Choosing an inexpensive scanner, or, no scanner at all

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by traveler_101, Nov 26, 2011.

  1. Anyone have advice for someone uninitiated in scanning? I shoot mostly b&w film and want to scan from the negative. I am not particularly interesting in printing from the scan, but I would like high enough quality for use with LCD projector--as we once used slides.
    I have been surfing the web and found the Canon CanoScan 9000 and the Epson Perfection V600 in my price range. I read a pretty negative review about the Canon when it comes to handling negatives, which put me off. Someone on another forum advised getting the Plustek OpticFilm 7600i Ai, but that costs twice as much as the flatbeds I have been looking at. Is it worth it?
    One review I read on Image Resourcing argues that (1) inexpensive flatbed scanners aren't worth their salt because their software lacks the capacity to "profile," and (2) guys like me that aren't particularly tech-saavy shouldn't be scanning at all. It sounds like scanning may be worse than fiddling with a digital camera.
  2. mtk


    Hi Mark,
    I do bw traditional film. I use an HP4010 flatbed scanner basically because that it is all I could afford at the time. The results are OK not spectacular. I think the software is clunky...and slow. But for my "occasional" use it is alright for now.
    Like anything, scanning IMHO is as much art as science. With a high(er) quality scanner and software and patience alot can be accomplished with a film negative.
  3. The internet is a mother-lode of anal-retentive, obsessive-compulsive, over-complicating perfectionism - and this is especially so in the field of photography. Just get a scanner and scan. I've had several scanners over the past 15 years, including a dedicated film scanner. I've had only a Canoscan 8400F for the past few years, and I've scanned many strips of 35mm film with no problem at all, using only the software and the film holder that came with the scanner. The flatbeds work fine for web display and other such uses.
    The one more complicated thing I do, only for black & film, is that, while I use just the standard driver for this scanner that Windows downloads automatically, I do use invoke the scan from within an image editor that handles 48-bit image files (16-bits per channel, in other words). I let the scanner do auto-everything as much as possible, except for sharpening. The 48-bit images leave me plenty of leeway for any post-processing I might need. Most of the time, that's just an adjustment of contrast using the curve tool (in addition to cleaning up dust spots and what have you), and a final sharpening. I scan everything as a colour negative initially.
    Do bear in mind that scanning is a deathly-boring, painstaking activity, and you may well decide to just look at the scanner rather than actually use it. These days, when I do use mine, it's not so much to honour the use of film, but more just for the nostalgia of using my film cameras... because once scanned, it's all digital anyway. Additionally, while it's not really that complicated, it might seem so if you have no real skill with image processing already. For these purposes, I don't consider having moved little sliders around in modern do-everything-for-you image editors to be any kind of skill.
    Come to think of it, I recommend just forgetting about it, and let someone else take care of the scanning.
  4. Thanks Mark and Pierre. Mark, seeing as I have no experience with this and am not sure how it will go, I think putting a lot of resources into an expensive scanner is unwise at this point. Pierre, thanks for your pointers. You are right: "once scanned, it's all digital anyway" but my idea is to identify the negatives that I want to print and develop them in a darkroom. That's the theory anyway and the justification for using film cameras. Well the real justification is that i prefer them.
  5. mtk


    Mark, I actually do both in BW, I also have a traditional darkroom and love to print as well. Like so many things in life, I tend to make it more about the money, the reality is time....I love my film cameras...2 Nikon F's, and F3, FM, FE, F100, 2 Yashicamats, 2 RB 67 Mamiyas, and a Speed Graphic (sounds like a Christmas song)
    My "daily driver" is a D90.
    Best of luck to you! I still think you wouldn't go wrong with an inexpensive flatbed simply to get a feel for it though...
  6. Scanning has a steep learning curve, think of it as taking a photo of your film. Less expensive gear means more work
    from you to get good results.

    Way more complicated than using a DSLR and for most photos not as good IMO. Digital capture gives you so much
    more control over image quality and artistic possibilities it is great. However, I can understand the appeal of film.

