DSLR/Mirrorless scanning is relatively new to film, but it gives added speed, convenience, and precision for capturing frames in full detail. Modern cameras with high resolution also capture slide film with better reproduction quality and color due to CMOS sensor technology. Scanning film with a digital camera is truly the future digitization.
“After having scanned all our film for over a decade using a professional Fuji Frontier minilab scanner (essentially a Camera Scanner), Epson v750 flatbed and various others, camera scanning is finally emerging as a premium workflow solution for scanning your own work in all formats. The Negative Supply products solve many of the initial struggles of camera scanning. It is now fast and reliable with potentially higher resolution in a much smaller package and simply more efficient in nearly every way.” - Brandon Wright Creator & Co-Founder of CineStill Film
Camera & Lens
Just about any semi-modern interchangeable camera will work great for camera scanning. There are many mirrorless or DSLR options to choose from, with the most convenient offering tethered live view capture to your computer. The Canon T2i is probably the cheapest option out there with tethering and large lens selection, and new cameras like the Sony A7 series are now very affordable with great IQ. High end setups may even use the new full frame Panasonic mirrorless cameras with pixel stitching.
For camera scanning, the one real requirement is that your lens focuses close enough to capture the entire frame, without having to digitally crop. For full frame cameras and capturing 35mm film, the term 1:1 designates a lens that will reproduce the 35mm frame exactly onto the full frame digital sensor. With crop bodies, 1:1 focus even closer. There are also options to use extension tubes for older macro lenses. We have had excellent results with an inexpensive Nikon 55mm macro from the film days, using a simple extension tube to get 1:1 on our full frame bodies. Higher end, yet affordable options include the excellent Sigma 70mm ART Macro. The Outside of reproduction factor (1:1), also look out for lenses that are sharp, have good color reproduction, limit internal reflections (modern coatings), and have very little vignetting. Finally, it’s generally best to use your lens stopped down 2-3 from wide open, as this gives a good combination between depth of field and brightness.
Software for Negative Conversion
There are a few plugins and standalone programs for converting negatives into positives. Some older and some newer, all of them try to harness the color science based in darkroom paper to various degrees. Many professional scanners have used LaserSoft applications or some proprietary/built-in software to emulate darkroom printing. After all, even a professional lab scanner is simply a digital camera and a light source. The applications below do the same thing for converting negatives captured with you digital camera rather than a digital camera built into a scanner. We recommend choosing the one that best suits your workflow.