Guest Musings Thoughts on Digitisation

No really, why bother with scanning at home?? – Discovering the professional scan – Guest post by Frank Lehnen

First let me get something out of my system: Film should be wet printed! Yeah, and I should be really rich and the whole world should be at peace. Problem is, I don’t have the space and the time needed to wet print, so this is out of the equation.

Then there’s your local friendly photo lab. As much as I am for keeping local businesses in… business, I am definitely not happy with their prints, at least black and white prints.

Leaving only the scanner option…

I tried quite an assortment of film scanners over the past 3 years, ranging from a superb but old and definitely out of warranty Nikon Coolscan IV (LS40) to a Canoscan 9000F MkII.

Let me get it straight, the best one was the Nikon, closely followed by a Plustek 8100, with dedicated film scanners. The bad thing with the Plustek was that you have to load your film frame by frame, so this ties you up 100% near your scanner whereas the Nikon can at least scan strips of 6 negatives in one go. So the Nikon was definitely best… but if ever if breaks you’re out of luck. Over 10 years out of production, no repairs are possible…

Then there were the flatbed scanners I tried, the Canoscan an an Epson Perfection V600. Here we’re talking of a radicaly lower scan quality, at least with my 35mm film. They are faster scanning 12 negatives in one go, but resolution is faaaaaaaar from the advertised 9600 dpi it says on the Canoscan box. Tests I found online find a real resolution of about 1700 to 1800 dpi for these machines… if you use the maximum resolution, giving you huge, bloated files.

Then again, you also have the problem of getting the right colours out of your negatives. Even using the same scanning software (Use Vuescan! – don’t try the original software that comes with the scanners, if it still works on your modern OS, or even Silverfast which in my eyes is a terrible bloatware and exceedingly expensive).

Here are some examples from 3 of those scanners, from the same negative:

Canoscan 9000F MkII

Canon Canoscan 9000F MKII

Nikon Coolscan IV (LS40)

Nikon Coolscan IV (LS40)

Plustek Opticfilm 8100 (colours are a bit wonky, sorry)

160204 - Fuji Superia X-Tra 400 - Canon A1 - 001

As you can see, the best by far is the Nikon, but the Canon gives usable results if you don’t print too large – but there’s always the nagging feeling that you’re missing out on something.

And then, there’s the time factor! I spend about 2 ½ to 3 hours watching the scanner do it’s thing and processing the pictures, and that’s a lot of time. Time you can use to look at photography books, to talk too your family… time lost!

This makes me ask, why bother with scanning at home? Why spend hours watching Vuescan’s slow progress? Why wondering if your settings were right and if this is really the most you can get out of your scanner? I even tried scanning the raw negatives and converting them with ColorPerfect which gave quite nice results – but doing this negative by negative is very time consuming.

I thought about digital, it’s carefree and time saving nature… I was tempted. But I said NO!, Vade retro Digital.

And then I found a great alternative!

I sent out my latest films to a professional lab, in my case it’s MeinFilmLab in Germany. They will develop and/or scan your films for an appropriate fee, and they do this extremely fast and in a very good quality.

Of course you might still post-process your photos to get them to your liking, but if you chose the neutral setting on their order form you will get VERY good starting point for your post work.

I sent a test-film, shot on my ‘new’ Olympus XA2 as a first test an I way very happy with the results. I chose a highest resolution scan at the cost of 17€ for dev and scanning. Any ‘unsharpness’ might be due to the camera or this old man’s shaking hands.

The film is a Fuji Superia X-Tra 400 that has already quite flashy colours….

They offer as well to storage your negatives for a fee of 10€ for one year and then they send them to you. You can as well chose the scan resolution, color and contrast balance to your liking.

Here are some examples, one post-processed and one straight out of their scanner. The B/W pictures have grain added… not their fault!

Straight from their scanner

straight

And processed a bit in Lightroom

Lightroomed

No really, why bother with scanning at home? OK, this comes at a cost, but I won’t shoot more than a roll or four a month, and the cost will stay reasonable.

As promised, here are more examples!

151109 - 02-35

151109 - 02-8

160204 - Fuji Superia X-Tra 400 - Canon A1 - 030

151109 - 04-13

151109 - 04-15

151109 - 05-33

My advice, is to just go ahead and try out MeinFilmLab  – they reply VERY fast to any question (German and English)

I should just say that I am not affiliated in any way with them – I won’t even get a rebate… And of course there’s lots of other labs around, just check online in your region.

Even more shots on my flickr here

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63 Comments

  • Reply
    Hamish Gill
    February 8, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    I sit very much in agreement with this – the small cost of scanning makes using a pro for 35mm a much more reasonable proposition than home scanning. Though looking at the outdoors shots, these look like Frontier scans? I prefer the Noritsu scans I get from AG film lab.
    Very nice though, and of course, millage varies on that sort of thing!

  • Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    February 8, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Right you are, Hamish – those are Frontier scans. MeinFilmLab also offer Noritsu scans at a slightly steeper rate…. and higher resolution!

    All being said, I would not call the price ‘small cost’ unless you shoot very sparingly. But in my opinion the convenience outweighs the cost by far.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      February 9, 2016 at 9:48 am

      I suppose the cost is relative to the value you give to your time. I pay £7.99 for my ‘medium’ Noritsu scans. If I was proficient I suppose I could get similar from home scans in maybe an hour. I value my time higher than £7.99 an hour, therefore it feels cheap… It’s as simple as that for me really

      • Reply
        Frank Lehnen
        February 9, 2016 at 9:54 am

        Does your price include development, Hamish? That would be around 10€…. what resolution? Is that AG Lab in UK? You get me interested there!