    IMO, in your case have someone scan for you. Spend your time taking photos and editing the scans (where the real
    artistic options come into play).
  7. Mark: I Have the Epson V600 ... I like it a lot ... using it to scan old Hasselblad b&w negs, and I am VERY HAPPY with the results. FWIW, in the last 12-15 months, the specs on many scanners have gone up, and the price down. The V600 is a classic example of such.
  8. Depending on how many you want to do, and since you simply want a projection result, you could consider using your camera to copy the negatives and then reverse the tone in an editor.
    If you don't have an editor you will find that the free download Irfanview will do the reversal for you.
    I have a Thompson scanner which I bought from a discount supplier for 35mm negatives and slides, and have made set-ups for MF and quarterplate/5x4 negatives. Working this way means you need to have clean negatives or else you will have a lot of time spent dealing with dust spots etc. Pretty much as we worked in the darkroom in the past.
    My experience trying to copy negatives with my flatbed scanner was dismal :-( and I guess without having researched the problem that really you need to backlight the negative for a good copy and ensure the camera is not reflected off the negative's surface. By 'backlight' in my case this is daylight coming in through the window.
    Having the ability to near fill the sensor with an image 36mmx24mm helps. I use a bridge camera with its 2 dioptre close-up lens and x12 zoom to get that tight a framing. A basic DSLR set-up is unlikely to be able to do that I think, unless you organise extension tubes. I prefer working with a CU lens for simplicity.
    I think the comments you read were intended for people who hope to scan for high quality high definition large prints. The conditions for a 1024x768 projection file are not so critical I suggest unless you plan to stand close to the screen, which is not how the process is supposed to work.
  9. Right JC, I just want my negatives scanned for LCD projection in my classes or for playing on my TV for the family. I don't intend to print from the files. I am left in a bit of a quandary when you tell me that your experience with a flatbed was "dismal" while Bruce says the Epson V600 works well for him. I have read similar mixed comments elsewhere.
    Matt, thanks for your comment: I agree that digital is useful and I have one foot in that camp (Olympus E-P1). Thanks for the enthusiasm, Mark! I am into rangefinder cameras and like you, I just like analog; it is more intuitive; and I have always dreamed of doing dark room work. I want the spaces I inhabit to be filled with prints of photographs I took all over the world and developed in the wet room--something I should have time for as I move toward retirement in a few years and have a storehouse of film negatives available. In the meantime I need to digitalize my film images.
    Matt, I really agree about having someone do the scanning for me: if I lived back in the states I would simply pay someone to do it. Here in Norway that is impossibly expensive; so my options are (1) bring all my exposed film back home once a year to have it developed and scanned; or (2) do it myself here. I thought the latter would be better, maybe not.
  10. What Bruce Brown said... The V600 is an excellent scanner.
  11. You are right: "once scanned, it's all digital anyway"
    That's not quite correct, because with a good scan the file can retain the characteristics of the scanned film, and that can vary quite a bit from just a straight digital file.
    But anyway, I've successfully used an Epson V500 to scan 35mm. It's not quite as sharp as a Nikon, but for small images you may not notice. One thing that really helps with the holders is to flatten the film under a heavy book for a couple of days. Makes it much easier to handle the film, and probably makes the scans sharper. Judging from the various experiences posted, and from the fact that even high-end Japanese lenses seem to vary in quality, it's possible that there is sample variation among scanners and their lenses. I seem to have gotten a good one.
    I don't see why it should be that terribly expensive to have your favorite negs scanned in the US. It's only about $1/frame or less for a good scan, and only the postage should be the difference. If you're very selective about it, it's a very efficient option.
  12. I have only used Epson and dedicated low end scanners. 35mm is cumbersome if you are looking for stunning quality. With time and dedication you can get good results, especially for your non-printing needs. Go with the Epson and just make sure that you have the negatives as flat as possible.
  13. My Opinion would be to find a good used Epson Perfection 4870 photo flat bed scanner
    it will do up to 4x5 negative and that plenty for most of us, that play with film still :
    I love mine very much had Epson 2450 prior to this one: good luck on your new choice
  14. If you are only viewing on projectors and TV's then you only need to scan for those resolutions which is not very high.
    Side by side a slide in a good quality projector will blow a computer to digital projector to outer space, never mind Kodachrome with a Leitz Pradovit.
  15. I disagree that scanning is difficult or has steep learning curve.

    It is essentially taking a digital photo of a negative. Where the scanner is much less complex to learn than a DSLR.

    I must be missing something because I have found nothing difficult at all with it.

    More time is consumed minimizing dust and removing dust than anything else in the process.

