Let’s face it
Using a Digital Camera to digitize your analogue film makes sense.
With a decent resolution digital camera, converting a film negative into a 20 Megapixel image sounds great.
Converting a film frame into a 50 Megapixel image is like a dream come true! Heck, that’s in drum scanning territory!
If you are reading this, you’ll know the score... AND you’ll want the results without having to spend a fortune!!
The Challenge...Holding the negative flat
It’s the biggest challenge to overcome. ‘THE’ biggest.
With a flat negative, it is entirely possible to create a digital image of your film frame that nears the limits of your camera.
Flat negative = low distortion = great digital file.
...the available solutions are all over-engineered and either very expensive or very slow in use.
...OR they need clamps, bends, clips or pegs that can easily scratch and damage your negatives!
The Essential Film Holder range sorts that problem in a flash!
Call it the EFH range, it’s snappier (no pun intended).
“Essential” because the design tackles the essential challenges and delivers a solution to the fundamentals of the problem.
I’m an engineer and techie at heart and I came up with the idea and design for the EFH range after getting fed up with average quality scans from my Epson v600.
I was fed-up with the Epson giving me barely passable scans in an inordinate amount of time. I was finding that a quick scan on a 15-shot roll of 120 film of 6x4.5 frames could easily take me an entire morning. A 36-shot 35mm roll could take a day.
I’d just come back from a photo tour of
Added to the pile of woe was the fact that I had 5 rolls of 6x4.5 film to scan and a roll from my 6x6 pinhole.
Looking around, I found there were some solutions to enable DSLR scanning but the £1,000+ die-cast metal solutions seemed beautifully engineered but an entirely crazy option for an amateur photographer (or even a professional one!) that simply just did not pass my “sanity check”!
Surely there had to be a better way!
So whilst pondering my options, I looked at the possibilities and challenges ahead for using my Nikon D850 to zap the films into the digital domain.
And I wanted to minimise the costs and outlay by making
use of things that I had lurking around amongst my photo kit.
After a couple of weeks of head scratching, drawing, cutting out bits of paper, re-doing CAD drawings galore, my first prototype of the EFH was back from the fabricators and the EFH was born.
And the design has not changed significantly since then.
Introduction to the EFH
It’s simple. Once assembled, the EFH sits directly on, or over, your light source. This could be anything that emits a white light, such as a tablet or LED light panel.
At a size of 180 x 110mm the EFH is perfectly sized to sit on top of an A6 LED light panel or an iPad Mini.
Above the EFH, you align your camera. If you have a macro/micro lens, that’s great. If not, then an extension tube works fine.
Your film (strips or entire uncut roll) then passes through the EFH dual layers.
These layers are ideally set at a 0.5mm gap to allow the film to move freely, without scratching. You can increase the gap to 1mm or 1.5mm if you wish. But I’d recommend leaving it at 0.5mm – that’s what works best for me.
Then move the film to align with the aperture in the EFH, and with backlight on, take the shot. Done.
Then on to the next frame – reposition the film within the aperture without moving the EFH or your camera and take the next shot.
Repeat until roll completed.
After you’ve gone through a roll or two, you’ll be able to digitize a 36-shot roll of 35mm within 5-6 minutes or less.
Here’s a few things that make the EFH so special
film formats fully supported in one design
diffused backlight every time
And above all...
OK, so we all know that sample images are largely pointless – it’s down to how you post process the images once converted from negative.
Nevertheless, here’s a few film images that I’ve recently “re-scanned” with the aide of the EFH – Some with sprockets, some with borders, and some cropped in...colour and black & white.
Now, Let’s talk about price
Think about the “other solutions” for a moment.
Solution A – The Do-It-Yourself options
You could create your own “jig” from a cardboard box. There are even simple examples and templates on the web for doing this.
Very cheap, but little stability, little repeatability, zero reliability... but fun if you want to play!
One small step from cardboard is a “homebrew” solution of a £40 kit of plastic toy parts from a Kickstarter project.
The fact you are here says that you know better than that! I always hated Airfix models too!
So, if the DIY approach is for you, then you’d probably not be reading this!
You could, of course, 3-D print some solution or fabricate your own – that’s OK for certain types who have the equipment, knowledge and skill to construct their own... I’m not one of these people, I’m afraid. I like to use a tried-and-tested solution!
Solution B – Film Scanner
You could use a film scanner. This is probably where we all started. I have an Epson v600 scanner that gives ‘ok’ results for 120 formats and just about ‘good enough’ results for 35mm. But it’s a very slow process and there’s a lot of effort needed to tweak the scans of each negative and film type. Price, around £170
Solution C – An
You could use an all-metal flat frame that would hold your negatives perfectly well.
The Skier Film Holder does that. So does the Kaiser FilmCopy.
