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Thread: Large Format Film Digitize Option

  1. #1
    Senior Member PSon's Avatar
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    Large Format Film Digitize Option

    When it comes to landscape, large format film is still a gold standard. However, investing in a drum scanner is quite complicated in learning curve, support, and expense. I look forward to find a new solution to digitize these film. I look forward to hear from folks who may have the alternative method to digitize the large format film as I am searching for a protocol that would facilitate the expense of this process.

    -Son

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Son, In addition to owning a small commercial photo studio, I am a partner in an Ad Agency. We have clients with archives of 4X5 transparencies.

    About a year ago we added a Imacon 949 to the photo studio to scan MF works, but we also took on the job of scanning all the historical 4X5 works of clients to build a library of digitized work. Prior to that we were slowly having drum scans done to accomplish the task.

    The 949 has proven to stand toe-to-toe with those scans, while the speed and convenience of the 949 has helped complete the task much faster than previously expected.

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    I'll second the support on the large Imacon's. My local photo store (Keeble and Shuchat in Palo Alto, CA) has an Imacon X5 (replaced the 949) on the floor that they will rent out at $60/hour. My current workflow is to do the normal lightbox sort, then do a quick scan of the keepers on my Epson flatbed. (This works really great on the negative emulsions to get a better idea of color and tonality.) I'll use these to catalog and select the best for Imacon scanning. When I've saved up enough to warrant the time, I go in and buy a few hours on the Imacon. I don't do tons of LF volume, so this is a pretty neat system for me.

    Cheers,
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Senior Member PSon's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Son, In addition to owning a small commercial photo studio, I am a partner in an Ad Agency. We have clients with archives of 4X5 transparencies.

    About a year ago we added a Imacon 949 to the photo studio to scan MF works, but we also took on the job of scanning all the historical 4X5 works of clients to build a library of digitized work. Prior to that we were slowly having drum scans done to accomplish the task.

    The 949 has proven to stand toe-to-toe with those scans, while the speed and convenience of the 949 has helped complete the task much faster than previously expected.
    Marc, as I mentioned in the other thread, your expertise in the Imacon scanners has bring hope to those that want to digitize their larger format film. The reason is simple, everyone want to do drum scan as the gold standard, but they fear of the cost and the high slope of learning curve. I believe fear has been one of the key factor leading folks to shy away from film. Through these years I have observed how you have single handedly brought the Imacon scanner to the forth front for photographers as the high end alternative way to scan and archive their film. I am working on a project and I hope to be able to bring it to fruition, once I can set up my system I know I will need to compare notes with you if the opportunity is available.

    -Son
    Last edited by PSon; 7th November 2007 at 10:15. Reason: for clarity
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    Senior Member PSon's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    What is the best way to flaten the film plane and where to get it for duplication?
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    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Son,

    I've been dabbling with multiple formats, and I've found different setups to be the sweet spot when it comes to digitizing.

    For MF I get great results with Nikon 8000, wetmount and multisampling (in fact better than low-end drum scans - keep reading). There are several good solutions for MF scans including of course the Imacons which have a great way of achieving film flatness.

    For 4x5 there are also several good solutions. I don't have that many 4x5's so I scan them the same way as my 8x10's.

    For 8x10 it is tricky. I have tried (still have) a Microtek 1800f that leaves me unimpressed, as only the center of the scan bed gives good results. Also, due to the lengthy time of an 8x10 scan (especially with multisampling) the CCD heats up and towards the end of the scan the blacks are green. Most flatbed scanners without dedicated active cooling seem to have this problem.

    Beginning of last year I bought a Howtek 4500 drum scanner on Ebay, got it shipped from Canada. At first it didnt work when I powered it on, but a few kicks (!) and it started. I took it apart and cleaned all the electrical connectors, and it has been running fine ever since. Before moving back to Europe this spring I took the Howtek down to Aztek for full mainenance service, so it should be good for a few more years. Total cost so far has been $1500 puchase with shipping (incl 4 drums and mounting station so it was a steal), $1400 maintenance at Aztek, and about $800 for the ionizing gun setup (which is great for dusting off anything including DSLR sensors, as well as getting the static out of my girlfriend's dress).

