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11-11-2006, 02:31 PM   #1
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Processing film to digital

Good digital got me back into film.

It's like this - I used to do 35mm film (using a Fujica) many years ago. Didn't really know what I was doing but occasionally got nice shots. Like most of the world, I eventually ditched the film camera for the convenience of digital: got a really crappy Olympus at first, then later a not-so-bad Canon A-80, kept that for a couple of years, still got frustrated that I couldn't get the pictures that were in my imagination, then this year picked up a Pentax *istDL.

So far, so good. But since part of the allure of the Pentax DSLR line is the availablilty of really good vintage lenses for not much money, I've been steadily combing eekbay and other places for them, and getting a collection. And look: old lenses frequently come attached to old cameras, and you can't help but start playing with those. My favorite acquisitions of this bunch are a Pentax ME Super and an all-manual Chinon DSL. It turns out they feel really cool, I love having the focus aid in the viewfinder, and the tactile sense of a mechanical shutter release somehow tweaks my brain stem in just the right way. And I have all these nice lenses now -- back in my old film days I never indulged in interchangeable lenses. So, voila, although I'm still using the digital quite a bit, I'm shooting film again and enjoying it to pieces.

Now I'm wondering about how to merge these worlds in both directions. It's easy and cheap enough to have digital pictures printed at any photo shop, drugstore, supermarket, and body piercing and tattoo emporium. But what are good ways to digitize my film pictures? I'm interested partly for the sake of web albums and emailing stuff to my relatives, but mostly I miss all the postprocessing I can do in digital and not on film.

I understand there are very good scanners for slide film that cost close to $1000. I'm not ready to invest that. How well do the mainstream ($<200) photo scanners work, like the HP flatbeds you can get at Staples?

Also, are there film processing businesses that will develop and scan to something with more than 8 bits of color depth? I know, 20+ megapixels is wonderful, but in my view for the sake of postprocessing flexibility, 6-8mp TIFFs are preferable to JPGs even if the JPGs have gobs of resolution. TIFF is notoriously bad about file size, but a DVD could hold a 36-roll's worth of them at a prudently-chosen resolution, I think. Haven't done the math yet.

I actually brought this up at my local photo store today, the place where I bought the DL. The guy I talked to said it might be possible for them to develop and scan to lower-res TIFF instead of high-res JPG, but also thought that it would probably be slow, and expensive for me, because nobody has ever asked them before, and their canned software doesn't support it. They'd have to work up something special. I'm pleased that they would even consider it, but before I wrangle that with them, I'd like to hear if anyone knows of anyplace that does this as a matter of course (i.e., you mail them exposed film, they mail you a DVD of TIFFs, or give you an account you can download them from).

11-11-2006, 03:31 PM   #2
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hey...

part of the reason that you were not happy with film results in the past is for just that reason: film (color negative)
with film, you have very little control over how the prints turn out. in your mind that shot should have looked one way, and when you got the print you are dissapointed.
for this exact reason, years ago I gave up negetives and started shooting slide film. with slide film exposure settings are a lot more critical then with negatives.
The bad thing with slides: exposure has to be spot on
the good thing about slides: once you know how to expose properly using slides, you have complete control over the outcome (well, much more control then negetives)
so if you want to have a photo that will be low key, then expose for this and that is what you will get. with film, it will be processed in a machine that will average everything in the scene you captured, and your low key shot comes out a dissapointment as the print looks like a "normal" shot.

as far as scanning goes, it can be quite expensive to get someone to scan a 16bit image for you. you could be looking at 2-5 dollars or more for one scan.

if you are not too fussy about the digital outcome of the photo, then get a flat bed scanner with the ability to scan films and slides.

if you want to scan 48bit colors, then make sure that the scanner has 42 or 48 bit color INPUT AND OUTPUT. don't be fooled by a scanner that has high bit claims, unless you get one that has the output at 42 or 48bit, all you will get is a 24bit image to work with.

