Light source suggestions


People have been wondering about the best light box to use with FilmLab. I’m not an expert on light tables, but here’s what I can say from my own experience.

I currently own two light boxes, both of the slim LED variety. First is a Huion A4 table which I bought on eBay. It works well, except that the power supply that came with it seemed to cause flickering, so I swapped it out for another standard USB power supply. It still flickers when set to less-than-maximum brightness, but that hasn’t been a problem since I always set the brightness to maximum. The light from the Huion light pad has a cool color cast.

I also have an Kaiser slimline plano light table, which is smaller and more portable, has a built-in battery, and a warmer color. It’s advertised as being full-spectrum, which could possibly give more accurate colors, but I haven’t tested that yet. You can find these online at B&H, or many retail stores. At $118, it costs probably 2-3 times as much as one of the cheaper light tables. (Disclaimer: this table was sent it to me for free by the US distributor when then they heard about FilmLab).

Do you have a light box (or other light source) you think will work well with FilmLab?


Just curious if you’ve tried the LightPad app for using the iPad as a mini light table?


I’ve been using the Kaiser slimline to digitize film using a dslr and it’s works fine. The battery function is useful. With that said, just putting the film on a mac screen with a white background has also worked fine for proofing purposes.


Hi Abe, It was a great idea to create this site for suggestions! I have purchased an "M.Way A4 LEDTracing light box a couple months ago from Amazon for $40 (Canadian dollars). It came with a long USB cord (no adapter) and it’s pretty cool because it gives more freedom to move it around. The whole light box is very thin therefore the micro USB connection is fragile but I had no problem with it so far, no flickering or any other issues. Here is the amazon link if someone is interested:
[M.Way A4 LED Tracing Light Box](http://M.Way A4 LED Tracing Light Box)


You’d normally want a light source with a high CRI (colour rendering index). I’ve got a cheap lightbox for proofing, and whilst it does ok for images, I think it’s worth trying to get a high CRI panel.


I have a very old school LB that still works. Macbeth Prooflite D5000. I will be using this in my testing. I got this from a place that I worked back in the late 1980s.


I experimented with the iPad white screen or wallpaper suggestion (not the app referenced above). I used a small iPhone tripod adapter, got to the minimum focus distance and focused on the color negative on the iPad. It looked fine, but when cropped and viewed in photoshop, the LED’s or whatever make up the iPad screen were visible in the scan/photo.
I tried with velum paper, but the grain of the paper came through. I tried with engineer’s mylar, and even that grain came through. I’ve read several reviews of LED light boxes on amazon that indicate they are not appropriate for photographing negatives for the same reason: the LED’s themselves come through when photographing the negative at a short distance. Some of the LED light boxes do get good reviews for viewing/photographing negatives, but then again those buying the “art” light boxes to scan negatives are few and far between. I’ve seen medical X-ray viewers on craigslist for less than $50, but shipping can be a killer. Most have fluorescent bulbs that are specific to the model and if you need to replace them, could exceed the cost of a good LED photography specific light box. I think it the combination of wattage, bulb length, and bulb temp, but it’s not something you pick up at home depot. Once we get out hands on the beta, we’ll know if we need to get so close to the negative that we pick up the glass or screen or paper between the negative and the light source. At this point, I haven’t bought anything yet. I’m leaning between the X-ray light boxes that are plentiful (relatively) in San Diego on craigslist, and the Kaiser model that Abe is seen using in his video (just because we know that one works.)


Just ordered a Kaiser slimline plano (large version). Seemed like a solid choice to me.


Thanks for sharing your experience, it made me think about the whole process a little bit and raised a question how far I should go with this as far as expense goes. My personal opinion is that if I just want to quickly share my negatives on social media than cheaper-grainier version should be fine but when I want excellent image quality than I will keep using my Epson V600. Buying an almost $200 light box + the app seems a bit of overkill for me. Can’t wait to try filmlab app to see the results.


In the Netherlands I have bought the ‘led light drawing pad A4 usb’ from VistaPlan Online, and it’s the same Huion pad that Abe uses. It cost me a round 40 euros which is very manageable to be honest.

The light is even and strong. Yes I see flickering through my DSLR EVF but that is with most light sources (Which all flicker to some degree :P).

