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Using a Slide Duplicator

As well as allowing you to copy un-replaceable images, a slide duplicator can also be used as a digital input deviceand much more

| Specialist

Words & Pictures Peter Bargh


If you submit your pictures to magazines or newspapers you may want to play safe and duplicate the photos, especially if you only have one version of the slide you are sending.


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A slide duplicator, as the name suggests, lets you make copies of these slides, but it goes much further. You can also make prints from slides, slides from negatives, black & white from colour or mono-colour from black & white. You can also add filters for creative effect, maybe to soften the image, add a graduated sky or produce a sepia effect. And now, even more useful, you can use one to convert film into pixels. Using a Slide Duplicator: Slide duplicator technique


There are two types of slide duplicator the ones professionals use that are like upturned enlarger heads made by manufacturers such as Bowens. These use tungsten or flash light with special film and colour correction filters to get a duplicate image thats almost identical to the original. Theyre very expensive and difficult to use for the inexperienced copier.


Here is an example of a negative copied and made into a print using a digital SLR. If you want to copy negative film onto film you need a special duplicating film that is made with a blue mask that counteracts the orange to give natural colours.

Using a Slide Duplicator: Slide duplicator technique



The other type, and the one were looking at here, is a zoom slide duplicator that attaches to an SLR by replacing the interchangeable lens. There are various models available including Soligor, Ohnar and Jessops. The one here is an old style Jessops model, but they all work in the same way. You have a tube that is around 6 to 8in long with a built-in lens that magnifies the slide to give a full frame copy. Some have an adjustable barrel that lets you zoom in on a section of the slide. This one goes from 1x life-size to 2.5x. Although there are four zoom settings you can use any mid point giving you infinitely variable control between the two extremes. Using a Slide Duplicator: Slide duplicator technique


Unlike the pro duplicator the 50 zoom model is easy to use. You just attach it to your camera using a T2 mount. These cost about 10 and are available in all camera fittings, including autofocus. There are no automatic connections on the mount so you need to use a camera with either an aperture-priority or manual exposure mode.

You fit the slide into a carrier at the opposite end to the camera and this can be moved up or down and left or right for selective cropping. The duplicator has a fixed aperture of around f/16 so its pretty dark to see through. Using a Slide Duplicator: Slide duplicator technique
To help focus, you can remove the diffuser on some models and point the copier at a bright light. Using a Slide Duplicator: Slide duplicator technique

You can use any type of light source to make your slide copies, providing you use the appropriate film or filters. The easiest is daylight but flash is a good alternative providing you can control the output. If you decide on daylight choose a bright day and point it at the sky. Use the cameras meter and shoot, bracket the exposure on your first attempt by changing the shutter speed manually or using the exposure compensation setting in aperture-priority auto. Make a note of your settings so you can follow these guides for perfect exposures in the future.

Using a Slide Duplicator: Slide duplicator technique

Here a black & white negative was copied and once in the image editing program inverted so that the tones became positive like the print you would make. A slight tweak was required in Curves (you can use brightness/ contrast too) to adjust the tones to the required range.

When using flash you need to take it off the camera using a necessary coaxial cord connected to the cameras PC socket then point it back into the duplicator. If your camera has TTL flash and you can afford the proper TTL flash cords youll make the job much easier as the camera will control the flash exposure almost perfectly. If not youll need to do tests to determine the ideal distance of the flash. As a rough starting point place it about 25cm from the camera, pointing back into the duplicator and take a shot, move the flash 5cm further away and repeat. Continue in 5cm increments until the flashs about 60cm away. It seems like a lot of wasted film and messing about, but its worth it. When the results are processed, one shot should be close to perfect use this distance for all future flash copying.

If you prefer to shoot indoors you can use tungsten light, but youll need an 80b blue filter to remove the yellow cast these lights create on normal daylight film. An f/16 aperture means the shutter speed may be slow, but you dont have to worry about camera shake, because the slide position doesnt change while youre making the exposure.

With a duplicator you can also recompose the image, by taking the main subject to one side or blowing it up to fill the frame, removing all the surround. The advantage here is if you missed a pole coming out of someones head when you shot the original, its easy to crop it out when copying. By setting the extension to the required magnification you than use the zoom barrel to focus. If it's not quite right adjust the extension fractionally and you'll see the image through the viewfinder snap into sharp focus. Using a Slide Duplicator: Slide duplicator technique

You can lighten or darken an original, give it more contrast, alter the colour using filters or you use it to make copies to send off to competitions or publishers, keeping your valuable originals safe.

As photographers start to go digital there are lots of slide duplicators appearing in the classified ads and on the eBay auction site. If you decide to buy a digital SLR you can attach the copier and make digital pictures from your slides much quicker than you could with a film scanner. If you have lots of negatives and slides youll find the process much easier. Focus the first one and then all you have to do is shoot and replace. The results are not bad at all as we illustrate here. And the beauty with digital is you can take one shot, check exposure adjust and re-shoot until you get everything spot on.

I attached the duplicator to a Nikon fit Fuji FinePix S2pro. The camera has to be set to manual as it wont work in aperture-priority with non AF lenses. Then you have to guess the exposure. I found the shutter speed of 1/60sec perfect for a bright winters day.

Using a Slide Duplicator: Slide duplicator technique

One other thing to be aware of is that the digital SLRs CCD is smaller than film so you dont get as much coverage. This makes it impossible to copy a full frame and on the Fuji the effective magnification is 1.5x. The shot on the left is a full frame scan and the one on the right is from the largest area you can capture using the Fuji Finepix Pro.

Quality comparison
To give you an idea of how good a digital duplication is here's the original scanned to PhotoCD by a professional lab, compared with the scan from a HP flatbed scanner with a film attachment, a Microtek dedicated film scanner and the slide duplicator.

Using a Slide Duplicator: Slide duplicator technique

The highest resolution file on PhotoCD is an image with 3072x2048pixels shown here cropped from full size.

Using a Slide Duplicator: Slide duplicator technique

Here the HP Deskjet was set to maxium scan resolution of 1200dpi creating a smaller file

Using a Slide Duplicator: Slide duplicator technique

The 4000dpi scan from the Microtek film scanner had to be cropped more to fit on this page but again shows a comparison size scan. It's the sharpest option, but maybe too sharp as it's picking up every flaw on the film!

Using a Slide Duplicator: Slide duplicator technique

Here the Jessops slide duplicator was used on the Fuji FinePix S2 Pro giving an smooth toned image that can be sharpened further, if desired, using your image editing program. It's certainly worth keeping your duplicator if you own on and will at some stage buy a digital SLR. Also worth picking up if you have a digital SLR and want a low cost way to make digital files from your slides.

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