Lock In Sunday – The Slide Time Trials

Lock In Sunday – The Slide Time Trials

I’m still here and not breaking the rules.

The idea of digitising my ageing slide collection gains traction. And as we said before, there are lots of ways to do this; I mentioned Plan A – the use of a dedicated Epson flatbed scanner – Plan B – the use of a home-made slide copier and digital camera – and PlanC – hand the slides in to Camera Electronic and let us get them digitised for you.

I’ve considered the thing from several aspects; time, trouble, and expense. We are likely to be spending  a great deal of each of these in the next few months on other things, but let’s keep to the digitising right now. I experimented agains a stop clock today to see what sort of time would be required to do the thing.

I looked out two identical sets of slides kept in those old sticky PVC sheets, set up a cleaning station, and started the clock. In Plan A  the slides were swabbed with FVE cleaner, cleaned off with Swisspers cotton buds, and loaded into the Epson 12-shot slide holder. The program was set for complets scan of each frame at 300 dpi and as a help the “restore colour” control was switched on. These slides are all old Agfa CT18’s in plastic mounts and quite frankly the best thing about them is the flaming mounts…at least these have not gone flat and magenta in 50 years…

The Epson program is pretty automatic once you start it going, though you do need to coax it now an again as it stops. Eventually, after two batches, there were 24 jpeg files on the iMac desktop that could be shuffled off to the hard drive. The cleaned slides were housed back in fresh plastic sleeves and hung up and the stopwatch stopped.

24 slides – 49 minutes. Time in the middle as things chugged along for a coffee and a toilet break. I washed my hands…

For Plan B I rigged the slide copier and set about the same routine. Clean slides, take white balance, feed them into thee slide stage and photograph each one ( f:8, ISO500, shutter on automatic, self timer on 2 seconds to stop any shake ) then load the card into the iMac and put the files into a similar folder. Clean up and file the slides away.

24 slides – 23 minutes

This sounds good, but you have to ask whether there was an equivalent result in that final file that would smooth out the results. No, there was not. There was a critical difference.

The copy files as opposed to the scanned files popped out as two things – a RAW image as well as a jpeg one. The jpeg results from the copy shot had none of the automatic colour restoration done that the Epson was able to do. But as RAW files they were infinitely more amenable to correction after the fact. I experimented and founf that adjusting the green/magenta and yellow/blue balance as well as reducing the vibrance made a great deal of difference. We are still never going to see the true colours of Copenhagen or Stockholm in September 1973 because they were put down on Agfa CT18…but I can reconstruct a great deal of the feel of that honeymoon trip in Photoshop Elements.

In the end I declare the copy rig the winner as far as the actual recording process – winner on time and winner on flexibility. The drudgery of cleaning the slides is the same in either case. The post-process time taken to correct the bad colour is a little less with the scanned effort, but only if you accept Epson’s opinion of what you looked like in the Goode Olde Dayes.

Notes for the scanners: the time required to scan over can be reduced if you decide to ask for less resolution or a smaller size file. I opted for the 300 dpi and a 5 x 7 print format to equate it to what might have been seen as a paper print at the time. The actual resolution of the film – with dye clouds or silver grains clearly seen – and of the 50mm collapsible Elmar lens – is an education in itself. We were happy with that then but this is now and I demand far more from my current digital cameras and lenses…and they deliver far more.

Doesn’t make up for being 25 and on honeymoon, but. Even a classic Australian VW Kombi camper van circuit of Europe can be a very romantic trip. Particularly if you get to drift round the Nurburgring in the thing with the engine screaming in the back and the bride screaming beside you. My lap time record was issued in Roman numerals…



  • Ray Thompson
    Posted at 11:06h, 23 March Reply

    A good read – thanks Dick! Copied all my slides last year using a DSLR, copy stand and a Diaduplicator (the back lit type). I did a couple of thousand of them – much quicker than the scanner!

    • Uncle Dick
      Posted at 12:15h, 26 March Reply

      Good for you, Ray. I’m powering through the slides day by day using mine, and I’ll detail some of the discoveries over the next few weeks. A couple of unexpected ones, I might add…

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