For most people, film photography exits solely as a memory of a time long past. There is still one area in which film trumps digital, however, and that is in large-format photography. While complicated, digital scanning backs exist for large format cameras, 4×5 film remains the most accessible solution. And with Pentax’s latest Film Duplicator, it’s now easier than ever to turn those 4×5 negatives into digital files.
As seen in PetaPixel, the Film Duplicator 4×5 consists of a bellows system, film holder, diffusion screen, and cold shoe that all lie along a rail. An external flash mounts to the cold shoe, which shines light through the diffusion screen to evenly illuminate the film on the other side. A digital camera with a macro lens is mounted to the opposite end to capture the image, with the bellows able to expand or contract to dial in perfect focus.
This design of course is nothing new. What separates the Film Duplicator 4×5 from previous versions is solely its compatibility with large-format film. Like other models, it also accepts medium-format and 35mm film. This makes it an incredibly handy tool for anyone with a collection of old negatives lying around in a box somewhere.
The timing of this announcement closely follows the release of Pentax’s latest DLSR cameras, the K1 and K70, both of which offer pixel shift technology to achieve incredible levels of detail. Such a feature makes perfect sense for film transfers, since the sensor records full color information at each pixel location, which would otherwise be one drawback of converting film to digital. That said, a professional drum scanner will still pull out more resolution from a 4×5 negative than a digital camera will. However, the Film Duplicator presents a much simpler, much faster method for doing large-format transfers at home.
As a niche product, the price is expected to be in the range of $1,250, but it’s nice to see a major manufacturer working to help keep film alive.