Most longtime film photographers who want to convert slides and negatives into digital images do it by using a film scanner. Scanners offer high resolution (a 4000-dpi scanner turns a 35mm slide into a 21-megapixel digital image) and versatility (including built-in dust and scratch reduction, color restoration, grain management and even dynamic range-expansion features), along with settings optimized for color slides, color negatives and black-and-white films.
But there's another handy way to turn your slides (and negatives) into digital images: copy them using a slide copier and a digital SLR. Inexpensive slide duplicators that attach to the camera body or lens have long been popular with film photographers and work well with full-frame D-SLRs. The drawback is that D-SLRs with smaller than full-frame image sensors (all current ones except the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II and EOS 5D) will crop the slide; you won't be able to copy the entire slide with a simple duplicator.
One solution to this problem is the Novoflex Castel-COP-DIGI slide duplicator, coupled with any of three Novoflex focusing racks (the Castel-L, Castel-Q or Castel-mini). Mount your D-SLR (with macro lens) on the focusing rack and attach the duplicator's rails to the rack. Mount the slide to be copied on the duplicator's white diffusing panel (it accepts 35mm through 6x7cm slides). Move the panel toward or away from the camera along the rails (or move the camera toward or away from the diffusing panel using the focusing rack's precision-geared knobs) until the slide fills the frame or you've cropped it the way you want, then shoot.
You can mount the whole assembly on a tripod, but since the subject slide is firmly attached to the camera, camera shake isn't a problem. Any handy light source will do, from sun to electronic flash to tungsten, but be sure to set your camera's white balance accordingly. (You can also remove the diffusing panel from the duplicator and use the unit as a stand to hold a variety of macro subjects.)
It's best to shoot slide duplicates in the RAW format to maximize image quality as well as your ability to make any needed post-shooting adjustments to the images. If your camera doesn't offer the RAW format, shoot TIFFs or highest-quality JPEGs.
Be sure to clean the slides before copying them or you'll be copying dust along with the slide, thus setting yourself up for a lot of retouching. You can use the old film photographer's trick of applying a thin coating of anti-scratch fluid or petroleum jelly to the slide before copying it; this will "hide" most scratches. The anti-scratch fluid will evaporate on its own, but if you use petroleum jelly, be sure to remove it with film cleaning fluid after making your slide copies.
If your camera has adjustable contrast settings, experiment with each of them to see which gives you the best-looking copy images. Contact: HP Marketing Corp., (800) 735-4373, www.hpmarketingcorp.com.