Camflix Film Digitizing Adapter Review
It is no secret that I have hated flatbed scanners, especially after the horrible Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II which almost made me stop shooting film as the results were so bad. I could not believe that I got better results from my 35mm scans from my Plustek scanner compared to my flatbed scanner. Last year I bought the Nikon ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter and it showed me how good results from a digital camera and a macro lens could be. The only problem was that the Nikon ES-2 Film Digitizing adapter was that it could only be used to digitize 35mm film. Thankfully I found the Camfix Film Digitizing Adapter which could be used on 120mm film which is exactly what I was looking for as I really want to shoot a lot more 120mm film in 2021.
I ordered the Camfix 120mm kit which came with a 6×7 film holder negative holder, and an extension tube with a 67mm filter thread to attach to your macro lens. This allows you to adjust the distance from the macro lens and the Camfix 120mm negative holder so you can fill the frame of the negative you wish to record and get the most resolution from the negative. This is really useful as allows you to use different film holders such as the 6×6, 645, and even pano scans from the xpan so you can scan different medium formats.
Since I shoot all three medium formats types right now, this is very useful. If we look at the film holders, they are very well made in my opinion and on par with the Nikon ES-2 film digitizer film holder but I think their design is slightly better as the Camfix film holders use magnets to close the to close and hold the film in place. This is really nice as you often have to open the film holders up to align the film correctly for each shot.
I really enjoy the fact that you can adjust the film holder and the extension tube, so you can change the distance of the film digitizer and the macro lens. This also allows you to turn the digitizer to any angle so you can shoot 645 film shots and fill the frame as much as possible.
The basic idea for digitizing film with a macro lens is simple, you focus on the film which is perfectly flat, light the film from behind and you shoot the negative image, but the biggest problem is aligning the film and the sensor to be perfectly parallel so you get a sharp result. The Camflix film holder makes this process very easy as the negative holders are connected to the macro lens, so it is always perpendicular to the lens. Unlike the Nikon ES-2 film digitizer which is only really supported on two Nikon Lens, the Camflix film digitizer works on many different lenses this time. The officially supported lens is
But an important thing to keep in mind that the Camflix negative holder is adjustable so you could use it on almost any macro lens, as long as you could mount the Camflix to the front of the macro lens. Setting the Camflix system up to digitize your negatives is really easy, and usually takes less than one minute to do. Once you have the Camflix attached to the macro lens, all you need is a light source behind the Camflix negative holder which is easy enough to do. You could use a lightboard, an iPad or a lamp. It just needs to be a white light.
When I first started to digitize my 35mm film shots with the Nikon ES-2 film digitizer, I used a small LED light source but I have found another light source that I prefer to use now. I found that I prefer to use my older video lights with silver barn doors so I can focus the light in the direction of the Camflix film digitizer. This is much easier as I can direct all the light towards the negative with the barn doors. Once this is set up, all that is left to do is insert some film into the film holder, lining up the film to the film holder so the frames are correct, and insert the film holder into the Camflix negative holder.
Lining up the film and the film holder is more complex than compared to 35mm film in my experience because all my medium format cameras are not so consistent with the film spacing. This means that I usually have to line up each negative before I digitize the frame. This is slightly frustrating, but it is not the Camfix issue, this is really an issue with the different cameras that I use. I have 5 medium format cameras and none of them are accurate with their film spacing.
Once the film is in the film holder and inserted into the Camflix negative holder, the next step is to adjust the negative holder along the macro tube so that you can film your frame on your digital camera when you have to focus on the negative. Focusing on the negative is the most important step in the digitizing process so it is important that you get the Camflix negative holder into the correct position and tighten the screw on the side to hold the Camflex negative holder in place.
Once you have the correct distance, you can use the metal screw to tighten the Camflix negative holder to the extension tube and lock it into place for the digitizing of your film. This may take a few minutes to get it perfect on your first shot because you may have some focus breathing with your macro lens. I have quite a lot of focus breathing with my Nikon 60mm lens so I have to adjust the Camflex film digitizer each time I move to a different film format. But once you have your first shot in focus and the film negative is filming your frame as much as possible, then there is no need to change this again. The first shot will take the longest to do as you have to set everything up but after the first shot, you could digitize a complete roll of 120mm film in less than 1 minute.
Focusing on the film can take some time to get right and I highly recommend using manual focus here. What you need to do is to remember that what you are focusing on is not the image, but the film. You want to zoom into the film negative as much as possible and adjust the focus until the actual grain of the film is sharp. Remember that the image is already recorded onto the film emulsion and you want to digitize the emulsion. You can’t fix a soft image in the digitizing process. I have found that the focus plan for this is very small and it needs to be checked each time you change the slide. If you don’t zoom into the grain each time, and just rely on focus peaking or autofocus, you might not be getting the best results. I have found that auto-focus is not good at this. Each time I tried it, I found that the grain was not in perfect focus.
Once all the film slides have been digitized, you simply need to import the raw files into your photo editor of choice, and then invert them. Inverting the image is really simple, this time I will demonstrate how to do it in lightroom.
Inverting the image is fairly easy, just drag the black point on the bottom left to the top left of the image curve and do the same of the white point except you are going to drag the white point from the top right corner to the bottom right corner.
