This year has provided an opportunity to edit my film collection with ample time that I would not have had otherwise. Once upon a time, I had a 36″ legal depth file cabinet which had the upper drawer fully devoted to film. In addition, I had a set of antique library index card cabinets with one section (15 drawers) containing nothing but mounted film. A few months ago, I wrote about going through the 35mm collection. Around August, I went through the rest of it. I shot a lot of 4×5 film, but the majority of it was 2 1/4 film. I learned early on that a lab duplicate could never match the quality of straight-out-of-camera, so when I had something good, I made sure I had at least one backup, often many more. Now that nothing goes out as film anymore, It was time to dispose of the shots that no longer serve a purpose. By the time I finished, I had eliminated about 80-100 pounds of film and mounts. My life’s work now takes up about two shoeboxes.
The only question remaining after the elimination process was what to do with the remaining film. I wasn’t really happy with the scanner I owned. It usually did well with the 4×5 film, sometimes did well with the 2 1/4, and never with the 35mm. Reviews into newer scanners didn’t provide a good feeling about upgrading, and everybody said the only way to scan 35mm was with a scanner dedicated to that format. 35mm was never my bread-and-butter. I only used it when time wouldn’t allow for a larger camera, or a telephoto lens was called for. Buying a new scanner for the sole purpose of digitizing these slides seemed like a waste. Devices for slide duplication which fit onto a lens are available, but I had already tried something along those lines. Now I had the time to perfect it.
I tried to modify the way the scanner worked, first by changing the height of the film trays off the bed of the scanner. No significant results. Then, I thought removing the glass between the optical sensor and the film might help. That pretty much destroyed the scanner. No loss there. Then I made a lightbox with completely dark surroundings and played with all kinds of variables until I got it right. I did save the film holders from the scanner, as they have become invaluable.
There were three major problems with the scanner that are no longer present by using a digital camera. Most notably was the presence of chromatic aberration that was in the scans, but not the original film. Often this was time consuming to eliminate, sometimes impossible without adverse effects. Secondly, areas of pure black always had noise. Thirdly, there were occasions when the scanned image had a band of red, green, and blue pixels running through it. None of these are issues anymore, and the sharpness can’t be matched.
As if that wasn’t enough to keep me busy, I now had a reason to get some images sent out, so the process of rescanning my library has begun. After all this time of being on the computer, I had no motivation to be on a computer any longer than I already was, so that is why I have been absent from this site. I had a different perspective for saving film for scanning purposes versus what I would have considered the best shot going out as film. Many shots in the new collection have never been out in 30+ years. Here are some of my ‘salvaged’ images.
Here is the first image I have taken outdoors in almost three months. This is from this morning using the same lens I use for ‘scanning’.
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