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Home-made negative scanner
Old 02-06-2006   #1
vicmortelmans
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Home-made negative scanner

For a bit of background, read the second part of this mail. I want to quickly propose a scanning technique I've been thinking on, to see if there's any valuable feedback from your side before I start implementing it.

Would it be possible to use a digital camera for scanning negatives? The camera is not able to focus close enough to take a (back-lit) negative slide filling the frame.

My idea is to project the negative on a sheet of calque paper (this should be easy using an enlarger setup). The digtial camera would be on the other side of the calque paper, at proper focusing distance, for taking a digital picture of the enlarged, projected image.

Any idea what the calque paper would do the image? Will it cause extra noise or other artefacts? Will the image brightness ratio's be identical to those of the negative? Will the brightness be high enough to operate at reasonable exposure times? What other material could be used? A matte screen (should be large!)?

I'll let you know if I succeed (or come back with another idea if I fail...)

Groeten,

Vic

------------

Background of my experiments:

For a while, I've been busy in my spare time (which is little) to create an home-made negative scanner. Commercial film scanners (or flatbed scanners with film scanning features) are (1) too expensive and (2) too slow. I want to end up with a system that allows to scan a whole roll of film *fast* and I don't require the utmost quality or resolution. I'll be very glad if I can use the scans for web-distribution and ordering 10x15cm digital prints.

The basic idea is that I already own a digital camera (Canon Powershot G2), which---in theory---produces images of sufficient resolution and quality (using 16-bit raw) for my requirements.

My first attempt was to add a close-up lens to the camera and shoot a back-lit negative. I found out that a lens of 10 diopter is needed to get close enough focus, but this lens (or the camera lens itself) causes massive chromatic aberration. Just stretching the histogram and converting to grayscale won't produce any quality at all. In theory (again!) there should be a way to correct this by digital postprocessing, but I fear it will become very complicated.

I've also investigated in how to process the scanned image, taking into account the relationship between negative density ratio's and actual scene brightness ratio's and I have measured and analysed the gamma-behaviour of this system.
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Old 02-06-2006   #2
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I have read about people using ordinary slide repro stuff with bellows and dSLR-cameras for this. It worked fine with b&w and slides. But was hopeless to get colour correction to work with negative colour film.

/matti
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Old 02-06-2006   #3
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I was using a Nikon Coolpix camera to copy slides off my color correct lightbox to be able to display them on a TV as a slideshow. It was better than I thought it would be, colors were correct too. Edges were a little soft but it was doable for what I needed it for. I dont think you will have much luck building your own film scanner. Oh I did not have to use any closeup attachments, the nikon would capture the whole slide.
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Old 02-06-2006   #4
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You are of course completely barking mad - in a nice eccentric inventor kind of way

There might be an alternative: On eb*y at the moment (UK version) there is a Sony scanner from a print shop on offer. It's scan speed for a single frame is 9secs, and it can swallow a whole roll of film at one go. It also has hardware JPEG compression which means there is no demand on your computer's processor and is capable of scanning at 2,200 dpi giving a 6Mp equivalent file - more than enough for your needs.

The other flaw (well one of several actually) is going to be the transfer and download speed from your digicam, notoriously slow and battery hungry if you do it directly, and just another annoying step if you do it via a cardreader.

I've noticed on the online auctions, there are several bits of minilab up for grabs, and it seems to me that rather than reinventing the wheel, your best bet might be grab some of this purpose-built technology that is going cheap because of the wholesale shift to digital, and adapt it to your needs.

Best of British to you

Andy

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Old 02-06-2006   #5
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I have some MF film here and don't have a scanner for it, nor a darkroom to print. In the meantime, I made myself something that sort of works. Not perfect, but okay.

