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01-01-2009, 02:53 PM   #1
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"Digitizing" Film: Options & Opinions

At the end of the day, while I have lots of film and some excellent negatives of my work, there still is the process of getting my film onto the computer for sharing, distribution, etc. I prefer to keep my digitization of my film as close to the real thing as possible (no editing unless the scans come out different than the negatives/prints). However, I'm at an impasse.

I tried getting a roll developed at our lab at work, and it was reasonable ($10) for the development and prints as we have excellent equipment and good lab techs. To "digitize" my film, or scan it in, we offer three services, basically consisting of three different resolutions, and for the best one (equivalent to a 20+ megapixel image) it's $16.99. The entry level one (equivalent to 6 megapixels) is $5.99. There's a middle of the road 10 megapixel option but I can't recall the cost. They also charge $2 per CD, or $3 per DVD media charge, as they can put multiple rolls on one disc. As you might imagine, this could get expensive in a hurry, but is it necessary to get the 20 megapixel scans? If I reprint my pictures or blow them up at any point, I'd obviously go with the negatives instead of my digital copy. I want the digital copy mainly for showing off the pictures in the digital realm, i.e. here, the interwebs.

I also looked at scanning myself, but that idea died fast. It's pointless trying to scan the prints I got, because they're only 300dpi and the scanner buggers the colors up, so it would take hours of PP just to get them to look like the prints. I don't have a negative scanner, but I believe they are terribly expensive? I wouldn't mind owning one, but where can you find one, and at reasonable cost?

Of course, I'm content just to look at my pictures in an album too, but that doesn't help much when I want to share them with others online, and if I'm going to shoot film for the look and the color, I want that translated to digital as closely as possible (knowing that, of course, it's impossible to get it 100%).

What do you guys do? What would you recommend?

01-01-2009, 03:02 PM   #2
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If you're just looking to share pictures on-line, I would think that the entry level scans would be sufficient.

I have a Nikon slide/film scanner and it cost about $600. It gives scans with an optical resolution of 4000 dpi, which results in a 65 meg file that's 6000 x 4000 pixels. But if I post on-line, or even just want to look at the images on my computer monitor, I find that 1280 x 1024 is plenty of resolution.

I do believe that cheaper flat-bed scanners do a poor job with film and slides. And I agree that scanning prints is not the way to go. There's incredible amounts of dust and dirt on even a clean print. The good slide scanners have an infrared sensor system that detects dust sitting on the surface of the film, and removes it automatically.
01-01-2009, 04:40 PM   #3
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I use the CanoScan 8800F flatbed scanner for my photos. It goes up to 4800 dpi but I usually scan 35mm at 3200 dpi and medium format at 2400 dpi. Of course, as a flatbed you can also use it to scan anything else you normally would on a flatbed.

I got that model because I needed something that could handle medium format film, but I believe Canon makes a cheaper model with almost identical specs other than not handling medium format.

I suppose a dedicated negative scanner would do a better job, but finding one MF capable and which I could afford was impossible.

A recent color scan:




Pentax Spotmatic ESII
SMC Takumar 50/1.4
DNP Centuria 200


And a recent b/w scan:




Pentax SV
SMC Takumar 55/1.8
Fuji Presto 400

01-01-2009, 07:17 PM   #4
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After watching prices for several years I finally bought a Epson V500 three months ago for CAD$180 = $230 - $50 MIR. It's currently selling with the same deal at Vistek.ca. It is a flatbed scanner so it can do slides, negatives and print. It is also capable of medium format negatives.

The alternative was to pay $600 for a used Coolscan V. The Coolscan is a dedicated film/slide scanner so it is faster than the V500. But for the occasional scan I do the V500 is plenty adequate.

01-01-2009, 07:30 PM   #5
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If all you want the scans for is to put it on the web than use the entry level. A 50 gagillion pixel image will look no better on screen than one at 3 megapixels at the same size. Search the forum for other threads on resolution. Most monitors can't use any more than 100 ppi or so anyway. So the large files just waste bandwidth. On the net, the smaller the better so it loads faster.
01-01-2009, 07:46 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mike Cash Quote
I got that model because I needed something that could handle medium format film, but I believe Canon makes a cheaper model with almost identical specs other than not handling medium format.
That would be the 4400. Quite a cheap one and I'm looking to buy one myself.
01-01-2009, 09:14 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mike Cash Quote
I got that model because I needed something that could handle medium format film, but I believe Canon makes a cheaper model with almost identical specs other than not handling medium format.
QuoteOriginally posted by ftpaddict Quote
That would be the 4400. Quite a cheap one and I'm looking to buy one myself.
Yup, that's the one. I got one for around $120 and it's good enough for me, seeing how it could do both negatives and regular printed objects. I'm looking to get a dedicated scanner in the near future, though, since it's slow to scan negatives and I'm making a digital backup of tons of old family photos.

I'll try to post a sample scan later.

QuoteOriginally posted by tranq78 Quote
After watching prices for several years I finally bought a Epson V500 three months ago for CAD$180 = $230 - $50 MIR. It's currently selling with the same deal at Vistek.ca. It is a flatbed scanner so it can do slides, negatives and print. It is also capable of medium format negatives.

