Vlads Scanning Rigs Gallery

Very simple setup based on Nikon slide copier ES1

Camera: Canon DSLR

Lens: Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro lens 

Adapter: Nikon ES1 Slide copy adapter 

Light: Canon flash. 

The rail is optional but needed to keep the adapter and camera aligned; otherwise, the adapter would freely rotate around the lens' axis. Changing slides requires certain accuracy, and aligning the slide mount inside the holder is the responsibility of the operator. That's why this setup makes sense only if you plan to scan no more than a couple of dozen slides at a time.

This is a very basic setup which, nevertheless, will provide you with outstanding results. How come, you may ask? The basis of this setup is the Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro lens, one of the top-shelf lenses. At a cost of about 150 USD, this lens provides four very important benefits:

1) It's a "true" macro lens with a truly good "field of flatness."

2) The lens extends to a 1:1 scale ratio, freeing you from hunting for various extension rings.

3) The lens comes in various mounts (Nikon, Canon, Sony), so your lens will be fully integrated with your camera, making shooting a seamless experience.

4) Because the adapter is bound to the lens and camera, the rig is very vibration-proof - you may shoot hand-held if you want.

From a pure engineering point of view, the Nikon ES-1 adapter effortlessly solves one of the nagging problems associated with camera scanning. It nearly frees the user from the necessity of constructing a complex framework that keeps the camera sensor parallel to the film's plane. This absolutely mandatory requirement of any camera scanning setup gets resolved by design - by the virtue of the ES-1 adapter being mechanically bound to the lens barrel. 

So that's basically it - the Nikon ES-1 adapter, a step-up ring, and the Sigma macro lens are all you need to start scanning your slides. 

Advanced High-Precision Vertical Setup

What are the advantages of this setup?

List of components

Pipe 3/4 24"

Flange 3/4

Four 1/4-20 1 1/4 " machine screws /nuts pairs

Manfrotto 2909 Super Clamp with 2907 Reversible Short Stud

Manfrotto 208 3/8" Head Mounting Plate with Lock Screws

Laminate Base Plate

Vlads Test Target ;-)

Benro 3D Geared head *)

NiSi Macro Focusing Rail NM-180 With 360-Degree Rotating Clamp

SmalRig Cage for EOS R

FeelWorld F6 Plus 5.5" 4K HDMI Monitor

Valoi 360 Advancer + Valoi 35 holder + Raleno light

Manfrotto Table Stand

Canon EOS R Refurb from Canon

Sigma 2.8/70mm Macro Art lens

Canon EF to RF adapter

Canon Remote control

*) Items in italic are not essential for 'pipe' copy stand.

Vertical setup in the vein of Salvador Dali "The Elephants"  

Leica BOOWU 16525 Copy Stand, Componon-S 80 mm lens, VALOI film holder, black plastic box with top top suspended on the compression springs for alignment, LED lights

Horizontal setup with Canon slide duplicator and Oben MFR

Vertical Setup with Beseler Slide Copier with 4x5 adapter and 4x5 Vlads Test Target

Note how long the whole contraption is.

Setup based on JJC Photo Slide and Film Digitizing LED Light Kit

In the previous entry  (see "Very simple setup based on Nikon slide copier ES1" ), we discussed the pros and cons of the simple, so-called "horizontal" setup based on the Nikon ES-1 holder and Sigma 2.8/50 Macro lens. I made the point that this setup is good (in fact, very good) for an ASP-C type of sensor. Based on my own experience, for a full-frame sensor, a macro lens with a focal distance of 60mm or longer is better suited. Let's continue our exercise with the full-frame sensor (Canon EOS R) and a 70mm Sigma 2.8/70 Macro Art EF mount lens, along with another Nikon adapter kit - the ES-2.

The limitation of the previously discussed setup was its inability to scan anything but standard 50x50 mm mounted slides. Certainly, in the age of 3D printers, it would not be terribly hard to devise an insert to scan film in rolls, but let's leave it at that for now.

Now, suppose we are taking the next step and want to add film strips to the roster of scannable media. Everybody who shot film 20+ years ago and took rolls to the nearest pharmacy or even professional labs has those ubiquitous folders with (supposedly) neatly arranged and indexed strips of 4-5-6 frames of 35mm film. Some folks have already spent very long days and nights cleaning those strips and feeding them into film scanners - all those Epsons, Nikons, Canons, Plusteks, you name it. I have yet to meet a person who would say it was great fun. Anyway, most folks are familiar with scanner film strip holders, and it was only natural that once Nikon started making kits for camera copying, the same strip holders became the workhorses - or rather carriages.