- found an old x-ray illuminating machine in the garage. Wasn't working, so I took it apart and somehow managed to put it back together and it works! Yay! I put this on the floor as a make-shift light table
- put the negative on the light table
- put a piece of glass on top the negative
- put my 6MP dslr atop a tripod, with a 100mm macro lens, shooting raw
- used f/16, mirror lockup, iso 100, and remote release with all lights off

Results are "okay" for b&w negatives. See attached and see here. A bit soft, probably because of film curling, and I also used heavy jpg compression to try to reduce size of the files. Taken with Iskra 2.

Negatives, on the other hand.... worked okay for fuji 800Z (girl @ camera store), but was horrible with kodak 160NC -- although I sorta like the effect. The tricky part is manually color balancing the whole thing.

For all types, could never get film flat because the white plastic screen of the "light table" is curved and the glass is, too. *shrug*

It's enough, though, to get an eyeball approximation and for small prints (I did 4"x4" with the b&w attached, using careful PS work and they came out decent). I dunno about projecting though... I new someone that projected the slides, snapped the shots with a polaroid, and scanned the polaroid in. Gah!

This may work with 35mm. Haven't tried it.

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Old 02-06-2006   #6
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I tried shooting macro images of my slides with my 50/4 macro-takumar on my school's EOS350d. Simply couldn't get any decent results at all: whilst colour rendition was fine (brightly lit whiteboard about 2m behind the slide) I just couldn't get the image sharp. Stopped down for DoF, open wide for shutter speed, high and low iso, whatever. Soft as hell. Annoyed me lots, so I just borrowed a mate's DualScan IV

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Old 02-06-2006   #7
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I've done it the way Rob describes above--Nikon Coolpix 990, copy stand and a 5000K lightbox. I don't print digitally in general, but this was a convenient way to get stuff in any format onto the web before I had a decent film scanner. I even used this method to produce a four-color postcard from a 5x7" transparency for a friend's gallery show once.
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Old 02-06-2006   #8
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In principle it shoud work. As a proof a German company is modifying slide projectors, to do bulk scanning of slides with a macro lens and DSLR.
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Old 02-06-2006   #9
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I never tried it but I was thinking if it isnt possible to somehow use a normal flatbed scanner? Leave the scanner top open and have some kind of lamp over the negatives? Has anyone tried something like that?
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Old 02-06-2006   #10
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If you project it onto a screen and then photographing the image on the screen, don't forget to turn your flash off

OK, more seriously: It should be doable but you lose alot of illumination AND the texture of the projection screen will show up on the images, probably. But i'm curious about it myself.

By the way i tried a few different approaches, like, photographing the backlit slide and cropping later, photographing through a microscope or a magnifying glass, and latest, photographing paper prints. They all worked but the quality was far below acceptable.
The most serious problems were:
1. Reflections from the surface of the medium (slide-film-photograph)
2. Not enough light, ending up in too long sh speeds and too wide-open lens on the camera
3. Alignment problems - everything should be exactly parallel
4. Flatness problems for the medium, resulting in curved edges, curved objects on the image, strange reflections combined with no 1 and misfocus in some regions.

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Old 02-06-2006   #11
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If you use thicker paper you might get some fiber structure to the print, like if you use internegatives of paper with old copying techniques. Remember to 10-fold the exposure time, tough :-)
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Old 02-06-2006   #12
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If someone interested I could do some tests with my dusty old Kaiser diaduplicator
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Old 02-06-2006   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lubitel
I never tried it but I was thinking if it isnt possible to somehow use a normal flatbed scanner? Leave the scanner top open and have some kind of lamp over the negatives? Has anyone tried something like that?
Doable, but the light from the scanner itself causes reflections. Some use put their small light table upside down on the scanner, and get usable results.
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Old 02-07-2006   #14
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Thanks for all feedback. I accept the quote of being mad. The fact that so many of you respond to this kind of crazyness, also says something about your mental status...

I'll keep an open eye on ebay for old professional equipment, but continue my effort nevertheless.