    If you already know Photoshop or digital manipulation(stuff you need for digital already), scanning itself is pretty
  16. Epson V500 can be set up and running in very short order. I do not agree - scanning is difficult. A well exposed negative is easily scanned. - Sean
  17. What size negatives? If 8x10, 4x5 or 6x7 a used/refurbished Epson 4990 would do a good job for the purposes you describe and probably could be bought for a couple hundred dollars, maybe less. I haven't found any flatbed scanner that does a good job with 35mm though I scan to print, not just for the web.
    I also agree with Richard Sperry that scanning isn't all that difficult and doesn't have a steep learning curve unless you're talking about a drum scanner or planning to go into business to scan for pros. Some of the 3rd party software such as Silverfast can be a little daunting at first but for your purposes the software that comes with Epson scanners (at least it did with the three I've owned) is easy to use and not hard to learn. A couple hours at a site such as Wayne Fulton's ( should tell you all you need to know.
  18. I can't comment on the 600 but I use the Epson Perfection V750 pro. my old man is scanning boxes and boxes of colour negs and i do b&w negs cos I want to get them online.
    Very happy with the results, although i don't use the best holder (can buy seperate) and i get some softness cos the neg curls a little, but until i get around to wanting to print one up properly for the wall i am happy enough.

    The software is good and has a lot of features and i didn't find it too taxing (used 2 different sorts - one more advanced than the other and got good results with both: haven't got access to their names atm).
    The only problem i had was the time it took as i had a low end pc, and i couldn't use the multi scan function to get better results as i would run out of memory.
    I enjoyed using it over all.
  19. Since the OP mentioned that he wants to figure out the negatives which are worth printing traditionally, I think it would be best to take small prints [4X6] of the entire roll through normal colour negative printers at any 1 hour shop [or Walmart etc in your part of the world].
    The tones etc would definitely not be the correct ones but you get an idea quickly and inexpensively.
    In spite of having a dedicated film scanner I follow this practice to identify the ones in which I would like to invest my time in performing and processing a high-resolution scan. In my part of the world, a roll of 36 B&W negatives [135 mm] would take me a couple of dollars to get printed in that size. For 120 I get a contact sheet done. Both these routes save me a huge amount of time.
    Hope this helps.
  20. With a good scanner like the Coolscan there is no learning curve. You put the film in, all settings turned off, and get perfect scans every single time.
    Using a flatbed where you need to tweak the height of the holder, color and sharpness just to get a scan that has discarded 80% of the information on the film is frustrating and it has a learning curve just to accept the limitations and work around them.
    Tmax 35mm will capture 35 megapixels of detail. A flatbed scanner will retrieve 6 megapixels (and blurry) at best. 6 mp of true detail is comparable to what you can obtain from a <10MP dslr but accutance from film+flatbed will be lower. You still get to keep superior dynamic range though.
    A flatbed could be used for internet and small prints (8x10 from 35mm is ok).
  21. There are some new 120 scanners coming out. I have seen no reviews published yet and although they will not match the quality of a Coolscan, they could offer a good alternative to flatbeds.
  22. If you're going the cheap route forget the HP 4010. I had one of those and it was truly aggravating to use. It was exceptionally slow and got slower with each scan in a session - grinding to a halt at six before I had to restart. Luckily it broke and I got an Epson 550 which was MUCH faster and easier to use in general. The 600 is similiar but a slightly newer model.
  23. Debanjan Das Gupta , Nov 28, 2011; 03:07 a.m.
    Since the OP mentioned that he wants to figure out the negatives which are worth printing traditionally, I think it would be best to take small prints [4X6] of the entire roll through normal colour negative printers at any 1 hour shop [or Walmart etc in your part of the world].​
    Not a bad idea, but do keep in mind that the scanners and printers in your average 1-hour lab's dry system are much more contrasty, shallower dynamic range, and softer and with less acutance than a "traditional" lab.
    Mauro Franic [​IMG], Nov 28, 2011; 07:45 a.m.
    Tmax 35mm will capture 35 megapixels of detail. A flatbed scanner will retrieve 6 megapixels (and blurry) at best. 6 mp of true detail is comparable to what you can obtain from a <10MP dslr but accutance from film+flatbed will be lower. You still get to keep superior dynamic range though.
    A flatbed could be used for internet and small prints (8x10 from 35mm is ok).​
    Mauro, I think that's a tricky one to really nail down. There is a huge difference between shooting Tri-X and 200 ISO or so and processing it carefully yourself, and shooting at 400 ISO and having a factory-type lab process it. Tri-X has a given grain structure that may support the equivalency of 35MP of detail and broader tonal range, but that doesn't mean it will always be there.
    That said, my experience with the V600 is that 120mm scans and up are phenominal. 35mm scans are often great, but film flatness and other things already mentioned are more of an issue there. I'm not at all unhappy with how it scans my 35mm, but if I was ONLY scanning 35mm I'd look elsewhere. Silverfast, or other third-party software, could help a lot too.
  24. Mauro,

