Scanning With a Digital Camera – A Brief Rant

I have written before about how I use a Fuji digital camera with a Schneider enlarging lens, a Leitz BEOON copy stand and a Logan light box to “scan” my negatives. And I have, from time to time, participated in online conversations about digital camera “scanning” in general, and my setup in particular. What surprises me in these conversations is how many participants lack both a basic understanding of optics, and the related vocabulary.

I believe that at least a part of the problem is the use of the word “scanning” to describe what is going on. Using that term for online searches results in a lot of discussions of particular cameras, lenses, copy stands and light sources, and few if any discussions of the basic optical principles involved with copying or macrophotography. The place to start learning about these basic principles is not an online discussion of which macro or enlarging lens will work best with a particular camera, but rather books from the film era about basic optics, copying and macrophotography. In the world of hybrid film photography “scanning” is what we do with a dedicated scanner. “Copying”, or “digitizing” if you must, is what we do with a digital camera.

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