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Scanners for Large Negatives?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the larger-than-9-square-inches-please dept.

Media 68

Ironsides asks: "My family has a number of old negatives that we would like to digitize. While we could spend the cash and have them all turned into prints and scan the prints, we would prefer to scan the negatives directly. One other problem is that several family members scattered throughout the country also have collections that would need to be scanned in and we could not possibly pay to have them all turned into prints. Now, here's the catch: a sizable number (at least 100 hundred, possibly several hundred) are 1:1 negatives that are 4x5 inches in size (yes, these are very old negatives). Now, I've been looking at slide and negative scanners and unfortunately it seems they only go up to 2.3x3.5 inches (6x9 cm). Does anyone know of a high quality scanner that will handle such large negatives?"

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A drum scanner is designed for this. (4, Informative)

toby (759) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219292)

Find your local reprographics/graphic arts service bureau. They'll do this no problems -- there is no better instrument for the job than a drum scanner.

Too expensive - get a flatbed (2, Informative)

Derling Whirvish (636322) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219422)

Drum scanners are extraordinarily expensive. Much less expensive to use a flat bed scanner that has back illumination. Good discussion here: 032D0&tag= [] Microtek has several good models out.

Re:Too expensive - get a flatbed (1, Insightful)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219968)

With a flatbed scanner, you are pissing away any reason to use large format to begin with. Even the more expensive ones such at scanning film, not to mention negatives. (at least compared to dedicated film scanners. And if you are happy with mediocre quality, why not ust a digicam?)

Re:Too expensive - get a flatbed (1)

SausageOfDoom (930370) | more than 7 years ago | (#17220276)

While your comment may be true for taking new photographs, they can't use a digital camera, because they are old photos. Your comment seems to ignore their two main requirements - scanning old negatives, and doing it cheaply.

I'm faced with a similar situation - after the recent sale of my family home, I have several boxes full of photos and negatives, I believe some go back over 100 years. However, I doubt the original quality of the camera would justify the cost involved in scanning it on anything other than a cheap-ish flatbed scanner.

The important thing for me, and I assume for the original poster too, is to digitise the photographs for three reasons:

  • To make it easier for me to label and browse them so my family's photographic history is not lost
  • To make it possible to make copies for family members
  • To back up the irreplaceable photos at a reasonable quality, should they be lost in fire, a roof leak, mouse infestation etc.

For that reason I'm looking at getting a reasonably-priced flatbed scanner. I have too many photos to be able to afford have them scanned professionally, and their quality is not high enough to warrant such costs in the first place.

However, what I would be interested in is are there any ways to automate the loading and scanning of a set of photos? Can you buy flatbed scanners with sheet feeders that would work with photos? Do the flatbed negative scanners have software that will automatically separate out the photos? It's been a while since I had a flatbed scanner, so I hope the technology has moved on a bit - I don't want to spend the rest of my life cropping and rotating my ancestors!

Re:Too expensive - get a flatbed (1)

Skater (41976) | more than 7 years ago | (#17222554)

I scanned about 70 rolls of 35mm film in by scanning the prints on a Canon USB flatbed scanner (I think mine's an LIDE 70 or something like that, it was under $100). The results are pretty good, and I could do an entire roll in less than an hour using the bundled software. I think I was scanning at 600 dpi. I'd put one one, click "Scan", wait, pull it off, put the next on, click Scan, wait... Repetitive and a bit boring, but at the same time I was able to look at the pictures while I was waiting. :)

Yeah, there are certainly better ways to do this, but if you don't mind spending the time and don't want to spend a lot for a high-end scanner, this works.

Re:Too expensive - get a flatbed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17221716)

That's just not true. Flatbed scanners with large format transparency adapters can produce excellent results. There's a good discussion put together here [] complete with examples and comparisons between a mid-range scanner (Epson 4990) and the Nikon D200.

Re:Too expensive - get a flatbed (1)

GoulDuck (626950) | more than 7 years ago | (#17222216)

I have an Epson 4990 and have used it to scan negatives - but only 35mm. It includes several placeholders for many different sizes, but you don't have to use them, so You can scan negatives in A4 size. It also can scan using different light (UV I think) in the the process of removing dust and scratches. I'm happy with the result, but I'm no photograph or anything close to being a professional in the world of pictures. I haven't used it for a while, so I can't remember it in details, but the (Windows) software is able to automatically straighten, separate and crop scanned photos.

Re:Too expensive - get a flatbed (1)

temojen (678985) | more than 7 years ago | (#17223070)

Digicams don't have movements [] .

35mm gives me adequate amounts of data for most puropses; 6x6 gives me enough to do 24"x24"@300ppi. Only my press camera gives me perspective and focal plane control.

As for the "mediocre quality" nonsense, please substantiate it.

It's not DMax; it's clear from my histograms that my 9950f has enough DMax to capture the data from my film. Even my slides of fireworks are not fully opaque.

It's not sharpness; useable imagte sizes like 100 MegaPixel are enough of a downsample to restore critical sharpness.

