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Friday, March 20, 2009

Capture microfilm images with your digital camera

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It is almost inevitable if you are doing serious family history research that you will have to use a microfilm reader. For many years, if you wanted a copy from the reader, you had to take out the film and go to a dedicated microfilm printer. The copies have been expensive, and in the case of the Family History Library, you often have to wait for a machine to become available or schedule one for use.

If you look at the photo above, you can see an entirely different option. You can use your digital camera to take photograph of the projected microfilm image. The results are comparable to the quality of some of the prints you get from the dedicated machine. Of course the advantage is that there is no wait to use the printer and no cost for the prints. The convenience far out weighs any limitations in the absolute quality, in my opinion.

To take the pictures, the camera should be on a tripod or at least braced against the frame of the microfilm reader. You cannot use the flash at all, of course. The flash would effectively erase the projected image. The above photo was done with a hand held Canon XTi Camera using the automatic exposure without the flash.

It is certainly faster and more flexible than taking the film to the film scanner for a print. You might want to look at each of the pictures you take and zoom in on the detail to make sure you have a focused image that can be used when it is transferred to your computer. If the images are too dark, you can use any of the many photo retouching programs, including Picasa, to improve the quality of the image.

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