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garygriggs Feb 24, 2008 2:26 PM

I have thousands of old family photographs (prints) that I would like to digitize using my Canon S5 IS.
Does anyone have any experience or suggestions on how to do this?
My cousin has had good results doing this and I am attempting to duplicate his success. I have a number of digital pictures he sent me that are pretty darn close to the originals in color and detail. I am comparing his Canon G4 digital conversions to scans I have done on the same pictures. Following his method I have built a copy stand with a vacuum table and mounted my Canon S5 IS about 3' above it. I have had limited success but I am not where I need to be with the color and detail. I have tried the Fluorescent mini twist bulbs for lights and different camera settings. I started with the 6500k bulbs which made the results too blue, the 3200k was too yellow & red, and the 5500k still did not reproduce colors properly. Is there a bulb that works? I know now that the temp is not enough for color reproduction and that I need a high CRI light. (He is using a pair of the old Vivitar flash units (potato masher style) but I do not have that $$ in my budget.)
Also I am not capturing the finest detail such as the faint prints and folds you can see in a shirt or the strands of someones hair when you blow the picture up.
I have been using the widest aperture and he tells me I need to go the other way so I will try that. Also I discovered that the closest I can zoom and focus with my Canon S5 Is is about 3 feet, closer and the camera will not focus at a high zoom so getting closer is out of the question.
I guess my questions would be:
1. what reasonably priced bulbs are available or do I need to buy an external flash units? If so what will work?
2. What camera settings should I use and what is the S5 IS capable of? Will the results be comparable to the G4?
thanks in advance,
Gary Griggs

Bob Nichol Feb 29, 2008 8:50 PM

First, experiment with the Macro settings to get the coverage you want:

Normal: 1.6 ft./50cm-infinity (WIDE), 3.0 ft./90cm-infinity (TELE)
Macro: 3.9 in.-1.6 ft./10-50cm (W)
Super Macro: 0-3.9 in./0-10cm (W)

Second, adjust the aperture to the middle of the range, say around f/5.6. Very few lenses are great wide open.

Third, Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL), like any other fluorescent, don't produce a continuous spectrum and can cause colour problems. Have you tried playing with the White Balance Controls = Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom?

You could also try real photoflood bulbs in a reflector but use a custom white balance setting. The "daylight" bulbs may help as well. I haven't tried them myself but I would take a custom white balance if I did.

Reanimator Mar 1, 2008 2:53 PM

might sound silly and obvious but why not just get a cheap scanner and do the job correctly?

u can always sell it on when you have done what you need, it will get u the best results, its hard to minimise the glare of lighting when taking pics of photos


Old Engineer Mar 1, 2008 4:29 PM

I have done about 500 slides, and did it this way: I used a Pentax K10D with a 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax manual lens. I stabilized it on a tripod. I projected my slides using a slide projector and a carousel slide holder. The projection screen was a 48 inch Daylight beaded screen without smudges or wrinkles. I shot the pictures in darkness, except for the projector's light. I shot in JPG mode, finding Raw was not necessary. Once I got the setup in place, and got all the camera settings where they produced acceptable reproductions, it was quite simple to do. Just snap a photo, advance the slide, snap a photo, advance the slide, ad infinitum...

I use a photo program called "Nero". ("Nero Express 6", see www.Nero.Com). With it I can write on each photo a proper description, brighten photos, and generally do whatever I want. There is a slide show facility with it. I make slideshows for historical preservation of family photos to distribute among my greater family. I also make albums of the individual photos. I plant the results on DVD discs. "Nero" does all this for me. I prefer it above Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro 10, Pentax Laboratory 3, and others, mostly because it is so intuitive in operation.

Anyway, maybe you can glean some help from seeing what I have done. Ask me any questions you may have if you think I can help.

There are probably ways to do the copying that result in better images, but my process seems to do well enough what I and my family want.

Old Engineer

TCav Mar 1, 2008 5:58 PM

If your S5 IS has a custom white balance, use it. If it doesn't, try using both an incadescent bulb and a flourescent bulb.

But I agree with Reanimator. A cheap scanner will be simpler to use, and do a better job than most camera setups. At $50, theCanoScan LiDE 25is a good choice.

ajaynejr Mar 2, 2008 6:38 AM

You might get better results by using some zoom in addition to macro. It depends on the quality of the camera lens, corner sharpness, vignetting, barrel or pincushion distortion, etc.

Try photographing a piece of graph paper (with the usualfaint blue grid lines) to check for vignetting or barrel distortion.

