Regarding Scanners

Sometimes You Can Scan Film Better at Home

Recorded on December 5th, 2016

All the trouble required to scan 35mm at home can be well worth it. The image below is a “high res” photo, scanned from a well-known film lab on a pretty high-end scanner. It’s one of the first pro scans from a roll of Tri-X 400 I shot on my dad’s Nikomat FTn with a 50mm f/1.4 lens. I was way underwhelmed when I saw it. It in no way resembled 35mm film. Blown-out highlights, smoothed-over textures, and murky, dingy shadows. I knew film should look better than this:

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Shortly after, I got the Plustek scanner. What a difference. I scan in a way that preserves much more of the highlight and shadow detail, and the glorious film grain is still there. I have to tweak levels and contrast in Lightroom, but there’s a point to it because the details are still there, waiting to be drawn out. It costs much more in my time than paying the lab less than 50 cents per scan, but it’s so worth it:

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I don’t think that my Plustek is better than the Noritsu or whatever it is at the lab, but I do think that the particular process and/or technician they used on that roll didn’t let the pro scanner rise to anywhere near its full potential.

Find Your Film Scanner’s Sharpest Channel

Recorded on November 23rd, 2016

Thanks to this wonderfully detailed Photo.net article about scanning black and white film, which I think I’ve linked to before, I learned that one of the color channels in a scanner — red, green, or blue — is most likely sharper than the other two. After some experimentation and pixel-peeping, I found that the green one on my scanner is definitely sharpest. Thankfully, in VueScan, I can make a black and white scan from any single channel, or I can roll the dice and let the scanner figure it out and I suppose use all three combined.

Here’s what I saw during the experiment. These are all unretouched 100% crops, straight out of the scanner at 3600 dpi, and the exposure and contrast aren’t corrected. You can see more grain and details on the green one. That’s what I’ll use for all my black and white scans from here on.

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Ilford Antistatic Cloth for Scanning Negatives

Recorded on November 20th, 2016

If you spend any time at all scanning your own negatives, you owe it to yourself to get an Ilford antistatic cloth. Amazon has them for $16 now, which may seem like a lot, but I’ve paid almost that much just for high resolution scans alone. In forum after forum, the Ilford cloths came up as the only one to get.

Before I had this cloth, I would scan negatives and be a little bummed at all the speckly dust I had to remove in Pixelmator or Lightroom after scanning — especially for black and white photos. A wipe with this cloth before laying the negative in the tray removes almost all the loose dust. I give them one last blast of air from a bulb before inserting the film tray in the scanner. I can spend more time scanning and gazing at photos and less time using the Heal tool.

While you’re at it, order some cotton gloves. You don’t want your greasy paws leaving fingerprints on your negatives.

Thumbs-Up on the Plustek OpticFilm 8200i

Recorded on November 4th, 2016

I can’t believe how good the Plustek scanner is. It can give more resolution and better shadow and highlight detail (because I have more time to spend) than the Fuji Frontier scanner at a film lab I just sent a roll to. The only thing they can do better and faster is scratch and dust removal.

Below are two samples from a shot of Kodak Gold 400 from London in 1997. I tried to keep the captures as plain-vanilla as I could with no adjustments or scanner-software auto-correction. The first image is from an old Epson V500 flatbed document scanner. It does a lot better than I thought it would in comparison.

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The second image is from the new Plustek 8200i. Stunning. In the Epson, it feels like you’re looking at a picture of a negative. With the Plustek, it feels like you’re just looking at life.

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Highly recommended. I know what I’m doing this weekend!