Digitizing slides, negatives: What are your methods, equipment, philosophy?

I have thousands of Kodachromes from many years’ worth of trips to Europe, Asia, and around North America. I have been wanting to digitize them for years, and I finally got around to buying the necessary equipment and setting aside some time. I am currently using a Nikon D7200, so I bought the 40mm micro Nikkor, ES-1 Slide copying adapter, and a Kaiser slimlite Plano LED light table. I finally had time to try this out last night, and I was surprised at how easy it was. I shot a couple dozen or so and will look at them shortly in RawTherapee.

I am starting on the least important ones and working up to the more important ones, assuming that my technique/knowledge will improve with time.

I also downloaded Digicam Control for tethered shooting (not gonna pay Nikon 150$ or whatever), which I’ve never tried before. However, having live view and remote control will be very useful for this application–at very least, far more comfortable and informative than peering through the viewfinder or LCD for each shot! A live histogram should be very useful as well. However, I lack the necessary USB cable, so will have to order that (zillions of cables around here–none the correct one!)

For starters, I am trying aperture priority f/8 or f/11 and ISO 200. I guess I should go down to ISO 100 since this is all on a tripod in any case. I think I may have to try bracketing exposure on some of the more important ones, just based on what I see chimping these shots on the camera LCD.

I am curious to know:

1.) How you digitize slides/negatives, what equipment you use (Scanner, dSLR, copystand?) and how you go about it.

2.) What is your post-processing workflow, presets? I am shooting RAW of course and will be starting in RawTherapee.

3.) Have you printed any of these, and how do they compare to prints from digital cameras in your experience?

I would do some tests at different apertures with a reference slide to figure out which has the best performance. Not sure you need the depth of field you get at f11 and there’s a chance you might be introducing diffraction.

Focus wise I would be using liveview, punched into 100% to focus on the grain.

Apart from those little notes it sounds like you’ve got the right idea. Shooting positive slides I don’t worry too much about trying to colour correct anything or bracket exposures. There’s much less to worry about compared to negs.

Here’s a writeup I did on this in these forums last year. If you’re just digitizing 35mm, the 40mm Nikkor with ES-1 will work well. RawTherapee is excellent, and use your base ISO (100 for the D7200?).

Clean your slides well! You can use a good bulb blower for loose dust, but to remove those hundreds of tiny specs of embedded dirt, use 3M Magic Tape. That will take 15-20 seconds per slide and will save you a lot of headache later on.

I’ve made some refinements since that thread last year. One that’s significant is to do a custom white balance on your light pad. Stop down a couple stops (or shoot auto exposure) and take a white balance reading just the Kaiser light pad. To do this you might need to use the viewfinder instead of live view, but check the camera manual for the procedure.

Another useful tip is to set your multi-select centre button to zoom into 100% magnification, to check your focus. It’s a toggle, so when you press it again it zooms back out to normal view. It’s covered well in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNUH5dCaLMU

Thanks for your replies and the suggestion about the 3M tape. I was wondering how to clean some of these slides. The great majority are sitting in Kodak slide trays with covers in place. It has been years since I have projected any of them. However, the first set I am expermenting with were improperly stored–not covered quite dusty. I blew them off with the rocket-blower, but was wondering how to remove more recalcitrant detritus. I would have never guessed that tape would work–do you think there are any possible issues with contamination/chemical reactions due to the tape ?

I guessed that possibly a drop or two of distilled water applied with a microfiber cloth would work, but maybe solvents of any kind might cause problems. . .

I’ve seen no evidence of any contamination or chemical reaction and have discussed it with a number of other people. There is no residue as long as the tape is not rubbed across the film surface. Just press it on and pull it off. For the 2-3 seconds it’s in contact with the film it’s pretty unlikely to have any chemical reaction.

That said, I don’t use it on very old film emulsions, such as from the 1930s and 40s, out of concern that the emulsion might be fragile and pieces of it would come off. However, I haven’t seen any evidence of this.

You can also use a microfibre cloth with film cleaner solution such as PEC-12 or Edwal. I rarely use this because the 3M tape is effective without it.

For badly scratched slides I will occasionally apply Edwal No-Scratch of light mineral oil. This is messier and more time consuming, but is very useful for those special slides that are damaged.

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Thanks again–will look into these!

OK, in processing these in RT, I learned that these need to be “uncooked”. On first look, some of these (shot unavoidably with backlighting ) have large areas of blown highlights and clogged shadows, but this is much reduced when switching to “Neutral” processing profile. The colors look more natural as well. In re-cooking them so that they look as good as possible to my eye, they still retain a filmlike quality, which is fine. The LAB adjustment panel, which I am still learning, is very helpful in tweaking the colors–in highlights and shadows separately!

Colors, sharpness, and detail look pretty good and I’m not seeing too much in the way of dust and detritus.

I have an old, old Nikon Coolscan 5000ED. The Nikon scanner software can run on Windows 10 (with a few tricks), then scan to TIFF (if it’s important) and go from there.

Bigger problem for me is, many slides are in a pretty bad shape aber decades of bad storage. My old negatives aren’t much better.

My Kodachrome slides were scanned with a DigitDia6000 aka PowerSlide 5000. With a digital camera you are lacking the IR-based scratch and dust removal (ICE), which I do not want to miss:


As far as colours are concerned, with a scanner a proper ICC-profile for Kodachrome is mandatory: