Project Panagor

About a year ago, a suitcase found itself dumped at my home. Inside were a ton of slides. Hundreds of them. All shot by my grandfather decades ago. Some go back to the 1950’s. But what to do with them? They came with a projector. A non functioning projector. So the ‘easy route’ to looking at/digitising any of them was the first method that went out the window.

A slide scanner is another option. Too pricey. So that suitcase sat there, along with other boxes of slide, untouched. As they have been for years and years and years. And then, a couple of months ago I came across a YouTube video. It gave me an idea, which went on the back burner for a while.

But I have a week off this week, so I put my idea into motion. I shall call it Project Panagor. Because this project starts with the one box in the suitcase that wasn’t jammed full of slides. It was a Panagor zoom slide duplicator. It’s a simple bit of equipment. At one end sits a slide holder with a light diffuser. At the other end is an thread to attach a camera lens. Put a slide in, take a shot. Repeat.

The Panagor unit wasn’t the simple solution I had hoped (but not expected) it to be. The camera really needs to be a full frame camera and the lens really needs to be a macro lens. I have neither. But, having unscrewed the slide holder part of the device, I did have a key ingredient of Project Panagor.

I mentioned earlier that I’d seen a video that inspired this idea. It was a simple looking home made device, utilising a piece of black tube, with a pair of slots cut into it. One slot for a slide, the other slot for a smartphone. The end was covered up with some vellum paper as a light diffuser. But yes, this is a method of slide duplication involving nothing more complex that the camera on a smartphone.

My slide holder, cannibalised from the Panagor, had half the job done. Now I just needed a tube or pipe. However, there was a drawback to that plan. Obtaining the tube would involve getting showered, dressed and leaving my house. None of which I had any intention of doing. I have this week off, you see. So I improvised.

What you see in the photo above, sticking out the top of a bedside lamp, is an empty Cup-a-Soup carton with holes cut strategically where there need to be holes, with the whole thing held together with a ton of packing tape. Ok, so this is quite possibly the least professional slide duplicator that you will ever see in your life. But, it did the job.

I have shot through four boxes of slides which are now nestled in Lightroom awaiting processing. With luck, I’ll have them done today and the results displayed here tomorrow. The labels on the boxes are interesting. Prague. Salzberg. Munich. And who doesn’t ant to know what those slides of ‘Hitler’s Bomb Shelter’ contain…


13 thoughts on “Project Panagor

  1. Great plan!! Best of luck.
    I tried something similar while back using an old set of extension tubes and the back end of one of those hand-held battery slide viewer thingys all taped to my little point-and-shoot in macro mode.
    It worked, somewhat. At least allowing me filter though the slides and have a few of the better ones professionally digitized.
    Also some of the effects actually quite neat (an added bonus).


    • I have to say, that a bit part of the fun in doing it, is setting it all up. Nevermind the results! Which were ok. Nothing more. But I got what I expected. With some added light leaks and scratches that Instagram users can only dream of!


  2. I always used to take slides of my travels, and, dinosaur that I am, I didn’t switch over to a digital camera until about three years ago. I have literally thousands of slides. At Best Buy I found film scanners that weren’t too expensive, although I splurged for the best model they had. (Even that was not too outrageous in price, under $100 US.) It’s a bit time consuming, but the results have been pretty good. The scanned images aren’t quite as good as the original slide, and sometimes I tweek the color. But they are good enough to post on my blog. If you look back, you will find several posts that I have done on earlier, “pre-digital” travels.

    But I hope that your improvised method works well for you, and I will be interested in seeing the results.


    • Scanners can range in price pretty dramatically. There are some cheaper ones. But I had set myself a budget of precisely £0. Anything more than that is ‘pricey!’ I think one of the things that also put me off scanning them is the time it takes. It’s a pretty slow process. I managed to check, photograph and upload about 100 photos in about an hour. Another hour to process the 50 better ones and upload them to Flickr. My method has many drawbacks, but speed isn’t one of them!


  3. Digitizing slides is a very worthwhile project. It is giving the images a “whole ‘nother” life, and now you have people all over the world looking at something that was once sitting in a suitcase. It gives me pleasure, and I’m sure it does you, too.

    I inherited my family’s slides. About 620 of them were still in good enough condition for digitizing. I used a digital camera hanging under a tripod aimed at a lightbox covered with a piece of cardboard with a cutout for one slide. It was a one-at-a-time operation that took me a few days. I finally ended up with something I could live with. Software restored the faded color nicely. My parents loved the pictures and almost couldn’t believe it all possible.


    • Hopefully, some of the family might enjoy seeing the new life breathed into these slides. I have boxes and boxes of them to go through, if ever I get round to it.

      It’s funny. Here we are trying to clean up images to restore them. Instagram users would die for the flaws you get from these slides ‘out of the box’.


  4. Fascinating post. But why, in God’s name, are you using your cell phone camera for this? You’ve got much better kit, and I dare say you don’t want to copy the slides twice.

    About a year ago, I bid on and won a Nikon Coolscan IV on eBay, with the idea that I’d scan all my old negatives. WRONG!!!! Each scan takes about 2 minutes, and sometimes has to be repeated due to adjustment settings. After scanning about two negatives, I put the scanner aside and vowed to send the rest out to a service, which will scan four negatives for about a dollar. Of course that has yet to actually happen, LOL.

    I have a small light table, and have used it as an even background light source to photograph negatives with my digital camera. But now that I have learned of the existence of the Panagor, I’m thinking maybe I’ll try to find such a device that will hook up to my DSLR. Then I can get each negative in a fraction of a second. I also like the idea that I can then back up the scans and keep them safe.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we have a frightening number of negatives.


    • Using my normal camera was the original plan. It was a plan that had some severe drawbacks. For a start I don’t have a macros lens and that really is a necessary bit of kit. I had to hold the Fuji so far away from the slides that the image of the slide was so tiny, by the time they were cropped, I was getting just as good quality from the smartphone. Also, because the image of the slide was so tiny, I couldn’t really see if the image I’d got was in focus….it was just a painful, time consuming nightmare.

      I’m a little drunk. Apologies if that made no sense.

      Yes, a Panagor is perhaps the solution. Ebay has them…


      • Since reading your post, I have found that slide duplicators on eBay are cheap and plentiful. I’m still a little unclear about how I connect one to the camera, but then I’ve also decided that this particular project, though interesting, isn’t particularly urgent.

        As for the rationale for using the cell phone, it makes sense. And after writing my comment, I also reminded myself that a typical 35 mm negative has only a 2-3 megapixel resolution, if even that, due to grain. Saludos!


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