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Thread: MFDB vs Scan backs

  1. #1
    Senior Member routlaw's Avatar
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    MFDB vs Scan backs

    Anyone here ever had the chance to make serious comparisons with the high res MFDB's such as the H3D 39 (perhaps the MS version) or PO 45 to a scan back like the Betterlight, especially when using as a copy setup?

    No doubt the BL has been the setup of choice for years for this type of work, but the DB's have come along way theoretically in recent years. And I know that some museums do use the MS versions of the MFDB's, but are they giving up some quality for a more convenient and fluid workflow?

    Thanks in advance.

    Rob

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: MFDB vs Scan backs

    I used to own a Betterlight Super 6K and now own a P45+... IMHO if one is going to be doing art-repro full time on flat artwork, I think the Betterlight solution is the better choice.

    First off, it is much easier to get the back of a view camera perfectly aligned with the artwork using a tool like the Zig-Align than it is with an MF SLR. And while you can use an MFDB on a view camera, the Betterlight's larger capture area opens up a broader selection of focal lengths designed for flat-filed copy work than the smaller capture area of a MFDB does. (IIRC, Mike at Betterlight has even had a custom repro lens made up -- a 180 I think -- that delivers exceptional flatness of field and resolution at normal repro distances.) The mid-range Betterlight super 6K nets you 108MP of capture resolution in high-res mode, and you get even more with the larger back, giving you significantly more pixels to work with than MS MFDB. Finally, the capture software is designed around doing art-repro and allows you full functionality for color management, tone curve, highlight and shadow points, live electronic focus, and more...

    None of this is to say you cannot do art-repro with a current MFDB, you certainly can. And for a photographer doing multiple types of shooting, or even 3-d repro, the MFDB may be a better overall choice. But for dedicated flat repro work, IMHO the level of fine control over all the issues of repro will be much higher with the Betterlight set-up.

    My .02,
    Jack
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    Workshop Member lance_schad's Avatar
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    Re: MFDB vs Scan backs

    Funny this topic comes up. It has been on my plate to work with Doug on doing a comparison between the PhaseOne Powerphase FX + and stitched P25+/P45+ files.

    Over the years I have installed many FineArt repro systems that were scanning based on the BetterLight and PhaseOne. They both provided excellent solutions, but were a pain when it came to getting everything aligned and the scan times were slow especially when using cross polarization.

    If the P series backs hold their own in these tests( I am confident they will) there will then be the added benefit of using tools like the color editor to nail down those hard to get colors and provide a nice work-flow. That along with a much faster scan time.

    With the P45/+ you can get using the FlexAdapter a 12000x7200 pixel image (66x40 inches)@ 180dpi.

    BTW the PowerPhase FX+ even though not really being pushed by PhaseOne these days becuase their focus is on capture backs are still available new and we have a few used ones at great prices. The PowerPhase FX + captures 12600x10500 pixels . These units are firewire based and scan directly to TIFF . The Image Capture Software is very straightforward and even has a Uniform Light Tool to create a lighting map and apply it to the finished file during scanning. We have the FX+ running on a Intel Mac with 10.4x with no problems, will work with 10.5 on PowerPC Macs..

    Lance
    Last edited by lance_schad; 31st October 2008 at 10:58.
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    Workshop Member lance_schad's Avatar
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    Re: MFDB vs Scan backs

    Quote Originally Posted by routlaw View Post
    Anyone here ever had the chance to make serious comparisons with the high res MFDB's such as the H3D 39 (perhaps the MS version) or PO 45 to a scan back like the Betterlight, especially when using as a copy setup?

    No doubt the BL has been the setup of choice for years for this type of work, but the DB's have come along way theoretically in recent years. And I know that some museums do use the MS versions of the MFDB's, but are they giving up some quality for a more convenient and fluid workflow?

    Thanks in advance.

    Rob
    By the way what is the size artwork you are looking to reproduce and what types mostly?
    L
    LANCE SCHAD - Digital Transitions - Phase One,Mamiya | Leaf,Arca-Swiss,Cambo, Profoto
    direct/cell:610-496-5586 office:877-367-8537x224
    http://www.digitaltransitions.com email:[email protected]

  5. #5
    Senior Member routlaw's Avatar
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    Re: MFDB vs Scan backs

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    I used to own a Betterlight Super 6K and now own a P45+... IMHO if one is going to be doing art-repro full time on flat artwork, I think the Betterlight solution is the better choice.