    The OP has stated that he is not interested in printing from scans.
    He has a ~$200 budget.

    No one, even with super high speed Internet, wants to download 6M jpgs let alone 35M. 400K files seem to be
    acceptable now with current monitors and smart phones.

    Comparing a $4000 used obsolete discontinued scanner to a $200 new scanner is just so Monty Pythonesque, I don't
    know how to describe it with words in a single post.

    His question is if a $200 is good enough for what he wants to do. The choice is between a $200 scanner or nothing at all, not between a $4000 one and a $200 one.
  25. Mark: Amazon currently shows Epson V600 at $167.99 (!). Read the specs, and the MANY reviews ... try it and you will wonder why you waited so long ... No, I am not a salesman.
  26. I have the V500 which is similar to the V600. I get scans that give me good sharp prints 6x the linear dimension of the film.
    Mark, you want good scans for display on an LCD projector or TV. The V600 will definitely do this. The process takes some time. For scanning color, there is certainly a learning curve, but B&W is easier. I say go ahead and give it a try.
  27. Here is an image from a scanned film negative.
    I challenge the scanner experts to identify the scanner and film format used. Bonus points for software, if any, used.
  28. I would recommend buying a used Nikon Coolscan from eBay. The LS-2000 or the Coolscan IV would be good choices. Most of my portfolio was scanned by a used LS-2000.
  29. For the actually rather low quality use the OP want to scan for I think Debanian Das Gupta"s idea of making prints is an excellent solution if you can get the prints made cheaply enough.
    I have copied off postcard prints and there is plenty of resolution for a projected image and I'm sure the 2x2 slide with probably a 5000dpi resolution equivalent will beat a projection but fortunately the comparison is rarely made so we are all blissfully unware as we watch these projections. I am having a discussionat my club, and loosing it, about working to 1024x768 when our machine is capable of 1400x1050 if not 1400 square ... the smaller resolution is apparently the standard based on what the worst projectors are capable of .. crazy :)
    Projectors show carp but becuase we look at it from a distance it looks wonderful :)
  30. Another vote for Epson Precision V500. Current price, quoted above, is about what I paid two years ago on recommendation of a local pro printer. I scan color and B&W slides.
  31. I have the Epson V500 photo scanner and I'm very happy with it. I scan 35mm negatives with it but I also discovered a way to scan other odd sized negatives by just laying the negatives down on the glass. The negative is positioned shiny side down on the glass without the negative holder, make sure the negative is lined up with the light on the scanner lid and uncheck the "thumbnail" preview box and it will scan just fine. Even if the negative doesn't lay flat on the glass, it will scan just fine. You have to use the cursor on the mouse to highlight one negative frame at a time to scan. I never enlarge scanned prints larger than 8 x10. I also use the scanner to scan documents in PDF format for e-mailing. I have scanned newspaper and magazine articles and even art work.
  32. I would recommend buying a used Nikon Coolscan from eBay​
    If your recommendation were a walk, it would look like this...
  33. I shoot mostly b&w film and want to scan from the negative ..., but I would like high enough quality for use with LCD projector​
    The key here is that you're projecting digitally. Even the high end projectors top out at just 2MP. So, go ahead and buy a cheap flatbed. It'll work great for the intended purpose.
    Oh, there are a couple of things to watch out for. First, the flatbed will have trouble with dense negatives.
    Second, getting the tonal relationship right on the projected image will be a challenge. You can try going with a color managed workflow end to end, perhaps with something like a Colormunki. Alternatively, adjust the image on the computer for the specific projector, projection screen, and ambient lighting condition.
  34. My Epson 4490 gives blurry results with lots of digital noise in the shadows. Is barely acceptable for 120 but totally blows for 35mm. As soon as I can afford a Nikon 9000 the Epson is getting a fire axe stuck through it.
  35. I've used an Epson V500 and have been happy with the results.
  36. For the undemanding purpose of LCD projection either of these scanners will do fine. A couple of years ago I was choosing between a Canon 8800F and an Epson. I picked the Canon because the software was said to be better. At the time most people who were seriously into scanning said that third party software was pretty much required to the get best out of the Epsons. Don't know if that's still the case.
    My experience with the Canon is that it's easy to get a high quality result from a 120 transparency. As usual, 35mm is more demanding, but not too bad once you settle on a productive workflow. Keep your negatives as clean and scratch free as you can. Software in-scan dust removal doesn't work on silver negs. While scanning a bunch of old negs is doable, clone-stamping the dust and scratches out of them is beyond tedious.
  37. Guys thanks a million for a lively discussion and some really good creative solutions. Yes, I like the idea of dropping the film off at K-mart (if it still exists) for cheap processing which gives me a nice overview of the film. Remember though I live in Norway: no cheap processing is available. Color is not an issue: most of my shooting is b&w. I intend to process the film myself. I just got back states-side for a family visit and I am 95% I will order the Epson from Amazon. Thanks again, Mark.
  38. Do a search for scan services, there are some inexpensive international services.

