On Thursday, Aug. 24, Nikon announced its newest DSLR to the world, the D850. Though new digital camera announcements don't particularly catch my attention, this one does, for this model includes an in camera "film scanning" option.
Before I get into the meat of it, I want to clarify a few things. In the past, when you shot film, whether it be 35mm, 120 medium format or large format, if you utilized a professional film lab, you would get that film developed and the lab would digitize the negatives using a dedicated film scanner like the Noritsu, Fuji Frontier or some type of drum scanner. If you developed your own film you would digitally scan the negatives using a consumer flatbed scanner not much different than scanners built to scan paper documents.
Recently, the use of DSLRs to "scan" negatives has become popular among many photographers because it's much cheaper than paying a professional lab to digitize your negatives, and much more efficient than flatbed film scanners.
You may be wondering by now why I put the word scan in quotation marks with regard to this technique. The quick and simple answer is that the DSLR method of digitizing analog film isn't scanning in the traditional sense. It's simply taking a photo of the negative using a DSLR and a macro lens and then throwing up those photos into Photoshop and perform a couple of conversions depending on the type of film.
There aren't many digital cameras out there that have this kind of option in camera and AFAIK, this is the only model that does it so I was surprised that Nikon went ahead and threw this capability as an option in their newest DSLR because, why?
Is Nikon trying to win the hearts and minds of film photographers? Not likely and here's my guess why.
There are three types of photographers with regards to media formats: The film enthusiast who only shoots film and nothing else, the digital photographer who only shoots digital, and the hybrid shooter who shoots both digital and film.
This camera may not have film enthusiasts clamoring to purchasing this camera when it becomes available because they'd rather spend their money on new used film gear and the new film stocks that has come out and will be coming out in the near future.
The D850 may interest the digital photographers to venture into the world of film. If the soon to be owners of the D850 have the capability to perform in camera "scanning" of film, why not shoot off some rolls here and there because you can?
This camera is likely to interest the hybrid shooters more than anything. DSLR "scanning" can be a really mundane workflow. After taking a photo of the negative, tweaking the image and making the adjustments in Photoshop to get it just right gets boring. Remember, if you're shooting 35mm film, at the very least you're going to be working on 24 images and 36 images at most.
Speaking of which, the D850 will only be able to "scan" 35mm film with no plans that I know of to release accessories that would accommodate 120 medium format (though I think it's probably not possible at the moment if it even could be done), and forget about accessories for large format film.
I've tried DSLR scanning one time and I found that method to be more taxing than using a traditional consumer flatbed film scanner so I wasn't a fan of it from the start. I'm a stickler for quality and I have yet to come across a DSLR "scan" of film that comes close to what pro labs can do and offers in terms of quality, color rendition and resolution. It's night and day.
Though I'm not a fan of the method of DSLR scanning, I can understand why hybrid photographers utilize this method. It's cheap. Professional film lab scans can become expensive after time and if most of what you shoot is only going to be published on social media, there's really no need or reason to big with your scans.
So what do you think about this option that Nikon is offering in the D850?