    First off, it is much easier to get the back of a view camera perfectly aligned with the artwork using a tool like the Zig-Align than it is with an MF SLR. And while you can use an MFDB on a view camera, the Betterlight's larger capture area opens up a broader selection of focal lengths designed for flat-filed copy work than the smaller capture area of a MFDB does. (IIRC, Mike at Betterlight has even had a custom repro lens made up -- a 180 I think -- that delivers exceptional flatness of field and resolution at normal repro distances.) The mid-range Betterlight super 6K nets you 108MP of capture resolution in high-res mode, and you get even more with the larger back, giving you significantly more pixels to work with than MS MFDB. Finally, the capture software is designed around doing art-repro and allows you full functionality for color management, tone curve, highlight and shadow points, live electronic focus, and more...

    None of this is to say you cannot do art-repro with a current MFDB, you certainly can. And for a photographer doing multiple types of shooting, or even 3-d repro, the MFDB may be a better overall choice. But for dedicated flat repro work, IMHO the level of fine control over all the issues of repro will be much higher with the Betterlight set-up.

    My .02,
    And there in lies the rub, "for a photographer doing multiple types of shooting, the MFDB may be a better overall choice".

    While a large part of my business is working with artist documenting as well as reproducing flat art work, I also do many other things such as landscapes, product & some architectural et al. Currently I have been using the Nikon D3/Cambo Ultima setup and when required stitch many images together creating some very large files upwards of 200 mb in some cases. The system never ceases to amaze me (as well as clients) at the quality rendered, though I know the BL would do much better.

    One issue that does perplex the system however are paintings with subtlety of nuances, not just detail, but tonal range and slight hues of color changes where an artist paints with a very long tonal range. And I seem to be working with a lot of those artist in recent years. I would expect, perhaps incorrectly, if the D3 does as well as it does, then an MFDB with proper workflow would certainly be better, and the MS versions perhaps even being in on equal footing to the scan backs, albeit at a significantly higher price of admission.

    There are many photographers who successfully carry the BL into the field for landscape work, but is it ever limiting to do so, especially in places like Montana where something is always moving. It would be nice to have a one system does it all incredibly well, but thats also most likely a pipe dream.

    Excellent thoughtful and informed answer Jack, much appreciated.

    Rob

  6. #6
    Senior Member routlaw's Avatar
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    Re: MFDB vs Scan backs

    Quote Originally Posted by lance_schad View Post

    If the P series backs hold their own in these tests( I am confident they will) there will then be the added benefit of using tools like the color editor to nail down those hard to get colors and provide a nice work-flow. That along with a much faster scan time.

    With the P45/+ you can get using the FlexAdapter a 12000x7200 pixel image (66x40 inches)@ 180dpi.

    Lance
    I would be most interested in seeing your results once you get around to this experiment. The big issue here is whether or not interpolated color can hold its own compared to non-interpolated color. One issue the MFDB's might have over the scan backs (for art copy) are the use of lighting sources such as studio flash that presumably have very high CRI content compared to HID or FL lighting products which can be as low as 85 on the CRI scale. Its conceivable that any advantage a scan back might have due to its non-interpolated color could possibly be lost on quality of lighting.

    Image or luminance detail is one issue, interpolated color another though no less important. And does the 16 bit data path found on most MFDB's more than offset a 14 bit data path the scan backs use with non-interpolated color?

    Thanks

    Rob

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    Senior Member yaya's Avatar
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    Re: MFDB vs Scan backs

    Quote Originally Posted by routlaw View Post
    I would be most interested in seeing your results once you get around to this experiment. The big issue here is whether or not interpolated color can hold its own compared to non-interpolated color. One issue the MFDB's might have over the scan backs (for art copy) are the use of lighting sources such as studio flash that presumably have very high CRI content compared to HID or FL lighting products which can be as low as 85 on the CRI scale. Its conceivable that any advantage a scan back might have due to its non-interpolated color could possibly be lost on quality of lighting.

    Image or luminance detail is one issue, interpolated color another though no less important. And does the 16 bit data path found on most MFDB's more than offset a 14 bit data path the scan backs use with non-interpolated color?

    Thanks

    Rob
    Rob it is worth chatting to Joe Tarsia at TTI:

    Joe Tarsia
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    Tarsia Technical Industries, Inc. http://ttind.com/cameras.html
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    Re: MFDB vs Scan backs

    Here's what I see, The museum of Fine Arts Boston, National Gallery Washington, DC and many other national galleries choose Broncolor lighting and the SINAR 54 H 16-shot backs. The 54 H delivers a 506 meg tif file created from un-interpolated data.

    I know that there are strong feelings on both sides, but this is what I see.

    Jerry

  9. #9
    Senior Member routlaw's Avatar
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    Re: MFDB vs Scan backs

    Quote Originally Posted by jerryreed View Post
    Here's what I see, The museum of Fine Arts Boston, National Gallery Washington, DC and many other national galleries choose Broncolor lighting and the SINAR 54 H 16-shot backs. The 54 H delivers a 506 meg tif file created from un-interpolated data.

