For Quick Film Scans, Try an Olympus C-8080WZ!

By Dave Powell

A friend recently asked if I could digitize some 35mm slides of a coastal Maine motel her family once owned. I decided to use an Olympus C-8080 WZ (Wide Zoom) bridge camera that I’d just purchased from another friend. It takes superb “Super Macros” and since its “scans” were going to be shared via email, the camera’s 8-megapixel files would be more than sufficient. Running some quick tests, I discovered that it was truly excellent for quickly and easily digitizing film.

NOTE: I considered using my Epson flatbed scanner, but past efforts produced somewhat “milky” results. And the process was slow.

Equipment

Here’s what I used. Beside the camera is a vintage Accura Duplivar slide-copier device. I also used a small light table (not shown):

C-8080 WZ camera amd Accura scanner device

I didn’t need the Duplivar’s main tube and slid the slide-holder frame off of its front. Then I glued two blocks of memory foam (outlined in white below) into the sides of the holder frame… and taped the holder to the front of the camera’s lens housing (also shown below):

Close-up of Duplivar slide holder on camera
TIP: Other manufacturers’ slide copiers might also work. But the tube-mounting tracks on the back of the Duplivar’s holder precisely straddle the camera’s lens housing… which made it easy to center the holder on the lens.

This setup:

  • Automatically keeps the camera sensor and slides/negatives parallel, no matter how I move the camera.
  • Allows me to point the camera at any light source, and at any angle. without slides/negatives moving around in the holder.
  • Eliminates camera shake, even during longer hand-held exposures, and
  • Reduces light intrusion into the sides of the frame (to maximize the contrast of scans) … thanks to the memory-foam blocks.

Camera Setup

To prepare the camera, I:

  • Selected its lowest ISO (50) to minimize digital noise. (The camera’s circa-2004 ISO range– 50 to 400– means that digital noise really starts to creep in at around 200.)
  • Set the camera to Super-Macro mode.
  • Turned its command dial to aperture priority.
  • And selected its smallest aperture (f/8) to maximize depth-of-field and image sharpness.

Scanning 35mm Slides

To digitize each slide, I:

  1. Removed dust from its front and back with a soft lens brush.
  2. Slid the slide into the tracks at the front of the Duplivar holder (with the transparency’s duller emulsion side facing the lens). TIP: I inserted both landscape and portrait images in a horizontal orientation (as shown in the above photo)… so that the camera wouldn’t cut off the tops and bottoms of vertical images.
  3. Flipped the holder’s white diffuser plate up or down, depending on the light source. If shooting up toward a bright sky, I flipped the diffuser plate up in front of the slide… to keep clouds and trees from also appearing in the scan. And if shooting down toward my light table (my usual source), I flipped the plastic diffuser down out of the way because the light table has its own built-in diffuser.
  4. Pointed the camera toward the light source, and
  5. Took the shot. The camera often “hunted” for focus, but always locked on.

The process was fast and easy. It took mere seconds to digitize each slide.

My biggest surprise, though, was how closely the C-8080 WZ actually focuses! Its Reference Manual says that Super-Macro mode shoots down to 2 inches from the lens. But slides in the holder are only 0.75-inches away! This did prove to be a problem if I set the aperture wider than f/8. But at f/8, the lens’s depth-of-field expanded to include the slide location.

Sample Slide Scans

I wouldn’t post someone else’s family photos. But here are a few of my own Kodachrome memories! All but the last slide are as the camera captured them (with only minor rotation and cropping). My last slide promised to be difficult enough to require special processing, as you’ll see:

