Digitisation – a tale of a film scanning options rabbit hole

This is my first article for 35mmc, so hi to everyone in this community. Recently I got myself a shiny new Leica M-A film camera (more on this in another article). And then I found a problem, I need to digitise my film images to be able to share them online and maybe just maybe print them as I currently have no darkroom either. I would love to go into a darkroom and print again – I have a wonderful Durst Laborator 1200 enlarger doing nothing as I have no darkroom to use it in. Before I get to that issue, I need to digitise my images and, as I say, that is when the problem began.

I started looking at scanning, there is lots of info on the subject on YouTube and various websites. One I found that has what looks like authoritative reviews of film scanners on it is https://www.filmscanner.info.

Camera scanning

Then I started to think about are there other ways of making digital files from negatives and I remembered that once upon a time there was a device called a Bowens Illumitran which look like this:

Bowen’s Illumitran 3S Slide Copier with Contrast Control Unit, image supplied by Chiswick Auctions

It is essentially a slide copier with a light source below and a camera stand that holds the film plane correctly in relation to the film holder to make images and these where used to make duplicate (transparencies or negatives) in the days of analog photography prior to the digital revolution. A good option I thought, as you can always improve the set up as you upgrade the camera. So thought I could just use my Nikon D850 and get a lens to sit below the bellows and all would be good. However finding one in good condition and at a responsible price is more tricky. They are available but I would want to ideally try before buying with one of these.

Next, I started to think about my Nikon D850 and that it is only 45megapixels – I mean do I really need more…? However as I have a Leica M11 and that is 61Mega pixels, thinking that would be better, I started to look at how to attach the Leica to the Bowens Illumitran, I know adaptors would do the trick, however while looking for one, I found another device from the 1950/70’s called a Leica Beoon.

Leica Beoon

Leica Beoon, image supplied by Kamerastore.com

This looks great I could use my Leica M11 and a standard 50mm lens as a complete set has extension tubes to enable it to focus at 1;1 which is important to copy the images onto the camera and if I did find a complete kit I could even mount a enlarger lens on it which would probably make the set up even sharper. As mentioned, I have an enlarger with a 50mm enlarger lens and a particularly good one as well, so perhaps that would be ideal I thought. Except then I  started to search for one and hit a road block, you can’t find them for less than £450 second hand and on top of that I still need to work out a light source to put underneath the Leica Beoon when I am using it. Ideally one that is flat enough that the whole set up does not wobble around when using it, otherwise I could get camera shake. So, I then found myself on various camera forums and Facebook groups listening and asking questions about what people thought of the strengths and weaknesses of scanning film versus the use of a digital camera as part of a “camera scanning” – as it is often referred to – set up.

Film Scanning

As I used to use a Imacon Scanner to make scans of my fashion images (when I was a much younger person who used to work doing fashion editorials and model tests. I thought, I would look to see if I could find a film scanner.

Consequently, I am back looking at film scanners and I find that Imacon are now Hasselblad and are no longer made (they stopped in 2019) and they were expensive when I was using them. I was hoping to find a low-cost Hasselblad Photo scanner. Now, after spending about 6 weeks on eBay, I know that low-cost and Hasselblad Photo scanners do not even come close to belonging in the same sentence, let alone the same universe.

Imacon scanner, image supplied by studiomanchester.com, who also offer hourly hire of this scanner.

I then start looking at the review site again and thing maybe I could get myself a Nikon 5000ED scanner so back to eBay and that really shocked me as they are averaging £950 for a scanner that was probably made back in 2004/5 or before. And while I could use software from Vuescan or Silverfast, I would still be thinking about how to connect it to my nice newish M1 Macbook Pro computer. Oh and a side note, I got a real shock how expensive Silverfast scanning software is these days, back in the day it used to come bundled with flatbed scanners now it pushes up the price of a new scanner significantly. Once upon a time I might have considered pirating scanning software, maybe not now.

So still further down the rabbit hole I go. I start looking at Plustek scanners and discover that they really have not changed much since 2004, now that is a long time ago in the tech world, so I am loathe to buy one. Come on guys do a bit of research and spend a bit of money and get autofocus and a good lens in these darned things and you will sell a lot more of them. Especially with the new generation of people wanting to digitise their film images.

