DigitaLIZA – a great solution to problems scanning 6x9cm film shots

The DigitaLIZAs arrived this week but, impatient as I was to try them, I couldn’t be at home until today. So far I have tried only the 120 mask but I have a newly exposed 35mm drying after developing earlier this afternoon so hope to have a go with that tomorrow.

As far as the 120 mask goes, I must say it really is very good. The item is well engineered, the product packing is great, the product arrived from the Lomo people in Austria pretty quickly and it really works, though you have to work a few things out for yourself as the instructions are a bit sparse. And I’ll ignore the advice on the packet to “slam it in your scanner”!

Wooden dish by Nicolae Popa, of Neamt 'county', Romania, with pebbles and shells.

As I mentioned in my previous post on first attempts with a film from the Mamiya Press, I found the Epson film holders (which came with the Perfection 4990 – used now with VueScan software) completely inadequate for scanning 6x9cm negs. The Epson 120 holders are designed to hold two 6×6 negs in each of the three ‘slots’ so if you cut two 6x9s there has to be an overlap at one end, and the holder design doesn’t cater for this without bending the film, or cut one 6×9 neg and then, at best, only one end is secured. I just couldn’t get the negative to lay flat in the Epson holder. Remember that the last time I used the Mamiya, 20+ years ago, scanning wasn’t an option, I made photographic prints, so scanning is a whole new learning process for me.

The DigitaLIZA is quite different. It takes three 6×6 negs, so two complete 6×9 negs, in the single slot. What is more, the film can extend out of each end so doesn’t get bent when it is clamped in the holder. If it extends at each end then the film is completely clamped around the whole periphery. (It will, of course, enable you to scan a 6×12 or 6×18 panorama too).

Before deciding to buy it (on the recommendation of a favourite film photo blog, ‘Shimmering Grains’), I read up a lot on internet. Only one mentioned the open ends so no need to cut the film at all if you don’t want to; others (who generally hadn’t tried it but expressed an opinion anyway) couldn’t believe that the DigitaLIZA would clamp the film effectively; it does because not only has the removable ‘flattener’ got magnets, there are magnets strategically placed around the frame so that is held tight shut when the metal plate and ‘flattener’ are removed to put the mask in the scanner. My Mamiya backs do not leave much space between exposures so if cut half way there isn’t much to clamp on to, so in general I’ll scan before cutting into twos for storage.

As the mask is smaller than the bed of the scanner it has to be lined up parallel with the sides; you can do this with what I’ve called the ‘flattener’, which has a big handle so easy to lift out without disturbing the lined-up mask.

So, I succeeded in scanning the close-up of a wooden dish with pebbles and shells which I shot a couple of weeks ago to test the back extension of the Mamiya Super 23 – with the collapsible 100mm Sekor (the dish is about 35cm long so it’s about 1:4 on the neg). I can now see that, as I expected, I need to improve my ability to focus on the ground glass screen. Back lit from a window, white reflector held under the camera to light the shadow side. To recap: Ilford HP5 Plus rated at 400, developed in D-76.

As a matter of interest, the wooden dish was made by Nicolae Popa (you can just make out his name carved on the side), a very famous craftsman, especially as a creator of the New Year masks which are an important part of Romanian tradition. Unfortunately, this lovely, talented man who welcomed me into his house and from where I got the dish, died about a year ago.

The DigitaLIZAs are, in my opinion, pretty costly in the UK (much less in the USA) but much reduced if you buy the 120 and 35mm together, so although I have a dedicated 35mm scanner (an old Minolta Dimage Scan Dual II) I bought both. I didn’t expect to use the 35mm DigitaLIZA much but if it’s as good as the 120 it might get more use than I thought. I hope to try it tomorrow. Watch this space.