For ordinary prints you will not need more than 300 pixels linearly (horizontal or vertical) for each inch of the print. For example a 1500 x 2000 pixel camera should do fine for a 5x7 inch print. You will lose some detail of excellent prints if you allow 200 pixels per inch. (Scanners do not need to be set more than 300 dpi.)

Try shooting outdoors on a cloudy day. (Don't leave old precious prints exposed to daylight let alone the sun for more than a few minutes each.)

For digitizing slides, I do not think that projecting and then shooting them is bad, although vignettingby the original camera, by the projector, and by the shooting camera all combined may be noticeable.

Digital camera hints:

garygriggs Mar 2, 2008 3:38 PM

Thanks for all your suggestions. I will give them a try.
(FYI, I do have a good Epson 3940 Photo scanner which does an excellent scan. My problem is I just do not have the time to scan thousands of pictures.)
Macro: I will try the macro if I can get close enough without interfering with the lights and picking up distortion. My S5 IS does not seem to allow much zoom at close range.
Normal: 1.6 ft./50cm-infinity (WIDE), 3.0 ft./90cm-infinity (TELE) - from my experience means closer than 36" and when you zoom in to frame the picture you cannot get and hold focus.
Macro: 3.9 in.-1.6 ft./10-50cm (W) - I will try the Macro
Aperture: I will start at f/5.6 and move from there.
White balance: I agree with the suggestion to use 'custom'. The other camera options are all over the place without making the corrections I need.
Distortion: I do have a grid sheet I printed out. It is pretty square and I use that to check for distortion.
Lights: I think this one of the most critical issues. I will continue to test what I have available but I was hoping someone had some experience with this. I get little or no glare when I mount two at 45 degrees. I am thinking of going back to the 6500k CF bulbs and then trying the custom white balance settings to lose some of the blue tint and pickup the reds and yellows I am losing. I was hoping there is an inexpensive cf bulb that would give me a higher CRI number than the 82 I am finding. Does anyone have any experience with the photoflood bulbs in this kind of an environment, ie how well do they render color, how much $$ and how long do they last + wattage???
Slides: This is my next project and I have seen the method the Old Engineer TCav describes used to much success.
Thanks again, Gary Griggs

TCav Mar 3, 2008 10:32 AM

garygriggs wrote:

(FYI, I do have a good Epson 3940 Photo scanner which does an excellent scan. My problem is I just do not have the time to scan thousands of pictures.)
I think you will probably find that scanning your photos will take less time than taking photos of them.

The shot-to-shot times are going to be affected by setup for each image (presuming that not all the photos are the same size), plus the time to transfer your images from the camera's flash memory card(s) to your computer's hard disk drive(s), which is where the scanner would put them without a break.

Granted, the scanner will be simpler, and therefore, a lot more monotonous and a lot less fun, but the images will be higher resolution, and won't contain some of the flaws that will result from geometric distortion, vignetting, and edge and corner sharpness problems.

garygriggs Mar 3, 2008 7:55 PM

TCav wrote: Tcav,
Thanks for your response. I figure using the camera will be much faster.
I sorted all our family pictures a year or so age starting with 1979 (#1 son was born). I ended up with about 5 or 6 different physical print sizes. I built a vacuum table and drew picture edge lines centered on it. I drilled 1-16" holes in the plywood table inside where the picture edges are and built a box on the back. I hooked up a $19.00 shop vac to the box and it sucks the picture flat. I hook my Canon via USB to a laptop and use the Canon remote shoot program on the laptop to view the image, adjust settings, and use my mouse to take the picture.
I never have to touch the camera once everything is setup. Once it is setup you can shoot the next picture as fast as you can pick up old one and put the new one down. So figures 8 seconds to swap picture plus 5 to shoot. At…lets say 15 seconds per picture that is 240 per hour onto the hard disc. At that rate I can get thousands done on one weekend if I can get the color and detail resolved. I know I can't even load my scanner in less than 10 seconds and then the hourglass starts.
Like I said my cousin has done this and I have seen his results. I have tested the vacuum table, picture swapping and shooting as I describe above and it works as advertised!!
Gary Griggs

BillDrew Mar 4, 2008 7:55 AM

garygriggs wrote:

... I hooked up a $19.00 shop vac to the box and it sucks the picture flat.
... At that rate I can get thousands done on one weekend ...
But would you retain your sanity after a week-end sitting next to a $19 shop vac?

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