A giant box was delivered via FedEx on Friday, containing a kit with everything I’d need to digitize slides. I ordered the baseline gear required: a Nikon D500, a 40mm macro lens, and the slide carrier kit, and set it up in the den on Friday night to start fooling around with it.
In about five minutes I was oriented with the camera and set up live view with the viewfinder, but on the first night I stuck with autofocus to see how good it would be. The results were OK; I’d say about one half of what I shot was in clear focus, but the other half was not. The color varies from slide to slide, mostly because Dad was switching film stock pretty regularly—the Kodachrome stuff is rich and clear, some of the Fuji is washed out or shifts to yellow/green on the color wheel, and there are other nonbranded film stocks that veer towards muddy grays and blues.
This makes processing it challenging, because my intent is to always bring each photo back to a normal white balance and exposure—and with Dad shooting a manual camera, the exposure could be all over the place. It’s amazing what kinds of detail I can pull out of a dark slide transfer when it’s shot in RAW format; I’ve been able to resurrect some shots that would ordinarily be past saving. In the 80’s, before he bought a newer Minolta, he was having problems with the light meter on his Konica, and I remember him grumbling about some of the slides we got back before he got it fixed. And, his insistence on either using a giant blinding light bar or facing subjects directly into the sun messed up some otherwise good pictures.
Sharpness is also a challenge, so last night I switched to shooting using manual focus and Live View on the camera to zoom in and correct the shot before hitting the shutter. This resulted in better, clearer pictures, and they were much sharper that was I was getting applying software fixes in post processing. The shots are all 20MP in size, which gives me plenty of data to clean up dust and scratches—and some of these are in rough shape.
I’ve made it through four carousels and a binder so far. I’d estimate that’s about 600 slides of an estimated 4,000, and I’m going to redo half of the 600 now that I’ve got a better focusing system in place. I have to adjust the lighting as well—I’ve got a better, brighter photo bulb I can use to bring out more detail.