They are just film holders. They hold your film. For £200 or more.
The Kaiser FilmCopy plus all its (additional cost) film format masks, without light panel, adds up to £290 or more.
The “Skier Sunray Copy Box II” adds a backlight and very basic
low-grade diffuser... however, that’s £300+ if you include
Solution D – The Best of the Best
You could go the “whole hog” and get yourself the very best holder available from Negative Supply.
Their holders are truly beautifully designed, built like tanks, and will last a lifetime, probably.
They include hinged trays, wind-on mechanisms, curved entry and exit channels and dust brushes...awesome!
The Mk2 for 120 film might easily cost you up to £600.
The separate 35mm model another £450.
That’s well over £1,000 to cover both formats!
And you still need a backlight and a means of aligning everything.
...And the Price of the Essential Film Holder (EFH)
The EFH comes in a small number of variants.
These have been based upon the level of initial interest. Some people want to use the EFH with 35mm only. Some with 120 film only and some others want to do both. To date the EFH-09-KIT is proving to be the most popular by far.
So, following the “Essential” theme, select the version you think you’ll need.
NOTE: If you buy EFH-01 or EFH-02 and then want to scan another format, then Add-On options are available separately.
More details with the paperwork in your delivered packs or send me an email.
Not ready to buy yet? Yes, of course, there’s a Mailing List
Click HERE to sign-up to my mailing list. Purchasers are added to this list too.
I’ll tell you when things are happening. Could be new items, new variants, who knows, maybe even some occasional offers.
Some people like to know. So here are the details.
The film carriers, posts, spacers, nuts and pillars are all made of quality engineering plastics.
ZERO metal used throughout the designs. No scratches, no damage to your light box nor to your tablet.
Most importantly, no scratches to your negatives.
The materials used for the layers of the EFH have been carefully selected and are made from precision, lazer-cut Polymethyl Methacrylate. In some regions that’s what’s better known as Perspex or more generally as acrylic.
More specifically, the EFH uses only ‘cast acrylic’ for it’s flatness and resistance to warping over time.
Acrylic is tough, has very good scratch-resistant properties and is unlikely to get dented or knocked. It’s strong, tough and lightweight.
For the film-carrier layers, the acrylic is soft-touch matt black, known for it’s non-reflective performance.
The diffuser layer is even more special. Again cast acrylic, but this is Perspex SPECTRUM OPAL 1TL2 material, which is optimised for white light, and for consistency of light transmission across the entire sheet . The 1TL2 grade transmits 51% of light across the entire spectrum, from below 380nm to above 790nm - that’s the entire visible light range for humans.
That’s what you need for top-performing scanning products.
Who Am I?
I guess I should tell you a bit about me.
Then started-up my own business from scratch – sold that one. Then started another company that designs, manufactures and sells high-end computer audio products for home and studio use.
It’s inconceivable that most people (especially in the
You could say that I understand volume consumer product development and sales!
Am currently a non-exec director for
a 360-degree camera company in
I’ve been a (mad-keen) photographer for 40+ years; and have won a couple of global awards here and there.
There’s still nothing like the excitement of film photography, be it with a home-made 6x6 pinhole, a Holga, a Bronica ETRSi, a 6x9 Fujica GW690, or with my trusty Nikon F100.
I used to run some workshops and walks on behalf of (/for)
a well known professional photographer in the
Oh, and I shoot digital too with a Nikon D850 – which is currently being used to digitize negatives at 46 Mega Pixels.
How long will it take for my EFH to arrive?
The aim is to ship all orders within a week. In practice, it can be faster than that.
What’s the shipment time?
Well, that’s largely out of my control. All shipments will
originate from here in
Shipment within the
Is this a kit of bits that I have to assemble?
No, the EFH comes ready assembled in the configuration that I think gives the best results.
By the nature of its design, you will have the option to adjust the positioning of the various layers of the EFH to best suit your ideas of quality and to suit your workflow.
Once it’s set up (or left as delivered) it’s extremely fast to set up meaning that you don’t need to fiddle with it each time you want to scan another batch of negatives.
But surely the £1,000 all metal solution has to be better?
Yes, of course. That metal one is a piece of art and works extremely well. However, does it work 100 times better than EFH??
Only you can judge, but I struggle to think it could, and that’s part of the reasoning why the EFH came into being.
Do I need a special light source?
Yes and no. Yes, because the quality of the light makes a difference to the image that you can capture. No because that difference is probably only for the few. In my experience a basic LED light panel can be good enough, if the light it produces is fundamentally “full spectrum” across the great majority of the visible spectrum. A small (8” x 6”), £10 LED panel from Amazon is a perfect choice for most users.
Can I use my Android Tablet, iPad or iPhone as the light source?
