Online Instruction Manual and Tutorial
Using a Digital Camera to Photograph Images on Microfilm


This is the Online Instruction Manual for GSC Associates Digital Microfilm Reader Camera Mount DCM-1. This manual also provides a general tutorial on how to take and process images of microfilm from a microfilm reader using a digital camera. The URL for this file is:  http://www.gscassociates.com/mount_manual.html .

The GSC Associates Digital Microfilm Reader Camera Mount, DCM-1, is designed to securely attach your own camera to most microfilm readers to allow you to take images of consistent high quality from microfilm. It eliminates the need for microfilm scanning equipment costing thousands of dollars or using microfilm printers.

Table of contents

1. Before you start 3. Preparing to take photographs 5. Post-processing photos
2. Attaching the camera and mount 4. Taking photographs  

1. Before you start

The following  accessories are recommended for taking microfilm images:

  1. A digital camera with at least 3 mega-pixels and optical zoom capabilities. We highly recommend the cameras made by Olympus, especially the 7.1 mega-pixel C-7070 "Wide Zoom" camera. The example images in this tutorial were taken using a 3.3 mega-pixel Olympus C3030 Zoom camera with a 3X optical zoom.
  2. A remote shutter release cable or a remote control to trigger you camera to take a picture.
  3. Two or more high capacity memory cards for your camera. We recommend Compact Flash/Microdrive and the xD-Picture Card with at least 512 Megabytes of capacity since each image will require several megabytes of memory for storage. Two cards are best so that you can continue imaging on one card while another is being downloaded to your laptop.
  4. A power supply for your camera, since the LCD display must be turned on to position the images to be photographed. Operating the LCD display drains camera batteries very quickly.
  5. A laptop computer with a USB card reader for the memory card type used by your camera. You can leave the camera mounted and remove just the memory card from it to transfer images to your laptop.
  6. Image processing software (that is included with all higher end digital cameras).
  7. A 3/8" wrench for tightening the jam nuts to secure the camera to the mount.

2. Attaching the camera and mount

Attach your camera to the camera mount by threading the threaded rod (1) into the mounting attachment hole on the bottom of your camera. The threaded rod should be inserted as far as possible and then backed off to the point where the camera is pointing in approximately the right direction after mounting. Secure the camera to the mount using the two jam nuts (2) (see Figure 1). A small wrench (3/8", not supplied) is useful for securely tightening the nuts.

Once the camera is attached to the mount, slide the fork (3) of the camera mount over the shelf on the microfilm reader (see Figure 2) and secure by tightening the wing screw (4). Generally you want the camera to be positioned so that it is touching or almost touching the shelf on the microfilm reader and close to directly in front of the projection lens on the reader. On some readers, hardware prevents the camera mount from sliding far enough over so it is directly in front of the projection lens on the reader. In these cases, just position the images a bit to one side on the viewing surface of the reader to compensate. Figure 3 shows a different and higher resolution view of the mount and camera in use.

Figure 1. The DCM-1 Digital Microfilm Camera Mount

Figure 2. The DCM-1 in use on a microfilm reader

3. Preparing to take photographs

The following steps are typical as you prepare to take images with your mounted camera. In some cases it is best to make some of these settings before the camera is mounted. This depends on the location of the controls on your camera.