With a proper digital SLR it should definitely work, as you can equip it with a decent macro lens or bellows. But I'm stuck with my Powershot G2, which is not suited for this kind of macro at all. And I'm not planning to invest in digital SLR for the time being.

Groeten,

Vic
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Old 02-07-2006   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lubitel
I never tried it but I was thinking if it isnt possible to somehow use a normal flatbed scanner? Leave the scanner top open and have some kind of lamp over the negatives? Has anyone tried something like that?
The attached image was, believe it or not, scanned from a MF negative on a flatbed scanner. I placed a bright sheet of clean white paper behind it (this is a heavily used scanner at work, has marks on the white lid surface) and scanned normally at 1200 dpi.

Then I took the image in Photoshop, inverted, adjusted the levels, and spotted.

Amazingly, this looks much better than the old machine-processed print, which was all yucky and grayish.

This was a total slop-shot time exposure I made when I was very young (ca. 1967 I guess) with one of my dad's old Kodak folders. I placed it on a box my brother was carrying back and totally guessed at a time exposure.

I found the negative about a year ago, it was the only MF negative in a box of 35mm negs and slides, and nobody told me I couldn't scan it on a flatbed.

YMMV, of course.
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Old 02-07-2006   #16
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wow, that's interesting, because I also tried scanning MF on a flatbed and the result was terrible. Way too dark, to pull anything out of it. May be I should give it another try?
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Old 02-07-2006   #17
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Here's a reduced version of the original scan. I lied! It was 2400 dpi and not 1200 and this took quite a while to read into Photoshop.

This image looks a darker than the original negative, which was somewhat underexposed but not too badly.

I did try scanning both with the emulsion side down and the emulsion side up. This one (emulsion side away from the glass) showed more detail.

Just for the heck of it, I have tried scanning color negatives on this same scanner, and the results were not good at all using the same method.
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Old 02-07-2006   #18
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Duplication works!
This afternoon I did a small test for comparistion between scanning and duplication.
Transformed the colour head of my old Kaiser enlarger into a slide duplicator
Duplicated a slide with the Nikon D70s - Nikkor 60mm macro in Amode at f16
The same slide was scanned with epson 4870 at 3800 dpi
Resampled the duplicate to bring it at the same pixelsize of the scanning

Conclusion:
Duplicate is a little bit unsharper than the scan (due to resampling?)
Speed : duplication is a speedy Gonzales compared to scanning

Wim
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Old 02-07-2006   #19
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BTW Vic your name sounds Belgian or Dutch
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Old 02-07-2006   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wdenies
Duplication works!
This afternoon I did a small test for comparistion between scanning and duplication.
Transformed the colour head of my old Kaiser enlarger into a slide duplicator
Duplicated a slide with the Nikon D70s - Nikkor 60mm macro in Amode at f16
Wim,

What exactly was your setup? I understand you removed the enlarger lens and took a picture of the slide mounted in the enlarger? Or did you photograph the projection in some way?

Groeten,

Vic (Vlaams, in feite)
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Old 02-07-2006   #21
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Vic,
Here 2 pictures of the test set-up.
It should be not that difficult to find a second hand Kaiser enlarger

Groeten uit Lanaken

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Old 02-07-2006   #22
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Vic: if you were using a dSLR. my suggestion would have been to find a bellows with slide/filmstrip duplicating attachment (along with the proper adapter for the camera's lens mount), which, together with a small, color-corrected lightbox, would be the shortest (and possibly cheapest) way to make quality dupes without having to buy a scanner.

Unfortunately, yours isn't a dSLR.