If you want some seriously great looking scans at 48bit or 24bit, invest in a dedicated film/slide scanner as I did.
I have a canon canoscan fs4000us that scans at 4000x4000 dpi at 42 bit color.
if you start shooting slide film and invest in one of these babies, you will not be dissapointed.
you will need some serious horsepower in your computer though.
at 4000x4000dpi and 42bit color, one scan averages between 69 to over 100mb.

If you are worried about cost, I am sure e-bay will have some good used ones.
nikon also has the same scanner (4000x4000dpi) but it is almost double the price, but it is also much faster at scanning.
If I turn on dust and scratch removal and scan a slide at max resolution and color depth, it can take up to 10 minutes for one scan.

so as far as you question goes, it all depends on what quality you are looking for.

hope this helps

here is a review of the fs4000us, and it also compares a photo scanned with a flat bed and the fs.
Canon Canoscan FS4000US
11-12-2006, 08:29 AM   #3
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Flatbed experiments

Thanks for the thorough reply. Sure, I'd like as much control as possible, and am not eager to spend money, at least not yet. But speed -- 'workflow' -- I'm not worried about. If between messing with the scanner and doing postprocessing I can turn out one or two pictures that I like in an evening, that's cool with me.

Just playing around, I borrowed a flatbed last night and tried scanning some 4x6 prints from film. It's an old Canon LiDE 30 and if I read the specs right it does 1200dpi with 48 bit output.

Not sure why -- hardware or driver or what -- I can't get a good scan at the native 1200dpi. Typical result:



My son, looking over my shoulder, wittily remarked that this Lion looks like a Vikings fan. Well, it's not like I need 1200dpi from a 4x6 print anyway; that's 34 megapixels. But I'd hoped to get the straight output from the scanner so I could scale it on the computer instead of in the scanner.

Anyway at 600dpi the color banding awfulness goes away, and the result is an 8+ megapixel .tiff file that I can work with more or less like a .pef, although it takes up 50mb of disk space. Result (click to way-enlarge):



I'll probably ask the lab to produce jpegs of my next roll, to do some comparing. There's no easy way for me to know what the 'real' detail level of this particular picture was, whether the scan is missing much of it or not.
11-12-2006, 09:12 AM   #4
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although I am on a cheap monitor at work, the last scan doesn't look to bad.
If you do get a flat bed scanner with the film adaptor, you should scan at min 2400x2400 optical.
the reason is the 35mm size is very small, so at such a small size you have to bump the resolution up quite a bit.

yes the resolution is huge compared to a .tiff etc shot out of a digital camera, but that is the nature of the beast.
If I were getting a service to put your rolls on a cd, I would ask for a min of 5mb .tiff per file to have some "workable" resolution...but as you can see from the file size you got from the flatbed, even the 5mb wouldn't get you much

good luck!

cheers

11-25-2006, 08:38 PM   #5
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Canoscan Lide

This is interesting.
I've had a Canoscan LIDE 30 for a few years and quickly gave up scanning pictures because I never could get good results (plus there is no anti-dust feature and it shows).
Do you remember what setting / mode you used for your scan?
On the OS X toolbox I have 3 color modes:
- "multi-scan" goes only up to 300dpi
- "photos" goes to 1200 dpi
- "magazine" goes to 600 dpi

I don't think I got results as good as yours so far so I'm interested in the settings you used...

cyril.
11-25-2006, 10:39 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by cyg Quote
I'm interested in the settings you used...
Well this is all Linux, so this may not mean anything to you, but I wrote a quick script as a wrapper for "scanimage", which is a command-line interface to SANE (more or less the standard open-source scanner package). Here's the script:

Code:
#!/bin/sh

# this is ~/bin/tiffscan. it scans a 4x6 photo
# two optional arguments: output filename and scan resolution
# (defaults to 600dpi)
# example usage: tiffscan my_picture.tiff

out=${1:-you_should_rename_me.tiff}
res=${2:-600}

scanimage -l 0 -t 0 -x 151 -y 101 --resolution=$res --depth=16 --format=tiff > $out
The l,t,x,y variables define the scan rectangle (millimeter units). Not much else to say about it; any other settings not mentioned in the script would be whatever SANE uses for its defaults on this scanner driver.

