2018 February 9    Film   Scanning


Testing out the Panasonic FZ1000, I wondered if it would work to scan film. 

I found that it works for this, in much the same way as any bridge camera with "Macro" mode.  The larger sensor makes the film captures look better than usual.

Then I wondered, how do they compare with DSLR scans?

A Quick Note

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In This Article

A Test Scan


100% Crops


A Test Scan

Camera zoomed out (25mm equivalent), then set to Macro Zoom mode.  Then, zoom in until the 35mm slide fills the screen.  And of course, focus.

This method uses Digital Zoom to provide the necessary amount of macro magnification.  So it's not using 100% of the sensor, even though the final picture is still 20 megapixels in size.

Pretty amazing, actually.  This is sharper than most flatbed scanners.  I don't know how much of the sensor it uses when "digitally zooming", but it's probably about the area of a smartphone sensor.  At low ISO that's feasible.

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When you look at daylight photos made with iPhones, they look pretty good.  Downsampled from their full resolution to fit a computer screen, they look fantastic.

But there's a reason why they don't put 1/3-inch sensors in DSLR's.

I "re-camera-scanned" the picture using a DSLR with macro lens. 

You might not notice a big difference right away, but it's there.  It is actually pretty substantial once you notice it.  (We'll get to that shortly.)

Traditionally, film photographers looked to get the most sharpness available.  We did this by selecting the best lenses and the finest-grained films.  I don't always do that, though;  often I shoot with cheap lenses or even cheap plastic toy cameras.  And sometimes I shoot with consumer-grade 400 or 800 film.  But the idea with scanning, at least, is to preserve the exact state of what the film camera produced, not adding any unnecessary digital noise or blotching to the scan.

And you also don't want the digital camera to cause any detail loss of its own. 

Based on that, here's the camera that would be the ultimate for scanning.  But a 20-megapixel DSLR is pretty good, as we'll see.  It's enough that you can start resolving the grain of 35mm slide film, with the right lens.  That camera's sensor is large enough that it doesn't add its own "grain" made of digital noise, nor cause diffraction losses.

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100% Crops

Roll your mouse pointer across the image to compare.  The picture you see first is the FZ1000 version;  the other is from the Canon 6D. These are only a small detail from the actual scan, just to show you what I mean.  These were two different scans at different times, so the dust removal was not identical on them...

Mouse-over to see the difference.

First version:  Panasonic FZ1000 (100% crop)

Second version:  Canon 6D w/ 100mm macro lens at f/11 (100% crop)

Soon as I get the chance, I'll make a version that shows the difference without the mouse-over, because it might not work on some browsers (or phones).

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It's possible to scan film with this bridge camera;  as you saw, the quality is quite usable.  It's not a DSLR, and the 100% crops do show a major difference in scan quality.  But that might not matter a lot for Web resolutions up to about 1,000 pixels wide.

This was a freehand scan, no stand or tripod.  If you really want to do it right, use the right equipment and the camera will be aligned perfectly every time.

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