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          February 9, 2016 at 9:59 am

          It’s only about 6mp I think, but when I’ve gone for the “high” resolution, I don’t find I gain that much in real terms. And yes, AG in the UK

          • Frank Lehnen
            February 9, 2016 at 10:06 am

            Hamish, can you send my a sample file of your 6 mp files? Of course, postage for my films the UK is more expensive.. but MFL offer a ‘medium’ option too.

          • Hamish Gill
            February 9, 2016 at 10:07 am

            Just go on my Flickr – I upload most at full res, only those that have been cropped a bit aren’t

  • Reply
    JKLPHOTO
    February 8, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Totally agree. here in the States, my go to is North Coast Photo. Their 35mm Enhanced scan is
    3339×5035 pixels at $11.95/roll. Add another $6.90 for excellent film processing and you have almost $20 USD. BUT, they are doing the tedious and time-consuming job of scanning and outputting a beautiful, color-corrected 16.8 MP file. Never any scratches or dust spots.

    If one must scan 35mm film, try to locate a used Pakon F135 Plus. They were used by minilabs during the early 2000s and require no film holder. Just feed your film in one end and out it spits from the other end. Only 3000×2000 pixels, but these were commercial scanners made for speed. Check out the Facebook group for “Kodak/Pakon F135 Scanner” group. One was for sale in Germany recently, but may already be sold.

    • Reply
      Tom Powell
      February 15, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      I second the recommendation on North Coast Photo. As I read this article I was thinking “yep, same conclusion I came to”.

  • Reply
    Claudio
    February 8, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    I also use AG Film Lab and I’m happy with their services. I tried this method as well: http://lamfoto.net/2016/01/16/digitizing-negatives-mirrorless-camera/
    Even if the setup and the learning curve is quite time consuming, at least for me, I must say that you can get much better results with a digital camera scan than flat scanners.

  • Reply
    Laidric Stevenson
    February 8, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Good Article Frank, and five years ago I would have agreed with everything you’ve said. But I look at scanning as much as an art as wet printing. It’s all about workflow, once you find the workflow that works best for your results, then scanning is a breeze. The one thing that I can’t dispute is the time that it takes (but again if you are wet printing, the time you would spend wet printing is equal to the time you would spend scanning [provided you have an efficient workflow that is]…) Finding the proper scanner is key, as finding your way through the software. I use Silverfast (that came with my scanner), and it has tons of options that I have absolutely no need for, but I can get a good baseline scan within 5 minutes, then finalize it in Photoshop (mostly dust clean up and contrast adjustments). All my scanning is done during the same time that most of us would be wet printing – at night after everyone is sleep.

    Like I said, 5 years ago I would have agreed with everything you said (at that time I was using Northcoast photo with a bit of Richard Photo Lab in California as my lab), but I really started to enjoy the process of scanning (as I didn’t have the space to setup an enlarger).

  • Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    February 8, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks Laidric, but I prefer making pictures instead of scanning and fiddling with the results… question of choice, and as you say, who known what will be in 5 years?

  • Reply
    Eddy
    February 8, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Good post Frank and full of helpful tips based on direct experience not spec sheets. I wish I’d read this a few years back when I started getting back into film photography – I wasted far too much time fiddling with flatbed scanners and the like. I think anyone returning to film or getting back into it would be well advised to follow your words of wisdom. And looks like you’ve found a good lab there. I must agree that the cost isn’t small over dozens of rolls a year though. So I’ve now settled on a slightly weird workflow that suits me well. This won’t be for everyone. In fact probably not for many but thought I’d share anyhow.

    If I’m really confident that I got a good proportion of keepers on a roll or if time is super-short, I go for combined dev and scan at the lab and don’t worry about the extra £5. Quick and easy. I use either AG labs or my recently improved branch of Snappy Snaps in Oxford, UK.

    But for most rolls I go dev only (either from the lab or home developed black and white). I try to do these in batches of 3/4 rolls. Then I very quickly ‘camera-scan’ the negatives on a lightbox. With 35mm film, a 16mp digital camera and cheap manual macro lens it takes about 8-10 minutes per roll for an acceptable level of quality. These are as good or even better than a high end Epson flatbed and if I slow things down a bit aren’t far off the Nikon scanner. I treat these as digital ‘contact sheets’. I sometimes choose to include the spools for a hipsterish lomo look, but usually not. Great for screen use and ok for printing small – ie. 99% of the images 99% of the time. Then just a few favourites I know I might want to enlarge or edit on a big calibrated monitor get slowly scanned at maximum quality on an old Nikon LS40 (I agree with you that’s a fine machine). For maybe a dozen shots a year – the ones I really really like – I send individual frames to Ag labs for a high-res scan / optical print. This way the money I spend is reduced overall but what I do spend is invested disproportionately in my favourite photos. Incidentally, Ag lab prints are second to none in my experience – really wonderful quality and very fairly priced. I use them for digital images as well as film.

    It takes a bit of practice and trial and error to get into the flow of camera-scanning and does depend on the equipment you have to hand but I don’t see myself changing any time soon. And for home developed black and white means I can get from finishing a roll to sharing the images within about 1.5 hours, all for the cost of the film and pennies on chemicals.

    Thanks again for posting. I’ve a feeling the discerning readers of this site will have a lot to offer on this topic and I’m looking forward to the discussion.

