Let’s face it
Using a Digital Camera to digitize your analogue film makes sense.
With a decent resolution digital camera, converting a film negative into a 20 Megapixel image sounds great.
Converting a film frame into a 50 Megapixel image is like a dream come true! Heck, that’s in drum scanning territory!
If you are reading this, you’ll know the score... AND you’ll want the results without having to spend a fortune!!
The Challenge...Holding the negative flat
It’s the biggest challenge to overcome. ‘THE’ biggest.
With a flat negative, it is entirely possible to create a digital image of your film frame that nears the limits of your camera.
Flat negative = low distortion = great digital file.
...the available solutions are all over-engineered and either very expensive or very slow in use.
...OR they need clamps, bends, clips or pegs that can easily scratch and damage your negatives!
The Essential Film Holder range sorts that problem in a flash!
Call it the EFH range, it’s snappier (no pun intended).
“Essential” because the design tackles the essential challenges and delivers a solution to the fundamentals of the problem.
I’m an engineer and techie at heart and I came up with the idea and design for the EFH range after getting fed up with average quality scans from my Epson v600.
I was fed-up with the Epson giving me barely passable scans in an inordinate amount of time. I was finding that a quick scan on a 15-shot roll of 120 film of 6x4.5 frames could easily take me an entire morning. A 36-shot 35mm roll could take a day.
I’d just come back from a photo tour of
Added to the pile of woe was the fact that I had 5 rolls of 6x4.5 film to scan and a roll from my 6x6 pinhole.
Looking around, I found there were some solutions to enable DSLR scanning but the £1,000+ die-cast metal solutions seemed beautifully engineered but an entirely crazy option for an amateur photographer (or even a professional one!) that simply just did not pass my “sanity check”!
Surely there had to be a better way!
So whilst pondering my options, I looked at the possibilities and challenges ahead for using my Nikon D850 to zap the films into the digital domain.
And I wanted to minimise the costs and outlay by making
use of things that I had lurking around amongst my photo kit.
After a couple of weeks of head scratching, drawing, cutting out bits of paper, re-doing CAD drawings galore, my first prototype of the Essential Film Holder was back from the fabricators and the EFH was born.
And the design has not changed significantly since then...it’s evolved a little and now “v3” is the standard design.
Introduction to the EFH v3
Using Your EFH
It’s simple. Your EFH is delivered fully assembled ready for action! It’s been hand assembled and 100% film tested.
Alternatively, you can now buy your EFH in Self-Assembly form and, in just a few minutes, your EFH unit is ready for use
Above the EFH, you align your camera. If you have a macro/micro lens, that’s great. If not, then an extension tube works fine.
Your film then passes through the EFH dual layers.
On to the next frame ...and the next... Reposition the film within the aperture without moving the EFH (not your camera!) and take the next shot.
Repeat until your roll is completed.
After you’ve gone through a roll or two, you’ll be able to digitize a 36-shot, 35mm film within 5-6 minutes or less.
Here’s a few things that make the EFH so special
film formats fully supported in one design
diffused backlight every time
And above all...
OK, so we all know that sample images are largely pointless – it’s down to how you capture, digitize and post process the images once converted from negative.
Nevertheless, here’s a few film images that I’ve recently “scanned” with the aid of the Essential Film Holder.
For this update of the webpage, I’ve included larger images to better demonstrate the detail that the EFH unlocks in your negatives.
(More images can be seen on my Instagram page, link below)
Now, Let’s talk about price
Think about the “other solutions” for a moment.
Solution A – The Do-It-Yourself options
You could create your own “jig” from a cardboard box. There are even simple examples and templates on the web for doing this.
Very cheap, but little stability, little repeatability, zero reliability... but fun if you want to play!
One small step from cardboard are numerous “homebrew” solutions – often in the form of a £40 kit of plastic toy parts from a low-budget Kickstarter project.
The fact you are here says that you know better than that! I always hated Airfix models too!
So, if the ‘Airfix’ approach is for you, then you’d probably not be reading this!
You could, of course, 3-D print some solution or fabricate your own – that’s OK for certain types who have the equipment, knowledge and skill to construct their own... I’m not one of these people, I’m afraid. I like to use a tried-and-tested, proven solution!
Solution B – Film Scanner
You could use a film scanner. This is probably where we all started. I have an Epson v600 scanner that gives ‘ok’ results for 120 formats and just about ‘good enough’ results for 35mm. But it’s a very slow process and there’s a lot of effort needed to tweak the scans of each negative and film type. Price, around £170
Solution C – An
You could use an all-metal flat frame that would hold your negatives perfectly well.
The Skier Film Holder does that. So does the Kaiser FilmCopy.
They are just film holders. They hold your film. For £300 or more.
The Kaiser FilmCopy plus all its (additional cost) film format masks, without light panel, adds up to £300 or more.