Next, I look at a company called Reflecta and realise that they have been rebranding their scanners from another company from Taiwan called Pacific Image Equipment, who make a scanner called PrimeFilm XAs Scanner which in Europe is rebadged as the Reflecta RPS10M and this gets okay reviews when using the Silverfast software, which is concerning as I want to use Vuescan. PIE (Pacific Image Equipment) has upgraded this scanner and it is now called the Pacific Image PrimeFilm XA Plus, So I decide to think about this one.

What to do?

Next up I do a detour onto YouTube, falling further down the rabbit whole looking again at Camera scanning and find a video by Kyle McDougall called “FilmScanning with a Digital Camera – How good is it?” where he compares his results of using a Valoi scanning kit and his old Nikon Coolscan 9000 and that was quite impressive as he has sold his Nikon Coolscan and is using the Camera scanning option. I had previously decided that a Nikon Coolscan 9000 is just too expensive so I had already decided against this option even though it is a great scanner and can do both 35mm and 120 film scans. I do have a lot of 6×7 negs in my archive, so I would be able to use this feature in a scanner. I just do not want to buy a 20 year old scanner with its connection problems.

So off to Speedgraphic and look at the Valoi options only to realise that the kit is £299 and the copy stand he is using is another £200 on top of that I still need a macro lens which is another £120 for the Nikon 60mm f2.8 AF-D Macro lens for my Nikon D850, which I would rather not use, as if I am going to do camera scanning I would rather set myself up if to use my Leica M11. So, I start thinking is there another option to get to 1:1 reproduction other than the already mention Lecia Beoon. I start thinking that I saw a 90mm Macro lens on Red Dot Cameras clearance section for a rather good price only to find that the 90mm Macro does not do 1:1 and is soft in the corners according to a few reviews I read. So another dead end.

After all this I ring up Red Dot Cameras to ask if they know of a option to get to 1:1 using Leica lens other than the Lecia Beoon only to find myself talking to someone who uses a Beoon to scan their negatives and who has a Plustek 8200iSE scanner he describes issues that he is worried about scratching his negatives when he uses the metal plates that come with the Beoon and not being so sharp as he instead using carboard mounts that he has made for himself, this does not strike me as looking good, next he says if he wants good scans he uses the Plustek and if he just needs rough and ready small scans for the web he uses his Leica Beoon set up. That then answers my question, as I had already decided that if I was going to get a scanner I would get the Pacific Image PrimeFilm XA Plus.

I live in London and as the scanner I decided to get is not available here in the UK, I ordered it from B&H in New York on Tuesday morning and it arrived to me in London by Lunchtime on Thursday, now that is truly impressive. The only sour note was that they had a Sale on, so I jumped onto their chat line and asked when the sale was finishing as I wanted a few days to think about it before finally getting a scanner from the USA. As I was told the sale finished the next day. I then ordered it the next day while the sale is still on, only to find that while it was being shipped to me, B&H reduced the price by another $50, how annoying is that?! I emailed them while their massive Bild conference on and I knew they would be supper busy, yet their customer service sends me an email after I had raised the point about how it had changed mentioning how I had asked on chat, they are refunding me the $50. Credit where it’s due, I have to commend B&H not only for their fast delivery, but also great customer service.

Scanner arrived.

After all this deliberation, it is Thursday evening and I am sitting here with a nice shinny new scanner that is tiny. I did not think it would be so small. I followed the instruction and downloaded the software installed the driver then brought Vuescan and installed that only to find that my new Vuescan software is not recognising the scanner, I then read the details on the Vuescan website and it says I need to have the scanner driver installed, which I had already done and it was still not recognising the scanner. Next, I try scanning with what turns out to be rather rubbish software CyberView which is supplied with the scanner and I can’t scan with Vuescan. Their website says they support the scanner, so my frustration with digitising my negatives continues.

Then for some inexplicable reason the scanner gets recognised by Vuescan and I am off. It all now works, but for some reason there seems to be a little routine that I seem to need to follow for it to work. I have to have the scanner turned off, disconnect the cable from the computer, then reconnect the cable, start the scanner, then launch Vuescan and it will recognise the scanner and work. Now, I might get a good scan out of my rather scrappy negatives. It seems like I am rather rusty on processing of film and my negatives don’t have the range of tones that they should have, so I will, it looks like, be heading down another rabbit hole on my film processing. More on that another time…


Michael W Plant is a Portrait and Social documentary photographer, he also uses street photography to visualise the social landscape. You can see his work at: www.michaelwayneplant.com

Image Credits:

Kamerastore.com kindly gave me permission to use their Lecia Beoon image and are also offering to give readers a 5% discount on a purchase of a Leica Beoon, using the code 5MMCBEOON, this is valid till the 31st October 2023.

studiomanchester.com kindly gave me permission to use their image of a Hasselblad Scanner, they offer scanner hire at very reasonable rates.

