Digitizing 120: Opinions regarding DSLR vs flatbed vs film scanner?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by lukpac, Nov 26, 2018.

  1. I recently came across a bunch of 120 negatives that my dad took in the early '60s, mostly black and white. At this point I don't have plans to get into shooting 120, although...famous last words. I have a Coolscan III for 35mm, but currently nothing that can handle 120. I don't want to spend thousands of dollars, but I also don't want to get something that will just give mediocre results. Does anyone have experience with various methods? In terms of the Epson flatbeds, how much does the added $550/$820 of the V800/V850 give you over the V600?

    Below is a shot I captured with my Nikon D7200, 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, LED lightbox, and tripod. ISO 100, and I stopped the lens down to f/8. It's...pretty good? I still have to tweak my setup a bit, including doing a better job of cleaning everything, but presumably this is about the quality I can expect. How would a scan on a flatbed compare? A dedicated film scanner? Any general thoughts/suggestions?

    Act One 129 rough.jpg
  2. Here's the next shot on the roll for another example.
    Act One 128 rough.jpg
  3. Some flatbeds are better than other, although the claimed ppi is often far more than you can actually get.

    A Canon 9000F or the older 9950F are what I use -- good enough for web use, at least:
    Rescue testing of bull-dozed area of site Rolleiflex 6x6 cm- scan Canon 9950F.
    Original Ektachrome 120 slide.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
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  4. Is that full resolution, or scaled down?
  5. 1 for one crop at full scale
    It's downsized for posting here at the 1000ppi limit on posts.
    The original scan is 1200ppi for 2365x2401 pixels and the saved file (jpg) is 864KB in size
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
  6. There's a limit? My images are about 3900x3900, and about 6.5MB.

    Regardless, your original is about 66% the size of mine, once cropping is taken into account. I have to wonder how the scan quality compares beyond pure file resolution. Both in terms of dynamic range and optical quality.
  7. At the time I did this, the "wisdom" and testing then done had suggested that scanning on a flatbed above 1200ppi or so added no real resolution to the result.

    By the way, this clip is from another 6x6 slide
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
  8. Nothing comes close to the resolution of a dedicated film scanner. A Nikon LS-8000 scans at 4000 ppi, yielding an 8500x8500 pixel scan from 6x6 film. It's best to crop inside the borders of the actual image for better color and exposure, which can be done on the thumbnails on a batch basis. The color conversions is automated, and there is ICE for dust and scratch reduction. The results are grain-sharp for most common emulsions.

    The next level down would be using a digital camera and a copy table or fixture. I use a Novoflex focusing rail with a film holder. The best resolution I can muster with a Sony A7Riii is 5340 x 5340 pixels, less if you crop appropriately. A 24 MP camera would yield a maximum of 4000 x 4000 pixels. Neither is quite grain sharp but good enough for a 20"x20" print, perhaps larger with interpolation. Copying slides is easy, but negatives require careful conversion to positives. I use Silverfast HDR, which has all of the controls and automation Silverfast applies to film scanning.

    Flatbed scanners have an effective resolution of 2400 ppi or less. The compromised optics of the imaging system do not match the pixel count of the sensors. I have had several "film scanning" flatbeds, but found them wanting. I no longer bother. My purpose in exploring the use of a digital camera for film "scanning" is to provide a superior alternative to flatbed scanning at a lower cost than a long obsolete film scanner.

    Hasselblad Reala, scanned with a Sony A7Rii + Sony 90/2.8 Macro
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  9. Thanks. So it sounds like the DSLR route, while cumbersome, will likely yield better results than a flatbed. Unfortunately, it appears as if film scanners, while providing much better results, are prohibitively expensive, at least for what I'm doing.
  10. I have several thousand 120 images in 6x6, 6x4.5, and 6x7. I opted for an Epson V850. And I used different scan software depending on the film manufacturer. I'm not particularly crazy about the film holders for 120, so I purchased a Better Scan frame, and it makes the V850 superb. I also use the V850 for 35mm and 4x5, since I have a lot of each of those formats, both negative and transparency types.