The “Skier Sunray Copy Box II” adds a backlight and very basic
low-grade diffuser... however, that’s £330+ if you include
Solution D – The Most Expensive
You could go the “whole hog” and get yourself the most expensive holder available from Negative Supply.
Their holders are nicely designed, built like tanks, and will last a lifetime, probably.
They include hinged trays, wind-on mechanisms, curved entry and exit channels and dust brushes...what more could you want!
The Mk2 for 120 film might easily cost you up to £650.
The separate 35mm model another £450.
That’s well over £1,100 to cover both formats!
And you still need a backlight and a means of aligning everything.
...And THE Best Solution - the Essential Film Holder
The Essential Film Holder comes in THREE basic variants.
· EFH-01 for 35mm only
· EFH-02 for 120 only
· EFH-09-KIT for both 35mm and 120
Rather unsurprisingly, the EFH-09 is proving to be the most popular by far.
Simply select the version you want...
1. After purchase you will have the option to add other masks to your order – including 35mm slide mask and XPAN masks.
2. If you buy EFH-01 or EFH-02 and then subsequently want to scan another format, then other masks can always be added, as appropriate, at any time, for 35mm or 120 formats.
Not ready to buy yet? Yes, of course, there’s a Mailing List
Click HERE to sign-up to my mailing list. Purchasers are added to this list too.
I’ll tell you when things are happening. Could be Tips&Tricks, new items, new variants, who knows, maybe even some occasional offers.
Some people like to know. So here are the details.
The film carriers, posts, spacers, nuts and pillars are all made of quality engineering plastics.
ZERO metal used throughout the designs. No scratches, no damage to your light box nor to your tablet.
Most importantly, no scratches to your negatives.
The materials used for the layers of the EFH have been carefully selected and are made from precision, laser-cut Polymethyl Methacrylate. In some regions that’s what’s better known as Perspex or more generally as acrylic.
More specifically, the EFH uses only ‘cast acrylic’ for it’s flatness and resistance to warping over time.
Acrylic is tough, has very good scratch-resistant properties and is unlikely to get dented or knocked. It’s strong, tough and lightweight.
For the film-carrier layers, the acrylic is soft-touch matt black, known for it’s non-reflective performance.
The new “v3” ‘guide layers’ are made from high-hardness, low-friction Acetal to ensure perfect alignments of your negatives every time. It’s a low friction and ultra-hard material so it will not degrade with use.
The diffuser layer is even more special. Again cast acrylic, but this is Perspex SPECTRUM OPAL 1TL2 material, which is optimised for white light, and for consistency of light transmission across the entire sheet. The 1TL2 grade transmits 51% of light across the entire spectrum, from below 380nm to above 790nm - that’s the entire visible light range for humans.
That’s what you need for top-performing scanning products.
Who Am I?
I guess I should tell you a bit about me.
Then started-up my own business from scratch – sold that one. Then started another company that designs, manufactures and sells high-end computer audio products for home and studio use.
It’s inconceivable that most people (especially in the
You could say that I understand volume consumer product development and sales!
Am currently a non-exec director for
a 360-degree camera company in
I’ve been a (mad-keen) photographer for 40+ years; and have won a couple of global awards here and there.
There’s still nothing like the excitement of film photography, be it with a home-made 6x6 pinhole, a Holga, a Bronica ETRSi, a 6x9 Fuji GW690, or with my trusty Nikon F3.
I used to run some workshops and walks on behalf of (/for)
a well known professional photographer in the
Oh, and I shoot digital too with a Nikon D850 – which is currently being used to digitize negatives at 46 Mega Pixels.
How long will it take for my EFH to arrive?
The aim is to dispatch all orders within 15 working days. As you can imagine, the Essential Film Holder is in great demand, so in practice, it might be a few days longer than that, but it could equally be shorter.
What’s the shipping time?
Dispatch will normally take place within around 15 working of days of your purchase. You’ll always receive a courier’s tracking number when your unit dispatches.
Shipping times within the
All shipments will originate from here in
Is this a kit of bits that I have to contruct?
No, the original EFH comes ready assembled in the configuration that I think gives the best results.
By the nature of its design, you will have the option to adjust the positioning of the various layers of the EFH to best suit your ideas of quality and to suit your workflow.
Once it’s set up (or left as delivered) it’s extremely fast to set up, meaning that you don’t need to fiddle with it each time you want to scan another batch of negatives.
The recent Self Assembly version (EFH-09-SA) will arrive along with a simple instructions booklet, ready for assembly and you can be set to start digitising your film within 10-15 minutes.
But surely the £1,000 all metal solution has to be better?
Yes, perhaps. That metal one is certainly a solid ‘lump’ and works OK. However, does it work 100 times better than EFH??
Only you can judge, but I struggle to think it could, and that’s part of the reasoning why the EFH came into being.
Do I need a special light source?
