have come to rely on a 50mm f/2 Summicron as my go to lens for Leica. However, I will pop the Summar every now and then for portraits.

Flash-Forward to eight years later, 2016…

The photo of Zay was taken with…an iPhone 6s Plus! The baby smiles instinctively, unaware of any camera, regardless of brand or type, and even unaware of the Gerber baby food all over her mouth 🙂

While I will admit that the iPhone 6s is perfectly capable of much better images than this one, nonetheless, I will stand by what I’ve told people for a long time. If you want to make nice portraits, and you want to do it cheap, all you need is a good 6mp camera and a 50mm lens. It doesn’t have to be a rangefinder like the R-D1. Just get a Nikon D70 or Canon Rebel and a 50mm f/1.8 and you will have a very fine portrait machine.

So what have we learned in eight years? Well, for one, the phone cameras today are amazingly capable. In 2008, I don’t think I’d rely on my first generation iPhone for anything but snaps. Heck even today, I just use my 6s for snaps, but I do know if I needed better than snaps I can do it with this phone. But my main use of the iPhone today is to take HD videos for my own records.

So many wonderful things you can do with today’s phone cameras! However, the one thing they can’t do well, due to the laws of optics, is they can’t produce a lot of good bokeh, simply due to the smaller sensors inside. However, it seems the new iPhone 7 aims to change this by “creating” Bokeh in their “Portrait” mode. I’ve seen some samples and some look great, some so-so. I’m not sure though if I really like the concept of fake bokeh. Not that it wouldn’t be useful to some, but for me I think that once you have fake bokeh as a norm, what’s next? Fake backgrounds? Fake locations? You get my drift? Soon the whole photo will become fake and what’s the point then?

Anyway back to the topic at hand, I’ve also learned that I still love my old school gear such as the R-D1, which today would be considered “Classic Digital” and of course a Camera Legend.

I’m fascinated with time, time travel, “Time Machine” and anything else having to do with our perceptions of time, so look out for more “Time Machine” installments.

I’ve also learned that two babies can definitely be very different from each other! Sure we all know that as kids grow up, they become their own people with unique personalities. What I didn’t think of was that even at the baby stage, my two girls are as different as night and day, but at the same time, beautiful and similarly sweet.

Have a great Thursday folks, the week is almost over. If you’ve gotten something for your tax returns, maybe time for some new toys 🙂

Photo Of The Day: “Classic Junker”

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I shot this a couple of weeks ago. I was driving to see some friends when I spotted this “classic” junker underneath some spring blossoms. The contrast of the old car and the color of the buds struck my eyes. Right away, I said HO! I have to get some shots! 🙂

I actually had to turn the car around to come back and take the shot. I’m not so good on cars, but it looked to me like a Ford? If any of you out there can identify it, please do so! I did not come out of my car to take this shot. I respect people and did not want anyone freaking out! I know I probably would be disturbed if I saw someone coming up and taking shots of my car. But this is a vintage old car and it stands out in today’s world, so if I were the owner, I would probably have to expect it.

I shot this with my trusty and old Epson R-D1 and 40mm f/2 Summicron-M. I got this camera in 2006 and if you had told me then that ten years later I’d still be shooting with it, I’d probably say you were crazy! For one, I didn’t think I’d hold on to it for this long. Secondly, I didn’t think it would last this long. But I still have it, and it’s been surprisingly reliable.

I guess I’m still one of those crazy guys (and there’s lots of us out there) who still carries a camera with them everywhere, even when a good cell phone camera will do. I don’t know, I guess I’m still old school.

The Epson R-D1 is the world’s first digital rangefinder camera. It was introduced in 2004. Somehow, Epson beat Leica (well known as THE rangefinder icon) to the punch with this digital body which was made by Cosina and based on their own line of Voigtlander Bessa rangefinder film cameras.

