Instructables

Use Your Camera to Digitize Large-format Negatives.

The Problem

Over the past few years, I've scanned all my 35mm negatives and now have digital copies of all of them (over 14,000 - phew!). But, I still have hundreds of really old large-format negatives taken by my family over the decades that I am unable to scan because they are too large to fit in my scanner. I've got prints that had been made of a few of the negatives, but print scan quality at 300 DPI is marginal and the dynamic range of a print is decidedly limited. And even worse, for those negatives that have not been printed, it is impossible to make out who or what they are of.

I wanted a quick and easy way to turn the negatives into positives and decided that my new digital camera could create those digital copies for me - all I needed to do was try it out to see what it could do.

Proof Of Concept

I placed a negative in a sunlight window and took a photograph of it (the negative below is my dad - taken when he lived on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in 1919.) I could see that the detail was good, but there was a lot of glare and the negative obviously needed to be held flat to the image plane. I needed a fixture that would hold negatives flat and which eliminated extraneous light and reflections.

The Requirements

The fixture needed to address the following requirements:

It must hold the negatives in a flat plane.
It must diffuse the light source so there is no hot spot.
It must hold the negatives within the focus plane of the camera.
It must be solidly mounted to my digital camera camera.
It must have a light shield to minimize glare from extraneous light.
It must to be quick and easy to load and unload.

Materials

Clear plastic - The camera side of the negative holder "sandwich".

Translucent plastic - The light source side of the negative holder "sandwich". This diffuses the light to eliminate hot spots.

Angle bracket - To hold the negative holder.

Metal bar - To mount the negative holder to the camera.

Cardboard - To make the light shield.

Screws, clips, duct tape and hinges - To hold everything together.

Except for the plastic, I had most of the materials on hand in various bins I keep for just these purposes. I bought the both sheets of plastic out of the scrap bin at Tap Plastics - so my total out-of-pocket investment came to about $2.00. (The plastic typically comes with a protective paper cover on both sides. Leave it on for as long as is humanly possible - I didn't and it's now got some very nice scratches on the surface.)
 
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cesarakg2 years ago
What is better, to digitize the negative or the printed copy? What gives you the better results?
yellowcatt2 years ago
I had some 5x4 negs and transparencies to convert to digital.
I used my copystand made from an old enlarger column(from Ebay) and a light box .

The light box was a 6" square box with the top being a piece of opal perspex, it was white inside and had a white reflector at 45° to the top. The side facing the reflector had a central circular window and was illuminated by a 250w 24 v halogen lamp.
the lamp housing was another equal sized box with a cooling fan and air vents.

This was a basic copy of a large format enlarger diffuser box.

I already had suitable sized neg holders (from Ebay)

I copied hundreds of images using this setup.

I experimented with using flash rather than the halogen lamp but found the halogen easier to work with.

To avoid distortions of the image it is best to use a fixed focal length lens designed for copy work, I used a micro nikkor 55mm.
mbc12254 years ago
Newbie here. What do you do after picture taken of neg? Is there some kind of software or something that makes a positive? Thanks for any info, Beth mbc1225@aol.com
frammis (author)  mbc12254 years ago
Once you've taken your pictures, you need to transfer them from your camera to your computer and then use an image processing program to convert the image from a negative to a positive. Once you've done that, you can then tweak the positive.

I use Photoshop, but just about any program (such as Microsoft Photo Editor) should include the capability.

In the case of Photoshop, you'd use the Invert feature (click on Image>Adjust>Invert) to invert (convert) the neg to a positive.

In the case of Microsoft's Photo Editor, click on Effects>Negative to invert the neg.

Kind regards...

mbc1225 frammis4 years ago
Thank you thank you. I inherited a drawer full of 4x5 negs from my Dad-an AP photographer, 1944-1968 ish.  Thanks for sharing your brain,Beth
Creativeman4 years ago
Good instructable, it reminds me of what I did with slides.  My method appears to be much simpler with no soldering, metal work, etc.  Check it out, if you like, and give me your opinion. I don't have any large negatives, so don't need it for that, but it might work and be much simpler. Go To:www.instructables.com/id/Copy-Your-Old-Slides-The-Easy-Way/. Thanks. Cman
frammis (author)  Creativeman4 years ago
Very neat. Your approach is certainly a lot more straightforward and if I'd seen your instructable, I probably would have done it your way - except for the fact that I had the tools and materials available to do it the way I did.

I have a huge number of slides (some 14,000) that I wanted to digitize and some years ago I bought a dedicated HP slide scanner so I could scan them in a more production line process. It wouldn't scan large-format negatives though and that's why I came up with this contraption.
Frammis

rimar20004 years ago
Very good idea, thanks. I took a photo directly from a photo frame featuring a picture of my childhood (positive) with my 5-Mp BenQ camera, and it was more than satisfactory.
maruawe4 years ago
Very Good :::::: I have a lot of 2.25x2.25 that need to be digitized and some 11x14 from my view camera , Will try this thanks
shax4 years ago
Outstanding Instructable! To achieve consistency in lighting the negative, you could go a step further and mount a light source or two.