Chiswick Auctions kindly gave permission to use the image of the Bowens Illumitran. After seeing the price they sold this one for I will be looking at auction sites more often, to see if I can pick one up for a similar price.

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38 thoughts on “Digitisation – a tale of a film scanning options rabbit hole”

  1. Nice and interesting story. I have been going ALL the way down that road already, and therefore I understand the frustrations, only to end up last year sending my films to a digitizing lab here, because they and their equipment do know how to get the colors and everything right. All I have to do then, on my Mac when I receive the films back is to make simple small changes: crop the pictures here and there, adjust colors, to my liking, or increase contrast, or saturation, etc.

    1. Hi Sorin,
      I get the idea of getting someone else to do it, I could even go to a place where they have an Imacon scanner to hire it. However, I want to be able to do it in my own workspace when I want to which is why I decided to keep falling down my rabbit hole till I found a solution that I am happy with.

  2. Nice tongue in cheek review. Not easy. My Epson V700 just ended its life, and while not over impressed (I have a Minolta that can work), I replaced it with a V850. So far, despite the £, I am quite impressed. That Nick Carver uses a V750 was a big decider. However, in the end use slide film and find a projector and screen… not easy either. Look forward to your Leica M-A review.

    1. Hi Mike,
      Glad you liked my story. It might not be everyones journey and we all arrive at our own solutions and that is what makes photography so interesting as each of our solutions helps us to create the work that we do.

  3. Great fun read. It definitely is a rabbit hole. That’s probably why there are so many articles about scanning out there.
    And with the growth in film shooting it’ll continue to be an issue for many. I remember that old Illumitran. I think I used it many years ago. And I don’t remember being impressed with the slide dupes.
    My scanning journey started about the same time the Coolscan was released. I had 500 sheet print boxes full of slides and negative from my newspaper and concert shooting days. I bought the Coolscan 5000 and after almost 20 years I still use it. Since Nikon hasn’t supported it in years I long ago tried Silverfast but never liked it and their support was very poor. I have been very happy with VueScan and like that they are constantly updating it.
    But I also have 120 and 4X5 and wanted to scan those. I didn’t bother till recently when I inherited the family archives of photos and negatives. I started playing with scanning with my Canon 5Ds and now R5. I tried the Valoi and some other methods and finally settled on a makeshift system that works well for me. Lately I’ve started creating contact or proof sheets of negatives in the same setup. The contact prints from concerts make really fun large prints.

    1. Hi Art,
      I am not so impressed with VueScan and I did use Silverfast for a while the scanner software that I really like was the Flextight software that came with the Imacon/Hasselblad scanner. Unfortunately due to the cost of one of those and also now they are getting older and it is hard to connect them to the computers we all use. I am not going to go there as much as I would have liked to.
      I might one day end up at the camera scanning stage as that I admit does like like a viable option however for now I am happy with my new scanner and so far it is working really well except for one small issue is that it does not always line up the frames correctly.

  4. Hi!
    Make sure you buy the extended warranty on that scanner, if at all possible. I had 2 fail in the first year, and a 3rd fail near the end of the squaretrade warranty. They would always fail in the same way, where they would blink on startup and never become ready, no matter how much futzing.

    As far as use, manually adjust the focus. You can do this in Vuescan and in Silverfast. The “autofocus” is useless. I tested mine with an AF1951 test frame and found it was sharpest at almost the max height. At that height it came out at ~4300dpi, which is ~24mp. I never was able, with any of them, to get the “whole-roll” scanning to work. The frame centering would drift too far by mid-roll, to the point where some frames where clipped by 20%. I spent *so* many hours trying to get that to work, as that was my holy grail.

    Honestly I can’t recommend this scanner due to the unreliability of it, in use and especially due to hardware failures. I prefer the XEs (if forced to traditional scan) because it ends up being faster with very similar results because you control the film placement. I would get so angry at the motorized feed on the XAs.

