Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A friend of mine, Marc, recently asked about scanning old 35mm film transparencies -- also known as slides.  This is what we old-timer photographers used to shoot. 

Here's my reply and his question is below. 

Hey Marc:

I don't have experience with the software you've mentioned but I have run into the same problem with my older Nikon scanners not working on newer computers.  I've not used my old Nikon scanner in several years. 

The below may or may not be a worthy suggestion.  I've not tested my scans using this method much at all.  I can say that I've had clients tell me that they did not like my office's Nikon scans from my LS4000 from many years ago, and preferred my agents' scans from drum scanners.  Drum scanning every image is, of course, cost-prohibitive. 

I pulled out my old slide-duplicating setup a few years ago and mounted a full-frame Canon 5D Mark II on it.  I shot some original 35mm transparencies with it and sent it to a couple of my agents to see if they liked the quality.  I did tweak the shots a bit in Photoshop but I am not a Photoshop expert either.  The verdict was that the shots were nearly -- if not just as good -- as drum scans! 

This was probably 3-4 years ago.  I imagine that if you get a good bellows unit (I had a machinist connect two Nikon rails and used a bellows unit with an enlarger lens for the best quality for my slide dupes), a good lens (I had a Rodenstock APO 75/f4 lens), and mount a good full-frame digital camera on the duplicating setup like a Nikon D800 or Canon 5D Mark III, then you could take digital shots of your 35mm transparencies and tweak them in Photoshop, and they'd look as good or better than scans from present scanners.  I think that the speed of doing this would be faster also.  There were commercial slide duplicators out there that were not custom-modified units like I had -- like the Bowens Illumitran and Beseler. 

My duplicating setup was like this one on Ebay now:
 Nikon PB5 bellows with a Nikon PS5 slide duplicator.  Also included are BR2 and BR3 reversing rings.  Also a 62 to 52 mm adapter.  It was only used twice many years ago so is virtually new!  Kept in original box.  I have read that you need a BR2A ring if you want to use auto-focusing lenses.

except I put a second rail on it and used the above-mentioned Rodenstock lens as opposed to a Nikon macro lens (which should give fine results too).  My office, in its heyday, would duplicate hundreds of originals every week.  I am still working through our old filing cabinets and throwing away the old pages of duplicates.  It was astonishing how much work the good folks in my office spent on creating and labelling these great dupes.  Thanks to them all.  Sorry I was such a hot-headed boss. 

I get a headache and backache now when I try to edit my slide collection.  I have about 250,000 slides that I have been proposing to edit down to only the best shots, then scan.  I doubt that will ever happen, but when it does, I think I will be using the above setup for its speed. 

Perhaps others on this list can chime in on whether this makes sense or not. 

Norb Wu

On 3/5/14 10:52 AM, Marc Shargel wrote:

Following up last month’s discussion about scanning with an old Nikon scanner, I’m wondering if anyone has used an LS4000 (or 5000, I think the software is the same) with a Mac using modern software? I’m on OSX 10.9/Mavericks, but I’ve been keeping an old machine in service just to run the scanner, using the now-unsupported Nikon software. I think Nikon recommended Silverfast at one point.

…OK, so I did a web search rather than pick the collective brains of list members for my first-level research. There are two options:

SilverFast Ai Studio (Version 8) at $449.00 (!)
VueScan Professional at $80.00

VueScan offers a $40 “Standard” Edition with no ICC profiling, so to me that’s not even an option. They seem oriented to document scanning, so I’m concerned about the quality of photographic scans their software can produce. Their website claims a lot of users doing photography, though.

Does anyone have experience with these, especially VueScan Pro? For $449, I could keep my very old Mac running my scanner (free) on antiquated Nikon software. It works, it’s paid for. But if the VueScan pro can produce results as good or better than the old setup, I’d be happy for the huge speed improvement I’m sure I’d see.

I gratefully welcome your feedback.


Marc Shargel,
Sea Life Photographer,
Author of Wonders of the Sea: North Central California's Living Marine Riches
and Wonders of the Sea Volume Two: Marine Jewels of Southern California's Coast and Islands
and Wonders of the Sea Volume Three: Hidden Treasures of California’s Far North Coast
and Yesterday’s Ocean: A History of Marine Life on California’s Central Coast