You mentioned film scanners being pricey and "slow". Price depends on whose scanner you're buying and how highly-spec'd you want it to be (as well as whether it has to be new or if you're amenable to buying used). Scanning speed depends on a few other things: if you want the absolute-best quality out of a scanner, you'll be working at its maximum resolution, which slows things down (and if the scanner has bells and whistles like Digital ICE, scanning speed takes another big hit). If, however, you have a bunch of slides or negs you just need some small "quickie" scans of for the Web or a PowerPoint piece, most scanners will do the job a lot faster by foregoing stuff like dICE and scanning at a much lower resolution (and scanning in 8-bit instead of 16-bit). And, unlike a home-made setup, most any film scanner will run four mounted slides (or a strip of six frames) in a single run without interruption. Better still, if you find an older Nikon Coolscan with the right optional attachment, you can take a whole stack of slides and have it scan the bunch unattended (the only caveat here is that some of Nikon's bulk-scanning setups worked more reliably than others; the LS-1000 setup I used years ago was generally reliable).

If you had a dSLR, I wouldn't bother bringing up the matter of scanners, but since you just have a fixed-lens digicam (albeit a decent one), I think it's best to check out all viable options.


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Old 02-08-2006   #23
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As said, I may have a hard time turning my fixed-lens digicam into a high-speed-medium-resolution film scanner, so I'm still on the look-out for a commercial filmscanner that would suit my requirements.

I bumped into these models: Reflecta ProScan 4000 / Pacific Image PrimeFilm 3650 pro (identical devices?) and Reflecta BatchScan 1800. They are the only scanners (in price range <400 euro) that can take a whole film roll unattended (at least, that's how I understand the specs). Maybe they're not *faster* than other scanners, but they take less of my time, so that's also fitting my requirements.

Any of you having experience with these (or similar) scanners?

Groeten,

VIc
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Old 02-08-2006   #24
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Before I got a good scanner I got surprisingly decent (not great) results with a light table and digicam. I left the film in a printfile and flattened them with a sheet of glass. I had to crop down a lot to avoid distortion and light falloff, which reduced the usable resolution. The trick was to find the focal length and focus distance that gave the largest distortion-free area at the center of the image. The next trick was to find the right sharpness and color settings for negatives. The final trick was to make the environment as dark and reflection-free as possible.

I never dealt with the problem of flare from the backlight shining through sprocket holes and between frames, but masking would be the obvious solution.

Not surprisingly, I got the best results with slides.


Now, at the other extreme, this madman decided to bypass the negatives altogether and just use his cheap flatbed scanner as a camera:

[EDIT: the link I had was a temporary mirror. Use this one:
http://scannerphotography.com/
/EDIT]

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Old 02-08-2006   #25
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Yes, I _wrote_ about him. Amazing what he does with a flatbed scanner and an LF camera housing.
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Old 02-08-2006   #26
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Vic: I would say the first model (the 4000), being the more recent of the bunch, would be the way to go, although I'm not super-crazy about Pacific Image scanners (yes, all the scanners you mention have the same origin, if I remember right). From a qualitative standpoint, they're still streets ahead of any home-brew solution, and their batch-scanning abilities are hard to match for the money. Just make sure you're covered in terms of both warranty and return policy. If you're buying new, at least you should be covered somehow.


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Old 02-08-2006   #27
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My advice is a canon canoscan 4500f. I just bought one for one hundred dollars and it can reproduce images in 3200 by 6400 dpi. The quality is incredible and the price is unbeatable. Not to mention its a lot easier than jeary rigging a digital camera to an enlarger. Plus I can scan four negs at a time. Or if you want to kick it up a notch you could fork over another fifty bucks and by the 8500f that can batch scan twelve negs at a time. At 3200x6400 resolution you get the equivilent to a 20 megapixle pic for a pretty low price tag.
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Old 02-08-2006   #28
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Nikon has a poor man's scanner - it's called Slide Copy Adapter ES-E28. They claim it works with their monoblocks like CoolPix 900, 990, 995 and others via step down ring lens adapters.
I found this at Vistek, price is $99.95CA but special order. Never ever seen this adapter in real life though.
http://vistek.ca/details/details.asp...oryID=Scanners