The R-D1 sports a 6.1mp sensor. It is, or is a variation of the very popular Sony sensor found in the Nikon D70/D70s, Pentax *ist D series, Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D/5D series and more. It may be digital, but no it’s not like an outdated computer where it’s unusable. It is a very dated sensor, but it was one of the best of its era and it still produces beautiful pictures.

If you look to at the brick wall to the right of the car, you can see very nice and subtle shadow detail transitions. Very smooth, not harsh. This might have more to do with the 40mm Summicron as well, but I have to give the sensor credit too.

So if you don’t have an R-D1, don’t worry. Just get one of the above mentioned cameras cheap and you’ll have pretty much the same sensor. The thing you won’t have is the ability to use Leica M lenses and the wonderful tactile feel of the R-D1, plus its glorious optical viewfinder.

I’ve spoken, written, referenced this camera many many times, though I’ve never done a full or even partial review of it. As I’ve told many people, this camera truly feels and looks like its film camera equivalent (the Bessa R/R2/R3). It’s kind of funny because compared to a Leica, the Bessa film cameras do feel kind of cheap.

Yet, in digital form, it feels better and more substantial than most digital cameras out there! It’s just normal with digital/analog camera comparisons, and I’ve come to accept it. As an example, take the Olympus OM-1 film camera and then hold a OM-D camera next to it. As much as I love the OM-D’s image quality and shooting capabilities, there’s just no comparison. The OM-1 feels solid and hefty, the OM-D feels light and dinky. And the OM-1 was actually one of the lighter film SLR cameras.

The 40mm f/2 Summicron has always been one of my favorite performers. It provides beautiful sharpness and tonal range. The lens is beautifully small, much like a pancake lens. Normally I find the 40mm focal length, especially the pancakes a little boring, but that’s because most pancakes start at f/2.8. The 40mm Summicron gives me an extra stop of light which opens up more possibilities, not only for the low light shots I take, but for the shallow depth of field I need for portraits. On the R-D1 it’s equal to around 60mm which makes it a little longer than a 50mm standard lens.

It was introduced with the Leica CL, which was a collaboration with Minolta in the 1970s. The Summicron is made by Leitz although a Rokkor-M version, made by Minolta in Japan, is also available. Due to this collaboration, there has always been some debate among camera nerds as to whether the lens is really a Minolta or a Leica? All I can say is that it’s a great lens and that’s all I need to know.

As you can see, I’m actually shooting more than I’m writing, which I guess is a good thing in some ways. If this was ten years ago when I was a single man with no family or responsibilities, I’d probably be doing this blog like crazy. These days, I do it when it strikes my fancy, though I really should be doing it more. Ah, sorry for the rambling. Have a good day friends and happy shooting always! 🙂

***IN STOCK ALERT***

I have been notified by my good friends at Adorama that the Nikon D5 and D500 are now in stock!! If you’ve been waiting patiently for these awesome cameras, here’s your chance to grab one before they sell out the first batch. You may find them in the links below. Thanks for supporting Camera Legend and enjoy your new camera, I’d sure love to hear about it!

Nikon D5 (CF Version)

Nikon D5 (XQD Version)

Nikon D500

Nikon D500 with 16-80 f/2.8-4E VR lens

 

 

Photo Of The Day: “That Smile”

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My little “Country Bumpkin” in 2008.

This could be considered a “Flashback Friday” post. This is my elder daughter in 2008, just a little more than a year old.

Shot with an Epson R-D1 and a seventy plus year old 50mm f/2 Leica Summar lens. I had just gotten this lens in rough condition on eBay for under $100. I was so enamored that it was giving me these (to me) beautiful soft/sharp images, just what I’d been looking for!

The Epson R-D1 was a 6.1mp camera, the world’s first digital rangefinder, and one of my favorite old school digital cameras ever. I’ve been meaning to do a flashback review of this camera, but this is one of those cameras that I love so much, I would need a lot to time to do it justice. Time I simply don’t have tonight. But I’ll get to it, eventually 🙂

Have a good Friday and a good weekend everybody!

Best, Sam