How can I make my own film scanner (35mm) using a 16MP DSLR camera?

For using the camera, I understand that I basically need a soft and even light source and a macro lens to focus on the films from close distance, all of these should be placed in a dark room or a dark box to avoid any unwanted light or reflection on my films.

Any ideas that how can get the best results?

Any DIY articles on how to make the whole setting? and what equipments do I need?

I can also use my normal CIS flatbed scanner, but I still have to make my own film adapter and light source for it. which one is better in your opinion, camera or normal scanner?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Using a film scanner you get a few options that you won't have using a camera. My Nikon (COOLSCAN IV ED) scanner has something called Digital ICE. It eliminates most scratches and bits of dust that are on the film. It can also boost the colors from old slides where the color has worn off with some remarkable results. If you have a lot of film to scan you may want to see if you can get your hands on a scanner. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rene
    Oct 2, 2012 at 6:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've hundreds of 35mm negatives, but I can't afford a good scanner right now, I think it would wiser if I use my camera to only digitize some of films and invest my money in a macro lens instead of scanner. \$\endgroup\$
    – Omne
    Oct 2, 2012 at 16:07

2 Answers 2


This is explained here but unless you really insist on building your own, I suggest you buy a slide-scanning attachment which is quite cheap.

In either case you need a close-focusing lens. If you have a macro lens, then use it. Otherwise you will have to get macro focusing using another macro technique such as extension tubes.

You will also need an even light source. The link above uses a flash which seems like overly complicated. Instead you can simply use a computer monitor showing pure white image over a large surface area. You can always adjust colors using WB and Fine-Tuning if your white is not exactly white.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Part of the advantage of using flash on one of these setups is that you can possibly take advantage of a through the lens exposure setting, simplifying one part of the project. Also, the light available from a flash is significantly brighter than that of a computer monitor, reducing possible noise intrusion from long exposure or high ISO settings. \$\endgroup\$
    – smigol
    Oct 1, 2012 at 16:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have tried some of these. Computer monitor is bad idea if you put the film too close to the screen, pixels will show up, and at macro setigns, they are pretty big. Flash on the other hand, can be WAY too bright if used directly. For both you'll need light modifiers (difusers or reducers, depending wich one you use) \$\endgroup\$
    – Jahaziel
    Oct 3, 2012 at 23:12

All you need is a slide duplicator attachment and a decent macro lens (the duplicators that include lenses are generally only good for 1:1 reproduction and very slight enlargements, and so are not really suitable for crop-sensor cameras). The Bower Digital Slide Duplicator is the most versatile I've seen in terms of adjustability, but it's not the only game in town.

You can make your own, of course. All you need is an adjustable tube or box (to exclude extraneous light and to provide variable magnification/cropping), something to hold the slides in place, and a diffuser (usually a milky-white plexiglass or thin UHMW sheet) to provide even lighting (normally from an ordinary flash, but you can use the sun or continuous lighting as well). The hard part is making the slide and the sensor perfectly parallel, which is why springing for the cost of the commercial product might be worth your while.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, your answer is very helpful, but I should only choose one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Omne
    Oct 2, 2012 at 16:03

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