I don't know about how OS X handles scanners -- is "magazine" mode different from "photos" mode just because of resolution, or is it changing other things? But anyway if you can at least check the color depth, it might be worth a look, because if you can get more than 8 bits per channel into {insert your favorite image editor here}, in my opinion that's just a good thing, especially if you will have to adjust levels. Here, I think the scanner results tend to be too dark at first.
11-27-2006, 12:35 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sluggo Quote
I understand there are very good scanners for slide film that cost close to $1000. I'm not ready to invest that. How well do the mainstream ($<200) photo scanners work, like the HP flatbeds you can get at Staples?
I scan film with a Canon CanoScan CS8600F. Results are not stellar, but for the price (saw it for $110) its OK.

Holger
11-28-2006, 07:12 PM   #8
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one quick try

Hi Sluggo,

Well, I have been running mostly Linux at work for the past 10 years so this is not all Greek (although I never used SANE).

I found out that the Mac OS driver lets me go all manual instead of using these silly preset modes. Not sure about the colour depth, though, but as it exports in jpeg I am assuming 3x8bits?
Haven't tried 1200dpi yet but at 300 and 600 I get OK, but really soft results.

Example:


The scans seem especially soft on the left side (the cross is pretty sharp on the print). This is probably due to the crappy scanner, possibly also because of bad light proofing. Saw an article on The Online Photographer recently claiming much improved results from light-proofing.

11-28-2006, 10:32 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by cyg Quote
Not sure about the colour depth, though, but as it exports in jpeg I am assuming 3x8bits?
That's my understanding - jpeg format doesn't accommodate more than 8 bits per channel. (unless you're talking jpeg2000 maybe, which is a different animal)

QuoteQuote:
Haven't tried 1200dpi yet but at 300 and 600 I get OK, but really soft results...
Yeah, the softness is interesting. If it's sharper to your eyes on the print I wonder if the scan software is doing some kind of noise reduction that has that effect?

Followup - for five thin bucks, I just got a roll of film developed and scanned at the shop I was talking about in the first post of this thread, and despite limitations (not only could they not do 'deep' tiffs, the jpegs they provided were not at all high resolution as claimed - just 1544x1024 px?!?), the quality is otherwise eye-opening compared to my flatbed scans. Example (unretouched, clicky-enlargey):



Since it was ISO800 film, grain is fairly pronounced when viewed at full size. I was pleased that they made no attempt to reduce that in the scan, letting me decide on my own postprocessing -- a quick experiment with subtle denoising and some selective sharpening is here.

So, good fun. For what it's worth - Pentax ME, Fuji NPZ800 film, semi-crippled SMC-A 50 f/1.7 lens. Exposure compensation was at x2 because of the backlighting; I don't remember the aperture.

QuoteQuote:
Well, I have been running mostly Linux at work for the past 10 years so this is not all Greek...
Cool - I wonder how many of us there are here...
01-22-2007, 08:52 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sluggo Quote
Good digital got me back into film.


I actually brought this up at my local photo store today, the place where I bought the DL. The guy I talked to said it might be possible for them to develop and scan to lower-res TIFF instead of high-res JPG, but also thought that it would probably be slow, and expensive for me, because nobody has ever asked them before, and their canned software doesn't support it. They'd have to work up something special. I'm pleased that they would even consider it, but before I wrangle that with them, I'd like to hear if anyone knows of anyplace that does this as a matter of course (i.e., you mail them exposed film, they mail you a DVD of TIFFs, or give you an account you can download them from).
If I might address a few issues.

I worked in film processing, have processed my own slides, and have experience in scanning.

When I worked at a lab i'd do 16MP (thats megapixel, not Megabytes) JPEG's on the Frontier. I had no other option at the lab i could (freely) do this. Frontier Scans can also come in TIFFs with 16 bits.

My frontiers were 8bit JPEGS. they were so detailed they showed the print film grain. problem solved by downsizing the image size using bicubic on PS or another program. A marginal dowsize yields a clean image.

