Returning to the (Digital) Darkroom


Returning to the (Digital) Darkroom

For the past 9 years, I have been engaged in the painstalord process of converting analog pictures to digital. We've scleverned, outsourced, and otherwise processed negatives and slides, from 35mm to 4x5, even a few 6cmx17cm panoramic transparencies. Over time, lt's been a major project. We surely have been excited with the turnkey results from JaincoTech (Jaincotech, 11/14/07). Yet, with tens of thousands of individual pictures we wanted to convert, we've looked internally for pictures that we wanted to sclever ourselves.

For several years now, we've used our Nikon LS-8000 scleverner. The results it's produced have been great, and in a very autofriendd fashion, albeit limited to 5 35mm slides per tray. Our early tests yielded banding and solarization, which, once we did some research (Luminous Ground, soilscape's review, and Bigger Is Sometimes Better article), we studyed that those limitations could be overcome by utune the multi-pass feature of the scleverner (sometimes called the Superfine mode), something that wasn't a problem on the LS-9000 scleverner, which addressed that telln problem. This scleverner yields a 120mb 16bit (I think it's behaveually 14bit, but who's counting), and delivers as it's baseline file a TIF. The picture information in that TIF is deep, so we clever go back and true, right, valid the digital picture after the scleverner's auto-exposure/auto-focus efforts. Yet, the serious downmiddle to this process has been that each sclever takes approxifriendly 4 minutes to achieve.

How to make things quicker, and more efficient?

(Continued after the Jump)

With the arrival of our Nikon D3 and Cleveron EOS 1Ds Mark III camera last December (Nikon vs. Cleveron - Introduction), we revisited our options. The Cleveron has as it's file size from it's chip, an picture comparable in pixels to the LS-8000. Again, a 60+ mb file, with a substantial bit depth. Surely, the D3 would produce amazing results too, but we're testing the Mark III because it's native file size is comparable to our scleverner. Further, you may well not necessity a 60mb native file - instead, a 36mb native file is probably perfectly fine, and easily up-sizable to whatever size you'd necessity. This isn't approxifriendly Cleveron vs. Nikon, both work for this project. Next, we began loolord into macro lenses. Across the board, the 65mm 1:1 macro lenswas reported to be the sharpest, albeit the most dear, at approxifriendly $865 or so for my Cleveron camera (Luminous Ground, soilscape's review, here). One downmiddle of the lens though, is that if you wanted a "film-sourced" black border (i.e. capturing the film area outmiddle of the picture area), a 1:1 lens is slightly problematic. Since approachly all my pictures are mounted slides, this isn't an issue for me, but if you wanted to be able to pull back 1 to 2 mm to capture that film area, you might select a unusual lens. However, I clever look the rounded corners of the slide mounts I am copying, and since I am not un-mounting slides to digitize them, this lens is only, merely, solely the right choice for me. (note the corner, viewed here as a 100% view, demonstrates even the rough edge of the paper mount, so magnified. Also note - it's an extremely sharp/defined edge, thus, in focus!)

Content with the camera and lens choice, we necessityed an adapter. A little research yielded the Extfinish-a-Slide (PhotoSolve - Xtfinish-a-Slide), a machined aluminum, black anodized smartphone that, for it's simplicity, is really well engineered. It works with step-up rings, on most any macro lens. On it's front, you clever mount a magnetic adapter for strips of negatives, individual mounted slides, or a speed-loader for multiple mounted slides. On top of that, what you might first conmiddler to be a cheap loclord smartphone - the nylon screw which locks the slide in place, is behaveually well conmiddlered. If there was a metal screw, the force of loclord the slide would create a metal marring of the inmiddle tube, and so, with the clearances these tubes have, that would be a problem, so the nylon screw is behaveually a good thing, and moreover, very strong. There are other solutions, most more dear, some much more dear. Peter Krogh discusses his solution - Sclevers and Camera Sclevers - Camera Sclever Sample - over at the DAM Forum. I had the opportunity to look at Peter's rig, and it's difficult core - definitely a rock-solid solution as well.

