How Does Rick Drawbridge Get Such Sharp Scans From 35mm On A Flatbed Scanner

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by malcolm_denton, Sep 27, 2021.

  1. Always impressed by the sharp images posted by Rick which seem to run counter to the popular internet wisdom that flat bed scanners do not do well with 35mm.
    James Bryant likes this.
  2. While we all wait for Rick to " release " a pontifical response, I believe most people work under a false impression if they think flat bed scanners are "not sharp". It all boils down to how You use them.
    I work with both Espson v600 or v800 scanners, with the native software. Settings are maximum values. Pundit's can argue this or that about "true values", I just scan.
    For ages I have had sore words for Epson's "emulsion up" placement of the negative. Has anyone ever done wet lab work with their negative in the carrier with "emulsion up" ?? Only time I ever did that was with 4x5 or MF to diffuse acne in portraits. Light going thru the acetate is diffused. . .pure and simple. Same with most scanners, since the light source is the scanner lid.
    For either of my scanners with MF or 4x5 film, I use "real" Anti Newton Ring glass inserts. In 35mm work, the top plastic of the carriers is removed and the ANR inserts placed on top of the film strips (emulsion is down).
    For most MF stipes I use Better Scanning carriers which can be adjusted for best sharpness via small screws in the carrier for carrier clearance from the scanner top glass. For the v800 with 4x5 films, the "plastic" ANR provided by Epson has been scraped and a real glass ANR insert used.
    Finally, one must use the film / developer combo to maximum effect. Both Rick and I, and others, use pyro staining developers on most of our b/w work. The stain of these developers "fills" in between grain structures and yields a much smoother print from the negative. One must work out the ideal film / developer combo for their requirements. Some films I have tried just fail and I ditch them into the "never again" basket, others I keep the love affair alive by re-ordering them !
    Here is a Kentmere 100 in Pyrocat HDC. Fed-2 / Jupiter-8 and a v600 scan. 2k17-014-009 ces5 ce bc 8x10.jpg
  3. malcom_denton said:
    Yes, the claim that scans from flatbeds are inferior to those from dedicated 35mm scanners has been around since scanners first appeared, I guess, and to some degree they have become a meme. I have an early Nikon Coolscan, one of the better dedicated 35mm scanners, and I don't consider the scans from that to be any "sharper" than those from the Epson V700 or V800 scanners, and these are much quicker and easier to use. I've also used a Minolta Dimage scanner, until it died, and the scans from that were possibly slightly better than those from the Nikon, but not noticeably a step up from the Epsons.

    Of course, there are two separate aspects to scanning, the mechanical/optical and the electronic. With the flat beds it's essential that the glass deck is kept really clean and haze-free, both sides, which requires a little disassembly now and then. The other critical factor is the height of the film carriers when mounted on the deck; the feet of mine are shimmed with layers of adhesive tape, added and removed during the setup procedure to give precisely the right height for the focus point of the scanner lens. There's not much DOF to play with, there! I just wish Better Scanning would produce 35mm carriers to the excellent design standards shown in their medium format carriers, with the adjustable feet that Bill Bowes mentions.

    The electronic aspect is the software you're using. I uses the Silverfast software that was supplied with the Epsons, or sometimes the native Epson software. Both are good. Something is is necessary drive the scanner; I recall some time ago on the Forum a debate arose about using "Native" scans that the scanner would produce if left to it's own devices, but there really is no such thing. It would be the equivalent to setting a pencil down on a sheet of paper and expecting it to draw a picture. The software will offer degrees of "sharpness" in it's interpretation of the data supplied by the lens in the scanner, and I select a degree of Unsharp Mask (USM), about 25% on the available 1-100% scale. It's easy to detect degrees of over-sharpening and I come across it often on other forums; artifacts and aberrations begin to become apparent and the image takes on a "manipulated" appearance.

