Chances are that if you picked up a camera pre-2002, you have an archive of film negatives or slides collecting dust in a box or binder. You’ve thought about digitizing them but don’t own a scanner and are reluctant to ship them off to an online scanning service. Using a tripod, or preferably a copy stand, with a light box in combination with a Nikon FX camera, you can easily create a digital archive without the hassle of scanning.
Scanners like the Epson V700/750 or Nikon’s Coolscan 9000 can produce high-resolution results but the time commitment at the desk can be overwhelming, even in the event that you can work with batch scanning. The time restraints coupled with the cost of purchasing a scanner and mastering new software like Silverfast, VueScan or NikonScan make this a difficult option, especially for the working professional photographer.
An online scanning company like Fotobridge, ScanDigital or ScanCafe is a viable solution but it can be costly and take several weeks to process and return your imagery. You are also taking source material that cannot be duplicated and entrusting it to a shipping service. Whether trackable or not, we have all experienced an issue at one time or another with Fedex, UPS or the US Postal Service.
Peter Krogh, author of The Dam Book, the bible of digital asset management and cataloging solutions, has been an advocate for “camera scans” as a low-cost, easy way of incorporating old imagery into your current digital archive. In addition to being an extremely efficient means of bringing old photos back to life, the spatial demands are significantly less than the high resolution TIFF or PSD files that come off a scanner. Shooting in Nikon’s native NEF file format and then converting to DNG when downloading produces 20-30 megabyte image files that take up considerably less space.
To create a studio-based copy set up for making “camera scans,” you’ll need the following tools:
Krogh recommends checking out eBay or camera suppliers specializing in used equipment as Beseler’s Dual Mode Slide Duplicator or Kenro Spectra 1000 can be picked up for a few hundred dollars and are camera-ready solutions. There are also slide duplication solutions like Nikon’s old PS-5 bellows duplicatorm, the Novoflex Castel Digital Slide Copying Attachment or similar rail systems that attach directly to the end of a camera lens and they can be retrofitted to couple with your existing Nikon FX system.
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