    Jerry
    Thanks for the comments Jerry.

    I have considered the 54H in the past but understand it has now been discontinued. I could be wrong about this since it is still listed on the SB website. Regardless the only thing I don't like about the 54H is it has to be tethered to a computer so not the easiest solution for location work, but then neither is a scan back for that matter. The price of admission for a complete setup such as this can also be staggering, not something the above institutions have to be concerned with. I have a friend who photographs for the Boston Museum and he too has also encouraged the use of this Sinar solution.

    Hasselblad also has a MS solution with un-interpolated color in their HD3 39 camera though the file sizes are not as large as the 16 shot 54 H yet still very respectable. But the cost is some 30 grand +.

    Ideally it would be nice to see is some definitive evidence illustrating an MFDB either MS or single shot go toe to toe with the scan backs. Living and working in the hinterlands unfortunately does not easily allow for such comparisons.

    Thanks again

    Rob

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    Re: MFDB vs Scan backs

    Quote Originally Posted by routlaw View Post
    Anyone here ever had the chance to make serious comparisons with the high res MFDB's such as the H3D 39 (perhaps the MS version) or PO 45 to a scan back like the Betterlight, especially when using as a copy setup?

    No doubt the BL has been the setup of choice for years for this type of work, but the DB's have come along way theoretically in recent years. And I know that some museums do use the MS versions of the MFDB's, but are they giving up some quality for a more convenient and fluid workflow?

    Thanks in advance.

    Rob

    Rob:

    I have been involved in that side by side test between P45 and P1 Fx+ several times. In all cases if you never saw the scan from the FX+ you would have felt like the P45+ stitched could do it all. Until you look at the fine detail in the FX+ scan you would never know how much better it could have been. We have many people using P45 for art reproduction and I think for most all it works well.

    I just sold a P1 FX+ to a customer last week who also has a P45. He likes the image quality and he likes the color, but it just doe not compare to the scans he had ben used to on the FX+. We talked about the P65+ and it may hold more detail when compared to the FX+ but his customers have come to rely on his capture ability that the FX+ has produced in the past of their art. This customer also prints in house. So when you have that big printer sitting next to the camera is a powerful solution.

    Output size is also a consideration. If all the originals are 11x14 should be fine but when you get into 30x40 and they want a 30x40 repo of that art, a pixel for pixel scan will always have more detail than the single shots cameras are producing.

    No question that the work put into using a scan back is greater. The scans are longer, they usually require some retouching as it is tough to control scan lines on the scan backs, and if their is any mistakes , you must start over. Using the right APO lens and Zig align I always got great edge to edge corner sharpness with 4x5 cameras.


    Good luck.


    Chris Snipes
    Phase One Resller
    Image Production, Inc

    Phase One Test Studio

    www.imageproduction.com
    [email protected]

  11. #11
    NHScottishGuy
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    Re: MFDB vs Scan backs

    Hi Rob,

    I have a few thoughts I would like to share with you. The MF solution is far more popular than the scan back now and has been since the 22MP MS backs became available. When you view a test between a scan back, a 1-shot MF and a MS-MF, here is what you will see. The scan back and multi-shot backs will have more fine detail especially if you are looking at pencil deawings, etchings etc. The MS-MF will have no noise - not the case with the scan back. When it comes to subtle colors, the one-shot backs again will fail to compare.
    This is just one aspect of course. Here is the other part of the issue. Workflow; the workflow with a 4x5 camera, scan back and zig-align is horrible. To get the large scan files the scan times are long and also the camera focusing, viewing etc is difficult. The next thing are the lights you need for a scan back. You want to scare a paper conservator? Just hit the artwork for 15-45 mins (incl set-up) with UV emitting hot lights! The advantages of strobes are UV coated flash tubes and a short flash duration - much more acceptable.

    Consider also the lenses that you will want to use. There is a huge difference between lenses made for 3D photography and lenses used by museums reproducing artworks.

    The 54H has been discontinued, however, they are still available on the used market via our dealers. The 33MP Sinarback eVolution 75H has replaced the 54H and whilst it does not perform a 16 shot, it creates a very clean file in 4 shots that rivals the 16 shot 22mp. This back has also been chosen by several leading museums, reproduction houses etc. In short, if you are considering artwork reproduction (for profit), the multi-shot MF ihas a clear advantage.

    As you have a contact at MFA in Boston, you may also know David Mathews? He has recently moved to NEDCC and he would be an excellent point of refernce. www.nedcc.org
    If you would like me to give you some other names to talk to, please contact me by PM.
    For the rights of full disclosure, I am the East Coast manager for Sinar Bron Imaging.

    Dave McRitchie
    [email protected]

    (603) 867-1813

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