    Comparing drum scanning workflow to scanning with my Nikon 8000, it's quite a difference. For the drum scanner, getting rid of as much dust as possible is the key. I have a ionizing air gun called Top Gun to neutralized static electricity. With the gun is an air compressor, and a special air filter to make sure the air is perfectly clean and dry. The next step is wet mounting, which is an art form by itself. Once wet mounted, the scanning process is fairly straightforward, and the film comes out of the wet mounting fluid cleaner than it was before, no worries there.

    The Howtek 4500 scans at 10 bits per channel, which is decent but not great. There is no way to adjust exposure before digitizing (unless you get Aztek's expensive software) so reaching into dark areas is still difficult.

    Note that this is 10 _linear_ bits depth, some people confuse this with gamma-encoded bit depth. 10 linear bits of density corresponds to 10/2.2 bits of density in AdobeRGB space. (Don't get this wrong, it's still a good idea to edit in 16 bits!!!) My Nikon 8000 with 16x multisampling does capture 14 true bits of linear density, it's actually quite impressive (but a 6x9 scan takes 3 hours...)

    Anyway, to summarize, I would not recommend getting your own drum scanner for 4x5 or smaller formats, the effort involved is too much (plus you have to dedicate a room in your home to be your dust-free zone). Getting the scans done at a scanning service might be worth it. For 8x10 I have not seen any other good solution than drum scans, perhaps a high end flatbed would be good too.

    Hope this helps sorry about the excessive ramblings,

    Lars

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    Senior Member PSon's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Lars,
    Thank you for sharing with us your extensive knowledge in this area. I hope we will be able to share note when I am done with my own search.
    Best Regards,
    -Son
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Son, In addition to owning a small commercial photo studio, I am a partner in an Ad Agency. We have clients with archives of 4X5 transparencies.

    About a year ago we added a Imacon 949 to the photo studio to scan MF works, but we also took on the job of scanning all the historical 4X5 works of clients to build a library of digitized work. Prior to that we were slowly having drum scans done to accomplish the task.

    The 949 has proven to stand toe-to-toe with those scans, while the speed and convenience of the 949 has helped complete the task much faster than previously expected.
    I have always, where possible, had drum scans made from my 5x4 film.
    (For what its worth, for a time I was able to do my own scanning at a college I was doing some teaching at where I could use both an old drum scanner and an older imacon...the drum scanner, despite the operator (!) produced better files for large 40 inch wide prints).

    Recently I have had some imacon 949 scans of my hasselblad 6x6 medium format film and have been really pleased with the results, producing great images at up to 20x20 inch prints.

    It will certainly be interesting to make a comparison between professional scans from the 949 and a drum scan from 5x4 film for a 40 inch wide print.
    I will have scanning to do after new year and will get the same film scanned with both and then make some crop prints at the full size to compare.(the 949 scans are certainly cheaper)

    I do believe though that the scanning operator will make a large difference and the scanners I use have one or the other so of course there will be that variable in there...but at the end of the day I will know how to get the best out of my 54 film.

    Marc

    www.marcwilson.co.uk

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Marc: Sounds like a really interesting test to compare the 949 directly to a drum scan on 4x5, and I for one will be VERY interested in seeing your results! As it stands now, I am considering 4x5 scanner options and due to my budget restrictions, it is the 848 that is under serious consideration...

    Cheers,
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    Marc: Sounds like a really interesting test to compare the 949 directly to a drum scan on 4x5, and I for one will be VERY interested in seeing your results! As it stands now, I am considering 4x5 scanner options and due to my budget restrictions, it is the 848 that is under serious consideration...

    Cheers,
    Of course the real proof is in the printing but I'll post the scan crops here also when that happens to give an idea.

    Marc

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    That would be great Marc and any other tests you want to share we would love to see them. Thanks Guy
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    DougDolde
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    I had the same 4x5 Provia transparency scanned on a 949 by JaincoTech in India and also on a Tango drum scanner by West Coast Imaging. Both were done at about 2000 dpi and 16 bit.

    I have posted the results here, all the crops are raw scans, unprocessed and unsharpened just as delivered to me.

    http://www.painted-with-light.com/scan2.html

    I also did another transparency which showed worse results for the 949 but I am thinking it was a bad scan, probably out of focus.

    http://www.painted-with-light.com/scan.html

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Hi Doug:

    I looked at your files and suspect the Imacon used for the scan is out of adjustment. (There is a protocol to go through to re-calibrate focus every so often and it appears it has not been performed in a while on that machine.) Just as curious is the drum scan actually looks over-sharpened to me, which accentuates the grain and shadow noise.

