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How to view a 35mm negative
Old 03-19-2007   #1
kennyg
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How to view a 35mm negative

My goal is to view my developed negatives and pick a few good ones to have printed. Is there a way to view the negatives ? I tried holding the negative in front of a light and viewing it with a 50 mm lens. It enlarges but I can't make out if it is something worth printing. I know I can have them scanned and then view on the computer.
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Old 03-19-2007   #2
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Buy yourself a small light box. You can get them in 5x7 or 8x10 for not a lot of cash. You can use a 50mm lens or even buy a decent loupe for viewing; having the negative on the light box will be better lighting and more ergonomic.

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Old 03-19-2007   #3
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Have you ever noticed that when held in just the right way, negatives can appear positive?

I'm not sure how to describe the method, but I seem to recall standing, holding the dry negs
out at arms length about waist high, near an overhead point source of light.

I was really shocked the first time I observed this!

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Old 03-19-2007   #4
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I used to use a hardware store $10 "kitchen under cabinet" light. It was a 15 watt flourescent with a diffusion panel. Perfect for viewing 120 and 35mm film strips. Not exactly color corrected, but the light was even, and portable.

A decent loupe is a worthwhile investment.
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Old 03-19-2007   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisPlatt
Have you ever noticed that when held in just the right way, negatives can appear positive?

I'm not sure how to describe the method, but I seem to recall standing, holding the dry negs out at arms length about waist high, near an overhead point source of light.

I was really shocked the first time I observed this!
I used to be able to do this with B&W negatives, but never with color. Trick is to hold it against something dark in the path of a light that will illuminate the "dark" parts of the negative. Works on the emulsion side quite well. Too bad it does not work on color.
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Poof! Positive.
Old 03-19-2007   #6
planetjoe
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Poof! Positive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisPlatt
Have you ever noticed that when held in just the right way, negatives can appear positive?

Chris
I'm glad you mentioned this; I always thought it was just me.

When this happened, I wondered if it was some kind of illusion. As it turns out, it was very much as you describe - I was sitting at my desk, using a lightbox with an overhead light. I lifted a neg strip off the lightbox, on the way to the scanner, and it happened. It was a real WOW moment, if you know what I mean.

What seems to work is a diffuse light source illuminating the emulsion side from slightly UNDER and off TO THE SIDE, especially when the negative is held over a relatively dark background - as it was in my case, suspended momentarily over my lap. The overhead light works as normal.

I think it works in this way: the oblique diffuse source gives the emulsion some "glow" in the dense regions only, since only there is the light directed upward through the silver-rich (and thus diffuse) areas. Since the neg is viewed over a dark background, the low-density regions show NO light, which is opposite from what we expect while viewing a negative. The overhead light source seems to give definition and some reflective information that the eyes process as "normal", and poof! - positive. Sorry, bad pun.

Whew. Had to get that off my chest.


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Old 03-19-2007   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmr
I used to be able to do this with B&W negatives, but never with color. Trick is to hold it against something dark in the path of a light that will illuminate the "dark" parts of the negative. Works on the emulsion side quite well. Too bad it does not work on color.
...looks like dmr beat me to it. And with far fewer words - bravo!


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Old 03-19-2007   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmr
I used to be able to do this with B&W negatives, but never with color. Trick is to hold it against something dark in the path of a light that will illuminate the "dark" parts of the negative. Works on the emulsion side quite well. Too bad it does not work on color.
Yes, IIRC the basement floor was dark gray...

