ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter Set Review
Shooting film is a great experience, developing film is monotonous, scanning film is hell. That is the best way to describe shooting film in 2020. I love shooting black and white film, it is the zen to my crazy photography life but I hate scanning film. I have two film scanners, the horrible Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II and a dedicated Plustek OpticFilm 8200i film scanner. I am perfectly happy with the results that I get from the Plustek scanner but it takes hours to scan a whole roll of film. I have tried to use a macro lens and a DSLR to shoot raw files of film negatives and even bought some devices to help with this but I quickly found that you need to get the film perfectly flat if you want to get good results.
Getting your film shots to be perfectly flat and getting your camera to be perfectly level with the frame while using a macro lens sounds easy, but it is incredibly difficult, and I was never happy with the results that I could produce. I could never get the camera sensor to be perfectly parallel and if the film was curved, it was extremely difficult to get a good shot. So I have up on the idea of using a DSLR to digitize my film negatives.
I saw some videos on Youtube with people digitize their film shots with the Nikon ES-2 adaptor and I thought it was interesting. I looked the adapter up, and I already had the required macro lens for the adapter so I decided to give it a quick test and see how it compares to my other two scanners. Hopefully, this little adapter would save me a lot of time in the future. What comes in the Nikon ES-2 film digitizing adapter is fairly simple. You get two lens adaptors, for the two different lenses supported, a film holder for 6 frames and a slide-holder for two slides, and finally, the adapter which mounts to the lens itself. Fairly basic but that is all you really need to digitize your film shots. The lenses that is officially supported is the Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8D, AF-S Micro NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED and the AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8 G. I am personally using the Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8D,
Overall I would say that the Nikon ES-2 Film digitizing kit is fairly well made. It is constructed almost completely out of plastic, but it feels solid and strong. The real question though is how well does a DSLR capture a film negative. I have tried this before and I was extremely unhappy with the results but that was mostly due to the difficulty in getting the camera sensor perfect level with the negative and getting the film negative to be perfectly flat. The way that the Nikon ES-2 is constructed eliminates these two concerns so the shots should be much better now. I have taken three film negatives and scanned them with my two scanners and used the Nikon ES-2 to capture the three frames. I converted the three raw files into a positive using photoshop, which is really easy to do and adjusted the contrast a little to match the scans. Converting a negative film shot into a positive is really easy to do in photoshop. I will post the method I used with some screenshots below. if you are using a Nikon D780 or D850, then they can convert the negatives for you automatically but your results will be saved into a jpeg file.
I am no photoshop wiz. I hate editing photos and I seldom drop anything into photoshop for editing. I figured how to do this in a few minutes. It is really easy to do. There is a plug-in for Adobe Lightroom called Negative Lab pro that will do the conversion automatically but it costs nearly $100 and you get the same result as the conversion in Photoshop so I don’t think it is worth spending the extra money on the plug-in. The company that produces the plug-in does have a demo that you can try https://www.negativelabpro.com . You can take a look and see if you like it, but I will stick to concerting the negatives manually in Photoshop. Now let’s look at the results from the scans and the negatives that I converted. I will post the three shots from each negative as well as a 100% crop of the image so we can look at the details in the scan.
The side by side comparison of the 100 % crops shows the true story. Plustek produces the best results. The Nikon ES-2 adapter comes in second and the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II produces the worst scans. I saw the same results across all three negatives that I tested.
The comparison once again shows us that the Plustek scanner is clearly the best, but the Nikon shot is not far behind.
The comparison shows the exact same story as the previous two comparisons, and that is simply that the Plustek produces the best results, the Nikon ES-2 comes in second and the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II is pure rubbish when scanning 35mm film.
I seldom shoot color film and I have no positive film slides to use for a test, but you could easily convert color negatives the same way as black-white film shots. The process to convert color negatives is exactly the same but now you are dealing with color and white balance, so it gets much more difficult. I had a hell of a time trying to get the single color shot to match the scan negative and I eventually gave up on the process. The one benefit that you get with scanning color film on a scanner is that the scanner can use dust and scratch removal and it works really well. If you are shooting with the Nikon ES-2 adapter, then you need to make sure that you clean the negative well before shooting and you will have to remove any trouble areas in photoshop yourself. The one benefit that you can get from using the Nikon ES-2 adaptor would be exposure stacking and creating a HDR file.
The Nikon ES-2 film digitizing adapter is an interesting device. At first glance, it seems ridiculously expensive for some plastic tubes and a film holder but the results you can get from the kit are truly remarkable. If I had a D850 or Z7, then I might have gotten even better results. The Plustek scanner costs 4 times the amount of the Nikon Es-2 adapter so you would expect better results but they are very close to each other. If I had not bought the Plustek scanner a few years ago, and I just had the Canon CanoScan 9000F, then the Nikon ES-2 adapter would have been a godsend. I could easily scan a whole roll of film with it and convert all the negatives to positives before I had finished a single sheet of 35mm shots with the Plustek scanner. I guess I will mostly scan with the Plustek scanner as I am in no rush to get my film shots out. I shoot film for fun, not for clients. If I had to start from scratch, with no scanners and I could only buy the Nikon ES-2 with a lens or the Plustek scanner, I would go for the Nikon ES-2 kit. It would save me some money and scanning black-white negatives is much faster. If I primarily shot color film, then I might go with the Plustek scanner as editing colors is a giant pain in the ass.
Overall, I would say that this is a great little device released but Nikon. It is a pity that Nikon does not make a 120mm film adapter, but I have found a few Chinese companies make one, so I am tempted to buy one in the future and testing it out. If that could produce better results than the Canon CanoScan 9000, then I will be very happy. I shoot more medium format than 35mm these days and I am not happy with the scan results from the Canon. Overall I would say that if you want to get good scans of your negatives and you don’t have a scanner, then this system should be very tempting to you.