    Nonetheless, it is an interesting comparison and shows the potential for the gains in a wet-mount scan.

    thanks for sharing!
    Jack
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    Senior Member PSon's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    I agree with Jack on the potential improvement with the wet-mount scan method. The flat plan is essential for macro and copy works.
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Quote Originally Posted by DougDolde View Post
    I had the same 4x5 Provia transparency scanned on a 949 by JaincoTech in India and also on a Tango drum scanner by West Coast Imaging. Both were done at about 2000 dpi and 16 bit.

    I have posted the results here, all the crops are raw scans, unprocessed and unsharpened just as delivered to me.

    http://www.painted-with-light.com/scan2.html

    I also did another transparency which showed worse results for the 949 but I am thinking it was a bad scan, probably out of focus.

    http://www.painted-with-light.com/scan.html
    Sorry, but there's something very wrong with the 949 scan. I've never seen one that bad ... where you can't see the grain in an 100% crop. Either the machine is badly out of calibration and/or damaged, or the operator was manually focusing and did a poor job of it.

    There is one other advantage I've discovered in my work with the 949 ... this scanner is so fast, it encourages multiple scans and merging. A friend of mine is experimenting with HDR Merges and will help me implement his findings with the 949.

    Here's another interesting thought to consider for scanning 8X10s ... at least B&W 8X10s:

    Contact prints then scanned on a high-end flatbed.

    I had read where a few famous photographers shoot B&W and have master silver prints made ... then those were scanned on a flatbed. So I went into my portfolio of B&W prints made over the years, and tried scanning those. I was simply amazed at the results. When printed at the same size on Crane's Museso Silver Rag DW paper on an Epson 3800, it was difficult to tell them from the originals.

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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Jack - re drum scan looking oversharpened (you might know this but other readers might not):

    Drums scanners let you choose aperture size to match scan pitch.

    Too large aperture means the sample circles overlap - you get a softness comparable to an anti-aliasing filter on a DC sensor.

    Too small aperture means there is a gap between sample areas - information is lost, the image looks oversharpened. This can also cause moire effects if scanning patterns like rasterized prints.

    A properly chosen aperture should yield an image that looks crisp and sharp - unlike CCD scanners and digital camera sensors there is no inherent softness in a drum scan.

    To my eye, Marc's drum scans don't look too sharp at all. what you see is film grain. Possibly the scan was not wetmounted.

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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post

    I had read where a few famous photographers shoot B&W and have master silver prints made ... then those were scanned on a flatbed. So I went into my portfolio of B&W prints made over the years, and tried scanning those. I was simply amazed at the results. When printed at the same size on Crane's Museso Silver Rag DW paper on an Epson 3800, it was difficult to tell them from the originals.
    I think it was Salgado (or maybe Gibson) who would take a freshly processed print right out of the washer and mount it to his flatbed and scan it before it dried down; he claimed a print never looked better than right out of the bath
    Jack
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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Quote Originally Posted by Lars Vinberg View Post
    To my eye, Marc's drum scans don't look too sharp at all. what you see is film grain. Possibly the scan was not wetmounted.
    I'll defer to your expertise here Lars. First off, I am referring to the 2nd set of scans --- the first set look much more similar. What I think I see is the grain itself looks over-resolved for the image --- maybe it wasn't wet-mounted...
    Jack
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  19. #19
    DougDolde
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    I realized that I did not post unphotoshopped and unsharpened files for both scans. I have corrected this and they are both now totally unmodified and just as I received them from the scan vendors.

    I should note that this test wasn't done to show that a Tango scan is better than an Imacon 949 scan. That's obvious. Rather I did it because I wanted to determine if a $16 Imacon scan from JaincoTech in India was good enough to forgo getting a Tango drum scan from WCI. My conclusion is that it is indeed good enough except possibly at very large print sizes.

