2014 July      Film,   Scanning     

The Canon EOS 6D is a 20.2-megapixel, full-frame DSLR.  (Full review here.)

Let's see how it does for macro capture of film.  This is not technically "scanning", but the goal is identical.

Sky, Clouds, and Goldenrods
Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E
Fujifilm Superia 100
(color negative film)

The red rectangle (above) shows what area we'll be looking at.  

Here's the baseline... from a flatbed scan of the negative. (100% crop).

Next up, the EOS Rebel T3 with a high-quality macro lens.   If I showed the rest of the picture around this 100% crop, it would be 51 inches wide according to what I measure on my screen:

The T3 with a decent lens is not bad, as you can see.   It would have been even better at f/5.6 with NR turned off, but at least you get the basic idea.  Even at f/8 with NR on, it's still better than the flatbed scan.

Now it's time for the Canon 6D.  If I included the rest of the picture around this 100% crop, it would have to be 57 inches wide:

The 6D capture is better than the other two.  A lot better. 

Disregard the slight differences in color here.  The photos were adjusted at different times and in different ways.   I could have put more effort into matching the colors if I wanted.  What's important here is the detail resolution.   Look at how much more detail is in the 6D capture!! 

And look at the difference in noise.  The APS-C Rebel T3 has a pretty good (large) pixel pitch-- better than a T3i or 70D-- yet the image is still nowhere near as clean as you get with the Canon 6D.  Could you bring out a bit more detail with a Nikon D810?  Maybe so, but the Canon 6D is probably the lowest-noise DSLR of any of them. 

The 6D capture was actually done with NR turned off! 

I wasn't going to show the Nikon D5100 because it can't use a Canon EF lens, so it wouldn't be an apples-to-apples comparison.  But when I did use the Nikon D5100 with a Micro Nikkor lens, it still wasn't as good as the full-frame 20 MP Canon 6D.  

(Curious?  Here's the D5100 capture...)

That was 16 megapixels with one of Nikon's sharpest manual lenses.  This again would have been a bit sharper at f/5.6 instead of the f/11 where I set it.  But it still would not have been as sharp as the 6D with EF 100mm f/2.8.  Let's see that 100% crop one more time:

(This was f/8, by the way.)

The 6D with a good macro lens captures an incredibly high level of detail. 

Get the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM for the 6D, and you'll have one of the best DSLR macro setups you can get.  (Be sure to check out my review of this Canon 100mm lens.)   Pick up a copy stand such as this one and a light pad such as this, and you're all ready to do super-high-res "scans" of film. 

Sure, you could sell blurry flatbed scans of your film photos in an art gallery, but why do that if you can have this kind of quality? 

Macro Update

A reader mentions that he was using a Canon 50mm prime lens to do camera-scans.  He wondered if the 100mm macro lens would make that much of a difference.  The answer is YES;  you won't even know how you ever did without it.  A 1:1 macro lens like the EF 100mm f/2.8 USM or the EF 100mm f/2.8 L will allow your 35mm slides or negatives to fill the entire frame on a 5D, 5D Mk III, 6D, etc. 

If you want to work with smaller film such as 110, there's also the Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens, which allows up to 5:1 macro.  Problem is, though, that lens doesn't focus the way you might be expecting.  You have to move the whole camera up and down to focus with that lens.  On a copy stand that can be sort of a nuisance.  I think you will find the Canon EF 100mm's to be much more practical lenses;  they have a regular focus ring, the way lenses should.


The Canon 6D makes a great macro-capture / film scanning camera.  Especially if you get a good 1:1 macro lens for it.

I highly, highly recommend the Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens;  read review of it.  (Buy yours with this link and it helps me out).  It's hard to say enough good things about this lens.  

Two other great alternatives are this one from Tamron and this one from Sigma.  (The Tamron is the one with VC, which is a type of image stabilization).  Both have a reputation for incredible sharpness, much like the Canon.   But the Canon lens has the best autofocus of the whole bunch, should you want to use the lens for pictures of people.

The Canon 6D fitted with any of these lenses is more than capable of astoundingly good film scans. 

Forget what you see in the advertisements.  Commercial scanning services can't even get close to this quality, unless they're using drum scanners or Imacon 848's.  By then, your scans are going to cost quite a bit more than 25 cents apiece....

Want to enlarge 35mm to four-foot posters?   The 6D with the 100mm macro is up to the job.   And when you're not using it for macro capture, this combo is great for mid-telephoto and portrait work.  Apart from the much more expensive "L" macro lens, the 100 mm 2.8 is the best choice if you also want to use the lens for portraits and such. 


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