Kate on roof slide
My wife Kate straddling the edge of her apartment-building roof, early in our relationship. (The original negative is slightly off-focus… my bad!)
Polynesia sunset ship slide
It’s a little depressing that, as I creep toward my 75th year, more and more of my photos are becoming “historical” documents! Here, the lovely tall ship S/V Polynesia faces one of her last Caribbean sunsets… on one of Captain Mike’s Barefoot Windjammer Cruises. Today, neither company nor ship still ply the seas. The company ran aground in 2007 (it is said) due to family in-fighting, and the “Polly” now reportedly moulders away at a pier in Aruba. But our time on her decks remains a fond memory. NOTE: The severe vignetting probably resulted from my shooting into the sun with a telephoto. But the “spyglass” effect seems fitting here!
Sea captain's gravestone
A sea captain’s gravestone, Deer Island, Maine. I left this image uncropped to show how the camera’s Super-Macro scans almost completely fill its 8-megapixel frame (easiest seen at the top).
Peggy's Cove lighthouse
Sunset, Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia. Nice reproduction of subdued light!
Peggy's Cove harbor scene
Another Peggy’s Cove view.
Monhegan Island sunrise
Sunrise, Monhegan Island, Maine.
Author at Stonehenge
Stonehenge, early 1980s. Kate shoots a mean portrait!
Godaikin robot slide
I once collected Japanese “Godaikin” robots, which were big, transformable, and mostly metal! (Their invasion of American toy stores helped inspire Hasbro’s “Transformers” and other similar toy lines.) This “Garbin” figure was one of the more unique Godaikins– being a series of three fully jointed robot figures standing inside one another (like Russian nesting dolls). Another strangely transformable fellow was the large “Laserion,” who grew taller when one slipped colorful plastic inserts into his hollow leg frames. Marvelous pieces of engineering!

A Girl in a Tree

But the hardest slide to scan was one of the first photos I took in 1977… with my first SLR. I’d taken the Canon AE-1 for a walk in a park near my home, and as I entered, a girl called to me from a sunset-backlit tree:

“Are you a photographer?… Take my picture!”

Understandably distracted, I shot without checking focus, framing, shutter speed or aperture. And the slide turned out to be so dark, I could barely see the girl’s white jumpsuit in it… let alone her face. In fact, I kept it to (someday) digitize into a RAW file for intensive post-processing. Though I never saw her again, forty-five years on, this lovely young lady is finally sprung from her slide’s shadowy prison:

Lovely girl in a tree
Since it was so dark, this slide is the only one for which I pointed my Olympus “scanner” at a very bright sunlit sky (without the sun in the frame, of course). And again, it’s the only slide that I processed beyond minor rotation and cropping. All other slides are as they came from the camera, without any brightening, tonal adjustment or sharpening.

This girl in a tree may be hazy and out-of-focus. But she’s also beautiful… like many memories as one grows older!

Scanning 35mm Negatives

The physical process of digitizing negatives was almost the same. The biggest difference was that I extended the memory-foam blocks forward just enough to press negatives up against the white diffusion plate. This both held film strips firmly in place and flattened their frequent curvature. Like this:

Film strip in scanner setup

Here’s a scan from the above strip of “Kodak Safety Film 5063” (AKA Tri-X):

Sample B/W negative scan
Taken in 1977, it shows the “Four Calling Birds” and “Two Turtle Doves” sections of a tree decorated for the “Twelve Days of Christmas” in Boston’s historic Quincy Market. (I shot down into the tree from the second floor.)

And here’s a circa-1976 “historical” photo:

Durgin Park Restaurant night exterior
Since 1827, Durgin-Park had been a Boston institution, known for dishing out traditional New England fare (especially seafood and chowders). You came here expecting un-fancy, family-style meals at long tables with red-checkered cloths (some patrons can be seen here in the second-floor windows). One could also count on heaping helpings of surly server backtalk! It was fun jabbing back with some variant of “Oh yea? Well…”  A great night could be had by all, if one got into the spirit of the place! But the fun ended in 2019, when these doors closed against the onslaught of fancier, pricier eateries. TIP: If a street light isn’t working, line it up with a flood lamp on the wall behind it!

Next is a severely cropped color negative:

Whale entering water
Kate and I were on a whale watch when this big fellow leaped completely out of the water! Kate got the shot with her Nikon L35AF just as he crashed back to the surface. Our old drugstore print is OK, but it’s great to have this tighter digital crop! NOTE: This image area is slightly smaller than a 110-film negative.