For those who require extreme flatness, you can fluid mount on a flatbed.

A drum is, however, the best tool for the job (1)

toby (759) | more than 7 years ago | (#17224310)

And I wasn't suggesting BUYING one! If you re-read my comment, I suggested using a service bureau.

Re:A drum is, however, the best tool for the job (1)

OptimusPaul (940627) | more than 7 years ago | (#17225988)

I agree, having a bureau do it is the best option. Unless they do find that they have thousands of negs to scan, could be cheaper in time and money to buy a drum scanner, but I'm guessing only if the number is in the 10's of thousands. Having a bureau do it has many advantages: 1) someone with experience is doing the work 2) if the equipment breaks down you don't have to fix or replace it 3) they might have robots do the work, and everyone knows robots do the best work!

Very expensive (1)

Derling Whirvish (636322) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230876)

"If you re-read my comment, I suggested using a service bureau."

Let me re-state that then. Paying a service bureau for drum-scanner service is extraordinarily expensive.

Owner of an Epson Perfection 3200 Photo flatbed (1)

tjwhaynes (114792) | more than 7 years ago | (#17273530)

Much less expensive to use a flat bed scanner that has back illumination.

I bought an Epson Perfection 3200 Photo scanner a couple of years ago. It comes with negative frames to hold the negatives at the correct distance off the glass, including the 4"x5" negative size you require. I don't know about newer models - this one has worked well enough for me.

That said, you will have to be prepared to spend the time to calibrate the scanner if you want to do professional-level colour work. For old negatives, your chances of getting a colour target for calibration on the same negative material is probably zero and you will have to do it by eye. However, I assume that your old negatives are black and white, so any calibration is pretty arbitrary!

Be VERY careful about dust. Clean your scanner glass plate carefully with non-scratch lint free cloths. I use a liquid lens cleaner to keep it near perfect - your local camera store will have appropriate supplies. A dust cover is also a good idea and don't keep your scanner in a bedroom - matresses spread dust around like it's going out of fashion. A blow-brush like the ones you would use for cleaning an SLR camera is also a good idea to blow the dust off the negatives. When you are scanning at 1600 or 3200 dpi, a small dust mote is a huge blot on your image.

Lastly, the Epson scanners are pretty much perfectly supported on Linux by the SANE software. That's the main reason I purchased this model. Epson gets some serious props for documenting and supporting Linux on it's devices.

Toby Haynes

Be cheaper to buy an Imacon and DIY. (3, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219500)

For the price that most service bureaus are going to charge to scan 'a few hundred' 4x5 negatives, he can afford a pretty nice flatbed scanner and transparency adapter that will almost certainly give this guy the results he needs. Unless these are really nice, professionally taken 4x5s, a drum scanner is just going to be spending most of its resolution investigating the finer points of the film grain. Not really very useful. That much resolution just isn't needed for older photos taken by amateur photographers, and which were meant to be printed out 1:1 onto fiber-based photo paper. If these were original Ansel Adams negatives, I'll take all that back...but if they're grandad's snapshots, 11000 lpi is just a waste of bits.

Actually, for the price that a service bureau would charge, this guy could probably go out and buy a used Imacon Flextight and then sell it at the conclusion of the project. The difference in quality between a good Imacon scan and a drum scan would probably not be worth the cost in this instance.

Re:Be cheaper to buy an Imacon and DIY. (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17221744)

I did a bunch of photo repro about a decade ago, and made (real) negatives of the positives from the early-mid 1900s with my nikon body and a copy lens/table/strobes bought for the purchase. I bought the nikon lens and a high quality copy stand, and sold it for within $50 of what I paid. Buying/reselling top quality gear is by far the lest expensive way to get these kinds of things done if you have the time and patience to do it yourself.

Re:Be cheaper to buy an Imacon and DIY. (1)

Kirmeo (909604) | more than 7 years ago | (#17222040)

A Nikon Super Coolscan 9000 will scan a 5 x 6 inch area at 4000 dpi and its available for about $1800. Same as metioned in parent: you can sell it after you're done with it.

Disclaimer: I work for Nikon.

Re:A drum scanner is designed for this. (2, Insightful)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219678)

I agree. This is a one shot deal, as in once the scanning is done you are never going to have more of these to do. Take them to some sort of professional shop, either a photo shop (not a 24 hour developer, but a high end photography store) or design shop or whatever else you can find. Places that specialize in old photos and restoration are other good places to check. Many of these place will digitize your slides for far less than the cost of turning them into prints. Even with a large volume it is almost always cheaper then whatever bizarre hardware you can find to buy, and even if it costs a little more, at least it is done by professionals on extremely high end equipment that you could never afford. Drum scanners were mentioned above, they are wonderful things. The other part of this is that scanning a lot of slides without the proper equipment is slow. Do you really want to spend the next three months of your free time doing nothing but feeding a single slide into the scanner, scanning it, checking it and then doing the next one?

