Thursday, October 25, 2012

Film Scanning Tips

 Rolleiflex With Ilford FP4, Scanned by Me With Epson v500

Very Same Negative Scanned By the 1-Hour Photo

My Home Scan With Photivo Tweaks Applied

Phew - I've got so much to get caught up on here. So, if you're a long standing digital photographer and you've decided to give film a try, you're probably starting down the safe route of avoiding the darkroom, unless you've got experience with that from your dark past. This is more addressed to those who are presently in transition, and taking the "Figital" route - film cameras and digital scans. I'm learning there are pitfalls and rewards all along this journey, and glad to have you along. I expect to begin a "rolling review" of the Rolleiflex shortly, so stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, there's something I need to close off on first - the matter of converting your film negatives to digital files.

Back in 2007 - 2008 I was totally into "Figital", with my Spotmatic, Trip 35, Zorki-4 and Zenit-11 cameras, but I left the film scanning to Walmart's 1-Hour Photo department. I guess I never realized that I could get a scanner to do it myself at home, although I did own a cheap Epson (model unknown, long ago trashed) with Negative drawers, it frustrated the hell out of me, mainly because of dust on the negatives. So I blindly accepted Walmart's scans as the best I could get. Needless to say, and that's exactly what this Post is all about, the scan quality was all over the map, and I had no control. 

Now, look at the three scans above. This is from the "4-Week Photo" debaucle I just went through with my camera dealer sending the Ilford FP4 "real black & white" film out to a third party for processing in  a genuine darkroom, not the big C41 machinery like Walmart uses. Anyway, that's another story. I also had asked the store to provide me with high resolution scans, and I'm glad they did, because this gives me a story to tell today. The story is plainly obvious from the pictures. The store scan is all wrong - most detail was lost to overexposure, especially in the sky. The clouds are even visible in the negative itself, and the biggest reason I took this picture, in fact. But the store missed them completely in their scan, and also, the black bar at the top shows they didn't have the negative aligned properly in their scanner.

As for my scan, I simply used the v500 with it's out of the box software, did the scan at 1200 dpi, which I now know not to do, because the Digital ICE dust removal cannot operate at greater than 300 dpi with a Medium Format negative, so there are a couple of dust bits in my scan, and here it is - much better than the store scan. At least I have control over the results with the Epson v500. I bought this from Staples on sale a few weeks ago for $140.00, so shop around for the best price on this highly recommended consumer scanner. It's great - a bit of a learning curve, which I'm still on, and scanning is very time consuming, so make sure you've got something else to do while scanning.

Finally, to close this off, I would agree that the scan I did at home managed to capture my sky detail at the expense of shadow detail. No trouble, as you can see from the third photo above, this is my scan with a few simple tweaks applied in Photivo to bring out the shadow detail and enhance the local contrast. The traffic lights are now bright, detail under the bridge is recovered nicely, the foreground textures are especially nice, and the cloud textures are also intact. Alternatively, I could have done some exposure and contrast tweaking when I originally did the scan with the Epson software, and perhaps gotten even better results.

So I'll leave you with this thought - if you think you might like doing Figital Photography, buy a home scanner sooner than later.


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  3. Nice wee article, Dave! I shoot a lot of film and convert to digital with my Epson V500. Its a great scanner for the money.

  4. Thank you Brian. I'm working on a tutorial for the v500, mainly because I've discovered a couple of glitches in it's operation that people should be aware of.


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