Which is the best LF and lenses to photograph rare books and manuscripts??

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I'm a brasilian librarian and professional photographer and I'm developing a project for our State Library that will publish and preserve brasiliam rare books and manuscripts. We (I and my staff) will work with libraries and museums to make their most beautiful and significant books affordably accessible.

So, I'd like to know which large-format camera and lenses with (or without) digital backs for scanning that produce sharp, grain-free, and color-accurate images (I want a great fidelity of size, colors, details, etc)... which camera do you suggest to this especific application?

Thanks, amigos!!!

-- Geraldo Magela Souza (myspry@uol.com.br), December 30, 2000


We all have opinions - here's a site with more information than any of us have the time to post ourselves:



-- Wayne DeWitt (wdewitt@snip.net), December 31, 2000.

Whoops - should have posted a short answer before the link. The answer is none of the above. Your best bet for flat art is a professional flatbed scanner - now check out the site. It's an incredible site, spend some time there.


-- Wayne DeWitt (wdewitt@snip.net), December 31, 2000.

FWIW the University of Chicago is on its second N.E.H. grant to preserve portions of it's "History of Religions" collection, some of which goes back 400 years. They have chosen scanning and microfilming along with traditional preservation processes.

On the other hand, Bruce and Ken Zuckerman who have been working with portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Codex use a 4 x 5 (SINAR I believe), a 210 and 120macro lens and reversed enlarging lenses. They use strobe to reduce the damage to documents. Supposedly they are teaching others their techniques. Perhaps they have a web presence, but you might contact them at: 2 El Portal Palos Verdes CA, 90274 or call 310-541-4573

-- Sean yates (yatescats@yahoo.com), December 31, 2000.

Here ya' go


-- Sean yates (yatescats@yahoo.com), December 31, 2000.

So, I would vote for an MP4 by Polaroid. (How large are the larger books?) These occassionally show up on EBay for a reasonable price. You can use whatever format that you select. (e.g. 4x5 or medium format.)

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), December 31, 2000.

We have sold the US national Archives and the US Library of Congress several Linhof Master Technikas with Linhof's 5" motorizes vacuum roll back and Linhof's Book Easel for this application. It almost automates the process.

Most of the cameras are being used with a 150 Rodenstock Apo Ronar.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), December 31, 2000.

Geraldo, I have been working for the last year at the Dutch Royal Library in the Hague-The Netherlands.

I am one of the many photographers and digitalizing operators involved in the conservation program called "Metamorfoze project".

The answer to your problem is to be found in the final users requirements and in the volume of books and manuscripts which have to be preserved.

Both microfilming and photography are used along with the ever mounting presence of digitalization . This can be achieved in Hybrid form (first analog, then digitalizing) or with direct scanning.

There are various problems and if you are iterested to get in touch with the head of the conservation division of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, mr. Wim Smit; I can ask him if you might get in touch with him directly.

However , what we do is to microfilm most of modern manuscripts which come from archives dating from 1800 (approx.) until today.

Ancient and particularly rare manuscripts which need to be viewed in the reading rooms and which contain (handmade or not) colour illustrations might be colour microfilmed too although it is a very expensive process. Bear in mind that we guarantee a conservation up to 500 years! For all microfilm material (preserved in negative and positive form in the vaults of the library under controlled temperature and humidity).

Many books are photographed, especially ancient books because of the difficulty to handle them and because of various need which require colour slides for pubblication purposes.

these slides or large format chromes are then digitalized.Many originals are directly scanned with scanners that go up to A0 format. Now the digital question. The world is still divided wether digital can perform at the same level than traditional analog.

I do not want to enter this minefield. The problems are many and go beyhond the simple resolution problems. Suffice to know that conservation problems arose in the past, and the actual handling of Billions of pictures might prove very tricky. So the Photographed and Microfilmed material will have to be digitalized but, and this is another problem, also indexed so that one day you might type a word and have a huge system telling you where this word appear in a "handwritten" document. When scanning a picture you really should know what are you going to use this picture for. Pubblication on paper (magazine quality,art book quality) preservation, Web pubblication, study and so on. They all require different formats and if you scan everything to only the outmost quality you will quickly end up with Terabytes of memory used for convering to a Jpeg to be used on the net. So in reality you need a complex operation of conservation. This must include all modern and less modern techniques because you'll end up with different paths running parallel to one another. Your Original question was related to large format cameras. We use 3 Sinar cameras P2, P2 and a ancient Norma with relative DB shutters and a variety of Rodenstock-Sinar lenses. At the Moment the chromes are digitalized at our Digital department which deals with all digital matters, soom we will provide files directly from the photographic department using a Nikon D1 and a Leaf digital Back. A visit to one of the major libraries in the world (the Congress , The British or .....our own Koninklijke Bibliotheek in the Hague) will for sure be a lot more clarifying than a few words on this forum. Happy new year

-- Andrea Milano (milandro@multiweb.nl), January 01, 2001.

Another thing, I've read the entry of Bob Solomon, I am curious to know the format of these Linhof motorized vacuum film holder. Anyway we use Zeutschell cameras which work with 16mm and 35mm (vacuum of couse) with a Zeiss Biogon 38mm, pneumatic easeld and completely computer aided operation of the cameras allow between 300 to 1000 pictures per operator a day. Anyway the same company produces also 70mm cameras

-- Andrea Milano (milandro@multiweb.nl), January 01, 2001.

There are 2. The vacuum motor driven 5" back for 45 images and a non vacoom motorized back for 70mm perf. for 69cm.

They can not fit a Sinar.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), January 01, 2001.

An Apo-Ronar at 1:1

-- Bruce Gavin (doc@compudox.com), January 03, 2001.

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