Pay the cash and get it done professionally. Less hassle, quicker, higher quality and potentially cheaper.

drugstore (1)

White Yeti (927387) | more than 7 years ago | (#17224880)

I'm not sure about 4x5, but a chain drugstore may be able to help you out. My parents took hundreds of 35mm slides to their local Walgreens, which sent them to Dallas for processing. Customer Service called them up to discuss the order and was very helpful. They got back the slides, plus a DVD containing all the scanned images and a video slideshow (ordered as submitted) that would play on a stand-alone DVD player. My parents even made titles by writing directly on unimportant slides inserted into the series.

Re:A drum scanner is designed for this. (1)

chiefgeek (979552) | more than 7 years ago | (#17221836)

Look for somebody with a Kodak HR500 Film Scanner. I just had several 4x5 chromes scanned and they are beautiful.

Epson flatbed (3, Informative)

sakusha (441986) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219316)

A friend of mine is a retired photography professor who does a lot of work on a 4x5 view camera. He's using an older Epson flatbed scanner. It has an illuminator on top, and a frame that can hold four 4x5 negatives for gang scanning. It comes with a whole set of frames to hold negatives of various sizes from 35mm to 8x10. His Epson model is discontinued, but it appears the equivalent would be something like the Epson Perfection V750-M.

Re:Epson flatbed (1)

lthown (737539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17221054)

The great thing about the V7xx series is they have two lenses: one for normal stuff and one for 35mm. This is really a big deal because 35mm is so small you don't get the quality from it that is possible unless you have that second lens. The -M version has a fluid mount holder. Except for drum scan technicians, this may be overkill. Check out %20V700/page_1.htm [] for more info

Flatbed (2, Informative)

cmowire (254489) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219364)

Many of the Epson Flatbeds will take 4x5s just fine.

Re:Flatbed (4, Informative)

Zachary Kessin (1372) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219582)

If you have a lot of 4x5's check out some of the large format photography pages ( 4x5 and larger photography is still something that people are activily doing, so they have looked at these issues before. [] is also a good place to look

Just Remove the Bugs (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219828)

No one would want a 50-meter bug hovering over their town. (or their face, depends on the image)

Digital? (3, Insightful)

Tyger (126248) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219368)

What does scanning old photographs have to do with DEC?

Re:Digital? (1)

BrianRaker (633638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219382)

That's what I'd like to know...

Re:Digital? (1)

bluephone (200451) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219428)

Someone too young to be familiar with DEC, thinking it's for "digital" photography, maybe? That was my first guess...

Cliff's gone off his meds again. (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219432)

I think someone needs to schedule a meeting of Cliff and the clue-by-four; I think that he's under the impression that the "Digital" category refers to anything consisting of lots of numbers, and not the company.

In that vein, I think we should all have a moment of silence for the late DEC and its products. I'm still waiting to get my hands on an Alpha... one of these days, I'm going to find one at a hamfest or something, and then my life will be complete. (Okay, well not quite; I still want to own a working Data General Nova, somehow I think that's going to be a tougher find.)

Re:Cliff's gone off his meds again. (1)

GrizlyAdams (999280) | more than 7 years ago | (#17220136)

If you'd settle for the slow older brother of an alpha, I have some vaxen taking up room in my closet right now :)

OT Vaxen (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17233332)


Would you mind emailing me directly? If you think you might be interested in unburdening yourself of one, I do need a project for the winter... :)

Re:Cliff's gone off his meds again. (1)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17223014)

You should have called. We scrapped a Nova-2 last week during a lab clean. I have the 16k Core (little washers on wires) memory framed on my office wall.

If you get the choice (as if you ever do during scavenges), the DS10 was a nice, recent, desktop system that you can find modernish versions of Linux or, even better, the hobbyist version of VMS and Fortran.

Actually... (1)

Brightest Light (552357) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230620)

Actually, I have one of these [] sitting around under wraps at home. I've been off at school and haven't had much time for nerdly side-projects, and so it's mostly just sat in storage. It's a DEC 300/800 'Flamingo II' I *think*, and it weighs an f***ing ton. I don't know how the hell I'd ship it to you, but if you'd like to give such a thing a good home, leave me a response.

Scanners and DEC (3, Insightful)

linguae (763922) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219378)

I don't know if I know my DEC history correctly, but what do scanners have to do with DEC [] ?

4 recommendations (2, Informative)

bloosqr (33593) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219440)

There are 4 you should consider and it all depends on the money you have .. btw 4x5 is medium format.. its not "ancient" but actually exists even today (w/ modern films)

(1) Nikon 9000 , its very expensive ($1700 or so) but will give you a 4000 dpi / 16 bit scan .. this is a dedicated 35/medium/large format film scanner that does up to 6"x9. The general consensus is this is the best home scanner for negatives.

