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B&W negatives «scanning» using a X-Pro2

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I think it's worth it to share my experience with the process of digitize black & white negatives using the X-Pro2. If some peoples were thinking about it, it will be faster to make it work! First you need the following :

  • X-Pro2
  • A good Macro lens (I use a Micro-Nikkor 55mm/2.8, exceptionnal lens for reproduction work)
  • An extension tube (if your lens don't go to a 1:1 ratio)
  • A lightbox (I use an old X-Ray lightbox!)
  • A reproduction bench (I made one by myself, cheap but effective)
  • A remote to avoid camera vibrations during exposure
  • A can of compressed air for negatives cleaning
  • A way to keep negatives in place and flat (I use a negative carrier from an old enlarger)
  • An old 50mm. Used as a magnifier for choosing the good negatives from the bad ones.

After testing, it appears that only Macro lenses can do that task with excellent results. I tried RAW as I always shoot RAW but I got artifact pattern. The JPEG processor correct the pattern perfectly.






Here are the settings I use on the X-Pro2:

  • JPEG
  • ISO200
  • Auto speed
  • +1 exposure correction
  • F8
  • Manual focus (after a good adjustment, it stay at the right focusing distance)
  • Drive = single
  • Electronic shutter
  • NR -4
  • Sharpening -4
  • Shadow details -1
  • Highlights details -1
  • Simple B&W custom setting

Few months ago I asked my local lab to scan few negatives for an exhibition. They used a Nikon Coolscan 5000ED. I wasn't sure that the results were as good as the negatives were but at the time I had no way to have comparatives. Now that I have that set-up, I compare the scans from the lab to my «scans» made with the X-Pro2 and mines aren't just better, they are A LOT better! Much more tonalities. During the firsts experimentations, I search the web and found that when well done, this method give amazing results and I can confirm that. The only better way to digitize is using a drum scan, an impossible solution for my thousands of B&W negatives from 20 years of analog photography.


When the «scans» are done, I transfer the pictures on computer, Using Photoshop batch process, I invert the negatives. After that I import the positives in Lightroom. The rest is similar processing as with digital pictures.


Until now I have 1200 scans completed so I really can confirm that this method work! Hoping that it can simplified the process for others tempted by this solution for «scanning» B&W negatives.


As exemple, here is a picture I first shoot 20 years ago using a Leica M4-P with a summilux 35mm on Tri-X film




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  • 3 weeks later...

I would recommend trying either silverfast or colourfast plugins rather than doing the

inversion in photoshop.


With colour negatives these tools are pretty much required for getting good results,

with B&W they just make good results much easier.


The problem, simply put, is that the inversion required is 1/x rather than 1-x and if you use 1-x

(like photoshop) the tonality curve will be wrong and fixing will need quite a bit of fiddling

with curves or, less accurately, exposure, shadow, and highlight controls.


I have no interest with these firms but have worked in movie restoration for many years.


Finally, I really like your image of the child in the graveyard.



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Interesting to know. I'm not in the color negatives yet and don't have a lot of good ones. But I'm interested in testing what you propose in B&W as I still have few thousands to «scan»! I'm not sure though to well understand the difference it will make. In my first tests I was using Lightroom curve that I simply invert. It worked but the fine tuning after was a nightmare as all the controls were inverted or their functionality changed. Bad. Using Photoshop inversion in a batch process is fast. After some tests with different exposures, I choose to overexpose for 1 stop and after the inversion I only need minimal adjustments on the Lightroom curve if the negative was of «normal» contrast. 

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Thanks for the comment on that pic! That image have a good story...Many years ago, I won a regional photo contest with that one. The theme was «cemeteries» as you can easily guess! The sponsor was a funeral home and the winning picture got a framing and was shown at the funeral home. Around one year after the contest, I get a call from the owner of the home asking for another print of the picture...Someone had stolen the picture! Peoples with great taste but no respect at all ;-)

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Steve I just read about the inversion process and it's really interesting! In the next days I will give a try to http://www.colorperfect.com/colorperfect.html?lang=en  I didn't found colourfast. Silverfast editing software is a bit expensive at 250U$. As I already get really good tonalities in my files that I'm satisfied with, I can't justify to myself buying such a costly software. But I understand someone working with old color negatives to look for such tools! I will begin with Colorperfect to see if I get better results.


One of my worry is that I will be unable to batch process. If so it will be ineffective for my main goal right now that is to digitized thousands of B&W negatives. It's mandatory than I can send hundreds of files at ounce. 

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Thanks for bring up camera scanning.  I have given it a try thanks to you.  I had originally planned to use contact printing and scanning of the print but now it is much quicker, easier, and better.


I am testing Arista Ortho film and learning how to shoot and develop it in 4X5 and 5X7 formats.  I don't need all the scanning equipment since it is not a large batch process.  I just put the negative on my contact printer, light it up and shoot with my X100F.  I just hand hold the camera.  It is not a macro camera of course but gives high quality images that I crop as needed and then get a good quick look at my shooting and wet processing results.

Edited by neal3K
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