    • Reply
      Frank Lehnen
      February 8, 2016 at 5:00 pm

      Never tried camera scanning in earnest. My few trials were not well done and had horrible results. But that’s a great alternative! Thanks for your comment!

  • Reply
    Johannes
    February 8, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    I tried MeinFilmLab several times now and their service is fucking excellent. If I had the money, I would send all my shit to them!

    • Reply
      Frank Lehnen
      February 8, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      Ahem, thanks Johannes….. despite your ‘strong’ words 😉

  • Reply
    Blinx
    February 8, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    A couple of years ago I bought some RA-4 colour prints from an American photographer, she hand prints them herself. Although they were mostly taken on a 35mm pocket compact camera (An Olympus XA), the 16 x 20″ prints were stunning. I’ve never seen anything close from a digitally scanned print.

    I accept scans for what they are, work “prints” most of which will get no further than the internet. Scanning is a hybrid process for which C41 colour negatives were never designed. It’s great that technology is improving and I’m willing to be convinced as to the brilliance of scanned prints, but about 75% of my output is Poundland film home developed in the sink, from which I expect 1 or at most 2 keepers. They are flatbed scanned at a mere 800 dpi, with the best negs getting the 48000 treatment, which is good enough for internet sharing. on the rare occasions a genuinely good imge emerges, I get it professionally printed. The black and white stuff I print wet.

    • Reply
      Frank Lehnen
      February 8, 2016 at 6:35 pm

      The Olympus XA series cameras (with the exception of the XA1) are really stunning, you’re right! And as I said in the introduction to my post, wet printing of the keepers should be the only option…. unfortunately, this is far from easy nowadays. Space, Time, Money, the infernal trio are ever putting a stop to wet printing for me at least.

      Your workflow is right of course, for you! Every one has his ideal workflow, limited or no by any external factors. I am at the moment at the point where I use 35mm compacts and sometimes a digital compact and even my iPhone… YES I KNOW, I said I wouldn’t do such a thing, but well, who am I to keep to my word?

      The most important is the picture, no matter how you achieve it.

  • Reply
    Des McSweeney
    February 8, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    so far in my ‘back to print’ journey I have only been getting my B&W film developed and printed at Ilford Lab direct but, on Hamish’s advice I am about to test AG and compare. Can I ask your collective advice please? Ilford offer digital scans at standard 2Mpixels and high res at 12mpixels – which would you advise at £3 and £10 respectively. And similarly what would you go for at AG (I see they measure in mb at 4, 18 and 50 for high). I guess I will stop printing all my pics and instead check the digital files to make choices about the few decent ones I manage to squeeze out of a roll.

  • Reply
    Stephen
    February 8, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    I am inclined towards Blinx method… Scan the lot, and if perchance you find a keeper, get it professionally wet printed.

    I have an old Nikon Coolscan 4000ED, I bought a top of the line quad core PowerMac (£40) and use the Nikon supplied software on OSX 10.5 (leopard).

    The scans are pretty good, but not what I would use to hang on the wall.

  • Reply
    J-BO
    February 8, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    To answer the question in the title: because for me, buying say 50 rolls a year, getting them developed and on top of that scanned at €10 a piece is just too much. I decided on buying a scanner. And in a way, making the scan for me became part of the process of film photography.

  • Reply
    joby
    February 8, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    I flip between AG for the important stuff and Bristol Cameras for the everyday rolls. And they charge £2.99 for process and scan!

    http://www.bristolcameras.co.uk/p-develop-and-cd-only-colour-35mm-colour-aps.htm

    They are VERY fast and great quality for 99% of my needs. I can post of individual negs after if need be….

  • Reply
    rollbahn
    February 8, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    I went through years of scanning at home and being disappointed with colours and this includes a Coolscan scanner and a very expensive Imacon scanner (which I got cheap). I got sick of magenta casts and greys, blacks and whites that I knew were not what they should be. The first negatives you send out to a (good) lab will blow your mind if you’re used to home scanning on an Epson V600 or similar. The old adage of you pay for what you get applies 100% to film processing and scanning.

    I eventually purchased my own Frontier scanner (again got it very cheaply) and now I send out my films for developing and do all my own scanning. Bit of a learning curve at the start but the Fuji software is pretty simple once setup. Being able to get “that” look at home feels pretty good….until you realise that you now just HAVE to go back and scan all your old negs again 🙂

    Of course anyone can buy a Fuji or Noritsu – the trick is having a good lab who knows what they are doing.

    The Fuji can pump out a very bad looking scan that is awash with jpeg artifacts and over-sharpened etc OR it can easily do a very sharp and beautiful scan – the only difference is what how software is set and waiting time. I can scan, process and save 5300 x 3600 (approx.) scans from my Fuji in about 15 mins a roll. You can also set it to Walmart style scans and do a roll of 36 on Auto in about 90 seconds 🙂

  • Reply
    Daniel F
    February 8, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    I recently stopped asking my local film lab to do the scanning for me. Not because they were bad or anything but because it cost three times as much to scan the film than to just developing it. I was lucky enough to come across one of Kodaks Nexlab scanners. Their main advantage I’d say is not only superb color rendition, but they scan an entire roll in about 5 minutes. While they’re a little more expensive now than they used to be a couple of years ago, these scanners has gone from about $12,000 to $350. I used to own a Plustek scanner but immediately sold in realizing how long it took to scan one fram at a time.