(2,3) Epson M-750 PRO or V700 .. also somewhat expensive ($800,$500 or so) .. its flatbed does up to 4x5 at 6400 dpi

(4) Canon 9950f .. 4800 dpi scanner with an adjustable large/medium format negative tray (and 35mm as well of course) (about $300 or so)

I have the 9950f and the nikon 5000 (the 35mm version of the 9000) .. the nikon 5000 is better at 4000 dpi however with old slides /negatives it will not really make that much of a difference ..

The main feature of these is they have some version of dust removal (which does not work on black and white btw), they all have color restoration if your negatives are pretty old and all the other good stuff.

The epsons are the ones i think the high end (modern) medium/large format people who aren't doing $100 per slide professional lab scans are using. I dont think you can go wrong with any of these. If you are only going to use this for the web and/or computer monitors (and not into tinkering with photoshop etc) I would get the 9950f as it is the most straightforward and cheapest. With medium format film (4x5) you can go to massive size prints even with a canon 9950f to be honest.

Flatbeds; beyond that, Imacon. (2, Informative)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219546)

He did say a "high quality" scanner. While that's pretty vague, I just thought that I'd point out that if you wanted to go upmarket of the good quality flatbeds already mentioned, the next step before you get into drum scanning territory (real PMT-based drum scanners) and start seeing price tags that rival Italian automobiles, would be something like the Imacon Flextight, maybe a 343 or a 646 [] . I have seem some 4x5 Provia scans done on one of them, and they're pretty amazing.

It all depends on what this guy's budget is, which he didn't really say. If the budget is in the hundreds, a flatbed is definitely the way to go. If it's in the thousands, an Imacon will allow for some real archival-grade scans (although preserving the digital files may be harder than preserving the negatives) and ridiculous enlargability.

Re:4 recommendations (1)

cei (107343) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219604)

No, 4x5 is, in fact, the smallest of the "large format" negatives. Modern medium format will be on 120 or 220 films, for the most part.

Re:4 recommendations (1)

bloosqr (33593) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219694)

Sorry, my bad thats what i meant.. thats what i get for posting at 2am :)

Nikon scanner == good (1)

beefstu01 (520880) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219634)

I second the Nikon scanner. I've used the smaller one for my film negatives, and it's produced some amazing stuff. The Nikon software also does a damn fine job of removing dust/scratches (if you want it to). With 35mm stuff, you can get a scan and postprocessing done in around a minute per slide, so you won't be spending all year doing this. This [] is what the parent is talking about. It's around $1700, but when you're done scanning those photos, you can just as easily scan in all 35mm negatives you've got. If you want, shoot me an e-mail (marcinjb [at] gmail) and I'll send you a few of the pictures I've scanned in so you can judge quality.

Nikon scanner == bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17220734)

The Nikon scanner may be high quality, but it only goes up to 6x9 in size. If you were a pro photographer you would know that this size is in cm, not inches. When talking about film sizes, 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7, and 6x9 are always cm. The sizes 2x3, 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10 are always inches.

There is no such thing as a "film scanner" that will scan 4x5 (inches). Anything that will scan a neg of that size will also scan a print, so you want either a flatbed or drum scanner.


Re:4 recommendations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17221040)

There is a mistake in the last poster's information about the Nikon 9000.
It is a medim-format scanner that does up to the medium format 6:9 (said: six by nine)
6:9 is 6cm x 9cm, not 6" x 9"

The Super Coolscan 9000 is an amazing scanner (having used it's predecessor the 8000 very extensively in the past.)

I would reccomend, as others have said, a high-end Epson scanner with a transparency adapter, and high-quality holders for the film.

I have scanned a lot of film in my time, including up to 8" x 10" glass-plate negatives, and a lot of 4x5's (that's 4" x 5") glass plate negatives including scores of Howes Brothers originals.

for 4x5 and larger formats I used a UMAX Powerlook II with transparency adapter. For black & white you generally need to do some serious tweaking, but 2400dpi from negatives that size is enough resolution to make excellent prints in sizes up to wall-sized murals and beyond.

You do *NOT* want to have modern prints made and then scan them. You would be having 300dpi digital prints made, and then scanning those at a higher resolution, so you would actually be able to clearly see every pixel in the original.
The negatives limitations aren't 300dpi.. but instead are the particle density of the emulsion molecules in the original substrate, with some adjustment necessary for the fineness of the grain of the developer used.. but still probably well over 10,000dpi..(NOTE: Because it's an analog format, there is no true direct translation of dpi) far higher than you could possibly scan it at in any case.

4x5 is inches, 6x9 is cm (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17224106)

Just one correction...the Nikon will only do 6x9, which is "medium format". The OP was asking about 4x5, which is considered "large format". One is in cm, the other is in inches.

Epson (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219466)

Epson make plenty of scanners for handling larger film stock. Since these negatives are probably black-and-white you could also consider X-Ray film scanners.

Ignore the drum scanner comments. (4, Informative)

temojen (678985) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219468)

I use a CanoScan 9950f for 4x5 and 6x6 (inches and cm, respectively; the photography world is funny like that). It does just fine for prints up to 24"x24"@300ppi from 6x6. True, a drum scanner is sharper, but so many times the price, and you can get similar results by over-scanning and downsampling. True, a flatbed doesn't have the same DMax, but your negatives aren't fully opaque anyways.