    While I think it is great that some love their Epsons, I do not like them. Be aware that not everyone has the same goals or
    vision. When taking advice really look at the source and see what you have in common.

    Another route is to get the small prints and then use your digital camera to take a photo of it, high lights and getting
    square to the print are the biggest issues. I have done some old prints like this and get good results, you avoid issues
    like grain, dust, film curl, and such...
  39. Dr Path,

    Use the healing brush. It's still tedious, but saves a couple steps for each mote.
  40. Can anyone recommend a scanner that handles black and white 35mm well? I ideally would like a scanner that can do a whole uncut 35mm roll but could sacrifice this function. Looking to spend up to 500 bucks.
    Any help or suggestions would be great.
  41. Can anyone recommend a scanner that handles black and white 35mm well?​
    I'd say a Nikon Coolscan (used) or a new Plustek
  42. The attached b x w image was scanned with my Epson Perfection V500 scanner.
  43. ... scanner that handles black and white 35mm well ... can do a whole uncut 35mm roll ... spend up to 500 bucks.​
    Not for $500.
    Keep an eye out for a Nikon 5000. It's about $2k now on the open market, so be sure to hold on to it with a death grip if you stumble into one at a garage sale for $200. The 5000 will scan an entire uncut 40 frame roll of 135 unattended, and in about 1hr.
    Failing that, just shoot chromogenic B&W and get the scans directly from the minilab. I can tell you from first hand experience that flatbed scans of traditional 135 B&W are exercises in frustration. There's really just not enough there to print much larger past 3x5 (not to mention problems with dense negatives, halos, sensor noise, etc.)
  44. yes, i have considered getting my rolls scanned $22/ roll. But will end up costing more than the price of a decent scanner. what to do...
  45. i have considered getting my rolls scanned $22/ roll. ... costing more than the price of a decent scanner. what to do..​
    Ahhh, this one's easy. Forget about using 135 format film altogether and move up to 120 roll film. One big problem wit the flatbed is that it is truly resolution challenged. So, just compensate with (lots) more film area.
    Here's the framework:
    1. Buy a Mamiya RB-67 kit from for about $300. Other models and makes are certainly fine. Just keep in mind you're after as much film area as possible without going too esoteric. The 6x7 SLR is a good compromise.
    2. Buy up a film capable refurbished Epson flatbed directly from Epson. Just keep an eye out. I purchased a V500 and 4490 this way, about $100/ea.
    3. Spend maybe another $50 on equipment and chemicals to develop the film yourself.
    The V500 and the like has enough resolution for about a 5X enlargement. This means the possibility for excellent 8x10 prints from 6x7 negatives. Likewise, sensor noise is now much less an issue because of the low enlargement. As for film density issues, try to expose and develop the film to fit what the Epson is capable of. Developing the film yourself means this is exactly practical.
    Lastly, slow down and enjoy the film photography experience. Use your DSLR for those times where spray and pray is the right thing to do.
  46. Minolta Dimage III or IV ,or if you afford , Nikon Coolscan

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