    The V850 also works well for flat bed photos, and I've also scanned documents with it. I know there are probably better 100% dedicated scanners, but the V850 offers a lot of bang for the buck.

    PS - After going through the scanning software, I've come to the conclusion that no one program does it all. There are just too many algorithms from the code writers. Ektachrome may scan well with one, and not the other, etc.
  11. I use a V700 with the standard holders to scan 120 and 4x5 . I scan at 2400 and see a definite difference between 1200 and 2400. I also use the native Epson scanning software - nothing special. I got my V700 for a little over $300 and run it on a Windows XP laptop I use for devices newer versions of Windows (8 for example) won't support.
  12. img128 adjusted II smaller.jpg Here is a scan of a 120 negative on the V700 at 2400 dpi with EpsonScan software.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
    rajmohan. likes this.
  13. Here are V600 scans of RB67 6x7 120 medium format I did. I scan at 2400 48 bit color (if color) or 16 bit monochrome if BW and save as tiff. Of course these were reduced for the internet. I think you might do better with a V700 or V800.
    Search: rb67 | Flickr
  14. If you are prepared to spend time with a DSLR and macro lens, you can certainly scan at extremely high resolution. As an experiment, I have scanned 6x7 negatives with a 22MP DSLR and a 100mm macro lens - by scanning overlapping sections of the negative at macro distances and stitching them together, I can a get a 74MP (~300MB) DNG file. If you use, for example a 180mm macro and scan even smaller sections of the negative at high magnification, you could obtain files with even higher resolution! Whether such high resolution (and attendant enormous file size) is overkill for any given negative is an individual decision, but for select/favorite images, it can be a cost-effective (assuming you already have a DSLR/macro kit) and efficient means of producing a high quality result. Example below:

  15. Being realistic; what's the quality of the pictures you want to scan like?

    There's no point in spending several hundred on a scanner if the original camera was a Box Brownie or similar.

    Even if they were taken with a Rollei or Hasselblad, the content might not warrant any more than a 16 megapixel camera 'scan', especially if they were shot on grainy film.

    I'd stick with the D7200 camera copies until you find any actual need for more quality. It'll almost certainly be quicker than using a dedicated film scanner.

    I can recommend the Canoscan 9950F if you can still find one with all the holders/masks. But it might well be overkill.

    A 3900 x 3900 pixel camera copy is easily good enough for a 12" x 12" print anyway.
    lukpac likes this.
  16. SCL


    What do you plan to do with the scans - produce large exhibition prints, occasionally print up to 18x24 for viewing at 4-10 ft, or use on the web? Assuming high quality negatives properly exposed and developed, and not enlarged much beyond 8x10, I'd go the DSLR route any day. If you're planning on large high quality prints and have deep pockets, a dedicated film scanner might make sense - but IMHO the learning curve could take the fun out of it.
    lukpac likes this.
  17. Good point about what the "end game" is with these negatives. Actually, you might just select the ones with "potential" and have them professionally scanned by a lab. No learning curve, no hardware cluttering up the house, no buyer's remorse. By the way, your Dad did a nice job capturing that newsstand. It brings back memories of the shops in practically every large building here in NYC. Do you know where he took it?
  18. The best I can say is see the photos I posted. Unfortunately I have no idea what camera he was using at the time (I know he got a Nikon F not long after), just that he was in art school at the time.

    Both photos were taken at the Federal Building in Milwaukee, December 1961. The mailroom photo is the US Post Office that was located there at the time. We recently discovered he created a book, presumably as a school project, documenting downtown Milwaukee. These were taken for that (the newsstand photo made it in, albeit cropped, while a different mailroom shot made it in). There are at least 140 more photos from that project I want to capture.
  19. Another shot from around the same time...possibly with a different camera? Unfortunately the neg wasn't totally flat when I captured it, so the right side isn't totally sharp.

    Dick 1961-09.jpg
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  20. Where it's sharp, that scan and the first one posted are about as good as you'd get from any flatbed scanner.

    Just hone the technique with the D7200 a little to get the film flat and square-on to the camera, and I don't think there'd be any benefit got from buying a scanner.
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