  • Reply
    Christian Rodriguez
    February 9, 2016 at 5:02 am

    When I was still in college, like 8 months back I had regular access all sorts of insane stuff. I spent four years honing my craft from wet printing to scanning. I fell in love with both but scanning and digital printing was my favorite because the digital prints that came from digital capture could never live up to what the combo of analog capture and digital printing could. My second year in I became a work study and eventually began running the imaging lab at my school. I processed everyones C-41 film on a Colex dip and dunk, printed some peoples work on a digital RA-4 machine and my favorite was running the vertical drum scanner, an ICG 370. everything from 35mm to 11×14. However a huge portion of my learning happened on Imacon X5’s that my school had. One of those scanners is all one needs, I could get through 5 rolls of 120 in two to three hours (with basic color) sadly its a 25,000 dollar investment. I think in the ideal world though scanning at home with an Imacon X1 or X5 or even a drum scanner would be the dream.

  • Reply
    Charles
    February 9, 2016 at 8:05 am

    I bought an Epson V370 a couple of years ago for £89 on Amazon, and it’s OK. I have been sending my films to be processed by Peak Imaging in Sheffield UK, and get the negs back to scan on the Epson. However, I recently reverted to having some films (both colour and black and white) developed and scanned by Peak Imaging and the difference in scan quality between the Epson and their machine is strikingly obvious, particularly with colour. With monochrome the difference isn’t so great, so I intend to continue doing my own scanning for those films and save some money, but pay the extra few pounds for their scanning when sending them a colour film. It’s certainly useful having your own scanner to hand as I found some of my fathers Kodachrome slides and it was wonderful to bring them back to life and send copies to family members. As has been said above, you get what you pay for. If I shot a film I wanted to get the best out of I would have no hesitation in paying for professional scanning.

  • Reply
    Benn Murhaaya
    February 9, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Wow, quite a debate here 🙂 I must take the opposite side from the most commenters here. 17 EUR for processing and scans… this price point is out of a question for me. I did a small computation and my Nikon LS-5000 cost me the same as you would pay for processing of 40 films (my lab processes my C41 films for 3 euros, so I used 14 EUR for my calculation because the processing is still needed). I got mine for an amazing price I’ll give you that but normal street price for Nikon LS-5000 would be equal to about 100 films processed. From my last vacation I brought eleven films, so a hundred films a year is not unreachable number.

    There is still the time spent with scanning. The process is daunting but the LS-5000 can be modded at home, to take the whole strips of 35 mm film. At the highest resolution (4000 dpi) with VueScan, it takes 45 minutes to scan through the film (with some mild ICE setting) and I does not have to touch the scanner during that time. I can edit the previous scanned film, or take a shower, or do whatever. The output I get is in form of a DNG raw file, that I can edit to my liking, apply presets… I had a hard time at first, getting good results but the key is to set a balance and exposure once and then fix the exposure and brightness, save the preset under the name of the film and I am all set. I just recall the preset (and I basically shoot just this one color film, for black and white it is much easier). I have a roll of the sleeves at home so once I am done, I put the film in them, every film is in marked envelope. I have complete control over the process (with color it is except the processing) and I am saving money in the long run. To each his own I say, but I wanted to provide another perspective to this.

    If anybody is interested, I can provide you with some samples of my scans. (I am also considering a follow up article).

    P.S. Don’t take it as a negation of your article. Definitely not, the lab approach has it’s ups and having Canoscan 8800F I belive I’ve walked a mile in your shoes 🙂

    • Reply
      Benn Murhaaya
      February 9, 2016 at 9:06 am

      Also, once you’ve mastered scanning at home with a quality scanner you really know what your camera is capable of and how the film behaves. Many of the (especially one hour corner photo) stores will “enhance” your pictures in a very ugly way (overshapen, jpg artifacts, blown contrast, lost hightlights, and I’ve even had some weird artifacts from bad ICE).

      Plus like some said here already, it’s an art and craft in and of itself. The learning curve was steep and in the beginning I was getting pictures with noticeable color cast that I could not remove even from DNG without making it look bad in some other way. But now, I almost never do any color corrections to my color scans and I’ve never been happier.

      Also a key to “those” color from a print film is overexposure. For me one stop of overexposure does the trick. It just smoothes out the colors without loosing highlights. All that with the cheapest ($2 per roll) Kodak film.

  • Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    February 9, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Of course you’re right about the price of scanning, Ben, but unless I’d find a super cheap and very good scanner I’m unable to shell out 1000€ in one go right now. So I’ll have to keep paying for the scanning service on a film by film basis. It’s obviously only if you have money that you can save money ;-). But I’m not a very busy shooter – about 2 films a month on average I’d say.

    No problem with your comment. It’s the cheap scanner option I was stuck with that brought me to having my film scanned by a lab.

    • Reply
      Benn Murhaaya
      February 9, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      Minolta Dimage line is quite good as well. There is new Reflecta professional scanner that cost about half of the LS 5000 and has a full strip mode.

  • Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    February 9, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Yes, the Reflecta RPS 10M – about 590€ new here on Amazon…. but it’s said to be very slow… And 10000 dpi scans are HUUUUUGE though tests seem to show that anything over 5000 dpi does not bring any significant advantages.