Smaller Formats Too!

Since 35mm film worked out so well, I decided to try smaller APS and 110 negatives. Bob Janes’  excellent 35mmc article about shooting, developing and scanning APS showed me how to draw the film out of its canister, and then reel it back in after scanning. The following sample turned out better than expected, considering that APS negatives are about half the size of 35mm:APS negative scan

And here’s a 110-film scan (of a negative only around one-quarter the size of 35mm):

110 negative scan, Rome, Italy
Grain can be good! This tiny negative was exposed on a rainy early evening, as our taxi careened into chaotic Roman traffic.  (Amazingly, all vehicles in the area missed each other!) But grain and hand-held blur actually captured the Eternal City’s gritty, frenetic energy better than the sharper tourist snaps I got earlier in the day. Those little 110 cameras can still grab emotive images!

Great Camera, Great Scans

These generally excellent results didn’t surprise me. In 2004, reviewers widely praised the efforts Olympus engineers put into creating the C-8080 WZ’s “Zuiko quality” 5x macro zoom– with 15 elements in 13 groups (2 elements aspherical and 3 of ED glass). The lens was built to the company’s highest standards. In addition, the camera uses both xD and CF cards, which is good if… like I… you prefer one over the other. But one can insert both in the camera simultaneously… and switch between them on-the-fly.

Naturally, this setup can’t match the resolution of top-quality film scanners. But if you ever need good, quick, easy scans, it’s a great way to go. For many applications, the camera’s 3264×2448 captures should be fine. In fact, a 2018 Photo Jottings article claims that a 3,000-pixel-width is optimum! Specifically, it says: “there is no additional resolution from scanning at a higher sample rate.” It’d be interesting to hear readers’ opinions about this.

If you want to digitize your own slides or negatives, and already own a C-8080 WZ, vintage Duplivar copiers (under either Accura or Spiratone brands) currently sell for from $1 to $35 on the ‘Bay. And if you don’t already own an 8080 WZ, they currently sell there for $60 to $90 (though I’ve seen asking prices up to $285).

Final Thoughts

The C-8080 WZ may be “just” an 8-megapixel camera, but it would be a mistake to think its scans are substandard. As mentioned in this 35mmc article, I once exhibited and sold 16×20 prints taken with a 0.8MP camera! So one can actually do a lot with the 8080 WZ’s 8MP files.

In fact, I bought the camera from a good friend who is an image-quality expert and obtained stunning 16×20 prints from its files. He still feels that no other digital camera he tested had a better lens. Today, with online asking prices close to $300 (and people paying nearly $100 for it), the C-8080 WZ still seems to command respect.

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About The Author

By Dave Powell
Trained in mathematics, physics, cosmology, computer programming and science journalism. Retired mathematician, award-winning technical and journalistic writer. 1989 winner of the Bruce B. Howat Award-- an international business-journalism equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. (Only one Howat was awarded each year, IF the committee in Geneva found an article they really liked. But I don't think the prize is granted anymore.) Also a past author and editorial advisor for Sesame Street... where I regularly worked with Jim Henson and Kermit!
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Comments

Simon Cygielski on For Quick Film Scans, Try an Olympus C-8080WZ!

Comment posted: 18/04/2023

Impressive results! I still have my Olympus C-4040Z. While I don't think I'll be digging it out any time soon, and definitely not for film scanning, this post reminded me that one of the things I did love about it was the color quality. It was my first digital camera, and I remember the tonality comparing very favorably with some others I had the chance to play with around that time.
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Dave Powell replied:

Comment posted: 18/04/2023

Agreed! I think it comes from the wonderful CCD sensors in cameras of that time (including another of my faves: the Konica-Minolta A1). They just had a WAY with color and light. Hamish has scheduled one of my "One-Shot Stories" to appear on the 26th. Titled "The Haunting on Sunset Hill," it features an A1 photo taken back in 2006. And I love its color so much that I keep going back to the piece just to see the picture!

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Dave Powell on For Quick Film Scans, Try an Olympus C-8080WZ!

