Photographing slides

So, we’re going to photograph our slides. We will of course need a camera, with interchangeable lenses, because the standard lens will generally not be suitable. So, in addition, we’ll need a lens, a light source and a support for the slides.


In order to obtain a quality comparable to a specialized scanner, a lens is required, the main qualities of which are the absence of distortion (image deformations), chromatic aberrations (coloured fringes) and vignetting (darkening of corners). To avoid all this, it is better that the lens has a fixed focal length: it will not be a zoom. On the other hand, it does not need to have a very large aperture. As for the focal length, it can range from 35 (for an APS-C sensor) to 100 mm. This description corresponds perfectly to that of a “macro” type lens.

Personally, I have remained faithful since the silver period to the same brand, Pentax not to name it, the interest being that it is the only brand, together with Nikon to a lesser extent, to have retained an almost total compatibility of its equipment for about forty years. So, I did not have to renew all my equipment to go digital. But I admit that if I had gone from zero to digital, I would have chosen another brand, probably the one I have just quoted…

So, among this pre-historical pre-digital era equipment, I kept a 100 mm f/4 macro bellows lens, with no focus ring, because it is designed to fit on bellows with a very vintage look. Advantages: it is easy to adjust its flange focal distance (distance between the camera body and the lens mounting plate) on a graduated scale, and it has a precious diaphragm ring that no longer have modern lenses. Disadvantage: its rather long focal length requires to use a bulky tube for the slide holder.

100 mm lens on bellows

Slide duplicator

Under this name there existed in heroic times an accessory which permitted to re-photograph slides. I was inspired to make mine. Note: I found a similar device not too expensive on Amazon, not long ago, equipped with a tube fitted with a lens and a film holder. The latter was of an entirely correct quality; but the lens, whose purpose was to obtain a shorter tube and therefore less cumbersome, was on the contrary lamentable: distortion, aberrations, everything was there. Return to sender. I still give you the reference page, but I will have warned you.

Constitution of the slide holder

This support consists of four elements:

Exploded view of the slide duplicator

  1. A down spout PVC tube (!)
  2. At one end of the tube, a used filter mount with a diameter suitable for the lens is screwed / glued (Araldite or Uhu Strong and Safe). It is necessary to choose the tube and mounting diameters as close as possible; for me: tube ø 50 for filter ø 52. The possible difference is compensated by a layer of Evergreen polystyrene. The filter itself has been disassembled (unscrewed), being no longer really useful in digital. If you don’t have such a filter, you can purchase screw-in adapter rings available in many diameters.
  3. A join or cuff adapted to the PVC tube diameter, which can slide on the tube to adjust the lens / slide distance and the inclination of the slide. It will be equipped with a position locking screw.
  4. The film holder, made of two PVC or polystyrene plates, depending on availability, and provided with two brass holding springs, but other thin metal, flexible and easy to machine may be suitable: nickel silver, bronze, etc.

The main tube is covered inside with black velvet flocked vinyl adhesive to avoid any parasitic reflection. For the same reason, the inner side of the slide holder is painted in matt black.

You’ll find the dimensional diagram of the slide holder (4) in this PDF document. Note that the length of the PVC tube must be adapted to the focal length of the lens used.

It lacks a strip film holder that would allow me to digitize negatives. Even some reversal films that I had more or less missed development, and that I had for this reason left in strips, proved to be exploitable in digital.

Slide duplicator mounted on camera