    These days I don’t trad scan except on the V850, sold the XEs, and only use the Epson for 35mm if something went wrong with the negs and I need infrared to clean it up. I’ve found the combination of the Valoi Easy35 w/ dust brush on my digital body, along with Filmlab App, has me getting my “scans” plus basic inversion done in < 15 minutes per roll. I’ve tried *everything &, Valoi stuff, the EFM v3, Negative Supply, annoying copystand madness.

    I tweaked my v850 – I raised the scanning bed so the height it optimized w/o using film holders. I use two sheets of ANR glass to sandwich the negs, and scan an entire roll of 120 in two passes. That’s really not too painful for that, and it yields ~31mp for 6×4.5, ~38mp for 6×6, and ~55mp for 6×8. I still use Filmlab App v3 for inversion though, and everything else is the same.

    Good luck on your home-scanning journey – it is a path of pain and hopefully you get to a fast and satisfying workflow soon!

    1. Hi Jeremy,
      If I was living in the USA I would have gone for the extended warranty however as I live in the UK I chose not to as I would have had to have it shaped back to the USA at my expense and as long as it does what it needs to do over the next few years I will then reevaluate the situation with camera scanning when/if my new PrineFilm XAPlus decides it want to pack it in and disappoint me. I get the feeling that scanners are no way near as robust as they should be and could be which is a real shame. As I believe after this journey of scanning exploration that any company who was to make a reliable and robust film scanner would really clean up the market.

  5. I share your pain having gone through a similar quandary fairly recently. There are a zillion posts on the web discussing the pros and cons between camera and dedicated film scanning with no clear conclusion. Clearly it’s very much an individual’s choice depending on their individual circumstances. Such as if they have the space to keep a fixed camera setup or if they need ICE to correct for old or poor quality negs or are happy with software that converts the neg scans to positives.

    My personal journey started with a Konica Minolta KM5400 ii dedicated scanner (actually I have two) for my collection of 35mm slides, some of which had seen better days having dated back to the 1970s. So ICE was important if I weren’t to spend months correcting 1000s of slide deficiencies by hand.

    Then for my new shots (I have a growing collection of film cameras of various formats) I tried camera scanning. I acquired a Kaiser RS1 copy stand (lovely bit of kit,) with a Kaiser Slimlite Piano high CRI light source and a set of Essential Film Holders of various formats. However I found that even with a permanent setup there was too much faffing around to check it was all well aligned and then the problem of converting from negs to positive. I don’t own Lightroom so can’t uses what seems to be the preferred app Negative Lab Pro.

    So I have reverted back to my KM dedicated scanner for 135. For medium format I use an Epson V850 which for 6×7 and 6×9, even 6×4.5, is good enough for me. I stress “for me”. For the occasional smaller formats eg 110 I use an external scanning company, if I produce something that I feel is worth it.

    Of course sites like http://www.filmscanner.info point out that most dedicated scanner manufacturers’ specs tally nowhere near what they produce in practice. But there again we shouldn’t forget that the 45MP resolution of a Nikon D850, for example, comes to us courtesy of a Bayer layer and interpolation. And just how much resolution, apart from grain, is there in 135?

    But as I say, it’s very much an individual’s choice. That’s why the debate will continue.

    *I use Vuescan (great product which has rescued many scanners from land fill) as a driver for my 5400 but use the KM app. Never got the Vuescan app working with my 5400 despite some valiant efforts from Ed from Vuescan.

  6. As a note for anyone interested. I have a Nikon 9000ED scanner, which I bought long ago. I recently wanted to use it again to scan some 35mm Ektachrome. I have an M1 macbook and ended up with an amazing chain of adaptors: firewire cable from the device to some kind of firewire connector-changer, to a firewire-to-thunderbolt adaptor (the mac I had before had thunderbolt) to a thunderbolt-to-usb-c adaptor.

    Even as I connected the thing it was clear that it would never work. Quite astonishingly then, the VueScan I installed to replace my antique version just found the scanner and knew all the right things about it. VueScan also still seems to be very supported (there’s a native ARM version). I think there might be some ordering-sensitivity: you need to connect the scanner, turn it on, wait for the whirring and clicking to subside and then start VueScan.

    Everything that followed was just the usual nightmare of having to think about colour spaces and everything else that makes scanning, with any device, such a horror.

    In some theoretical sense I am sure that I could do better than the 9000 using a drum scanner or something. In practice I found that if you overscan twice to reduce shadow noise a little the results are probably as good as the film is.

    So if you have, or want to buy, one of these old scanners, they will work.