Usually your image is a little flat once you have done this. But you are now free to edit the image to get your desired results. One of the more difficult parts about inverting a film negative is that your controls usually works in reverse now, so if you want to brighten an image, then you need to lower the exposure. This is not very intuitive so what I usually do is export the file to photoshop so I can do some cleaning up of the image, like remove dust spots or small scratches and save the results. Once you are back in light rook, you can edit the image normally then
. Let us look at some examples and see how this way of converting your medium format negatives is far superior to any flatbed scanner. I will provide 8 samples this time, which is a lot but when I was looking for information about this topic, I found nothing on the internet so hopefully, this will help someone.
This first shot was from my Yashica Mat 124G and I always liked this shot but I was never happy with the scan. At the time I was not sure if the lens was slightly soft or if the scan was bad. When I look at the scan from the Camflix, there is so much more detail in the image. The detail in the wall is easy to see, the leaves on the tree are much clearer now and not so mushy. The whole image just looks better. I found these same results in nearly all the examples so I won’t comment much on each example unless there is something interesting that I think you should look at.
Overall the image is much sharper and has more detail. This was a shot from my Pentax 67.
A shot from my holdga.
The most interesting thing about this shot is the vignette on the top right corner. The negative from the Nikon Z6 looked a little weird compared to the flatbed scanner. I would definitely fix that in photoshop but the rest of the negative is clearly much sharper than the flatbed scanner.
This is one example that I didn’t find that much difference between the flatbed scanner and the Camflix shot. There is more detail in the shadow areas, but not such a huge difference compared to the other images. I was shooting some cheap Shanghaifilm for this shot, so this might have caused the lack of resolution, who knows. I find a lot of the Chinese film manufacturers to be very inconsistent with their film rolls. Some rolls are great and some rolls of film are terrible.
Look at how much more detail is captured in the shadow area in the negative.
Notice the white dust post here on the flatbed scanner. But It is not found on the Nikon Z6 and Camflix shot. The negative was cleaned for both shots so I think the dust must have been on the glass of the flatbed scanner.
Overall, I think the results that I get from the Camfix film digitizer are great. This is what I expected when I started to shoot medium format. With the flatbed scanner, the results were always terrible. I ended up avoiding my medium format cameras for a long time because I was getting better results with my Plustek Scanner than I was getting from a 6×7 negative with the flatbed scanner, which is completely crazy. So the Camflix film digitizing system will help me a lot with my goal of shooting a lot more medium format film in 2021. But not everything is perfect when it comes to digitizing your film this way. Getting colors to be accurate by inverting them in lightroom would be extremely frustrating unless you were using a plugin like Negative Lab Pro. The plugin does work great but since mostly shoot black and white film, I don’t need to use it. But if you shoot color, definitely look at this as it will save you hundreds of hours of work. The second problem that you will face comes from dust and scratches on the film. I check each and every single frame for dust and hair. There is nothing that I can do about the scratched except fix them in photoshop, but I can make sure that there is no dust and hair on the negative before I digitize the frame. There is nothing worse than spending time in photoshop, editing out dust spots.
In the past, I would shoot around 10 rolls of 35mm to each roll of 120 because I always got better results from my 35mm scans with the Plustek scanner. I am hoping to reverse this trend this year as shoot as much medium format film as possible. Since I purchased the Camflix digitizing system, I have disconnected my flatbed scanner and I don’t use it anymore. Scanning film used to be a nightmare that took forever but it is a simple and fast process now. I will never buy another flatbed scanner again and I simply keep my old Canon Canoscan to digitize documents that I must sign for work.
The final thing that I want to quickly go over with regards to the Camflix digitizer and this applies to all film digitizing in general, the resolution of each negative now is purely up to the camera that you are using. My Nikon Z6 has a 24-megapixel sensor, so if I had to upgrade to a higher megapixel camera in the future, I could get high-resolution captures of my negative. That doesn’t mean that the negatives will become better, just the digitization of the negatives will contain more detail. What is recorded in the emulsion can not be changed but there is something that you could do to improve a negative. HDR, If you have a negative with extremely high dynamic range, you could easily shoot three shots and combine them using HDR to capture more detail out of the file. I haven’t tried this as I shoot black and white and I tend to crush the shadows in my shots anyway but it is something to think about if you are shooting color. I am sure you would get better results by using a drum scanner compared to the Camflix system but those cost an arm and a leg. Even getting a single frame drummed scanned is not cheap and almost impossible for me to do in China.
The Camfix system is a great buy for any film shooter in my opinion, as it speeds up your workflow and gives you much better results than a flatbed scanner. The only downside to the Camfix system is that it is actually pretty expensive for what you get. I think I paid the same amount of money for the basic CamFix kit with the 6×7 holder as I did for the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II scanner, but I think that is far better in the quality of the results that it produces. If you are wanting to get into digitizing your medium format negatives then I would highly recommend that you purchase the Camfix film digitizer, and you can pick up the different film holders such as 645, 6×6, or even the 135mm and digitize everything with your camera. If I had not bought the Nikon ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter already, I would have bought the 135mm film holder for the CamFix unit and had the complete collection but I am not into wasting my money and I still using the Plustek scanner with the 35mm negatives because it does produce better results. I am sure a dedicated 120mm Plustek scanner would give better results than what you can get out of the Camfix system and a macro lens, but those machines cost thousands of dollars so I am perfectly happy digitizing my film this way.
I am not going to give scores on reviews anymore because I think scores are mostly useless in the end. I will simply say that I am very happy with my purchase and I plan to keep using the Camflix film digitizing system in the future. The Camflix system restored my faith in medium format film photography by showing me how good medium format shots can be when they are digitized correctly. For that, I will always be very grateful to Camflix and their product.