Nikon, throughout history, has been very consistent in offering excellent means for slide/film copying. Many of these devices are still very much in demand today, and we will come to discuss many of them.

Today, for pure illustration purposes, we will discuss the Nikon ES-2 kit. I think I will be able to illustrate certain points before we switch to more advanced designs. Unfortunately, I don't have my own kit (I think it's too expensive for what it does), and I cannot honestly start gushing about it. It is still sold under the name "Nikon ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter Set" for US$139 at B&H. But... I can discuss working with a Chinese knock-off sold for half of the above price on Amazon as "JJC Slide and Film Digitizing Adapter Kit for Negative Copying and Film Converting to Digital, Replaces Nikon ES-2 Photo Digitizer Converter for Select Canon Nikon Sony Marco Lenses." By the way, if you decide to buy it [and I am completely neutral in that regard], go for the set titled "JJC Photo Slide and Film Digitizer Converter with 10-Levels Brightness LED Backlight for 35mm Slide and Negatives Copying Scanning to Digital for Select Canon Nikon Sony Macro Lenses," which includes a light source.

But let's see what sort of issues this new design brings along with its new extended capabilities. Obviously, it's good that the holder preserved all important features of ES-1: self-alignment, ease of use, and as Serhiy Rozum noted, the hood protects the original and lens from stray and ambient light. Anyway, I decided to check if the lens I use for Full Format scanning - Sigma 2.8/70 Macro Art can be employed with this adapter. It happened that I only needed a 49-52 mm step-up ring to join the lens and the adapter. More to that - the extension tube built into the adapter should be almost completely collapsed into the adapter for my lens to go into a 1:1 scale.

So again, we can build a very simple setup - camera, lens, step-up ring, adapter, and light source – now for a full-frame sensor.

While this adapter does have a screw to lock the extension tube in the desired spot, the necessity to push the film holder forth and back through the adapter leaves no chance to keep it (the holder) in the required configuration - namely focused. Let me note that according to my direct measurements, this Sigma 70 mm lens at f/8 and magnification factor 1:1 has a depth of field of approximately 0.3 mm in either direction – just to give you a real sense of what we are dealing with in terms of precision. Besides, I don’t like having very long protruding elements – one wrong move, and the lens can be damaged.

Here is a compact scanning station capable of scanning slides and strips of film.

Now, the obvious advantage of the JJC kit is the availability of the variable intensity light source in a very compact package. So far, I don't know how good it is for color film scanning, but for b/w, it should be fine. At least there's an extra slot where I can put a diffuser or color filter if needed. The light is bright enough - much brighter than, say, in Lomography Digitaliza+ . In the end, it's the presence and low cost of the integrated light source that makes this adapter viable at all. But let’s continue our engineering review.

But first, let's discuss for a moment one issue that almost never gets mentioned when people discuss their setups. It's about getting good focus. Now, for almost all the designs - vertical and horizontal - folks make the same almost unconscious decision when it comes to focusing. By looking at someone’s rig, you can immediately tell if the wrong pattern is implemented. The telltale sign is the absence of a micro focusing rail (MFR) under the camera/lens assembly. The absence of a rail almost guarantees that the owner of the rig will casually complain about hard-to-achieve focus.

Make a mental picture of the typical design: there are a camera and a lens somehow mounted to a pole or a rail, and here is the massive adapter with the film, with some backlight often used to support the adapter. Both ends are now immobilized in the name of stability.

Now, suppose one needs to refocus the lens because the next slide mount is of slightly different thickness. The operator rotates the focusing ring, and the lens starts moving in search of a new focus. Note that ideally, we want to adjust the distance between the lens and film or between the lens and sensor. But in fact, if we are focusing just the lens and not the whole camera/lens assembly, we are changing two (!!!) distances - we are increasing the distance from the lens to the film and simultaneously decreasing the distance between the lens and the sensor. We are doing two for one - with the results putting great strain on our eyes. The sharpness changes way too fast – because we are affecting two distances at once, and both at the same factor. By the way, in those types of setups, the camera AF often gets confused too - with the lens starting to make wide moves and wasting our precious time.

What we should be doing is changing only one distance - the distance between the object (film original) and the lens. In that scenario, the observable focus changes are much slower, more pleasant to the eyes, and - probably most importantly - keep the reproduction scale constant. 

And here are all the pieces that went into the design – that's just for entertainment purposes only - but some may see it as an expense report ;-)

#mysetup #vladstesttarget (C) Vladimir Serebryany, 2022

Horizontal Setup with Componon S 100 mm Lens and Nikon slide duplicator.

Note how long the whole contraption is.