    1. That’s the order that Ed (developer of Vuescan) basically told me. I agree Vuescan seems to be well supported as far as keeping old scanners going on new OSs.

      As regards the connector issues I’m told to avoid any cheap firewire to USB adapters as there is a possibility of frying the 9000’s board if not implemented correctly (Firewire using 12 v and USB 5V.)

      1. Hi Dave,
        I had read something about that using a daisy chain of adaptors could be death the the Coolscan 9000ED, I would if I went that way go and find an older computer that would then just be used exclusively for scanning. I have a spare monitor that I could attach to it and I know where I can get my hands on G4 Mac Towers that still run solidly and have firewire ports on them so I maybe should go and grab one so I can just sit on it just in case.

  7. Hi Dave,
    I fixed your typo that was an easy mistake to make. I suspect if I ever get around to starting to sort out my archive, I will end up wet scanning my 6×7 and 6×4.5 negs on the Epson V750 that I have and that is a really great scanner. and I will be working with my PrimeFilm XA Plus for all my 35mm films. I have 100 of rolls of film all made on Pentax 6×7 and various Mamiya 645 ProTL cameras that I would love to scan and get in to some form of order.

  8. I built my own using NIKON scanning components and a Sony A7ii. I can view the images as I scan on a 24 inch monitor. The camera is not permanently attached, it is only installed when I do scanning. The setup will scan 35mm slide, and any 35mm negatives, cut or uncut. I got so good at it after I got organized I could scan one slide a second. Negative and strips take longer.
    Here is a list of the parts I used.
    42MP SONY ALPHA A7r II which I already owned.
    Nikon PB-5 Bellows with PS-5 Copier from B&H, both boxed $149 for the two.
    Nikon 55mm f/3.5 Micro-NIKKOR from Pasco Camera Exchange, $69.95.
    Sony to Nikon Lens Adapter from Pasco Camera Exchange, Free.

  9. Agree. Scanning is very tedious, one reason I have been using a lab to develop and scan as expensive as it is. In the summer I had a hard time getting 68 degree water from the tap and being too lazy to use an ice bath I was shortening development times (sort of randomly) leading to inconsistencies that showed up in the scans. And then there is the dust…the bane of scanning. I have a setup to scan with my camera but again have been too lazy to tackle yet another process. Once I do get it set up, and if I can quell the dust I think it will be the best and easiest method. Louis.

  10. Hey Michael; nice article – I like that it is not preachy but just shares your process in such a well articulated and approachable manner. One thing I think it highlights is that there’s a whole bunch of options. (By the way, I agree that Kyle McDougall makes good sense) And having been down this particular rabbit hole myself for a while (even here – https://www.35mmc.com/19/10/2020/digitising-film-my-adventures-so-far-by-david-hume/ but this it three yrs old now. ) I would now say it’s one of those things where questions of “what’s best?” “what resolution?” etc really have no objective answer. Case in point – I had an image printed 1200mm wide from a 3000px wide file for exhibition and it was shortlisted for a prize; just depends on what you’re after. Having tried so many things makes me much more free and easy with the options – There’s a local lab where I can get Imacons done if I want, but knowing that, I rarely bother. FWIW my own setup uses a Nikon Df (16MP) and nice Nikkor Micro f2.8 60mm AFD. I used to use my 26MP Fuji but prefer the lower-res Nikon. This is for 35mm. If I wanted to scan a lot of 120 I might need to rethink, but the commercial scans I get of my 120 are just fine.

    Anyway – I think the point is; good on you for doing this, and it’s good to for people to read people’s experiences with various setups and see that there are many solutions that work, and to just find out from trying what it is that works best for yourself.

    Thanks for a good article that I’m sure will be helpful to many.

    1. Hi David,
      I am happy you liked the article and I do hope t helps photographers who want to do scan there negatives as it is a process and there are no right answers. Just a journey of discovery (or Rabbit hole) that all who want to digitise their analogue image go down. Each of us end up at different points depending on the results that we need for our own work.

  11. Hello,
    After a lot of trial and error, I’ve found my solution: a D7200 with its Nikkor 60 macro and Nikon’s ES-1 accessory, specially designed to scan dia. and negatives. (100€)

    I use the lighting salvaged from an old Epson scanner, or point my camera at the sky if I’m scanning black and white.
    A 35mm black-and-white negative is about 5 to 6 MP, so the 24 on my camera are sufficient for my work.