Try this (for B&W negs):
  1. Use a CanoScan 9950f or Epson v750*
  2. Get a registered copy of VueScan []
  3. Scan at your scanner's max physical resolution for 6x6, and 1/2 max for 4x5
  4. Set white and blackpoints to 0.
  5. Scan at 16 bit depth greyscale, 2 samples, no sharpening, no dust correction
  6. Save as 16 bit Tiff
  7. Load your images in Cinepaint or Photoshop CS or Elements 4 or later
  8. Adjust the "Levels" to set your desired black and white points.
  9. Save this to your archive as a 16 bit tiff.
now, for each desired print or display size:
  1. Open the image in your editor
  2. Resample down to the desired size (@300ppi for minilabs and many inkjets, 360ppi for Epson inkjets, ignore ppi and dpi for screen display)
  3. Apply unsharp mask (you can sharpen a LOT on large B&W)
  4. If you have a profile for your printer or lab, convert to that. If you're sending to a minilab you don't have a profile for or posting online, convert to sRGB.
  5. If printing on your own printer, save this file as print-ready, 16 bit profiled tiff.
  6. If you're sending to a minilab or posting online, convert to 8bit and save as JPEG (98% qual for minilabs, 75% ish for posting

* CanoScan models don't work on Linux; the Epson v750 may with Vuescan (needs libUSB and USB group access).

Re:Ignore the drum scanner comments. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17220878)

v700 does work in Linux

Missed an item... (1)

temojen (678985) | more than 7 years ago | (#17222730)

Scan emulsion (dull) side down and mirror image it in software. If you scan emulsion side up (like the manual for my 9950f says to), the images often have nasty newton's rings.

I haven't had a newton's ring since I started scanning emulsion down.

DMax (1)

sakusha (441986) | more than 7 years ago | (#17226350)

Actually, modern flatbeds have DMax ratings that are competitive with drum scanners. I used to be a drum scanner operator and I think drum scans are way overkill for large B&W negs, they are better for high rez scans of small color transparencies.

One thing I should point out: I'm a big fan of Silverfast scanning software, and they just released a new version 6.5 which has a multiscan technique, it's sort of like HDR for scanning. It does multiple scans of each row at different exposure settings, combining them for a higher DMax and better sensitivity to levels. The big thing that digital scanning has needed for a long time is increased levels, so I scan most of my stuff at 16 bits instead of 8 bits. This Silverfast rev is the first affordable software that does anything significant to improve level sensitivity and bring it up to the potential of 16 bit.

I also note that Silverfast works with ICC color profiles, and can be calibrated with an ICC target. This is the weakness of software like VueScan. VueScan is totally unsuitable for quality scanning, although it is good for bulk scanning of paper documents (which is not a very demanding task). It would be preferable to scan archival files with a calibrated system. VueScan cannot be calibrated, and has very poor manual control over levels. This is especially problematic with B&W negatives, which have no 100% transparent areas, there is always a slight density of gray (the "anti-halation layer").

Re:DMax (temojen, from work) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17230660)

I've been using multipass scanning on Vuescan from time to time for months, and multisample almost evey scan. Vuescan can indeed be calibrated if you have an IT8 target to calibrate the scanner with, and it can use a profile for your monitor. Colour calibration of the scanner doesn't matter that much for B&W negs anyways since you'll be applying curves anyways.

As for levels control, the job of the scanner is to get all the data from the film, which VueScan does. Levels and Gamma are a user decision in editing.

It sounds like you're comparing Silverfast pro to VueScan trial edition. The Pro versions of both are about equivalent in capability.

Re:DMax (temojen, from work) (1)

temojen (678985) | more than 7 years ago | (#17231632)

(yup, that was me)

Re:DMax (temojen, from work) (1)

sakusha (441986) | more than 7 years ago | (#17231920)

You are mistaken. VueScan's multipass mode does not increase accuracy of the tonal resolution. It does not do brightness multisampling, it only does multisampling on the image resolution. Yes, I have VueScan Pro but I never use it, I just updated and noticed they added the profiling.

There are a multitude of reasons why Silverfast is superior to VueScan, the biggest one is that VueScan's GUI is absolute crap. My personal favorite feature of Silverfast is the ability to set white-point and black-point directly on an image preview using an eyedropper, in VueScan you have to do this by dragging points on a histogram, it's terribly difficult to use and often can't set the curve to what I need. Manual calibration of scanner input curves is PARTICULARLY vital when scanning negatives, as the film substrate has a dense anti-halation layer that adds density to all of the image area. This must be precompensated or else you just end up wasting a significant portion of your tonal resolution, you can't just take the standard ICC profile, you have to set the white point to the gray of the antihalation layer. Sure you have to optimize the curves after scanning, but unless you precompensate and use the full dynamic range, you just end up with a posterized file with lots of gaps in the histogram. Garbage in, garbage out.

