Photographing old negatives / workflow

Started 3 months ago | Discussions thread
Franglais91 Senior Member • Posts: 1,075
D850 has it built-in

PLShutterbug wrote:

Moderator: Let me know where this belongs if not here. I looked but couldn’t find a topic area that seemed a better fit.

I have something like 4,000 old negatives and slides to digitize in formats from 126 Instamatic to 2-1/2”x4-1/4”. I plan to photograph these using my Z7, Nikkor 60mm Micro, and a negative stage I built myself. I’m not interested in using a scanner for this.

Best practices? My current plan:

  • Create custom picture controls for each emulsion type so I can see positives in camera before I even fire the shutter. That way I can just not photograph ones that don’t look interesting.
  • I use Affinity for editing so plan to shoot RAW, save to disk and then use View-NXi to bulk convert to TIFF before tweaking those I’m interested in. That way I don’t have to re-process the RAW files again in Affinity.
  • I’d like to connect my camera to PC to preview and maybe save direct to disk. Looks like Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 for this but wonder if it provides the flexibility I know I will want. In particular:
  • - If I know an image should be vertical, I’d like to indicate that so the original is flagged that way.
  • - Auto dust and scratch healing?

Has anyone here done this, and have advice?


During the confinement in the Spring I digitised thousands of using negatives using my D850 which has a built-in program to inverse negative films:

- for 24x36 film I used the CS2 film scanner attachment on my 60mm macro with a big LED panel behind. Simple

- for 6x6 film I used a 105mm Macro lens with the camera mounted inverted looking down at the film held in a commercial film holder placed on a pile of books about 20cm tall sitting on a 10 inch tablet displaying a pure white image (can't put the film straight on a LED light source because the camera easily records the individual LEDs)

I set the camera on f8 100 ISO and let it set the shutter speed. I viewed the image on the rear LCD and if necessary adjusted the exposure using the controls in the built-in program.

In film digitising mode the D850 only outputs JPG. I treated each image afterwards in DXO to correct framing, remove obvious imperfections/dust and do the usual dodge/burn, skin smoothing etc.

For black-and-white and colour transparencies the results were mostly excellent. The 6x6 images looked just like native D850 images.

For colour negatives the result was mostly dismal. Sometimes the D850 got the transformation from masked colour negative to positive just about right but often it looked too saturated. I tried converting some of the 6x6 to black and white and that was not too bad but the grain is mush, unlike the crisp, sharp grain of real black and white film.

 Franglais91's gear list:Franglais91's gear list
Nikon D850 Nikon Z5 Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 60mm F2.8G ED Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm F1.4G Nikon AF Nikkor 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D IF ED +14 more
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