    1. Hi,
      I also looked at that option and discounted it as I would have had to buy yet another lens for my Nikon D850 which I currently do not want to do as I am trying to decide when I should switch over to a Z8 now or wait for the Z8mk2 in about 3/4 four years time and that internal dialogue could be the subject of a whole article in itself. So I better get writing and post that one on my own website as it is about digital photography.
      I have to say that the Nikon adaptor is an okay option and it is future proofed in that if you are upgrading cameras, as each time you upgrade your camera you upgrade the scanner.

  12. After trying to camera-scan 35mm negs I finally threw in the towel and bought a Nikon Coolscan V + Vuecsan. It works great and creates true 4,000 DPI resolution raw files with digital ICE. Now I’m eyeing a Nikon 5000 that can scan full rolls instead of strips of 6 frames.

    1. Hi Jim,
      I will admit that I was very tempted to go down that road of getting a Nikon CoolScan however the thought of it being 20 years old and just stopping working really did not appeal to me. Now if Nikon was to rerelease a new version of the CoolScan I can see them selling a lot of them. But then as Nikon are moving to mirrorless cameras and abandoning the DSLR and F-Mount I can see a day when we will be able to buy really cheap and wonderful F-mount lens, for much cheaper than we can now and I think they have already dropped a lot.
      Because of this I doubt Nikon would ever redo the CoolScan as it would have gotten my vote if it was newer.

      1. Darryl Carey has an excellent video on YouTube about the Nikon Coolscan and makes the point that some of these were used in commercial environments and have “some miles” on them. The opposite of this is the units that were used by enthusiasts and don’t have that many hours of use on them. The trick is staying away from the commercially-used units. I took mine apart to clean it immediately after I bought it and there wasn’t a spec of dust inside. I’m assuming I got a lightly used copy. It’s worked flawlessly with Vuescan for the last year. I actually 3D printed some dust covers for the openings in the scanner so it stays clean on the inside. Obviously, the electronics could still take a dump, but I’m feeling lucky.

        1. Hi Jim,
          I know what you mean about that aspect of some scanners used more commercially and some by people who really only scan a few hundred images as they would definitely put different level of wear and tear on a scanner. I hope yours lasts a long time. And I will have to look for those videos you mention.

  13. I’ve been through all of you have been through including the Nikon scanner. I am so done with scanners. They have their place but they introduce a lot of problems along with their large scan files. 3 years ago I started using my Canon 5D to do scans on my digital camera. What a difference! I no longer have to spot all my Dusty negatives and I have great 60 to 70 MB files. I highly suggest you try camera scanning for your next efforts.

    1. Hi Jeff,
      I might one day end up with a camera scanning option. For now however, I am happy with the option that I ended up with as it works for me. At the end of the day, the important thing in what we choose to do in digitising our negatives is what works for each of is going to be different.

  14. Kenneth Lundgren

    As a film photographer since mid 70, in my early teens I have collected a lot of film, I know it was the film I should spare.
    So ten years ago I bought Plustek 8200 SE scanner and started scan with Vuescan program. I´m also restarted with film again and did all process my self, Portra C-41 scanning, with my old Olympus OM-4 camera who I bought new in 1983.
    But unfortunately the scanner broke down after three years, and I doubt if I will buy a new one.

    I´m looking forward to you review about M-A since that camera has been in my radar for a long time.

    1. I know what you mean about the issues with scanner reliability they just don’t seem to be made that robustly, the older Imacon scanners where however well made however that was reflected in the price that they where originally sold for. I guess you will eventually use either someone else to do your scanning or end up with a camera scanner set up of some sort.

  15. Very interesting read! Brings back memories, though not as intense.. I had the same issues when I wanted to start scanning film on my own in 2018. The reason I decided to scan on my own was the huge cost savings (same thoughts when I started developing b&w film on my own), and being able to control the scanned output as opposed to the lab doing it with over-zealous use of sharpening and contrast. And also the lab cropping-out the image beyond the borders of what was captured in the negative. I did a lot weeks of reading and research (online articles and youtube videos), and once settled and within my budget, I did not think too much and bought an Epson V600, and later added Silverfast AI software (a super-upgrade compared to Epson’s own ScanSmart). The only issue is the images will be scanned into TIFF files. So there is some limitation to doing adjustments after scanning. 2 years ago I bought Negative Lab Pro after reading great reviews (I did weeks of research too!) and testing it on my own. I now scan the negative into DNG negative files in Silverfast (sort of like RAW in digi camera talk), and do adjustments in Negative Lab Pro + Lightroom. It works really well for me, that I rescanned all the negatives again prior to using Negative Lab pro. I hope your journey will end up with great results!