Re:DMax (1)

plover (150551) | more than 7 years ago | (#17262964)

I also note that Silverfast works with ICC color profiles, and can be calibrated with an ICC target. This is the weakness of software like VueScan.

Actually Vuescan comes with ICC profiles for lots of different models of scanners, and if you have an IT 8 target you can create a profile calibrated to your scanner. (If I were to do this again, I'd try to calibrate it every thousand slides or so to compensate for the lamp fading over its lifetime.) Plus, Vuescan includes film profiles for every type of film and process I've ever shot (not that I have a particularly wide range, my experience being limited to the ordinary films made by Kodak, Agfa, Fujifilm and Ilford.)

And you're right, the GUI is as ugly as a dog, and is not particularly friendly either. I can't argue that point. But once I got my workflow set up, it did run me through the scanning process quite efficiently.

One other thing to consider: what's the destination of the images being scanned? If they're going to a printer, that's one thing. But if they're just going on a DVD, a precisely calibrated scanner is total overkill for an NTSC image.

I did the same thing (3, Informative)

plover (150551) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219518)

I recently scanned all of my in-laws 35mm slides (over 3000 slides) and burned DVDs for them for holiday presents, and I learned a lot of lessons in the exercise.

I spent a lot more time than I had to because I scanned them all at 20MB raw image size (the jpegs averaged roughly 6MB each when I was done.) My intent was to keep good-quality archival copies of the slides. However, these large files meant that every action with them was slow: transferring them from the scanner via USB 1.2 took like 40 seconds per image, loading and saving them in an editor to rotate and crop them was slow, importing them into Arcsoft to produce the slideshow was slow, and so on.

Decide what you intend to do with the digital images first. Are you going to archive them as I did? Then accept that it will be slow. An archival quality scan of the medium format film that you describe will take hundreds of megabytes per image. But if you're just going to burn a DVD for the family and discard the scans as intermediate files, scan them at DVD resolutions and you'll save a ton of time throughout the process.

Invest in some good scanning software. The out-of-the-box stuff I got from Minolta was slower than molasses. It took it 20 seconds to autofocus each slide individually, and that was prior to the scan itself! I purchased Vuescan from Hamrick software and it sped the process considerably. They support many dozens of scanners, film profiles, etc. It automated the process of scanning a full carrier of slides. It was worth every penny to me.

Use a dust brush on each and every negative before scanning it. A cheap squeezy rubber-bulb brush will clean up most dust and hairs nicely, and they're only like $5.00.

Don't bother printing them unless you actually want the prints of the pictures.

Find a good program to help rotate and crop the images, clean up dust specks, and fix colors. I used Paint Shop Pro, and eventually got pretty fast at it. Later, I found RPhoto (freeware! on the web) that enabled me to whip through rotating and cropping at high speeds.

Figure out in advance how you want to organize the images you scan. I built a directory structure by year, and scanned the images in rough chronological order. If there is no organization to your media, be sure to take the time to tag them at some point in the process (probably the time you crop and rotate them.) Names, places and dates are all good searchable data. I used a short description for the file names, but I wish I'd edited the EXIF data when I had the chance.

Regarding medium format film, ask about flatbed scanners at a good photography shop. When I was shopping for newer film scanners, I found an Epson flatbed with a "negative attachment." It consisted of a backlight-box that had a snap-in film carrier on the bottom that would hold 2 five-frame 35mm filmstrips. You could remove the film carrier and use a larger frame to hold your negatives in place (the adjustable carriers that you use in enlargers to hold medium format film comes to mind.)

Once you figure out what you're doing, take a few minutes and write up an instruction sheet. You'll probably go stir-crazy after scanning a thousand frames, and you'll likely want to take a break for a few months. It's nice to come back to full instructions so you can pick up exactly where you left off.

Realize that this will take a lot of your time. Check with a commercial photo house and ask about their scanning rates. I was quoted from about $0.75 per slide to $1.20 per slide. Of course with over three thousand slides to scan I wasn't about to spend that kind of money, but I did spend several hundred on a Minolta Dimage film scanner, and many, many hours scanning. That's where the instruction sheet helped -- my wife picked it up and she started scanning in her free time, too! You might want to consider hiring a photo house to use a drum scanner just for your medium format slides, rather than tackle them yourself. You'll get the best quality scans that way.

There are also commercial companies that do "family photo collections to DVD" productions. They do professional work, set them to appropriate music, and can do a great job of editing things so they look nice; but they cost thousands of dollars. The great thing about them is if you have a hundred photos of Aunt Glenda opening sweaters at the last 40 Christmases and your wife swears that every last photo is important, they have no emotional attachments and can narrow it down to the one photo that best represents Aunt Glenda, Christmas and sweaters.

Nikon LS 9000 ED (1)

eric76 (679787) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219594)

My brother has a Nikon LS 9000 ED film scanner. He bought it for doing 70 mm film. Check it out.