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Old 03-04-2006   #29
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I tried the dSLR + enlarger method.
I used a Meopta enlarger to project a 135 BW negative on a sheet of white paper roughly A4 size. I then mounted a tripod just in front of the enlarger pointing down with the smallest possible angle. I used a Canon EOS 300D with a Tamron 28-75/2.8 lens set at 50mm, f/5.6, Av priority, ISO 100, RAW.
I took a blank shoot without negative to get the light fallof. Load everybody in photoshop, invert the blank shoot layer and put it in overlay, adjust opacity, PTLens to correct for distortions, invert, levels, curves, dusts.
I'm rather pleased by the result. I ran the whole roll of 36 exposures in less than 20 minutes through it. It is good enough for web usage which is what I need.

Here are the results :
scan00 : raw output from the camera
scan01 : the best I could have with scanning the negative with my crappy Canon MP730 Photo
scan02 : final output
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Old 03-04-2006   #30
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Hallo,

thanks for the further feedback! I'm pleased to hear that the enlarger-approach may be a way to go. You chose to use a reflected image, which seems to work and probably is the easiest setup. The only disadvantage seems to be that you can't position the camera perpendicular to the image plane, so you have to correct 'perspective'... it's again a time-consuming image processing step, which probably must be done manually on each image. I can imaginge also the type of paper is of influence. Probably plain office paper is the best? Using any of the fancy 'glossy' paper types may cause too much direct reflection, while you need diffusive reflection for this application...

Since the original post, I've not experimented futher (a.o. due to second child being born), but I'm still going to try to catch a matte screen image (camera behind projection plane), as opposed to the reflected image. As matte screen, I'll be using 'calque' paper (used in printig business as film medium for original drawings/prints to be duplicated on printing plates). (1)

One problem that I already foresee, is that when the setup is perpendicular, the camera will 'see' not only the image on the matte screen, but also see through the matte screen a vage brighter area caused by the enlarger lens brightness... to avoid this, a non-perpendicular setup can be made, so the lens is not in the viewing area of the camera anymore, but then I will also need perspective correction....

You'll hear more as soon as time is on my side.

IN the meanwhile, I've been on the lookout for a specific filmscanner type that allows a complete roll of film to be scanned unattended. Maybe you've got more feedback on that? It's known in different brands:

Mediax WorkScan 3600 pro
Microtek FilmScan 3600
Reflecta ProScan 3600
PrimeFilm 3650 pro


Groeten,

VIc



(1) I've just the other day also used this matte paper very successfully to calibrate the rangefinder accurracy of my Zorki 4. Most info on the web refers to using matte glass plates for checking the image as it would be projected on the film, but the matte paper is easier to setup and also cheaper.
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Old 03-05-2006   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lubitel
I never tried it but I was thinking if it isnt possible to somehow use a normal flatbed scanner? Leave the scanner top open and have some kind of lamp over the negatives? Has anyone tried something like that?
I was thinking a bit -- yeah, dangerous, I know -- about what might happen if you would take an enlarger (or slide projector) and project the image right on the plane of the scanning surface and scan? Wouldn't this be similar to what those guys do when they use a flatbad scanner as the "film" of a LF camera?
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Old 03-05-2006   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmr
I was thinking a bit -- yeah, dangerous, I know -- about what might happen if you would take an enlarger (or slide projector) and project the image right on the plane of the scanning surface and scan? Wouldn't this be similar to what those guys do when they use a flatbad scanner as the "film" of a LF camera?
That won't work as such (as far as I understand optics), because for a flatbed scanner, you need a visible image on the scanning plane. Projection on the scanner glass plate won't create a visible image. If the glass would be a matte screen (you could use the matte paper I mentioned), and the scanner backlight would be disabled, then it might work.

Groeten,

Vic
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Old 03-05-2006   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vicmortelmans
That won't work as such (as far as I understand optics), because for a flatbed scanner, you need a visible image on the scanning plane. Projection on the scanner glass plate won't create a visible image. If the glass would be a matte screen (you could use the matte paper I mentioned), and the scanner backlight would be disabled, then it might work.
Here's the logic I was thinking of --- and I'm no optics expert at all.