Yes and no. Yes, because the quality of the light makes a difference to the image that you can capture. No because that difference is probably only for the few. In my experience a basic LED light panel can be good enough, if the light it produces is fundamentally “full spectrum” across the great majority of the visible spectrum. A small, £30 LED panel from Amazon is a perfect choice for many users.
Can I use my Android Tablet, iPad or iPhone as the light source?
Yes. At a pinch. Create a blank white image and display it at maximum brightness and you will get decent results.
Actually, more recent iPads (Retina display) give a remarkably good, even light; even the ‘iPad mini’.
Samsung Tablet devices are pretty good too (I occasionally use a little 7.0” Tab A).
Is it essential to have a macro lens?
Not really. If you have one, then that’s great. A 60mm macro lens is idea, as is a 105mm macro lens. However, it’s not essential at all. Read on...
How to select extension tubes to fit to my lens?
An extension tube is just that. It increases the lens to camera/sensor distance, thereby giving you a magnification.
Generally sold in sets of three that can be used in any combination, giving 6 extension distances, usually from 10mm up to 80mm.
They come in cheap, no-lens, no-electronic version – they are fine. They also come in more advanced (and expensive) versions to allow for an auto-focus capability.
I use a DX/Crop camera – can I still do this?
Sure. You’ll get a “closer” image, magnified by the crop factor (typically around 1.5x). You’ll still be able to use your extension tubes in the same way.
I only have a zoom lens – will that be OK?
Well, the “experts” will tell you that a zoom lens is not good for close-up work. It’s certainly more difficult to use.
However, that should not put you off. Give it a go, and you might just be pleasantly surprised. Set it at 50, 60, 100mm, or thereabouts, and get those extension tubes out.
My lens is auto-focus – is that OK?
Yes. However, to use auto-focus, you will need a more elaborate set of extension tubes – ones with electrical contacts to allow the lens to continue to talk to the camera body.
My lens is manual focus – is that OK?
Yes. Personally, I prefer manual lenses for digitizing film. Why? Because once you are focussed on the film substrate, you can simply leave it alone, without fear of the camera wanting to continually re-focus for each frame.
Will I need a wide aperture – there’s not much light around?
No! Your camera, lens and the EFH (and therefore your negatives) are all held perfectly still. So there’s no need to worry if your shutter speed gets a little long. Typically with an LED light panel and f/8 on my lens, I’d expect a shutter speed of around ½ second at most. Use either a cable release, or your camera’s self timer (set to a couple of seconds) and you’ll get perfectly sharp images.
Isn’t Camera alignment crucial? How do I do this?
Yes, it is crucial. Your camera’s sensor needs to be as parallel to the film frame as is humanly possible. And central too. However, if you ditch all the so-called “expert” fancy solutions for this, it’s easy. Really easy. Using a simple procedure, you can get to within 1 or 2 degrees and within less than a millimetre of centralisation. I’ll mail your a full “how to” guide after your EFH order is processed.
Do I need a dark room for process these shots?
No. However, any stray light will mess up the capture. If you are in, for example, an office environment, close your curtains, switch off room lighting and you’re set to go. If you have a large lightbox/source, you ay want to mask off the areas beyond the area of the EFH, again to avoid stray light. You’re trying to get ALL light coming through the diffuser layer, not around it.
Surely dust is an issue?
It can be. I suggest using a Rocket-style air blower across your negative before pressing the shutter if you are concerned about dust.
A quick wipe around the work area with a damp duster, 30 minutes before you get your negatives out, usually minimises the dust on nearby surfaces.
Some film holder products come with extra-price film ‘duster’ attachments. An additional £30++ that’s entirely unnecessary, in my view – you just need a bit of basic common sense when handling your film strips.
Do I need to use a piece of glass to keep the negatives flat?
No! There is no need for glass to be used at all. No fringing, no ‘Newton Rings’ and no sharp edges to handle. The entire film holder is metal-free, so no scratching your negatives or your light panel.
Is the Essential Film Holder Recyclable?
In this day and age, we all need to be aware of what we are doing to the planet.
Whilst the EFH is made from high quality Acrylic, it IS a plastic.
However, I have been very careful to select and use only plastics that can be 100% recycled.
Not only that, but the Acrylic from manufacturers Perspex
is made in a reduced carbon footprint, heat recovery, infrared-lit facility in the
And, many years from now, when your EFH is at its “End of Life”, you can be assured that it can be efficiently and fully recycled back to raw materials to be used again.
Even our packaging, wrapping, boxes and bags are recycled and recyclable and are fully environmentally friendly.
How do I convert my negative images into positive images?
There are plenty of different methods for inverting negatives in Lightroom or Photoshop (or in many other image editing packages).
My recommendation is to use a Lightroom plugin called “Negative Lab Pro”.
I’m just a plain-old user of the software – I cannot influence what new features and functions get added, I’m afraid.
I have personally grown very confident in its evolving ability to create inverted images that I like. All of the sample images on this page are converted using Negative Lab Pro.