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Scanning and copying


A scanner for scanning different transparency sizes.

You may be shooting on film and want to digitise your existing library, or you may have made the transition to digital but want to digitise your archive of film images. Either way, once you’ve decided you do want to digitise your existing film library, there are two ways of going about it – scanning your slides or copying them with the digital camera.

Both methods offer very good image quality, so the route you choose will depend largely on whether you already own a scanner or a digital EOS and the intended final use of your digital files. If you’ve already converted to a digital EOS, then you can re-shoot the slides with your digital camera. This can be achieved very successfully and will save you the expense of buying a scanner. Otherwise, the much cheaper option is to scan your transparencies.

The advantage of scanning is that the scanner should pick up finer detail than can be achieved by copying. However, scanning is time-consuming, especially if you turn on the dust and scratch removal settings and are scanning at a high resolution for maximum detail. And it doesn’t stop there – you will then need to post-process the images to match the colours to the original.

The final quality of your scan is limited by the quality of the original and the quality of the scanner. Unfortunately, you can’t turn a soft, badly exposed image into a prize-winner just by scanning it.

If you already have a digital camera, you may not want to spend further for a scanner particularly since, as you are no longer shooting film, it will be redundant once you have successfully digitised your archive.

The good news is that you can use your digital EOS to re-shoot your slides, capturing them in digital format. This has a number of advantages over using a scanner. Once you’ve set it up, copying your transparencies is very quick and simple. Also, as the settings (exposure and white balance) are consistent with all the images captured, you can batch process the colours rather than work on each individual file. In addition, while you’re copying an image, you can crop it at the same time, allowing you to alter the composition.

With this method, the final image quality is limited by the resolution of your digital camera and lens. If you’re using an EOS 300D or 10D your final file size will be about 18Mb – considerably less than you can achieve with a good quality scanner.


Resolution is the most talked about specification of digital cameras, scanners and digital files. But what is it really all about?

The resolution of an image is the amount of information it contains, or put simply, the number of dots, lines or pixels per square inch. The larger the resolution, the more information there is and, in theory, the larger you can print your image.

When scanning, the resolution you scan at should be decided by the size of the output you need.

You could scan everything at maximum resolution, but you may be creating files that are much bigger than you need and, unless you have an unlimited amount of disk storage space, this could become a problem.

For this reason, the best way to approach scanning is to decide on the output size required and calculate backwards. The input resolution – the total number of pixels that the scanner needs to import – must equal the total number of pixels needed for the final output at a given size. The calculation is as follows:

Scanning resolution = size of print x print resolution / size of original

But you must remember to make sure the size of the print and the size of the original are in similar units.

For example, if you want to scan a 35mm transparency to produce a file capable of making an A4 print at 300dpi the calculation is:

Scanning resolution = (290 x 300) / 35

Here 290 is the length in mm of the longest edge of the print, 300 is the resolution in dpi that you wish to print at and 35 is the length in mm of the longest edge of the transparency. This gives you:

Scanning resolution = 87000 / 35 = 2485.71

So the scanning resolution required is approximately 2486dpi. Since the longest edge of the 35mm transparency is 1.4 inches, there is a total of 3480 pixels on the longest edge of the scan (1.4 x 2486).


High resolution (left) or low resolution (right)? You can choose before making a scan (this is a high magnification image of the logo on the front of an EOS-1D series camera).

A step-by-step guide to scanning your transparencies

1. Make sure the scanner software is installed and the scanner is connected to the computer and turned on.

2. Prepare the images you wish to scan. Clean them with an air blower to remove dust, or isopropyl alcohol (available from chemists) to remove any fingerprints. The cleaner your images at this stage, the less time you'll have to spend re-touching them on the computer later on.

3. Lift the scanner lid and remove the document cover from the top panel.

4. Ensure the glass scanner surface (platen) is clean, dry and dust-free.

5. Place your slides (or negatives) in the appropriate holder and then put this on the scanner.

6. Open Photostudio (or other image editing software).

7. Click the 'Acquire' button in Photostudio (or in Photoshop go to File > Import > and then select your scanner from the list). This will open the scanner software.


8. Select advanced options - this gives you more control over the scanning settings.


9. Select the 'Source' as film and then choose either Positive (Slide) or Negative as appropriate.


10. Click the preview button and from the preview screen, select the output resolution and scale of enlargement you require.


11. Select the image or images you wish to scan and if you want to set any of the FARE options, do that now.


12. Click 'Scan'. This will scan the image and open it in your image-editing program.


Image being scanned.


Opened image in editing programme.

A step-by-step guide to copying your transparencies with a digital EOS camera

Although it is possible to copy negatives using this method, it is a fiddly process and requires much post-processing to obtain acceptable results. As such, we only recommend it for copying slides.


When copying slides on a light box, use a mask cut from grey or black card to avoid exposure metering errors, and to reduce the risk of flare from a bright white border.

For this method you will need a tripod (or copy stand if you have one), and a lens that will give you as much magnification as possible - a 1:1 macro lens is ideal, though a standard lens with Extension tubes is perfectly acceptable. As for a light source, there are two options - a light box onto which you can place the slide, or a flashgun. If you decide to use flash, then you will need to make a mask for the flash and the slide to ensure that only light which has passed through the slide reaches the lens.

