SHUTTER ISLAND: CHOOSING YOUR CAMERA BODY
WHY DOES THE TYPE OF CAMERA BODY MATTER FOR FILM DIGITIZATION?
The camera body affects the resolution of your digitized photos. The sensor's overall pixel number, the distance between pixels, sets the ultimate limit for actual resolution. Note that typical sensors with Bayer array have approximately half of the nominal or advertised megapixels. Pixel shift technology considerably improves the resolution. Other features, such as dynamic range, also matter, but even an entry-level camera will typically have a higher dynamic range than negative film.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN APS-C AND FULL-FRAME CAMERAS FOR DIGITIZING?
The difference lies mainly in the sensor size and pixel pitch. Full-frame cameras often have larger pixels, which can provide slightly better detail and dynamic range. The reproduction ratio for APS-C camera is 1:1.6 vs 1:1 for full-frames (for 35 mm originals). In combination with certain lenses the smaller sensor may even provide certain advantages. Both APS-C and Full frame cameras can deliver excellent results while APS-C systems can be more affordable and easier to handle.
CAN I USE A MIRRORLESS CAMERA FOR FILM DIGITIZATION?
Yes, mirrorless cameras are excellent for film digitization. They offer a permanent live view mode that adjusts image brightness in the viewfinder automatically, which allows you to comfortably work with lenses already set to the working aperture. Short flange distance makes these camera compatible with a broader range of lenses, including older, high-quality enlarger lenses. Another advantage is their well developed capacity for tethering, which allows real-time viewing and more precise adjustments on a computer.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF DSLR CAMERAS FOR DIGITIZING?
DSLRs have an optical viewfinder, which some photographers prefer for its direct view of the subject, and they typically have longer battery life. However, they can be bulkier and the mirror mechanism may add extra level of vibration. While they also offer a live view mode, it can be slower and less responsive compared to mirrorless cameras.
IS THE AGE OF MY CAMERA IMPORTANT FOR DIGITIZING?
While newer camera models offer improved features and better sensors, older cameras can still produce high-quality digital copies of film. The most important factors are the resolution, or megapixel count and dynamic range, rather than the age of the camera. Theoretically older cameras may produce images in RAW format which may no longer be supported, but so far we are not aware of such cases.
HOW MANY MEGAPIXELS DO I NEED FOR DIGITIZING?
The required megapixel count depends on the level of detail you want to capture. For 35mm film, a camera with 18+ megapixels can capture pretty high level of detail, 24 MP is generally considered enough to capture everything worth capturing on 24x36 mm frame.
WHAT CAMERA SETTINGS SHOULD I USE FOR DIGITIZING?
Use manual mode for complete control over the camera, set the ISO to its lowest value to minimize noise. Use of autofocus depends on whether camera /lens handle AF fine. That's vary widely between camera brands. There are few schools of thought on whether to use built-in light measuring system while taking pictures of the film frame. Most common recommendation is to overexpose by one stop. White balance setting does not really matter as in the vast majority of cases the digitizing is performed in RAW mode. We will discuss those nuances in another section.
DOES THE CAMERA'S SHUTTER COUNT MATTER?
Shutter count isn't crucial for film digitization. High-speed shooting that might wear out a shutter isn't necessary. However, a camera with a very high shutter count might be nearing the end of its life.
SHOULD I USE RAW OR JPEG FORMAT WHEN DIGITIZING?
For digitizing film, it's advisable to always shoot in RAW format. This format captures more data and offers greater flexibility for adjustments during post-processing. However, if you're scanning color slides and using a certain type of backlight, such as the Sun, JPEG can be a workable option to get results faster. Note that for color negatives, which require an inversion process, JPEG is not a suitable format. If your camera supports HDR mode, you can use it to improve dynamic range when scanning slide film. Shutter speed bracketing is also advisable as it allows to creat HDR in post and also almost guarantees that at least one shot will be on the money.