I’ve used it quite a while to ‘scan film’ through my APS-C DSLR (with an older Minolta 50mm f2.8 Macro). The raw files I shoot go through Rawtherapee of DCRAW to export them without any alterations as linear unaltered output. From there it’s basically the same as any scan I do on my proper Filmscanner -> into photoshop and ColorPerfect plugin.

You’ve got to be a bit careful at the sides of the lightpad since you will see some light bleeding there, but it’s A4 and anything that’s 2cm away from the sides is even and nicely lit for not a lot of money.

I shoot at F8 with shutter speeds varying on the film, but anywhere from 0.5 second to 1.5 second, on a tripod which can be pointed straight down (to get a sort of copier setup). If I have the feeling the 12bit output of my DSLR is doing the scan ‘injustice’ I take two exposures and merge them with HDRMerge.

Getting the film as flat as possible without touching it is the tricky part. Press it down on the surface and you might get newton rings. With the lens at a few centimeters of distance, any millimeter the film curls up means it will not be properly in focus :S.

In the end I shoot with 24 megapixels APS-C at base ISO. I crop the surroundings and film borders, I end up with an image that is somewhere between 14 to 17 megapixels. If I compare the detail to the scans from my Reflecta Crystalscan 7200 which yields just over 3200 DPI or there abouts, I see no difference to one or the other (in other words, the film is the limiting factor probably :P). If you can see the individual grain-spots in the film it basically means you’re getting all the detail out of the film that you can.

I did a little test with my Galaxy S7 with a color negative on the same light source, shooting a 12 megapixels RAW (single exposure) as close as I could focus. I crop the surroundings and film borders and I end up with 6 to 8 megapixels of image data, which I inverted to a positive the same way I do with all my scans, and it yielded a very acceptable picture. Not as sharp / detailed of course, but colors pretty much the same, no lightstreaks or light-bleeding or things like that. You do have to make sure that your lens is clean, and maybe a macro-lens-adapter can help to get closer and get more actual detail out of it.

I’m looking forward to the moment I can put a strip of film on my light-pad, lay it flat, and quickly go over it with Filmlab to see the pictures and judge them properly and get little preview jpgs. If I then see a picture that is ‘worth it’ I expose it to my DSLR or put it in my proper film-scanner :). This can save me hours per roll that I scan ::P:


This would be my use-case too: going through dozen of old slide boxes with my father, and properly scan a few good ones.
I’ll try to use an iPad as a light table, then report my findings. I’ve seen a few app for that, in some of them you can adjust the background color.


I noticed that when I put film directly on a tablet (or very close to) I see the pixel-structure of the tablet-screen in the ‘scans’ :).

But if you get some distance it will blur out (or maybe Filmlab isn’t detailed enough to show that kind of micro-level detail anyway).


II just ordered the KAISER 2454 SLIMLITE PLANO LED LIGHT BOX NEGATIVE SLIDE VIEWING 32 x 22.8cm from Ebay. A bit more than I wanted to pay at £130 but I have a new pinhole camera shooting 6x12 negs so I expect to use it a lot.


130 pounds? wow.

@Abe: If there are flickering issues which you might think are power-related, isn’t it an option to just hook up the Huion A4 to a powerbank, since it’s (micro) USB powered anywhere? A powerbank will make sure that grounding issues in the house where you use it are not an issue, and a simple powerbank will be able to provide a stable voltage, at least for a few hours.
It also makes the Huion A4 portable in a single step. :stuck_out_tongue:


Thanks for sharing your experience, this is really interesting. I wonder if a solution to these issues with grain/LED showing through would be to have some kind of spacer that would move the light source farther away from the negative so it’s no longer in sharp focus.


Thanks for the detailed report, this kind of thing is very useful to the community!


I’ve been using this since February. That, in conjunction with a Beselar enlarger plate and the digital macro scanning technique, has worked really well but is time-consuming.


Assuming the app could do a white balance against the light before scanning, then it could be fine with any light source. A lot of different LED or fluorescent sources have slight shifts of the green/magenta scale too, so it’d be good to be able to correct for this


Here’s a pic from an amazon review of a Tikteck A4 Ultra-thin Portable LED Light Box. This is more or less what I experienced with the ipad. Notice he didn’t use anything like mylar or vellum, but with an actual light box you shouldn’t need to.


Can verify the Kaiser works well for digitizing with a DSLR.