Digitising old photos, scanner or DSLR on tripod with two flashes?

In my mind I feel I might get better results rephotographing prints than scanning them.

What might be some pros & cons of each method?

I thought I could drill some holes in a box & connect it to a vacuum cleaner, make like a little vacuum frame to keep the print flat instead of using a sheet of glass on top.


Same with slides or negatives, could rephotographing (I'm shooting with a 7D) give me files with more information than a scanner?

I'm sure there must be extremely high quality scanners available, what might be the difference between home office or professional. 

Update 2:

First answer Petter, can you elaborate?

It's 1:30am here & I've had a few drinks, it's possible I'm not thinking straight & have just asked a silly question, plus the autofocus in my eyes seems to need a bit of recalibrating, maybe with some sleep.

Update 3:

Thanks to all for your answers.

Sumi I will ask another question later today & ask about my set up.

5 Answers

  • Sumi
    Lv 7
    1 month ago
    Favorite Answer

    I have an old Kodak RS3600 film scanner (circa 2000) and actually got better results from photographing my slides & negatives with my Pentax DSLR (645D & 120 macro).

    I think you'd be hard-pressed to see a difference between shooting a print on a vacuum table vs held flat with a piece of plexiglass.  I'd go with plexi because it's not going to shatter if you drop it, and I've heard acrylic is optically clearer than glass.

    The hard part of doing it with a camera is not just getting the print flat, but to get the plane of the sensor parallel with the print, too.  The whole setup could be so cumbersome that you end up spending a lot more time & effort than you need to.

    Since you're using a decent DSLR, you should get pretty good results just as long as you use a good lens and keep the sensor parallel with the pritn.  The preferred lens for copy work is a true 1:1 50mm macro.  This lens will produce a flat field and, of course, will have exceptional resolution.

    I don't know how many images you plan of copying or what you plan on doing with the files.  I assume you're archiving your photos.  The setup you describe should work.  Will it produce image files superior to what a scanner can do?  Well, that'll depend upon which scanner you're talking about.

    If you can photograph the actual negs, that'll produce vastly superior results compared to photographing the print because prints have significantly less resolution and dynamic range.  This is especially true for photos printed on matte paper.  Even if you were sandwiched the negs between plexiglass, you'd get better image quality since your 7D can record a much wider range of tones than can be reproduced on a print. 

    I'm not sure if you had to buy an expensive flatbed like the $1,200 Epson V850 to get equivalent results to the 7D with a macro lens.

    Have you considered a copy stand?  You haven't mentioned anything about a light source.  You'll want to have your lights at a 45 degree to the plane of the print to avoid reflections.  Copy stands are going to make the process easier since the camera is locked in place and you can easily raise/lower it while keeping it parallel with the plane of the print.  Plus they often have lights: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?q=copy%20sta...

    It is just a matter of how much time & effort you're willing to put into the project and whether your setup will be a PITA to use.  Too bad you can't just rent a V850.

  • Who
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

     try both methods and compare the results

    (one thing

      you cannot "improve" a photo beyond the quality it started with

    the "quality" of the photo depends on the grain of the film used, the size of the lens and the size it was originally was (e. a 2 1/4 square photo will give you a higher quality photo than 35 mm and that better than a 16mm

    e.g a 2 1/2 square hasselblad with its own lens will give you a better photo than a pocket 35mm and that better than a box-brownie

     You CAN edit it using a suitable program - but that is not "improving" its quality

    more like editing it to what you think it SHOULD be

    remember- you cannot put "into" a photo something that was not there in the 1st place

  • qrk
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    Mainly, dpi. A decent scanner does 600 dpi, better scanners more. Also, a scanner is easier to set up for most projects.

    That said, using your camera as a copy camera is perfectly fine. I do this for copy that doesn't fit in the scanner.

  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    Scanner is the better way to go. The Epson V600 scanner can handle prints, negatives and slides, even medium format negatives. Read reviews of this scanner on the internet if you like. 



  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • Petter
    Lv 7
    1 month ago


Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.