The Transparent Work-Round - Part One - All Uphill

on November 01, 2016

We are always being given ways of working-round things on computers.

Some times what we are working around is an old computer - sometimes an old program. Sometimes
it is money - we find that cutting our coats to suit our cloth means we are wearing Barbie-sized coats...

In the case of this dodge, it is not because I do not own other equipment - it is a case of the time required to let that other equipment do its thing. I've stopwatched the process I am undertaking and I can cut the time required in half.

The project is the digitizing and rehousing of colour transparencies - mostly 35mm slides from the last 50 years. It isn't like I am doing Time - Life's collection - I counted only 7800 transparencies - but the time needed to clean them, scan them, correct the colours, and write their information into a JPEG file is going to be significant.

Don't get me wrong about the Epson V700 - V850's. They are fantastic scanners that translate older works from print, transparency, negative, or book very well indeed. There is no other really good economical answer for good scans from 4 x 5 sheet film. For that alone, it is worth the money. It also has templates and holders to scan mounted 35mm slides in batches of 12 on a pretty automatic basis. The problem is the amount of time it takes to do so for each image; counting loading, scanning, unloading, and sorting, you spend 3.5 minutes per slide. That is without noticeable correction time. A great portion of that time is taken up with the scanner doing a preview, then having to specify what size you want the output, then doing the actual scan.

7800 slides x 3.5 minutes = 455 hours...or roughly the time it takes to get a teenager to clean up their room. To be fair to the Epson, there is an automatic colour restoration circuit that can really revitalise some of the faded transparencies.

Well, there had to be a better way. The key to it was the collection of gear that was lying unused in the cupboard - specifically a Tokina 30mm macro lens on an adapter and a very old Novoflex focusing track. That and a Metrolux light box left over from surgery days and a cut off bit of Bunnings 12mm MDF board.

Remember the old days of the Bowens and Illumitran slide duplicators? Those wonderful boxes that let you put colour corrected light behind a transparency and then held a lens, bellows, and 35mm camera body above it so that you could re-photograph the slide? They were great - why, I'll bet that are a few lurking around the old storage shelves of Camera Electronic still...

Well, I could make up an MDF stand with a cutout the size of a 35mm slide, mount my Fujifilm X-T10 camera and the Tokina lens above it, and adjust the assembly up and down until the image exactly filled the screen of the Fujifilm. A macro lens that focuses close enough to do 1:1 is what I needed, though due to the nature of the APS-C sensor it did not go out to full 1:1 - I stopped in focus at 1:1.25.

The second part of this posting - tomorrow, I hope - will take you further into the settings and experiments to get good reproduction. In the meantime think about whether you would like to do the same - Camera Electronic has some goodies that might help you to do the trick.