Epson (1)

cei (107343) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219688)

When I don't have access to an Imacon Flextight scanner, I just use my Epson Perfection 2450 Photo scanner. Backlit and holders for 35mm mounted slides, 35mm filmstrips, 120 film and 4x5. I think there are also some models that can handle 8x10 transparency scans.

My only complaint with the Epson is that my Polaroid Type 55 4x5 negs don't quite fit in the holder. (Anyone else dealing with that problem, or coming up with a solution, feel free to reply.)

How big do you want to print them? (1)

Tim (686) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219732)

So far, both of the high-rated responses have been correct -- you can either contact a commercial photo shop, and have the negatives scanned on a drum scanner (a $10,000+ piece of machinery, not incidentally), or you can do it yourself on a halfway-decent flatbed scanner.

Consider that even a low-end flatbed scanner these days can achieve 2000 dpi symmetric, which would allow you to print a 4x5 negative up to 26x33 inches at reasonably high quality (300dpi, which is enough for most uses). So the only question is, how big do you need to go?

There are other considerations than dpi, of course, but even a mid-range ($500-$800) scanner will have decent optics and color correction, and will be more than adequate for the job. Once you consider that most shops will charge you anywhere from $5-$40 per sheet to drum scan an negative, investing in a good flatbed scanner will quickly seem like a bargain....

Epson (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219736)

The infrared dust removal technique really works. 0BMk6&tag= []

Forget dust removal for b/w negatives! (1)

aspargillus (640992) | more than 7 years ago | (#17220584)

The infrared dust removal technique really works.
From wanting to scan "old" negatives I'd guess the original poster means b/w for which automatic dust removal will definitely not work! (The silver particles of the b/w negative are just as opaque to IR as dust specles are.)

Epson Flatbeds (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17220072)

I am a professional photographer which uses a medium format camera and film.
For my scanning purposes I am satisfied with an Epson Perfection 4990 Photo flatbed.
It can scan negatives up to 8x10".
And btw, lots of people still use film and Large Format cameras. The quallity and
resolution you get from such a negative is unmatchable.

recently did this. (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 7 years ago | (#17220572)

I recently did a conversion of a bunch of negatives and prints to digital format.
I originally looked into some of the various mail business where you ship them everything and they do it all to DVD and whatever else you want, they cost in the $.39-$.59 per print or negative and can easily be found with google. Too expensive and did far more then I really needed; besides they charge the same for print or negative.
You can purchase decent negative and print scanners in the $1000 range, various reviews can be found via google. Purchase the item and then sell on ebay to decrease your cost.
Check your local photo shops for prices. This is what I finally did for the negative, they did them for around $.10 each with no cropping,color correction,etc and I had to put similar negatives together. They used one of thoses $1000 scanner that you can purchase for home use.
For the prints I went with my casio scanner and did them, and they looked great, even ones taken on an old 110 film.
Finally get a copy of adobe photoshop elements 5, I hated all the previous versions but love 5. It works great for scanning and correcting the photos and then categorizing them with various topics. You can then produce various DVD/CD with cut screens,etc.

How Much to Spend? (2, Interesting)

ti1ion (239188) | more than 7 years ago | (#17221464)

You will probably be served well by the Epson 4990. Go to Epson's website and check out the clearance center. You can get a 4990 for US$310. It can scan up to an 8x10 negative. Many, many film shooters use(d) this scanner.

I don't have one, but I have had some 2 1/4" x 2 1/4" (6x6) negatives scanned on a V700 at low resolution for web display. The scans came in at 13MB and I was not disappointed.

Re:How Much to Spend? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17221762)

A complete uncomplicated answer to the question.

You must be new here.

Svc bureau, or flatbed + Vuescan (1)

Frankenbuffer (883657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17221566)

A service bureau will likely give you the best results for the overall effort and cost. Having scanned hundred of archival negs myself, I can say that any level of automation you can come up with is a huge time-saver. I recommend setting up an assembly-line process in a dust-free location for cleaning, scanning, colour-correcting, and handling the negs. Count on at least 5 minutes per neg. After doing the first few dozen yourself, you'll really see why a service bureau is appealing!

The AGFA T1200 is another flatbed which has nice colour and does a good job of large format negs. They've been discontinued for a while, but since they were a "pro" desktop model for graphic designers, you may be able to find one used somewhere. Unfortunately it lacks an infrared channel to "see" through dust and scratches (this is a great feature--my Nikon scanner has it).

For software, I wholly recommend VueScan ( It's relatively cheap and it brings out the best in almost every imaginable scanner. I then use Photoshop to adjust color levels (it fades over time), adjust contrast and brightness, and sharpen (e.g. Unsharp mask). If your negs are all the same type and vintage, you may be able to batch-process them with good results.

Vuescan -- I second that motion (1)

Mr. Firewall (578517) | more than 7 years ago | (#17225430)

Vuescan -- absolutely. Blows everything else out of the water.

Nikon LS-9000 -- I'm saving up to buy one now. But it won't work for 4x5 film.