Yes. At a pinch. Create a blank white image and display it at maximum brightness and you will get decent results.
Actually, more recent iPads (Retina display) give a remarkably good, even light; even the ‘iPad mini’.
Samsung Tablet devices are pretty good too (I occasionally use a little 7.0” Tab A).
Is it essential to have a macro lens?
Not really. If you have one, then that’s great. A 60mm macro lens is idea, as is a 105mm macro lens. However, it’s not essential at all. Read on...
How to select extension tubes to fit to my lens?
An extension tube is just that. It increases the lens to camera/sensor distance, thereby giving you a magnification.
Generally sold in sets of three that can be used in any combination, giving 6 extension distances, usually from 10mm up to 80mm.
They come in cheap, no-lens, no-electronic version – they are fine. They also come in more advanced (and expensive) versions to allow for an auto-focus capability.
I use a DX/Crop camera – can I still do this?
Sure. You’ll get a “closer” image, magnified by the crop factor (typically around 1.5x). You’ll still be able to use your extension tubes in the same way.
I only have a zoom lens – will that be OK?
Well, the “experts” will tell you that a zoom lens is not good for close-up work. It’s certainly more difficult to use.
However, that should not put you off. Give it a go, and you might just be pleasantly surprised. Set it at 50, 60, 100mm, or thereabouts, and get those extension tubes out.
My lens is auto-focus – is that OK?
Yes. However, to use auto-focus, you will need a more elaborate set of extension tubes – ones with electrical contacts to allow the lens to continue to talk to the camera body.
My lens is manual focus – is that OK?
Yes. Personally, I prefer manual lenses for digitizing film. Why? Because once you are focussed on the film substrate, you can simply leave it alone, without fear of the camera wanting to continually re-focus for each frame.
Will I need a wide aperture – there’s not much light around?
No!. You camera, lens and the EFH (and therefore your negatives) are all held perfectly still. So there’s no need to worry if your shutter speed gets a little long. Typically with a cheap LED light panel and f/8 on my lens, I’d expect a shutter speed of around ½ second at most. Use either a cable release, or your camera’s self timer (set to a couple of seconds) and you’ll get perfectly sharp images.
Isn’t alignment crucial? How do I do this?
Yes, it is crucial. Your camera’s sensor needs to be as parallel to the film frame as is humanly possible. And central too. However, if you ditch all the so-called “expert” fancy solutions for this, it’s easy. Really easy. Using a simple procedure, you can get to within 1 or 2 degrees and within less than a millimetre of centralisation.
Do I need a dark room for process these shots?
No. However, any stray light will mess up the capture. If you are in, for example, an office environment, close your curtains, switch off room lighting and you’re set to go. If you have a large lightbox/source, you ay want to mask off the areas beyond the area of the EFH, again to avoid stray light. You’re trying to get ALL light coming through the diffuser layer, not around it.
Surely dust is an issue?
It can be. I suggest using a Rocket-style air blower across your negative before pressing the shutter if you are concerned about dust. A quick wipe around the work area with a damp duster, 30 minutes before you get your negatives out, usually minimises the dust on nearby surfaces.
Do I need to use a piece of glass to keep the negatives flat?
No! There is no need to glass to be used at all. No fringing, no ‘Newton Rings’ and no sharp edges to handle. The entire film holder is metal-free, so no scratching your negatives or your light panel (or iPad)!
Can I scan film positives (slides) as well as negatives?
Yes, of course. Positive film is no more difficult to scan with your DSLR than a film negative. The subsequent conversion to a JPG file can, sometimes, be more complicated, however there’s absolutely no reason why the final result should be anything other than spectacular!
Sprockets and film borders – can I include these in my scan image?
Yes, of course. I think it’s quite nice to have the option to include sprockets and borders at the scanning stage – after all, they can be cropped when you post process. So the design of the EFH allows for this, and full sprockets and boarders are supported by design in all holder formats, unless otherwise stated. Check out the sample images to see what you can achieve.
How do I convert my negative images into positive images?
I’ll be adding more detail on this in the near future – I might even set up a new webpage to cover this.
There are plenty of different methods from inverting negatives in Lightroom or Photoshop (or in many other image editing packages). For now, I’d recommend a searching online to get a quick introduction.
This little project may take off and transform into something more serious.
The EFH is just the start. I popped a post onto Facebook some while ago about the then unnamed EFH and had 19 people clammering to have one of their own.
Those were the “A”-prototypes. The EFH took off from there.
Note that as time goes on, I’m making continuous improvements to the design, so things might, from time-to-time, change a little.
There are plenty of other projects that I have in mind, mostly around the areas of photography and how to make it simpler for everyone.
Some of these are more well-thought-through than others. Some are film-related.