    1. Hi Jumahat,
      Glad you liked the article, I have been looking at the Negative Lab Pro and wondering if that would be a good option of doing DNG scans with ViewScan as they do have instructions on their website on how to do that. So something else to try.

  16. Hi Micheal,
    Yes, Negative Lab Pro is a great option! It’s really easy to use and make it so much easier and faster for me to get great results when scanning, especially for “processing” colour film. You will be scanning your film as-is (in negative format), and the inversion from negative to actual “positive” image will be done via the NLP plug-in Adobe Lightroom. There is a free trial of NLP, check it out and see if it’s good for you. Ok, i forgot to mention, you’ll need to have a Lightroom to use it. Good luck!

    1. Yeah, that is a problem for me as I deleted Lightroom a while ago. I have not been tempted back either so I am not sure what to do about that as I have been using DxO PhotoLab for some time now. I have been experimenting with Camera Raw and Photoshop recently as I was wanting to see how DxO’s PureRAW3 worked. I like that software as it cleans up my higher ISO images rather nicely. But still I am not keen on returning to Lightroom. I now use Photo Mechanic to handle my digital library and that is just so much easier.

  17. I went down these rabbit holes as well.
    BEOON was soft and a big disappointment with different lens and combinations.
    Minolta 5400 is very good but only for 35mm and it’s slow.
    Nikon 9000 is a good compromise to the Minolta but it’s huge, and if you’re doing lots of scans is still slow.

    My main finding through all the years are:
    – Scanning large grain film needs the maximum resolution and even then still likely to have aliasing exaggerate the grain. If you’re shooting new film and know you will be scanning then I’d suggest use fine grain film if at all possible.
    – Film flatness is almost never achieved. Your negatives in the sleeves look very bowed. This is a battle you cannot win. So work on techniques to develop and dry your film flat. And look for films that have a reputation for drying flat. Putting under heavy books, even for years, does not work as you’d hope. Also cutting film into strips create a trauma near the cut and kills film flatness at those edges when scanning. Better don’t cut next to a negative you really want to scan.
    – I shoot black and white so film scratches are a pain to correct.
    – Overexposed films are easier to scan than underexposed.
    – Multiple passes of scanning don’t add too much which a good thing as you save time

    My conclusion was to shoot something like FP4+ 120 roll film rated at 80. Perceptol is a developer to try for HP5+ rated at 200. 120 film to make the scratches easier to deal with, less enlargement size means any film flatness soft areas less noticeable too. Use Vuescan and the Nikon 9000. Funny enough the glass carrier you will want but not use too much because the increased dust removal. The much maligned pull taunt glassless negative carrier is the best.
    What is missing is a way to do a whole roll at once before it’s cut and sleeved. Nikon 5000 does that but I never could find or afford one. And it’s only for 35mm and not 120.

    Overall I’ve stopped this workflow as it’s too involved, takes time, and I don’t shoot enough so chemicals and film go off. But if you’re into film and scanning this is where I landed after many many years of rabbit holes

    1. Hi Russel,
      Thanks for your long comment it is very well considered. I will be working worth 35mm exclusively as I am not about to get back into Medium format film photography. For now I am happy with my decision to get the PrimeFilm XAplus scanner. I have chosen three films that I will experiment with, they are Ilford Delta 100 & 400 and Rollei Retro 400S. As I do documentary work I want to be able to work in sometime difficult lighting conditions. I might one day find a Nikon 5000 to use.

  18. Mr Plant,
    I am in this quandary right now! I have built (80%) my darkroom in the basement, but have all along questioned myself on sticking with the photo-chemistry approach.
    I realize that I must apply both disciplines to be relevant.
    My biggest issue is that most of my negs are 4″x5″ and the scanning options are even more limited and expensive.
    If I have revelations I will pass them along.
    Good, timely article!
    John T Miles

    1. Hi John,
      I would say that for 4×5 negs then there are two options one is the Imacon scanner as it is one of the best ways of scanning 4×5 negs. The other option is the Wet Scan kit for Epson flatbed scanners. I have one of these and I would recommend it for larger negs and 4×5 is definitely on the larger side. I will not use it for 35mm as the curl on some negs makes it hard to work with. However for medium format and larger then it is definately a good option.

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