copying very old black and white photographs

Discussion in 'Photography' started by John, Apr 18, 2008.

  1. John

    John Guest

    I need to copy some very old black and white portrait
    photographs. They can't be scanned because they are mounted
    in glass frames and are very fragile. They are borrowed and
    I cannot take them out of their enclosure. I must make do
    with them under glass.

    I have a Nikon Coolpix 950 that I don't think will help
    me here. Please let me know if it can.

    My other camera is a Canon AT-1 that I haven't used in
    over 20 years. I have a set of macro lenses for it, and
    remember copying photographs with it. I used some special
    b&w slow speed film as I recall, and a tripod, lighting,
    and aperture shutter speed guesses or tests.

    Helpful suggestions on how to best copy these pictures
    is welcome. e.g. what film, aperture, shutter speed
    should I begin with?

    Or, assuming I'm going to need to do this more in the
    future (I have begun some serous genealogy), should I
    bite the bullet and buy a digital SLR? If that route,
    what is an economical digital SLR? I suppose that if
    I bought a Canon digital SLR, I could use the handful
    of AT-1 lenses I have?

    Thanks in advance for advice!

    John, Apr 18, 2008
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  2. John

    Marvin Guest

    I have used a flatbed scanner to scan framed material that
    was too delicate to take out of the frame. The quality of
    the scans was surprisingly good. It is worth a try.
    Marvin, Apr 19, 2008
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  3. John

    krishnananda Guest

    I have used a flatbed scanner to scan framed material that
    was too delicate to take out of the frame. The quality of
    the scans was surprisingly good. It is worth a try.[/QUOTE]

    Scanning is a good idea -- but a lot depends on the depth of field of
    the scanner's lens. This can vary quite a bit between brands.

    If you do decide to use film in your AT-1, use a fine grain low-speed
    film such as Kodak TMax 100 or Fuji Neopan 100. Unfortunately Kodak
    discontinued Technical Pan years ago. When shot at ISO 25 it was almost
    completely grainless.

    If you don't have access to a copy stand, mount the pictures on the wall
    and use very diffuse light from both sides at about 45 degrees. You may
    still need a polarizing filter to get rid of all reflections in the
    glass. You should be able to use a polarizer with your Coolpix; it may
    take some creative use of gaffer's tape.

    An old trick is to take a large piece of black matte board, cut a hole
    in the center the diameter of your lens, and mount it so that only the
    very end of your lens pokes through. This will get rid of most 90 degree
    reflections -- such as you and your camera!

    As far as exposure goes, use an incident meter and then compensate if
    what you are copying is either very light or very dark.

    Good luck!

    krishnananda, Apr 19, 2008
  4. John

    Ken Hart Guest

    Since you have a set of macro lenses for your AT-1, you will have no problem
    using it for copy negatives. Lighting the pictures under glass will be
    difficult, but not impossible. Use two or more lights at 45 degree angles to
    the picture. A more shallow angle may be easier. Frankly, I would use a film
    camera for this project, as the negatives will be easier to store and more
    robust over the years. If you shoot with digital and burn to CD/DVD, you
    will have to re-copy every couple years to provide for any deterioration of
    the disk and to convert to whatever storage medium becomes popular in the
    future. Your negatives, on the other hand, can always be viewed by holding
    them up to the light, and printed either optically or scanned.

    As for using your AT-1 lenses (Canon FD mount) with a Canon digital SLR,
    sorry, no. You will need an adapter, which has a 'helper' lens in it to
    provide infinity focus. This helper lens may or may not be of equal quality
    to your Canon lenses.
    Ken Hart, Apr 19, 2008
  5. John

    John Guest

    Thanks all for the sage advice!

    I looked up the Nikon Coolpix 950 manual. When I got it
    I didn't need the advanced features, so I forgot it
    actually has a macro ability. In the interest of time
    and money budgets, I'll be exploring that to copy the
    old pictures, at least at first. Since the photographs
    are not in excellent condition to start with, this
    approach may be adequate.

    The lighting tips were particularly helpful, and the
    note about needing a lens adapter should I ever get a
    Canon SLR for the AT-1 lenses. This kind of removes
    any Canon constraint when I do choose a digital SLR

    Thanks, John
    John, Apr 20, 2008
  6. John

    Paul Furman Guest

    One thing you might try in order to avoid reflections of your camera in
    the center is to shoot from a bit of an angle then do perspective
    correction on the computer to square it up. Of course you'll lose
    resolution on one side but as you say there may not be that much detail
    Paul Furman, Apr 20, 2008
  7. How come the polarizing lens doesn't take care
    of all of the glare? Thanks, newbie.
    AKA gray asphalt, Apr 21, 2008
  8. John

    Ken Hart Guest

    The polarixing lens only get rid of the glare that is pokarized at right
    angles to the lens.
    Ken Hart, Apr 22, 2008
  9. John

    Kittochtinny Guest

    I have taken pictures of old pictures with pretty good success, as long as
    you're not looking for technical perfection, assuming you want them for
    something like a Family Tree Maker album or something similar.

    If photography interests you at all, you'll never be sorry for buying a
    DSLR. I have Nikons and am totally satisfied, but I doubt that any of the
    popular brands would disappoint you. I just saw a D40 with a kit lens for
    under $500 and they all have entry level DSLR's in this price range now.

    The Canon web site should provide you a lens compatibility chart, but you
    won't use them much if they're not autofocus once you try the kit lens.
    Kittochtinny, Apr 22, 2008
  10. Thanks : -)
    AKA gray asphalt, Apr 22, 2008
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