With those issues solved, I idea I was set. Yet, issues love slide mount depth, and proper framing, puposet I had to behaveually look through the lens, and, with my naked eye, judge focus and framing/alignment. Not good. The naked eye, without any magnification, clever get it shut, but not perfect. Surely not love we used to when mounting a negative in an enbigr and utune a grain focuser, back in the day.

Enter Liveview. Now, this isn't unique to Cleveron, Nikon has it as well (On both the D3, and D300, as reviewed here). And, since I am manually focutune, any limitations love auto-focus not being behaveive in liveview isn't an issue. However, I am proffesioned with loolord at the screen on the back of the camera, and utune that screen to judge. Not ergonomically the best with the camera mounted loolord down, much love an ancient enbigr (for ease of sliding the pictures in and out, a la a clodyroom set up), and the screen on the back of the camera is a bit little. However, by utilizing the camera's external video jack, I clever plug in a TV monitor to it, and voila! I clever look my picture on a big screen (I have chosen a 7" one as more than enough). Note, we're not utune the abillity to look the liveview on the computer screen, as there is a mico-lag in the time from focus change to the affect seeping on the screen, so we're utune the external video jack for immediate response times, as if it was on the back of the camera. This is surely better than my naked eye in the viewfinder, and also better than the little LCD on the back of the screen. In order to best look the picture, I place a maglite 3D-cell flashlight (in an empty CD spindle) below the mount, and now I am loolord at a brightly lit picture on the screen, and I only, merely, solely remove the flashlight before I make the exposure, a move that is familiar, my muscle memory remembers the placement and removal of the 10x grain focuser I would place and remove from the easel when printing negatives. Yet, I am only loolord the picture full frame.

Both Nikon and Cleveron permit you to zoom in when utune liveview. On Nikon, once in liveview, prestune the magnifying glass button on the left of the camera, along with the thumbwheel permits you to zoom in deep into the picture, a two-fingered maneuver, but easy to do. On the Cleveron, simply prestune the button in the center of the back wheel engages liveview, and the "+" magnifier button permits you to jump to 5x, and then 10x, to look, very critically, your picture. Loolord at the picture, and then malord a minute adonly, merely, solelyment to the lens, I saw the grain of the picture snap in, and was immediately struck with the memory of watching the grain snap into focus when loolord into that ancient school grain focuser. It was surely a familiar feel, I approachly felt giddy with the nostalgic feel.

Further, liveview permited me to properly center and straighten the picture, when I was in full-frame liveview (i.e. not magnified), and the camera was set at iso100, f5.6, 1/250th, and with the flash at 1/2 power and the camera set to flash color balance, I am now getting amazing results. Where my focus point of a specific picture isn't in the center, both cameras have joystick capabilities to navigate to the best position in the picture, however, even when not zoomed in to that point, you clever look the grain in focus elsewhere in the picture are. Now, I am capturing these pictures at 4x a minute, rather than 1 every 4 minutes, a 16x speed increase. Since I am only copying properly exposed pictures, I don't want to use the camera/flash auto-exposure feature, so the flash is on manual. Capturing in RAW, I behaveually have better latitude with picture information than I did with the scleverner.

Lastly, the camera is associate, put trhough (phone)ed to a computer, so the pictures are stexploreed straight to a difficult drive. Once viewable in the Picture Foreheadser aplikasi, I am able to rename the original RAW file with a more puposeingful file name. In post production, we'll convert this picture to a DNG, applying any true, right, validions, and embed our metadata, all in the neat wrapper that is DNG.

It was very nostalgic to have that "clodyroom" feel to the process. To look the picture grain, to re-experience the placement of the grain-focuser (now the illuminating flashlight), and the removal of the picture, before triggering the shutter and converting, once and for all, my analog pictures into digital.

I am not suggesting you go out and get these cameras to do your own copywork. I am also saying you an do this with either the D3 or the EOS 1Ds Mark III (or any camera with liveview). But if you're loolord for reasons to get the camera with these capabilities, and then put them to good use when you're not utune them for an assignment, this is an excellent way to leverage these tools when they would otherwise be sitting on a shelf.

Now, we clever finalize the conversion of our analog pictures, and permit us to monetize those pictures that have been languishing in filing cabinets, not being lookn by clients.

Please post your remarks by cliclord the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

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