Copying slides with OM-D and 60mm Macro

This is the promised follow-up article for my review of M.Zuiko 60mm Macro. I try to explain here quite thoroughly how I digitize slides.

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This image shows my setup "in action". 

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It all starts with OM-D body and the new 60mm Macro lens.

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This metal tube is from a Dörr Slide Duplicator kit. Similar kits are sold with other brand names like Polaroid or Bower. Polaroid HD Slide Duplicator seems to cost USD 35 at Amazon.com. These kits consist of a metal tube plus film holders. They have also a close up lens which is meant to be used with a normal (i.e. non-macro) 50mm lens (100mm lens in FF 35mm format). The results from any combination of a general photography lens and close up lens are too soft. Not worth trying. Remove the close-up lens from its ring for some other, non-serious use... Dörr tube has 52mm filter thread which means that a step-up ring from 46mm to 52mm is needed. 

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Next thing to attach is this frame for film holders.

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There is a holder for two framed slides. Slides and negatives are shot with emulsion side to lens to get the best sharpness. You are looking at emulsion side when letters at edges are wrong handed. Framed slides should have darker side on emulsion side, but it is also easy to see that emulsion side has a slight structure when you look how light mirrors from the surface.

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You can also copy un-framed slides or negatives.

The opening image shows how I shoot against a light box with even light surface. My light box is made by Just. They seem to call light boxes as transparency flat viewers. These boxes have an excellent light quality: 5000 K with very high color rendering index, CRI, at 98 (of 100). I set a captured white balance for the box. My OM-D reads the box to be 4990 K. For color negatives the WB must be set through the orange base mask. I expose using my ETTR method as explained in previous blogs. There is usually no need to do any bracketing. With color slides exposure time is usually around 1/5 to 1/20s at f/5.0 and ISO 200. My tests have shown f/5.0 to be the sharpest aperture with 60mm Macro at these magnifications. 

I open RAW files into Lightroom. First thing to do is to flip images horizontally. They are wrong handed because of shooting from emulsion side. Other than that slides need very small, simple corrections. Negatives are turned into positives in Tone Curve window. The linear point curve goes from bottom left to top right as default. It must be reversed to go from top left to bottom right. Save this as a preset. After turning negatives into positives they usually need some adjusting to get tonal values and colors right. A reversed Tone Curve makes also tone sliders to behave backwards. If this feels awkward you can always make an Export into TIFF file after reversing of tones and then import this file into Lightroom. Now sliders work normally.

The length of the metal tube dictates your focusing distance or magnification. I have two tubes, a longer one for a magnification of slightly less than 1:2 and another shortened for magnification of circa 1:1.2. With the former I can capture 35mm slides or negatives as one capture. The latter one gives more pixels and resolution as the slide is shot as four quadrants. An easy way to make different length tubes is to use empty filter mounts.

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This image shows how much overlap my system gives. It helps me to be fast and make combining quadrants easier for Photoshop.

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I choose the four quadrants in Lightroom and use command Photo > Edit In > Merge to Panorama in Photoshop. Photoshop automatically opens these four files with Lightroom tweaks and combines them into a seamless image. This image is saved in Photoshop and it opens automatically into Lightroom. The process is quite fast and easy.

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The combined image before final cropping. Dimensions are now 7789 x 5142 pixels and the quality is better than with any scanner except drum scanners. I have owned them all, drum scanners, Flextights, Nikons...

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100% or 1:1 detail from the above image. The grain you see is film grain. I get it sharp from edge to edge, and there can not be any details beyond sharp film grain.

-p-

Update

on 2012-11-28 12:47 by Pekka Potka

Update: Some more information

I measured a few usable tube lengths with my Dörr duplicator, which is the same as Polaroid or Bowens. (Note: These gadgets might not stay the same for ever. So there may be some variations with tube lengths...)

First I have a Heliopan step-up ring 46 to 52mm. It adds 4mm. The frame for film holders (as I call it) adds 10-12mm more beyond the tube depending on film holder and/or slide frame used.

To get the whole 35mm film frame with one capture I need a tube of 112mm. To make the film frame fill OM-D sensor (cropping the longer edges) I need a tube of 102mm. To copy film frame with two captures I would use a tube of 90mm. And for four captures I use a tube of 72mm.

I have one tube which is shortened to 72mm. An easy way to get all the other lengths is to use empty, round filter rings, i.e. filters without the glass. Companies like Heliopan sell those and also you can find cheap used filters from shops selling second hand equipment. Just smash the glass with hammer or open the locking ring, depending on how you approach pimping. Duplicator kit includes close up lens, remove it from barrel and you have a long adjusting ring. Here I would go for opening the locking ring... This barrel plus four empty filter rings is all I needed to get all the above mentioned lengths.

The frame for film holders can be moved up/down in plane and film holder can be moved right/left. That´s how you get the four quadrants. I have printed single-capture images as A3 prints and get them with beautiful, sharp grain and crisp, nice details with 60mm Macro/OM-D combination. I would say that copying film in one capture either fitting into or filling (with slight crop) the OM-D sensor is good  enough for "normal" images. Using four captures and combining them afterwards is only needed for the sharpest images where you absolutely want to be sure to copy them as well as possible.

Color negative has this pesky orange mask. Also there are lots of variations between mask colors and densities with different film brands. The quick and dirty way is to measure WB as said in original text and then use a blue filter, say 80B jsut like Jose Luis suggested above, in front of the duplicator, between light and film. Setting WB in Kelvins might help here, too. The rest can usually be taken care of in post processing. Color negative is so flat that it needs tweaking always. However, the best situation is to have a clear piece of color negative film in place of image when you set WB. If the film is clipped too tightly from the beginning and end there just might be not enough clear ares even with the longest tube length. 

Someone said that slide holder is good only for thin frames. The holder in my kit is tight but even thicker frames go in without extra power. I only need pliers to get frames out...

This same basic copying technique works for bigger film sizes. I only don´t know any similar duplicators for them. Handy people build them quite easily I think. Various film holders are sold as scanner accessories. I copy my 120 size and sheet films without any kits. I have light box flat and level on table and camera attached to a small tripod above it with the lens pointing exactly right down on light box. Moving film holder is easy and there seems to be plenty of DOF at f/5.0. The important thing is to mask all extra light off (e.g. with black cardboard).

-p-