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Old 03-19-2007   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisPlatt
Have you ever noticed that when held in just the right way, negatives can appear positive?
In the turn of the last century, this was one of the cheap ways of not making a contact print. You get a negative made, put in a contact print "frame" with a dark backing, and then you see an image. I forgot what this method is called but it was common back then (not that I'm over 100 years old, I was just reading about plate cameras recently)
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Old 03-19-2007   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennyg
My goal is to view my developed negatives and pick a few good ones to have printed. Is there a way to view the negatives ? I tried holding the negative in front of a light and viewing it with a 50 mm lens. It enlarges but I can't make out if it is something worth printing. I know I can have them scanned and then view on the computer.
A light box and a loupe will do the trick. I use a Porta-Trace model 1012 light box which has a 10" x 12" viewing area, and a Peak 8x loupe. Both are inexpensive and great fun to use.
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Old 03-19-2007   #11
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Here is how I do it.
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Old 03-19-2007   #12
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regarding the negative-looks-positive thing:
It works with trad BW since somehow the emulsion is on the surface of the film directly.
If you shine light on the emulsion side, the regions that have silver, don't reflect the light directly but it is a diffuse reflection (the surface is not shiny but matte). It's just like comparing the reflected light from a mirror to anything not-shiny.
If you keep it in the correct angle, the direct reflection from the "shiny" (transarent) areas of the negative will not be going towards your eye therefore these regions are transparent to the light coming from below. The dark background makes thus these regions look dark. In the meantime, from the dark regions there is always some diffuse light reflected into your eyes, so it seems relatively bright in comparison with the dark background you've put under the film.
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Old 03-19-2007   #13
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So, a light box and a loupe. Will this give me a good view of what to expect in print? And, can I use it for color negatives as well ?
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Old 03-19-2007   #14
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Kenny,
First - no, you can't really do that with color. Color doesn't correspond to anything - a big blue dye comes out as, say, green, while a red dye cloud comes out as black. It's really hard to judge a color negative.

Second - a light box and a loupe will help you see the negatives, but it might not help you know what you're looking at. Do you know how to judge a black and white negative? Do you know what to look for in terms of contrast in a negative? Those are the questions you need to figure out.

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Old 03-19-2007   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennyg
My goal is to view my developed negatives and pick a few good ones to have printed. Is there a way to view the negatives ? I tried holding the negative in front of a light and viewing it with a 50 mm lens. It enlarges but I can't make out if it is something worth printing. I know I can have them scanned and then view on the computer.
Well, umm, I make a contact sheet of my negatives , or is that no longer done in the digital age? If you don't have a wet darkroom, maybe your friendly local print shop (the one that will print your selected negatives) can probably get you contact sheets for next to nothing. Just put the whole role into a negative holder sheet...
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Old 03-19-2007   #16
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This is what I do:

http://www.asc.upenn.edu/usr/cassidy...act/index.html

Works like a charm.
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Old 03-19-2007   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MelanieC
This is what I do:

http://www.asc.upenn.edu/usr/cassidy...act/index.html

Works like a charm.
Strong words in that piece, Melanie, but you showed it works pretty well.
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Old 03-20-2007   #18
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I use a lightbox and loupe, its the best way I find.

I also look at my colour negs on there. It is, of course, far harder to judge accurately the colours but I tend to concentrate on sharpeness and general exposure with the colour negs.

Investment in a lightbox and loupe can be made for a very small outlay and even if you have no idea of what you're looking at I'd still suggest you make the investment. Then you can buy youself a book about black/white processing and printing ( if its remotely good it should have a section on evaluating your negs ) then practise.

Best way to learn is to try, especially if in conjunction with the experience of others via book, internet or experienced friend etc.
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Old 03-20-2007   #19
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sorry double posting

Last edited by cruz : 03-20-2007 at 02:46.
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Old 03-20-2007   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaiyen
Kenny,
First - no, you can't really do that with color. Color doesn't correspond to anything - a big blue dye comes out as, say, green, while a red dye cloud comes out as black. It's really hard to judge a color negative
allan
But of course it corresponds, Red colour is represented with cyan dye, green with magenta, blue with yellow, it's that easy. Naturally it's hard to tell anything from looking at the negative but with experience you'll see more and more(you'll be able to guess printing lights if you print a lot)

Carlos
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