  1. Turn the camera on. It is preferable to use a power supply cable to power the camera from AC power rather than battery power.
  2. Boot up your laptop and attach the card reader so it is ready to accept and store images.
  3. Mount the roll of microfilm and position and focus a frame of the film on the viewing surface of the microfilm reader.
  4. Turn the flash on the camera off. Images on microfilm readers are created by light from a projector bulb that passes through the microfilm and then the projection lens to strike the white viewing surface from which it is reflected to your eye. The light from a camera flash also reflects off that same viewing surface and back to the camera, resulting in a good picture of the "blank" white viewing surface but none of the desired microfilm image.
  5. Set the camera to aperture priority and push it several F steps positive so that a wider area of the image appears in focus. This is important because the camera is not directly aligned with the axis of the projection lens, so some parts of the image are further away from the camera lens than others. Some experimentation will be necessary to determine the best setting for your camera.
  6. Set the camera to its finest ISO image quality (lower ISO numbers mean less grainy images; ISO 100 quality or better is supported by most digital cameras).
  7. Set the camera to its highest JPEG compressed image quality (often called "super high quality") with the largest possible number of pixels. It is not necessary to use an uncompressed mode (often called TIFF mode) to take acceptable quality pictures of images from microfilm.
  8. Set the camera to auto focus and auto adjust shutter speed. In rare cases a microfilm image will either not contain a sufficient amount of "vertical" lines or will not be bright enough for a camera to auto focus. In these rare cases you will need to manually focus the camera, probably shooting and checking a series of test images before proceeding.
  9. Set the camera to a "black and white" or "gray-scale" mode. If you fail to do this, the images may appear "brown". This can be corrected later by changing them into gray scale images in your image editing program.
  10. Set the camera to "tungsten light" illumination source.
  11. Turn on the LCD display on the camera and observe the image in the display while adjusting:
    1. the optical zoom on the camera;
    2. the optical zoom (if any) on the microfilm reader;
    3. the position of the microfilm carriage to "pan" the image on the viewing surface;
    4. the position of the microfilm carriage to "rotate" the image on the viewing surface so that its longer dimension matches the longer dimension of the camera's  frame; Note: the image need not be upright in the camera frame since its orientation can easily be adjusted using most standard image processing software;
    5. the microfilm position between the roll and take up reel - this is best done by manually moving the reels, not by using a reader's hand crank;
    6. the rotation of the camera on the mount (loosening and re-tightening the jam nuts as required);
    7. continue adjusting until the desired image comes close as possible to filling the LCD viewer in one dimension (rotating the microfilm on the reader if necessary so that the longest dimension of the image matches the longest dimension of the camera's imaging area).

Do not attempt to use the camera view finder to position images because the camera is so close to the viewing surface that considerable parallax error results from using view finder.

4. Taking photographs

Using a remote shutter release or a remote control, trigger the shutter on the camera to take the picture. Do not attempt to take the picture by manually pressing the shutter release. This will cause the camera to shake far too much and will result in a blurry image. If you have an IR remote control, it can normally be aimed at the reader viewing surface where it will bounce off and reach the sensor on the front of the camera.

Because long exposure times - often several seconds in length - are necessary, it is essential that the camera and the microfilm reader remain absolutely still while the camera shutter is open. In public microfilm reading rooms, it may be necessary to wait until your neighbors are not shaking your reader excessively before you take your photos.

If you are taking photos for the first time, you will want to download and inspect a few test images before proceeding to insure that all elements of the system are correctly set up. Click on the thumbnail in Figure 4 to see an example "raw" image that is 2048 X 1536 pixels and 1.7 megabytes in size, taken on a Dukane MDP Microfilm Reader using an Olympus C 3030 camera.

Figure 4. Example raw image (Click on the thumbnail image above to see the full size picture.)

It is possible to take a large number of images very rapidly using your camera and the DCM-1 mount. An experienced user can take an images at a rate of about 15 seconds each. This is far faster than the imaging times of even the fastest and most expensive microfilm scanners.

5. Post-processing photos

The following post processing steps are typical for converting raw images into high quality images for use in research and publications.

  1. Rotate the image until it is upright if necessary. Figure 4 above showed an example of a raw image from a camera while Figure 5 below shows the same image rotated left 90 to make it upright.
  2. The keystone effect (that is, the image appears to recede from bottom to top of the page) that occurs because the camera lens is not directly on top of the projection lens may be eliminated using the features of most image editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop. In Photoshop, the operation to remove the keystone effect is called perspective cropping. Figure 6 shows the same images from Figure 4 and Figure 5 after perspective cropping to correct the keystone effect.
  3. The contrast and brightness of the image may be adjusted or alternatively the levels represented in the image may be adjusted to achieve better balance easier reading. Figure 7 illustrates the same image as in the previous figures after level correction has been applied using Adobe Photoshop.
  4. Some areas of an image may be darker or lighter due to faded ink, side effects of the original filming of the document, or the fact that less light was reflected to the camera near the edges of the photograph when you filmed it. Using most image-editing programs, these effects can be removed by selectively choosing areas of the image and adjusting the contrast and/or brightness within those areas. Figure 8 shows the same image after contrast adjustment in various areas of the image to selectively improve its readability.


Figure 5. Rotated


Figure 6. Keystone corrected


Figure 7. Level corrected


Figure 8. Contrast adjusted

Click on the thumbnail images above to see the full size picture


GSC Associates
11625 Vantage Hill Rd 1C, Reston, VA 20190, +1-303-388-6355 (phone)
E-mail: info@gscassociates.com
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