Opteka / Bower slide duplicator tubes? Any experiences?

Discussion in 'Other Cool Gear, Camera Bags, Camera Straps' started by TetonTom, Mar 26, 2011.

  1. TetonTom


    Aug 28, 2008
    Colorado, USA
    I'm not so much looking for high-quality scans as much as a quick and cheap way to digitize a bunch of old slides. My favorites have been scanned in the past, but the majority (thousands) are without any kind of "back-up". I've seen these cheap ($40-$60) duplicators on eBay (Bower, Opteka, etc...) and wonder if anyone has any experience first-hand?
    For not much more $ there are also some very affordable film scanners. Or I could probably get by with the "all-in-one" HP4160 printer/scanner that we have in the home office.
    But, I was thinking that the slide duplicator, once set up, would probably be a lot faster. At least my experience in scanning is that it's slooooow. Ideally I'd like to rip through a few thousand old slides in a weekend or two and be done with it.

    EDIT: BTW, I'd be using a DX body and wonder if those w/ experience could tell me what they've used lens-wise and any advise in that department...
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 26, 2011
  2. WayneF


    Apr 3, 2006
    I have no experience with them, but for only $30, it seems worth a try. I would suggest reading the user review comments here:


    These are basically +10 diopter closeup lenses (exceptionally strong version), a strong magnifying glass attached to the front of the camera lens. For best sharpness, the lens needs to be used with a small aperture (like f/11) and the corners may not be sharp. It needs a zoom lens to provide the adjustability, to size the slide view right in the frame. The optical quality will not be incredible for $30, but many seem to think it is "good enough" for some purposes.

    If you have a true macro lens (vastly better optics, but more expensive than $30), then see this: http://www.scantips.com/es-1.html

    You can use any macro lens (like 105mm) and devise your own way to hold the slide at the right position in front of it. Camera on a tripod, slide in a holder on the tabletop, etc. You have to light the slide from the rear, with diffusion. Not recommending any product, but a home made gadget something like this

    A sheet of diffused white translucent plastic to hold the slide upright, with a light behind it, and the camera in front, is all that it takes (with macro lens of course). Or you can make a bare holder (no diffused backing) in front of a white-paper-lined cardboard box, a lighted box... A speedlight is good illumination, but it could be incandescent, or window light.

    Or if you specifically have the 55mm or 60mm Nikon macro lens, then sometimes a threaded length extension can be found to work with DX cameras and the $50 Nikon ES-1 slide copying adapter, as described in the link. The ES-1 is an empty tube (no glass), which provides the holder and the diffusion. The macro lens provides incredible sharpness.
  3. TetonTom


    Aug 28, 2008
    Colorado, USA
    Thanks, Wayne, for the great link. Great system, a lot better than the Opteka set-up.
    The author talked about using (for DX) a 55 or 60 macro lens with an extension tube. How do you think it would compare using a lens in the 90-105 range? Would I end up using a shorter tube? I'm hoping to buy a macro lens this year anyway, and thinking that soemething around 100mm would be more useful...
  4. WayneF


    Apr 3, 2006

    I'm the author Tom. :smile: The 90 or 105 mm macro lens would work fine to copy slides, but NOT by using the Nikon ES-1 copy adapter. The ES-1 is designed for full frame and 55mm. Using it with DX means that the slide must be mounted 1.5x farther in front, to get the same view (of the full slide). The ES-1 does not extend that far, but I used the ES-1 with a 60mm D lens on DX by adding a 20mm spacer between the lens and the ES-1. It is not so trivial to find the spacer. :smile: For the ES-1, this tube would have 52mm threads on both ends.

    A 90 or 105m lens would need a longer tube spacer. You could set up a test tripod situation just to measure at what distance (in front of lens filter ring - to the slide) that the lens would focus on the full slide area (suitable for copy). Then the ES-1 telescopes to provide from 45 to 68 mm of that distance - so plan on about it providing about middle 55mm to be in the center of its range, to have some adjustment range on either side. So your measured distance (lens filter ring to slide), less about 55mm, would be the length of the tube necessary. On DX, I measure my 105mm being right at about 190mm, so it would need an extension tube about 135mm long. That would be about seven 20mm tubes combined. I think I might shift to Plan B. :smile:

    The ES-1 is convenient, it provides a slide holder, and a good diffuser for the light.... and camera shake is no issue for it (being attached). I used a SB-800 flash, a couple of feet away, but direct flash aimed directly at the ES-1, and the built in diffuser diffused it well. This provided a couple of advantages... Good strong light of known color of course, and very fast flash duration, but also the TTL flash worked great for the exposure, and also the red focusing assist light on the flash (aimed onto the slide) allowed the camera AF to focus very accurately in an otherwise dim room light. Exception was when the focus sensor was on blank sky in the slide image, without any detail to focus on.... in those cases, I just moved the focus sensor to be where there was detail.

    But the ES-1 is not essential. You could provide any means of holding the slide, and use any length lens to copy them (camera on a tripod). Some diffusion will be necessary.. One common try is to just use a middle size cardboard box lined with white paper as a light box, with a flash illuminating the inside walls (as a background). Enough ambient light helps to focus.
  5. Abouna


    Sep 7, 2007

    Since you seem to be in the know. Any ideas on how I can digitize my old 120 mounted slides? I've looked everywhere with no luck.

    I've found plenty of very expensive flatbed scanners that can do unmounted 120, but nothing short of a dedicated $2k-5k film scanner will do mounted.

    I've got a D700 with a Lester Dine 105 that I think would suit this purpose fine, but no good way to shoot, short of building my own jig.
  6. WayneF


    Apr 3, 2006
    I think a Lester Dine 105 is a 105mm macro lens. It should be pretty easy to set something up. All you have to do is support the mounted slide, with a diffused light behind it. Camera on a tripod, and your medium slides ought to be able to manage near 2832x2832 pixel images. Should easily print 10x10 inches, but you're probably more interested in video monitor size images.

    The light could be a cardboard box lined with white paper, illuminated inside to be a light box background for the slide, with either flash or incandescent.

    It could be a direct flash with a diffusing panel behind the slide.

    It could be a blue sky window light (but white balance will vary more, and exposures are slower, but you will have light to focus there).

    The slide mount might just a sheet of white frosted plastic as a diffuser. It could be standing up, at a little angle maybe, very much like the old slide sorters, illuminated from behind... with some little ledge for the slide to stand on, with the location marked to position the slide every time. Just aim the camera at it.

    It could be a thin groove cut in a piece of wood, or between two pieces of wood, so that the slide stands up in it.

    It need not be very elegant, because you will have them all "scanned" in a short time, and will have no more use for it. :smile:

    You just need a way to support the slide, with a diffused light behind it.

    One issue is that you need light to focus with too. The Nikon ES-1 (35 mm slide copy adapter) has a piece of frosted plastic as diffusion. Making this up, but this frosting degree might compare to two or three sheets of regular 1/16 inch frosted plexiglass... you cannot see anything though it, but light comes through. This allows the speedlight to be maybe two feet in front, on a SC-28 type extension cord. It is aimed directly at the slide, carefully so that the red focus assist light hits it. Then both Auto Focus and TTL automated exposure is piece of cake. The flash is low power and tremendously fast, so camera shake is no issue. You may have to move the focus sensor sometimes, when it is otherwise on clear sky in the slide picture.

    To me, this frosted plastic and direct flash is easily the most convenient... you can go as fast as you can load them.
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