That bar that slides back and forth on a flatbed scanner is just a light source, which shines upward illuminating the paper being scanned, and a light sensor of some kind which measures the light reflected from the plane of the paper being scanned, in other words the light present at the plane of the image.

Now if you were to replace the light reflected from a paper based image with the light from a projector or enlarger, all nicely focused in the same plane, wouldn't that sliding sensor pick it up?

Ok, what about the light coming from the light in the scanner? With no paper in there, there's nothing to reflect it back to the sensor. Wouldn't it just diffuse out into the space above the scanner?
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Old 03-05-2006   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vicmortelmans
Hallo,

thanks for the further feedback! I'm pleased to hear that the enlarger-approach may be a way to go. You chose to use a reflected image, which seems to work and probably is the easiest setup. The only disadvantage seems to be that you can't position the camera perpendicular to the image plane, so you have to correct 'perspective'... it's again a time-consuming image processing step, which probably must be done manually on each image. I can imaginge also the type of paper is of influence. Probably plain office paper is the best? Using any of the fancy 'glossy' paper types may cause too much direct reflection, while you need diffusive reflection for this application...
I didn't move the tripod through the whole roll. I did the process once in photoshop and made it an action, then batch processed it. Even if some auto levels goes wrong, since it's 16 bits, it's not very serious. I used the crop tool + perspective option with a fixed 3:2 final ratio setting.
I used a sheet of A3 260g (by memory) fine-grain Canson drawing paper. Non glossy of course.
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Old 03-05-2006   #35
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I came across this link for a Photoshop plugin to convert a color neg image to positive:
http://www.c-f-systems.com/Plug-ins.html

I haven't tried it myself, so no promises.
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Old 03-05-2006   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nksyoon
I came across this link for a Photoshop plugin to convert a color neg image to positive:
http://www.c-f-systems.com/Plug-ins.html
Am I totally missing something here? Is there some trick, some proprietary secret, some undocumented magic to making a color positive out of a good color negative scan?

I'm not trying to be a snot here, but I've sometimes wondered about these payware Photoshop plug-ins for seemingly trivial tasks.

Almost any beginner Photoshop user knows how to compensate for that orange mask (often several ways), invert, and adjust levels.

Yes, I read the link above. What is so wrong with the common ways of scanning and inverting color negatives? Yes, we're all learning more and more about what scanners do and how to make better scans, but is something like this going to *really* do much?
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Old 03-05-2006   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmr
That bar that slides back and forth on a flatbed scanner is just a light source, which shines upward illuminating the paper being scanned, and a light sensor of some kind which measures the light reflected from the plane of the paper being scanned, in other words the light present at the plane of the image.

Now if you were to replace the light reflected from a paper based image with the light from a projector or enlarger, all nicely focused in the same plane, wouldn't that sliding sensor pick it up?

Ok, what about the light coming from the light in the scanner? With no paper in there, there's nothing to reflect it back to the sensor. Wouldn't it just diffuse out into the space above the scanner?
I think you should look at the scanner as a kind of camera. If you take a picture of a dia-projector that is projecting a picture, you won't see the picture, but just the dia-projector.

Even simpler: you should just look at the scanner as being your eye: if you look into the lens of a dia-projector, you'll be blinded by the intensity, but you won't see the image it's projecting!

A camera lens is a device to re-focus light beams originating from one point in the scene into one point on the film. A scanner does the same. So all light beams originating from a point on a paper sheet put on the scanner, will be re-focused on one point on the scanner detector. But if you try to project an image onto the scanner detector, it will just re-focus the light beams originating from the projector lens and create an image of the lens. The projected image won't be reconstructed.

Actually, I don't know if scanners have optics of this kind of all, but it's the only way I can imagine it would work...

Groeten,

VIc
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