1. As with scanning, ensure that your slides are spotlessly clean.

2. Using a tripod, fix the camera above the light box. Place the slide onto the light box.

3. Work out your exposure and white balance settings.

4. Compose the picture to fill as much of the frame as possible.

5. Use a cable release or the self-timer to avoid camera shake.

6. Take the picture.

Although it takes a while to set up this equipment, it is more than compensated for by the speed with which you can then proceed. If you have an extensive archive to copy, this method is ideal since, once you have set the correct exposure and white balance, there should be nothing more you need to do except place each slide and shoot.

What is FARE?

FARE is Canon's proprietary dust and scratch removal software which is built into all Canon scanners. It stands for Film Automatic Retouching and Enhancement.

Put simply, it removes dust and scratches from the image once it is scanned, as well as minimising the grain and matching the colours as accurately as possible to the slide. This means that since you can never clean your transparencies perfectly, the software will, during the scanning process, try to minimise any dust and scratches that may be present on the image.

The dust/scratch removal function first detects dust and scratches with infrared light, and then determines the size and shape of the dust/scratches along with the characteristics of the surrounding image using a normal white light scan. The dust and scratches are then automatically removed through the high-level integration of hardware and software processing

At the same time, if you turn on the grain minimising option, it will attempt to smooth out the tones in the image and so avoid undue levels of grain that may detract from the final result.

A backlight correction function analyzes the image and automatically adjusts the overall image brightness and contrast according to the darkness of areas that need correction.

There is also a Discoloration Correction function. This restores vivid colours to film or photo prints with discoloration or colour seepage. The histogram of the scanned image is analysed and the hue, color balance, contrast and saturation are automatically adjusted to appropriate levels.

Finally, a Book-binding Shadow Correction function reduces the shadow that occurs when an open book or magazine is scanned. The shadow created by the book's spine is detected using a shape-recognition density table, and the brightness is adjusted accordingly.

Each of the settings is controllable, so you can decide which ones you want active on an image- by-image basis. For example, you may decide that one image has a lot of dust or scratches that you want removed, in which case you could use the 'remove dust and scratches' option to help clean up the image digitally.

Having FARE switched on will increase the scanning time, but it may mean you have to do less work on the final image in your image editing software. Try it and see if the feature works for you.

Scanning v copying

We experimented with a scanner and a camera to copy an old slide and compared the quality.

For a thorough investigation, we did two separate scans on our Canon 9900F, one at high resolution to give a 50Mb size file, and one at a lower resolution to give an 18Mb file - the same size as the EOS 10D.

We also did two tests with the EOS 10D - one with an EF/100mm f2/.8 Macro USM lens and another with an EF28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens plus EF12 Extension tube. Both images were captured in RAW and then processed identically. The exposure was the same and the white balance was kept constant. Interestingly, the results showed that for up to A4 (29.5x21cm), which covers the most popular print sizes, the digital camera produced a very good copy of the slide with both lenses.

The images are reproduced here. If you are printing up to A4, both methods work well. The digital EOS option is quick and gives consistent results, but a scanner offers the option of automatic FARE corrections.

A Canon 9900F scanner (now discontinued) was used to scan a 35mm transparency, first at high resolution to produce a 50MB file (left), and then at a medium resolution to produce an 18MB file. These file sizes have been reduced for web viewing.


These two images are copies of a 35mm transparency made using an EOS digital camera. An EF100mm f/2.8 Macro lens was used for the first image. The second image was shot with an EF28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens. The file sizes have been reduced for web viewing.

Where have all the film scanners gone?

Canon has stopped producing film scanners and is instead concentrating on its range of flatbed scanners. This is because, in terms of quality, flatbeds can now produce comparable results to film scanners. They are also cheaper and more versatile, allowing you to scan many different film formats as well as prints. In our tests we used the CanoScan 9950F (now discontinued). It offers 4800x9600dpi, the option of 48 or 24 bit output in colour and 16 or 8 bit output in monochrome, the ability to scan 30 frames of a 35mm film strip automatically and FARE level 3 (which gives backlight correction on top of reconstruction of colour and grain correction).

LiDE technology

CCD-based carriages in conventional scanners use a bulky optical lens unit. Canon's LiDE (LED indirect exposure) carriage employs a CIS (Contact Image Sensor) scanning method. This reduces the size and weight of the unit. A smaller carriage size also enables a smaller, more energy-efficient motor to be used.

The ultra-micro motor used to drive LiDE needs only 2.5 watts to operate. This means it can run with a single USB cable connected to a computer. Small, lightweight, slim and energy-efficient, LIDE has changed the common perception of scanners.

Canon's LiDE scanners are the world's first CIS scanners capable of handling film scanning. 35mm film can be scanned using Canon's proprietary FAU (Film Adapter Unit), which can be placed directly on the glass platen. The FAU also incorporates an infrared LED, enabling dust and scratch removal when the film is scanned.

Print scanning

If you are shooting on print film and want to digitise your images, you can scan either the negative or the print. If you don't intend to produce larger reprints than the current print size, it will make little difference what you choose to scan. However, if you are planning on making larger prints, you will be better off scanning the negative rather than the print.