    Do not tempt me to buy another scanner !!! 😉

  • Reply
    Michiel Van Laeken
    February 9, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    I am willing to agree with Frank here, at least when we are talking about quality. The quality of the scans done at the shop are often times greater than those done at home, plus the time saved is valuable as well. However, when I got into film photography I made the calculation, and the cost of an Epson V550 was equal to having 20 rolls scanned in the shop. So for me that was an easy decision. Yes, it is a financial investment, and yes, it is a time-consuming job with a steep learing curve, but what I still love the most about home-scanning is in fact the time you spend with the photographs. They come alive during the proces, you get to know the strenghts and the weaknesses of the camera, you reflect on the scenes and the settings (if you remember them), you have to decide which frames are worth cleaning up, etc. The fact that it takes time, the slowness of it all, to me is a very valuable tool I love about scanning film (and editing) and, I believe, makes me a better photographer in the end. It’s that slowness that speaks to me the most in film photography.

    Of course, all of this counts for wet printing as well, but hey, the future is #hybrid!

    • Reply
      Frank Lehnen
      February 9, 2016 at 3:06 pm

      Oh man, Michiel, you make me regret my scanning decision. It’s above all the slowness of the process and the reality of the negatives (as well as those beautiful cameras) that make me love film.

      You guys will win me over to the dark side again if you keep at it like that.

      Thanks for your comment!

  • Reply
    Benn Murhaaya
    February 9, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    I am just thinking aloud 😉 One don’t need to scan on the max dpi. I downsize all my scans to 3000×2000 pixels after export from dng. one color file is about 140 MB bw 45 megs.

  • Reply
    Ned
    February 9, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    Hi Frank, (and Hamish)
    I hope you don’t mind me asking this question of you, or any of the other contributors, but for which reason(s) do you want to scan your current film output? Is it for professional purposes or maybe pro photo hosting sites or something?
    You can probably tell that I am a (rank) amateur. But I am keen to learn.

    • Reply
      Laidric Stevenson
      February 11, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      Wow! This post has created quite the discussion over the past couple of days!

      Ned,

      I scan for my personal website, some single printing, but most of my print output is for self published photobooks and zines.

  • Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    February 9, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    Hi Ned, unfortunately it’s not for professional reasons, but as I said, wet printing my negatives is out of the question for me, so as a lover of film photography this leaves only the hybrid scanning solution. The output is quite often printed (normally around A4 size) and also find it’s way to Flickr.
    Ok, this does not require ultra high resolutions, but I always like to get the best out of my negatives. Now I’d like to put together some books when I have all the material I need… but we’ll see

  • Reply
    Benn Murhaaya
    February 10, 2016 at 8:32 am

    Hi Ned,
    Well, first reason is probably to have a sort of digital index print. Even with the Canoscan 8800F that I used for many years, when scanned at 1200 dpi you get pretty decent preview of your photos, that can be used further online. On my site (click on my name in header of this comment), I used to have quite a few pictures from Canoscan. When downsized to 800px wide, I for one cannot tell if the source came from Canoscan or LS-5000. I used many of these scans also as a baseline for my printing. My prints (usually from Kodak Trix pushed to 1600) looked very much like my scans in terms of tonality. So to sum up, the first and foremost is index print/digital sharing. I have an idea what I’ve shot and if it’s any good.

    With hi-res scans of course, the applications are broader. Digital print or digital/wet print with decent quality is now possible. The fine details of film grain a lens sharpness can be determined. Unless you are using a grain magnifier in darkroom, you cannot really tell what the film is capable of resolving of. I was quite suprised with the level of detail. Frank mentioned book and I agree. Last summer I published a book (available through my website) and I had to rescan about a first half of the photos on the LS-5000 to get the resolution as they were scanned back in the day on the already mentioned Canoscan. The quality difference is striking not just only in sharpness and resolution but also in bit depth. This was the most time consuming and tedious part of the whole process. To rescan and clean the old negatives digitally.

    The last reason is price. Here in Prague, the chepest processing of C41 film is about $3. With digital scans in 1500×1000 px it’s $6 and higher resolutions cost way more and even more if you want it in TIFF. With black and white film the processing starts roughly at $6.5 without scanning. If you decide to get the film scanned later, the price is 20 cents per frame again in the lowest resolution (1500×1000). Most of the times, thos files are oversharpenned after they are scalled down, mushy, muddy and overall unpleasant to look at. The only upside is colors. They do pop out. Greens are lush, blues are dark and saturated, browns are toned down and warm and skintones are pale and neat but for what cost? If you have an overexposed photo in the bunch, you’ll need to give extra directions (for extra cost) to the lab otherwise, faces lit by a flash will be completely white and there is nothing you can do about it with the 8bit jpg file. I on the other hand can rescan the photo with different exposure value and bring down the levels in Camera Raw as the file is in RAW format.

    Also, I’ve had many times negatives smudged with fingerprints and badly cut from the lab. Now I get only processing and if frees me from these problems.

    So even though I don’t use it on a professional level in a sense I would make a living out of the pictures, I have the output quality under my control, I am saving money in the long run and whenever I decide that I wanna publish a new book, I can just go through my hi res archives, select the pictures and go to print.

  • Reply
    Ned
    February 10, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    Many thanks Frank and Benn for the insight.
    As I suspected, my photographic requirements are fairly rudimentary, others have more advanced requirements.
    For me, my photographic journey ends at the JPEG/print/slide, whereas for others, this is merely an intermediate stage.
    I made the mistake tonight of looking at a few websites, which explained (?) the technical margins of film-v-digital resolution and boy was I glad that I had a nice single malt handy!
    Maybe someday I will overcome my disinterest in sitting at the computer to massage RAW files, but I hope not.
    Despite the benefits and performance of modern digital sensors, I still have the preference to shoot film with a fully manual camera, passing around prints or projecting slides.
    Yep, I confess, I prefer vinyl to streaming, tube to solid state, imperial to metric, film to digital. I guess that pigeonholes me!
    Great site Hamish!