    I have also posted another transparency comparison, also from the Grand Canyon:

    http://www.painted-with-light.com/scan3.html

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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Quote Originally Posted by DougDolde View Post
    I should note that this test wasn't done to show that a Tango scan is better than an Imacon 949 scan. That's obvious. Rather I did it because I wanted to determine if a $16 Imacon scan from JaincoTech in India was good enough to forgo getting a Tango drum scan from WCI. My conclusion is that it is indeed good enough except possibly at very large print sizes.

    http://www.painted-with-light.com/scan3.html
    That last sentence is the crux of the issue.
    The choice is the cheaper scan which wil do for most occasions or the more expensive scan if you think you may print big.
    For me it can become, therefore, a false economy to go with the cheaper scan as although the larger percentage of my print sales are in smaller size prints, I will allways end up printing at 40x30 inches (or larger) at some point, be it for exhibition or print sale.
    For me shooting 54 is not just for the movements but to get the best image quality I can.(hence my return to 54 from the more flexible medium format film)
    So top film, great lens, dark slide over quickload, heavy tripod, lightjet print, etc, etc...so it seems wrong to not use the best scan possible and then within that there are the variables of scanner operator both in terms of quality and of course cost...that is what I am currently looking into also and I have found someone here in the uk that may fit the bill...
    Price wise we can look at 10 or so for the imacon scan, 47 for a 250meg lab drum scan and 52 approx for a top flight operator drum scan)
    So that is a big difference in cost but as it's all about the final result...
    I'll keep you all posted.

    (and yes I know I should by that nature be shooting a larger film format but 54 is what works for me in terms of portability for the shots I do)

    Marc

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    Senior Member Steve Hendrix's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    The big plus of 4x5 scanning would be the ability to do it yourself, thereby negating operator error (or at least personalizing it ).

    I worked for Imacon back in 1999 - 2001, and continue to sell the Flextight scanners today and have performed numerous scan-offs between drum scanners and the Flextights. Even with the Precision II, the results were within a hair of each other - the drum scan usually offering just a tad more shadow detail that was indistinguishable in the final print.

    With the numerous Flextight generations since, I would expect this difference to be even less so as dynamic range has been expanded. However, the great thing about the Flextight is the software, which allows you to tweak the scans very effectively. On the other hand, in the wrong hands, this can also produce mediocre results.

    One issue regarding soft Flextight scans can often be traced to the fact that recent Flextight scanners offer auto focus, and if the proper contrast area isn't defined well enough, a soft scan can result. This appears possible with some of the samples from this thread.

    Steve Hendrix
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  22. #22
    DougDolde
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    A new test:

    Both are raw scans, totally unprocessed and unsharpened. Just converted to sRGB then saved as jpg level 12. Both done by West Coast Imaging.

    Tango scan was done at 16 bit then converted to 8 bit for jpg. iQsmart3 scan done at 8 bit. Both at 2000 dpi. This is the $15 Creo iQsmart3 scan and not wet mounted.

    I did this for my own info (but thought I'd share it) and think in most cases the $15 iQsmart is going to be my choice.

    I'll no longer be using Jainco Tech and their 949 scans. Actually the Jainco scans cost $16 and change plus shipping to India and back. A little dust removal on the iQsmart scans is no big deal; WCI appears to clean the film pretty well.

    http://www.painted-with-light.com/scan4.html

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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    The iqsmart scan looks very good for $15...
    Jack
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Here's another interesting thought to consider for scanning 8X10s ... at least B&W 8X10s:

    Contact prints then scanned on a high-end flatbed.
    Not exactly the same, but I've scanned Polaroid Type 59 (roughly 4x5 print) on my old Epson flatbed (1640) and then reprinted at larger sizes. Works very nicely!

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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    FWIW, Ralph GIbson scans wet darkroom prints before they dry down --- he feels this captures the traditional print at its best.
    Jack
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    FWIW, Ralph GIbson scans wet darkroom prints before they dry down --- he feels this captures the traditional print at its best.
    Now that is a truly different approach. I do understand the logic however and look forward to doing some of the same things.

    If you recall, Ansel always dried down his images in the microwave to see where things were going! Sometimes there were four or five tries before getting the right tonality!

    Just MHO

    Woody

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    Senior Member PSon's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format Film Digitize Option

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    FWIW, Ralph GIbson scans wet darkroom prints before they dry down --- he feels this captures the traditional print at its best.
    Jack: that is some dedication there for scanning.
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