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Thread: Precision Camera ultra-high resolution scanning (and dev!)

  1. #1
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    Dec 2012
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    Post Precision Camera ultra-high resolution scanning (and dev!)

    Precision Camera offers an ultra-high resolution scanning service, with free C-41 developing ($8 surcharge for E6 or black-and-white) for GetDPI and RangeFinderForum members. They had a thread about it over on RFF, but none here, so I decided to give it a try and do a little writeup of the service when I got the images back. It's my first review, so let me know if I've missed anything.

    EXIF data tells me that Precision Camera uses a Noritsu QSS-32 minilab. Pictures come back as JPGs, 4492x6774 and weigh in between 15 and 30 MB.

    Let's take a look and see what that really means. I shot this picture with an 80mm lens onto 35mm Portra 400. I cropped some empty space off the top to bring the full frame down to 8x10, but other than that is just a straight scaling-down to web-friendly size.

    Fresh from the original JPG on the CD, here's a crop at 100% from around her eye. It's nice to brag about this resolution, but the fact is that the output is a bit noisy, a little grainy. I almost expect that. At just a bit over 30MP, we're really, really pushing the limits of 35mm film, and we're going to have to scale down a bit to get something clean. Fortunately we've got plenty of extra pixels.

    This next picture is what I got sizing the picture down to about 3600*5400. You can still see some grain, and little bit of noise reduction would go a long way to cleaning up, but this seems like a good intermediate step, just to show some progress.

    And here's a little detail from her coat. It's not a bad capture of the texture in the fabric, and the individual stitches in her collar.

    I really wonder how this compares to the negative as a physical artifact - how would this compare to a similar magnification on a real, wet-lab, grain-focused print? Maybe I'll find out and follow up.

    In my (limited) experiments, the scans start looking presentable around 15-18 MP. At 2500x3750 (~9.4MP, roughly 8x10 printing size at 300dpi) they start looking really good - nice smooth tones and detail, with just a little "filminess" that I can't quite place - but by then you've lost the fine details like the coat fabric texture.

    A few other observations:
    1 - I'm generally very happy with the scans, though 6774x4492 is definitely... optimistic. This said, we can throw away an awful lot of pixels before we start suffering for any real purposes. If I were working on something really critical, though, I'd pull the best handful of images and spring for Imacon scans.
    2 - I think the Noritsu shaves off about a millimeter off either the left and top edges of the frame. I notice on some scans that I've lost the tops of hats and hair if my composition was too tight. It's not a dealbreaker, but it is something to plan around.
    3 - The first time I sent film in, one of the CDs came back defective, and I could only get the first few pictures off of it. That's OK; coasters happen. Rene at the film lab sent me a box, prepaid, to collect the film again and rescan. He tells me that when Precision moves to its new facility next month, they'll be able to store images for 30 days in case something like that happens again. Kudos for the service and for the impending upgrade.

  2. #2
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    Oct 2007
    Gilroy, California
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    Re: Precision Camera ultra-high resolution scanning (and dev!)


    Is there any advantage to having them scanned as TIFF files, a service they also provide, in terms of any further processing?

    Thanks, Steve

  3. #3
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    Aug 2011
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    Re: Precision Camera ultra-high resolution scanning (and dev!)

    TIFF is a lossless compression/file format while JPEG isn't and has many artifacts that can be clearly seen in print. Obviously the files would be bigger as TIFFs.
    Po-Ming Chu

  4. #4
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    Re: Precision Camera ultra-high resolution scanning (and dev!)

    This is great and I sent the link to a few film shooting friends on the RFF who didn't know anything about this.

    I'm rather tickled by the "ultra-high resolution" scanning as these aren't in the 8000ppi range of the latest Imacon or the 10,000ppi available with the Aztek drum scanners. I wonder what they would call scans from those scanners? "Super-ultimate-maximum-ultra-high resolution"? :-P

    As an aside, TIFF isn't a lossless compression file format, it's a tagged image file format allowing one the option of lossless (e.g. lzw, group 4 compressions) or lossy (e.g. jpeg) compressions. If they save their JPEGs with high quality or better I doubt there are any artifacts in the file at all. If this were the case, the JPEGs right out of every camera would also print with "many artifacts that can be clearly seen in print".

    There are institutions/workflows which require uncompressed TIFFs to meet stated quality standards, but I see no reason to pay extra for the TIFFs. If one is really worried about it, they could get both types of scans the first time around, print the same image from both file types, and compare.

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