In Color!

I’m continuing my exploration into the world of digitizing negatives. After my quite successful results with black and white negatives which came out quite a bit sharper than with my otherwise excellent Plustek scanner (and the files are much smaller too – 18Mb for a b&w scan and 4,5Mb for a digitized version), I’m getting into color today.

And I’m amazed about how easy it was!

I imagined that I had a lot of trouble getting the colors right without the help of the scanning software, but let me tell you that it was extremely easy and fast.

And what’s more, I did this all on my iPad!

Let me give you a quick rundown of my workflow.

I set up my LED lightpad, the tripod and the X-E1 with the old Takumar 50mm macro lens, darkened the room somewhat and masked the lightpad with some ugly cardboard cut to size. I definitely have to get some repro stand and build a nicer setup that’s easier to put into action.

Then I quickly snapped some negatives I had from 2014, photos I quite like. The film was Portra 400. I decided on the 6 frames I liked best from that roll, all frames that presented some bold colors and lighting that I thought was hard to get right. At least way back when the Vuescan software had trouble getting it right. Silverfast managed quite well.

I popped the SD card into my iPad’s card reader and imported the ‘scans’ into Photos. In the last days I have experimented a lot with some apps to help me invert negatives and manipulate the colors as easily as possible. I tried Pixelmator, Priime RAW and some others but I was simply overwhelmed by the possibilities of Polarr. Not the cheapest app at 22€ for the ‘pro’ add-ons, but totally worth the cost.

And what’s more, it integrates perfectly as an extension of Photos so I can use it as an ‘internal’ editor.

And it really IS a fully fledged editor that allows me to easily crop the scans, invert them and use the Curves tool to quickly set the colors right.

A quick dive into contrast and highlights and shadows for some frames (but not for all) And I have really great looking results.

Let’s compare the scans and the digitized versions once more. Of course WordPress will bring down resolution quite a bit but you can believe me that it’s a lot better than with the scanner. And very very much faster too. I did the 6 frames I tested in about 10 minutes…. from snapping them to having the finished product. That amounts to about an hour for a whole roll (If I use all the negatives). With the scanner a roll of film would take about an hour to scan and then the tedious chore of adjusting each frame… let’s say at least double the time!

Still not digital-fast of course but well, you know, I got this crazy thing going about film photography… 😉

So here we go – thanks to my Olympus XA2:

First photo is the original scan from the Plustek with a lot of tweaking in Lightroom:

And here’s the new and faster version done on the iPad:

A bit less vibrant but that’s what I wanted. And at least as sharp and well defined.

Another one from the scanner:

Yellowish cast I was unable to get rid of completely. Artificially sharpened and clarity applied to get it to look OK.

The new version, straight without sharpening or clarity:

Great color, great definition… I’m happy!

And a last one, a photo I fiddled with for a long time to get the menacing, cloudy look from just before a thunderstorm. Amazing that the humble XA2 managed to get it right. Here’s the scan:

And here’s the new, digitized version:

Well, to end this story, I can say that I’m positively surprised about the quality I was able to obtain and the ease I had to do so.

I guess my scanner will now find it’s way to eBay.

As for working on an iPad, this was the last hurdle I had to take. The thing that worried me the most. But the iPad mastered it better than I would have thought. It’s been a month now that I last used my Mac Mini… for anything! And I’m really questioning it’s usefulness.

Of course the screen is small…. but the resolution of that tiny screen is amazing. The best way to view and edit photos apart from holding a real print.

Guess I have some downsizing in my near future!

Thanks for visiting!

18 thoughts on “In Color!

  1. I start to get really interested in this way of digitising film, thank you for sharing your experience!
    As for the yellow tint, isn’t it a typical portra look?

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      • Well, I might be mistaken, I’m not an expert in film looks 😉
        For such a set up as much as it’s neat I have exactly nothing, so it can only be considered for the future.

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      • It cost me less than my scanner. Used 6 year old digital camera and a truly antique Takumar macro lens. But you can get by with a totally standard 50mm with a close focus ring or two.

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      • Will do… next film I’ll develop. It’s just a cheap lightpad (Huion brand from Amazon), a cheap tripod (a real repro-stand would be better) and either a macro lens or a 50 mm with close up rings. Using M42 lenses with an adapter works great. M42 close up rings are cheap too.

        Just remember to use the 2 second self timer on the camera to avoid shake!! Or a cable release…

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  2. Wow! Those are great results!

    The whole iPad thing is very tempting, but one piece of the puzzle is missing for my workflow. Rather that cataloging my film scans on a screen, I print a contact sheet of every roll. I used to do this with an OSX macro. When that broke I used Photos until I found ContactPage Pro, an OSX app that does a really good job. I haven’t found a comparable app for iOS. I suspect this is because it doesn’t really work well, if at all, with multiple files at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pinting from the iPad is still not fully developed, you’re right!

      I manage to print my photos with a quite badly made Canon app that has very limited options. The results are OK.

      As for contact sheets I think there’s no app for it… yet

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    • Solved!

      Try PDF Photos app by Sarrada Software Inc

      https://itunes.apple.com/app/apple-store/id993438771?pt=1117461&ct=2&mt=8

      I managed to create a layout with a grid of 25 photos (you select the number of rows and columns freely) and could print it out. You can add roll information as header and footer!

      Free trial period for all the premium features like custom layouts. Then either a subscription at 10€ per year or lifetime license at 13€!

      I’ll dig deeper into it’s options today. Looks interesting though and worth the money!

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      • Seems a bit slow but hey, we’re a patient bunch. I printed a very nice contact sheet this morning. Set it to 20 frames per page in landscape mode. The app arranges the frames correctly oriented. Set the margins to narrow and good to go.

        Might try for more frames per page… but a whole roll on one page will be a bit small I think. What’s your opinion?

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      • I only shoot 24-exposure or shorter rolls. A 5×5 array on 8.5×11 paper in landscape orientation works well for me. I tried a few 6×6’s and found the individual frames too small, so I format any more than 25 frames as a 2-page PDF.

        Liked by 1 person

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