I also worked at a custom lab where I could buy reduced cost scanned in TIFF on the Frontier. They were big 100MB I believe and still $.50 each. This was a $3 per slide service to the customers.

And at home I had a dedicated film scanner. which put out 16bit tiffs at 60MB and 10MP resolution.

I mostly use this scanner. Unfortunately it doesn't have Digital ICE which means if the slide or negative (I mostly shoot high resolution slide film) isn't 100% clean, even with the software "dust removal" I spend a bit of time cloning out dust.


However, since a similar 16bit 60MB 10MP tiff cost about $2 a scan it's worth the time for a few rolls here and there. I will eventually buy a 5400dpi film scanner with digital ICE but they are still pricey and hard to find used.


My recommendation is to find a 4000dpi or greater film scanner with digital ICE. buy a good lightbox, shoot slides for continuity in your exposures (saves you time from scanning crappy negatives, since what you see is what you get), and enjoy film.

If I could afford to have my slides professionally scanned I'd probably shoot Provia for 95% of my photography. I will probably shoot more film once I get a scanner with ICE but the dust (even on fresh slides) is an issue that drives me nuts.
01-22-2007, 09:14 PM   #11
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Image from a roll of Provia.

This is a at home scan from a roll of Provia 100F.

Shot on a Pentax Program Plus (mushroom)

cathedral was shot on a ist 35mm.

nice detail, good colors, even at 100%.
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01-23-2007, 06:53 PM   #12
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I wanted to show you one of my photos scanned by a dedicated canon cannoscan fs4000us.
scanned at 4000 dpi, 42 bit color.
No PP except I had to sharpen it as it lost some sharpness from jpg compression and resizing for the web
Of course it has more detail in the origanal



taken last fall with my "old" 35mm slr on slides. exposure was around 4-8 seconds at F16.
01-23-2007, 07:53 PM   #13
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Nice example, just curious, what film did you use. Looks noisy (slightly) in the water highlights.

also, how many times was it sampled?

for the OP i'd also recommend the new Epson flat beds (about $500-700) that are excellent film scanners. I'm seriously thinking of upgrading for the shear ability to scan 16 slides at once. it also offers a wet mount for B&W scanning.

Might have to look at the Canon though (used) the Minolta's are hard to find and nikon are too expensive. I need ICE.
01-23-2007, 08:10 PM   #14
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WOW!!!! Scanners actually went up in price. My guess, people abandoned film but because of the techniques they learned in digital (post processing) said, "wow, there are years worth of images to work on from my old film collection" that and archiving.

Honestly, when I upgrade, I'm not even going to bother with a used model Ebay is nuts. The Epson flatbeds look great for $500.

Just one other thing to note. 48bit is 16 bits per channel, same as 16bit just sounds better. 36 bit is 12 bits per channel. 24 bit is 8 bits per channel and actually the same as a JPG. JPG's from the camera are 8bit (24bits total).
01-23-2007, 09:20 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mountain Vision Quote
Nice example, just curious, what film did you use. Looks noisy (slightly) in the water highlights.

also, how many times was it sampled?

for the OP i'd also recommend the new Epson flat beds (about $500-700) that are excellent film scanners. I'm seriously thinking of upgrading for the shear ability to scan 16 slides at once. it also offers a wet mount for B&W scanning.

Might have to look at the Canon though (used) the Minolta's are hard to find and nikon are too expensive. I need ICE.
this is a one pass scan. the final scan was around 70 MB if my memory serves me.
The canoscan has something very simular to digital ICE. It is called FARE. works the same.... uses infrared to detect dust and scratches on the surface of the slide/ film.
The slide was Kodak Ektachrome (spelling?) it was either 100 speed I believe.
the slight noise in the highlights might be in part due to the compression used to get it down to web output size. (or it could be just the film)


The one thing about my film/slide scanner....it is slow, especially with the FARE on at max. but at 1/2 the price of the Nikon I can live with that.
reviews put both the canon and nikon about even quality.

now that I took a closer look at it, I would say the noise is from a bit of jpg artifacts as well as compression

cheers

randy
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