Imacon Flextite -- certainly an excellent scanner, but the cheapest one that will take 4x5 is about $10,000 US.

For amateur use, I'd go with one of the Epson flatbeds. And by all means, buy a copy of Vuescan to drive it.

My B&W negative scanning project (2, Informative)

nortcele (186941) | more than 7 years ago | (#17224504)

If you can afford it, get the Nikon 9000. Sell it when you are done. I settled on using an Epson 4990 since I wanted the flatbed for other things. If the difference between a good flatbed and a dedicated film scanner matters to you, then get the dedicated. The film trays that come with the Epson 4990 work pretty well, but I got a better film carrier from [] Takes a lot of the hassle out of curled negatives. Also. If you plan to post process your scans much, I highly recommend Photoshop with either NeatImage, [] or Noise Ninja, [] for removing noise. FocalBlade or FocusMagic, [] has it's place too for some of pictures of interest. Post processing is going to be key in getting the best results from your scanning effort. Figure out what you are willing to live with, because it's unrealistic to scan every negative in at max resolution due to the size of the resulting file.

As mentioned in previous posts, the Digital ICE dust/scratch removal doesn't work on B&W film. Also Kodachrome color slide film may not work well with certain scanners when trying to use the auto dust/scratch removal.

B&W presents some challenges. You must scan at 16 bits/channel resolution, otherwise, B&W results will be too contrasty and lose shadow detail. It sometimes helps to scan as positives then invert the image in Photoshop. Secondly, flatbed scanners tend to be noisy. This can be offset by using a multiple-pass option. Four passes work reasonably well without taking a lot of time. Quite a bit of this noise can be dealt with via NeatImage or Noise Ninja as well. Since Digital ICE (available on the 4990) does not work with B&W, you will get a lot of dust. Resist using third-party dust reduction software since it seriously degrades the image. Just plan to Photoshop images you plan on printing.

If you are wanting to really get down and do some serious negative scanning, quickly (and cost is not restricting). Get a Creo Eversmart (now owned by Kodak) flatbed scanner. professional_scanners/default.htm [] These are the machines that image archives use when dealing mass volume. It is impractical to drum scan every slide/negative in an archive, and this is an excellent compromise.

The main thing is to make sure your negatives keep protected. In another 10-15 years, the scanning capabilities will be much, much better. However, the people you want to enjoy seeing these scanned images might be gone! So it's best to use what you can and get the job done. Let the next generation scan again if they want it done better.

You have two separate problems (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17224926)

For the transparencies you should use a backlit flatbed or if they're few enough hire out the work. Assuming most of your media is 35mm film, you probably want to get yourself a film scanner [] which has an automatic feeder so you can automate a significant amount of the scanning process. Some of them have slide feeders too.

Epson 4990 Flatbed scanner, 100 megapixels (1)

jpatters (883) | more than 7 years ago | (#17226470)

This [] is a scan of a 4 by 5 inch chrome (positive) done with the Epson 4990 scanner. This [] is a crop of part of the center of the frame, if you click "original" you will see it at full pixels. The original scan is 11,105 by 8,737 pixels. The scanner of course also handles negatives quite well, and medium format. 35mm film scans are acceptable, but are much better with an inexpensive dedicated film scanner (which won't handle anything larger than 35mm.)

Please excuse the drop off in the top corners and the out of focus stuff, I should have stopped down more. It was one of the first shots I took with my clunky Crown Graphic 4x5 camera.

medium-format negatives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17227574)

You can get very good quality images of the negatives by photographing them with a good digital camera with macro capability. This will be *much* faster and easier than any sort of scanning. One click on "reverse image" in a good paint program will create a positive that can be printed directly. The only strict requirement is that the camera have a true macro lens (i.e. one with a flat field at very short distances). Lay the negatives horizontally on a light box, and mount the camera on a copystand, if available, or on a solid tripod with the camera pointing down. The better the optics, the better the resulting images. In the old days of film, I prepared many figures for publication in scientific journals by assembling individual prints into a montage and then photographing the montage. For the $1000 recommended in this forum, you can buy a *very* nice digital camera that you can use for all sorts of things, while the scanner will wind up in a closet.

Consider this a form of scanning - that'll keep this post on-topic, and hopefully avoid flames from scanner diehards.

epson (1)

solune (803114) | more than 7 years ago | (#17233368)

I have an epson 4490 that has a negative adapter for that size.

Any current flatbed that has a negative adapter will likely support 4x5. I believe Microtek has one too.

Look in Photography magazines.

It'll cost around $200-$300, or more depending on speed and resolution requirements. Take the time to learn to use the equipment; try photoshop elements for quick, painless adjustments.

At (1)

leighklotz (192300) | more than 7 years ago | (#17259870)

At we have used Microtek and Epson flat scanners. You do not need a drum scanner for your task.
You might try posting your question at there [] or on [] , or just reading the existing postings there.

And yes, you can still get 4x5 film. Try it out sometime!
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