Digitising old slides …

27 Mar

Well, I suppose most of you have seen the adverts for this sort of device. I found this one by googling for "Spiratone Slide Duplicator", which was the name of the device sold by the Spiratone Company in New York, back in the film days. I never bought one then, but it seemed that it might work well enough for taking digital pictures of my old slides, so I started hunting. Almost immediately, this popped up, among other things:

The price seemed to indicate that it was of relatively good quality, so I took a chance and bought one, especially as it looked like the twin of the old Spiratone device.
I set it up on my camera, of which I show two views:


Operation is childishly simple, but it does take a bit of fiddling to get it set up. I'd say the fiddling time might vary greatly according to the lens being used … this particular pair of shots show it attached to my 18-55mm kit lens.
A good, strong, white-light light source makes things easier, and avoids the noise which is so common with digital cameras at higher ISO ratings (I always tend to think that this noise is the digital equivalent of reciprocity-law-failure with film, but I have no confirmation of this).
The nice part is that you can use rather slow shutter speeds, since the camera and subject are one unit, and move together.
Some of my early results are shown here (Sorry for the large number):
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This was a little box of my old slides which were, for some reason, selected and treasured by my late daughter. I don't quite know why they were so special to her, rather than some others, but they were all together in a little box.
Almost none of them required any colour adjustment, though some of them (obviously) were not taken by me.
So, if you've been contemplating doing something of this sort, these are some of the results I got.
One warning: Depending upon which lens you select for the job, you may need an extension tube to get the slides into focus. Get the automatic extension tubes; you have no idea what a nightmare the non-automatic ones will cause.
Good luck!
An additional note, for those thinking of following this route:
The listing above is, obviously, from Amazon. There are at least 40+ other listings (at Amazon) that show models or adaptations thereof, for other cameras. As a matter of fact, mine came with an adapter that would fit it to a 58mm diameter lens. (The "normal" Nikon filter size is 52mm, but some few lenses have 58mm filter sizes.)
Another additional note (this is getting to be a habit!):
The attachment point of the device to the 18-55mm lens rotates as the lens focuses, thereby calling for constant vigilance that the slide carrier has not rotated so far out of alignment with the picture edges as to cut off corners. My 55-200mm lens' attachment point does NOT rotate; the focusing happens inside, somehow, so the next time I run a group of these, I shall try that lens, although I believe I will have to use an extension tube to get things into focus.
I will keep you informed.
An update on the above remark about the 55-200mm lens:
It would seem that not all 55mm lenses focus to the same distance; when trying the longer zoom lens at 55mm, I found I was getting rather drastic crops … well, more drastic than I wanted, anyway. The 18-55mm kit lens left me a little black around the picture, so I had to crop to get only the picture … the longer lens, set at 55mm, gave a quite noticeably (and, to my way of thinking, undesirably) larger picture. The use of an extension tube would obviously only make matters worse.
I think my next attempt might involve the kit lens, set shorter than 55mm, in conjunction with an extension tube, although the pictures I have gotten so far seem quite satisfactory.


Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Uncategorized


18 responses to “Digitising old slides …

  1. crystalacey

    March 28, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Good insight and great advice!

  2. MrLeffe

    March 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Very nice post and it gives me some hope I will look out for this The album with the result is beautiful a true treasure box 🙂 🙂

  3. gdare

    March 28, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    About 15 years ago I was using a "device" that helped me digitize slides with scanner. Actually a kind of box with mirrors so the scanner lamp can lighten a slide. But I've never seen anything like this. Interesting :sherlock:

  4. derWandersmann

    March 28, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    Well, you can see that it works, and quite acceptably, too. Naturally, the resolution of the camera will influence the results … these are all resized to fit my screen vertically … the horizontal pictures, therefore, come out at about 35%, while the vertical pictures are resized to around 20%. The original frames are big, though, and give you plenty of room for removing dust spots, etc. After resizing, some sharpening is done, just as with an original digital photo.

  5. sanshan

    March 28, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    My scanner can do that as well as make prints from negatives. Amazing technology

  6. derWandersmann

    March 30, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Yes … the term "Micro Nikkor" has always bothered me; it ought to be "Macro Nikkor", but once I got used to it, I understand it quickly enough. I suppose I could use this identical setup on a film camera; I have my late daughter's Nikon FG, which has a lovely, fast f/1.8 50mm Nikkor that would fit it, but I haven't tried. If I get back into film again, it will be B&W; I can soup the stuff myself in a bathroom, dry it and put the negs through this device (I believe there is a strip adapter available) and carry on in the computer as I do now.My old macro lenses (a 35mm and a 135mm Steinheil, both built for Exakta (are you old enough to remember?), and magnificent pieces of glass, were actually quite adequate for this work (the 35mm would focus down to a little closer than 2:1), but I never used them for that, just for ordinary photography. You can see them at: they are the ones shown with the Mirandas.

  7. derjungeamfluss

    March 30, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Great! a comfortable way for reproduction, better than scan; we used similar in photostudio with a Micro Nikkor:)

  8. derjungeamfluss

    March 30, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Yes sure it should work with film too. Exakta and Miranda i have seen often but never used myself. Steinheil built fine lenses, i think we used one for portrait with large format Linhof camera.

  9. derWandersmann

    March 30, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    I had an Exakta (briefly) in the '60s … I got it so I could use the Steinheil lenses. But the quality was so poor that I gave up; that was the Communist GDR influence, I suppose. Exaktas are interesting, they are left-handed, among other things, but if you get one, be sure it was built before the Hitlerzeit; anything later is bad quality.

  10. PainterWoman

    March 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Very cool! I've got a couple boxes of slides I'd like to do. Scott Cumming was using something like this.

  11. serola

    April 3, 2013 at 6:04 am

    I just thought to buy a cheap film scanner. But maybe this is a better option. Anyway, thanks for review :up:

  12. derWandersmann

    April 3, 2013 at 10:04 am


  13. SittingFox

    April 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Great results so far. I'll keep this post in mind – I know a few people who might want to use this technique.

  14. harrytheman

    April 3, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    It's a wonderful album. All that's missing is sitting in the lounge with you while you show me those and we sip on a fantastic single malt…

  15. derWandersmann

    April 3, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    😀 😀 😀

  16. PainterWoman

    April 6, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    I think I'll put this post in 'favorites'.

  17. derWandersmann

    April 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Thanks, Pam.Adele: It can be done without the device, but it's a real PIA. You need a really white-light lightbox to set the slides on, and a means for holding the camera steady and pointed straight down; some tripods will do this. And a macro lens is pretty important, or a set of extension tubes.Most lightboxes are fluorescent tubes behind an opal glass or plastic; they look white, and are white enough for the eye, but cameras (both film and digital) tend to see a strong greenish cast in the light, and correcting it can be very troublesome.

  18. greatZenaida

    April 29, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    All good information and impressive about camera lens, but I think at the moment I'm happy with my lens…it's big enough for some close up photography…:yes: maybe small good camera I would like to buy it…:D Originally posted by derWandersmann:

    tend to see a strong greenish cast in the light, and correcting it can be very troublesome.

    :yes: you are right about it…I have also one of my pictures…greenish reflecs…:D


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