    • Reply
      Frank Lehnen
      February 11, 2016 at 7:55 am

      Ned, all those film vs digital websites had lured me in some time ago too, but it’s not resolution that counts (though a fine grained B/W film shot in a good camera with a fine lens gives stunningly fine results!). In theory, Film can have a resolution approaching or slightly over 20 Megapixel sensors… in theory!

      The point for shooting film lies, for me at least, in the overall feel I get from the pictures. And my keepers from shooting film are waaaay more numerous that from digital, though I shoot very sparingly with digital too.

      As for vinyl, tube amps etc, I quit those though I love them. I had a series of wonderful Mini’s, all over 25 years old as everyday transport, but ultimately this vintage gear became untenable for my lifestyle. I only cling to film photography, desperately!

  • Reply
    Ned
    February 11, 2016 at 9:07 am

    Agreed on nostalgia-v-reliability for cars. I am a sucker for classic cars but would never take one for everyday transport.
    One thought has gone through my head since my reply last night, perhaps you or Hamish can enlighten me.
    Do the professional modern labs such as AG or Peak digitally print the films that I send to them for process and print?
    In my blissful ignorance, I have always assumed that film printing = wet printing, just like in the good old days.
    I have a suspicion that I am wrong.

  • Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    February 11, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Ned, I know that MeinFilmLab print either digitally, using Fuji printers with pigment based ink or Epson 11 color inkjet machines and offer B/W wet printing too. I guess other labs as AG do the same. In fact, film prints are nowadays mostly treated like digital prints…. sadly.

  • Reply
    Christos Theofilogiannakos
    February 18, 2016 at 7:59 am

    I get my films scanned at the local lab where I develop them for the grand total of 4 euros (both developing and scanning) per roll. They have a professional Noritsu scanner which is an integral part of their developing system which is quite new, as they suffered a fire about 5 years ago that destroyed their old system. They charge 2.5 euros for scanning the B&W films I develop at home, so compared to the prices I read in the comments above, I must be very lucky and I should start praying nothing happens to their equipment, because they are the last lab in my small town that still bothers with film developing. The Noritsu scanner does a pretty good job (www.flickr.com/deafburglar) and the final result mostly depends on the lens and film quality (mailny fresh vs expired). Sadly, although they have an EPSON V700, they don’t scan Medium Format, they just use it for print scanning, so I bought a (still unboxed V550) for when I decide to start using my Yashica-Mat. If for some reason they stop developing film, I will be stuck with B&W only and I’ll have to start scanning at home, probably with some Plustek machine, as everyone says the 35mm doesn’t scan well on flatbeds.

  • Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    February 18, 2016 at 8:42 am

    4 € for developing and scanning is an incredibly cheap price! Hope they stay in business a long time. At what resolution do they scan for that price?

    The flatbed scanners are fine for medium format but for 35mm nothing beats a real film scanner.

    • Reply
      Christos Theofilogiannakos
      February 18, 2016 at 4:39 pm

      The scans I get are 3024×2005, but I generally downscale them to 2000×1326 before uploading to Flickr. They also scan to TIFF format but the files are too large I think, anyway I doubt that they’d charge more for that. I live in a small provincial town in Greece (35.000 inhabitants) and the truth is I’m probably the only person shooting film at this rate who also asks for his films to be scanned, so they most likely charge me what sounds reasonable to them. They don’t have any competition (the financial crisis has slowly dissolved the rest of the labs who were outdated anyway) and developing and printing film is still a sizeable part of their business as they serve the whole area. The fact that their developing / scanning equipment is relatively new makes me quite optimistic that they’ll stay in business for a long time. As they don’t develop proper B&W, whenever a stray B&W roll ends up in their lap, I do it for them at home and they develop and scan my rolls for free in return.

  • Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    February 18, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks for the info, Christos, and keep on shooting film!!

    And very nice, graphic photos on your Flickr! I like them a lot!

    • Reply
      Christos Theofilogiannakos
      February 18, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      Thanks! By the way, I just re-checked the sample images of the metal ladder from the Canon. Nikon and Plustek scanners and I find the Plustek scan much more detailed than the Nikon one (although there are some white artifacts -dust?). Are you sure the last one is from the Plustek and not the Nikon?

  • Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    February 18, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    Yes, I’m positive, the last one is from the Plustek…. and there’s a lot of dust, you’re right. It was just a quick test so I dis not use ICE or spot the scan afterwards.

    The Plustek quality is excellent, true, but color from the Nikon was better for me. And the Nikon was much much faster as it scans strips of 6 negs.

    • Reply
      Christos Theofilogiannakos
      February 20, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      It sure looks sharper and more resolving, esp. when you look at the brick texture and the rusty parts of the ladder. Re colours, I guess you were there, so you know which one is closer to reality, but for me the biggest worry about scanning at home is sharpness and perceived resolution, esp. as I’m pretty sure I’ll end up shooting only B&W in a few years. For its price the Plustek seems to do a good job and at my current rate of 2-3 rolls per month, its slow speed won’t be a problem.

  • Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    February 20, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    You are right with the Plustek being slightly better than the Nikon though – I just checked again. I think my problem with it resulted from the color shift it produced with this negative,…. The Plustek’s resolution is easily up to the task, and as you want to do ‘only’ B&W you don’t have to go for the 8200 model that can do digital ICE as this is not possible with most B&W films – the 8100 will be very much OK and cheaper.

    As well I don’t like the Silverfast software, so I’d recommend not to splurge for a version with Silverfish Ai as it’s much more expensive. But some people like Silverfast…. so it’s up to you to decide.

    You might as well try go get a used Plustek 7400 as it’s virtually the same as the 8100 or 8200 model, but with older Software. I use Vuescan for scanning – it’s a bit cumbersome and has a bit of a learning curve, but it makes up to that with very good quality scans and keeps even older scanner alive on new operating systems. You can as well use it if you change your scanner later…. which is not possible with Silverfast as it’s keyed to your specific scanner model you bright it with – change scanner, buy a new license of Silverfast…. I think that’s stealing!

  • Reply
    Graham
    February 22, 2016 at 12:26 am

    Good article. I’ve pretty much given up trying to scan 35mm at home on a flatbed. They are fine for medium format black and white but even if you overcome all the technical problems relating to holding your film flat getting good colour become a real pain.

    I’m awaiting the arrival of a Pakon 135, I’m hoping this will be a good solution. Many people swear by them and they seem to be getting great results without spending countless hours tied to the computer. They have become much more expensive now that supplies have dwindled so I purchased a non-plus version which are currently selling for less than half the price of the 135+ but it can scan at the same resolution using the right software just a little slower.

    I suspect the prices of the non-plus will increase as all of the plus versions disappear. If this doesn’t make life much easier I will probablly give up scanning myself, I might try using a DSLR I’ve tried it out using a macro lens and light source and it gives very good results with black and white but again colour film is where things get tricky.

    Here’s just one of many posts you can find regarding the pakon with examples, there’s also a very good Facebook group for pakon users and they are very helpful with lots of technical support. https://jcstreetwolf.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/the-kodak-pakon-f135-scanner/

    • Reply
      Frank Lehnen
      February 22, 2016 at 3:22 am

      Thanks, Graham! Concerning color, I had very good results using the ColorPerfect plug in for Photoshop on my raw scans (scanned as negatives). Of course this was one more expensive piece of software and one more step in the workflow.
      I’ll check out the Pakon articles. Heard good things about it but didn’t know the non-plus version had the same resolution.

      • Reply
        Graham
        February 22, 2016 at 11:14 pm

        Yes Frank, color perfect is a great plug in but another piece of expensive software you need for scanning colour film if the scanners software isn’t up to the task.

        I just stumbled across the imacon negative holders and thought people who are scanning film might be interested in how these work, the scanners are very expensive so I’ve never actually seen one before but the holders look like a very good approach to holding film flat for scanning. They appear to use a flexible magnet (fridge magnet material) with an aperture cut out for the strip, this holds the film down on a flat piece of metal with a similar aperture cut out of it, it looks like the flexible magnet it glued at the top edge so you can just lift to place the film. This is something you could probablly make yourself or just purchase the real thing. I might experiment with this idea for scanning medium format. Please delete the flea bay link if not allowed but I just wanted to show you how they work, they also make single strip holders. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Film-holder-for-Imacon-Flextight-PHOTO-343-full-frame-scan-2-35mm-filmstrips-/111862013963?hash=item1a0b7ee00b:g:zKsAAOSw5dNWnjh2

        • Reply
          Frank Lehnen
          February 23, 2016 at 4:57 am

          Thanks Graham, if ever I take up scanning again I’ll give these a try.

  • Reply
    Ken Hindle-May
    March 14, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    For me, home scanning is one of the things that keeps film financially viable. Thanks to depreciation, the cost per frame of digital is not quite as little as some would have you believe but there is still an appreciable cost to film and home scanning could make the difference between it being affordable and not for a lot of people.

    In my case, I usually pay £1-£5 per roll of film (Poundland Agfa to Ektar, basically) for starters. Once it’s shot, I have a few options for processing and scanning. I can go to my local supermarket, who will develop and scan (at poor resolution) for £3 or to my local camera shop, who will do dev only for the same price. Their scanning is much better, but costs an additional £5. It’s not a bad price, by any means, but it’s clear that a scanner will pay for itself quite quickly, provided you can get equivalent results out of it.

    I managed to find an Epson V500 that was being sold for almost nothing by a charity shop because they didn’t have a powersupply or film holder for it. By the time I’d replaced those, the whole thing cost me just under £50, so had paid for itself within ten rolls. In terms of quality, it’s pretty similar to what I get from the LCS and way better than the supermarket. It is fairly slow, but I’ve found that turning off Epson’s ICE technology will get it down to under two minutes per frame at 3200dpi. I usually scan while watching TV or writing, putting in two new negs every fifteen minutes. The biggest challenge in dust removal, as even with a blower and antistatic cloth some still creeps in. An additional drawback with a used scanner is that over time, a sheen of oily residue and fibres from the nylon gears builds up on the underside of the glass. It’s not that hard to open and clean off, but doing so without introducing new bits of dust in the scanning area is difficult and frustrating.

    I think it’s worth it, though. Affordability is a big issue for film and anything that can substantially lower the cost per frame is worth thinking about. I’ve also started doing my own B+W processing because it’s so expensive to get done in a lab now, and I hope to add C41 to that later in the year (cross processing for pennies!). My aim is to make the process cheaper to the point where I can shoot on nice film all the time, as I’ve found this makes a huge difference to the final images.

  • Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    March 14, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    Ken, slowly I am coming to the conclusion that scanning is not that bad after all.

    I have 3 more rolls ready to send to my lab for developing and scanning. There go another 53€… not counting the price of film and postage. That amounts to over 90€ this month alone.
    In the end that leaves 2 alternatives: going digital, something I want to avoid, and home developing and scanning.
    We’ll see, I give me at most 2 more months to decide.

    But I will never give up my Oly XA2 and Lomo LC-A!

  • Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    March 25, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Nearly convinced to buy a scanner again by now.

    I’ m just not sure which one? I want a very good one that can scan whole strips or a whole roll in one go and have my eyes on a Reflecta RPS 10M. Not cheap but seems great!

    Any ideas out there?

  • Reply
    A case for home scanning & the Plustek OpticFilm 8200i - 35mmc
    April 8, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    […] There’s no denying the convenience. Frank recently wrote a good summary of the advantages here (the comment section is also full with insights and […]

  • Reply
    Jordi P.
    October 16, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    If you don’t mind, a bit late to the party but I’ll add my experience -thoughts out loud-.

    Basic variables are: Time, Control Over results, Price & Resolution.

    I’m partial to lab scanning. Great at time management but it is hard to control the results, and price handles just about everything. I think I’ll be going back and forth for a while again. Just because preference and lifestyle change.

    I shoot mainly 120 with some 35mm. Thought I’d leave 35mm because 15€ (dev+scan) + 5 to 8€ per 135 roll was becoming steep and got me a v550 for 120 (Fuji 690), wich lab scanned is about 12€a roll. NOT fun to see the bills/receipts of payment! I use Carmencita film lab here in Spain (excellent).
    I’ve recently graduated from student status but not income wise still. My hour wage is still under the threshold to compensate time wise. Optimization of savings to its essence.
    Homescanning 135 with a flatbed is a rather torturous too little too late (lowres & slow) affair. 120 is alright and the V550 can do well with Portra (Stock Epson scan) and with just 8 frames per roll and taking it easy, it can be a just entretainment.
    But then the amount of control can lead to fiddling settings a whole time, the v550 has troubles with deep shadows and highlights so Frontier+Noritsus do actually have an edge, specially when going pastel airy with the 400 C41 films.
    Airy Portra or 400H look is much easier lab scanned, given their specialization (it seems to be all down to Contax 645 and Fuji 400H). But then the Jpegs will be just that (Perhaps I’m overstating it now).

    Standard Lab 120 scans are a wee smallish (2400px h 8MP) and it feels a lot is lost on a 6×9 frame. Even though practically it just is enough for casual use (8×12″). I should repeat this to myself! But it is beautiful to have a 7K wide TIFF file and keep looking closer and closer with detail and abilty to fiddle with (even the V550 is fair).

    I’ve been imaginative, experimenting with my Summer film:
    Discovered a Russian lab (lighthouse film lab) which, thanks to the EUR-RUB exchange and lower prices, does have a huge value (it wasn’t that fun when my August batch took a whole month to get there, September one just 10 days). 2400px for 7€ and 3600px for 9€. Then there was a guy in Ireland that has a small photostore and scans with a Pakon for 4GBP a roll. Much easier for casual 35mm. For autumn and winter I’m halting 35mm quite a bit and will be 6×9 for the meantime. I still have an amazement with Frontier scans and wondered if there was a way renting. Found (but not tried) “Film Scan Berlin” which supposedly rents out the SP3000 virtually!

    I just need a holiday expedition to somewhere tropical and shoot 30 rolls. 🙂 In my top 10 reasons why I want to be rich is to not worry about film scanning. Add up, and a few rolls equal a Ryanair escapade.

    • Reply
      Frank Lehnen
      October 17, 2016 at 5:42 am

      Thanks for your comment, Jordy!

      Sure scanning is boring, but saves a lot of money. If you develop at home (b&w) and scan you basically have just the cost of film to pay…
      While you can scan 120 film with any good flatbed scanner, 35mm is more demanding and needs a good dedicated film scanner.

      Film IS expensive, though, that’s sure. And you’re right, some rolls equal a cheap flight to some place worth photographing… why oh why do I love film that much????

  • Reply
    Reflections on a Reflecta RPS 10M - review by Frank Lehnen -35mmc.com
    January 14, 2017 at 9:16 am

    […] to justify the feasibility of sourcing out the scanning of our negatives (you can read that post here.) But then I saw the light, following this great post by KJ Vogelius. I changed my […]

  • Reply
    Anton Kievlyanin
    January 14, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Hello to everyone!
    I wonder why one can’t find good service for Nikon Coolscan in Europe or USA. Of course, I think, official service is no longer available, but there must be proffesional repairmen who can do this job. Personally, I would recommend Sergey Zykov from Moscow (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010018326806&fref=ts). As far as I know, he is servicing Coolscans for almost 10 years and gained very good reputation.
    As for scanning technique, I recommend using a flatbed scanner with great transparent originals size to make digital contact sheets and a filmscanner for scanning selected frames. If you use transparent sleeves, just put a sleeve on the flatbed scaner’s glass, frame, scan with medium resolution and voila! – you get a digital contact sheet. With my HP G4050 i can scan 5 or 6 strips at once. Then select the frames you want to scan in high resolution and get the TIFFs with your film scanner. In my case it’s a Minolta AF2820U (Scan Dual II).

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