Comment posted: 08/01/2023

You're very welcome, Karen... and thanks for the questions! I inserted the foam blocks to reduce the light filtering in through the sides of the holder... and in the process, to maximize the contrast of the resulting scans. It seemed to work too, 'cause I didn't need to adjust the brightness or contrast of any results! And as shown in my gear shots, the Duplivar's plastic diffuser is hinged at the bottom... and the holder has an aluminum locking latch at the top. So I could flip the diffuser down, center a slide in FRONT of the foam blocks, and then snap the diffuser back in place. It worked a treat. Best of luck with your own scans!
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Karen on For Quick Film Scans, Try an Olympus C-8080WZ!

Comment posted: 08/01/2023

This looks like a great setup and I was thinking of doing the same thing but I have a few questions for you. When digitizing slides what are the foam blocks for? How do yo put the slide in the holder? It looks like you slip the slide in from the side but the foam blocks are there?? Other Slide duplicators I have seen load from the top. Thanks for the great article.
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Huss on For Quick Film Scans, Try an Olympus C-8080WZ!

Comment posted: 03/10/2022

Nice! The Oly 8080 was my first digital camera and I loved it! A few years ago I gifted it to a kid who wanted a camera. As for that PhotoJotting claim about 3000 wide being optimal scanning resolution? Hard no. I scan my film, first started w a D750 24mp, now use a z7 47mp I think, but it is about 8300 wide. I print big to sell, and the extra resolution is very noticeable.
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Dave Powell replied:

Comment posted: 03/10/2022

Thanks for the definitive statement, Huss! It indicates that a LOT of "new data" must remain in emulsions beyond 3,000-pixel scan resolutions.

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Tom on For Quick Film Scans, Try an Olympus C-8080WZ!

Comment posted: 01/10/2022

Amazing work. Makes me want to dig out a compact to scan and have at it.
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Dave Powell replied:

Comment posted: 01/10/2022

Thanks so much Tom! If your camera works out well, you'll be able to digitize anything you want at the drop of a hat. It's very freeing!

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William on For Quick Film Scans, Try an Olympus C-8080WZ!

Comment posted: 29/09/2022

Brillliant! When "camera-scanning" first began to gain steam, we tried "scanning" 35mm B&W negatives on a light table using a Canon SD1100is P&S camera in macro mode atop a length of cardboard tube (spray-painted matte black on the inside), inverting and cleaning up the image with a quick edit in Photoshop Elements. Worked a treat!
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Dave Powell replied:

Comment posted: 29/09/2022

Absolutely right, William... And this sort of digitizing is also nearly instant!

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Dana A Brigham on For Quick Film Scans, Try an Olympus C-8080WZ!

Comment posted: 29/09/2022

Wow -- I've been planning to use my Panasonic Lumix G85 (16Mp, micro-four-thirds sensor) mirrorless for camera scanning, just have not found the best macro lens to use (and not pay a ton of $$$) -- but these results with 8Mp are great! Fun-fact -- the micro-four-thirds sensor is almost exactly the same size as a 110 negative! But the results are much better than typical 110 film/cameras. Thanks!!!
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Dave Powell replied:

Comment posted: 29/09/2022

Fascinating about the size of micro-four-thirds sensors Dana! That's one technology I haven't yet used. I've been a Panasonic fan ever since I bought their X-Pro1. Since your G85 doesn't need an anti-aliasing filter, it might even output better "scans" than other micro-four-thirds cameras that have such filters. And before springing for a macro lens, think about screwing a high-quality "macro filter" onto your existing lens. It would help to fill more of the camera's 16MP frame... and be a fun and inexpensive first step. (You'd probably need to correct some barrel distortion in the results though!) Have fun with whatever you do. I'm finding that a quick-and-easy way to "scan" film can be a real game-changer!

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Safiyyah on For Quick Film Scans, Try an Olympus C-8080WZ!

Comment posted: 29/09/2022

Great detailed post. Thank you for it!
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Dave Powell replied:

Comment posted: 29/09/2022

Thanks Safiyyah... And you're welcome!

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