    So, I guess I really don't know why Rick Drawbridge's scans might appear sharper than others. I very rarely apply additional sharpening in PP, and I don't scan at maximum DPI's as I find this can sometimes produce an over-sharpened appearance. I find 2400 DPI quite big enough for web presentation. I guess I'll just keep on doing what ever I do to produce result that I find acceptable. Bill makes many good points in the reply he posted, above.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2021
  4. Agree with Bill. On a V700 under Silverfast 8, I wet scan with the BSH, Anti Newton glass and yes, emulsion side down. To my eye wet scanning noticeably improves micro-contrast. Despite all this, the issue of sharpness for me is overwhelmingly associated with camera stability. My hands are no longer steady enough for real sharp imagery so I rely a lot on the tripod. With tripod and above protocol, I can print to 19 x 13 comfortably. If this is what a flatbed can do, I don’t need anything else. Rick’s beautiful work is well within the capacity of a flat bed scanner.
    James Bryant likes this.
  5. Tony brought up a common curse to us "older" teenagers. . .the shakes of age. Almost all of my pictures with my 35mm RF cameras are taken with the 10 sec self timer engaged. I just keep the camera on my subject until the shutter is released, then film advance & recock the self timer. Toooo many shots get ruined when my fingers tremble the camera pushing the shutter release down.
  6. Any hope at all for a sharp printable image from me, it is tripod, mirror up and self timer or cable release. Bill, I appreciate the word teenagers. ;)
  7. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    I believe it is the film processing technique that Rick uses that makes his negatives and prints stand out. I can scan down a group of photos posted and immediately know when I am looking at a Rick Drawbridge photo. It has a silver look that distinguishes it from the gray look of other images.
  8. I think it has much to do with the pyro development and choice of film, as both Bill and Tony have mentioned. The other important factor is the way tonal parameters are set in the scanning software. In grey scan, Silverfast has sliders to adjust exposure (dark/light), contrast and "brightness", (mid-tone control). These settings I'll adjust for each negative. The "brightness" is important; it acts in much the same way as the final swish in a potassium ferricyanide solution that I always used when printing in the darkroom, clearing away any muddiness in the print. The "Brightness/Contrast" tool in Photoshop achieves much the same result. The Epson software offers similar controls, but it's rather more fiddly to use.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2021
  9. However he does does it, Rick does it extremely well.
  10. Rick where can we see your scans?
  11. AlanKlein said:
    I'm not too sure quite what you require, Alan, over and above the scans I post in this forum. There are slightly bigger versions posted to a Flickr photostream:

  12. Thanks for all the responses.

    The vast majority of my scans are 35mm with a Dimage 5400 scanner,but, based on the replies, I'll have to give Pyro a go and see if I get better results.
  13. I'm sorry. I couldn't find either the scans or the Flickr link on your profile page. Maybe I'm missing something?
  14. Malcolm, when you do try a film with the pyro type developer, test the first roll using asa setting of 250 for a 400 box speed film, and about 80 for a 100 box speed film. Below 100 films might need several test frames at different speed values to arrive at a "full value" negative.
  15. AlanKlein said:
    That link to Flickr works for me, Alan. Here it is again: radspix

    Failing that, I've been posting about a dozen scans to each weeks "Film Camera Week" thread for quite some time, so if you check back through those you should find plenty of examples.
  16. I wasn't clear. I was able to go to your Flickr page when you posted the link. But why can't I find that link on your profile page? That way it's there for anyone to find and use at any time.
  17. Or you can add it to your Signature page as I do below for mine.
  18. I have a Plustek 8100 and a Epson V700. Sure the plustek can eek out a bit more detail in 35mm (if it is available) but there is not much in it really. I find the V700 and native software are easy to use and give me great results. I just finished removing the bottom glass panel for a interior cleaning. Very easy to do.
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  19. Thanks, Alan, I don't know that I've ever visited my profile or my signature page! Perhaps I should make amends. I don't post links to my Flickr galleries unless it's to serve some specific purpose, such as we had here.
  20. Nothing wrong with showing off your photos. They look nice.

    Plus, it gives readers an opportunity to compare advice to actual work. A lot of people (not you) give advice but actually don't have work to support their advice. Why would anyone listen to them without samples?
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