The alternative was to pay $600 for a used Coolscan V. The Coolscan is a dedicated film/slide scanner so it is faster than the V500. But for the occasional scan I do the V500 is plenty adequate.
I have yet to see a dedicated scanner being sold here where I am, so I'll probably have to go the eBay or B&H route for that one. I did read about good reviews of the V500, though it was out of my price range when I bought my 4400F.
01-01-2009, 09:38 PM   #8
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The only caveat I would give about the 8800F is that if you use or plan to use VueScan with it, mount a nice cushion on your wall so you won't give yourself a concussion when you bang your head against it. The developer knows that there are problems and seemingly doesn't give a damn. I have no idea if that is true for the 4400F as well. Fortunately, the bundled software does an acceptable job, other than being slooooooow as hell.

01-01-2009, 10:12 PM   #9
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I have an Epson Perfection 4990 Photo scanner, now discontinued. Cost about $450 a few years back. I used it to scan all my prints, negs and transparencies of all sizes, and pages of baby-books.

Came with holders for several strips of 35mm through two 4x5s, plus an 8 x 10 frame for a free-form collection of stuff.

It came with an ancient version of Elements and some other software.

Works pretty well, but the ICE dust/scratch detection software can take several minutes per when using a very high resolution. Reasonably-sized without the special handling goes much faster.

I'm pretty sure you can tweak the color settings, but as long as it is consistent, you could do that in a batch with a simple editor, perhaps.

Not sure what the replacement scanner is these days.
01-01-2009, 10:41 PM   #10
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I just got a 4490 recently. The bundled software is ok, provided you'll do your sharpening, saturation, etc adjustments in post processing. I'll probably look to VueScan for their software instead...at least to try out.

The replacement of the 4490 is the V500...
01-01-2009, 11:51 PM   #11
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I would also be using the digital files as a backup of my negatives. Yeah, I know, my computer will probably bite it long before the negs do. But here's a thought I had. My work only charges me $3-5 to develop negatives, depending on the size of the roll. I could just get them developed and scan them all in myself using a scanning device. So if I'm out with my laptop and away from home but I want access to a certain batch of photos, being able to pull up high-quality scans of my negatives, which are safely nestled away at home, is a nice option so I can subsequently have prints made if necessary.

I looked up the specs on a few different models. I think a dedicated film scanner is out of the question, cost wise. We used to sell a CoolScan IV at work for $800, but that's pretty steep for a dedicated-task device. The one that caught my eye of the bunch was the Epson V700. $549 is still a fair chunk of cash, and I don't necessarily need 6400dpi, but I am very interested in Digital ICE and the dual-lens pickup these are equipped with. Dust and defect correction is a major plus if I want to be able to make prints from the digital backups.

And I can burn optical backups way cheaper than from work. At $3 per DVD, they'd better be coated in titanium. Thanks for the input guys.

BTW: I guess this seems like a lot of attention to some very small details, but thank you for the information anyways. I don't have any issue with the digital workflow, what I don't like is the output that digital provides. Film is a wonderful medium to create with, but the workflow is tedious. I'm trying to marry the two.
01-04-2009, 10:54 AM   #12
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I'm in the market too for a fairly affordable film scanner capable of scanning 35mm and MF negs... I figure all I need is an entry level scanner to "digitize" my negs since if I need to have a photo printed, isn't it better to have it printed using the negative? Rather than the digitized version of the neg? Any suggestions?
01-04-2009, 05:10 PM   #13
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It probably is better to print directly from the negative. If you're going to print much, however, it may be cheaper to buy a quality printer and do it at home from the digital file.

I recently bought a Canon Pixus Pro9000 (2nd from the top of their consumer line) because I figured for the price of having 11 large prints made I could just buy a printer that handles the same size and do it at home. It handles up to about 11x17 prints. So far I've done a couple of A4 size (think 8x10) of color and b/w film shots scanned at 3200 dpi and they looked alright to me. And I've made A3 (double the A4 size) of K20D and K100D photos that looked great.

I don't know how much truth there is to it, but I heard a rumor that over here at least when you take in a negative to be printed up large by a lab they actually scan it and run the print off on the same printer they use to do digital files people bring in. The word was that the lab doesn't do anything via the old-fashioned darkroom enlarger anymore. Again, that may apply only to where I am, and even then it may be a load of BS. But it seemed plausible to me.
01-04-2009, 05:48 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by leadbelly Quote
I'm in the market too for a fairly affordable film scanner capable of scanning 35mm and MF negs... I figure all I need is an entry level scanner to "digitize" my negs since if I need to have a photo printed, isn't it better to have it printed using the negative? Rather than the digitized version of the neg? Any suggestions?
Try the Epson and Canon scanners. They don't cost a whole lot, and they do the job pretty well, if not fast. Get the ones with digital ICE (Epson) or FARE (Canon). They do a great job in getting dust and stuff out of the scanned negative image. I lament the fact that I overlooked that piece of technology when I got my 4400F and now wish I had gone for the 8800F for only a couple more money.

Then there are those dedicated scanners who basically take a snapshot of your negatives. I reckon they're faster than scanners, but I can't say if they're any good or not. They're cheap, though.

Link here and here.

I'd be interested to try one of those, but they aren't available here locally, and I'm not about to have one shipped just to try it out.
01-04-2009, 05:55 PM   #15
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Just keep in mind that neither ICE nor FARE work with traditional silver halide b/w films. That is because color films use translucent dyes and the infrared light used by ICE/FARE can pass through. It can't pass through dust, though, so that is how the scanner knows where dust is. It then uses software to cover the dust spot using data from the surrounding area.

With b/w films you have to be reeeeeaaaaal careful to clean your negatives (and the inside of the scanner, if a flatbed) before you start the scan process. With color and ICE/FARE it isn't such a big deal. Basically just keep the scanner glass clean and blow on your negatives before you put them in.
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