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How to Avoid Ugly Newton Rings When Doing Nikon Glass Scanning

newtonring

The Nikon Coolscan 9000ED scanner is an excellent scanner. The included holders are of a very good standard and many extremely useful and high quality optional holders are available. None of them, however, are cheap.

I have been scanning happily for many years with my Coolscan 9000 ED and never seen the need for glass scanning. For the most part I use high quality film that is not difficult to make lie flat and my only medium format camera until recently was a 6×4.5 model that I never used anything but Fuji and Kodak film in.

Nevertheless, I had ordered some glass insets some time back from Focal Point — mostly out of curiosity. In my limited testing the gains were modest and the extra effort significant so they mostly stayed in the box.

In the past six months my camera stable grew to include two medium format folders: the new Lomography X 6-12 6×12 camera and a beautiful German Agfa Record III 6×9 folder with the high quality Solinar lens. All of a sudden I was having significant challenges with film flatness. Try as I might I could not get the flatness I needed out of Nikon’s “tension” holder.

The product offered by Focal Point for the 9000 is a pair of glass inserts that fit in the standard FH-869S film holder. The standard way of doing this is to make a sandwich with the Anti Newton Ring (AN) glass on top facing the “shiny” side of the film and the standard glass on the bottom in contact with the emulsion side of the film.

Since the shiny side is usually the side that has bad Newton Ring problems this is meant to work well. However, in my experience with the films I shoot (and maybe the climate I’m in) I often find that the emulsion side is smooth enough to give rings and I invariably only find these later when I’m editing. These problems dissuaded me until my new cameras prodded me to solve the problem.

First of all, here is the standard Nikon FH-869S holder with the tension clamps removed:

newton-3

I have two pieces of the Focal Point glass. One plain and one AN. The AN glass has a sort of frosting on one side. You won’t see this by just looking at it but you can see it easily if you cause a bright light to be reflected by it.

Here is the shiny (plain) side:

newton-7

Here is the “frosty” Anti-Newton side:

newton-6

It is hard to tell from these shots but both sides of the Focal Point glass look equally clear until you get a bright reflection bounced off them.

To scan without Newton Rings we are going to take advantage of the features of the AN glass and the Nikon holder. First step is to find the AN side of the glass and lay the glass down with the AN glass facing up. The second step is to lay the piece of film on the glass with the shiny side of the film facing the AN side of the glass:

newton-1

Next step is to carefully tape down one end of the film to the glass. Once the one end is taped down you need to place some tape on the other end and tape it down whilst applying tension along the length of the film. This tension will keep the film firmly against the glass in the middle although the sides will still curl away:

newton-2

You don’t have to worry about these edges because the next step is to place the glass in the holder with the film facing down. The film edges will now be held flat against the glass by the edges of the film holder:

newton-4

The thing to watch for now is that the glass will only sit down flush in the “channel” in the holder if you carefully press it firmly and evenly down into the gap. It is a tight fit. It is a tight enough fit that you may or may not need to tape the assembly down. I usually tape it down just because if it does pop up you have to do your whole scan over again. Here is the same glass and film assembly properly pressed down. Note the edges of the glass versus the edges of the channel in the holder:

newton-5

There are a number of advantages to this way of doing it:

  • You avoid the Newton Rings that arise from the emulsion side sitting against the plain glass at the bottom of a traditional glass “sandwhich”. These are the only kind I used to get
  • You avoid scanning through a layer of glass. The emulsion still faces the lens with nothing but air in between it and the scanner’s lens
  • You only have two extra surfaces contributing more dust to your scan versus four extra surfaces when using both pieces
  • Setup and teardown is faster than when making and securing a glass sandwhich
  • Dealing with extremely curly films is much easier because you tape one end and then tape down the other end using tension. It can be very hard to get a curly piece into a sandwhich

I hope this solution is useful for some other of you Nikon scanner owners out there. I do find the larger the piece of film the more objectionable the random soft areas from non-flat film become.


About the author: Sam Agnew is a professional photographer based in Doha, Qatar. Visit his website here. This post was originally published here.


Image credit: mag354 1024 by Nesster


 
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  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.andrews.5832 Chris Andrews

    I used to run a large drum scanner. We would mount the transparencies in oil to prevent newton rings

  • GG

    Lol, The standard holders are not very good!

  • GG

    This solution may solve a newton ring issue (mostly with color neg, some transparency films and rarely b&w), but doesn’t completely solve film flatness, considering the paper thin depth-of-field of this scanner.

    Get a FH-869G glass carrier, replace the standard bottom glass with AN glass from Focal Point. Done.

    Makes no sense but it works.

  • Sam Agnew

    You don’t normally want any AN glass between the scanner lens and the film. As you can see from the reflection picture above the AN surface scatters light. This is fine when it is “behind” the film but not good to have in the light path between the scanner lens and the film. You don’t want to be trying to shoot through it. This is why in the traditional “sandwich” you have plain glass on the bottom.

    The other point is that you already have the FH869S. It comes with the scanner. Buying the glass inserts is very cheap. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, Nikon sell some great holders like the FH869G and FH869GR but they are quite expensive. My solution is much cheaper than buying the FH869G and a piece of Focal Point glass.

    Sam

  • Sam Agnew

    True, but there is a very delicate and hard to clean single surface mirror beneath the film in the Coolscan 9000ED so wet mounting is not generally a very good idea on this scanner.

    Sam

  • GG

    “You don’t normally want any AN glass between the scanner lens and the film.”, exactly, normally you don’t.

    If you are spending that kind of money on a 9000, budget in the extra cost of a proper glass holder.

  • Tobot

    I know it goes against all wisdom about scanning and anti-newton glass, but out of curiosity one day, I cut two strips out of a piece of Tru-Vue anti-glare picture framing glass I had lying around. The Tru-Vue glass has a slight texture on one side like anti-newton glass. I put the negative between the two strips of glass, textured surfaces facing inwards, and put it in the Nikon carrier as described in this article. Personally, I can’t really see the texture in my 4000 dpi scans and to me the perfect edge-to-edge sharpness is an acceptable trade-off for a little extra grain or loss of contrast. Some machine-processed C-41 negatives come from the lab quite wavy, and the sandwich results in perfectly flat film and sharp scans of my 6×12 and 6×17 negs. The amount of glass you need to make this should cost less than $10, and the framer might even have some off-cuts you can get for free. Downsides are that the Tru-Vue glass is quite thick (approx. 2mm) and this puts the scanner at about the limit of it’s focusing range (although I’ve always been able to achieve focus so far), and the 2 strips of 2mm glass are quite heavy, so I wonder if this puts extra strain on the transport system of the Nikon scanner. I had been using the Nikon glass carrier and always felt I wasn’t getting the most out of the scanner using the masks Nikon provides to shim the film up off the bottom plain glass surface. Now I feel like my scanner has had new life breathed into it!

  • Aaron Pepelis

    the FH-869G is the worst thing I bought for the nikon coolscan 9000. every single scan has newton rings.